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‘Fargo’ installment 5 reviews: ‘Stellar performances’ anchor a ‘dark return to form’ for the anthology series

Almost three years to the day that “Fargo” wrapped its fourth installment, which starred Chris Rock and featured an acclaimed performance by future Oscar-nominee Jessie Buckley, its highly-anticipated fifth has finally arrived. Noah Hawley’s FX anthology series debuted almost a decade ago in 2014 and has been alternating between contemporary and period-set seasons. Since the last set of episodes took place in the 1950s and explored the war between Kansas City crime syndicates, the new season is set in 2019 and centers on Juno Temple’s character, whose happy home life conceals a dangerous past.

After its fourth installment failed to live up to the high expectations that the Emmy Award-winning series had previously set, this new season finds the show back as strong as ever. As of this writing, it has an 80 score on Metacritic, indicating “generally favorable” reviews. Even better, it has a perfect 100% freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes, with their critical consensus reading, “A back-to-basics caper populated by the likes of a mesmerizing Juno Temple and a thick slice of Hamm, ‘Fargo’s’ fifth season is a superb return to peak form.”

WATCH ‘Fargo’ installment five trailer: Meet Juno Temple’s ‘tiger,’ Jon Hamm’s ‘enforcer’

Critics have praised this latest batch of “Fargo” episodes as a “dark return to form” that is “far zanier” than its preceding seasons and is “wonderfully acted, swiftly paced, nasty fun.” As always, the anthology boasts impeccable production values, including this installment’s “wonderfully deranged soundtrack,” “reliably gorgeous cinematography,” and “dazzlingly staged action sequences that top anything the series has done to date.” The starry ensemble has earned kudos as these episodes boast “stellar performances everywhere you look.” Those include a “captivating” Temple who “manages to fill up the screen,” an “effectively unsettling” Joe Keery, the “inner fire” of Richa Moorjani, and Sam Spruell, who plays “perhaps the most primal baddie” of the whole series. Emmy winner Jon Hamm has especially earned applause for his “best role” since the end of “Mad Men,” delivering the “most audaciously baroque dialogue in the series’ history” as character Sheriff Roy Tillman, who is “equal parts compelling and terrifying.” Dave Foley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Lamorne Morris were also singled out in notices.

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See excerpts from some of the critics’ reviews below, and join in the discussion of “Fargo” and more with your fellow TV fans and industry insiders in our forums.

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Liz Shannon Miller (Consequence): “Based on the first six episodes, Hawley proves deeply interested in once again using the show’s established blend of violence and folksy accents to meditate on America as we understand it. His depiction of 2019 as a time period is pretty pointed in that respect – a comparatively simpler time from today, it could be argued, but still a soup of rising tensions, in ways that feel prophetic of darker times ahead… The ‘Fargo’ team packs these initial episodes with inventive filming choices and thorough world-building.”

Daniel Fienberg (Hollywood Reporter): “With Hawley writing the first five episodes and co-writing the sixth, this is vintage linguistic ‘Fargo,’ all twisted syntax, antiquated vernacular and digressions into allegory, folklore and history… His dialogue has a naturally musical quality, with cadences more indebted to Sondheim than your average TV scribe, and the delight of Temple and Leigh’s performances in particular comes from how well they understand the assignment.”

Judy Berman (Time): “As a follow-up to Season 4’s ambitious yet cluttered, 1950s-set exploration of American identity, which aired in 2020, it’s a tighter, funnier, equally dark return to form for creator Noah Hawley. This time, gender and class are the battlefields on which the show’s eternal war of good vs. evil are fought.”

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Dave Nemets (TVLine): “Armed with a top-notch cast and jaw-dropping action sequences, ‘Fargo’s’ fifth season is a lean and mean, back-to-basics thrill ride packed with laughs and frights that, in its own small way, helps us remember why we love television so much… Hawley is really hitting on all cylinders here as a writer and filmmaker.”

Alison Herman (Variety): “The first few episodes are a riveting cat-and-mouse game with the potential for a role reversal heavily foreshadowed… But the momentum starts to flag as Hawley works to sustain drum-tight tension for several hours.”

The first two episodes of “Fargo“ installment five premiered on Nov. 21.

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