Fargo Season Four went out with a lot of bangs in “Storia Americana,” but somehow the overall effect was a whimper… at least until the surprise reveal at the end!
There have been certain threads pulling tauter (more taut?) throughout this season of Fargo, and each reached its breaking point in “Storia Americana.”
Would Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman) retain control of his family’s Kansas City empire? Who would win the war, him or Loy Cannon (Chris Rock)? Could Loy resist the many forces trying to drag him down? What’s up with Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley)?
The episode opens with a montage of the fallen, akin to an “In Memoriam” segment during an awards show. Then the action proceeds…
It turns out that the knowing looks Loy and Ethelrida (Emyri Crutchfield) gave each other when she presented the Fadda patriarch’s ring implied that Loy would be able to bring down Josto with the identity of his father’s killer. How (or if) either of them might have guessed that Josto and Oraetta had any kind of relationship is beyond me.
Loy takes the ring to Fadda consigliere Ebal Violante (Francesco Acquaroli), telling him to get his house in order and then they can talk. Ebal apparently tracks down Oraetta and talks to New York before confronting Josto.
While Ebal works out Josto’s fate, the family head is spiraling in the wake of his brother’s death. He rounds up the recently recovered Dr. Harvard (Stephen Spencer) and his would-be father-in-law (Eric Slater), and shoots them up with a machine gun in the back seat of his car, then blows up the car. Josto’s also met with a potential successor for Loy, whom he’s dispatched to kill his rival.
A minion wakes Josto from a drunken stupor to tell him (falsely) that they’ve killed Loy, luring him into a room full of “his” people surrounding a seated Ebal. In their midst is Oraetta. Oraetta has told Ebal and company, seeing as they all had guns, about how she killed Fadda senior at his son’s request, and about her ongoing sexual relationship with Josto. Josto tries to talk his way out of the situation and to leave the room, but his goose is cooked. New York has spoken, and the family system is passé. Ebal will be running things from now on, and Josto and Oraetta are bound for a shallow grave in an empty field.
When the lovers reach their destination, Josto again tries to talk his way out of being executed. The minions belong to Ebal now, though, and ultimately to New York, so they choose not to defy orders. They ask the doomed duo if they have any last requests, and Oraetta surprises Josto by asking the shooters to kill him first so she can watch. They immediately comply, shocking Josto and the audience, and Oraetta savors the blood flowing from his head wound for a moment before catching the ghost of Captain Martin Hanhuck (Guy Van Swearingen) hovering behind her in her reflection in a car window, and then joining Josto in the ground.
After her years of discreet serial killing and Josto’s months of bombast, their shared end was remarkably straightforward and succinct. I expected them to weasel their way out until the camera cut away from their dead bodies.
Once the deed is done, along with a housecleaning of the fools who thought they could depose Loy, Ebal invites his new ally for a parley. Ebal offends his guest with a document detailing the changes to their previous agreement, halving Loy’s empire. Loy’s hackles are raised, and Ebal reads correctly his impulse to retaliate. He explains to Loy that this isn’t coming from him, one man in one city– it’s coming from New York, and it’s part of a national plan that includes all major metropolitan areas.
Furthermore, he explains that if Loy kills him, there is another man behind him and another behind that man and on and on into infinity. Loy cannot compete, and he should look at this not as Ebal having *taken* half of his business, but having *left* him half of his business. A defeated Loy registers the truth in what Ebal is saying and leaves.
Loy restarts his remaining operations and moves his family back to their house from the hotel. When they pull up, he notices the front door standing open and leaves his wife and daughters outside while he enters, gun drawn, to search for the intruder. What he finds is a curious trail of dirty dishes and rearranged items that leads to a pile of discarded clothing at the foot of the bed where Satchel (Rodney L Jones III) is sleeping. Loy bursts into happy tears, embracing the son he thought he’d lost and calling his wife inside.
Later, as Loy goes about his business with an expression of doubt and resignation (Is it worth it, this life of crime?), he pauses to look in the front window of his house and watch his reunited family enjoying an idyllic moment of normalcy. Satchel is reading while Lemuel (Matthew Elam) practices the trumpet and the womenfolk are also there. As he regards the peaceful domestic scene, the audience wonders, “Who is left to kill him now, since he definitely doesn’t get an ending this happy?”
Surprise: it’s Zelmare (Karen Aldridge)! She sneaks up on him and stabs him to death “for Swanee.” He drops his bag of oranges on the porch, Godfather style, and looks stunned to have been gotten by this random woman he’d clearly underestimated.
Satchel notices that his father is no longer watching him through the window and comes out to find his father on the ground, slumped against the house and gasping for air like a fish out of water. He looks up at the murderess and she puts a finger to her lips and says, “Shhhhhhhhh.”
Fast forward to 29 years later, and a man implied to be an adult Satchel rides in a car down the same desolate Kansas road he once walked home on. His name these days is Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), and he has been sent by the Kansas City crime family to Fargo, to handle the Gerhardts.
The only happy ending in this season is Ethelrida’s. Loy keeps his word to her and returns her family’s home and business. As the Smutneys watch Cannon’s men take all of the goods they’ve been storing in the funeral home away, Ethelrida’s parents beam at her with pride. She narrates the end of the episode, apparently reading from a history essay in which she asserts that historians frame the truth as they like, and that she has done this with the story we’ve just finished watching. Intercut with the Smutneys reclaiming their home and listening to Ethelrida read her essay aloud are shots of an older Ethelrida leaving with packed bags and a satisfied smile, suggesting that she’ll leave Kansas City and go on to great things.
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