blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Fargo (2014) s04e02 – The Land of Taking and Killing

If last episode was a big Miller’s Crossing homage—though there’s a big Miller’s nod here too—when this episode opens with a prison break, I had to wonder if it was going to be all Raising Arizona nods or if it was a one-off.

Seems to have been a one-off. I wonder if Noah Hawley’s going to pick an obvious homage to a non-Fargo Coen Brothers every episode or if their way of doing prison break establishing shots is now just the norm. The prison breakers are Kelsey Asbille and Karen Alridge. Alridge is narrator/protagonist/“Fargo”’s Scout E'myri Crutchfield’s maternal aunt. I get Hawley probably doesn’t want to go down the road too far but I really want to understand how Crutchfield’s white Christian dad, Andrew Bird, reconciles Asbille and Alridge being a couple. There’s not overt religiosity but it’s implied. There’s also some more weird stuff with Bird “handling” upset wife Anji White, which is either a creative misstep or full bad choice.

It’s hard to say where “Fargo” is going to shake out on those creative missteps versus bad choices. This episode introduces two new, presumably regular cast members—in addition to Alridge and Asbille, who just hang out all episode because they’re on the run—Salvatore Esposito and Jack Huston. Esposito’s great. When he and Chris Rock face off, “Fargo” works in a way the show can’t even hint at when it’s Jason Schwartzman. There’s this scene where you realize Rock is able to do Don Corleone without being hacky about it and Schwartzman seems like he’s in a really bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch butchering an Al Pacino impression.

Esposito’s Schwartzman’s brother. They’re going to be fighting for control of the family while they’ve also got to contend with Rock. There’s a brokered peace—they’ve traded sons, but it’s not really important yet. Also apparently unimportant are the female relations of the gang bosses (seriously, didn’t Hawley have time to think about Irishman before they went into production).

Huston’s a cop with OCD, which the show uses in the place where they’d usually be using it as an ableist joke but instead using that space to show how people in 1950 were even crappier than people today. But it’s, like, the same time and space in the narrative as it’d be for a cheap joke.

Huston’s okay. So far. Maybe he’ll get better. Same goes for Ben Whishaw, an Irish guy the Italian mob basically fostered after they took out the Irish gang. Whishaw’s fine. So far.

Maybe he’ll get better.

Like Jessie Buckley. Buckley gets a little better this episode, nimbly keeping up with the rollercoaster Hawley rushes the character through, presumably to get her in a different spot for what’s next. And there’s a great cliffhanger with it. Though possibly the second cliffhanger makes it moot.

What strikes me most in this season is Hawley’s direction. It’s phenomenal. Outside the miscast actors and whatnot. It’s fantastic. His sense of pacing is breathtaking—there’s a scene with Glynn Turman and Esposito where all the ingredients spark and it’s this perfect scene. So clearly “Fargo”’s still got its greatness… it just might not be consistent or sustained.

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