Untethered New Story Packs a Punch: Fargo Season 5 Reviewed

Image courtesy of FX

Noah Hawley’s fifth installment of Fargo (2023-2024) delivers a tight, stand-alone story that returns to what made previous seasons so good while also branching out in creative new ways. 
The storyline revolves around seven main characters. Juno Temple plays Dorothy ‘Dot’ Lyman, whose arrest at a PTA meeting sets off alarms with people in her past. Jon Hamm, in one of his most vicious roles, plays renegade Sheriff Roy Tillman, who is alerted when Dorothy gets arrested. Tillman’s son Gator (Joe Keery) is sent to kidnap Dot with the help of Swedish hitman Ole Munch (Sam Spruell), who becomes more than Gator and Tillman have bargained for. 
Butting heads with Tillman is Dorothy’s mother-in-law, Lorraine Lyon (the amazing Jennifer Jason Leigh), the CEO of a predatory debt consolidation company. Investigating Dot’s kidnapping is North Dakota Deputy Witt Farr (Lamorne Morris) and Minnesota Deputy Indira Olmstead (Richa Moorjani).  
The strength of the series is that each season is it’s own story, with the freedom to creatively explore the characters and themes. And when a season has no connection to the any of the previous ones, like this one, it has free reign to do whatever it wants. And what it seems to want is to not rely as much on callbacks and references to the Coen-verseof movies as previous seasons (though there are still plenty). Munch’s hitman has echoes of Anton Chigur in No Country For Old Men in that he’s a principled killer who seems to exist out of normal time. 
The first episode recreates the instigating crime from Fargo (1996) when the wife (Dot) of a car dealership owner is kidnapped. Yet, this season seems to depict that crime as if this were an alternate universe. Things go much differently than the kidnapping in the movie, and characters discover how much more there is to Dot (Temple). 
One of the strengths of the seasons is the shifting loyalties and relationships through the 10-episode run. Another is the bonding between the female characters, a plot device that makes the previous seasons so engaging and human. There are some scenes in the middle episodes of season 5 where the magic starts to fade, but vitality returns as soon as Dot reappears. Her character is the beating heart of the show, with each new bit of backstory adding more emotional heft and higher stakes. 
The series is known for its startling violence. And while this season isn’t the most violent, it is the most brutal. Two home invasion sequences aim to be a version of HomeAlone that uses real violence and consequences. Also, laterepisodes begin and end with warnings about depictions of domestic abuse and a hotline to call for those experiencing domestic violence. Numerous scenes in these episodes are extremely hard to watch. Previous seasons have used animation and other creative flourishes to help tell character’s stories. This season uses marionette puppets to help tell female character’s domestic abuse backstories, which helps to make these stories slightly easier to take. 
The tense climax and unexpected deaths wrap up the season in the most satisfying final episode of the series. Temple, Leigh, and Moorjani’s performances provide such range to their characters that they all should be nominated for Emmy’s (though the season wasn’t eligible for 2023’s awards). The simple beauty of the final scene is felt all the more after the horrors of the previous episodes. Any viewer can find themselves with a tear or two in the eyes when the credits roll. 
All episodes of Fargo season five are streaming on Hulu
- EB