Fargo (2014) s04e05 – The Birthplace of Civilization

Until the end of the episode—which brings in the Fargo theme fully for the first time—everything is character revelation and potentially development. Oh.

And a Trump reference.

The Trump reference is really bad.

The most character revelation revolves around dirty cop Jack Huston. We find out from Chris Rock some of his back story—while Huston has got the cops cracking heads and stealing the Black mob’s money—and then more later when Huston is telling Timothy Olyphant about it. See, Rock really hurt Huston’s feelings and you need to be nice to the dirty cop because he’s white and has a sad backstory.

Maybe it’d be better if Huston were better. Instead, once again, Olyphant’s got to hold up their scenes with his good but very broad character.

Olyphant gets a little more to do than usual; he threatens teenager E'myri Crutchfield later in the episode to find out where outlaw aunt Karen Aldridge is holed up and Crutchfield’s got to make a choice. Simultaneously (basically), her parents have to make the same choice because they owe Rock. Anji White’s getting ready for Crutchfield’s birthday that evening and it all goes to crap thanks to Andrew Bird not being smart about paying off loan sharks.

It provides an effective scene for Rock, who’s really amping up the villain status here, complete with yelling at his wife and mother about being the man of the house or something. But it’s not, like, good. It works, it’s effective, but it’s not good drama.

Similarly the stuff with Crutchfield and Aldridge is somewhat pointless. Aldridge and girlfriend Kelsey Asbille tell Crutchfield all about the outlaw life and why it’s not like being a criminal and it’s not bad. Asbille’s not good but Aldridge is able to carry their scenes and this one’s no different. But it doesn’t really add up to anything. Maybe someday Crutchfield will be an outlaw too. Or not. We’ll either find out or they’ll drop it.

Salvatore Esposito gets a good monologue about what’s wrong with Americans. It’s amid a bad scene—director Dana Gonzales does a rather bad job of directing this episode. There are painfully obvious tropes and no understanding of them.

Glynn Turman gets a decent monologue but it’s opposite Gaetano Bruno, who’s got an exceedingly one note character even if Bruno’s okay enough at it.

The episode’s got its effective moments—Turman, Crutchfield facing off against Olyphant, Rock threatening people—but they’re all pretty shallow.

There’s a big development at the end and it seems like “Fargo: Season Four” just has to be getting going now. Even though last episode promised this one would be the second act kick-off. Instead it’s more first act stuff.

Like… Gonzales’s direction is really not good. Not just for “Fargo” but for directing. I don’t know. The further the season gets along the less likely it seems it’ll prove my concerns unjustified.

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