Series: Fargo

Fargo is a 2014 television series on f(x), based on the movie of the same name. It's executive-produced by the Coen Brothers and stars Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton. It was originally announced as a miniseries, but later revealed to be an anthology series: each season will follow a totally different set of characters and subplots, instead retaining the same themes and tropes.

Season One opens with Lester Nygaard, local salesman and Butt Monkey trapped in a loveless marriage with a (admittedly tarnished) Trophy Wife. Confronted by Sam Hess, the asshole who used to viciously bully him in school, Lester finds himself at the hospital for a broken nose and coming to the end of his rope. Unfortunately, the one friendly stranger he starts to vent at just so happens to be Malvo, a blue-and-orange aligned Professional Killer passing through who takes sympathy on his situation. Naturally, things begin to snowball from here.

Season Two began airing October, 2015. It takes us back to The '70s and explores the infamous-yet-mysterious Sioux Falls incident that everyone insists on vaguely recalling. It stars Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Jean Smart, Kirsten Dunst & Jesse Plemons. Features at least three characters from season one (Lou & Molly Solverson, as well as Gus Grimly's boss Ben Schmidt), and a more in-depth look at the previously off-screen menace of the Kansas City Mafia.

The show was renewed for a third season in November 2015.

There was also a failed television pilot released in 2003 starring a pre-The Sopranos Edie Falco that failed to get picked up, despite the critical praise.

SPOILER WARNING: The plot of Fargo is pretty unpredictable even to Genre Savvy tropers, and many tropes on this page and the character page are spoilers simply by their name. Read at your own risk.

The first season contains examples of:

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  • American Accents: Just like the original movie, it's populated with Mid-West accents (save for Lorne Malvo & Mr. Numbers).
  • Animal Motifs: Show up frequently, most notably with Malvo who is constantly associated with wolves.
    • As a theme, fish are shown throughout the show.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Lorne Malvo seems to believe this.
    • He seems to have a great deal of respect when Wrench and Numbers try to kill him, going so far as to tell Wrench he's a Worthy Opponent.
    • When Hess is killed, he tells Lester that he is more of a man than ever. Lester didn't actually kill him, but to Malvo, he was the one responsible and commends him for a job well done.
    • He also gives Gus a smile when Gus puts a few bullet holes in his chest.
  • Asian Airhead: Linda, Lester's wife after the Time Skip.
  • Assassin Outclassin':
    • When Numbers and Wrench finally learn Malvo's identity and are ordered to kill him, Malvo escapes their vehicular ambush in a snowstorm and kills Numbers before heading off.
    • Malvo himself falls victim to this when he tracks down Lester, who sets up a bear trap and injures him enough to force him to flee.
  • Asshole Victim: Sam Hess, a grown man who still acts like a high-school bully to Lester. Along with Lester's wife and the man mistaken for Lorne.
  • Axes at School: Lester does this as part of his plan to frame his brother. He plants a gun in his nephew Gordo's backpack. When the gun is discovered at school, this causes the police to search the house, finding the evidence Lester planted.
  • Badass Family: The Solverson/Grimley's. Molly cements her status as a Good Is Not Soft Determinator throughout the series and Lou is definitely a Retired Badass however in the final episode Lou shows he's still very much a Bad Ass Grandpa when he spends the entire night outside the house with a shotgun to guard Gus and Greta from Malvo and when he explains the situation to Greta she immediately gets her own gun and joins him. Finally Gus steps up and waits to kill Malvo in his hideout.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: In a Shout-Out to the original film, every episode opens with a declaration that it's based on a true story with the names changed. The caption even holds the word "true" onscreen for a second or two after the rest have faded.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: When Malvo machine-guns the Fargo mobsters, the camera stays facing the building as he goes in, then tracks up and over past the mirrored windows following the shots and screams. The only blood we see is from one man thrown through a window down to the sidewalk.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Viewers who know ASL can pick up on a few extra jokes and conversations between Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench. For example, thanks to translations circling the internet, part of their introductory conversation with Hess' lawyer is revealed as this:
    Mr. Wrench: [signing to Mr. Numbers] Ask him about the library.
    Mr. Numbers: There's no library in this town. Why is there no library in this town?
    Max Gold: Uh, cutbacks?
    Mr. Numbers: [signing to Mr. Wrench] He doesn't know.
    Mr. Wrench: [signing to Mr. Numbers] Let him know that his tie is absolutely hideous.
    Mr. Numbers: [chuckles] He thinks every town should have a library.
    Max Gold: I agree. (beat) Tell him I agree.
    Mr. Numbers: [signing to Mr. Wrench] His mother bought it for him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lorne is finally killed by Gus, Lester falls through ice and drowns and Gus, Molly and Greta are expecting a happy future, but a lot of innocent people either died or suffered greatly due to the search for Lorne and Lester and the actions of the duo.
  • Black Comedy: There's a definite mix of humour and horror, such as Lester intentionally knocking himself out to spare himself any suspicion in the wake of a murder.
  • Book Ends: For Lester, who breaks his nose at the beginning of the first episode and during the climax of the last episode.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A subversion in that while Lester antagonizes Lorne Malvo, he is still aware of how dangerous he is. As expected, Malvo does go after Lester, but he fails to kill him. While, Lester does not walk away from the ordeal unscathed and initially bites off more than he could chew, Malvo does not get his revenge.
  • Butt Monkey: Lester, though his arc seems to be The Dog Bites Back.
  • Call Back:
    • When Malvo confronts Gus at the police station, he gives him a riddle. Molly has to give him the answer and when the two men meet in the last episode of season one, Gus tells him he knows the answer.
    • When Malvo asks Lester if he wants Sam Hess to be killed, he says, "Yes or no". Lester is too shaken and confused to answer, as he is an Extreme Doormat in the first episode. After the Time Skip, Lester becomes more confident and meets up with Malvo again. This time, Lester decides to stand up to Malvo. When Malvo asks, "Is this what you want? Yes or no?", Lester flat out tells him, "Yes".
    • Earlier in the season, Malvo tells a story of a bear caught in a bear trap who escapes and goes off to die on his own terms. In the last episode of the season, Malvo gets his own leg caught in a bear trap and escapes, only to die in his cabin once Gus catches up to him.
  • Camping a Crapper: In "The Heap", Lorne Malvo kills the cop guarding Wrench's hospital room by hiding in the bathroom till the cop has to go, them ambushing him and strangling him.
  • Catch Phrase: Malvo's seems to be "Aces" when he's pretending to be a dentist.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Chaz's taser. Lester uses it to escape Numbers and Wrench.
    • Chaz's bear trap. Lester uses it in the finale to disable Malvo.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: While it initially looks like Gus will play a major role in the pursuit of Malvo, his only substantial contribution is that he actually met Malvo face-to-face. Beyond that he is not a very good cop and does not really move the investigation forward. However, in the finale he recognizes Malvo driving by, finds Malvo's hideout and then shoots Malvo dead.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Lorne Malvo.
    • Surprisingly, Lester becomes one later on.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Both averted and played straight. Stavros Milos is Eastern Orthodox, however he associates with Saint Lawrence of Rome, and has stained glass image of St Lawrence, which is far more Catholic than Orthodox. Also during a sequence a Latin litany chant is used, where one might have expected a chant in Greek.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In a flashback scene, Stavros's discovery of Carl Showalter's stash of money right after he prays for a miracle. This naturally makes him start to believe in the existence of God.
    • The two hitmen tasked with finding the man who killed Sam Hess run into a man who matches the general description of Lorne and even has a wound on his head in the same area that Lorne has. In addition the man is a Knife Nut and supposedly made threats against Hess. After they abduct the man, they are seriously vexed when they find out that they got the wrong man.
    • Lampshaded when Molly correctly connects all the deaths to each other but cannot convince Bill that it is not just a series of unlikely coincidences.
    • After Stavros buries the money in the snow, he happens upon Wally and Dmitri's car wreck while driving home (although perhaps justified considering they were driving to the same place.
    • After the Time Skip, Lester is at a conference in Las Vegas when out of the blue he runs into Lorne in the hotel bar.
    • Gus seems to be magnetically attracted to Malvo, and runs into him nearly constantly after their first meeting, right until episode 10 when he has to stop to avoid a wolf right outside Malvo's house.
  • Da Chief: Bill Oswalt becomes the new chief after his predecessor dies. He spends his first few episodes in office resisting Solverson's detective efforts before finally breaking down.
  • Deconstruction: Of the anti-hero TV drama. On a lot of shows released during this era we would have been asked to root for characters like Lorne or Lester whereas by the end of the season both are shown to be utterly despicable and the virtues of Molly and the good guys defeat their depravity.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Chief Thurman. His death sets up the real protagonist, Deputy Solverson.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the finale, a wolf appears in the road, forcing Gus to stop his car and inadvertently discover Lorne's hideout. Later, when Malvo returns to heal himself, he sees the same wolf outside and is distracted by it long enough for Gus to get the drop on him.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The fate of Wally and Dmitri. They get killed by a torrent of falling fish. Made worse by the fact that Stavros had just tried to make peace with God to spare his son from the Ten Plagues (actually just Lorne), only to have them be killed by a real "miracle".
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: Malvo tricks the cops into wasting their time and killing Don Chumph this way: he uses duct tape to gag him, tie him to an exercise machine, and stick an unloaded shotgun pointed at the front door into his hands. He draws the cops' attention by firing a rifle at some cars outside, leaves, and then sets up a tripwire to make the rifle fire more once the SWAT team arrives. When the team entered the front door, the light was in their eyes, so all they saw was a silhouette of a man holding a shotgun. Since the exercise machine kept him propped up even after being shot, the entire squad continued firing continuously for several seconds until they could see he was dead.
    • This is echoed in episode 10, where the car salesman is taped to the steering wheel of Malvo's car and distracts Pepper and Budge for long enough for Malvo to sneak up on them.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: As condescending and unsupportive Chaz may be as a brother, he and his family pay dearly due to Lester's plotting.
  • Dumb Muscle: Don Chumph. In the sense that he's used to run all the errands and mundane tasks.
  • Expy:
    • Molly has elements of Marge, being a Plucky Girl with serious Minnesota Nice and is a surprisingly competent police officer. And a matching pregnancy as of "The Heap".
    • Lorne is one for Anton Chigurh- a mysterious, malevolent loner with an odd haircut whose MO heavily incorporates It Amused Me.
    • Lester is a pretty clear one for Jerry Lundegaard from the film.
    • Linda Nygaard is a subtle one. She shares traits with Mike Yanagita: she's Asian-American, harbors an infatuation with a love interest, and even shares the name of the off-screen Linda Cooksey in the movie.
    • Glenn Howerton's character, Don Chumph, can be seen as one for Brad Pitt's character from Burn After Reading. They're both grinning, dim-witted personal trainers involved with half-assed schemes to extort money.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Lester's first scene has him being mercilessly and passive-aggressively criticized for his inadequacies by his wife. He simply absorbs the abuse, establishing him as a rather pathetic Extreme Doormat.
    • Chief Thurman is introduced making some astute observations at a crime scene and gently correcting Solverson, establishing him as a good guy and a good lawman.
    • Solverson is introduced following Thurman's lead and learning from his detective skills, showing that she is an up-and-coming police officer.
    • Lorne Malvo is introduced with a naked man in his trunk, establishing him as a creepy crook.
    • Bill Oswalt is introduced having just vomited at a crime scene, establishing him as a less-than-stellar example of police competence.
    • Gus Grimly is introduced sitting in his police cruiser and catching up with his daughter over a walkie-talkie, establishing his dual life roles.
    • Numbers and Wrench are first introduced as a simple pair of intimidating hitmen, and then they start signing to each other. An interview with the writers confirms this was intended to make them seem unpredictable and secretive.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Molly's story about the man who left his glove on the train platform is lost on Lester because he can't comprehend a charitable act. However, he quickly solves Agent Budge's riddle about the fox, the rabbit and the cabbage because he has become a master at serving his own interests.
  • Extreme Doormat: Lester, to begin with. He's even described in the show's description as "put-upon".
  • Flaw Exploitation: Malvo's M.O., to the point that he even does it to minor characters for no apparent gain: trolling them by poking at resentments and inadequacies just to see whether they will take the bait, and punishing those who do.
  • Foreshadowing: "Buridan's Ass" opens with a shot of fish swimming in a restaurant tank; near the end of that episode, Stavros' son and bodyguard are killed by a rain of fish.
  • Fox-Chicken-Cabbage Puzzle
    • In the "A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage" episode, Budge asks Pepper this riddle to pass the time while they are assigned to the file room. Pepper gets hung up on the details and eventually provides a unique answer.
    Pepper: A Turducken.
    Budge: A what's that now?
    Pepper: He stuffs the cabbage in the rabbit and the rabbit in the fox, and he eats all of them.
    Budge: That's not the answer.
    Pepper: It's an answer.
    • In the subsequent "Morton's Fork" episode, Budge asks Lester the riddle while driving him back to his home and he gets the correct answer right away.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If one pauses the scene in episode 9 when Lester buys the plane tickets one can see that he only bought a single one-way ticket for one person.
  • Fridge Logic: Discussed in-universe. When Gus tells Molly the neighbor's anecdote about the rich man who futilely gave everything, including his life, for the good of humanity, Molly wonders why the man couldn't just live on and work for charity.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Lorne & Lester.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Mr. Wrench is deaf, so he usually talks in sign language as his partner, Mr. Numbers, translates. But in "Eating The Blame",note  they talk to each other with nobody else around. So instead, subtitles appear next to their faces as they "talk."
  • Glasgow Grin: Malvo gets one when he is shot in the face and killed. He never has to live with it, however.

  • Gambit Pileup: Lorne and Lester each have an increasing number of complex and risky schemes piling up on either side to keep them both alive and out of jail.
  • Get Into Jail Free: In "Eating the Blame", Lester punches a cop in order to get arrested and away from Numbers and Wrench. Numbers and Wrench later stage a bar brawl and get arrested and placed in the same cell as Lester.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: A Central Theme from the film that carries into the show. Best exemplified through Bill, who inadvertently lets Lester off the hook for Pearl's murder as he cannot believe him to be capable of such a crime. In the finale, he decides to retire and let Molly take over his post, stating that he can't stomach how utterly cruel and savage the world can be to produce men like Malvo and Lester.
  • Good Is Dumb:
    • A major motif throughout the series is that as well-intentioned and good Gus and Bill may be, their flashes of incompetence are counterproductive.
    • Averted with Molly and Vern.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Just like in the film, the characters all seem to have an aversion towards swearing. Well, except Sam.
  • Gun Nut: Chaz.
  • Here There Be Dragons: Discussed by Malvo while warning off Gus in the pilot.
  • Human Shield: Lester uses his new wife as this to protect himself from Lorne, even having her wear his red jacket with a hoodie.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a famous logical paradox.
  • Impersonation Gambit: Lester after ending up in the hospital due to being septic with infection, switches beds with his heavily bandaged and sedated roommate. Why? So he can be taken out of the room for surgery, past the police, steal a car, go to his house and get the bloody hammer and some sexy pictures of his wife, break into his brother's house, plant the evidence next to an illegal machine gun, place a pistol in his nephew's backpack and get his brother arrested and blamed for his wife's murder. Then, get back to the hospital and switch back. IT WORKS.
  • Irony: Throughout Season 1, Malvo tricks Stavros into thinking God is inflicting the Ten Plagues on him, which eventually motivates Stavros to bury the blackmail money in order to make peace before God can kill his son. However, Stavros' son ends up dying after he does so, this time from an actual act of nature (God?) in which Malvo had seemingly no involvement.
  • It Amused Me / For the Evulz: With some scenes, it's implied that Lorne is part of a crime ring who's killing for an ulterior motive. With the kid in the motel parking lot and Sam's kids, however, his actions fall squarely into this trope.
  • It's Personal: The series is driven by people going an extra mile for personal reasons.
    • The main plot starts when Malvo decides to kill Sam as a personal favor to Lester.
    • Molly pursues the case so doggedly because Malvo killed Chief Thurman, her friend and mentor.
    • Gus goes after Malvo because he is ashamed of letting Malvo intimidate him into not doing his job.
    • The middle man who gives Malvo his contracts lampshades the fact that Fargo sending hitmen after Malvo must be for personal reasons. If there was a business reason for killing Malvo, additional steps would have been taken to manage the situation before hitmen were sent out.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Lorne kills Milos's dog as part of his blackmail scheme.
    • Lorne's visit to Mr. Wrench in the hospital has shades of this. It's pretty clear he's enjoying rubbing the fact that he killed Mr. Numbers and Wrench's employers in his face.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Lester's wife is so mercilessly critical of him that it's still possible to sympathize with him even after he murders her.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Linda.
  • Know Your Vines: In "The Heap", Ida mentions that when Vern was courting her, he gave her a bouquet of poison ivy. Which he picked himself.
  • Leitmotif: Lester's is the rhythmic clunking of his malfunctioning washing machine.
    • Malvo's is a single chime, repeated three times.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: In the finale, as Lester is being escorted out of the police station, Molly takes the time to tell him a parable about a man who was boarding a train and found that he left one of his gloves on the platform. With no time to get it back, he instead threw the other glove out the window so that someone else could have the pair if they needed it. The parable is Molly's attempt to tell Lester that it makes more sense to let go of his selfish viewpoint and make the decision to tell the truth because there is enough evidence built up around him that he will never be completely off the hook. The gloves can be seen as a metaphor for the evidence, and the stranger who will find the first glove is the police department. It does no good to lie anymore because they will continue to pursue him forever, but if he gives up his second glove, so to speak, some good can come of the whole mess. Naturally, Lester has no idea what her point is.
  • Lethally Stupid: By pure coincidence Lester encounters Lorne again after the Time Skip. A smart person would let sleeping dogs lie and walk away hoping that the psycho killer did not recognize him. Lester goes right up to Lorne so he can brag about how successful he has become since their last meeting. Lorne denies knowing Lester and gives strong hints that Lester should just walk away. This only angers Lester who is no longer willing to tolerate people who ignore him. He follows Lorne and keeps pestering him. With his cover identity about to be blown, Lorne decides to stop pretending and starts killing people.

  • Manipulative Bastard: Lorne.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover / Ultimate Universe: With the number of Expy characters, it really does feel like The Coen Brothers: The Series.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The out-of-the-blue storm of fish that leads to Dimitri's death, seemingly as a divine punishment to Stavros. The news seem to believe it to be a tornado phenomenon. It's ambiguous to whether Lorne Malvo even staged it.
    • The wolf that appears to both Gus and Malvo (allowing the former to spot Malvo's house and distracting the latter enough so that Gus can kill him) could just be a regular animal or a supernatural force sent to remove Malvo's presence from the world. Malvo himself seems to have supernatural elements to him, given his allusion to the Garden of Eden when speaking with Lou and the way that he briefly springs back to life after Gus first shoots him.
  • Meaningful Name: Everyone.
  • Menacing Stroll: Lorne's main method of moving around, even when being attacked by hitmen wielding submachine guns. Except when he's in character. It also becomes a bit labored after the bear trap incident.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Examined and acknowledged. When talking to Lester, Bill muses about other tragedies-a ship sinking with hundreds of passengers, a deadly flu that claimed a few lives, etc.-and mentions that he's most grieved about a few murders within a short time within his own city. He's closer to the case of these particular murders being that he closely knows the Nygaards and is shocked by Chaz's supposed involvement.
  • Minnesota Nice: Characters from Minnesota almost always affect a chipper and upbeat tone even when they're criticizing or insulting each other.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: There's a short scene in the trailer where a robber, played by Paul Wood, tries to hold up a convenience store, with Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers present. Numbers offers him a Scrunion, and the scene ends. Interviews with Paul Wood clarify it was a short scene where the two hit men shoot him during his attempted robbery.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Lester gets away with his crimes for over a year. When he spots Malvo, he goes out of his way to pick a fight with him, even ignoring a few threats, both subtle and not-so-subtle. This ends up putting a target on his head and leads to four people being killed (including his new wife), which once again gains the attention of the police. Malvo is taken down and in the process, the police find out Lester was responsible for the murders of Pearl and Verne. Lester soon dies while being pursued by cops. If he hadn't decided to confront Malvo, he would have lived and likely would have never had legal trouble again.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Stavros's whole attitude towards his son. Particularly egregious/tragic when he tries to tell his father about who's been faking the "plagues" against him but Stavros is too panicked to listen.
  • One-Man Army: Lorne. He clears Fargo's organized crime headquarters in less than 2 minutes by himself, without so much as a scratch. 22 people are dead by the time he is done.
  • The Oner: Malvo's shooting massacre in "Who Shaves the Barber?" (though most of the shootout is only heard from outside as the camera pans across the building's windows).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked against Stavros by Lorne in the blackmail subplot. For example, Lorne changes his back medication to Adderall and begins recreating The Ten Biblical Plagues.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Lester's wife tears into him while pretending to engage in casual conversation over a meal.
  • Pet the Dog: Bill Oswalt has adopted an African refugee and is quite emotionally invested in looking out for him. This shows that in spite of being an obstructive and incompetent boss, he's a decent guy at heart.
    • When Lester approaches Malvo at the hotel, he brags about his Insurance Salesman of the Year award. As Malvo gets his party to leave to avoid getting his cover blown, his fiancée Jemma congratulates Lester.
  • Playing Both Sides: Lorne against Don and Stavros in the blackmail subplot.
  • Plucky Girl: Molly.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Except for Molly and Chief Thurman, the other cops are portrayed as incompetent and/or gullible. Gus freely admits that he is not a very good cop and while teaming up with Molly helps him improve, he clearly lacks the temperament to be a police officer.
      • Bill Oswalt, especially. He continually refuses to see what's right under his nose, despite Molly continually showing him evidence of what's really happening, all because the evidence points to things that don't fit into the way he sees the world or his town. He becomes so irate at the idea that one of his citizens could have committed murder, he orders Molly off the case, insisting it was probably a drifter. Which was only half true, and was mostly based on a guess anyway.
    • Two FBI are staking out the headquarters of the Fargo mob and are clearly bored out of their minds. They fail to notice Lorne walking past their car with a submachine gun barely hidden under his jacket. When Lorne proceeds to kill everyone in the building they still fail to realize that something really bad is going on till a dead body falls out a window. Once they realize how badly they screwed up, one suggests that they get back into their car and pretend that they just arrived at the scene.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Related to Police Are Useless above: Chief Bill Oswalt is clearly not cut out for his position, to the point where his predecessor Chief Thurman wanted Molly to succeed him instead. Since taking over, Bill has done nearly everything to completely undermine Molly's investigation while doing almost no investigative work of his own.
  • Previously On: Its own Minnesota Nice variations: "Erstwhile On" and "Precedently On".
  • Professional Killer: Lorne Malvo. When we first see him, he's taking his latest victim somewhere to kill him. And also Numbers and Wrench.
  • Psycho for Hire: Lorne Malvo.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • During a blinding snowstorm, Gus fires at the sound of gunshots without first identifying his target. He hits a fellow police officer.
    • With the Nygaard case seemingly solved and no further signs of Malvo, the main characters move on with their lives and no one in authority is interested in re-investigating the case.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The two FBI agents who failed to notice that a massacre was happening right across the street from them are assigned to the file room and are still there after the Time Skip. They are bored out of their minds and it's clear that they will never be assigned to any real police work again.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Everything Lester is shown doing with his shotgun in the flashback to when he purchased it in "The Six Ungraspables". His wife remarks that he would be the only person capable of blowing his face off with an unloaded shotgun.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: In the finale Lester's gun jams after firing a single bullet. The gun spent a year in a box in a basement with no maintenance and it looks like the ejection mechanism malfunctioned. Lester is able to manually eject the casing but the delay is enough for Malvo to get away.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: An exasperated Lester tries to stop Lorne from bothering him with a sarcastic suggestion.
    Lester: "Heck, you're so sure about it, maybe you should just kill him for me."
    Lorne: *Grins evilly.*
  • Running Gag: Bill going outside to vomit when he sees the corpses.

  • Sacrificial Lion: Vern is proven to be smart, brave, and friendly throughout episode one, just before he gets gunned down.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Sam Hess still acts like the Jerk Jock he was in high school and continues to bully and humiliate Lester every chance he gets, even breaking his nose. This last act is what ultimately gets him killed.
  • Shout-Out: Not surprisingly, to Fargo and many other Coen Brothers pictures, particularly No Country for Old Men.
    • The opening shots of "The Crocodile's Dilemma" and "Eating the Blame" (especially the latter) are similar to the opening shot of the movie.
    • Lester tries to get some "unguent" for his hand infection.
    • "Who Shaves the Barber"- Molly's father is switching channels and the familiar "bark beetle" channel is heard briefly.
    • In the film and the series, there are scenes where characters watch a Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey game on TV.
    • The opening shot of a simple prairie field can be evocative of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, especially in "The Six Ungraspables", where it's paired with Appalachian folk music.
    • The anecdote about the rich man who gave away everything to the poor, including his own life, is reminiscent of the pointless "Goy's Teeth" sequence in a A Serious Man. Except for being considerably less pointless.
    • The fact that Lorne temporarily becomes a dentist is a nod to A Serious Man
    • The portrait of two bikini-clad woman on the beach is an allusion to Barton Fink.
    • A cop is strangled to death similar to No Country for Old Men.
    • A major plot relevant one. Molly's and Gus's marriage follows cues from Marge's and Norm's marriage.
    • At one point early in episode 9, Stephen Root's character calls Lorne "friendo", another allusion to No Country for Old Men.
    • The show has been using a familiar tune to the movie's opening theme... And then the finale ends with the actual movie's theme.
    • The camera lingers on a car's dealer plate. In Fargo, Marge's fellow officer mistakes "DLR" for an incomplete license plate number.
    • The finale ends with Gus, Molly, and Greta sitting together on the couch, watching television as a family, mirroring the final scene of the original film. Additionally, both stories end with the female protagonist pregnant and still slightly perturbed by the events she's had to deal with.
    • One of the Bemidji deputies is named Knudsen.
    • In the first episode, the restaurant where Lester meets Malvo is advertising white Russians.
    • Malvo's collection of recordings of people he's corrupted includes one labeled "Carson Wells.''
    • McDonnough & Snoats Accounting and Consulting
  • Stealth Sequel: Stavros' wealth apparently came from finding the bag of money that Carl Showalter hid in the snow at the end of the film.
  • Television Geography: The FBI field office for the northern Midwest is depicted as being in Fargo, ND. It's actually in Minneapolis, MN.
    • The majority of the Bemidji scenes were filmed in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
    • Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers ask a local why Bemidji has no libraries. In fact, Bemidji has two libraries, three if one counts Bemidji State University.
  • Thematic Series: Each season takes place in a different time period with a different group of characters, but they all share a continuity that includes the events of the movie, as well as a common setting of rural Minnesota. A What Happened to the Mouse? from the movie is addressed in the series, and it's been confirmed that season 2 will detail the Sioux Falls case that Lou Solverson referenced several times in season 1.
    Noah Hawley (Fargo showrunner): I like the idea that somewhere out there is a big, leather-bound book that's the history of true crime in the Midwest, and the movie was Chapter 4, Season 1 was Chapter 9 and [Season 2] is Chapter 2. You can turn the pages of this book, and you just find this collection of stories... But I like the idea that these things are connected somehow, whether it's linearly or literally or thematically. That's what we play around with.
  • Tap on the Head: When Malvo kills a group of people in an elevator, he asks Lester for help disposing of the bodies. Fearing for his life, Lester slams his salesman-of-the-year award across the back of his head to flee. It doesn't knock him out or even hurt him all that much, but he takes the opportunity to run anyway.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Numbers and Wrench.
  • Those Two Guys: Pepper and Budge.
  • Time Skip: A year passes in the middle of "The Heap".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Budge and Pepper.
  • Troll: Lorne, especially with Sam's kids and the kid in the motel parking lot.
  • Villain Ball: In Season 1, Lorne Malvo really has no practical reason for doing many of the evil things he does, but his decision to abandon his bounty hunt in Las Vegas to go after Lester is what leads to his undoing.
  • Villain Protagonist: Lester is the closest thing to a main protagonist in the show, and he's one of the villains, though not the worst villain by far.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Lester upchucks after Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers interrogate him about his involvement with Sam's murder.
  • Vomiting Cop: Bill Oswalt is introduced returning to a crime scene after having just thrown up.
  • Wham Episode: Episode 6, Buridan's Ass. Come the episode credits: Chumph has been set up by Malvo, ending in him being gunned down by SWAT officers; Mr Numbers is ambused by Malvo, ending with his throat being slit; Stavros hides the last of his money again only to find Dmitri and Semenko dead in a car wreck; Lester has planted all the evidence against him, setting up Chaz to be framed for his wife's murder; and Gus has inadvertently shot Molly in the whiteout, thinking she was a hitman.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In the blizzard, Gus discovering Molly's unconscious body, realizing he shot her.
    • An extended pan through the woods to reveal a Time Skip, showing Gus as a mailman.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Wrench is told by Malvo to try to kill him later, if he wants. He is never seen again.
    • We don't see what happens to the used car salesman Malvo uses in his ambush of Pepper and Budge. He's last seen taped to a steering wheel begging for his life as Lorne approaches with a gun in his hand.
    • Stavros disappears after episode 6, despite being quite a major character for the first half of the season.
    • Chaz is never shown being released after wrongfully being imprisoned for killing Lester's wife. We also never see what happens to his family after the time skip. invokedNoah Hawley was asked about Chaz in an interview and said that it can be assumed that he was released; they just didn't think it was worth filming. The rest of his future is open-ended.
  • World of Symbolism: Each episode's title is the name of a philosophical concept or paradox, with each episode seeming to illustrate said concept as it plays out.
  • Worthy Opponent: Malvo has respect for Wrench and Numbers when they try to kill him, telling them they "got closer than anyone". Later, he seems to feel this way about Gus as well. This is telling since he has little regard for Gus in their first few meetings, but gives him a smile when he kills him.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: After being stuck in the house with the bodies of his wife and a police officer, Lester runs into a wall and knocks himself out so that it will look like he was just another victim. It works.
    • When Malvo is ambushed by Wrench and Numbers, Malvo cuts himself with his own knife to create a blood trail and the illusion that he is wounded to set up his own ambush.

The second season contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Dodd Gerhardt physically and verbally abuses his adult daughter Simone. He seems rather resentful of the fact that she is a girl, when he wanted a boy, even though she seems rather enthusiastic about entering the family business.
  • Absentee Actor: Despite her name appearing in the credits, Kirsten Dunst doesn't appear at all in "Did You Do This? No, You Did It!"
  • Black Dude Dies First: The first person to die in the season is a black waiter who tries to attack Rye after he shoots the judge in the Waffle Hut massacre.
  • Call Forward: Whoever wins the gang war between the Kansas City Syndicate and the Gerharts, they'll be wiped out by Malvo by season 1, which is 30 some odd years from now.
  • The Cloud Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Lou's conspiracy theorist friend Karl says that the Powers That Be are behind the events at the Waffle Hut. Lou tells him it's just a shooting in the middle of Minnesota not a presidential assassination. Karl tells him to just watch, this thing is going to snowball. This being Fargo you know he's going to be right.
  • Credits Gag: The first episode has one in the style of the 70s MGM logo.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Hamish Broker, who is basically the CEO of the Kansas City Mob.
  • Decoy Protagonist: After killing three people in the Waffle Hut, Rye seems set up to be the Lester Nygaard of Season 2 (an impulsive murderer trying to stay ahead as the police close in on him), only for him to be killed off by Peggy and Ed by the end of the premiere.
  • The Dreaded: The Gerhardt family has a nasty reputation in Fargo. Det. Ben Schmidt tells Lou that he would rather confess to the murders himself and go to jail than have to take on the Gerhardts.
  • Fake Guest Star: Jeffrey Donovan and Bokeem Woodbine as Dodd Gerhardt and Mike Milligan.
  • For Want of a Nail: To ensure that they aren't implicated in the killing, Peggy and Ed fake an accident. Which leads to Dent discovering the car in a local auto shop and tracking them down. Which also leads to Lou to the same conclusion.
  • Friend or Foe: Dodd Gerhardt accidentally shoots one of his own men during their search of the Blomquists' house.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Ronald Reagan.
  • Ironic Name: The course that Peggy's going to in Sioux Falls is "Lifesprings," which we know from the first Season, was the location of a bloodbath.
  • Kitchen Sink Included: Peggy uses a loose sink to smash one of Dodd's men in the head.
  • Last Chance to Quit: Lou offers this to the Bloomquist couple in the closing minutes of "Fear and Trembling."
  • Made of Iron: The Gerhardt men are notoriously hard to kill.
    • In 1951 it apparently took 19 bullets to do in Dieter Gerhardt.
    • In 1979 his great-grandson Rye was beaten, stabbed, run over by a car, bled out for several hours and still had enough strength left in him to attack Ed before finally being put down yet another stabbing.
    • Dodd needs to be tasered with a cattle prod no less than three times before Peggy can be sure he is not getting up.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: After last season's subtly Biblical themes, this season is more overtly sci-fi. UFOs and extraterrestrials are referred to by minor characters and the soundtrack; both Rye and Ohanzee Dent separately see strange bright lights in the sky outside the Waffle Hut. The latter even loses about two hours of time without realizing, judging by his pocket watch.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Rye threatened the judge in the Waffle Hut, he told her it wasn't "one of those optional, check-A-or-B scenarios." Later, when Hank asks her to explain why she continued driving after hitting Rye, she replied that it wasn't a test where you could check A or B.
  • Minnesota Nice: Discussed and deconstructed by Mike Milligan who claims that people in the Midwest are not really that nice but are just very good at using politeness to disguise the fact that they are actually unfriendly and hostile to someone.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: A running theme is that the women are the ones you have to look out for in the three families that appear this season.
    • Floyd Gerhardt is the brains of her family’s organized crime operations, being smarter than all three of her sons put together. Her granddaughter Simone shows signs of following in her footsteps.
    • Even though they’re no slouches themselves, Betty Solverson proves to be a better detective than both her husband and her father, correctly deducing everything that happened in the Waffle Hut.
    • Peggy Blomquist is the brains of her family and the driving force behind every bad thing they end up doing.
  • Oh Crap!: The Judge was truly surprised when Rye pulled a gun on her.
  • Scary Black Man: Mike Milligan, who some early reviewers compared to Shaft
  • The '70s: '79, to be precise
  • Shout-Out: Contains a number of references to the original film and other Coen Brothers properties:
    • Rye Gerhardt’s appearance and mannerisms are reminiscent of Carl Showalter. Likewise, his father brings Wade Gustafson to mind.
    • The Kitchen brothers resemble a similar set of twins from Miller's Crossing.
    • Ed Blomquist feeding Rye Gerhardt’s leg into a meat grinder references the infamous wood chipper scene.
    • The shot of a door lock lying on the floor in "The Myth of Sisyphus" is reminiscent of No Country for Old Men.
    • Skip Spring's mannerisms, financial troubles and incompetent attempt to partner with criminals are all reminiscent of Jerry Lundegaard.
    • Lou laments that the incoming police reinforcements are untested, having never faced down "A Serious Man".
    • In keeping with his status as an Expy of Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski, Karl channels the Dude and sets up an Absurdly Ineffective Barricade to block a door that opens outward.
    • Episode 6 ends with a cover of 'Man of Constant Sorrow'.
    • Covers of "Let's Find Each Other Tonight" from the original film and "Just Dropped In" from The Big Lebowski also appear.
    • Bear marching Simone into the middle of the woods to execute her is straight out of Miller's Crossing.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Ed Blomquist becomes this to most of the Gerhardt family because of Dodd's fabrications and his sheer luck. By the time Hank tries to explain to Floyd that "The Butcher of Luverne" is not a hitman she's convinced he's some sort of Sleeper Agent.
  • A Simple Plan: Rye just wanted to extort the judge to get a few more bucks. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Spanner in the Works: The Blomquists actions completely disrupt the plans of both the Gerhardt Family and the Kansas City Syndicate.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Dieter Gerhardt apparently took 19 bullets to the head in 1951.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Peggy tells Ed she was a total mess after running down Rye and couldn't think straight. However, we see her being cool and collected as she cleans herself up and takes time to do regular chores, the first hints the woman may be a sociopath.
  • Wham Line: In "Fear and Trembling", Peggy's boss mentions the seminar they plan on attending is in Sioux Falls. Which according to Lou in Season 1, was the site of a bloodbath in 1979.

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