Season 4, Episode 8: ‘The Nadir’
It’s probably unfair to chide “Fargo” for ripping off a major set-piece from Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” since De Palma himself has been knocked for ripping off Alfred Hitchcock. And the set-piece in question, a shootout at Chicago’s Union Station, nods to the famed Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin.” Nevertheless, the quotes around quotes around quotes somewhat diminish the impact of a show that can seem, at times, like a shallow pastiche without the undergirding of original ideas or thematic purposefulness. Its pleasures are mostly on the surface.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For the most part, this episode was an entertaining jumble of loose ends and Plan Bs, full of characters who are scrambling to figure out how to act when their schemes have been blown up. With various subplots zipping every which way, there’s not any single unifying idea that binds the hour together, but at this point in the season, there’s just too much narrative business that needs to be resolved.
For Loy Cannon, Plan A in his shocking decision to release Gaetano from custody was for Gaetano to attack his brother, which would have staved off a gangland war by allowing the Faddas to get eaten alive by their own dysfunction. It was a good plan because the tension between Gaetano and Josto has been genuinely destructive to the family — as I wrote last week, Josto is more a Fredo Corleone than a Michael, and Gaetano is more like Sonny, hot-tempered and impulsive. Their leadership issues seem to be the biggest obstacle to putting down the Cannons, who don’t have the manpower or the institutional connections to beat them directly.
But Gaetano figures it out. Loy expected him to be so consumed with anger over Josto that he wouldn’t ask questions about why he was liberated. But the big lug thought it through and came to right conclusion. (Not that he didn’t get his licks in on Josto, mind.) So now the brothers are a united front — “I’m the lion, you’re the snake,” says Gaetano — and they can finally turn their attention to the Cannons rather than to a power struggle that has cleaved the family in half.
There’s a little bit of nuance to their new arrangement, however: Gaetano acknowledges that Josto is the brains the operation, but he makes it clear, in their reunion, that he has the support of the rank-and-file. Only the consigliere, Ebal Violante, seems to side-eye the new arrangement.
Loy has planned for this contingency, of course. When he hears of the Fadda brothers’ reconciliation, he has one word: “Fargo.” This is the payoff to the massive gun shipment he shuffled off to Mort Kellerman, the North Dakota mobster whom viewers of the second season will remember as a rival to the Gerhardt syndicate. (It does not go well for him.) And so, the FTU (Fargo Televisual Universe) has its Avengers moment in the final sequence as Kellerman’s gang descends on the Fadda manse. This is war, but it’s still not one that Loy cares to fight directly.
Oraetta Mayflower has seemed like a good planner, too, but she doesn’t seem to have considered that Dr. Harvard might survive her poisoned macaroon, despite having collapsed inside an elite hospital. Upon hearing the news of his expected recovery, her only option is to find his room and finish the job, but she’s thwarted in that effort and makes herself conspicuous by asking around about him. Surely her relationship with one of the city’s mob bosses will come into play at this time of need, but she keeps Josto at arm’s length. She’ll happily play dominatrix in bed, but she has never been angrier this season than when Josto confesses to loving her.
For the past few episodes, poor Odis had been batted around between the Faddas and the Cannons, all to the bemusement and consternation of Deafy, who knew for a long time that his liaison on the force was deeply compromised. Credit Odis, then, for having a plan of his own. Brought down to his lowest point, he makes a creditable plea for redemption from Deafy, and the good Mormon is convinced enough to bring him along on an operation to capture Zelmare and Swanee at Union Station. His hesitancy to leave the car is a clever piece of misdirection on the show’s part: We think he’s seized by fear and O.C.D. tendencies, but really he’s waiting for the dust to settle enough for him to gun down Deafy.
The chaos that ensues from the Union Station operation — with Deafy and Swanee dead and Zelmare still on the loose — adds an encouraging volatility to the final batch of episodes this season. No one is in a comfortable spot here: Oraetta has to worry that Dr. Harvard will pursue attempted murder charges; Loy has to worry that the Faddas are finally uniting against him; the Faddas have to worry about Milligan; and everybody has to worry about Zelmare, who will surely be coming back to town, eager to settle some scores. Sounds like one or two more De Palma set pieces waiting to happen.
3 Cent Stamps:
No Coen references this week that I could see, other than acknowledging that Fargo exists. This season would simply be “Kansas City” otherwise.
Josto’s involvement in local politics has been such an under-the-radar subplot that when he mentions to Oraetta that he’s getting married, the news is dropped so matter-of-factly that it’s as if he (and we) had nearly forgotten about it entirely.
R.I.P. Deafy Wickware. It was nice to see Timothy Olyphant reprise his signature role as Raylan Givens in “Justified,” even if the Mormon makeover did him no favors.
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