Fargo recap: Time to make a move
Murder always runs in the family in Fargo. Thus, it’s only natural that tensions between brothers, fathers, and sons, and mothers and daughters are ever-present in “The Land of Talking and Killing,” which begins setting the season’s hostile narrative gears in motion.
In the dead of wintery night, two convicts — Zelmare Roulette (Karen Aldridge) and her lover Swanee Capps (Kelsey Asbille) — escape from prison via a drainage pipe. In a nearby bar’s bathroom, they rob a woman of her fur coat (for Zelmare) and a man of his cowboy get-up (for Swanee). Snug in her bed, Ethelrida is awakened by this duo’s arrival at her home; Zelmare is her aunt. Dibrell isn’t happy to see her sister, but Thurman allows the two to stay. Over food, Zelware remarks that she’s teaching Swanee how to speak proper English, which Swanee says she never learned because, on the reservation where she grew up, white men were primarily concerned with “raping the native out of me.”
When Swanee reveals that their career prospects involve bank robbing, Ethelrida is sent to her room. Listening to the conversation from upstairs, she hears Zelmare say that they broke out of the joint because of rumors that Dibrell and Thurman were in deep to “leg-breakers.” She means Loy, and Thurman admits that the couple is being charged 10 percent interest for the first month of their loan, with the rate escalating from there.
Dr. Harvard petitions a wealthy socialite for funding for a new cancer ward. Later, as he helps the woman into her car, they’re shot at by Fadda gunmen; she dies, but Harvard survives. Detective Odis Weff (Jack Huston) visits the crime scene and then interviews Harvard, who (in racist terms) claims that the culprits must have been associated with the Italian “undesirables” he recently threw out of the hospital. Harvard can’t actually identify his assailants, and upon noticing that Weff has a variety of nervous ticks and OCD-like habits — such as repeatedly knocking on the door before exiting through it — he wonders aloud, “Is he some kind of retard?”
Ethelrida takes the bus to Kingdom of Mercy Funeral Home. She’s let in by a white male employee, who agrees to bring her the formaldehyde her father Thurman requested. He asks Ethelrida to wait in back because an Italian funeral is taking place. Ethelrida doesn’t heed this command and spies on the proceedings, which are for Donatello. She’s caught by Oraetta, who’s turned up to pay her respects (to the man she killed!). With prejudice dripping off of her superficially cheery tongue, Oraetta expresses impressed surprise at Ethelrida’s fluency in French. At that moment, Josto emerges from the main room and is stunned to see Oraetta there, especially since he doesn’t immediately remember her. He orders his henchmen — who’ve reported their failure to kill Harvard — to finish the job.
On the sidewalk, Josto has words with his burly younger brother Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), who’s just arrived from Italy. Gaetano is a ruthless thug, as evidenced by his speech about how he loved killing for Mussolini until the WWII tide turned, at which point he helped hang Il Duce in the town square. To him, the three most important things are “business, family, country,” and he rattles a metal tin full of victims’ teeth in Josto’s face, to intimidate him.
Loy takes the Fadda boy who’s living with him, Zero (Jameson Braccioforte), to briefly see his family. On the front lawn of the Fadda estate, Loy informs the kid that he’ll know if his biological clan loves and respects him when they look him in the eye. Gaetano introduces himself to Loy by getting in his face, and before things turn violent, Josto intervenes. Loy tells Josto that they should hash things out because things have changed. “Nothing’s changed,” Josto replies.
Rabbi brings Satchel to Loy, promising, “nobody interferes with the boy — he’s entirely in my keeping.” Loy assures Satchel that he’ll return home, but that he doesn’t know when. He then asks Rabbi to convince Josto to sit down and talk.
At his warehouse base of operations, Loy recounts his run-in with Gaetano to Doctor. Given the potential for a forthcoming Fadda family power struggle, Doctor suggests they expand while their adversaries are distracted. Loy agrees and suggests they do so by staking a claim on the Fadda slaughterhouse, which they’ll say was given to them by the late Donatello during their final playground meeting. This is a lie (in the premiere episode, we saw Donatello shrug off this suggestion), but with no one to contradict them, it seems like a smart move. Doctor asks Loy if he wants to risk the profitable and comfortable “groove” they’re in with this new scheme. Loy confirms that he does, thus marking himself as a typical noir protagonist who can’t resist trying to improve his lot in life (likely to disastrous ends).
In his office, Donatello’s former consigliere Ebal Violante (Francesco Acquaroli) tells Josto that Loy will soon make a move. Josto doesn’t want to do anything yet because murder is bad for business, to which Gaetano counters, “Murder is business.” Their meeting is interrupted when Josto is forced to greet his fiancé Dessie Gillis (Katie Kershaw), a motherly woman who calls him “honey bear.” She quickly leaves him so he can speak with her father, Milvin (Eric Slater), who informs Josto that the only reason he’s allowing the marriage to take place is because Josto can provide him with the financial resources he needs to run for mayor. Josto assures his racist future father-in-law that he’ll get him his needed votes, but not before impregnating his daughter with a litter of little Faddas.
With that obligation out of the way, Josto meets with Ebal and Weff, who’s on his payroll. Weff asks Josto to leave Harvard alone for the time being. Ebal thinks this is wise and convinces Josto to delay Harvard’s execution for a year, at which point he won’t be expecting it.
A self-described “angel of mercy,” Oraetta tries to end a dying patient’s life and is caught by her superiors. Given her already suspicious track record, this is cause for her termination. When she threatens to go to the newspapers with accusations about the hospital’s sloppy doctors, she receives a two-month severance payout and a letter of recommendation. As if this conduct wasn’t proof enough that Oraetta is unhinged, she rants about God’s judgment before departing her boss’ office and mutters to herself on the way out.
Exiting the bus at her apartment building, Oraetta spies Ethelrida on the porch swing and strikes up a conversation. When she hears that Ethelrida taught herself French, she praises her “pluck,” which she states she also possesses. Oraetta offers Ethelrida a housecleaning job that Ethelrida finds demeaning. Oraetta’s attempts to make the gig more enticing — by touting the French LPs and postcards that Ethelrida can enjoy while there — don’t seem to work. Nonetheless, she calls Ethelrida “one of my special projects” — which baffles Ethelrida — and says she’ll make her a pie. After the nurse leaves, an eavesdropping Zelmare exclaims, “That’s one weird white lady.”
With a gang of men in tow, including Leon (Jeremie Harris), who’s eager to show that he’s a strategist capable of more than just killing, Doctor storms the slaughterhouse. When the “transition of power” is complete, he sits and waits for the Faddas to arrive. They do, led by Gaetano. Doctor opines, “You got to give respect to get respect,” but Gaetano thinks this ethos is why Americans are so weak. He believes that “muscle and bone, this is the power.” Doctor argues that Donatello gave Loy the slaughterhouse, and though Gaetano doesn’t buy this story, he knows he can’t presently disprove it. As a compromise, he says he’ll discuss it with Josto, and if it’s true, Doctor can have the place. Doctor agrees and leaves – for now.
Oraetta bakes a pie from scratch, drenching its apples in ipecac syrup, which induces vomiting. As Loy says grace at the dinner table, we witness the evening meals of Josto and Ethelrida’s families. Oraetta leaves her poisoned pie at the front door of Ethelrida’s house and returns to her apartment.
Almost immediately after Thurman finds the pie, U.S. Marshall Dick “Deafy” Wickware (Timothy Olyphant) leads a squadron of law enforcement officials to the funeral home, and as he kicks in the front door — presumably to nab fugitives Zelmare and Swanee — the screen cuts to black.
- African Americans and Italians aren’t the only ones facing discrimination in this 1950 Kansas City milieu; right before her death, Harvard’s socialite benefactor demands that the proposed cancer wing be free of all Jews.
- Showrunner Noah Hawley always employs stylish split-screens in Fargo, and in the first two episodes of season 4, he’s shown a particular fondness for trifurcating his screen in both vertical and horizontal panels.
- Oraetta makes it clear to her boss that she wants to wind up in heaven rather than hell. However, the song that plays while she cooks up her toxic desert — Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters’ “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” with the lyrics “Don’t Mess with Mr. In-Between” — suggest she’s more of a purgatorial angel of death.