FARGO, Season 4: “Lay Away”

Chris Rock as Loy Cannon. (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 7: “Lay Away”

(Original air date: November 1, 2020)

There’s a scene in Episode 7 of “Fargo,” Season 4, in which Loy Cannon orders his driver to stop the car. He steps out to see a billboard advertising a novel idea: a credit card. Yes, the very idea he and his late friend Doctor Senator pitched to a high society bank manager earlier this season. They were rebuffed at the time. The man stole his idea with impunity for the simple reason that he was white and Loy is Black.

It comes as a reminder of the cruel world this story inhabits, a world set in 1950 but that may as well be our current time. In this world the line between criminality and legitimate business blurs beyond recognition. But while many characters can walk in both worlds, Loy Cannon cannot. White supremacy seems to be the only law observed by all sides of this morality play.

Perhaps it’s a heavy handed symbol; but that’s what we’re dealing with in “Fargo” this time around. Speeches — some great, but far too frequent — and symbolism.

Later in the episode, during another of this season’s monologues, Loy explains the difference between Italian and American crime tradition to the captured Fadda brother, Gaetano.

“In America we’ve got the confidence man, the grifter, trick you into robbing yourself … because you’ve got dreams,” opines Loy. He delivers this not with pride, but with sadness, as though he hasn’t figured out whether he’s the perpetrator or the victim of this condition.

This contrasts nicely with Gaetano’s speech in a previous episode about how no one in America focuses on doing the job they have; rather, they always dream of something better. (This before shooting two people for the crime of serving bad coffee).

As usual, “Lay Away” is stuffed full of characters and events. This season’s biggest challenge is keeping track of characters and maintaining affection for them after long absences from the story. We open with Oraetta Mayflower bringing those long-awaited macaroons to her stuffy boss Dr. Harvard, who still possesses the letter accusing Oraetta of killing her past patients.

In case you haven’t figured it out, you should never eat something made by Oraetta. She poised the macaroons and Harvard keels over in gurgling distress. In a fitting character detail Oraetta actually shushes Harvard for dying too loud. Then, belying her sociopathic tendencies, she pantomimes different ways to react when she reports his collapse to the secretary sitting outside the office.

Loy Cannon is reeling from the news that the Faddas killed his son. (Remember, Satchel isn’t dead; Rabbi Milligan has him on the run). He takes it out on one of his men.

The crooked, OCD detective Odis broods in a car, joined by his partner/nemesis Deafy Wickware, the supremely moral U.S. Marshal. Deafy has this figured out. He sees Odis pulled between the Cannon and Fadda crime families and wants to help him out of it. Odis declines rather impolitely, threatening that, “If I knew where your Morman God was I’d drive through the night to stab him in the eyes.”

Constant Calamita takes a half-hearted stab at causing problems at the unguarded Cannon home, but meets the business end of Beul Cannon’s shotgun. Nothing going there.

We go to the Smutney’s funeral home to see the Cannon family taking over the operations, mostly in the form of stashing booze on the premises. Lemuel Cannon strikes up conversation with Ethelrida. She’s not sure about that. We get a glimpse of the death ghost peeking out of the coffin in the funeral home, but of course no one sees it but us. We know this ghost guy is part of this whole thing, but I’ll be as surprised as you to find out what it all means.

Calamita figures out that Rabbi and Satchel likely fled for a placed called “Uncle Jack’s Feed and Seed” somewhere outside the city. He’s off to settle Fadda family business.

Odis tries to escape with his ceramic figurines, but the Cannons intercept him. He’s got more work to do for his masters before he can be free, if that’s even possible for someone carrying around his burdens.

In one of the pivotal scenes in the story, Josto and Ebal meet with Loy to negotiate. The meeting is on Loy’s turf because the Cannons hold Josto’s brothers Gaetano and Zero while the Faddas have Loy’s son Satchel. Ebal offers the stockyards and other interests in exchange for the older brother.

Right then, Josto steps in to do things differently. He tells Loy that Satchel is dead and that his offer is to let Loy kill Gaetano, who he blames for the death. Loy reacts poorly, which Josto expects. The Italians leave with the hope that the Cannons solve their Gaetano problem for them.

The Cannons don’t.

Loy sets Gaetano free, hoping he’ll kill Josto and destroy the Fadda family from within. He takes over the stockyards, finally. And then he tells his men to find and kill Constant Calamita, who he believes killed his son, not knowing that he hasn’t done so … yet.

Episode Grade: Pretty Good. We’re treading water here.

Minnesota Details

The episode opens with our Minnesota-born nurse Oraetta in the kitchen. Second time we’ve seen her baking. Both times she poisoned someone. Must be from the Twin Cities.

Stray Observations

  • Zelmare and Swanee seem an interloping presence in the story, but they get some good lines. Odis says “Don’t you girls know you’re wanted.”

“That’s what girls are,” says Zelmare. “But we ain’t to be had,” follows Swanee.

  • Another observation: Josto seems to have some kind of flashback talking about life with the Irish when he was exchanged a generation earlier. The “stomping” heard during the episode 1 flashback to the Irish and Jewish gangs comes through the soundtrack. A nice touch. That scene from the first episode may qualify as the defining image and sound of this season. Especially as we realize the degree to which the “exchange of children” tradition not only fails to prevent wars, but seems to royally traumatize generations of men in charge of deadly criminal organizations.

Read more at the Fargo Review page.

Previous Episode: “Camp Elegance

Next Episode: “The Nadir

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