Fargo Season 5 Review – Another Midwestern spectacle of ancient sin-eaters, toxic masculinity, and much more


Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5


Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3/5

FX’s Fargo has set a benchmark for well-written female protagonists. Over the course of its entire journey, the portrayals have gotten better, and more contemporary. It is difficult to pull that off in the modern era without undermining male characters, as we have seen. But Fargo’s essentials always manage to strike a balance. Season 5, perhaps, is an exception to some extent. The underwhelming finale encapsulates this and the continuing frustrations we have had with this season.

But don’t get me wrong. Season 5 of Fargo still remains one of the most compelling shows from last year. Apart from the above complaint, Noah Hawley and Co. have given us a decent season. Although the central problem affects certain facets of the storytelling and how we connect with the characters, individual brilliance from the cast and writers overshadows those concerns. Staying true to the original film from the Coen brothers, Season 5 lays a feminist twist to the plot setting.

There are numerous callbacks to the 1996 film, including Dot’s kidnapping and the “Hiya hons” dialogue of that acclaimed flick. Season 5 of Fargo revolves around the character of Dorothy Lyon (played by Juno Temple). It is set in Scandia, Minnesota, but also ventures beyond its territory. Dot is seemingly a simple housewife who loves her daughter, Scotty, and her husband Wayne. Her towering surname comes from Wayne’s mother, Lorraine (played by Jessica Jason Leigh), the billionaire owner of the state’s foremost debt collection agency. 

Dot and Lorraine are at loggerheads with each other, with Wayne caught in the middle. However, all this “setup” changes face when Dot gets arrested in an innocuous incident. Her chequered past comes to the surface as it turns out that Dot was previously known as Nadine Bump. Her evil husband, Roy Tillman, Sheriff of Stark County, has been hunting her for decades.

When her prints show up in the system, Roy is alerted and throws everything he has at Dot to bring her back. Kidnapping efforts are spoiled when Dot shows her resilience and dexterity. The kidnapper, Ole Munch, police officers Indira and Witt Farr, and Lorraine’s lawyer Danish Greaves, are the other main characters in the ploy. 

As the series progresses, we see our characters face numerous personal challenges that affect how they grow. The nature of the storytelling assumes a darker undertone as we go forward, although Fargo remains true to its brand identity. Plenty of interesting, quirky characters await us and the show continues to pull out the unexpected from under the hat.

Oola Moonk’s mystery, in particular, will challenge your acceptability of suspending disbelief, as he keeps popping up to influence affairs and remains significantly attached to the final outcomes of many strings of the story. And yet, you will scratch your head, puzzled about how he fits in.

Season 5 is very much character-driven. All the well-rounded portrayals develop a keen sense to follow them and their journeys. This time around, the characterization is black and white, as compared to the usually skewed moral bases. The sense of good and evil is established emphatically. This does temper expectations as it doesn’t allow the surprises that would otherwise have been quite effective.

The sort of pre-determined fate of Season 5 misses the Fargo flavour of cinema. Hawley and the other writers make populist choices creatively. It is becoming the norm to do so these days. Undoubtedly, it is a dangerous trend. That being said, the production values are top-notch, the sets, soundscape, and level of professionalism set a standard to aspire to, and performances from the cast and the measured detailing in the writing complement this technical prowess. Fargo has never disappointed in terms of storytelling and that remains true for Season 5 as well.

Jon Hamm is terrific as Roy Tillman, although I would have loved some variety or redeeming qualities in his character. His stature is imposing on the screen compared to Juno’s slight figure. But it is the conviction that he brings to Roy’s philosophical core that really makes the difference. Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Rhysdahl are terribly underutilized and yet create intriguing character portraits. Their involvement remains restricted, only making a surface-level impact, though.

Juno Temple proves to be a reliable anchor to the story. She is masterful in the emotional side of things but looks unconvincing on the demanding physicality of the role. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to do a lot of combat scenes to expose this frailty. The depth of her acting can be seen in the scenes and chemistry she shares with Hamm and Rhysdahl separately. One last thing that I would like to touch upon is a tricky issue – the lack of male role models. With all the emphasis on creating strong female characters, Season 5 egregiously misses out on creating examples from the other end of the spectrum.

Almost every male character – excluding Trooper Witt Farr and to some lengths, Wayne Lyon – has a dated representation. The tilting of the scales against them is certainly not appreciated. It is not to say that they are badly written characters but the assimilation of flaws goes to the underlying intention of making these choices.

For first-time Fargo viewers, Season 5 will be a starting point from where your journey will get better, ultimately crescendoing with one of the finest television seasons of the last decade (read, “Season 1”) if you watch each season in reverse. However, if you’re an old-timer in the world of Fargo, you may be wondering if the first season is the peak. 

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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