Fargo is admittedly one of those shows I did not expect to like. To me, the story seemed completely opened and shut in the movie by the Coen Brothers that the show is based off. Meek, overly-kind police lady gets in over her head but kicks ass anyway. It was a strange, darkly comical ride into the heart of America, and how even the most normal, sane looking places on the outside presumably has some shit going on underneath that shiny veneer.
So when I first heard Fargo was getting made into a TV show, I was skeptical. How can a story that has already been told get turned into an ongoing TV show? Well, that was the fine print. They didn’t intend to tell the same story from the film. They intended to tell similar stories with the quirky inhabitants of Fargo, but each season tells of a different crime caper and all the colorful people involved in said caper.
What made the Fargo TV show so damn good was the writing, but especially the cast. They have SO MANY AMAZING ACTORS AND ACTRESSES EACH SEASON it can actually be hard to keep track. For that reason alone I thought a list of the most interesting Fargo characters from the show would make for a great read for some of you Fargo fans like me.
So here are the best Fargo characters from the entire run of the show (with no major spoilers for the third season as it has not finished it yet). Please keep in mind, these characters are presented in no particular order.
I, for one, never found Billy Bob Thornton to be a particularly intimidating man. To me, he was just a skinny, older dude who seemed pissed all the time. But seeing his transformation into one of the coldest hitmen to ever grace the small screen got my attention.
What made Lorne Malvo so incredible was the way Billy Bob played him as a sort of feral animal. He would walk around quietly, you could tell he was up to no good, but man, you said one wrong thing or crossed him. you were dead, period. No way around it. It was almost as if Thornton was playing a shark disguised as a man. And his story arc across that first season was phenomenal.
It was odd because you knew he was bad but yet you wanted to see him on-screen, even though you knew it probably meant the death of another character you liked. Death is very much a running theme of this show.
Speaking of which…
Who knew a Hobbit could be so fucking bloodthirsty? Waiting, I am getting ahead of myself. Lester, played with innocent aplomb by Martin Freeman, Lester, was a man who was meek and small at the beginning of the show, but over time, he sorta spoiled (though a great deal of the spoiling initially was somewhat justified as everyone stepped all over him).
But Lester was a doomed character from the moment we met him. We wanted him to stand up to the people around him, we just didn’t think that meant killing a shit-ton of people.
Oh, and how he went out at the end of the season? Straight up chilling, pun intended.
First of all, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) can do NO wrong. This is another example of him just kind of playing himself. Though he had little screen time, any scene that had him in it, he stole. From cooking bacon (which we all know is his thing in real life) to spitting short but profound statements of utter wisdom, he was like a leather-bound prophet who played on the side for good. An alcoholic lawyer who just happens to be the only lawyer in town. Yup, perfect.
Also, his confrontation scene outside the police station was fucking intense and amazing to watch. He handled it like a snake charmer. Wish he had more screen time, though. And yes, he was definitely named after the guy who played Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies.
And his speech above is pure Offerman genius. I bet he was doing improv. He is THAT good.
Can I just point out how I love that her last name is Solverson, as she spends a great deal of time “solving” crimes on this show.
Oh well. Anyway, when I first saw Molly (played by the ever-charming Allison Tolman) I knew she was a kind of stand-in for the Frances McDormand character in the film. Thing is, I couldn’t have undermined that role more. Molly was a character with a pure heart but a character who also had very strong morals and knew right from wrong and refused to ever dance that line. A line MANY dance on the show, making her an exception.
There was also a huge underdog feeling to her, so from the moment you saw her, you were rooting for her. Thankfully, she is one of the few characters who actually got a happy ending on the show. NOT typical for this show.
Honestly, Molly is one of the best written female characters to ever grace the screen, really.
I will be honest, I have been waiting for Colin Hanks to hit that “as talented and charming as his famous Father Tom Hanks” stride for awhile, and in my opinion, he hit it best as Gus Grimly. Though he had some REAL missteps (oh gawd, oh jeez, oh maaan), he ended up sorta coming to his senses and stepping up, even though it was very clear he was scared shitless the whole season.
He played a man plagued by fear who seemingly overcomes that, does what needs to be done, and then moves on because he knows it is not the life for him. A very cool character arc and one that made Gus feel very real and very familiar to many who watched.
Fumbling, innocent, and meekish, it was a role a Hanks was born to play and Colin did it justice (bad pun intended).
Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers
The best part about this hitman pair is that one is deaf and one isn’t, and they communicate through sign language, and even though they are bastards, there is something oddly charming about the dichotomy of their relationship. At times, it almost seems like these two are ‘together’, though it is never explicitly said.
Regardless, they are funny and intimidating and add a sort of sadistic charm to whatever scenes they are in. And it was just awesome to see a disability not portrayed as such. Props to the progressive writing of this show. Very little TV dares to be this perfect. You know it is a damn good show when you are even secretly rooting for the hit men.
Key and Peele
The casting of the incredible comic duo Key and Peele as fumbling F.B.I agents (essentially playing themselves) may have sounded odd on paper, but these two have such genuine charisma that, even though they are responsible for the biggest blood bath on the show (and easily one of the best scenes ever), you can’t quite hate them even though they are incredibly insubordinate and have NO PLACE being F.B.I agents.
Just their in-car dialog was so very authentic and a blast to listen in on between bloody, insane death scenes. And seriously, the sound design, dialog, and direction of the above scene is one of the best scenes in TV history, not even exaggerating. Even the thing Key and Peele are talking about in the car (screaming at water versus being nice to water) is a REAL THING.
Wow, I know.
The Native-American hitman from season two almost totally stole the “scariest hitman ever” vibe from Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (also Coen Brothers, dudes just GET bad guys), as well as from Billy Bob in season one. A mysterious man with a connection to the antagonists of season two, the Gerhardt family, we see Moses (as he is later known) go through much in season two, though he is man of very few words.
You also get a strong sense that he is the best at what he does, and what he does is death. A very stoic, non-Fargo-esque personality accentuates this dark character, and works as a nice juxtaposition to all the “oh, howdy” vibe that everyone in Fargo seems to always have (even when everyone is dying around them).
Hanzee also has a very interesting character arc and trust me when I say, you have no idea how it is gonna end for him. He brought a nice air of ambiguity to the show. That and some genuine menace.
Ed and Peggy Blumquist
Okay, I know what you are thinking. Ed was amazing and a good soul and Peggy was MAD fucked up. Yes, that is true, but that is what makes these two so damn watchable. Ed clearly adores Peggy and does all he can to make her happy and make her feel “fully realized” in her life. Problem is, making Peggy happy is a brutal, non-stop job that is utterly thankless and she does NOT do the same for him. We’ve all been there once or twice, poor guy. She is the Scar to his Mufasa, but what makes it so damn watchable is the fact that he genuinely loves her and for most of the show, that love makes him blind and puts him in some real peril.
And yet, throughout the whole thing it is like Peggy is doped up on Valium because she is just always saying how she KNOWS things will work out and that everything will be okay (and she is often saying these things when it is quite clear that NOTHING is remotely okay). She is bat-shit crazy and he is a good guy and just watching that fucked up dynamic unfold how it does is staggering.
Worst part, she somehow stays naive and insane through it all.
Deputy Bill Oswalt
First and foremost, he may not have had a great deal of screen time, but anytime Bob Odenkirk plays anything, is it a 10 out of 10 performance, and his turn as the fumbling deputy who makes all the wrong calls is another example. He is like the Better Call Saul of Fargo, except instead of fixing everything with his slick words, he kinda just assumes everyone is innocent and lets some real tragic moments unfold because of his incompetence. Yes, it is frustrating to watch, but it all culminates with one of the best character confessions I have ever seen in a TV character arc.
By the time the season is winding down, it is like Deputy Bill gets a flash of truth and honesty and realizes he is fucking AWFUL at his job. Now think for a second being in that position. Having made it all the way to deputy, lives your whole life for this job, only to realize one day that you suck at your life’s work. It was a honest and heart-breaking moment, but one that best sums up Fargo as a whole. It is dark and comical and tends to transcend any normal genres that people love to categorize TV into.
The show is many things to many people. There is humor and lots of death and a myriad of amazing performances by amazing actors and actresses. The worst thing anyone can do is write this show off before they see it because they THINK they know what it’s like. I almost did that and in turn, would’ve missed out on what has become one of my favorite shows of all time.
Honestly, when it comes to TV, the writing and execution (pun intended, as everyone dies on this show), it just doesn’t get much tighter than Fargo and if you haven’t given it a shot yet I suggest you obtain the first and second seasons and watch them stat, then leap into season 3 which is happening right now as we speak.
Thank me later.