As it turns out, Jack Skellington and Gator Tillman have more in common than you might expect.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Fargo season 5, episode 3, "The Paradox of Intermediate Transactions."
Each of the first three episodes of the anthology series’ fifth season have included at least one nod to Tim Burton’s 1993 classic, from its scenic elements being incorporated onstage at the school board meeting in the first episode to “This Is Halloween” blasting as Gator Tillman (Joe Keery) and his soon-to-be-dead patrol partner make a perilous pit stop in the second. Now, the latest episode has ended on a massive cliffhanger as Gator and his dad’s henchmen arrive at Dot's (Juno Temple) doorstep on Halloween night donning Lock, Shock, the Mayor, and Jack Skellington masks.
Showrunner, writer, and director Noah Hawley reveals there are several reasons why the Pumpkin King reigns large over this season, the first one being purely sentimental. “I like that movie!” He tells EW. “It's a specific choice, and I chose that movie because it's a favorite of my house. My kids will grow up and watch Fargo one day and it will feel meaningful to them.” He adds, “We had to get a blessing from Tim Burton to do it, which is great.”
The second, however, has everything to do with the parallels between the optimistic stop-motion skeleton and the man donning his mask in episode 3. “[Jack is] someone who, much like Joe Keery’s character, is trying to be something he’s not,” Hawley explains, “which is an evil, scary dude when, really, he’s a softie.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Jack as he attempts to turn over a new leaf by commandeering Christmas with well-intentioned, but disastrous, results. Throughout the first three episodes of season 5, several of Gator’s attempts to complete the tasks entrusted to him by his cutthroat father Roy (Jon Hamm) have similarly blown up in his face, including his failure to kill Ole Munch (Sam Spruell), which lands him with a broken arm.
“There’s just too much pressure on Gator, and he’s always trying to live up to those expectations while at the same time, deep down, with a different father, he would have been a kind soul,” Hawley says. “It’s the sins of the father, right? And whether Joe’s character is going to be able to get out from under the burden of — and reject — what’s toxic about his lineage.”
There are other little factors that make Nightmare a good fit for Fargo too, like how it's a “Halloween movie that's really a Christmas movie” and vice versa, not unlike season 5, which takes place during the chilly holiday months. “There’s two feet of snow on the ground on Halloween,” he points out. “It is sort of both those things as well.”
Hawley hopes that the frequent allusions both charm and perplex tender lumplings everywhere over the course of the season. “It does make you go, 'Why is that in there?' Which is a bit of our Mike Yanagita, I guess,” he says, referencing the 1996 film. “You're like, ‘Why is this in the movie?’ It seems like a total departure, and yet I think it fits.”
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