Thank You, ‘Fargo,’ For Giving Us the Gift of Allison Tolman

By  · Published on June 10th, 2014


If you’ve been holding off on watching Fargo, the television spin-off of Joel and Ethan Coen’s cinematic classic of the same name, now is a pretty good time to get going on the FX series, not just because the limited series is approaching its end, and not just because it’s getting to be seriously good, but because it features one of the most exciting and zippy leading ladies to hit the small screen in quite some time. Basically, you’re going to want to get on board with superstar-in-the-making Allison Tolman right now, at least before the accolades and other roles start pouring in.

(Some spoilers follow.)

Fargo is best described as a spiritual twin to the film (though later episodes do quite directly link up the series and the movie), so it should come as little surprise that the show’s most cheer-worthy and compellingly human character is a female police officer (in this case, a deputy), just like in the 1996 black comedy, which found its heart and head in Frances McDormand’s police chief Marge Gunderson. Tolman’s Molly Solverson is similarly the soul of the series, and even when the series gets oofta-sized rough, she remains unfailingly interesting and damn charming to watch.

The series focuses on the unexpected spiral of crime, violence, bloodshed, character reveals, and pitch black comedy that unfurls after the arrival of professional hitman Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) in the otherwise sleepy town of Bemidji, Minnesota. The first episode follows what happens after perpetual loser Lester Nygard (Martin Freeman) gets his ass kicked by a high school bully, ends up in the hospital with a broken nose, and meets Malvo, who takes pity on him (maybe?) and eventually offs Lester’s tormentor. That’s not enough, though, because the freedom Lester feels after the murder unleashes some kind of beast in him, leading to him killing his own emotionally abusive wife (another bully, really) and calling up Malvo, ostensibly for help but really to pin it on him.

That doesn’t exactly work out (of course it doesn’t), and when police chief (and Molly’s mentor) Vern Thurman shows up at the Nygards’ house to chat with Lester about the town’s latest murder, he ends up with a shotgun blast to the chest, care of Malvo. There goes Lester’s plan, and it sets about a chain of events that ensnares both the residents of Bemidji and nearby “big city” Duluth. Other hitmen show up! Colin Hanks is there! Lester continues to make bad decisions! Malvo keeps lurking! Eventually, a plague descends on Oliver Platt! Bob Odenkirk takes over as police chief and basically fucks everything up!

Still, in the middle of all of this madness, Molly never gives up on her quest (while most everyone else is content to just let things be) to find out what really happened to Thurman, what’s really up with Lester, and why her beloved Bemidji ended up in Malvo’s crosshairs to begin with. She’s extremely good at her job – certainly better than Odenkirk’s supposedly superior officer – and she’s also in possession of the type of kindness and dedication we rarely find in television’s most lauded characters.

Kindness and capability don’t really go hand-in-hand so much anymore, at least on television, and some of the small screen’s most recently beloved figures have unabashedly eschewed likability and a genuine sense of “hey, they seem nice” for cold, calculated action – think Mad Men’s Don Draper, The Sopranos’ Tony Soprano, Breaking Bad’s Walter White and just about anyone on Game of Thrones. Capable? Yes. Kind? Not really. Tolman’s Molly Solverson combines and capitalizes on something pretty rare – she’s the kind of character that can get the job done while still being charming enough that you’d want to grab a beer with her after all the bad bloodshed is over.

Molly is not going to reveal herself to be some secret villain without a moral center or a conscience – she is the show’s moral center and conscience, and it’s all the better for it and its apparent celebration of it.

More precisely: she’s not an anti-hero. She’s an actual hero, and those are in short supply on television’s most well-recieved prestige programs. You just want to root for her, and Tolman’s plucky charm proves invaluable to making Solverson so wonderful and so essential. The role is one of Tolman’s first – she’s previously appeared in a single short film and a pair of short-lived series, and her IMDb page cheekily makes mention of the various odd jobs she’s held on her way to the acting big time – and it’s unquestionably a major breakout for her, one she seems to be pretty damn pleased about.

Tolman’s spunk is on full display over at her punchy Twitter account, where she interacts with fans, shares funny tidbits about life as a working actress, and, oh yeah, totally obliterates any and all trolls that try to come at her. Just a few days ago, Tolman took the lurking jerks on Twitter to task in just about the most perfect way possible:

Troll me and I’ll quickly prove I’m funnier, feed you to my followers, block you, then go back to be a badass. Smooches! #eatabagofdicks

— Allison Tolman (@Allison_Tolman) June 8, 2014

It should go without saying that no one should be subjected to the disgusting and upsetting bullshit that random Twitter (or any other social media network) users randomly lob at them across the Internet, but here’s a reminder: don’t be a troll. And, if you are so gross and stupid to be a troll and you try to troll Tolman, she’s going to take you out in pretty neat fashion. Sure, Tolman’s approach might be a bit different than Molly’s (what would Molly do with a troll? does Molly even know what Twitter is? the show is set in 2006, right when Twitter was first invented, so we’re betting no, but what are we saying, the woman is an officer of the law and she’s got a big brain to help her out of any pickle, troll-centric or not), but both ladies are spunky and refreshing in their own way, and that’s definitely worth noticing.

Fargo airs on FX on Tuesday nights at 10PM. If you haven’t yet already, you should catch up now, both by reading our own Christopher Campbell’s recaps and, hell, by watching the show itself. There are just two episodes left!