A young, smart police deputy in the small town of Bemidji, Molly Solverson was never the kind of cop who desired to land the big case or one day join the FBI. But after a series of murders rattles her town, Molly is determined to find the person behind them, even if it means going it alone.
- Action Girl: Being a police officer and Police Chief Thurman's star pupil gives her this title automatically. Her determination and use of force when dealing with criminals or just other officers just cement her as this.
- Adorkable: Has her moments, like making small talk with an anecdote about spiders laying eggs in someone's neck.
- Big Good: As the Good Counterpart to Malvo's Big Bad.
- Brainy Brunette: Which the chief recognizes.
- Cassandra Truth: The fact that no one believes her (until the arrival of the two FBI agents who want to redeem themselves) motivates the whole plot.
- Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: With Gus.
- Daddy's Girl: A woman in her late 30s and still the apple of her father's eye. Even back when she was little, Lou would be there to read Molly bedtime stories. She often has to remind him that she's now a grown up and can take care of herself.
- Determinator: Even after being put on the John Doe case, she's still hell-bent on catching Lorne.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After numerous setbacks in her investigation, not helped by Bill's incompetence or getting accidentally shot by Gus, Molly finally manages to bring Malvo and Lester to justice and settle down with her new family as the new chief of police for Bemidji.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Enhances her Marge Expy-hood by having a similar haircut after the Time Skip.
- Expy: She's one for Marge from the original; post-time-skip, she's even heavily pregnant like Marge was in the movie.
- Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Also shares this with Marge; even though she puts together 99% of the puzzle, she seems to see Malvo as a standard hired killer rather than the force of Chaotic Evil that he is.
- Heroic BSoD: Seen starting one at the end of Who Shaves The Barber after finding out the police arrested Chaz instead of Lorne & Lester.
- Ignored Expert: Bill never seems to take her advice on anything regarding the case.
- Like Father, Like Son: Just like her father back in the day, Molly is clearly assertive, smart, knows exactly when to follow her gut, has great detective skills, and never does anything by half. And just like her father, finds herself being sidetracked and dismissed by blockheads with higher positions despite being on the right and actually having the common sense to try to stop their ill-conceived plans to catch the possible suspect.
- Locked Out of the Loop: She has no memory whatsoever of the Sioux Falls incident detailed in season 2, mostly because her parents, Lou in particular, didn't want to expose her to the amount of violence that was happening. Being a little child when it occurred, it's understandable, if a tad ironic considering she would have her own case when she would grow up.
- Meaningful Name: Solverson, not only is she a cop (solver), but she is also the child of a cop (son, calling her Soversdottir may have been a step too far).
- Nerves of Steel: She thinks nothing of confronting hardened killers and probing them for information.
- Nice Girl: Kind, polite, yet not a pushover.
- Not So Different: She's the Good Counterpart of Lorne, which is acknowledged by the latter with a knowing face when they finally see each other.
- Pregnant Badass: As of "The Heap".
- Surrounded by Idiots: Being the kind-hearted person she is, Molly wouldn't call them idiots, per se, but it's clear that this is how she feels about her correct theory about Malvo, the Sam Hess murder, and Lester's involvement constantly being questioned by other people, Bill especially, without any possible counterpoints or just out of plain apathy and desire to get it over with rather than do actual police work.
- Time-Shifted Actor: She appears in Season 2 as a six-year-old played by Raven Stewart. note Considering that she grows up to be an incredibly skilled detective, rather than being a precocious little kid, she's amusingly oblivious to the intense drama going on around her — as Season 1 establishes that she has no memory of anything that happened at the time.
- Turn in Your Badge: An amusingly low-key, Minnesota Nice variant; when she won't let up on the idea of Lester knowing more than he's telling the police, her boss makes her head of inquiry on the frozen-John-Doe case instead.
- Useless Spleen: Where she is accidentally shot by Gus. She's back in action in about two days.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Her mother says that she's six in 1979, which would mean she was born in 1972-3; but in January 2006, Molly reminds her father that she's thirty-one now, which would mean she was born in 1974-5. Whichever way you tie it, someone's at least a year out.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: She correctly figures out that Lorne killed Sam on Lester's behalf but assumes that it was a paid hit. It does not cross her mind that Lorne did the killing just for the heck of it.
A former Swift Boat Lieutenant who served three tours in Vietnam, Lou now works as a Minnesota State Trooper. He lives in Luverne, MN with his wife, Betsy, and daughter, Molly. Lou is a simple man, a believer in the American spirit and the American dream, but he is starting to worry that he and the other soldiers brought the war home with them.
As the wise and loving father of Molly Solverson, Lou Solverson was also once a state police officer for nearly two decades. He has since retired and is now the owner of a coffee shop in Bemidji. When a series of murders suddenly occur in their small town, Lou becomes concerned that Molly's pursuit of the case might put her in the cross-hairs of a deranged killer.
- Action Dad: In the second season, where he has a far more active role the events of the story.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Lou is very quick to put together what happened in the Waffle Hut.
- Badass Grandpa: His badassery is not diminished by his old age. He is unarmed, retired, and not in a helpful position, but his demeanor, Nerves of Steel, and cautiousness make him come off as a force to be reckoned with on his own. He doesn't hesitate to break out the shotgun when it comes time to protect his family.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: In his conversation with Malvo, what at first glance looks like a simple chat is underneath a serious talk that could end with one of them dead. Neither loses his composure and continue talking like it's just a regular day.
- Cool Old Guy: It's a hallmark of anyone played by Keith Carradine, and Lou is no exception. He's a loving father who makes 'Dad Jokes', a quick wit, and a solid badass.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: When arriving at The Waffle Hut to check and make a report of a massacre that occurred there, he goes through with it in the most stoic and professional, if slightly resigned, way possible.
- Crusading Widower: His wife is no longer with him and his daughter Molly by the time of 2009. Even in 1979, he often had to work and take care of young Molly because his wife Betsy was in no position to do so.
- Dad the Veteran: He's a veteran of the Vietnam War.
- Deadpan Snarker: As part of what makes him a Cool Old Guy, he has a sharp wit to go with his incisive mind. As it turns out, his snark was present even in his younger years.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Poor Lou has allot of hardship in his life; his experiences in Vietnam, the events of Season 2 including the Sioux Falls Massacre, the death of his beloved wife, and later taking a bullet on a traffic stop that forces his retirement. But, as Betsy's dream in "Palindrome" shows, as an older man he'll know true contentment and happiness with Molly, Gus, Greta and his young grandson.
- Fair Cop: He was quite handsome in his days as a State Trooper.
- False Reassurance: Based on his previous story about lying to his Vietnam comrades when they were dying, his reassurance to Betty that she had the non-placebo subtly shows that he has accepted her impending death.
- Good Is Old-Fashioned: He prefers the old ways of living and is content to simply live a quiet life with his wife and daughter.
- Good Parents: Lou is a good father; loving, supportive, never condescending, protective without being overprotective and someone who Molly knows she can talk to honestly.
- Great Detective: It's mostly analysis and conjectures, but judging by the little information and witnesses on the Waffle Hut massacre, his deduction skills are still pretty impressive, even more by the fact that it's mostly accurate.
- Gut Feeling: When Lorne Malvo walks into his shop Solverson quickly picks up on the fact that there's something very wrong with him, and it's even implied in an anecdote that he has an idea of how evil Lorne is, which is part of the reason he doesn't help him find out where Lester is. Justified since he was an experienced police officer and it never goes beyond a strong suspicion. He also quickly figures out that Skip is involved in Rye Gerhardt's affairs. He does miss Ed's suspicious behavior, but that can be explained away by the not inconsiderable distraction of his wife's illness. He later realizes the full implications.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: He has blonde hair in his youth.
- Happily Married: To his beloved wife, Betsy Solverson.
- Hero of Another Story: In Season 1, when he makes references to some sort of (mis)adventure in 1979. In Season 2, we see the full story.
- Ignored Expert: Got this treatment in "The Castle". His detractors paid heavily for not listening to him.
- Jurisdiction Friction: In "The Castle", Lou ends up being arm-wrestled out of the Blomquists case by the Sioux Falls Police Department, going as far as excluding him from every important talks, insulted at every opportunity, and escorted out of the state. It doesn't go well for the Sioux Falls police.
- Nerves of Steel: First shown when he faces Lorne Malvo in a cordial, but firm way, despite the possibility of Malvo killing him. Shown in its full glory when he inspects the murder scene in The Waffle Hut and betrays no sense of emotion or fear, and makes jokes with Mike in a standoff.
- Noodle Incident: As said multiple times in Season 1, something happened in Sioux Falls in 1979 while he was still a policeman. Something bad. Season 2 is centered around this event and the build-up to it.
- Last Chance to Quit: He offers the Blumquists a chance to come clean about Rye's possible murder in order to provide some sort of protection against the Gerhardt family and a reduced sanction. They don't take it.
- Let Them Die Happy: Lou remembers that this was his attitude towards the fatally wounded in 'Nam: He would comfort them and tell them everything would be alright, even if it wasn't, so they would go out with a smile on their faces. He later applies the same with Betsy.
- The Lost Lenore: One way or the other, Betsy is absent in Season 1, so she seems to have become this to Lou. When Betsy becomes convinced that she won't survive the cancer, she asks Karl to tell Lou that she gives him her blessing to remarry if he wants to. The fact that he apparently never does speaks volumes as to this trope.
- Minnesota Nice: Lou is always friendly and polite even when he's dealing with thugs and people he dislikes. He also asserts that Minnesota folks are polite because they're good people, though Mike Millgan counters that the niceness is actually unfriendly passive-aggression.
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Despite all the trouble he caused, Lou expresses his posthumous admiration of Ed Blumquist to his widow, saying how much he admires the man for defending his family, no matter what.
- Nice Guy: In the past and present. Lou is good-natured, polite, kind, humble and brave.
- Not So Stoic: He becomes upset and agitated at the idea of risking Ed and Peggy's lives in "The Castle", and reacts with utter shock when the UFO descends.
- Only Sane Man: Tries to hold up the meaning of law enforcement in the midst of a Mob War between the Gerhardts and the Kansas city syndicate, as well as some shred of decency and justice from corruption and impunity. He even lampshades it. He's the only rational cop in "The Castle", along with Hank.
- Papa Wolf: In the Season 1 finale, he grabs a shotgun and stands guard outside his daughter's house.
- Politeness Judo: What Mike argues the Minnesota Nice act is: Lou uses his friendliness to disarm anyone he encounters and as such, he can attack better through persuasion and a positive demeanor rather than outright confrontation and violence.
- Precision F-Strike: He remains soft spoken and polite throughout season 2, but at one point he gets fed up with Ben Schmitt's cowardice and tells him:Lou: You're a shit cop, you know that?
- Protect This House: As shown above, he guards Molly's house not only to protect her daughter, but to also protect Greta, her step-granddaughter. He does it once before in 1979, against a more general danger he's not determined yet.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He attempts to persuade Ed and Peggy to confess their involvement in Rye's death so that he can give them proper police protection from mob retaliation. In "The Castle" he refuses a police strategy that would endanger the Blumquists' lives, considering them his responsibility.
- Red Is Heroic: The dark maroon jacket and pants he wears as his uniform during the second season.
- Retired Badass: By the time of season 1, he has retired from the force and now runs a restaurant, with his daughter Molly one of his regular customers.
- Returning War Vet: From Vietnam, more specifically. Based on his recollections in 1979 it was a strong influence on his character.
- Saved by Canon: He'll survive the events of Season 2, since he has appeared in the first one. It's still easy to forget considering the tension of his scenes, though.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Even though he is forcibly escorted out of South Dakota state lines, he turns his car around and bravely places himself in the infamous Sioux Falls Massacre.
- Selective Obliviousness: While mostly a Great Detective on his first scene, Hank points out a tennis shoe that appears to be hanging in a tree near the crime scene as possible evidence. Lou gives an automatic "yep," but continues writing his report without even looking up.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Shuts down Peggy's self-pitying Motive Rant with one line in the season 2 finale:"People are dead, Peggy."
- Staring Down Cthulhu: Lou does this to Malvo in a non-direct way by not showing any nervousness and doing his job while talking to him in a friendly tone. Lou had a habit of this even in his youth. He stares down the likes of the Gehrhardts and Milligan with composure, grace, and humongous cojones.
- Take Care of the Kids: He was Molly's primary caretaker in her childhood, due to Betsy's Ill Girl status.
- The Vietnam Vet: He is one and it's implied his experiences there had a huge effect on him.
- Time-Shifted Actor: Keith Carradine in Season 1, Patrick Wilson in Season 2.
- Verbal Tic: Mutters "yep" to himself when he spots a clue, as if it confirms his hunch. He says it automatically when Hank points out the shoe in the tree, but he's really disregarding it.
Betsy had a crush on Lou Solverson all through high school, even though it was her sister who said she was going to marry him. Now she is a stay-at-home mom, the glue that holds her family together. But that job has gotten harder since her cancer diagnosis. And though she would never say it out loud, shes hurting now and worried, especially as her husband and father find themselves pulled into a most troubling case.
- The Anti-Nihilist: Betsy isn't much of a fan of Albert Camus. She believes firmly in the sanctity of life and that she has a job to do on Earth; death doesn't negate the good she does for others.
- Deadpan Snarker: Birds of a feather snark together, it seems, since she's able to trade quips with Lou easily.
- Doomed by Canon: Her actual fate is up in the air, but she won't live to see Molly grow up to become an exceptional police officer. Her incredibly precise dreams suggest that she'll die in the next couple of years.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Betsy has a precognitive dream after a reaction to her medication in the season finale. She sees visions of Hanzee (who she has never met), Molly and Lou's life, and her son-in-law, grandson, and step-grandaughter.
- Generation Xerox: She's a sharp detective, just like her daughter.
- Genre Savvy: Betsy is only peripherally involved with the Waffle House murders case, but still manages to casually put together exactly what happened.
- Good Parents: Along with Lou, she's an attentive and loving parent to Molly.
- The Heart: She holds Lou, Hank and Molly together as a family.
- High-School Sweethearts: She has had a crush on Lou since they were in high school and now, they're married.
- Ill Girl: She's undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
- Irony: Betsy doesn't agree with Camus' take on life, when in fact one of the tenets of Camus' philosophy is to embrace the absurdity of life and continue to live. The misunderstanding came from Noreen's own take on it.
- Not So Stoic: Betsy faces down her illness with admirable strength and stoicism, although it is seen cracking briefly when she contemplates the possibility of losing her hair to chemo.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: A specialty of Cristin Milioti.
A Duluth police officer, Gus isn't the kind of cop who dreams of solving the big case. A single father to a twelve year old girl, all Gus wants to do is to punch the clock in the morning and go home at night. But his life is complicated one night when he pulls over Lorne Malvo. Feeling threatened, Gus lets Malvo go. It is a decision that haunts him and when fate brings Malvo back into his life, Gus will be forced to confront his worst fears.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Grows increasingly sweet on Molly but has trouble saying anything about it. They still end up married.
- Clueless Deputy: Gus admits that he isn't a very good cop, and that he mostly deals with stray animals. He is much happier when he becomes a mailman.
- Doting Parent: He keeps in contact with his daughter over the police radio.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: At the start of the show, he's a clearly lonely widower who makes the grievous error of letting Malvo go. By seasons end, he's married, expecting a second kid, working happily as a mailman, and makes up for his mistake by killing Malvo.
- Good Counterpart: To Lester; they're both somewhat weak-willed men who have a stronger person come into their lives to steer them towards good and evil, respectively (Lorne for Lester, Molly for Gus).
- I Did What I Had to Do: Gus explains to his daughter that, even though it's his job to catch the bad guys, he would (and, unbeknownst to her, has) let one walk free rather than leave her without a father.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: A sort-of subversion, Molly survives being shot, but Gus still feels extremely guilty about it.
- My Greatest Failure: Letting Lorne go. And shooting Molly.
- Nice Guy: Very nice making it all the more ironic that he of all people, is the one to kill Malvo.
- Lovable Coward: He's good man overall, but he's easily intimidated, especially by Lorne Malvo.
- Police are Useless: Gus might be a good guy, but as a police officer, he's straight-up incompetent.
- Punch-Clock Hero: He's more or less dragged into the plot.
- Took a Level in Badass: By finally being the one that kills Lorne.
- Turn in Your Badge: He's put on suspension for three weeks after Lorne manages to fool the entire Duluth department into thinking he's someone else. And as of the Time Skip, he's quit the force to work as a mailman.
The young daughter of Gus Grimly.
- Little Miss Badass: Despite her age, she doesn't hesitate to grab a rifle when she thinks danger is afoot.Lou: What are you planning to do with that?Greta: If he comes, I'll put his eye out. You can finish him off.Lou: That's my girl.
- Tomboy: Aside from her rather boyish haircuit, when she sees that Lou is standing guard outside the house in case Malvo shows up, she promptly retrieves her own rifle to help her grandfather out if need be.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Greta is very smart and courageous with a strong sense of moral responsibility.