After a film and five seasons of television, it sometimes feels easier than ever to define what Fargo is as a franchise. Even if putting it into words is damn tough. With each new installment, the FX anthology series keeps the brand alive in new and inventive ways, but what’s always constant is that there are killers and victims and people who fall in between — people who make bad decisions out of fear or shame, and pay the price. There’s also usually someone representing the side of light (in proud Marge Gunderson tradition, that person is usually a member of law enforcement), and there’s always a wolf lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce.
Since creator Noah Hawley began the unconventional spinoff series, the concept of Fargo has come to encompass a whole lot of other random elements: Beyond the pounds of Coen brothers film references that get dropped, there are UFOs, random vignettes set in East Germany, puppet shows, Nightmare Before Christmas needle drops, competitive bridge, fake classic films, real classic film stars (played by actors), magic, and a pretty frequent occurrence of seemingly immortal men.
Beyond all the strangeness packed into each season, though, are breathtaking portraits of humanity at its worst and also its best, with each season serving as a morality play with its own peculiar sense of justice. But the longer you spend, gazing out into the snow, the more it all makes sense.
Below, check out the full ranking of Fargo seasons as they bounce around time and space. One note — to quote another Coen brothers film, it’s not the preferred nomenclature to refer to Fargo installments as “seasons.” (Even the beanie I received during a Fargo set visit is embroidered with “Year 3.”) However, throughout this article I chose to use “seasons,” in addition to “installments” and “years.” Because while each installment is ranked individually, Fargo (unlike some anthology series) does really feel like an interconnected whole.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Fargo Seasons 1-5. Or Years 1-5, if you prefer.]