Tuesdays, 10 p.m.
Hammer to the forehead in the basement. A knife in the back of the neck while flopping around between the legs of a stripper. Freezing half-naked in the snow. Shotgun to the back, then to the front. That’s four ways to die, all in just the first episode. It’s a great way to kick off a series, especially one that’s taking its cues—in mood and setting—from the quirky, darkly funny Coen Brothers masterpiece of a film that shares its name, Fargo. The new 10-episode FX series is not a Coen creation (though the brothers are executive producers), but it’s been inspired by the deadpan Midwestern characters, and the film’s notion that tension and secrets that lie beneath the surface of the long winter’s snow and can be unleashed by nefarious outsiders. Enter Billy Bob Thornton as a stranger who comes to town, becomes motivated to stay, and instigates a series of heinous events that revolve around a frustrated, local sad-sack insurance salesman (Martin Freeman) who ends up not being nearly as harmless as we (or he) thought he was. Add a cast of Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, and newcomer Allison Tolman as the sweet, yet deceptively sharp Det. Solverson, and you have a perfectly weird, well-played, disturbing little murder drama.