Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of FX

Fans of the 1996 film “Fargo” and the television series of the same title know that calm, understated, traditional fare will never dominate the narrative. This pattern holds true in “Fargo’s” fifth season set in 2019 Minnesota and North Dakota, as titles repeatedly remind us. This iteration blissfully delivers the desired off-beat humor and distinctive, inimitable violence.

The introduction pays homage to the original film’s and subsequent series’ satirical salute to “reality.” Titles state: “This is a true story. . . At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” Immediately, the action takes off with deceptively sweet, Scandia, Minnesota, housewife and mother Dot Lyon at a school board meeting. There her inadvertent reaction to an unexpected encounter sets the complicated, delicious twists and turns in motion.

In an echo of the original “Fargo,” happy homemaker Dot, who loves her daughter, will confront kidnappers in the first episode. Played by the perky Juno Temple, who played the ditzy Keeley Jones in “Ted Lasso,” Dot employs a dizzying array of ingenious defenses, impressive especially because of her slight stature proving brains outfox brawn. Regularly, factored in over ten episodes will be Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine, Dot’s billionaire mother-in-law who runs a merciless debt collection agency. She’s aided by an equally heartless attorney who will more than meet his match in Sheriff Roy Tillman, a Bible and Constitution quoting villain played to perfection by Jon Hamm. Throw in Dot’s clueless husband Wayne, Tillman’s bungling son Gator, Dot’s nine-year-old daughter Scotty, and, most frightening of all, Ole Munch, reminiscent of Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.”

Very serious issues undergird the entire series, most significantly domestic abuse cloaked as the divine-directed dominance of wives by husbands. The Federalist Society gets a nod, moralizing comes under scrutiny, as does the power money bestows. Musical choices add another level of social commentary. Most surprising, because the characters are so well drawn and presented, series creator Noah Hawley still manages to entertain and inject humor into weighty content. The ten episodes of season five of “Fargo” stream now on F/X or Hulu.

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