A small-screen adaptation of Joel and Ethan Coen’s modern classic, “Fargo”? With no input from the Coens? It sounded like a horrible idea when FX made the announcement back in 2012. Cut to 2016, and “Fargo” is one of the strongest, boldest dramas on television. With a new season (starring Ewan McGregor) on its way in 2017, it’s a good time to dive into the riveting, darkly funny first two seasons. Both featured different time periods, (mostly) new characters, and a fresh cast.
Year it began: 2014
Where it can be seen: FX (the entirety of season one streams on Hulu)
Who’s in it: Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, and Keith Carradine (season one); Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Jeffrey Donovan, and Bokeem Woodbine (season two)
Typical episode length: 40 to 100 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 20
Brief plot description: Created by Noah Hawley, “Fargo” is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name. Considered one of the finest releases of the ’90s, the Coens’ Oscar winner memorably starred Frances McDormand as a police chief who becomes entangled with a cash-desperate car salesman. The first season of TV’s “Fargo” began on similar terrain (Minnesota) and with a very similar story, that of an insurance salesman who becomes entangled with a villainous drifter and a young police deputy. The season eventually moved into different directions, and by season two – a prequel to season one involving the father of the first season’s deputy, a hit and run, and a Fargo-based crime family – the links to the original film were less defined.
Why it’s worth watching: “Fargo” might be the least predictable series on TV. There is one specific moment in season one, for example – a faceoff between “Sherlock” star Martin Freeman’s insurance salesman protagonist and Billy Bob Thornton’s deadpan hitman – that is jaw-droppingly surprising. It’s also very funny, and the same is true for much of season two. The latter turned out to be even more dramatically compelling, with a story that brought together a fearsome crime family matriarch (Jean Smart), a philosophical hitman (Bokeem Woodbine), two of the more likable police officers in recent memory (Patrick Wilson and a great Ted Danson), a rather dopey young couple (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons), and, of course, UFOs. “Fargo” is the kind of show that is ideal for binge-watching, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what comes next. Perhaps the strongest praise one can give is this: “Fargo” the TV series has more than equaled “Fargo” the film.