Fargo Season 5

Fargo: Season 5

Fargo Season 5
Genre: Crime
Network: FX
Creator: Noah Hawley
Season Year: 2024
Watch: Hulu

The fourth season of Fargo was just bad. The acting, the story, the whole Chris Rock of it all. The fact that it takes place in Kansas City. So many things. This season feels like a bit of a return to form. To location. To attitude. Stylistically and character-wise this feels more in the vein of the original Coen Brothers movie. The goofiness mixed with shocking violence. The memorable characters and, frankly, an almost direct rip or two from the film. But inverted. And with stars like Jon Hamm, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Juno Temple. An upgrade, to be sure. And while not everything in this season works seamlessly — or is resolved in a satisfying way — it’s an overall fun and entertaining season of TV. It gets less fun as time goes by. And a little less entertaining. But overall worth it for the memorable moments.

First, you got your Minnesota housewife, Dot (Temple). She’s quintessential Minnesota nice. Accent and all. But we soon learn that perhaps she’s not what she appears to be after a violent altercation at a school event for her daughter exposes her ability to wield a stun gun and willingness to tase a cop. This is further compounded when two dudes come to kidnap her in her home the next day and she totally Home Alones them. They do ultimately kidnap her, but she manages to really fuck them up. Then there’s an escape and a shootout and we get the first real glimpses of one of her kidnappers, and one of the more awesome characters ever, Munch (Sam Spruell). Who is like a weirdly-coiffed, old-world, maybe supernatural dude in a kilt who talks in oldey-timey Yoda language, but is clearly a reference to Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. We also meet Deputy Witt Farr (Lamorne Morris), who was awesome as Winston on New Girl, but is sadly wasted in a thankless part that goes nowhere.

Prior to this action set piece we do get to know a couple other characters: Dot’s husband, Wayne (David Rysdahl), and Wayne’s billionaire mother, Lorraine (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Wayne is basically the William H. Macy character from Fargo sucked dry of all of his bad qualities. A truly wonderfully not malevolent man. While his mother is a big fan, big fan! of 45 and makes her money repossessing people’s cars and houses. Or something. She’s a real hardass. And also kind of JJL’s character from The Hudsucker Proxy. Well, not her character per se, but the voice of her character. That “mid-Atlantic” accent that every actress in a film noir copped in the 1940s and 50s. Completely out of place amongst the rube-like, flat-a Northern-rim accents on the show, but she’s great and the accent is classic. I won’t go too deep on the plot other than to say that North Dakota sheriff and eye-for-an-eye, above-the-law enthusiast, Roy Tillman (Hamm), spends the whole show trying to capture Dot, funnel public funds to an Oath Keepers-like right-wing militia and generally put his boot on the throat of anyone he doesn’t like or steps in his way. He’s not a good guy. And becomes increasingly unhinged as the show progresses. Something that honestly felt a bit wonky and not a natural progression of a dude who was seemingly savvy up until he’s driven to madness by this woman. Or maybe all women.

As I mentioned, there are some really memorable characters. First and foremast is Munch. An almost immortal being who seems to be a 500-year-old sin eater from Wales. If you’re to believe the really strange flashback the series shows us out of nowhere. A weird bit of magical realism — or fantasy or whatever you’d call it — from a show that is otherwise pretty grounded. Unless, of course, you consider the artsy side-dalliance of a puppet show that Dot has to put on to tell us her backstory. Definitely a giant swing in the world of exposition dumping. And this is a real star turn for Juno Temple. She seems to be playing to type on Ted Lasso, but her swing from pretend housewife to hardened survivor (all with the Fargo-like accent) is really great. Her face is just so expressive and her physicality — even in her tininess — is electrifying. Sure she can’t help but look anything but British, but we’ll ignore that fact because nobody really knows what people in North Dakota look like anyway. There are some other characters that have potential, like Tillman’s son, Gator (Joe Keery), who plays the perfect young man sucked into the world of having to prove masculinity and bro-ness. Keery is terrific, but the character kind of becomes one-note after a bit. And the way he’s treated by the show, it feels almost like revenge porn on the part of the writers. As if there is something punitive that they want to exact on him for being exactly what America has come to be. And Jennifer Jason Leigh’s mother character is fun and funny, but she almost becomes a plot mover at some point and not a fully fleshed out, real person. Her flip-flop on some emotions and feelings about Dot and her own son just don’t sit right. And then there are the wasted characters, like Lamorne Morris’ cop and the confounding other cop, Indira (Richa Moorjani), who is there for some reason they clearly edited down but forgot to round out. She starts out promising, but basically becomes background fodder by the end. And Dave Foley in an eye patch as the awesomely named, Danish Graves. Love that dude. Gone too soon. Gone too soon.

I didn’t love some of the more overt political stuff in the show. It won’t age well, and just took away from the mystique. I get that Hawley, or whomever, wanted to stick in some funnies about Trump and make the Tillman character the symbol for right-wing America thinking that we’re actually Murica, land of shut the fuck up and do as I say because I’m in charge. But it just felt a little hokey and out of place in what should have been a generally agnostic show that already had enough theme-based issues around abuse, forgiveness and family that it didn’t need all that stuff. Not that I disagree with what was being said, but it belonged on another show. The plot does head toward what I kind of hoped it wouldn’t: a giant shoot out. But they managed to keep enough focus on the characters and not on the fighting to make it tolerable. I did, however, love the very end of the last episode. David Rysdahl (who is somehow married to Zazie Beetz in real life) as the sweet husband, is kind of magical in this final scene. He comes off as a kind of brain-damaged dummy for the majority of the show, but in subtle ways shows you that perhaps he is really the embodiment of Minnesota nice and what we’d mistaken for simpleness is just his true character and smarts shining through. His interactions with and the tension built around a homey scene with Munch that ends in such a wonderful place is worth the price of admission alone. Which is $0, I suppose. But you get the idea. Watch it. Enjoy it. Because next season could backslide into nonsense again.