The advantage of the anthology series is also its disadvantage. Having the slate wiped clean each season ensures that the show stays fresh, but it means packing a hell of a lot of scene-setting and character introduction each go around. Fargo season 4 episode 2, which aired straight after the first last Sunday (September 27), was bursting at the seams with new names to remember, introducing a jail-breaking aunt and a powerful alderman to a cast of characters already packed with more mobsters than you can shake a switchblade at.
‘The Land of Taking and Killing’ was primarily concerned with the disruptive arrival of Josto Fadda’s brother Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), while slightly deranged nurse Oraetta took a keen interest in our precocious semi-protagonist Ethelrida.
Line of the week: “My pop didn’t claw his way out of the plebeian dynasty so that his sons could end up in middle management!”
This week we learned that Josto (Jason Schwartzman) is betrothed to one Dessie Gillis, the daughter of a well-connected alderman whom Josto is marrying out of pure political pragmatism. The mafia leader and the alderman’s arguments over who exactly has leverage led to a string of great lines like this.
Fargo has always been tinged with dark yet goofy humour, but Schwartzman’s performance is so pitched towards comedy and eccentricity that it feels like he’s come directly from the set of a Wes Anderson film. Similarly, the show likes to explore how gangs’ monarchical structure usually doesn’t lead to the brightest people being in charge, but Josto is so lightweight and effete – both in manner and physicality – that it strains credulity that he would last more than five minutes as a mafia don.
Classic ‘Fargo’ moment: the POV drive-by
Always interested in finding new ways to present action and parcel out story, Fargo this week fooled us with what looked to be a simple wide shot of a hospital, only for it to suddenly start moving at speed and open fire: we were in the backseat of a car as it performed a drive-by. The camerawork might have been on point, but the mafiosos’ shooting certainly wasn’t, as they blundered the hit on the doctor that denied the Faddas entry to the hospital in episode one. So far, the Italians have been so slapdash in their approach that you have to favour Chris Rock’s Cannon Limited in this particular gang war.
The most ‘Fargo’ character name: Timothy Olyphant’s Dick ‘Deafy’ Wickware
Yes, you read that correctly. Olyphant made a swift but emphatic arrival as Detective Dick Wickware at the episode’s close, busting down the door of the King of Tears mortuary for as yet unknown reasons. What with Deadwood and Justified, Olyphant just can’t escape cowboy hat-clad, sheriff-type roles it seems, although perhaps Fargo will intentionally play against this, and have Wickware turn dirty, as is the case with the show’s other new lawman who arrived this episode (and was a close runner-up in the Fargo name contest), Odis Weff.
This episode’s biggest question: is Ethelrida destined for an unlikely friendship with Oraetta?
Fargo plays its cards so close to its chest that there are countless unanswered questions at this early stage of the season, but I find myself most engrossed by Ethelrida’s interactions with Oraetta. It’s easy to see why Jessie Buckley said yes to the role of the nurse despite the actor being very much in-demand in Hollywood right now, as she has a wealth of smart, pithy dialogue to play with. The fact that the first words she ever said to Ethelrida were casually racist doesn’t exactly scream ‘bound for friendship’, but Ethelrida seems intrigued by the nurse, the pair both being oddballs and both constantly having their intelligence overlooked on account of their identities. The pair present the two biggest question marks in the show right now, hovering on the periphery of this gang war story.
‘Fargo’ airs Sunday nights on FX in the US, with a UK broadcast on Channel 4 expected sometime in 2021