It may have been easy to miss the Season 2 premiere of FX’s Fargo this past Monday. In a slew of other hotly anticipated autumn premieres over the past two weeks, like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story: Hotel, and Arrow, FX’s anthology series based on the Coen Brothers film of the same name may have snuck by unnoticed. However, a show as utterly flawless as Fargo deserves not only your weekly attention, but your love, your theorizing and every Emmy. Seriously, every single Emmy.
There are a few special elements that set Fargo apart from its fall competition. For one, the simple, yet sharp, writing is so darkly hilarious that watching it actually makes you feel smarter. Secondly, there’s no show on television right now that looks as breathtakingly cinematic as Fargo, and that’s including anything being offered up by HBO or Showtime. The first 10-episode season was essentially a 10-hour feature film and that sense of continuity is difficult to achieve on TV. Thirdly, the casting of Fargo is a “that guy” actor’s dream—the ensemble cast for Season 1 was headlined by Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton, but performances by Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks were simply show-stealing. Plus, randomly delightful appearances by familiar faces like Bob Odenkirk, Key & Peele, and even Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny in Phileadelphia felt as natural as they were excellent.
The biggest thing about Fargo that demands attention is the unique setting. Murder mysteries may seem common on TV, and small towns are also ubiquitous, but rarely are they presented together in such a funny, dark, and frankly told way. The snowy landscape is used beautifully and you’ll be imitating the quasi-Canadian-Midwestern accent unique to Fargo after one episode. Every episode is introduced with the title card “This is a True Story” and everything about the setting makes you believe that these events really happened—even if they didn’t.
Season 1 of Fargo was spectacular and if the premiere of Season 2 is any indication, showrunner Noah Hawley is leading viewers into a story that’ll be just as remarkable. This season takes place in 1979, and the sets, wardrobe, and hair all feel perfectly dated. Familiar faces include Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, and Ted Danson, but you’ll also recognize Jeffrey Donovan and Nick Offerman, who have stranger facial hair than they’ve ever had on screen. Cult favorite Bruce Campbell plays, in what might be the most ingenious casting decision in the history of television, Ronald Reagan.
Fargo is one of those magnetic shows that grabs you from the first minute of the first episode and doesn’t let go until the story reaches its inevitable conclusion. Anything that can take a Coen Brothers movie and actually make it better isn’t just special—it’s exceptional. Treat yourself, watch this show, and become a Fargo evangelist.
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt (Ecco, 2012)
This historical novel is darkly funny, tragic and features a setting just as distinct as what Fargo offers. Set during the California Gold Rush, this story follows sibling assassins on a dangerous, yet comical, misadventure that explores Western-story clichés with a refreshingly deadpan voice.
John Dies at the End, David Wong (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012)
This funny yet spooky, horror-novel parody is fascinatingly nonsensical and menacingly comical. The book chronicles the terrifying adventures of John and Dave, two friends who uncover a mystery about a dangerous mind altering drug named Soy Sauce that may just be the first phase of an invasion into our dimension.
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (Random House, 1966)
The classic Midwestern homicide tale follows the real-life murder of a Kansas family and the subsequent capture, trial and execution of their killers. Credited as being the first true “nonfiction novel,” this work is the perfect companion to Fargo, which attempts to capture the same tone Capote creates in this novel.