Crime out on the prairie

As it gets warmer outside, it's getting a little cooler inside. Fargo, FX's fantastic semi-anthology show set in the perilous Midwest, returns Wednesday for its third season. This one stars an almost unrecognizable Ewan McGregor playing twins.

This weekend is an excellent opportunity to catch up on the first two seasons of the frigid crime show that has a surprising amount of humor and emotional warmth. Both seasons are streaming on Hulu. (If you haven't seen the first two seasons, by the way, you'll likely understand what's going on in the third, but you'll miss some fun Easter eggs along the way. It would like be like watching Rogue One before you see Star Wars.)

The first season follows Molly Solverson (the revelatory Allison Tolman, who is about to star in the ABC sitcom Downward Dog, premiering May 17) as she doggedly investigates a murder that she suspects the otherwise unsuspecting Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) - not to mention that pesky assassin, played by Billy Bob Thorton, who keeps hanging around Bemidji, Minn.

The second, which hit Hulu last month, time warps back to the 1970s, where the focus is on Molly's dad (Patrick Wilson). The season elaborates on a bloodbath he references in the first season (when he was played by Keith Carradine). But, as in the first season, the crime is not just one incident, but a whole host of events, featuring a murderers' row of character actors firing on all cylinders (standouts are Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons, Ted Danson, and Jean Smart playing a Lady Macbeth-style mobster).

Fargo is watchable and compelling, and while it may have its fair share of gore, at its heart is a series of fantastic characters who you wish wouldn't leave by each season's end.

- Molly Eichel
Where to stream: Hulu.

Like this? Binge these: FX's Legion (OnDemand) is a major departure for Fargo creator Noah Hawley, but is a surreal superhero trip also featuring a creepy Smart; HBO's Big Little Lies (HBOGo) just concluded, another surprisingly funny (and deep) take on the average murder show.