Bad Guys and Good TV

 

fargo-sweater

 

Today I am honored to have a guest post from author Camela Thompson. Camela writes in a variety of genres, from paranormal to thriller to romance, and all her tales center on kick-ass women who shine in difficult circumstances.  Today she is sharing with us her love of dark and twisted TV, and why her current favorite “Fargo” is awesome.

Camela’s first novel is coming out this October.  Check out her website and her blog for more information, and follow her on Twitter here!

I have a weakness for television that verges on “a problem.” That isn’t to say I watch more than an hour a day at most. The issue stems from the intensity with which I throw myself into a series. A twisted little part of me relishes sick days, when I can give myself permission not to obsess about being productive and binge watch a series. When I only have a precious hour, I guard it jealously.

I watch my fair share of brain rot (my current trashy fascination is Party Down South), detective shows, anime/animated, and comedy, but I am more apt to get hooked on a dark series with complex characters. In fact, the more twisted and flawed the characters, the better. Think early Dexter with his code and the insatiable appetite of his Dark Passenger. Want to keep my attention? Throw in multiple points of view, each of them with their personal hang-ups, like Game of Thrones with Tyrion’s daddy issues, the incestuous twins, a falling family, and an ambitious princess with her dragons. Give me vengeance and even pointless deaths like Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. Let me sit and wonder why a main character can be so easily written off the show, never to return again. Shock me.

The best series on television right now are not the formulaic crime dramas or comedies. Don’t get me wrong – CSI and Law and Order pioneered a system that works and has resulted in dozens of spin offs. Open with a murder, show people stumbling over clues that are just easy enough for the viewer to start connecting the dots, throw in one or two erroneous accusations, and end it by solving the crime within a neat little forty minute window. Bonus points for good guys with a troubled past and a tendency to blur the letter of the law to get their man. There are so many of these shows because they work. I still love me some NCIS, but sometimes I want a surprise.

My husband and I were hitting a slump in the television routine. Our old favorites were failing us — losing the magic. Maybe the producers got a little greedy and wanted to squeeze out one more season. Maybe they just ran out of ideas. Most likely the writers had shocked the viewers so many times that the tricks that had awed us in the beginning just weren’t working anymore, earning eye rolls instead of gasps. Whatever the cause, we were looking for a new way to spend that single hour when I saw Billy Bob Thornton speed by on the DVR as Lance fast forwarded through commercials. The dude is weird, edgy, and consistently delivers in the role of a psychopath.

“Stop!” I cried. “Rewind, please! I want to see what he’s doing! Please let it not be a comedy!” The only sense I got was that he was standing somewhere cold. The title popped up on the screen. “Fargo?”

The trailer for the season premier caught my interest, but I was skeptical. Fargo was a quirky movie – a combination of grit, humor, and excessive violence. They mercilessly made fun of a quiet area of our country that seems happy slipping under the radar. The movie was magic, but how would a series match up to the original?

I don’t know how the creators managed to mimic the tone of the original movie while updating it to our ever shortening attention spans, but they nailed it. Fargo skips to different characters, showing the viewer the big picture through multiple points of view while the protagonists remain clueless. The bad guys are revealed just enough so that I can see where they’re coming from even if I can’t bring myself to like them. (Here is a tiny spoiler: The red window scraper in the snowbank makes a cameo!)

Then there’s Malvo – the ultimate bad guy.

Malvo is a man who is very good at his job, so proficient that he is prone to boredom and caving in to whims. It’s almost as though he approaches life as a choose your own adventure, leaving himself open to pursuing different opportunities as they arise. Sure, there are horrible repercussions for the people around him, but that isn’t the point. Survival is priority number one and everything else is just gravy on top. He has no real attachments, just manipulations and experiments. Watching him cut through each episode like a shark through water makes me come back for more. As Malvo points out, each choice had consequences, but watching how they ripple like waves in a pond is what makes it interesting.

I hear Fargo is using a new cast for the next season. This makes me look forward to more with the hope that it minimizes the risk of following the path of so many shows before it. Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman were amazing. I loved Tolman’s character, Molly Solverson, and how she was utilized to point out that sexism and gender biases are still alive and well in America. I also love that Solverson persisted when most people would have thrown in the towel. I’ll miss these wonderful characters, but I look forward to the potential that comes with change. My only question is: How can the writers possibly top Malvo?

Who is your favorite bad guy? What is your favorite dramatic television series?

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