The movie Fargo’s mix of humour and horror made it a classic, and the television series has since taken the idea of black comedy to a lot of strange new places. Here are ten times Fargo had us wondering if we really should be laughing at what was going on.
1. When everything goes wrong for Rye
It’s the first episode of season two when Rye (Kieran Culkin) walks into a Waffle Hut to threaten a judge. As you might expect on Fargo, things do not go according to plan. Bad enough he started things off with a hefty hit of coke in the parking lot, but getting a face full of bug spray was definitely not part of his plan. And when, after committing multiple homicide, he looks up and sees a freakin’ UFO – and things still get stranger after that... well, we’re off to a good start.
2. When Lorne Malvo, deadliest man alive, is now suddenly a dentist – until he isn’t
When the first season of Fargo jumped forward a full year, one of the many, many changes came with Billy Bob Thornton’s hitman Lorne Malvo. Previously he was a human buzzsaw chewing up everyone in his path; suddenly now he’s a Las Vegas dentist? No wonder Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), aka the only man who knows his real profession, keeps on pushing him and pushing him… until he pushes too far.
3. When we find out where season one grocery magnate Stavos (Oliver Platt) got his start
It’s the money left over from the movie! Great news for Fargo fans, bad news for Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.
4. The time Malvo murdered an entire building
The laughs here aren’t from the shootout itself – his Terminator-like efficiency is horrifying, and rightly so – but from the way it’s presented to us. Rather than getting an all-action, first-person shooter-style look at the carnage, the camera stays firmly outside, with only muffled gunshots and the occasional glimpsed muzzle-flash to let us know how Malvo’s getting along with business.
5. The time a gangster cut off a man’s ears then complained he wasn’t listening
Sure, it’s a cheap gag, but sometimes they’re the best. The opening to season two wasn’t exactly short on carnage, but episode two takes it up a notch as we meet crime family the Gerhardts, with eldest son Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) happily torturing a man by cutting off his ears. This being Fargo, Dodd's wise-crack about the victim not listening was followed by the ears being thrown away and a dog promptly eating them.
6. Nick Offerman gets really, really drunk
Everybody loves Nick Offerman, even when he shaves his moustache off but leaves the beard, which is definitely not a great look. What is great is the extended sequence in episode six of season two where Nick – playing laywer and military veteran Karl Weathers – gets called in for the biggest job of his life while being roughly six sheets to the wind.
When he says to his client, “I’m slightly inebriated," that’s the understatement of the year – as his previous antics trying to dodge surveillance (inside a '70s lock-up) have already suggested. There are few things funnier than a good drunk act – and Offerman’s is one for the ages. “Out of my way, tool of the state!”
7. Key & Peele get no laughs
Halfway through season one, US sketch comedy partners Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele show up as FBI agents Pepper and Budge. So we wait for the comedy pay-off when they’ll get to do something funny. And we wait. And we wait. And… the day never comes. They’re great in their roles, but the biggest laugh is that the laugh we expect from them never comes – they’re just two bickering FBI agents who turn out to be just not quite good enough at their jobs.
8. Time for some Lewis Carroll
This is actually a pretty tense sequence, as the two warring organised crime families that have been threatening to go at it all throughout season two are finally tooling up. So what better way to make things seem even more grim than by having ice-cold killer Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) recite Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poem, Jabberwocky?
9. Lou tells Ben what he thinks of him
It’s been coming for a while, but when Lou (Patrick Wilson) finally tells Ben (Kier O’Donnell), “You’re a sh*t cop. You know that, right?” it’s been worth the wait – especially with Ted Danson laughing away in the background.
10. Bruce Campbell plays Ronald Reagan
Watch episodes 3 and 4 of season 3 of Fargo on Wednesday 24 May at 8.30pm on SBS.
Missed the beginning? Watch the first episode at SBS On Demand right here: