REVIEW Fargo (S4 E3/11)

Two episodes in on series four of Fargo and there’s a real sense it’s shaping up to be the most uneven of the bunch.

Darker tonal shifts have sat uncomfortably with some of the more typical, off-kilter Fargo moments in the first two episodes, but at the end of episode three I was breathing a sigh of relief because the balance seemed to be better, there were some real bullseyes and normal service seems to have been resumed.

At the end of episode two, Sheriff Dick ‘Deafy’ Wickware (Timothy Oliphant) quite literally burst on to the scene, kicking down the door of the Smutny household looking for escaped Bonnie-and-Clyde-style convicts Swanee and Zelmare. Episode three begins with a prologue, as Dick finds the two women escaped from prison in Utah and proceeds to track them to Kansas City. Upon visiting the KC police, he reveals himself to be the kind of folksy-talking oddball that Fargo specialises in – he spews earnest lyricism and an almost old-timey language, and is polite and innocent to a fault.

“In my faith we abstain from caffeinated beverages, hot or cold,” he says when offered a cup of coffee, with the slightly sinister emphasis on the word ‘abstain’.

As the local police chief swears like a trooper, Dick also reveals himself to be a devout Mormon and doesn’t take kindly to blaspheming.

As for Swanee and Zelmare, they successfully manage to hide in the Smutny’s underground mortuary and then set about their next adventure – to rob Loy Cannon of his money.

It’s an ambitious heist and is hindered spectacularly when Swanee devours Oraetta’s drug-laced apple pie before hitting the road. She begins to fart and vomit (more flatulence-based hilarity) just at that moment inside the warehouse when the going gets tough and the bullets start flying. Despite the, ahem, mess, the runaways still manage to bag $20k even if most of the notes are covered with barf.

It’s another pure, magnificently funny and grotesque – and typically – Fargo moment.

Elsewhere, there’s another pure Fargo moment, when Angel Of Mercy Oraetta Mayflower bags a new job at the hospital where Donatello Fadda was turned away from in episode one. She spots Josto in the parking lot and jumps into the passenger seat, immediately and flirtatiously telling the Mafia boss to stop following her. She then produces a line of something and they snuffle it up.

Something to take the pain away, she says.

She then reaches over and proceeds to whip his old feller out and, to his and our open-eyed surprise, jerks him off while softly singing Battle Hymn of the Republic. And, wouldn’t you know it, just as she reaches the Glory, Hallelujah chorus, he climaxes in her hand.

And then she’s gone, smiling that he really should ask her out on a date as if they were a normal couple.

Ah, Oraetta, dangerously delusional and not afraid to be as forward as anyone you’ve ever seen. She’ll end up killing Josto, of that there is no doubt, not least because she’s obviously attracted in a warped sort of way to weak, wracked men.

These scenes with these folksier characters are what gives Fargo its charm and pathos – there’s an inherent innocence to these characters, and when they get caught up in something bad (like Lester Nygaard and Peggy Blumquist before) and emotional turmoil ensues, we begin to see them unravel, and dig into something darker.

I’m still trying to figure out pain lies in the heart of Oraetta Mayflower that makes her want to care and love someone so much that she wants to kill them.

What’s new in this series of Fargo is the heavy darkness that surrounds the Fadda and Cannon families.

Doctor Senator lays down the law to Ebal Violante during a meeting in a diner, thanks to a brilliantly delivered monologue in which he describes his experiences during the war, where he was tasked with trying to get Hermann Göring to talk in prison during the Nuremberg trials. He begins by telling his Italian counterpart about how black soldiers were promised that if they joined up that the lynchings would stop. He thought he was doing good in the army, but his race was ultimately used against him.

And that’s when the tensions began to bubble up.

Gaetano, fed up with what he saw was his brother Josto’s weakness, wanted to strike and strike now.

He instructed one of the Fadda henchman to take the Irishman (Rabbi Mulligan) and shoot Loy’s son. In an attempted drive-by, Rabbi – who had been bonding with the young Cannon boy – pulled away at the last minute and averted all-out war after sussing that it wasn’t Josto who gave the final order.

Like the Gerhardts in series two, the Faddas were beginning to crumble, with Josto – revealing himself to be far more sensitive than brutish Gaetano (to the extent he sat in his dad’s old chair and reassured himself that it wasn’t too big for him when it patently was, both literally and figuratively) – not likely to stick around too much longer. Or perhaps he will, and form a deadly husband-and-wife team with Oraetta?

With Loy alerted to the botched assassination attempt and assuming the Faddas were behind the hold-up, it’s surely only a matter of time until the roads run red with blood.

This was a good one.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.



Fargo is currently being shown in the UK on Channel 4 and is available on-demand on All4


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