Fargo begins with the introduction of a mysterious drifter, Lorne Malvo, who gets into a car crash (with a person locked in the trunk) in a sleepy Minnesota town. Malvo meets depressed insurance salesman Lester Nygard and Lester reveals to Malvo that he feels victimized by both a town bully (whom he blames for his recent broken nose) and his nagging wife. Malvo asks if Lester would like him to kill the bully, so he can stop being a victim; and Lester’s non-response has deadly repercussions. When the town bully shows up dead, Lester makes what ends up being the first in a series of horrible choices, by not going to the police to turn in Malvo.
Rather than sharing his suspicions about Malvo’s involvement in the homicide with the police, a sinister side of Lester awakens. He kills his own wife in a fit of rage and then asks Malvo to help him cover up the crime. When Malvo’s ‘assistance’ leads to the death of the town’s Police Chief in Lester’s house, the snowball of crime was already underway.
Lester succeeds to make the crime scene look like the aftermath of a burglary gone wrong, but police officer Molly Solverson is suspicious of Lester from the beginning. While much of the series follows the misdeeds of Malvo and Lester, Molly’s character is the heart and soul of the show. Molly struggles to convince the Chief’s ineffective replacement that Lester is not the innocent bystander he claims to be throughout the season. During the ensuing episodes, Molly receives support and advice from her father, Lou Solverson, a retired police officer.
Molly also receives help from Gus Grimly, a young police officer from a nearby town who is scared of arresting Malvo during a routine traffic stop, after the drifter threatens Gus’s teenage daughter Greta. When Gus realizes that Malvo is most likely responsible for numerous deaths he decides he must stop him from committing further crimes and reaches out to Molly.
Fargo’s first season is like a dance between the deeply disturbing crimes Malvo commits, the hysterical ways Lester digs himself deeper and deeper into a criminal hole while maintaining his innocence, and the two police officers slowly putting all the pieces together.
Lester becomes more unlikeable with every episode, as he frames others for his crimes and puts his loved ones in harm’s way. Eventually, it appears that both Lester and Malvo have gotten away with murder when the series leaps forward one year, in the 8th episode.
After the one year jump, Gus (now a postman) and Molly (still a police officer) are happily married. Lester is not only re-married, but has apparently used his recently acquired criminal manipulation skills to become an extremely successful insurance agent. However, after a chance encounter Lester has with Malvo, the snowball of destruction starts rolling again. Lester and Malvo’s reunion also gives Gus and Molly their chance to finally make the crooks pay for their crimes. The season ends with the deaths of Malvo and Lester, which lead to a happy ending for Gus and Molly.