FARGO, Season 4: “The Land of Taking and Killing”

Jessie Buckley as Oraetta Mayflower in “Fargo,” Season 4. (PHOTO: Elizabeth Morris/FX)

Northern Minnesota author Aaron J. Brown reviews each episode of “Fargo” with an eye for unique details from the place where the show is set. The ratings range from INTERESTING  (bad), to COULD BE WORSE (not so good) to PRETTY GOOD (not so bad), and OH, YA! (real good then).

Beware the spoilers.

Episode 2: The Land of Taking and Killing

(Original air date: Sept. 27, 2020)

“Fargo,” the TV show, is inspired by “Fargo,” the movie written, produced, and directed by the Coen Brothers. Every season includes a few casual references to Coen Brothers movies. This season, however, and this episode in particular, lay them on thick.

Case in point the opening scene in Episode 2. It’s a direct homage to the scene from “Raising Arizona” where John Goodman and William Forsythe break out of prison through a sewer pipe. But in this case we meet Zelmare Roulette (Karen Aldridge) and Swanee Capps (Kelsey Asbille), two women now on the lam.

Zelmare is the sister of Dibrell Smutney, the mother of our narrator, Ethelrida. Dibrell clearly has baggage with her scofflaw sister, but her husband Thurman invites the pair in for coffee.

Ethelrida clearly admires her exciting aunt and her free-spirited prison lover, not especially concerned about their legal troubles. They plan to rob banks.

Across town, Loy Cannon and his Cannon Limited want control of a stockyard facility in Kansas City currently run by the Faddas. Most of the workers are Black. They figure this is the right time to take over. So they agree to say that Don Fadda gave them permission to take over as part of the peace deal. The truth of that claim is thin; but that’s not the point.

The Fadda family tries to hit Dr. Harvard, the bigoted director of the fancy hospital that wouldn’t patch up Don Fadda. The attempt is thrilling, but ham-handed. The goons end up killing a rich socialite and her driver rather than the doctor.

A crooked detective, who happens to suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, named Odis Weff (Jack Huston) reports back to the Italians. They didn’t kill the doctor. Here, we see a rivalry forming inside the Fadda family. Josta’s brother Gaetano, who speaks mostly Italian, wants the family to be more aggressive against the Cannon Limited.

But while Josta talks his violent brother down from starting a war, the Cannons make their move, taking up residence at the stockyards. In a tense showdown, Gaetano gets them to leave so that the matter can be resolved peacefully. That seems unlikely, however.

Finally, we revisit Oraetta Mayflower, the nurse who killed Don Fadda last episode. We see her working on another poor patient who may or may not be on death’s door. But this time hospital administrators burst in to stop her.

The meek hospital administrator informs her that she’s been caught stealing drugs and killing patients. That’s … pretty bad. So, she’s fired right? Well, yes, but Oraetta doesn’t like that. She delivers a high-minded monologue about the malfeasance she sees at the hospital and vows to raise attention (and contact the media) if she’s shown the door.

The administrator agrees to two months severance and a letter of recommendation. Not too shabby.

Oraetta chats with Ethelrida when she gets home, partially in French, promising to bake her a pie. Later we see her making a beautiful pie, but loading it with ipecac, a tonic that produces vomiting.

We see her deliver the pie to the Smutney home before sneaking away. But then, we see the law busting through a door. What’s happening? Who’s gonna barf? Because someone’s going to barf.

Minnesota Details

I’ve never seen one myself, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about outboard boat motors that break free of their mounts. An uncontrolled motor will skip around the lake like a kung-fu fighter. The spinning propeller dances across the water like a skipping stone. The experience enthralls. Will it hit something? Will it chop off someone’s hand? When will it stop? IT’S COMING THIS WAY!

This is what comes to mind as I view the Minnesota nurse turned “Angel of Mercy” Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley) in this season of “Fargo.” She’s horrible, and amazing, and you can’t look away (nor should you). OH YA!

Stray Observations

The kid who works at the other funeral home is wearing a Stormy Kromer cap: partridge plaid, just like Lester in Season 1 and yours truly every year. OH YA!

Originally, Native American actress Amber Midthunder was slated to play Swanee Capps, the native bank robber. Midthunder was excellent in Hawley’s other show “Legion” so I was excited about this. Unfortunately, she was replaced at some point by Kelsey Asbille, a white actress who often plays native characters. INTERESTING

Another Coen Brother reference: the use of the pneumatic cattle guns at the stockyard: an efficient means of killing. These deaths are a legal part of the food chain, though. But the sounds of cattle meeting their demise adds drama to the scene.

I get the feeling that the OCD detective who has to go through tics and rituals to open doors will be part of a plot device later on. A ticking clock element, so to speak.

I forgot to mention during the last episode, but I want to point out the way that new characters are introduced during this season. If the character has a criminal record we see their mugshots and names written in the scrawling handwriting of a criminal file. Many of the pictures are shot in a Depression-era style, which included full body shots. It looks cool, but I do think some of those pictures — especially the art house images for Zelmare and Swanee — are a little over the top. Still cool, though. Nice easter egg for fans of old police files.

Read more at the Fargo Review page.

Previous Episode: “Welcome to the Alternate Economy

Next Episode: “Raddoppiarlo

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