• Billy Bob Thornton in 'Fargo' season 1 (Distributor)Source: Distributor
The stories are separate but with one crucial thing in common: the outstanding, award-winning talent of the Coen brothers.
Travis Akbar

6 Oct 2020 - 3:18 PM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2020 - 3:18 PM

Why, with the excitement of season 4 upon us, would you spend time on the first three seasons of Fargo?

I could start writing about the Coen brothers’ achievements in film and why a spin-off series of their film Fargo was completely warranted, but I have an 800-word limit.

I could write about either one of Joel or Ethan Coen’s four Oscar nominations, or hundreds of other wins and nominations. I could go on forever. I could write about their films, but again, with the number of screen credits they both have, and the quality of their output, I’d run out of words.

So, I have one simple offering when it comes to the Coen brothers: You won’t better screenwriting. Anywhere.

So, when thinking about a television spin off from almost any Coen Brothers film, the only thought worth having, is why did it take until 2014 for one to eventuate, after the original Fargo was released in 1996?

And thus we come to the anthology series, which now includes four seasons. But what is an anthology series you ask?

An anthology series is a radio, film or television series that has different characters and stories in each episode, or season.

In the film world, an anthology series would look like the Final Destination series, which focuses on a group of people that cheat death, and the grim reaper comes back for them all. The popular horror series has five films to its name. They all centre around the same premise, but that’s generally it.

On television, popular anthology series include Black Mirror, Electric DreamsThe Twilight Zone, American Horror Story and The Terror … and of course, Fargo.

Fargo, which debuted as a television series in 2014, was a spin off from the Coen Brothers’ sixth feature film. Released in 1996, the original Fargo followed Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), whose inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand).

The film was a huge financial and critical success, earning (to date) $60-plus million, and two Oscars, along with 81 other awards wins, and 58 nominations. The film also sits at number 178 on the IMDB Top 250 Films, and has a 96% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s no wonder they chose to make series out of it.

It has been extremely successful, winning three Golden Globes, among 56 award wins and hundreds of nominations.

And because this is an anthology, you can dive into any of the three earlier seasons, in any order.

Season one of the television version of Fargo starred some quality names in Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks and Martin Freeman. Set in 2006, this story arc sees Lorne Malvo (Thornton) passing through Bemidji, Minnesota, and making his violent mark on the community. This includes Lester (Freeman), a salesman. Meanwhile, Molly Solverson (Tolman), a local police deputy, along with Duluth police officer Gus Grimly (Hanks), works to solve a series of deaths.

Season two aired in 2015 and was set in 1979.

Husband and Wife Ed and Peggy (played by real life couple Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons) cover up Peggy’s hit-and-run murder of Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) – the son of the Gerhardt crime family’s matriarch, Floyd (Jean Smart). Meanwhile, a state trooper named Lou Solverson, played by Patrick Wilson, and his father-in-law and sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) look into a triple homicide that also may be connected to the Gerhardts.

Another great story told by more great performers.

Season three takes place in 2010, and stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor as Nikki Swango and Ray Stussy, a couple who try to steal a valuable, vintage stamp from Ray’s brother Emmit (played by McGregor in a dual role) so they can get a piece of the high life. Their plans are disrupted, though, when they are forced to hide their involvement in two deaths. Meanwhile, Emmet must try and pay back money he borrowed from a shady company and its employees, led by V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan).

The fourth season is here, and this time, it’s set in 1950 in Kansas City. It follows two organised crime gangs as they battle for control. This season is led by comedian Chris Rock, as Loy Cannon, the head of one of the crime gangs. Other cast members of the upcoming season include growing star Jessie Buckley, who recently appeared in Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and Wes Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman.

With another intriguing story and a stellar cast, it’s easy to get excited about season 4 of Fargo.  And while watching the previous seasons is not a prerequisite for watching this one, you’ll find it richly rewarding. You don’t need to watch them – but you should.

Watch the season 4 trailer:

An all new Fargo story will premiere with two weeks of double episodes, beginning 8.30pm Thursday 8 October on SBS. Episodes will continue weekly at 9:30 pm from Thursday 22 October. New episodes will be available on SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast. Relive the first three standalone seasons of Fargo , now streaming on SBS On Demand.

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