When the FBI detectives discuss about the fox, rabbit and cabbage riddle it is a reference to The Office (2001) (UK) series. In fact Martin Freeman solves the riddle just like his character does in the Office.
Every episode starts with the onscreen words "This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 2006/ 1979/ 2010 (depending on what season it is). At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred." This is a nod to the way that the 1996 source movie Fargo (1996) started (also by claiming that its events were based on a true story). However, neither the movie nor the TV show are actually based on true events. In a 2014 interview, the show's Executive Producer Noah Hawley clarified the "true story" episode introductions by saying "the show.... It's all just made up. The whole cloth. I didn't go looking for [a] true crime. It started from a character standpoint and everything grew organically out of that."
In Season One Episode 2, Fargo: The Rooster Prince (2014), as Deputy Solverson (Allison Tolman) and Lester (Martin Freeman) exit the drug store, a parking spot is designated "Parking Reserved for Owner Mike Zoss". This is a reference to Mike Zoss Drugs, a Minnesota pharmacy, and no doubt a nod to the Coen brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) who spent time there in their youth, and subsequently named their production company Mike Zoss Productions, as well as giving the name to the pharmacy that is robbed in their film No Country for Old Men (2007).
In the trailer for season 1, there is a clip where Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) shoots a would-be robber with a gun covered in a Scrunyon bag. No such scene appears in the series. However, you can find the deleted scene in the "extras" section in the DVD, among others.
The name of the character 'Deputy Knudsen' is a reference to The Big Lebowski (1998). The private eye that is following The Dude (Jeff Bridges) was hired by the Knudsens, Bunny's family back in Minnesota.
There is Jewish symbolism throughout the first 4 episodes of season 1. Lester Nygaard's (Martin Freeman) house number is 613. The ransom note to Stavros (Oliver Platt) asks for an amount ending in 613 and when Gus (Colin Hanks) talks to Molly (Allison Tolman) after he has arrested Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), he tells her that he was on "a 613 - a dead dog". According to Judaic authorities, there are 613 mitzvahs - or commandments - in the Torah. Of course, we also keep seeing the Mitzvah Tank, in front of Gus's apartment, at the gas station where Gus gets the 613 call.
Bruce Campbell, who plays President Ronald Reagan, was also briefly visible onscreen in the source movie Fargo (1996). He is in the soap opera that is playing on the TV in the kidnappers' cabin. This was actual archival footage of the young Campbell in a real 1980s soap opera, link=tt0096593], that really was one of his early acting jobs.
The soundtrack for season 2 contains several songs featured on the soundtracks for Coen brothers Tracy Letts films. Included among them are: "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" (O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)), as well as "Run Through the Jungle" and Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In" (The Big Lebowski (1998)) and "Danny Boy" (Miller's Crossing (1990)).
In season 1 episode 3, Fargo: A Muddy Road (2014), when Gus (Colin Hanks) goes to tell his boss he could have picked up Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), his boss mentions that 'it's just like Sioux Falls all over again' a mention to season 2 well before it was made.
The same building is used in all 3 seasons of Fargo with different uses. Season one is Lester's (Martin Freeman) work office. Season two is the butchers Ed (Jesse Plemons) works in. Season three is the apartment building Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) lives in.
During season 2, Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) is very eager to participate in a Lifespring seminar. Lifespring was a real organization founded in the mid-1970s. An offshoot of the late 1960s and early 1970s so-called "human potential" movement, its founders had all been followers of Werner Erhard's similar "Est" Training organization. Starting in the late 1970s until Lifespring disbanded in the mid-1990s, dozens of lawsuits levied a wide variety of complaints against Lifespring, ranging from characterizing it as a fraudulent pyramid scheme to holding it responsible for over two dozen participants' deaths.
The elevator murder scene was set in Las Vegas but Hotel Arts is clearly visible on the floor button board. Hotel Arts is a Calgary , Alberta hotel and most of the season one episodes were shot in Calgary.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In one of the final scenes of season 2, Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon) receives a new identity (including the name Moses Tripoli), hints at plastic surgery, and threatens Kansas City saying, "Not apprehend, dead. Don't care heavily-guarded. Don't care into the sea. Kill and be killed. Head in a bag. There's the message." In season 1, the mob boss of Fargo uses nearly these exact words to describe how he wants Sam Hess's (Kevin O'Grady) killer dealt with. According to the episode's credits, the boss's name is Mr. Tripoli. This connection implies that Hanzee altered his appearance and became Fargo's mob boss before being gunned down by a similarly ruthless killer: Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton).
In the final episode of the first season (Fargo: Morton's Fork (2014)), Lester (Martin Freeman) tells Molly (Allison Tolman) that she's all wrong and he's not a monster. She responds only by telling him a short parable about a man losing a glove out the window of a train and then throwing his second out also, so whoever finds them will have a full set. Lester cannot understand its meaning. Almost immediately after, he is given the famous riddle by Pepper (Keegan-Michael Key) and Budge (Jordan Peele) about the fox, rabbit, and cabbage, which he solves quickly. His failure in solving the first riddle and success at the second was a clever way of demonstrating that although Lester had a brilliant mind for solving problems, he was incapable of understanding the virtues of empathy and selflessness.
The money found by "The Greek" Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), the grocery store owner, in the flashback he has is the same money and windshield scraper buried by Steve Buscemi's character in the movie Fargo (1996).
Throughout the first season, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) uses riddles and parables to suggest that he is the ultimate predator and often alludes to wolves while doing so. Moments before he is killed by Gus (Colin Hanks), a wolf looks at him through the window of his cabin. Although never explicitly discussed in the show, this was done to highlight the moment that Lorne became the prey, while Gus became the predator.
Throughout season one, Lester (Martin Freeman) wears a red hooded jacket, a reference to "Little Red Riding Hood" fable, indicating that he is a sort of prey running away. He drops it when he starts to feel like a new man starting from episode 8 (Fargo: The Heap (2014)). This moment tracks the fact that Lester is no longer prey. In episode 10 (Fargo: Morton's Fork (2014)), while hunted by Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), he finds the red hooded jacket and wears it again, alluding that Lester is again prey being hunted by wolves.
In episode 2.4, Fargo: Fear and Trembling (2015), Lou (Keith Carradine) is seen sitting outside late at night in front of his house with a shotgun. You can see him repeat this pattern in season 1 when he's sitting on the front porch of his daughters house late at night with a shotgun.
At the end of episode 10 season 2 (Fargo: Palindrome (2015)) when Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon) is getting his new identity, two kids are shown playing catch and arguing in sign language, one child being short with dark hair, and the other taller with red hair. This could be Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench from season 1.
Bear Gerhardt (Angus Sampson) is the only child of Floyd (Jean Smart) to outlive her. Charlie Gerhardt (Allan Dobrescu) is one of four remaining Gerhardt grandchildren at the end of the season - along with Dodd's (Jeffrey Donovan) remaining three daughters who are mentioned, but never appear on the show.