Fargo recap: Life in wartime
War has finally broken out in Kansas City between Josto’s Italian crime clan and Loy’s gangster family. That means everyone is now in immediate danger, although by the end of “Happy” — the season’s penultimate installment — a solution to the conflict materializes from the unlikeliest of sources.
Sensationalistic headlines married to dead-body photographs overlap with striking slow-motion images of gunmen firing at each other — a montage that also includes shots of Josto and Gaetano, Loy, and Ethelrida, who shares an intense staredown with Oraetta.
After gazing at one of his dead fiancée’s figurines, Weff and his men break up Josto and Gaetano’s festive meal and haul them off to jail, with Josto blowing the cop a kiss on his way out. In their Gadfly Hotel suite, Loy gets a haircut from Buel; she doesn’t tolerate him bristling at her craftsmanship.
Loy and Buel meet with a cigar-smoking African American man in a dapper suit named Lionel “Happy” Halloway (Edwin Lee Gibson), who’s accompanied by a lackey holding pictures of two older African American gentlemen (presumably, his superiors). Loy begins by confessing that what happened to Happy’s cousin Leon (i.e. that he was belt-whipped by Loy) deserves a conversation. Happy hears Loy is losing the war, to which Loy replies, “You’re always losing ‘till you win. That’s why it’s called an underdog.” Happy opines that where he’s from, they take the counsel of their elders, “like a rock knows it’s river.”
Happy conveys that his people — fathers, grandfathers, sharecroppers, “men born to bondage” — think Loy is getting a big head for attempting to escape the darkness by stepping into the light. Loy objects to this perpetual-servitude-style thinking. Buel says Happy and the Cannons are family (she and Happy’s wife are “like sisters”), and she asks for Happy’s help in the campaign against the Faddas. Loy needs short-term muscle from the country to make himself look formidable. He doesn’t think he can push the Faddas out of town, but he needs them in their place and suspects New York won’t tolerate this war much longer.
Following Buel’s declaration that the Italians killed her son (she still believes Satchel was murdered by Constant), Happy confers with his photographs. He agrees to Loy’s proposition (“Two weeks”) and asks Loy to make things right with Leon. Once Happy is gone, Buel states they need to finish the Faddas off quickly. Loy worries that if Josto and Gaetano are killed, New York will simply send others to replace them. Buel doesn’t care: “I want justice for my boy. And then we make a deal.”
Post-train station shootout, Weff returns to applause at the police station. Captain Martin Hanhuck (Guy Van Swearingen) informs him that the mayor called to congratulate him, but warns Weff about double-crossing the underworld (“If you bite the hand that feeds you, you’re going to feel the burn”). Weff gets a call from Josto, who threatens to deliver a personalized bullet to him, as well as to send records of his payoffs to the mayor. Weff hangs up on him, which sends Josto — in his office now — into a rage.
Ebal tells Josto that New York wants this “noisy” war wrapped up. Gaetano agrees, cautioning his brother that the battle is bad for business (“You make it personal. It can’t be personal”). Josto believes they need to kill Loy and replace him with someone more manipulatable; when Ebal’s New York-sent henchman Joe Bulo (Evan Mulrooney) asks what this means for Loy, Josto replies that it probably rhymes with “flurder.” As for Weff, Josto sneers, “Nobody turns their back on us and lives.”
As Satchel steals a milk bottle and makes his way down a long country road, Ethelrida scans through old newspaper obituaries. Later, on the funeral home porch, she asks Dibrell if she thinks Aunt Zelmare is okay; Dibrell replies that there’s no trap her sister can’t squeeze out of or hole she can’t fit into. More pressing, Ethelrida asks if the family is really cursed. Sighing, Dibrell recounts the story of Ethelrida’s great-great-grandfather, who came to Mississippi in chains via a ship captained by evil Theodore Roach, who laughed as a raging storm threatened to kill all of his slaves. Ethelrida’s great-great-grandfather strangled Roach to death, and ever since, the family has been haunted by his specter. Dibrell says she smells and hears him more than she sees him — he’s the scent of low tide and the sound of creaking ropes and waves — and Ethelrida admits that she’s recognized his ghostly presence as well.
Ethelrida asks if they can cast Roach out, and Dibrell muses that Zelmare once tried to take him, but was unsuccessful because Roach likes “sunshine.”
The two are joined on the porch by Lemuel, who’s finished with his work, but willing to stay and keep guard. Dibrell warns him not to get any ideas about Ethelrida and then goes to make dinner. Ethelrida tells Lemuel that she wants to see his father, Loy, because she’s worked out how to get her house back. Oraetta appears in an all-white coat, fancy hat and gloves, and demands that Ethelrida come to her apartment for a discussion. When Ethelrida refuses, Oraetta makes a crack about Lemuel being her boyfriend (he claims he’s more of a “suitor”) and then freaks out, demanding that Ethelrida return Donatello Fadda’s ring.
Oraetta’s threats make no impact on Ethelrida, who’s ready to go to the police about the nurse’s stash of poisons and victim mementos. “The devil’s got a special place in hell for small minds who betray their betters’ trust and take advantage of their charitable acts,” spits Oraetta, snidely remarking that there’s a particular “word for you” (i.e. the n-word). Ethelrida says that term doesn’t apply to her; it was invented to make those like Oraetta feel bigger.
Oraetta leaves after whispering, “What does it feel like to be so sure you’re right and know that nobody cares? I’ll see you in your dreams.”
Josto meets with Happy and Leon, the latter of whom is going to be Josto’s handpicked replacement for Loy. Leon is sad he can’t kill Loy twice, and Happy demands all of Loy’s territories, as well as the east-side slaughterhouse, as compensation for this treacherous takeover. Before Josto can agree, his future father-in-law Milvin bursts in and causes a scene. Moving to the bar, Milvin profanely announces he’s calling off Josto’s wedding to Dessie. Josto is stunned that Milvin is too stupid to take advantage of the situation to get more out of their arrangement. Milvin continues with the racist barbs until Gaetano punches him in the face, twice — which wins over Josto.
Loy hears from Opal that Weff raided the Faddas’ Apex Vending Machine Company and that the Italians later met with Leon (“skunk’s gonna skunk”). Staring out a window, Loy muses about how Buel birthed Satchel without making a sound. “On my best day, I’m half as tough as that. And this ain’t my best day. No siree. That’s behind me, I think.” Satchel is also pretty tough; confronted by two racist hayseeds in a pick-up truck, he scares them off by pulling a gun on them and proclaiming, “This is my world. I’m the boss. I tell you what to do.”
Chauffeured home by fellow cops, Weff is haunted and panicked by the sounds of Loy, Josto, and Defy’s voices in his head. He’s right to be paranoid since Josto and company are stationed at his house. While waiting, Gaetano recalls being strangled by the father of his first love at the age of 11 and killing the man with a shard of broken glass. Josto understands that this is why Gaetano was sent away as a kid to Sardinia. When the war broke out, Gaetano was orphaned and forced to eat bark from trees for three weeks, wearing a dead man’s shoes. Josto comfortingly reminds him, “We’re here now” and gives him a hug.
Weff finds his apartment ransacked. Noises from outside indicate he’s still in imminent peril, and he flees out the back of the building to his car. There’s no escape, though; sitting in the driver’s seat, Weff hears his dead fiancée singing to him as Gaetano approaches. Three shots later, Weff is dead. On his way back to Josto, Gaetano stumbles and falls, which inadvertently causes his gun to go off and blow his brains out. Josto is stunned and flees.
A POV shot leads us into the funeral home, past slumbering Lemuel, up the staircase, and into Ethelrida’s bedroom. There, Oraetta looms over a sleeping Ethelrida, holding an enormous syringe. Before she can use it, Roach’s ghost appears behind her, causing the nurse to scream and run back to her apartment, where she finds the cops waiting to arrest her for the attempted murder of Dr. Harvard (who’s apparently awakened). Ethelrida watches from her porch as Oraetta is taken away.
The next day, Ethelrida visits Loy in his hotel suite. She impresses him with her knowledge of the painting he has — a copy of Henri Regnault’s 1870 work “Summary Execution Under the Moorish Kings of Granada.” She asserts that her parents earned the right to their house, and still own the deed and pay taxes on it. Loy doesn’t budge at this, nor at the bill she presents him for funeral services for the 27 men he’s lost in the gangland war.
To convince him, Ethelrida hands over Donatello Fadda’s ring, elucidating that its pricelessness has to do with its prior owner, Oraetta, who had a fondness for pocketing keepsakes from her murder victims. She says that if Loy returns the house to her parents and forgives their debt, “I’m going to help you win your war.” He promises that if she can do that, she can have anything.
At that, Ethelrida shows him the Donatello Fadda obit that proves it is, in fact, the late mob boss’ ring, and they smile at each other.
- Ebal’s New York henchman, Joe Bulo, will one day grow up to be the same character played by Brad Garrett in season 2 of Fargo.
- While being taken out of her apartment in handcuffs, Oraetta lets out an “Oh geez!” — a nod to the original Fargo’s use of that exclamation, which also serves as the title of these very footnotes.