[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Fargo Year 5, Episode 4, “Insolubilia.”]
Fargo‘s fifth installment has already paid homage to Tim Burton‘s The Nightmare Before Christmas, but there’s a new homage breaking loose in the fourth episode as Joe Keery‘s Gator Tillman takes up a nail bat, a.k.a. zombie killer, a.k.a. Steve Harrington’s — his Stranger Things character — weapon of choice.
Described as a zombie killer in this iteration, the nail bat isn’t strange to Keery, who has swung a similar deadly weapon more than once in the Netflix series, first and foremost to kill or attack the Demogorogon. But this time around, Keery’s character isn’t fighting any Demogorgons. Instead, his character, Gator, threatens Juno Temple‘s Dot Lyon.
Sent to kidnap his father’s runaway bride, Dot has concocted a house of horrors (just in time for Halloween!) to try and deflect her would-be captors. Her clever home security system leaves many of Gator’s crew wounded, but when Dot attempts to take a swing at Gator, it backfires, and the nail-covered bat gets lodged in the wall.
Ultimately, Gator frees the weapon from its temporary home to take a swing at the fire detector set off by smoke that’s created when Dot purposely leaves a pan of grease in the sink. When Dot is chased upstairs as her husband Wayne (David Rysdahl) and daughter Scotty (Sienna King) are uncovered in the attic, they’re forced to make a quick escape that turns nearly deadly for poor Wayne, who is electrocuted by Dot’s booby-trapped window.
Sparking flames on the curtains, a fire begins to build, and the family dashes away out of the bedroom window as Gator makes slow work of the bedroom door with the bat. In some ways, you could say Keery’s using the bat for bad, not so much the kind of good Steve Harrington intends on Stranger Things.
But Keery’s wielding of the bat wasn’t intentional, according to showrunner Noah Hawley, when it comes to the little homage to his fan-favorite character. “When Wayne comes home, and there’s a sledgehammer over the front door, and the windows have been electrified, and his daughter is hammering nails into a baseball bat, it was a great scene for me,” Hawley recalls of setting the stage for the house of horrors.
“[Wayne’s] like, ‘why is there sledgehammer in the vestibule? And why is Scotty making a zombie killer?’ But then, of course, I’m stuck with this baseball bat with the nails in it, and once you’ve got that, you kind of have to include it when there’s a siege of the house,” Hawley continues.
In other words, the tools are there, so why not use them? “So no, it wasn’t really deliberate,” Hawley goes on, “but it doesn’t bother me that there are those associations and that there’s sort of an homage to.”
Even better, Hawley welcomes a reaction from Keery’s Stranger Things colleagues, noting, “We’ll see what Ross and Matt Duffer think about it when they see it in there. But Joe and I didn’t really talk about it if you want to know the truth.”
In actuality, Hawley says, “It wasn’t a thing. It was more of a thing to cut his hair than it was about the zombie killer.” While Keery’s haircut may be different, and his character Gator is drastically different from the widely loved Steve, a single bat seems to tie the two inextricably together forever. Talk about a twist.
Fargo, Year 5, Tuesdays, 10/9c, FX (Next day on Hulu)