Breaking Down the Debut Episodes of Fargo Season 5

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Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Fargo Season 5.

It's been nearly three years since a new episode of Fargo graced our screens. But judging by its reviews, Season 5 of FX's black comedy crime drama, the first two installments of which premiered Nov. 21, was well worth the wait.

"As a follow-up to Season 4’s ambitious yet cluttered, 1950s-set exploration of American identity, which aired in 2020," writes TIME TV critic Judy Berman, "[Season 5 is] a tighter, funnier, but equally dark return to form for creator Noah Hawley."

Revisiting its tried-and-true Midwest setting and jumping back in time to 2019, "Year 5" of the Coen Brothers-inspired anthology series centers on Dorothy "Dot" Lyon (Juno Temple), a wife, mother, and homemaker who is more bite than bark under her carefully practiced facade of "Minnesota nice." After getting arrested for mistakenly tasing a police officer while trying to safely extricate her preteen daughter Scotty (Sienna King) from a school board meeting-turned-riot, Dot finds herself battling demons from her past—namely, her sinister ex-husband, North Dakota county sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm), and his desperate-to-prove-himself son, Gator (Joe Keery).

Roy, a violent and overtly misogynistic so-called constitutional lawman, didn't take too kindly to Dot disappearing on him a decade earlier, and has been waiting for her to slip up and make a mistake ever since. So when her fingerprints show up in the system following her arrest, he sends two hired henchman—including a kilt-wearing, mysteriously ageless drifter referred to as Ole Munch (Sam Spruell)—to bring her back. What he doesn't tell them is that Dot, who has spent the past 10 years building a life alongside her soft-spoken and devoted husband Wayne (David Rysdahl), won't go quietly.

Read more: Fargo Season 5 Is a Sharp, Darkly Hilarious Return to Form

What happens in the debut episode of Fargo season 5?

"FARGO" -- "Trials and Tribulation" -- Year 5, Episode 2 (Airs November 21)  Pictured:  Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine Lyon.  CR: Michelle Faye/FX
Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fargo Season 5Michelle Faye—FX

Following Dot's arrest and our introduction to her caustic mother-in-law, "Queen of Debt" Lorraine Lyon (Jennifer Jason Leigh), CEO of the largest debt collection agency in the country, Dot is finally able to return home. But her peace and quiet only lasts until the next morning, when Roy's henchmen come to collect their bounty.

A knock-down, drag-out fight between Dot and her wannabe-kidnappers ensues, with Dot burning half of one's face off and and slicing through the ear of the other, Ole Munch, with an ice skate. The two men ultimately come out on top and cart Dot away, but not before she's proved she's a force to be reckoned with.

When Wayne returns home with Scotty later that day, he calls the police after finding the front door open and blood on the floor. The same officer who arrested Dot the previous day, Deputy Indira Olmstead (Richa Moorjani), shows up to investigate. Wayne also tells his mother about the situation, and she speculates with her in-house counsel and primary advisor, Danish Graves (Dave Foley), that they'll receive a ransom demand within the next 48 hours.

That night, Munch's car is pulled over by North Dakota police while en route to Dot's drop-off point. A tied-up Dot jumps out of the back and makes a run for it to a nearby gas station just before a shootout ensues and one of the cops is shot and killed. The other officer, Deputy Witt Farr (Lamorne Morris), also heads for the gas station, but is shot in the leg before making it inside. Luckily for him, Dot manages to thwart their attackers with a series of cunning Home Alone-style traps, knocking Munch out and killing his partner before helping Witt tourniquet his leg so he doesn't bleed out. After seeing that Munch has disappeared, she flees before police reinforcements arrive.

Upon arriving home, she insists to Wayne that she wasn't abducted and simply had a mental breakdown and went off on her own to clear her head.

"FARGO" -- "Trials and Tribulation" -- Year 5, Episode 2 (Airs November 21)  Pictured:  Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman.  CR: Michelle Faye/FX
Jon Hamm in Fargo Season 5Michaelle Faye—FX

How does the second episode move the story forward?

The second episode opens with an ominous introduction to Roy—who's being investigated by the FBI for "unorthodox practices"—before launching into a meeting between Roy, Gator, and Munch. After Roy explains his motivations for wanting Dot, Munch demands more money for the pain and suffering he endured trying to kidnap her, and Gator tries and fails to kill him.

Before things get violent, Munch tells Roy and Gator that he's a nihilist who believes in nothing. However, there's clearly more to him than meets the eye. Apparently embodying the supernatural element of this season—like Billy Bob Thornton's villainous hitman Lorne Malvo in Season 1—Munch is described by the team behind the show as someone whose age and birthplace are unknown and who looks like he could be anywhere from 30 to 60 years old on any given day.

"Some say he has always been here, blowing through the American landscape—the dark shadow waiting for us at the end of the hall," the description reads. "He's carved from stone, relentless as the sea, the forces of physics don't apply to him."

Meanwhile, Dot continues to insist that she wasn't kidnapped, despite Indira questioning her about the police finding two different types of blood at the house. Later, Indira meets with a hospitalized Witt to try to figure out if Dot was the same woman involved in the shootout. Gator shows up to put a stop to their theorizing, deleting Dot's picture off Indira's phone before she can show it to Witt.

When Danish informs Lorraine that Dot's back, she begins to suspect that Dot kidnapped herself and was planning to extort her for a ransom before getting cold feet. But after Lorraine tries to confront Dot about what happened, she quickly realizes she's up against a tougher opponent than she thought. With Scotty's help, Dot sets to work booby-trapping their house to prevent against any future attacks.

The episode ends with Munch violently taking out Gator's partner at the same gas station where's the previous night's showdown took place, sending a message to Gator and Roy that they still owe him.

Fargo is set to run through Jan. 16, with a new episode airing on FX every Tuesday before streaming on Hulu the following day.

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