Tension continues to build on Fargo with “The Pretend War.” Too many near misses in this episode, which suggests that a full-on bloodbath is coming soon …

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“The Pretend War” feels like watching someone set up dominoes before knocking them down in a line. Connections are made for the audience, but the characters haven’t yet caught up. 

Josto (Jason Schwartzman) and Oraetta (Jessie Buckley) are officially lovers. He’s coming to her apartment to engage in rough sexual congress, while being dissuaded from using rough language or manners.

Oraetta introduces him to erotic asphyxiation, but not to her secret closet full of souvenirs from her lengthy sideline as a serial killer. It’s Ethelrida (Emyri Crutchfield) who discovers that during her three-hour tour as Oraetta’s cleaner and organizer while the naughty nurse is away at work. Ethelrida leaves with one of the obituaries she finds in a shoe box and one trophy: Josto’s father’s ring. Perhaps if Josto had been the one to find the closet, he wouldn’t have been so cavalier when complaining to his gal pal about his grief with his brother and her boss. 

It’s Rabbi (Ben Whishaw) who tips Josto off to the power play unfolding at home, looping him in on the failed assassination of Lemuel Cannon (Matthew Elam) ordered by Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito) and nearly brought to pass by Constant Calamita (Gaetano Bruno). Rabbi is in a tough spot, trying to survive both the drama at the Fadda HQ and having been identified by Lemuel’s driver. 

Josto puts Gaetano in his place (maybe) in front of their men, then orders their consigliere to New York to assure the big bosses that all is well — despite Loy’s (Chris Rock) men having liberated 300 guns from the Italians as retaliation for the apparent attacks against Loy’s son and the robbery in his gambling den. (Loy authorizes his men to sell 200 of the guns to a contact in Fargo at cost-plus-devotion. This is the first mention of Fargo and hint at the thread that will tie this season to the series overall.)

Josto also orders Odis (Jack Huston) to warn Loy’s crew that they can’t fight both the Italians and City Hall. Odis is unsuccessful in shaking his new shadow, Marshall Dick “Deafy” Wickware (Timothy Olyphant), who follows him to the Faddas’ hideout and has a first encounter with Gaetano and Constant. 

Meanwhile, Zelmare (Karen Aldridge) and Swanee (Kelsey Asbille) are holed up in a hotel room where Swanee is still sick and Zelmare is hand-washing the vomit from their contraband cash. She can’t get the smell out, but she is able to clean and dry it well enough to deliver it to Thurman (Andrew Bird) so he can get out of debt to Loy. She walks away from their encounter with the identity of the poisoning pie maker, and Thurman leaves with a bag full of tainted bills. 

Thurman delivers the money to Loy, pretending that it’s the fruit of an inheritance from a dead uncle. Unfortunately for him, Loy catches the scent from the duffel full of vomitous currency and recognizes that he’s just gotten a lead on his lesbian burglars. 

When we leave them, war is brewing between the rival gangs, Ethelrida is in danger because she’s unwittingly left her journal in Oraetta’s kill closet, Oraetta is on Zelmare’s radar and Zelmare is on Loy’s. The question isn’t whether heads will roll next week, but whose and in what order/volume?

RELATED: Keep up with our Fargo Season Four recaps here!

Two odd moments from “The Pretend War”: 

  1. At the beginning of the episode, Ethelrida is writing in her journal in her room and hears something outside the door. She creeps over carefully to peek out and sees a frosty, noseless man sitting at the top of the staircase. She retreats quickly and breathes rapidly with her back against the door. 
  2. Zelmare is visited by a man (a priest?) who emerges from the bathtub in which she’s been cleaning the cash. As he slowly makes his way around the hotel room to where Swanee is sleeping fitfully on one of the single beds, a mucky substance (blood?) begins to rain from the ceiling all over the sick woman. Zelmare keeps her eyes closed tight throughout the experience, and when it ends she rushes to Swanee to make sure she’s alive. (She is.)

Neither of these incidents is commented upon. Are they real? Are they supernatural? Are they hallucinations? I hope we find out!



Leona Laurie