It brings me great pleasure to report that Fargo returns for a fifth installment on November 21. It’s been three full years since our last go-round with the show, which is probably too long, especially since the fourth installment… left something to be desired. It was fine, mostly, and better than most shows that aren’t named Fargo, but it didn’t quite live up to the high standards set in the first three. Again, it was fine. Again, I was looking for something more.
This new installment has the show back, though, at least through the first few episodes that I’ve seen. We are having some fun. And murdering people. Jon Hamm has a cowboy hat. It’s a really good time. Let’s get into it all.
PART I: We have another murderous little mystery on our hands
Let’s just go ahead and drop in the official description of the action from FX, for the sake of efficiency.
After an unexpected series of events lands “Dorothy ‘Dot’ Lyon” (Juno Temple) in hot water with the authorities, this seemingly typical Midwestern housewife is suddenly plunged back into a life she thought she had left behind.
North Dakota Sheriff “Roy Tillman” (Jon Hamm) has been searching for Dot for a long time. A rancher, preacher and a constitutional lawman, Roy believes that he is the law and therefore is above the law. At his side is his loyal but feckless son, “Gator” (Joe Keery), who is desperate to prove himself to his larger-than-life father. Too bad he’s hopeless. So, when it comes to hunting Dot, Roy enlists “Ole Munch” (Sam Spruell), a shadowy drifter of mysterious origin.
With her deepest secrets beginning to unravel, Dot attempts to shield her family from her past, but her doting, well-meaning husband “Wayne” (David Rysdahl) keeps running to his mother, “Lorraine Lyon” (Jennifer Jason Leigh), for help. CEO of the largest Debt Collection Agency in the country, the “Queen of Debt” is unimpressed with her son’s choice in a wife and spares no opportunity to voice her disapproval. However, when Dot’s unusual behavior catches the attention of Minnesota Police Deputy “Indira Olmstead” (Richa Moorjani) and North Dakota Deputy “Witt Farr” (Lamorne Morris), Lorraine appoints her in-house counsel and primary advisor, “Danish Graves” (Dave Foley) to aid her daughter-in-law. Afterall, family is family. But Dot has an uncanny knack for survival. And with her back to the wall, she’s about to show why one should never provoke a mother Lyon.
Look at what we have here:
- A Midwestern housewife thrust into an old life that requires a knack for survival
- A sheriff who believes he is above the law and has a feckless son named Gator
- Shadowy drifters named Ole Munch
- The Queen of Debt
- A lawyer named Danish Graves who, spoiler alert, wears an eyepatch
This is the good stuff, people. Please savor it.
PART II: Juno Temple is having a blast
I suspect many of you are mostly familiar with Juno Temple from her work on Ted Lasso as Keeley, a glamour model and girlfriend of a cranky soccer star. That’s cool. She’s great in that role, bringing a humanity and comic timing to a character that probably reads as less than that on paper. This is not that Juno Temple. I mean, it is, to some degree, especially as it relates to the comic timing, but there’s something much darker here. And she’s losing the British accent for a Midwestern one. She seems to be enjoying it a lot.
Please watch her in that short clip up there, in which she has her home littered with weapons and booby traps like she’s Kevin McAllister in Home Alone. I really cannot stress in strong enough terms that Juno Temple rules very hard in the early parts of the season that I’ve seen. Some of that might get lost in the Jon Hamm of it all for reasons I will discuss in Part III, but it’s important to note. So this is me doing that.
PART III: Hey, have you missed Menacing Jon Hamm?
Jon Hamm has been crushing it lately. We’ve discussed this. He’s been popping up in dozens of shows for the last few years, often in silly little roles, sometimes playing, “What if Elon Musk was devastatingly handsome?” alongside Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, almost always looking like he has things figured out in a way most of us should be envious of. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen him be a little menacing. Since we saw him give that icy stare and full portrayal of confidence he became famous for on Mad Men. Since he responded to someone saying they feel bad for him by staring straight ahead and replying “I don’t think about you at all.” Since… any of that.
This is not exactly that Jon Hamm. This one is a little darker. Sheriff Roy takes the law into his own hands in a way that is maybe not admirable or even moral. But dammit if he isn’t magnetic to watch. There’s a scene in the second episode where the FBI shows up to question him while he’s relaxing in an outdoor bathtub with a cigar in his mouth and some very surprising jewelry on his body that really sets the tone for his character in a way only someone like Jon Hamm can pull off.
It’s nice to see him like this again. I love a goofy Jon Hamm. I’m on record saying that in many places. But it’s nice to be a little scared of him, too. This is very good business here.
PART IV: It’s just really nice to have Fargo back
It is. There are so many little twists and quirks in this show that make it unlike anything else on television. The accent work remains delightful, with lots of Midwesternisms that don’t often end up on the screen elsewhere, and yes, I am referring here specifically to the thing where Juno Temple makes pancakes but calls it “makin’ Bisquick.” Jennifer Jason Leigh is great, too, with a thick Ivy League accent that turns words like what and why into “hhhhhhhwhat” and “hhhhhwhy.” Her character is lovely and terrifying. Joe Keery from Stranger Things plays a puffed-chest failson named Gator, which is just a lot of fun to type out, which is the main reason I did it, just ahead of informing you all that Joe Keery from Stranger Things plays a puffed-chest failson named Gator. Look at that. I did it again.
There’s also the, uh, violence. Just a whole bunch of it. Homemade flamethrowers, baseball bats with nails sticking out of them, people getting body parts chopped off, all of it. It’s such a strange show, with the silliest stuff you’ve ever seen interspersed with the most graphically violent, and yet, when it works, it just really, really works. It’s nice to have something so relentlessly original on television like this. I’m so happy it’s back. I have no idea of how things will land after the opening few episodes I saw so far, but at the very least I am excited to find out. That’s really all you can ask for from a start to a show.
That and Jon Hamm in a cowboy hat.
PART V: I am very excited for everyone to hear Juno Temple say “hoosegow” in a Minnesota accent
You won’t have to wait long, either. Until then, please watch the trailer again and get a little pumped up. One of our best shows is on its way, just in time for the long and dark winter. Bundle up.