FARGO, Season 4: “Raddoppiarlo”

Timothy Olyphant as the relentless U.S. Marshal Dick “Deafy” Wickware in Season 4 of “Fargo.” (PHOTO: 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 3: Raddoppiarlo

(Original air date: Oct. 4, 2020)

In case you were wondering, “Raddioppiarlo” roughly translates to “something doubled” in Italian. And from a plot standpoint that’s what happens in Episode 3 of this current season of “Fargo.” The Cannon and Fadda gangs each staked claims. Now they double down on a dangerous strategy — one by choice, and one as the result of an inter-family power struggle. The only possible result can be war. How many casualties will become necessary?

We meet another significant character in the story: Dick “Deafy” Wickware (Timothy Olyphant), a U.S. Marshall in dogged pursuit of the two prison escapees, Swanee Capps and Zelmare Roulette. He’s a Morman from Utah, something he’s happy to talk about, unafraid of Missouri laws that ban his religion. Like other characters in this play he flouts the laws that dehumanize him or limit his movements while strictly enforcing the laws he likes.

He’s called Deafy because he hears what he wants. This takes the form of ignoring words or phrases that include cursing or blasphemy. In the seedy underworld of a Kansas City gangland that means people generally have to repeat themselves … often. Ironically, he’s paired with the detective Wiff, the cop who’s a little too close to the Fadda Family. Between Wiff’s foul-mouthed OCD and Deafy’s pious ways the pair find unusual ways to complete their mission.

The story picks up with Deafy busting through the front door of the Smutney’s funeral home where Thurman has just unwittingly retrieved an ipacac-laced pie. He questions the family, especially Zelmare’s sister Dibrell. Zelmare had hinted she and Swanee might be headed to Kansas City and we all know that they’re hiding somewhere in the house. In fact, Deafy quickly notices five place settings at the table, something the Smutney’s can’t explain.

Dibrell holds up well under questioning, covering for her sister and preventing her daughter Ethelrida from having to respond. The cops search the house, including the funeral home downstairs. After seeing (and smelling) a particularly rancid body, cops start throwing up. In other words, people start barfing before anyone digs into the ipacac pie. So now Noah Hawley has fooled us with farts and vomit. And he’s not done with either.

Next we see the consiglieres of the Cannon and Fadda gangs meet to sort out the problem at the slaughterhouse. Doctor Senator (Glynn Turman) winds up for a speech and Ebal Violente (Francesco Acquaroli) listens. These men both know that Don Fadda never gave permission for the Cannons to take over the slaughterhouse. They also both want to avoid war and the appearance of backing down. They display an uneasy respect for their shared impossible situation. Doctor says that the slaughterhouses are the cost of transition in the Fadda Family.

That’s as good a reason as can be found, but it doesn’t sit well with the Faddas, especially the hot-headed brother Gaetano, who not only wants war with Cannon, but clearly wants to usurp his brother Josto. Against Josto’s wishes, he orders Rabbi Milligan, the Irishman who joined the family as a child, to kill Loy Cannon’s oldest son. He views it as a loyalty test for a man he doesn’t trust.

Milligan (Ben Whishaw) displays great depth in how he handles the situation. He’s trying to protect Cannon’s youngest son Satchel, who’s been traded to the family and entrusted to his care, and in turn the Fadda boy Zero who lies in the custody of the Cannons. Milligan also respects the order of the family. Even a crime family should have a chain of command.

So he botches the hit on purpose. Cannon’s jazz aficionado son Lemuel and his ambitious minder Leon escape. And when confronted by Gaetano’s ally Constant Calamita (Gaetano Bruno) Rabbi threatens to report back to Josto. It’s a power move by the Irishman who doesn’t seem to rank very high within the Fadda clan.

All that barfing earlier allowed Zelmare and Swanee to remain undetected in one of the morgue drawers. They’ve got a plan. They’re going to rob the Cannon Limited Gang to get the money that Thurman and Dibrell owe. Kind of a Robin Hood thing, but really, the girls just enjoy crime.

But before they go, Swanee eats a generous portion of the ipacac pie (which appears delicious). Thurman sneaks them out in the hearse, with Zelmare and Swanee packed into a coffin. Lovers at heart, they seem to enjoy the intimate moment until Swanee releases the first ominous fart of what proves to be a fart-and-barf driven third act.

At the warehouse, Zelmare sweeps into the Cannon operation with ease, blasting guards and pinning mobsters to the wall. Swanee, however, struggles with her condition, farting often and with increasing urgency. This allows a Cannon agent to fire a gun, missing his target but quickly escalating the violence (and barfing). Zelmare and Swanee escape with a little bit of money, covered in barf.

Back at Cannon headquarters, Loy hears the reports on his son’s close call and the deadly robbery of the downtown warehouse. It looks like a coordinated attack. This means war.

Of course we know that the robbery was just two crazy gals trying to help a sister. And the attempted hit on Lemuel was actually a result of fission within the Fadda clan.

Minnesota observations:

As I’ve stated before, there aren’t many Minnesota connections this season, so again I fixate on Oraetta, the sociopathic nurse from the Gopher State.

Josto is staking out Dr. Harvard, hoping to take a shot at him. Oraetta, now hired as a nurse for Dr. Harvard, spots him in the parking lot and assumes he’s here to see her. (They shared drugs at the hospital in the first episode, and she happens to have more now).

Is this a family blog? I don’t know. Stop reading if you think it is.

So, what do we think about Oraetta’s a cappella version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a soundtrack for a handjob in the front seat of a car? It’s wrong, right? Uncomfortable?

Then why does it seem to work so well.

It is a testament to “Fargo” that an attractive young female bank robber puking and shitting herself isn’t even the most bizarre scene. Anyway, Oraetta remains connected to the story, now working for Dr. Harvard at the fancy private hospital. Her odd love connection with Josto seems to be the ticket to more violence and chaos in coming episodes.

Stray observations:

  • During the first scene, amid the rain and lightning outside the prison, Olyphant’s Dick “Deafy” Wickware bears a striking and probably intentional resemblance to the manhunter in the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou?” That character, however, was a stand-in for the devil. We know Wickware holds the devil in low regard.
  • Of course, it’s clear that Rabbi Milligan is acting as a surrogate father to Satchel Cannon. And we can’t help but remember the fabulous character Mike Milligan from Season 2, set in 1979. Satchel would be about the right age to become Mike Milligan. But that would assume very bad things ahead for everyone involved. Oh, wait. It’s “Fargo.” So yeah.
  • Loy Cannon gives a monologue while holding a wad of cash in front of a neighborhood man asking for money. Basically, Loy’s point is that when a broke person thinks he’s going to get a windfall he starts spending the money in his mind long before he has it. But it was never his money. It was never guaranteed. He has no control over it. And just like that (Loy demonstrates) it’s gone.

Loy’s monologue reminded me of the 1956 play “The Visit” by Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt. In the story an older, wealthy woman returns to her run-down hometown with a proposal. She will fill the town’s coffers if the village agrees to kill the man who left her penniless and pregnant years ago.

At first the town scoffs, assuring the man that he has nothing to worry about. But then the man watches in horror as townsfolk begin buying expensive things on credit while the village runs up future debts. Even as they tell him not to worry their behavior assumes future wealth that can only come from doing the unspeakable. They soon beg the woman to give them the money without killing anyone. She refuses. Eventually, the town unanimously votes the man dead and the lady cuts a check, leaving with her ex-lover’s body in the coffin she brought with her.

And, sorry to dwell on Loy’s badass cash speech, all of this at least partially reminds me of how my native Iron Range views new mining projects. If (A) the mine gets permits and (B) somehow procures the $1 billion needed to build, then (1) everyone will have jobs, (2) high paying jobs, (3) union jobs, and (4) no meaningful environmental effects.

About time for the city to run some utilities five miles out of town for the housing boom, right?

In all cases, this logic fails to account for how money and power actually work. Something Loy knows well.

Read more at the Fargo Review page.

Previous Episode: “The Land of Taking and Killing

Next Episode: “The Pretend War

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