[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Fargo, Season 5 Episode 4, “Insolubilia.”]
Fargo creator Noah Hawley fully acknowledges that of all the references you might expect the award-winning anthology show to include, one of Disney’s most beloved holiday favorites might not make the list. “It’s way more Nightmare Before Christmas than you could ever imagine would be in a season of Fargo,” he tells Consequence — referring specifically to the events of Year 5’s fourth episode, “Insolubilia.”
As teased at the end of the previous episode, Episode 4 is devoted in part to Gator Tillman (Joe Keery) and his lackeys attempting to abduct the extremely wily Dot (Juno Temple), who has Home Alone-ed her house in preparation for another attack. Because it’s Halloween, this time the invaders don’t wear ski masks: Instead, Gator wears a Jack Skellington mask, while the lackeys wear masks that eerily recreate the characters of the Halloweentown Mayor, Lock, and Shock. (An apt choice, given that in the film, the latter two are the characters assigned by Jack to “kidnap the Sandy Claws.”)
Being able to use the Nightmare iconography on screen was in part aided by FX now being a part of the Disney family, following the 2019 Fox acquisition. However, Hawley says, “In the end what we needed was Tim [Burton]’s blessing.”
Helpfully, Fargo executive producer Steve Stark also is an executive producer on the Netflix series Wednesday, which Burton directed, and thus the connection was made. “I didn’t talk to Tim directly,” Hawley says about getting Burton’s approval. “But I think the pitch was just that we wanted to use the masks. And it’s a conceptual buy-in, that there were going to be these set pieces in the show, and that would mean that Nightmare was a big part of the identity of this season. And I think [Burton] thought that was fun. It’s gratifying that he thought enough of me to think that this would elevate the work, or at least not disrespect the work.”
Nodding to Nightmare was something Hawley was happy to do because not only is it a movie his family loves, he felt that the movie’s unconventional nature made it a good fit for Year 5, given its placement in time — the fall of 2019. “[Nightmare]’s a holiday movie, but it’s a holiday movie where you’re like, ‘Which holiday is this movie for? Is it a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie?’ And it ties into the fact that this year of Fargo starts at Halloween, but it’s always a sort of Christmas/winter show. There was a rhyme there that was interesting.”
Plus, adds Hawley, “I think it shares a sensibility [with Fargo], in a way. It pretends to be this dark and disturbing thing, but at the center of it is just this guy with a heart of gold, who wants to understand this holiday. It’s disturbing, it’s comedic, it’s sort of more graphic than a children’s movie should be, in some places — but never cynically. And I think that echoes what we’re trying to do.”
New episodes of Fargo premiere Tuesdays on FX, streaming the next day on Hulu.