The Fargo Frozen Five is Uproxx’s weekly collection of thoughts, observations, and goofball screencaps from each new episode of the FX limited series’ fourth season. We do not guarantee that there will be five items every week. There could be four, or six, or a dozen. Who knows? This show doesn’t follow the rules. We shouldn’t have to either.
Episode 11 — “Storia Americana” (or “Josto And Loy And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”)
5a. I think we all knew Josto Fadda was not making it out of this season alive. There was just no conceivable combination of events that could have let him survive. There were two primary reasons for this: One, major characters who are involved in crime rarely survive a season of Fargo; two, he was a mouthy little self-important weasel who was obsessed with acquiring/maintaining power and he talked down to anyone he perceived as beneath him (so… everyone), and those types of characters rarely survive any show, with Pete Campbell from Mad Men being the most notable exception. Still, I did not have “double-crossed by his consigliere and framed for killing his father and brother and dumped in a dirt pit with a hole in his head next to the serial killer who actually did murder his father and later gave him a tugjob in the car while humming ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic.’” I think the real problem here isn’t so much a lack of imagination on my part as it is a lack of imagination on the show’s part. This is a show that, as recently as two episodes ago, sucked up a killer in a black-and-white tornado and launched him into the heavens. In the next episode, my sweet hefty prince Gaetano tripped and blew off 45 percent of his head with his own gun. Compared to those, Josto’s demise felt… normal. Straightforward. Perfectly explainable. Which is fine — ideal, even — for another show that traffics in straightforward, sensible answers. For Fargo, a show that does not do that, the normalcy of it felt weird and a little unfulfilling. In any event, rest in peace you little creep.
5b. Big shoutout to Doctor Harvard, the pretentious hospital administrator who survived Oraetta’s strychnine macaroons and fingered her for her litany of crimes, for tossing together the phrase “the wolf in sheep’s clothing had me bamboozled” as one of his last acts as a living person, just before he got bonked unconscious and filled with bullets by Josto.
5c. Shoutout to Josto, too, I guess, for the dramatic flair he displayed in killing off the doctor and his fiancée’s politician father. Is “flicking a cigarette into a pool of gasoline and then walking away from the explosion it eventually causes” a bit of a trope? Yes, sure, it happens a lot. But it happens a lot because it looks cool as hell. Fine by me. Do it in every show. Let Ted Lasso blow up some stuff. See what I care.
4. Loy Cannon didn’t make it out alive either, which surprised me for reasons I should have disregarded. Why did it surprise me that Zelmare Roulette knifed him on his porch as retribution for his hit on Swanee? I absolutely should have seen that coming, even after the show brought Satchel back home alive (more on this in a minute), and even after Ebal screwed him out of half his business in a move that winked at both how immigrants who assimilate as white have taken from those who can’t as long as America has existed and how huge corporations pushed out small businesses on every Main Street in America. It was a tough season for Loy. He thought his son died, his best friend did die, his plan to invent the credit industry got yoinked by Diner’s Club, and then he got hoodwinked by the guy he helped put in power at the top of the rival organization in town. Maybe that’s why I thought he would survive, because the show had been taking things from him all season. But again, I should have pushed that thought away. Fargo isn’t big on moral victories. And Loy was a loansharking criminal who preyed on the weak. This was bound to happen. It still made me a little sad. I don’t know.
4b. It was nice that Zelmare got the final word regarding Swanee but I can’t help but feel like the show wasted what was generally a very fun character. She and Swanee were a hoot, especially Swanee, and I wonder if the show bit off so much at the start that it couldn’t service all of its characters even as it thinned the herd via murder. There might have been just too much going on. It’s a shame for a bunch of reasons but one of the bigger reasons is that Zelmare and Swanee could have been a whole show.
4c. Do we got oranges scattered about the scene of a dead mob boss as a younger relative looks on in sadness and confusion like we up and transported into The Godfather? Baby, you know we do.
3. If we’re running down characters of note who ended the season somewhat less than alive, then I suppose we should also say goodnight to Oraetta Mayflower, the Minnesota-nice nurse who loved baking and vigorous sexual escapades almost as much as she loved murdering people. She really did love murdering people. She loved it so much. She even loved watching people get murdered by someone else, which we discovered in her last moments when she asked if Joe Bulo could shoot Josto first so she could watch and then smiled like a freak as Josto’s brain juice got soaked up by the dirt. Probably best for the hospital patients of the Midwest that she’s gone, but she was kind of fun (I mean, as far as mentally disturbed Angels of Death go), so… No, let’s not talk ourselves into looking at a murderess who collected tokens of her victims and stole drugs from the hospital with rose-colored glasses. It’s definitely a good thing she’s in that hole.
2a. While I think I would have appreciated young Satchel Cannon roaming the streets alone with his doggy friend and pulling guns on various yokels that cross him like a little independent renegade, I cannot argue with the look of overwhelming happiness and relief on Mama Cannon’s face upon seeing her thought-dead baby alive and sauntering down the stairs. That was nice. I very much want to see Mama Cannon happy because Mama Cannon rules. I only have two bones to pick, really. The first is that Satchel left the front door open when he came home, and that one is only because I’ve been on the receiving end of enough “Were you born in a barn?”s to know he was raised better than that. He’s a good boy. He’s not wasting that electricity. I’m sure of it. The second thing is… let’s start a new section.
2b. Yes, Satchel Cannon is Mike Milligan. The mid-credits scene confirmed the thing many of us suspected as soon as we did the “the guy who is raising him is named Milligan and the timelines work out and they brought in Joe Bulo so we know the universes are connected” math. I don’t know if the show intended it to be a big reveal that people sniffed out early or if the show was winking that was on purpose all season and waiting to pay it off. Either way, there it was, with a Bokeem Woodbine cameo and everything. As I mentioned above, I kind of wish he had never come home first, if only because he already had all the origin story he needed and I like the idea of him being a globetrotting self-made man. I had that all worked out in my head. Now I have to figure out how and why he left home — and his Mama — again and left their name behind in the process. It’s a tough spot to be in. I like being right but I don’t like thinking a lot. Let’s just focus on the first part.
1.The season ended as it began, with Ethelrida explaining the history of America in her report, complete with a bit about winners and losers and who gets to tell the stories from the past versus who gets their stories told. She was one of the most interesting characters on the show this season — she took down a serial killer and outwitted Loy Cannon’s organization and she knows French, which is less important than the first two but still impressive — and the show might have been better off giving her more to do. If we assume this whole season was told by Ethelrida in her history report (which would be weird, especially considering all the murder and autoerotic asphyxiation), I think I’d give her a B or a B-. There was an interesting story with some fun twists and notable figures, but it all kind of lagged in places and the payoff left something on the table. Ethelrida won’t be happy about getting a B, if I know her like I think I do at this point. But the truth is, a B or a B- season of Fargo is still a better ride than an A or A- effort out of a lesser show. We’re grading on a curve here. It’s not fair but, as we saw repeatedly from this season, life rarely is.