Review: Fargo Season 5

Fargo Season 5 has just recently finished and it is one of the best seasons of this brilliant show so far.

The plot follows Dot, a very pleasant homemaker living in Minnesota but after a fracas at a school board meeting where she genuinely accidentally assaults a cop she is arrested. While she is soon out on bail Dot is very antsy about being arrested. Days later she is kidnapped, or at least attempted to be. It turns out, that Dot has not always been Dot but used to be Nadine, married to Roy Tillman, a sheriff in a nearby county and an absolute maniac. Roy is corrupt, violent and puffed up with religious zealotry. Nadine escaped this terrible man and became Dot, meeting a very gentle and kind man, marrying him and having a child, Scotty. Alongside these central characters, we have Dot’s husband Wayne Lyon, her mother-in-law Lorraine Lyon who is CEO of the largest debt collection agency in the country, Deputy Indira Olmstead and State Trooper Witt Farr, as well as Roy’s son Gator. Finally, there is the sinister, mysterious, murderous Ole Munch.

On The Screen

Roy Tillman being a sheriff //credit: Fargo, FX

The show revolves around two central performances; Juno Temple as Nadine/Dot and Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman. Temple manages to capture both the gentle manner and basic decency of the Minnesota mom and the unstoppable force of someone who has survived a harrowing ordeal and won’t go back. Likewise Hamm has two existences as Roy Tillman – the public persona of no-nonsense tough but fair sheriff, with his aww shucks charm, and a brutal and corrupt man justifying his actions with self-serving Bible verses.

Another standout performance is Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine Lyon (I have been trying to perfect her contemptuous drawl for weeks), Nadine/Dot’s mother-in-law billionaire.

The Characters


Dot very early on is described by someone as a tiger and this is an apt description. She fights fiercely at every opportunity – in the course of the show, she sets people on fire, hits them with hammers, chokes them with chains, electrocutes them and more. She is also an extremely caring and loving mother, wife and person. The amount of time we see Dot baking and cooking in this season almost makes it a cooking show.

Roy Tillman

Domestic abuse, up to and including murder, is very present this season, Tillman is violent to all three of his wives that we see (and others). Nadine ran from Tillman because of this violence. He feels entirely justified in this, quoting all manner of verses from the Bible to support the horror he puts women through. The casting of Jon Hamm is an interesting one, he is the sheriff, a public and political figure, he can put his face on a campaign billboard and look impressive. Roy Tillman is the latest in a long line of terrifying Fargo villains and Tillman might be the scariest since season one’s Lorne Malvo. He dishes out Old Testament punishment to those he feels have done wrong – rarely involving a trial – is as staggeringly corrupt as to be selling police weapons and equipment to far-right militias, and does whatever he wants. He has a large group of henchmen made up of deputies and thugs who will murder, threaten and kidnap for him. So sure of his own power when the FBI arrive to tell him they know of all of his crimes he barely registers it.

The Rest

The Lyon family posing for a completely normal Christmas card //credit: Fargo, FX

As with every season of Fargo, it has its share of odd, puzzling characters. Danish Graves, Lorraine’s besuited lawyer whose eyepatch always matches his outfit, Roy’s son. Gator, who is utterly incompetently childish and so far out of his depth he will soon be surfacing on the other side of the world. And then there is Indira’s husband, now for someone who isn’t violent or a terrible criminal he has to be one of the most unlikeable characters of all time. While Indira is out working as a cop and desperately manages their crushing debt, he is intent on becoming a golf pro, spending thousands on equipment and not looking for work. Ole Munch, it’s hard to know what to say about him, like the UFOs in Fargo season 2 or the Heaven bowling alley in season 3 he might be something in a more supernatural bent. Ole Munch looks bizarre and talks in a ludicrous manner of quasi-philosophical rhetoric, answering every reasonable question with things like “when a man digs a grave, he must fill it, otherwise it is just a hole”. He is a creepy murdering criminal but is a very different way to Roy and his cronies.

The Show

Roy and his son Gator
Roy and his son Gator //credit: Fargo FX

The show spirals in and out of Dot’s safety, her past and present, and those around her given choices about what they will do. Will the police deputy and state trooper look the other way for an easy life? Will Lorraine Lyon back her daughter-in-law or destroy her? Perhaps the key concept in the show is debt – Roy feels Dot/Nadine has a debt to him, one that he cannot forget, Lorraine is literally a billionaire manager of debt, her lawyer Danish Graves has a ledger of debts to call in to get things done and she calls in all manner of political favours. Indira is drowning in debt while her useless husband complains about how she is not fulfilling her obligations to him as a wife. And then there is Ole Munch – a personification of debt, something he took on and will insist all debts are paid.

Season 5 is one of the best seasons of the show and just an all around fantastic tv show.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Also Read: True Crimes, Real Lives: Exploring the Ethics of the Sub-Genre

Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.