This FARGO review contains spoilers.
Fargo Season 4 Episode 8
Chatter is an essential part of Fargo’s appeal. The long speeches, filled with five-point words and specificity that good actors can make really make a meal of, has always been an essential part of the show’s DNA. However, this season’s monologues have started to fizzle, bogged down by repetitive themes and obvious allegories. Fargo’s talkativeness has somehow become a weak point in season 4, so much so that I’ve been longing for some big action set-pieces to shake things up.
Be careful what you wish for, I suppose. Fargo actually swings back hard in the other direction with its writing this week, anchored by J. Nicole Brooks and Timothy Olyphant delivering some of the season’s best speeches. “The Nadir” also delivers attempts at action set-pieces, but they feel slapdash and anti-climactic. If a conversation on a couch creates far more tension than an armed standoff or surprise ambush, you may have your alchemy wrong.
“The Nadir” kickstarts things with what sounds like election talk — a well-timed buzzword that was sure to get American viewers to focus their ears — but is shown to be Josto and his sham fiancé discussing their wedding date, juxtaposed with Josto and Oraetta’s kinky sex. It’s an attention-grabbing beginning that leads to some pillow talk about Oraetta’s background. Based on what she shares, Oraetta seemed to be the victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy
at the hands of her mother, which explains her compulsion to poison others. Josto informs Oraetta that he’s getting married, and also that he loves her, and that upsets the crazed nurse, but not as much as the information that Dr. Harvard recovered.
Oraetta races to the hospital to finish the job, but finds out that Dr. Harvard has been transferred to an out-of-state facility. After finding evidence of poison and given the circumstances of the first attempt on Dr. Harvard’s life, the police believe someone is trying to murder the pompous doctor. Oraetta knows she’ll likely be caught, so she flies home to begin packing, but in the process finds Ethelrida’s notebook. It looks like Oraetta will be sticking around to get a little revenge. Ethelrida versus the homicidal nurse is a fun subplot, and I can see how the Smutny home being under Cannon control while Oraetta has a target in the household could create a patented, tragic Fargo mix-up, I just still think these two should be a more integral part of the season’s story at this point.
Speaking of characters that feel far away from the main action, one of this week’s best scenes comes courtesy of a sit down between Dibrell and Buel Cannon. In their brief appearances this season, I’ve mentioned how these two women deserve deeper exploration, and thankfully they’re given a bit of a chance tonight. With Buel grieving her son and Dibrell essentially a prisoner in her own home courtesy of Loy Cannon, there’s hurt and anger in the room, and the two women commiserate over there lots in life, but eventually find common ground and mutual respect. Brooks is particularly good, giving Buel a realistic burnt-out quality, but time spent here is too short. Just as Buel goes to tell Lemuel about his brother, we cut away to the next scene. If Fargo wants us to care about these secondary characters, then they cannot cut away from their most emotionally difficult moments. It felt like a cop out and a reinforcement of why this material has always felt beside the main point.
Elsewhere, Gaetano shows up back in the Fadda headquarters. However, after he gets a little physical revenge on his brother, he eventually changes course. Believing Josto to have killed Satchel, Gaetano weirdly finds respect for him, realizing that his brother possesses an ability for trickery and planning that he does not. Gaetano finally bends the knee to Josto, ending their rift and bringing the Fadda family together. That news upsets Loy, and he decides he has no other choice but to call the Fargo crime family for assistance. While the Fargo family ends up unexpectedly dropping in on the Faddas, Loy gets a surprise visitor too.
Deafy shows up at Loy’s home eager to get information about his two fugitives. Instead of Midwest Nice, Deafy deploys Mormon Nice trying to convince Loy that his loyalty is misguided, has a price, and is only motivated by selfishness. Delivered by Timothy Olyphant, who is currently thriving on television, this monologue is so much fun that even Loy has to give him a hand. It’s thought-provoking, character appropriate, and has just the right amount of threatening tone. He hands over the information about Zelmare and Swanee heading for Philadelphia, bringing us to the first of our two climactic moments.
Before Deafy heads to the station to apprehend the escapees, Odis comes clean to the Marshal, telling him that he wants to go straight and explaining how he got caught up in corruption in the first place. Deafy gives him some folksy advice on how to embrace the danger of the job, and dives headfirst into an eventual gunfight with Zelmare and Swanee, yet the gunfight mostly happens off screen, and by the time Odis joins Deafy inside, only the criminals and the Marshal are left standing. What happens next is easily predicted; Odis betrays Deafy, killing both him and Swanee, but Zelmare gets away, which feels like total contrivance. None of this hits the way that it should as Odis’ plan here is a bit fuzzy. Is he protecting Loy or himself?
Likewise, the other big action moment falls flat as well though. Some split screen can’t spice up the Fargo gangsters’ short assault on the Fadda compound. Also, the death of Josto and Gaetano’s mother is set-up in a laughable manner. It’s so tossed on that even the actors can’t make the supposed surprise of the moment feel believable. While intimate scenes like Buel and Dibrell and Loy and Deafy gripped, these big moments whiffed.
Regardless of how I felt about it, there’s going to be no talk of deescalating the war now that Josto and Gateano lost their mother. Like the specter of death that seems to be floating around this season, a messy, violent ending seems to be inevitable. Let’s just hope that things are messy in a narrative sense, and not in the underwhelming way that we saw in tonight’s episode.