Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fargo Season 1 Episode # 3 "A Muddy Road" - Recap and Review

Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in Fargo Season 1 Episode 3 "A Muddy Road"

As the episode opens, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) abducts one Mr Phil McCormick from his office. Phil's naked dead body is found in the snow the next day.

Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is working on the case and finally gets a look at Lorne, thanks to the surveillance footage in the building.

Lorne figures out that Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), his boss is being blackmailed by Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton), the personal trainer of his wife, Helena Milos (Allegra Fulton).

Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks), a member of the Duluth Police Department is haunted by the night he stopped Lorne's car due to reckless driving. Lorne's masterful behaviour unnerves Gus, who lets him go with a warning.

Colin Hanks as Gus Grimly in Fargo Season 1 Episode 3 A Muddy Road

Gus runs the number plates and discovers that the car driven by Lorne on that night, belongs to Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman).

Gus realizes that Lorne might be responsible for the triple murders at Bemidji, Minnesota.

Lester is sent by his boss, Bo Munk (Tom Musgrave) to meet Gina Hess (Kate Walsh) about the insurance settlement of her late husband Sam Hess (Kevin O'Grady).

Kate Walsh as Gina Hess seducing Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in Fargo Season 1 Episode 3 A Muddy Road

Gina Hess (Kate Walsh) tries to seduce Lester, before they are interrupted by the Hess boys. Lester is surprised to learn that the Hess house is being watched by Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) and Mr. Wench (Russell Harvard).

Molly is still convinced about Lester's involvement in the crimes. Under the pretext of getting an insurance, she discreetly shows him the surveillance picture of Lorne. Lester gets unnerved and much to her displeasure, her boss Deputy Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) still blindly believes in Lester's innocence.

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Gus heads out to Bemidji with his daughter, Greta (Joey King) and discusses his suspicions about Lester with Molly.

The episode closes as Stavros is bathed in blood while taking shower and a smiling Lorne is seen leaving the house.

Fargo is turning out to be one of the best TV shows I have seen in a long time.

Martin Freeman does a good job with his accent. Readers who enjoy his work as John Watson on Sherlock will undoubtedly appreciate his performance as Lester Nygaard.

Oliver Platt as Stavros Milos in Fargo Season 1 Episode 3 A Muddy Road

Billy Bob Thornton is the standout performer in the show and he is excellent here as well. His deadpan facial expressions and dialogue delivery make Lorne Malvo an unforgettable character. This is my introduction to Billy Bob's acting skills and I will be checking out his other work as well.

Allison Tollman is also impressive as the hapless Molly, who is unable to solve the case and more importantly confirm her suspicions about the shifty Lester. Her passion to solve the case and catch the killer of her mentor and former Chief of Police, Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle) is palpable.

The show is set 20 years after the incidents in the original movie that took place in 1986. The show has nice references to the original. The characters of Lester Nygaard and Molly Solverson are nods to William H Macy's character Jerry Lundegaard and Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson respectively. Mo Buck is also a tip of the hat to Steve Buscemi's character Carl Showalter.

The screenplay, the dialogues and the humor in this series bear the signature touches of the Coen Brothers - Brilliant and Dark. Writing, Acting, Directing, Cinematography... The cast and crew deserve applause for their excellent work. 

The Coen Brothers are my favorite movie directors. I am a big fan of their movies: Burn After Reading, No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, True Grit, Barton Fink and Fargo.
The Coen Brothers, directors of Fargo, Burn After Reading, No Country for Old Men, True Grit and Barton Fink

These are some of the best works of art I have seen. Their ability to create such engrossing pictures without the need to resort to big budget set pieces or any attempt to tug at heartstrings has to be seen to be believed. Each of the above movies are certifiable masterpieces with relatable/believable human characters, brilliant screenplay, stunning cinematography and most of all, superb direction.

A must watch for fans of the Coen Brothers/Fargo/Thrillers.


Faure's Requiem is heard in the following scenes:
  • Lorne meets Stavros after his pet dog is killed
  • Lester practices shooting with his brother.   

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Image Sources: FX Productions, MGM Television, FX Network

You might also like:

Fargo - Morton's Fork
Fargo - Eating the Blame

Sunday, April 27, 2014

BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode # 1 "The Empty Hearse" - Review

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes wearing deerstalker with Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

Dear Readers,

Having seen and enjoyed Season 3 of BBC Sherlock, I have decided to put down my thoughts.

The first episode The Empty Hearse has been long awaited by fans eager to unravel the mystery of how Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) survived his fall at the end of “The Reichenbach Fall”.

Readers who have not yet seen the episode are welcome to skip the rest of the post, if they wish to avoid plot details.

Louise Brealey as Molly Hooper in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

The opening scenes offer a quick recap of the closing scenes of The Reichenbach Fall. Sherlock is seen taking the help of Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and even shares a kiss with her. The body of the dead Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is substituted for Sherlock's with the help of a mask.

This is yet another of the theories proposed by Anderson (Jonathan Aris) to the hapless Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves).  Lestrade is as usual dismissive of  this theory. We saw a similar scene being played out in the Christmas 2013 minisode “Many Happy Returns”.

Sherlock Holmes is being held captive and physically tortured. He manages to distract his captor through his deductions. The other person sitting nearby is revealed to be Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss).

Sherlock has been working his way to dismantle Moriarty's criminal empire. Mycroft needs Sherlock's assistance to thwart an impending terrorist threat to London. Sherlock promises Mycroft that he will work on the case.

Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

Sherlock's immediate priority is to reunite with John Watson (Martin Freeman) and the rest of the usual gang. Mycroft informs Sherlock about John's whereabouts for the day and Sherlock plans a reunion.

Sherlock adds a touch of drama by improvising a quick disguise and a French accent to surprise John at the restaurant. John is about to propose to Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington). Sherlock's arrival not only shocks John, but also disrupts John's plans for the evening.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington as Sherlock, John Watson and Mary Morstan in the restaurant in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

John is not happy with Sherlock's actions and expresses his displeasure by attacking Sherlock more than once. Mary promises to bring John around.

A disappointed Sherlock recruits Molly to be his assistant. John gets kidnapped and it is up to Sherlock to save both John and London.

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The episode is a mixed bag, with far more misses than hits. The usually reliable Mark Gatiss spends a considerable amount of screentime to fan service. The theories about how Sherlock survived the fall are especially unpalatable. While some fans might be thrilled to see their fantasies come to life on the screen, I was taken aback.

There are also lot of meta references. Martin Freeman's finger gesture, Martin and Amanda being John and Mary, Benedict's real life parents Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham and Martin/John's remark about Benedict/Sherlock enjoying being Sherlock again.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Amanda Abbington as Sherlock Holmes and Mary Morstan in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

This combination results in a weak episode. The climax is also arguably a big letdown. The Empty Hearse is in my opinion, the least watchable/entertaining among the ten episodes aired so far (including the Christmas minisode).

However, there are some delights to be had. I personally liked the deduction game between Sherlock and Mycroft involving a prospective client's hat at 221 B Baker Street. The scene refers to the deductions made by Sherlock Holmes about Henry Baker's hat in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.

The client scenes at 221 B Baker Street are enjoyable as always. Couple of these cases refer to A Case of Identity and The Adventure of the Creeping Man.

Another of my favorite scenes is the investigation of the corpse. I enjoyed Sherlock's comments about the corpse belonging to a shoddy Victorian outfit from a museum and being displayed on a dummy. Mark Gatiss has often commented about the overly serious nature of certain Sherlock Holmes adaptations. This is clearly Mark's handiwork, done is true Sherlock style.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes wearing deerstalker in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

Benedict Cumberbatch continues his superlative turn as Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective. It is a tribute to his acting skills that despite the previously mentioned weaknesses in the script, he manages to deliver such an impressive performance.

I especially liked Sherlock's reunion with Greg the best. Perfectly acted by both Benedict and Rupert, this was both humorous and touching in equal measure. The closing scene where Benedict dons the deerstalker nicely captures the essence of how perfectly he has been cast as Sherlock Holmes.

Martin also displays his acting chops in the scene with the old seller of books/DVDs. A double reference to Dr Verner (The Adventure of the Norwood Builder) and The Adventure of the Empty House.

Mary reading out aloud John's blog entry was another nice touch. She almost read verbatim few lines from The Sign of the Four. The rest of that blog entry refers to the plot of The Adventure of the Speckled Band.

Speaking of references, Mark Gatiss has included a number of nods to the Canon. Please click here to read all the Canonical references.

Another plus is that the season really picks up with the second episode The Sign of Three”.

Recommended to fans of the series. Watching the episode with lowered expectations will definitely help increase the enjoyment factor. 

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Image Sources: BBC Wales, Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre