FARGO, Season 5, Episode 1: ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’

Juno Temple stars as Dorothy Lyon in Season 5 of “Fargo” on FX. (PHOTO: FX)

Northern Minnesota author Aaron J. Brown reviews each episode of “Fargo” with an eye for unique details from the place where the show is set. The ratings range from INTERESTING (bad), to COULD BE WORSE (not so good) to PRETTY GOOD (not so bad), and OH, YA! (real good then).

Beware the spoilers.

‘The Tragedy of the Commons’

(Original air date: Nov. 21, 2023)

The opening scene boldly declares an end to Minnesota Nice as a small town school board meeting turns into a slightly less bloody take on the pivotal melee scene in “The Kingsmen.” I don’t know what they’re fighting about, but our shared cultural experience these last two decades can fill in the blanks.

Juno Temple’s Dot accidentally tazes a cop as she tries to get her daughter Scottie out of the chaotic scene. She gets arrested.

“It’s a beautiful day,” laments officer Indira Olmstead (Richa Moorjani), in a direct homage to the closing scene of the movie “Fargo.” 

Ralph Stanley sings a song of redemption while Dot is booked and released from jail. She’s worried about her fingerprints entering the national database. It reminds me that I refused to have myself fingerprinted at the mall when I was a kid. I’m still untraceable. I feel this.

Dot’s milquetoast husband Wayne (David Rysdahl) picks her up and takes her to his parents’ house for a Christmas card picture.

Jennifer Jason Leigh sweeps down the stairs as the family matriarch Lorraine Lyon. She has a transatlantic accent like from old movies. Not sure why. It would appear to be a choice on her part.

The Christmas card picture turns out to be one of those gun fetish poses where the happy family holds high capacity semi-automatic rifles in front of a Christmas tree. Servants bring in the guns like the tools used to crack open crab at finer restaurants. When the shot is over, they whisk away the weapons.

Lorraine’s husband Wink fumbles with the gun and his tumbler of scotch. Lorraine tells him to make a choice between drink and gun. He reluctantly chooses gun.

Later, at dinner, Wink sits at the end of the table with the granddaughter, who irked her grandmother by wearing a suit to the event. This seems like a regular deal, though. Wink is not the leading man in this house. The table, which includes the attorney general somehow, discusses Dot’s legal situation, which proves quite awkward for all concerned. 

That night, Dot has a dream of a country sheriff (Jon Hamm). He’s coming for her, somehow.

The next day, in another homage to the movie, masked goons start rapping on the patio doors while Dot watches daytime TV. Unlike poor Jean Lundegaard, Dot escapes. The show is clearly sending a signal about the agency of this year’s female characters.

Using hairspray and a lighter, she torches one goon Home Alone style. But she still falls down the stairs. Dot’s only playing possum, though. She slashes the kilted goon with a hockey skate. But she’s cornered.

Wayne arrives home with their daughter to see open door and kidnap evidence. Tells daughter to stay outside. Did he order this? Like Jerry Lundegaard? Blood on the floor. We know it’s not hers. Husband calls cops. He seems innocent. (Or does he?) (Actually he seems pretty clueless).

Officer Olmstead is back. Wayne points out that there’s a burnt hat upstairs. Makes sense, right?

Lorraine prepares a ransom plan for Dot. She doesn’t think much of her daughter-in-law, but appears ready to play ball. Her lawyer, Danish Graves (Dave Foley) has an eye patch that matches his silver gray hair. 

Recurring theme of snare drums whenever the mother-in-law touches the story. Militaristic. 

Olmstead is broke, behind on bills. Sears sent a final notice. Her husband Lars (Lukas Gage) is selfish golf dude. So now we know her deal.

Kidnappers are driving across the windswept plains of eastern North Dakota at night with Dot in the backseat. One is badly burned, the other cut by the skate. Cop pulls them over, again reminiscent of the original film. Dot escapes and the more competent criminal kills one of the patrolmen. The other patrolman, Deputy Witt Farr (Lamorne Morris) escapes into the field to a gas station.

Standing sentry outside the gas station, Farr searches for movement in the field. The flash of rifle in the dark. Frightening. Bullet pierces Witt’s leg and hits can behind it. Cool shot. Camera shot, that is. Gun violence remains a national tragedy. 

Dot appears to be some kind of special agent, improvising her way through a makeshift defense of the gas station.

Interesting juxtaposition of guns from Christmas picture to the gas station. Now the guns are being used as intended.

Kind of a weird Home Alone thing going on here as Burn Head slips on Dot’s ice trap and lands on the toilet bowl. 

Dot — barefoot on broken glass — hits Kilt Killer with shovel. Gets his gun. Witt Farr is losing a lot of blood at this point. She stops the bleeding and grabs some Bisquik for the road. The Kilt Killer escapes. He’s the one to watch for.

She ditches before Farr can commend her for a medal. She gets home somehow and is making crazy pancakes. Tries to downplay kidnapping — pretends it didn’t happen. But she has reasons for this that we don’t know yet. Wayne’s not buying it though. 

Episode Rating: We’re back to classic Fargo style, perhaps a bit too much mirroring of past Fargo greatness, but the distinct characters make this one a lot of fun. Oh ya!

Minnesota Details

Right out the gate, I noted that the Minnesota accents are passable. They begin a little overwrought, like how political candidates start their opening statements in debates, but they settle in just fine for those who know this storytelling universe. Pretty good

After the picture shoot, it so happens that the state’s Attorney General is sitting the table for dinner. It seems like an alternate universe where Doug Wardlow was elected in 2018. Interesting

Hockey skate as weapon would normally elicit an Oh ya! but it hits different this year.

Sears closed, right? Interesting

“Christ on a stick” says burn head when the stop turns deadly. Oh ya!

Dot uses an ice scraper as part of her tourniquet for Deputy Farr. Oh ya!

Do we call pancakes “Making some Bisquik?” I’m not sure. I think I’ve heard this but it’s not standard. In my house we eat Pin-key-akes. Could Be Worse

All told, this season’s setting along the Minnesota/North Dakota border will return my reviews to relevance. I enjoyed the sweeping historical metaphors of Season 4, but now, at long last, I can declare, without irony, Oh ya!

Read more at the Fargo Review page.

Next Episode: “Trials and Tribulations”


  1. Dot’s hubby is a startling Mike Johnson look alike. An Kilt Killer is sor of remindful of Mpls local musician and artist Curtiss A. I am pleased I was able to finallt start the series.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.