Fargo, FX's Emmy-winning anthology series inspired by the Coen Brothers' classic 1996 movie, is officially coming back for Season 5. According to Variety, the next season of executive producer Noah Hawley's saga of death and desperation in the Midwest will star Mad Men's Jon Hamm, The Hateful Eight's Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Ted Lasso's Juno Temple. It will be set in 2019, and ponders "when is a kidnapping not a kidnapping, and what if your wife isn't yours?" These are questions that make sense for Fargo to ask, as the events of the movie are set in motion by the kidnapping of a wife. We don't know anything else about Season 5, but we can comfortably predict that it will have hilarious character names and an extremely high body count.
While you wait for Season 5 to take you back to the flat and snowy terrain of Fargo, we have some recommendations for shows to watch to get your Fargo fix. It includes quirky crime anthologies, off-kilter thrillers, and shows with Coen Bros. influences.
This Starz show has the dark comedy and quirky characters that come off as intentionally "Coenesque." It smudges some much-needed weirdness on the true crime limited series genre. It tells a half-forgotten story from the Watergate era about socialite Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts), the publicly prominent wife of John Mitchell (Sean Penn), Richard Nixon's Attorney General and reelection campaign chairman. Martha blew the whistle on Nixon's involvement with the infamous Watergate break-in and had her life destroyed for it. The show's period setting, star-studded cast, and caustically funny story of bumbling crooks trying to pull off an incompetent conspiracy will remind you of Fargo. Shea Whigham's G. Gordon Liddy could have come straight out of Burn After Reading.
The first seasons of Fargo and True Detective are like siblings. They're thematically and cinematically sophisticated crime stories with excellent casts and visionary creative teams that came out within a few months of each other in 2014. For a minute there it felt like the anthology format they elevated to new heights was the future of TV. It didn't really happen that way — audiences still prefer stories told over multiple seasons — and the shows stylistically diverged a lot in further seasons. But man, that first season of True Detective is still something special. If you're reading this list, you've almost certainly watched True Detective Season 1, but there's no reason not to watch it again, because it's still one of the best seasons of TV ever made.
Noah Hawley's other FX show is very different from Fargo, but they share a visual inventiveness and a sense that anything could happen. Legion, which ran for three seasons from 2017 to 2019, is an X-Men-adjacent series about David Haller (Dan Stevens), a man diagnosed with schizophrenia who is actually an incredibly powerful mutant with many different superpowers. David is an extremely unreliable narrator, and you can never be sure if what you're watching is real, which makes for a very hard-to-follow experience, but also a very exciting one. Plus, the colorful, retrofuturist world of the show is just very cool to hang out in.
The biggest influence on Fargo besides the Coen Brothers has to be this classic TV series from David Lynch and Mark Frost that Noah Hawley has cited as one of his favorites. They're both about towns in the middle of nowhere populated by quirky characters, some of whom are purely good and some of whom are of an elemental evil. Fargo's offbeat sense of humor and supernatural flourishes are highly reminiscent of Twin Peaks. Again, you've probably already watched it, but it's always worth watching again.
Noah Hawley's most kindred TV spirit is Mr. Robot creator-writer-director-producer (and Gaslit executive producer) Sam Esmail. His USA Network psychological thriller about Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a brilliant computer hacker who is trying to topple the global financial order and restore power to the people but is suffering from serious mental health issues, is one of the best-looking and most thematically relevant shows of the past decade. If you watched Season 1 but checked out during the slower paced second season, it's really worth catching up on, because it's seriously underrated.
This Amazon Prime Video one season wonder from writer Gillian Flynn isn't much like Fargo in terms of plot — it's about various people fighting to obtain a mysterious comic book that may foretell how to stop the impending end of the world — it's a lot like it in sensibility. It's a visually striking thriller with a dark sense of humor and a lot of violence. It even has a relentless, borderline not-human killer character like Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) or Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) or any number of other Fargo/Coens characters in Arby, a nerdy, raisin-loving hitman played by Christopher Denham.
USA's murder mystery doesn't have Fargo's visual panache or sense of humor, but it did reliably strong work in the crime anthology series space. Bill Pullman plays Harry Ambrose, a homicide detective in upstate New York who every season investigates a new case every season. He always knows who the killer is because they were caught red-handed, but he has to figure out why he or she did it. The series from showrunner Derek Simonds is novelistic and consistently well-acted. Fargo Season 3 and The Sinner Season 2 both feature the great Carrie Coon. [Shows like The Sinner to watch if you like The Sinner]
I must add a caveat to my recommendation of this limited series and acknowledge that it's not for everyone, because it's extremely insane. Nicolas Winding Refn directs every episode of this story that follows twin stories about a corrupt LAPD officer (Miles Teller) who starts carrying out vigilante justice and a cartel boss (Augusto Aguilera) who wants to corner the crime industry in Los Angeles. Episodes are all 90 minutes long, except for the last one, which is just 30 minutes. It has all the things you love about Fargo — a distinctive and stylized visual identity, an accomplished cast giving it their all, heady ideas about the destructive nature of American capitalism, and a warped sense of humor — just exaggerated to a grotesque degree. It's extremely violent, glacially paced, and just generally really cynical and bleak, but it's artistic in a way that TV rarely is, even Fargo.