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5 Shows like Fargo: Welcome to Bullet Country

James Thomas itcherI think everyone enjoys a good detective story, but today we need to add a new twist to the formula. TV shows like ‘Fargo’ set the procedural crime genre in a strange place and take the murder mystery in a whole new direction. Anyone looking for a new take on crime and punishment should watch ‘Longmire’, ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Luther’. ~ James Thomas

The Passion of Lester Nygaard

This remake of the Coen Brother’s ingenious crime fest in the large white expanse was only a rumor for some time, but I’m very glad it materialized into something substantial. Set in Fargo, North Dakota, this show captures all the bleak quiet and the endemic politeness of the people of America’s great white north.

What drew me in to this show was the cast with Colin Hanks as the broken rookie Gus Grimly, Allison Tolman as the clever Deputy Molly Solverson, and Billy Bob Thornton playing Lorne Malvo, who is as creepy as a lizard in a tuxedo.

But the best character is Martin Freeman as the hapless citizen of Fargo Lester Nygaard, who stumbles into massacres like a drunk running into tables. ‘Fargo’ drips with skillful language and jokes that illicit laughs at the most inappropriate times.


Shows Similar to ‘Fargo’…

‘Longmire’ (A&E/Netflix, 2012- )

‘Longmire’ is about a salt of the earth tough guy living in a world more complicated than a James Joyce novel put through google translate backwards. I’ve never thought of cowboys as being very good detectives, but Bert Longmire proved me wrong — and he looks damn clever in a cowboy hat while doing it.

With Lou Diamond Phillips backing him up, Bert delivers a cultured version of frontier justice to a small town with big city problems. But when not sending criminals to the penitentiary or to their maker, this cop has a weirdly boyish awkwardness reminiscent of characters in many series similar to ‘Fargo’.

What is intriguing about the show is that Bert never shows his cards even when he has some dirtbag dead to rights, preferring to let them incriminate themselves.

Similarity Match: 90%
Similar to ‘Fargo’, ‘Longmire’ is built on a foundation of simple people with not so simple minds undermining sophisticated criminality. However, in this show villains are less sardonic and more psychotic.

‘Better Call Saul’ (AMC, 2015- )

This series is a prequel to ‘Breaking Bad’, and you’ll get the same quality of dialogue from Saul Goodman/ “Jimmy” McGill and the other characters in this show.

This is the story of a lawyer so slimy that he should open a lubricant factory. Mr. McGill is not lazy; he is just unlucky and occasionally inept when it comes to being a public defender or dealing with the Mexican Cartel.

Jimmie is a con man at heart and knows that one can never con an honest person. You have to let the corrupt con themselves.

Similarity Match: 85%
‘Better call Saul’ gives the audience a novel perspective on crime, but unlike ‘Fargo’ no one has the good sense to just be polite and let the guy with the gun make the rules aside from Jimmie.

‘Luther’ (BBC One, 2010- )

The show ‘Luther’ is proof that every good detective is part criminal and that every capable criminal knows how to think like a cop. Similar to many series like ‘Fargo’ in ‘Luther’, we see crime from two angles.

A major draw for this show is the pleasantly broken cop that Edris Elba portrays. He has a plain way of speaking and a rather direct way of dealing with criminals and he is unfortunate enough to be locked alone in a room with one.

Similar to many TV series like ‘Fargo’, Luther often has to work with a master criminal who becomes obsessed with him. In this case, it is Alice Morgan who has her own irreverent personality that plays well against the character of ‘Luther’.

Similarity Match: 85%
Like ‘Fargo’, ‘Luther’ features good cops that are frustrated by people who are too stupid to take good advice. However, in this show, the main character takes a more proactive smash-oriented stance when it comes to conflict resolution.


If You Like ‘Fargo’, You Will Like…

‘Fargo’ is a show that highlights how cops must resist venturing into the dark side to put bad people away. The next shows deal with a similar question, but they both see police officers doing shady things and keeping creepy company.

‘True Detective’ (HBO, 2014- )

It’s hard to give a simple description of a show like ‘True Detective’, partly because it’s written with a manic energy, and partly because every season is a different story with different characters.

So, let’s start with the season starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson that made everyone lose their minds. This season takes place near Louisiana, where the Lord lives, the cops are racist, and it’s hard to be a woman.

The story of this season is a murder mystery told from the perspective of two detectives. There is Rust Cole, a man who has seen too much and feels too little, and Marty a cop who feels the job is in his blood and is going to do anything to keep his family together and get the job done.

The cinematography in this show is amazing, even for a show shot with an HBO budget. Consequently, there are great scenes such as the one where Rust does some extra judicious kidnapping and shooting involving some white supremacists.

Similar to TV shows like ‘Fargo’, this one takes a deep dive in inspecting the nature of evil.

In ‘True Detective’ you can almost feel the sense of dread dominating every scene and dripping from every word. But like ‘Fargo’ it has some really strong monologues on the nature of good and evil.

‘Hannibal’ (NBC, 2013-2015)

I am a bit disturbed by the fact that after watching hours of Hannibal Lecter turning the ungrateful and the uninspired folks around him into perfected delicacies, I got a bit hungry. Hannibal is a reimagining of the story of the notorious cannibal from Silence of the Lambs.

In this version, we follow Will Graham and other familiar characters as they are sucked into Hannibal’s abyss or placed into an edible arrangement.

Similar to shows like ‘Fargo’, ‘Hannibal’ is based on a movie, but it has a very dreamy and hallucinatory quality that is darker and more thrilling. For example, you can almost feel the tension when Will Graham and Hannibal mentally spar over how best to catch killers that are less prolific than Dr. Lecter.

Both Hannibal and ‘Fargo’ feature demented and charismatic butchers in the form of Hannibal and Lorne Malvo. However, in ‘Hannibal’, the hero Will Graham is more than prepared to work with the villain even when preparing a meal.


Just North of Criminal

In ‘Fargo’, the heroes are average people who are thrust into an extraordinary situation. The threats they face are more polished more prepared and ready to get their hands dirty, but at the end of the day they can come up short and often they come up dead.

Do you think honest dedication beats a determined villain?

Let me know in the comments down below.

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