Fargo is an American black comedy–crime drama anthology television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the eponymous 1996 film written and directed by the Coen brothers, who serve as executive producers on the series alongside Hawley. The series premiered on April 15, 2014, on FX, and follows an anthology format, with each season set in a different era, and with a different story and mostly new characters and cast, although there is minor overlap. Each season shares a common chronology with the original film.
The first season, set in 2006 and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, and Martin Freeman, was met with critical acclaim. It won the Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Casting, and received 15 additional nominations including Outstanding Writing, another Outstanding Directing nomination, and acting nominations for all four leads. It also won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Miniseries or Television Film and Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for Thornton.
The second season, set in 1979 and starring Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, and Ted Danson, was met with even greater acclaim. It received three Golden Globe nominations, along with several Emmy nominations including Outstanding Miniseries, and acting nominations for Dunst, Plemons, Smart, and Bokeem Woodbine.
The series is currently on an extended hiatus, as Hawley is busy with other projects and there is a lack of creative ideas for a fourth season. Hawley stated in June 2017, "I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there", and regarding a timeline for a fourth season, "We're looking at three years from now".
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||10||April 15, 2014 (2014-04-15)||June 17, 2014 (2014-06-17)|
|2||10||October 12, 2015 (2015-10-12)||December 14, 2015 (2015-12-14)|
|3||10||April 19, 2017 (2017-04-19)||June 21, 2017 (2017-06-21)|
In 2006, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) passes through Bemidji, Minnesota, and influences the community–including put-upon insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman)–with his malice, violence, and deception. Meanwhile, Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) and Duluth police officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) team up to solve a series of murders they believe may be linked to Malvo and Nygaard.
In 1979, beautician Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) and her husband, butcher Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons) of Luverne, Minnesota, cover up her hit-and-run and murder of Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), son of Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart), matriarch of the Gerhardt crime family in Fargo, North Dakota. Meanwhile, State Trooper Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson), and his father-in-law, Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson), investigate a triple homicide at a local diner connected to Rye.
In 2010, St. Cloud probation officer Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and his parolee girlfriend Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) dream of a better, wealthier life. To achieve this, they attempt to steal a valuable vintage stamp from Ray's more successful older brother, Emmit (also played by McGregor), the self-proclaimed "Parking Lot King of Minnesota". However, their plans backfire, and the couple soon has to hide their involvement in two deaths, including the stepfather of former Eden Valley police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon). Meanwhile, Emmit wishes to pay back a shady company he borrowed money from two years ago, but the mysterious company and its employees, led by V. M. Varga (David Thewlis) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan), have other plans.
In 2012, it was announced that FX, with the Coen brothers as executive producers, was developing a new television series based on the 1996 Academy Award-winning film Fargo. It was later announced that adaptation would be a 10-episode limited series. On August 2, 2013, it was announced that Billy Bob Thornton had signed on to star in the series. On September 27, 2013, Martin Freeman also signed on to star. On October 3, 2013, it was announced that Colin Hanks was cast in the role of Duluth police officer Gus Grimly. Production began in fall 2013 with filming taking place in and around Calgary, Alberta.
The series is set in the same fictional universe as the film, in which events took place in 1987 between Minneapolis and Brainerd, Minnesota. The first season features the buried ransom money from the film in a minor subplot. Additionally, a number of references are made connecting the series to the film.
Following the series renewal in July 2014, creator Noah Hawley revealed that the second season would take place in 1979 and focus on Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as referenced by Lou Solverson and others in the first season. The ten episodes are set in Luverne, Minnesota, Fargo, and Sioux Falls. Hawley agreed that this takes place before the events of the film, but he believes all the stories connect: "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 this is Chapter 2," he said. "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." This book was realized in season 2, episode 9, "The Castle". Production on the second season began in Calgary on January 19, 2015, and completed on May 20, 2015. The first teaser for the second season was released on June 17, 2015.
Production on season 3 began in January 2017 in Calgary, Alberta.
As with the original film, each episode begins with the superimposed text:
|“||This is a true story. The events depicted took place in Minnesota in [year]. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.||”|
As with the film, this claim is completely untrue. Showrunner Noah Hawley continued to use the Coens' device, saying it allowed him to "tell a story in a new way." Hawley has played with the realism of the story further; responding to queries about Charlie Gerhardt, a character from season 2, he stated "If he’s out there, I’d like to get a letter from him someday, telling me how he turned out.”
At the 2017 ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, Hawley further discussed the "true story" series tag: "So what does that even mean — the words 'true story'?" he said. "I really wanted to deconstruct that this year." He recalled one of the lines spoken by Sy Feltz, Michael Stuhlbarg's character: "'The world is wrong — it looks like my world but everything is different.' That's what we're exploring this year."
The first season received acclaim from television critics, and received a Metacritic score of 85 out of 100 based on 40 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim." The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 97% "certified fresh" critics rating with an average rating of 8.44 out of 10 based on 49 reviews. The website consensus reads: "Based on the film of the same name in atmosphere, style, and location only, Fargo presents more quirky characters and a new storyline that is expertly executed with dark humor and odd twists." IGN reviewer Roth Cornet gave the first season a 9.7 out of 10 score, praising the casting, its thematic ties to the movie, and the writing. The A.V. Club named it the sixth best TV series of 2014.
The second season has been met with overwhelming acclaim from television critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, it received an average score of 96 based on 33 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim". Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% "certified fresh" rating with an average rating of 9.19 out of 10 based on 53 reviews, with the site's consensus, "Season two of Fargo retains all the elements that made the series an award-winning hit, successfully delivering another stellar saga powered by fascinating characters, cheeky cynicism, and just a touch of the absurd."
The third season has received acclaim similar to the first two seasons from critics. On Metacritic, it has a score of 89 out of 100 based on 32 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 93% rating with an average score of 8.56 out of 10 based on 50 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "Thanks in part to a memorable dual performance from Ewan McGregor, Fargo mostly maintains the sly wit and off-kilter sensibility it displayed in its first two seasons."
Fargo has won 32 of its 133 award nominations. The first season garnered 8 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, with the show itself winning the Outstanding Miniseries and director Colin Bucksey winning the Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special. It received an additional 10 Creative Arts Emmy Award nominations, winning for Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special. It has received eight Golden Globe Award nominations, with the show winning for Best Miniseries or Television Film, and Billy Bob Thornton winning for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film. The series has also received one Screen Actors Guild Award nomination to Billy Bob Thornton for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie. Additional accolades include: the American Film Institute Award for Top Ten Television Program in 2014 and 2015, the Artios Award for Excellence in Casting, a Peabody Award, seven Critics' Choice Television Awards in which the show won twice for Best Miniseries and five times in acting for Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Jean Smart, the Dorian Awards for TV Drama of the Year, the Golden Reel Award for Best Music Score, two Producers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television and a Writers Guild of America Awards for Long Form – Adapted.
On April 15, 2014, the series made its debut on FX and FXX in Canada; the remaining episodes were shown on FXX. The next day, it premiered in the UK on Channel 4. On May 1, 2014, it premiered on SBS One in Australia, and on SoHo in New Zealand.