The Coen Brothers’ disdain for television has lead to their dwindling interest in Noah Hawley’s transcendent anthology series. But those of us who let the first two seasons stick a meat hook into our imaginations know this is one case where the veteran filmmakers are way off the mark.
First, to the differences
Using the state of Minnesota as its precinct (check out this nifty map of all the Fargo locations), the show set season one in 2006 and last year’s second season in 1979. But the 27-year rewind wasn’t the only glaring difference.
The first season smacked of the original 1996 feature film. It was an intimate caper drawing from the film’s plot and storyworld, complete with all the “you betchas” you could handle. The second season was far grander in theme, scope and structure. It riffed on popular history while establishing a wide circle of protagonists and antagonists, all of whom closed in on each other by the episode.
Somehow and quite admirably, Hawley managed to paint two very different seasons with the same tonal and stylistic brush. Seriously, Coen Bros, give it another go.
The most glaring link between the two seasons comes in the form of angular everyman Patrick Wilson, who plays a young Lou Solverson. If you’re wondering where Lou popped up in the first season, he was the father of the deliciously kooky deputy-cum-sheriff Molly (Allison Tolman) and the sagacious owner of Lou’s Coffee Shop, and was played by Dexter’s sister’s FBI agent boyfriend (Keith Carradine).
In season two, while we don’t get to experience the great (and Emmy-nominated/Critics Choice-winning) actress as adult Molly, we do get to see her as a plucky young girl who’s lucky enough to claim Ted Danson as a grandpop.
The Hansee connection
In season two, eventually independent force of nature Hansee Dent (the enigmatic Zahn McClarnon) changes his name to Moses Tripoli. It's the same surname boasted by season one Mob boss Mr Tripoli, the man who sends out deaf hitman Mr Wench (Russell Harvard) to track down Billy Bob’s already legendary villain, Lorne Malvo.
While the two Tripolis are played by different actors, in Hawley’s world, we can assume they’re the same man. After all, Hansee announced his plans to build his own post-Gerhardt criminal empire, and was given the recommendation to opt for cosmetic surgery in order to disguise both his face and stature.
It’s unlikely we’ll see the Indigenous or reconstructed version of Mr Tripoli going forward, since, of course, his life was taken away by Malvo at the end of season one.
Miniature Easter eggs
While fans are still discovering blink-and-you’ll-miss parallels in imagery and circumstance between seasons one and two, we’ve managed to figure out a bunch of them.
You’ve got both ageing and active Lou holding fort on the front porch with a cocked shotgun - in the first season’s finale and multiple times throughout the Tarantino-esque war on all fronts that was season two. Season one's Lou also mentions the Sioux Falls massacre as the catalyst for his leaving the force – the same massacre that looms over the entirety of season two.
You’ve got the murderous, half-quiet duo of Mr Wrench and Mr Numbers (the wonderful Adam Goldberg), paralleling with the completely silent The Kitchen Brothers (Todd and Brad Mann), aka those bearded blokes who bookend the scenery devouring Bokeem Woodbine’s Mike Milligan.
You’ve got both seasons launching off with a catalytic automobile prang. The first saw Lorne Malvo avoiding a deer and ending up in a ditch - an accident that leads directly to the wintry murder of the man who escapes from the car boot.
The second saw Peggy Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst) performing a hit-and-run on the young Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), which causes her and her husband, Ed, to end up on the murderous Gerhardt family’s hit list.
And of course, we’ve got season one’s Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) himself, narrating the doco-framed finale of season two.
An all-new season 4 Fargo story will premiere with two weeks of double episodes, beginning 8.30pm Thursday 8 October on SBS. Episodes will continue weekly at 9.30pm from Thursday 22 October. New episodes will be available at SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast. Relive the first three standalone seasons of Fargo now at SBS On Demand.
Watch the season 4 trailer here:
Missed season three? Start with the first episode at SBS On Demand: