Fargo season 5 is rightfully being hailed as a return to form for the Noah Hawley-created series after an imperfect fourth season that delved far back (perhaps too far back) into America’s equally imperfect past. Based on this two-episode premiere, it’s not hard to see why season 5 is seen as a welcome new direction for the show. This is as close-to-the-present day as the franchise has ever allowed itself to be.
Since Fargo‘s central gimmick requires some passage of time (“This is a true story. The events depicted took place in [location] in [year]… ), every season begins in the past by definition. But Fargo season 5’s 2019 doesn’t feel too far away at all. The immediacy of the anger is recognizable. As are the politics of Sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm) whose definition of “constitutional conservative” translates to “whatever I say.” No season of Fargo has ever been more primed to communicate something important about the current political moment. But what exactly does this season want to say, aside from the obvious “everyone’s angry?”
Thankfully, with the SAG-AFTRA strike now concluded, FX was able to host a junket featuring the show’s acting talent, which Den of Geek was kindly invited to. In speaking to Juno Temple (Dot Lyon), Jon Hamm (Sheriff Roy Tillman), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Lorraine Lyon), David Rysdahl (Wayne Lyon), Dave Foley (Danish Greaves), Richa Moorjani (Deputy Indira Olmstead), and Sam Spruell (Ole Munch), a certain word kept coming up. We’ll present some quotes from the interviews below and see if you can spot it.
Juno Temple: “[Noah Hawley] discussed more the theme of debt and what debt means.”
Jon Hamm: “I think that with the idea of examining debt and what that does to us as individuals as well as a culture, you have to get into some politics of it as well.”
Richa Moorjani: “What people will do for money has always been a big theme in Fargo. In this season in particular, debt is a huge theme.”
Dave Foley: “Each installment [of Fargo] wrestles with a central moral theme. The moral theme of this one is debt. Indebtedness. The power structures of debt. What it means to be in debt.”
David Rysdahl: “In this season of Fargo … we’re really exploring the concept of debt and trauma and baggage.”
So uh …. did you catch the operative word there? Obviously it’s debt and the concept of indebtedness. The cast members of season 5 frequently brought up the idea of debt, even when not prompted to (as though they knew I was looking for a sturdy theme to tie together my first Fargo season 5 feature, bless them). That speaks to Noah Hawley’s messaging discipline with his actors, sure, but it also reveals just how seriously this season approaches the concept it intends to explore.
While it may not immediately be apparent based on these first two episodes, rest assured that all of Fargo season 5 really is about debt in its many forms. There’s the obvious iteration of debt to begin with – that of financial debt. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character and the matriarch of the powerful Lyon family, came to be a billionaire through operating a predatory debt servicing company, which is something that her kind-hearted son may come to struggle with.