Some shows excel at impressive battle scenes. Some thrive when it comes to musical numbers or censor-approved steamy hookups. But for four years now Fargo has lorded over one domain so thoroughly, no other show has come close in the competition: Fargo has produced the best character names in all of television.
The art of Noah Hawley’s many names comes down to their intention. Before Martin Freeman ever opened his mouth in Season 1, we instinctually knew that Lester Nygaard was a whiny underdog who had been trampled his entire life. We knew that Carrie Coon’s officer Gloria Burgle was a salt-of-the-earth woman who just wanted to use her police badge for good. And before Season 4 premieres, we already know that Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon is an unrelenting badass who shouldn’t be crossed. These character traits are baked into their very names, collections of vowels and consonants that somehow channel everything we need to know about a character without directly saying a thing.
Four seasons in, it’s time we appreciated this glorious gift. From Nikki Swango to Doctor Senator, here are the absolute wildest, weirdest, and most memorable names in Fargo‘s history.
Played By: Andrew Bird
All that we know about this new character is that he’s an undertaker in the 1950s, he’s the father of Ethelrida Pearl Smutny, and that this character was created specifically for Andrew Bird. But isn’t that enough? Just try to say “Thurman Smutney” and not name a college building after him.
Played By: Zahn McClarnon (Season 2); Mark Acheson (Season 1)
This hitman didn’t just waltz into Season 2 with a cool name. The Gerhardt family’s righthand guy was also one of that season’s coolest characters. And much like Thaddeus Mobley, Hanzee came with a bonus name. After the Sioux Falls Massacre, Hanzee fled the Fargo Mob and changed his name to Moses Tripoli.
Played By: Glenn Howerton
On the surface there’s nothing too unbelievable about the name Don Chumph. It could belong to a real guy in the real world. Yet that name nods to Fargo’s special talent for immediately calling out winners and losers in this world. When you hear that a man by the name of Don Chumph was shot to death by police after trying to unsuccessfully blackmail a supermarket king, you don’t feel sad. You just feel pity, and somehow that’s worse.
The first two episodes of Fargo Season 4 premiere on FX Sunday, August 27 at 9/8c p.m. Those two episodes will premiere on Hulu the following day.
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Played By: Goran Bogdan
Yuri gets a couple points off for having a name that could be real. But much like Constant Calamita, Yuri Gurka’s name strength lies in its unpredictability. Yuri Gurka is a bold, memorable name for a man who spent an entire season lurking in the shadows under V.M. Varga’s orders. Yet somehow that juxtaposition only made him more terrifying.
Colonel Horst Lagerfeld
Played By: Sylvester Groth
Remember how Fargo‘s third season started with a German officer interrogating a man? That scary guy was none other than Colonel Horst Lagerfeld, a man whose name refuses to pick a direction. Are we going with Horace? August? Houst? The answer is always “yes.”
Played By: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
The best part of this relentlessly cool name is that Mary Elizabeth Winstead lived up to its promise. Nikki Swango was just as suave and unpredictable as that wild “ango” ending implies. Of course Nikki Swango would leave vengefully bloody tampons in drawers and beat crime bosses at bridge. It’s right there in her name.
Played By: Hardee Lineham
Fargo isn’t just great at naming instantly iconic heroes and villains. It also has a knack for instantly highlighting who in this universe is doomed to be a sad victim. That was the case for Irv Blumkin, a private investigator who was thrown off a parking garage by V.M. Varga’s men. With a name like Blumkin, was his unintentionally funny death really that big of a surprise?
Played By: Angus Sampson
It would be a crime not to mention the Gerhardt family, a syndicate filled with epic names. Yet there’s something extra special about Bear. Naming your son after a ferocious, large carnivore takes balls, and Bear Gerhardt more than lived up to his animalistic homage.
Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench
Played By: Russell Harvard and Adam Goldberg
Is it cheating to put two people in the same slot? Maybe. But Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench were such a seamless team separating them feels like a crime. It doesn’t even matter that their full names, Wes Wrench and Grady Numbers, are equally excellent. Two hitmen who insist that everyone call them “Mr.” is better than any alliteration.
Played By: Jason Schwartzman
Can you say daddy issues? Josto Fadda is a member of the Kansas City Italian mob and the son of its leader. In this twisted universe that means he was traded by his own father to go live with their rival gang. It’s not just that Josto Fadda’s name is incredibly Italian. It’s that it flows together in a way that is unapologetically literary. You get the sense that Noah Hawley patted himself on the back after he came up with that one.
Special Agent Webb Pepper
Played By: Jordan Peele
FBI agents Webb Pepper and Bill Budge (Keegan Michael Key) stole the second half of Fargo‘s first season. But this isn’t a ranking of great characters. It’s a list of great names. And the double last name bit that Webb Pepper has going on makes him indispensable.
Played By: Gaetano Bruno
This unsmiling man will play a member of the Italian mob that opposes Chris Rock’s gang in Season 4. But what makes him essential to this list is how he channels the unexpected. Constant Calamita is objectively a silly name, yet look at the man in that picture. He will absolutely destroy you, mid-laugh.
Played By: Billy Bob Thornton
Speaking of iconic villains, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the angel of death himself. This hitman gets points off for “Lorne,” which by Fargo standards is a pretty common name. But Lorne Malvo reflects that signature Fargo ethos of two names that shouldn’t be next to each other, yet work perfectly anyway.
Played By: Glynn Turman
This somber man is a member of Loy Cannon’s (Chris Rock) gang. But let’s back up a whole lot. Naming a character after not one but two professions? And putting him in a gang? That’s a Coen brothers inspired move is there ever was one.
Played By: David Thewlis
We can’t talk about awesome Season 3 names without mentioning the mack daddy villain of this year, V.M. Varga. Not only was he the only character in Fargo history to have a raging eating disorder that mirrored his all powerful need to consume. He’s also the only person known in this universe by his initials. What does V.M. stand for? And how the heck does it sound so great next to Varga?
Played By: Oliver Platt; Carlos Diaz
The Supermarket King of Minnesota caused all sorts of chaos in his day. It was Stavros Milos’ discovery of a mysterious briefcase full of money that first tied Fargo the show to Fargo the movie. That’s a pretty powerful burden for a side character, and you can feel that power in his name. There’s something about those double “os”-es that pops.
Played By: Karen Aldridge
The Get Down star will be jumping into this new season as one half of a criminal crew. The best part of this disorganized lot? Zelmare Roulette’s partner in chaotic crime is none other than the also-awesomely-named Swanee Capps (Kelsey Asbille). Two awesome ladies with two awesome names. But there’s something about the nonsense of Zelmare Roulette that makes her name just a hair better.
Played By: Thomas Mann; Scott Hylandds
Before moving to Minnesota, Thaddeus Mobley lived in Los Angeles as an award-winning science fiction author. But after he was attacked by a man with a cane he fled the city and his old name. He later became the stepfather of Season 3’s cop, Gloria Burgle. The best part about this guy is that he comes with two excellent names: his god-given name, Thaddeus Mobley; and his new name in his new life, Ennis Stussy.
Played By: Mike Bradecich
A typewriter salesman, Skip Sprang didn’t last long before he was murdered by the Gerhardt family. That’s a shame because his nonsense name is a blast to say. Skip Sprang. Skip Sprang. Skip Sprang.
Played By: Ben Whishaw
A member of one of Kansas City’s mobs, Rabbi Milligan shares a last name with Season 2’s iconic Mike Milligan. But that’s not what makes his name so great. A religious profession and an Irish surname that’s delightful to say? That’s peak Fargo right there.