Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Thoughts on the Reaction to the Fargo Finale

Last night brought about another finale to another show that the online world had deemed great.  I have not watched Fargo, but I have seen the online reaction grow and grow through the people I follow on Twitter.  They became more enamored with the show over the past two months.  As the finale approached, the buzz hit a high point.  It hit a tipping point, you might say.  It got to be so much for the viewers that their excitement for the Fargo finale spilled over and caused vitriol to go against other beloved television shows.  This was solely in a “my show is better” sense.  There was no reasoning behind why Fargo was purportedly a better show.  It simply was and any other show sucked.

That’s the way of the internet in recent weeks, months, years.  If something is not exceptional and the favourite thing of the outspoken online personality, then it automatically sucks and should be shamed for not being their favourite.  It happened when Breaking Bad and Mad Men all increased in popularity.  They are two entirely different shows.  Mad Men is a character piece about people working in an advertising company, and their lives outside of it.  Breaking Bad is a forward moving, plot driven tale about a science teacher diving head first into the business of cooking meth.  The shows are as different as they could be.  Yet, fans of Breaking Bad who said it was the greatest show ever made were very outspoken about how much they thought Mad Men sucked.  In their minds, there was no way that the shows could co-exist as two entities doing different things with television.  Oh no.  Since Breaking Bad was so great, Mad Men should have not existed at all.  Now that Breaking Bad is over, however, you don’t hear much about that anymore.

Now we are in the world of Fargo, and we have recently been released from the world that True Detective owned.  Two shows as equally separate from one another as Breaking Bad and Mad Men were.  Fargo, a show that, from everything I’ve seen people saying on Twitter, is entirely about the story with some interesting characters thrown into the mix.  And True Detective, a show driven by two characters and their lives over seventeen years.  The common thread is that they both involve police.  That’s the only common thread I can figure out.  But people have begun comparing the two anyway.  The people who love Fargo have turned on True Detective, a show that they loved three months ago.

There is absolutely no reason for this comparison between the two shows to exist.  Fargo and True Detective can both live on television in their own places, and be appreciated by different crowds.  That’s what will probably end up happening.  There is no need to say you loved Fargo, and True Detective sucked.  Doing this sort of thing only results in a “Team Edward vs. Team Jacob” kind of fist pounding that brings nothing but antagonism to the table.  True Detective is a great show.  I’m sure that Fargo is also a great show.  There doesn’t need to be only one.  The television landscape is not Highlander.

Perhaps this specific case boils down to the high expectations that people had when it came to the True Detective finale.  Many viewers were getting wrapped up in the mystery of the show and trying to solve it long before the show came to a close.  When the finale aired and there were no twists and turns in the solution of the seventeen year murder case, there was disappointment.  The whole show had been a character piece when people were expecting it to be a murder mystery.  Forget the great character work, the excellent cinematography, or the top notch direction and acting.  It was not was people anticipated it to be.

Then along comes Fargo, a show where everything seems to be laid out in front of the viewer in a clear and concise way.  There is no way for me to go into detail about the show since my entire impression is second-hand through the internet.  What I sense is that more happened in terms of action, and everything about the show met people’s needs going into it.  The plot moved forward at a faster pace than True Detective, meaning that people got more twists and turns, and more surprises.  It was more satisfying to the short attention-span culture of the present day.

It seems that the comparison really comes down to plot versus character work in this case.  Not that anyone within the actual “fight” is going to say that.  They will only say which show is better, and nothing more.  But as I have seen with the Breaking Bad versus Mad Men battle and this Fargo versus True Detective battle, the more outspoken side is the side that values plot over every other aspect of a television show.  If there is overwhelming momentum to a show’s story, and it pushed forward by leaps and bounds each week, the outspoken people will like it more.  They will proclaim how much they like it more.  They will tear down anyone or anything that says otherwise.

Fargo and True Detective are only the most recent in a long line of forced, unfair comparisons that hiders television rather than allowing it to flourish.  We are in a great time for television where there are many excellent shows on the air.  They each have a different way of telling their story.  Whether it is fast-paced or a slow burn, the quality shows still bring quality.  There is no need to say that one sucks because the other is better.  It does not help to further television.  This animalistic desire to hit the extremes of passion about something is a grating attribute of television fandom that needs to stop.  I hope that Fargo is the last time that I see this kind of exaggerated antagonism, but I fear that this side of fandom is here to stay.

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