Fargo, Noah Hawley’s anthology crime drama series, often introduces some outlandish supernatural element into its season’s storyline to accentuate the narrative and bring in exciting detail. In season 5, Sam Spruell’s character, Ole Munch, fulfills this role as an unnerving hitman of few words who seems to carry a mysterious history with him. The season follows the story of Dorothy “Dot” Lyon once she’s found out by her abusive ex-husband, Roy Tillman, years after running away from him and starting a new life. As a result, Roy, a powerful Sheriff, sends hired hands after Dot to kidnap the woman.
Nevertheless, Dot turns out to be more resourceful than imagined and escapes from her assailants, one of whom includes Ole Munch. Thus begins the rough cat-and-mouse chase between Roy and Dot. The season significantly focuses on the concept of debt. As such, Ole, the hitman, on a quest to secure his payment from Roy, charts a fierce warpath intermixed with his unique speech pattern and perplexing flashbacks. For the same reasons, the man effortlessly paints himself as a perfect mystery to be unraveled. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Ole Munch’s Employment With Roy Tillman
At first, it’s almost easy to overlook Ole Munch as a negligible character only employed by the narrative as a hired hand for the inciting event of Dot’s kidnapping. Due to a brawl at the local school board meeting, Dot’s prints end up in the system, alerting her ex-husband Roy of her location. As a result, Ole Munch breaks into the Lyons household, alongside his partner, to kidnap the woman and bring her to his employer, the sheriff.
Nevertheless, despite her small frame, Dot manages to overpower her attackers, leaving one of them dead in a gas station. Thus, Ole is unsuccessful in his job yet returns to Roy for his payment. According to Ole, since Roy failed to provide accurate details of the job, he still owes the hitman his fair share of the payment. While the Sheriff agrees with the logic on the other man’s face, he goes back on his word by ordering his men to ambush Ole with an attack and kill him.
As such, Ole’s contention with Roy begins. Like many of the other characters in the season, namely Roy and Lorraine, Ole vehemently believes in the system of debt. Consequently, he refuses to rest until Roy pays him the debt that he is owed. Therefore, squatting at an old woman’s suburban home and declaring it his terrain, Ole begins to chase after the Tillmans in pursuit of his money.
In this hunt, the sheriff’s riotous son, Gator Tillman, becomes Ole’s biggest nemesis because of his insistence that the other man doesn’t deserve to be paid. As a result, the season’s looming finale finds Ole caught in the middle of the storm during Dot’s showdown against Roy in his ranch. Following the woman’s eventual abduction, Dot becomes a hostage on the run at the Tillman Ranch. Meanwhile, several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and State Police, take on Roy, the constitutional Sheriff, and his band of followers dubbed “The Patriots.”
While Dot attempts to run and hide to save her life, Ole punishes Gator for his wrongdoings and finally claims his payment from the Tillmans. Yet before fleeing from the scene, Ole decides to help Dot once she’s backed into a corner, facing off against armed men without any weapons of her own. Ole once called Dot a tiger for her skills and intensity. Therefore, he’d be wrong to allow Tillman’s men to prey on the woman while she’s caged and helpless in an unfair fight. Although Ole’s momentary help saves Dot’s life and allows her to fight back, a year after the ordeal, the woman realizes the man’s aid hadn’t come without a price.
The 500-Year-Old Curse
Within the narrative’s 2019 time period, Ole remains undistinguished from a regular assassin other than his eclectic third-person speech pattern and strong-held beliefs. However, the season introduces a mysterious addition to Ole’s story early on to build the viewers’ curiosity about the character. In Episode 3, “The Paradox of Intermediate Transactions,” the story provides an unlikely peek into Ole’s character by depicting a flashback to the year 1522.
In Wales, England, a wealthy man dies, but his family seeks to send his soul to heaven free of unrepented sin. Consequently, they seek out a poor man, starving for food but without any means to acquire some. Afterward, the poor man partakes in a black magic ritual known as “sin-eating.” During the ritual, the poor man eats a meal beside the dead man’s body, essentially transferring the latter’s sins into himself.
Thus, the poor man becomes a sin-eater who sells his soul for a meal and some coin and remains an outcast from society, forever feared by others for his perceived immorality. While the tale, mixed with Ole’s contemporary ritualistic actions, only confuses the audience within the episode, things become much clearer by the finale.
One year after Dot’s unfortunate but final battle against Roy, Ole arrives at the woman’s house to reap payment for his help. In Ole’s world, nothing is free, and so neither can his help toward Dot be free of cost. Nonetheless, Dot cannot provide the thing that Ole wants— a life for a life. Instead, she urges him to do the right thing and forgive her debt simply because she can’t pay it. The concept is foreign to the man but not unsound.
Yet, Ole has trouble reconciling his beliefs to accept Dot’s worldview. As such, over supper, Ole tells the Lyons a story about his past to explain his present. As it would turn out, Ole is the sin-eating man from 1522 who sold his soul for a chance at survival. Therefore, he’s stuck in a cold existence now, unable to move on and compelled to be stuck in a cycle of debt and payment.
Whether Ole truly is the sin-eater from 500 years ago or if it was just an ancestor condemning his entire bloodline to the same fate remains unclear. Still, the former would explain Ole’s tendency to avoid the first-person since the man doesn’t see himself as one with a soul.
Ultimately, Ole’s intimate connection to the past, where he once ate a man’s sins to get by, continues to be an intrinsic part of his character. The past repeats itself when he carries out a kidnapping for Roy in exchange for money. However, Dot’s fierceness for survival and unrelenting kindness breaks the cycle. In the end, Ole finds some peace within the Lyon household, where he forgives Dot’s life debt, and she feeds him a biscuit made from love, so unlike the sins he ate 500 years ago.