The strongest connection I see running between Fargo the film and Fargo the series is how both are about the careless disintegration of carefully built order. Midwestern small towns run on very strictly maintained senses of proper place and behavior, and both stories involve what happens when someone dares to pluck at that order just enough to see what it takes to make it fall apart. (It’s worth pointing out that much of the film takes place in Minneapolis, a large city but one with close enough ties to Midwestern small towns that I think I can still make this work.) The major difference is that the unwinding at the center of the film is almost an unconscious decision: Our “hero” believes that he can have his wife kidnapped without things going wrong, only to realize just how incorrect he is. Meanwhile, the unwinding at the center of the show is very consciously a choice by Malvo to sow the seeds of discontent wherever he can. And in so doing, he creates a situation that begins to tear at the fabric of the little town of Bemidji.
Because this is a TV show, that disintegration needs to have more forms than just Malvo and Lester’s misdeeds, which means that we get to see the consequences of what happens. If Sam Hess had ties to some sort of gun-running organization—as it seems he did—then that organization is almost certainly going to respond to his death with some kind of payback. What makes this Fargo and not some lesser show is that the two men sent to look into what happened are a deaf man played by Russell Harvard and an exasperated partner played by Adam Goldberg. There’s a sense throughout this show of most of the actors rising to the weird, challenging material and giving some of their best performances in some time, and I certainly felt that way about these two, who somehow hold the center of scenes both comedic and menacing. What I really like is the way they’re portrayed almost as work-a-day stiffs, just trying to get through this latest job, as opposed to Malvo, who seems to take real relish in spreading destruction. The final scene—in which they toss the poor guy who just happens to look like Malvo into a hole in an icy lake—reminded me, for all the world, of those Looney Tunes where the sheepdogs would clock in. “Morning, Sam.” “Morning, Ralph.” Just another day at the office.