Season 4, Episode 3: ‘Raddoppiarlo’
As Timothy Olyphant strides confidently through the opening scenes of this week’s “Fargo,” it initially feels like an FX crossover event, as if Olyphant were reprising his role as the smooth-drawlin’ U.S. Marshal from the network’s long-running series “Justified.” But then he is offered a coffee.
“In my faith we abstain from caffeinated beverages, hot or cold,” he says. He goes on to give a monologue about the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, which is his long-winded way of introducing himself as a Mormon and servicing this season’s racial themes — one tribe was “cursed by God with skin of Blackness.”
His name is Dick Wickware. You can call him “Deafy.”
And with that, a sense of too-muchness settled over this season. Because now Deafy, who has come to town to nab our two lesbian fugitives, Swanee and Zelmare, is being partnered up with Odis Weff, whose O.C.D. tics have already threatened to turn “Fargo” into a Midwestern “Motherless Brooklyn.” It has been the creator Noah Hawley’s mission from the beginning to pay homage to the stylized universe of the Coen brothers, but his weakness for cartoony pulp has become a bigger problem this season than usual. The buddy-cop pairing of a Mormon and an O.C.D. detective would be pushing it even if the show weren’t so gummed up by quirky characters across the ensemble.
The show stands on firmer ground when it dives back into the tensions between the Faddas and the Cannons, which were inflamed last week after Loy Cannon decided to make a play on the slaughterhouse. The Cannons’ rationale is explained in a typically roundabout speech from Doctor Senator (Glynn Turman) at a meeting with a Fadda family representative. Doctor tells the story of how Black soldiers were made promises about America that weren’t kept after the war, and a story-within-a-story about his discarded report on Hermann Göring at Nuremberg, which underscored that betrayal. The message? Black people have to take what’s theirs. Nothing will be given to them willingly.
The response opens up a fascinating rift within the Fadda family that mirrors that of the Gerhardts in the show’s second season: With the big boss out of the picture, there’s a power vacuum to be filled because of the perceived weakness of his successor. The difference here is that Floyd Gerhardt, played by Jean Smart, turned out to be far more shrewd than her duplicitous adversaries in the family assumed. Josto Fadda may actually be weak — he looks like a toddler in the Godfather desk chair — and that’s an invitation for Gaetano to challenge him openly. Gaetano understands only brutality, which makes him an effective and frightening henchman but not necessarily the wisest strategist. It’s the equivalent of letting Joe Pesci’s vicious Tommy DeVito call the shots in “Goodfellas”; there’s a reason the muscle never “get made.”
Gaetano’s plan is a multilevel catastrophe waiting to happen. His idea of a shot across the bow is to rub out Loy’s college-going son, Lemuel (Matthew Elam), which would surely trigger a full-on gang war, starting with the deaths of the two other sons issued as collateral between them. He has also decided to use this operation to test the loyalty of the taciturn Irishman in the family, Rabbi Mulligan (Ben Whishaw), who had unquestionably proven his loyalty as a boy by killing his own father.
Then there’s the matter of undermining Josto, who will surely have to answer this act of brazen insubordination if he’s to retain his grip on power.
And the disarray doesn’t stop there. Josto’s inadequate response to the hospital that refused to treat his father requires a second attempt on its administrator’s life, but he can’t even case the joint properly. Oraetta Mayflower spots him in the parking lot after having talked his target into a new nursing gig, then gifts him a matter-of-fact sexual favor that’s as Minnesota Erotic as the small-town call girls in the Coens’ “Fargo.” The purpose behind Oraetta’s mischief-making continues to be the big question mark hanging over the season, but she and Gaetano have identified Josto as the wounded gazelle on the prairie, and they’re pouncing on him simultaneously.
Amid all this chaos, Loy looks utterly assured. He reads the entire situation correctly, like Marge Gunderson surveying a crime scene. The botched shooting gives him all the information he needs — Mulligan’s loyalties, the possible dissent within the Faddas’ ranks, the different implications of retaliation on his end.
This is the type of plotting that “Fargo” has always handled well, when violence breaks out and characters scramble to figure out how to harness the fallout to their favor. Hawley just needs to gets out of his own way. Sometimes less is more.
3 Cent Stamps:
Coen movie references? You betcha. When our fugitives, Swanee and Zelmare, stage an audacious armed robbery of Cannon headquarters, they disguise themselves like Nicolas Cage’s H.I. McDunnough in “Raising Arizona.” That prompts a gender-flipped variation on “Son, you’ve got a panty on your head.” In the car scene with Josto, Oraetta uses the word “paterfamilias,” a nod to a George Clooney line in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?.” Gaetano’s nabbing the small, austere picture of the Italian home country recalls a scene in “The Big Lebowski” when a photo of bleak farmland is supposed to beckon the sexpot Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid) back to Minnesota.
Chekhov’s apple pie pays off in the robbery sequence as Swanee farts and vomits her way through the job. It’s not clear yet whether the tainted dessert will pay off as anything more than a ribald joke, but it does give the sequence some added tension and dark comedy.
Has popular culture turned on clam chowder? Between the clam chowder fountain in one of the “bad places” on “The Good Place,” which likened it to “hot ocean milk,” to a throwaway line here (“makes more sense to me than clam chowder”), the insults are coming by the ladleful.
More evidence that “Fargo” is doing too much this season: The hospital administrator rolling the “r” in “macaroon.” A petty gripe perhaps, but overwritten moments like this have been piling up.