“Fargo” began its run on FX TV network in 2014. Using the themes and motifs of the classic Coen Brothers’ 1996 film, also named “Fargo,” creator Noah Hawley’s Midwestern crime anthology series has always seemed to tell a story larger than itself.
Hawley is a practiced novelist so it comes with little surprise that his stories are so well-rounded and his characters so incredibly captivating. They truly are the heart of the series, with each embodying some aspect of quaint Midwestern life, while also representing something bigger and more symbolic as a social commentary of America.
1. Lorne Malvo / Billy Bob Thornton
Possibly one of the greatest television villains of all time, Lorne Malvo is the embodiment of unhinged, yet methodical chaos. When he lands himself in Duluth, Minnesota, after crashing his car on the side of the road, he finds himself a fox among sheep. He is cold, manipulative and has an almost demonic ability to make people do what he wants.
A lot of people think that he may have actually been the devil, as he successfully disguises himself by simply pushing his hair over to the side of his head. He is able to take a spineless man like Lester and turn him into a murderous criminal. Additionally, he seems to have little motivation in life, other than to evoke terror in others. Billy Bob Thornton has found his own Walter White in this role, and whether it is a blessing or a shame that it only lasted for one season is up for debate.
2. Lou Solverson / Patrick Wilson & Keith Carradine
Arguably the true hero of the “Fargo” series, Vietnam veteran Lou Solverson plays a pivotal role in both seasons one and two. Lou is the kind of police officer that is romanticized and perhaps even mythologized by old shows like “Andy Griffith.” He has his priorities figured out and etched in stone with a family, job and country. Anything that puts those ideals in jeopardy is a problem for him.
He is steadfast in his pursuit of justice and is the type of guy that will sit out all night on the porch tying knots, with a shotgun by his side to protect his family when a crazed killer is on the loose. I think we would all do well with a Lou Solverson in our lives today.
3. Mike Milligan / Bokeem Woodbine
Milligan was one of the best characters to watch unfold throughout the second season. Initially presented as Joe Bulo’s muscle, played by Brad Garrett, along with the Kitchen Twins, Milligan seizes the opportunity presented to him when he receives Bulo’s head in a box from the Gerhardts. Woodbine delivers some chilling monologues toward the end of the season and the scene with Milligan in the Gerhardts’ home in the final episode was one of the top moments of the entire series.
4. Molly Solverson / Allison Tolman
She is over-skilled, overqualified and overlooked for the promotion that she totally deserved. She is the only person with any authority in the first season that can tell when there is something fishy going on. Even when she is constantly disparaged by her new chief, played by Bob Odenkirk, she is relentless in her pursuit of the truth. Plus, watching Allison Tolman play a small-town cop with the Midwestern accent is heartwarming on its own.
5. Hanzee Dent / Zahn McClarnon
Taken in by the Gerhardts as a child, Hanzee appears to represent the oppression of the native culture of the Midwest in the context of the series. Watching him describe the perils of experiencing the Vietnam War as a Native American is absolutely chilling.
There is something about seeing him on the hunt for Peggy and Ed that is true nightmare-content. If Malvo was a fox, Hanzee is would undoubtedly be the wolf, with pure aggression and an uncanny ability to track and hunt his prey.
6. Lester Nygaard / Martin Freeman
Looking at the series from the standpoint of a Coen Brothers fanatic, Lester Nygaard is a familiar character. He calls to mind William H. Macy, from the eponymous film. Pathetic, lonely and emotionally abused, he half-wittingly gets himself involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and finds himself on the run from both Malvo and the law.
Hawley does a great job at playing on audience expectations with Lester. For a while, you will feel bad for him as his wife does not respect him, his brother demeans him and he is even bullied by the same lurk from his high school. By the last episode, however, there is no character that you will hate more. It is this transition that makes Lester one of the most compelling characters in the series.
7. Floyd Gerhardt / Jean Smart
After assuming power of their family’s crime syndicate, following the passing of her husband, Floyd Gerhardt is tasked with reigning in her sons, while attempting to hold back the strong arms from Kansas City. Jean Smart plays this duality with incredible grace and provides one of the highlight performances of season two. I cheered every time Floyd put her Neanderthal son, Dodd, in place.
8. Peggy and Ed Blumquist / Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons
The chemistry between Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons is undeniable. After meeting on the set of “Fargo,” the couple would eventually go on to get married in real life. Though they represent the “average citizen” that is present throughout each of the show’s seasons, what is unique about them is the way they also represent a different type of everyman.
Peggy has her head in the clouds, aspiring to attend a seminar in hopes of achieving “actualization.” On the other hand, Ed has his head stuck in the sand and is set on buying the butcher shop and having kids with Peggy. Watching this play out while they try to hide from both the Gerhardts and the police was one of the best parts of season two.
9. Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench / Adam Goldberg and Russel Harvard
One of the hallmarks that have remained from the film is that in each season, there is a team of two unique people that act as the muscle for some crime syndicate. Friends since childhood, Mr. Numbers learns sign language to be able to communicate with his friend, Mr. Wrench. The performances from Adam Goldberg and Russel Harvard are two of the most animated characters of the first season. Watching them hunt Malvo in a blizzard was the most suspenseful moment of the series.
10. Dodd Gerhardt / Jeffrey Donovan
Dodd, the eldest brother in the Gerhardt family, is easily one of the most hated characters of the show. He is misogynistic and barbaric, as he sends his 17-year-old nephew with cerebral palsy to murder Ed Blumquist, a move that lands the boy in prison.
He abuses his daughter to the point where she is determined to betray her family. He is, in a nutshell, a complete encapsulation of toxic masculinity. If I had a dartboard, I would have his face plastered over the bullseye. He is the absolute worst.
The fourth season of “Fargo” is currently airing on FX TV network, every Sunday at 10 p.m.