Fargo (2014) s04e04 – The Pretend War

It’s the end of the first act, with normal guy Andrew Bird making a big mistake and now everything afterward is never going to be the same again, which is kind of what “Fargo” stays consistent about, season to season.

I think.

Bird pays off he and Anji White’s debt to Chris Rock—in one of those excellent Rock scenes, which happen once an episode if we’re lucky—with money he got from outlaw sister-in-law Karen Aldridge. It’s not going to go well for anyone involved.

But that scene, which is inevitable and therefor not a spoiler (right?), comes towards the end of the episode. The rest of the episode is arranging things for the next act. Mobster brothers Jason Schwartzman and Salvatore Esposito getting their supporters together for the big face-off, check. A contrivance to let E'myri Crutchfield discover Jessie Buckley’s secret, check. More icky-bad with Buckley and Schwartzman, check. Something with Ben Whishaw, check.

There’s a lot of good stuff in the episode. Lots of good acting. A great sequence where Jeff Russo mimics Danny Elfman more than Carter Burwell. Excellent direction from Dearbhla Walsh again. And the first showdown between Timothy Olyphant and Esposito is outstanding, albeit a fairly easy scene since they’re both playing caricatures. Superbly, but still.

Glynn Turman and Francesco Acquaroli get another one of their consiglieri meeting scenes and this time Acquaroli gets the monologue. It doesn’t have the depth of Turman one last episode, but Acquaroli’s excellent.

What else. Oh. Jack Huston’s dirty cop. He’s got a tiny subplot about trying to get Olyphant to go to Chicago (hunting Aldridge) instead of hanging around Kansas City. It’s fine for the Olyphant stuff but it’s a little unbelievable no one’s noticed Huston’s incompetent, obviously corrupt cop being incompetent and obviously corrupt. Huston’s trying. Olyphant makes up for some of it but still. Huston being bad, Schwartzman being both bad and miscast, and Buckley and Whishaw being blah? Almost everything excellent in “Fargo: Season Four” has to do the additional work of propping up something bad.

The episode opens with either a Barton Fink homage or the closest they’ve gotten to one (I recognize). There’s also a bit of supernatural thing going on in the episode, which makes for some really effective scenes both times but so far pointless ones.

Maybe it’s just playing in the very familiar period piece gangster wheelhouse, but lots of scenes this episode feel rote and not the “playing with them being rote” rote either. Excellent performances, good dialogue, strong direction; they make up for a lot, but Hawley’s “Fargo” tends to find new things mixing old things together and this time… at best he’s spotlighting the ingredients well. So far there’s nothing new coming out of the oven.

Like a pie. Sort of.

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