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Series: Fargo
Fargo is a 2014 television series on FX, 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, a la True Detective or American Horror Story.

Season 2 has been confirmed to take place in 1979 and act as a prequel to the events of season 1. As such it will use a brand new cast and not bring back any of the actors from season 1.

There was also a failed 2003 television pilot starring a mid-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 series contains examples of:

  • American Accents: Just like the original movie, it's populated with Mid-West accents (save for Lorne Malvo and Mr. Numbers).
  • Animal Motifs: Show up frequently, most notably with Malvo who is constantly associated with wolves.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Butt Monkey: Lester, though his arc seems to be The Dog Bites Back.
  • 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.
  • 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, tie him to an exercise wheel, and stick an unloaded shotgun in his hand which was pointed at the front door. He draws the cops' attention by firing a rifle at some cars outside, leaves, and then a tripwire makes 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 wheel 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 Bulge 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. He's even described in the show's description as "put-upon".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, plat 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, he 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 that of a malfunctioning washing machine.
  • 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 meaning behind the tale is left ambiguous.
  • 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 only means 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 suggest 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 investigation 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 Wench.
  • 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 its clear that they will never be assigned to any real police work again.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Pretty much 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • Even the theme music sneaks in some familiar music of the old movie.
    • "Who Shaves the Barber"- Molly's father is switching channels and the familiar "bark beetle" channel is heard briefly.
    • The opening shot of a simple prairie field can be evocative of O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
    • 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 temporary 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: The series is more this to the original film than an actual adaptation.
  • 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.
  • 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 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. Noah 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
  • 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.
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