The trailers are out for the third season of Fargo and there isn’t much more to say about them than “okay then.” As in, it looks good. Pretty darn good.
But it’s not here yet. The third season of the anthology will premier in late April, giving us time to either rewatch the first two seasons in anxious anticipation or get hyped for it by consuming some other media with similar themes and settings. The following list contains a number of films, shows, and books, all of which can be recommended to an enthusiastic Fargo fan. Many of these are either set in Minnesota, created by Minnesotans, or have some other Midwestern connection.
Many also share at least one of two other traits with Fargo: a sense of humor and a sense of violence.
Watch A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers and Starring Michael Stuhlbarg
Filmed in Minnesota’s Saint Louis Park, A Serious Man is arguably the most autobiographical film that Ethan and Joel Coen have made. But the setting and the creators aren’t the only reason to watch this film in anticipation of the upcoming Fargo season.
This 2009 film stars Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik, a Minnesotan man who finds his life unraveling much in the style of Job. If you’re not immediately familiar with the name Michael Stuhlbag, you might know him better as Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire. Or, you might not be familiar with him at all… but you will be, assuming you watch the upcoming series of Fargo, in which he plays the character Sy Feltz. (It’s also worth noting that Stuhlbarg isn’t the only Boardwalk Empire alum in this season of Fargo; Shea Whigham will also be in this season.)
Watch Young Adult, another film set in Minnesota
While Patrick Wilson won’t be reprising his role as Lou Solverson in the upcoming season of Fargo, you can still see another performance by him as a sincere, well-intentioned Minnesotan. Wilson plays Buddy Slade in the 2011 film Young Adult, which stars Charlize Theron as a Minnesotan author on a path of destruction.
The upcoming season of Fargo is set in 2010, closer to the present than its two predecessors. As someone who inhabited Minnesota during this time period, I recommend Young Adult as one of the best representations of this state I’ve seen on the screen in recent years.
Read Lynchings in Duluth by Michael Fedo
I read this book in tenth grade, assigned by one of the best teachers I ever had.
While some books read in English class are read for the quality of their prose or because they are considered hallmarks of literature, this work of non-fiction was assigned to us because of the disturbing narrative it contained. One of Minnesota’s ugliest moments, Lynchings in Duluth tells the story of “ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary moment of violence and hatred.”
If one thinks that the violence and bloodshed in Fargo is amusing because it contrasts with the realities of Midwestern life, it’s worth reading this reminder that the Midwest can contain horrors just as ugly as anywhere else in the world.
Listen to “Little War on the Prairie” from This American Life
While the Duluth lynchings of three black men in 1920 may be one of the ugliest moments in Minnesotan history, one cannot forget the execution (conducted by the federal government of the United States) of 38 Dakota Native Americans in Mankato in 1862.
While this has been covered in various books and articles throughout history, it often feels as if this story hasn’t been covered enough. Some people might not even know about it. I did not realize my homestate was the home of the largest mass execution in American history until I was an adult. Listening to the This American Life coverage of it is a good start.
Read Minnesota Mayhem by Ben Welter
Not done with the violent moments in Minnesotan history yet? Check out this non-fiction book, taking you through a collection of primary sources, collected by Minnesotan historian Ben Welter. Its full title is the somewhat unwieldy Minnesota Mayhem: A History of Calamitous Events, Horrific Accidents, Dastardly Crime & Dreadful Behavior in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.
This book might be the closest thing to a real life version of the fictional The History of True Crime in the Midwest that appears in the ninth episode of Fargo’s second season. Among the events catalogued here are Frank Lloyd Wright’s arrest on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the 1928 car bombing of a Saint Paul gangster, and the high profile 1977 murders committed in Duluth’s fanciest mansion.
Watch Drop Dead Gorgeous
Ah geez. Were you wondering where all the humor is? Don’t worry, there are some more comedies on this list, and Drop Dead Gorgeous is one of them.
One can’t help but watch it and think that it must be what got Kirsten Dunst cast as Peggy Blumquist in Fargo‘s second season. It’s fun watching someone nail the Minnesota accent in two different works, over a decade apart.
Watch Noah Hawley’s Legion
Okay, you probably already watched this. But if you didn’t, and you like Fargo, go watch Legion.
Watch HBO’s The Leftovers
While this show lacks the Midwest element of Fargo, it does have a few other things in common. Specifically: a) great writing b) actress Carrie Coon in a lead role.
Read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Sick of the recommendations to read non-fiction books about Minnesota crime? Try this one instead: a series of interconnected short stories about the Vietnam War, the majority of which have a Minnesota connection. One can’t help but thinking that this work must have had some influence on Fargo‘s second season, in particular the characters Lou Solverson and Hanzee Dent, both of whom served in Vietnam and returned to a changed country.
If you’re not sold on reading this, you can instead opt for Bryan Cranston reading it to you.
Read The Women by T. C. Boyle
As mentioned before, one of Minnesota’s more awkward moments was when Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress were arrested by the FBI while laying low in a cottage on Lake Minnetonka. If you’re interested in a historical fiction rendering of this, check out Boyle’s The Women.
And if you find yourself inspired enough by the read about Wright’s life, you may end up driving to Cloquet, Minnesota, to see the only gas station that Wright ever designed.
Read Scalped by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra
Not up for reading one of the dense books on this list? You may choose instead to read Scalped, a ten volume series of graphic novels. Scalped is to the Dakotas as The Wire is to Baltimore. It’s the The Departed of Dakota reservations. Scalped also has a number of familiar locations to Fargo fans, spread throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota. It’s also one of the few pieces of mainstream pop culture (aside from Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino) to have Hmong characters.
I can’t recommend Scalped enough. I consider it alongside Sandman and Watchmen as one of my all-time favorite comic books. It’s also supposedly coming to television eventually.
Watch The Mighty Ducks
Did you burn through the rest of the list? Or perhaps you need some levity? There’s always the greatest piece of cinema ever produced within the borders of Minnesota. The pinnacle of Emilio Estevez’s career.
Okay, admittedly this probably won’t fill the same need as Fargo, but basically every kid who grew up in Minnesota in the 80s or 90s would name this as the best depiction of Minnesota, challenged only by its sequel D2: The Mighty Ducks, which rivals The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back as being the best sequel ever created.