“Storia Americana” is the shortest episode of Fargofourth term. What’s more, it’s unusually short, with the screener (including credits) at a peak of 39 minutes. Watching it, it becomes very clear why. Despite season foura large and scattered ensemble, despite the seemingly endless collection of subplots and side missions, when it comes time to close the shop and head home, Fargo as if he had run out of things to say. From its less than 40 minutes, “Americana” finds time for a montage of the season’s casualties, and several long, slow scenes full of the swirling music of people watching things. The plot is almost wrapped up, and most of the conclusions are final. One or two of them are even unexpected. But very little in this finale is surprising or mean. It might clear the bar at “satisfactory,” if all you really wanted were a few more corpses.
I expected Josto to finish in a trench before the end. Points to the show: I didn’t expect the Loy to tell Ebal about who actually killed Donatello Fadda would lead Ebal to pin the offense on Josto himself. Once again, Fargo he has a point to make about bringing organized crime into a business, one in which family loyalty is less important than meeting the periphery. Which is fine, and there’s some drama in seeing Josto’s temperate wrath run into a brick wall he can’t power through. Schwartzman gave one of the better performances of the season, and it goes all out here, showing Josto’s first demise after Gaetano (he’s a real drunk, then murdering the hell out of his former dad- in-law and Harvard Doctor), and then the light slowly fades on him when he realizes he’s been screwed.
It’s okay, did we need a season to get to this point? Josto was clearly unstable and lacking in tools for leadership from the first episode. Extends his fate out over 11 chapters did not explain his position or edit our understanding of it. Giving novelty to putting a character that is usually downgraded to a side kick or secondary status in the middle of his own tragic arc, and I thought his exit (“What?” Troubled Oraetta right before it got shot in his head) is suddenly sharp and funny. But knowing how much time we spent watching him be over his head, only to finally see him in over his head, feels way too pat and easy.
And god, his death takes forever. Not the real shooting, which is over in a matter of seconds, but the initial scene where Ebal confronts him with the Oraettsa confession feels endless; there is some force in the awkward, depressing discomfort of it, as is clear from the moment Josto walks out to see Ebal surrounded by his men what’s going to happen, and the longer the it will drag on, the harder it will be to watch. But at a certain point, the drag feels less like a way to build tension or show Josto what he really is, and more just a way to get the most out of one handful of sequences’ r non-montage episode. Once you start wanting them to shoot the guy so you can move on, the play is missing.
As for Oraetta getting her, well, it probably has to happen, and the fact that she’s closer to Josto than any other character means that there is some justice in them going out at the same time . But despite Jessie Buckley’s best efforts, I don’t think Miss Mayflower is anything more than a sum of her twitchy, overwritten parts. She was never a force to be reckoned with as previous wildcards on the show, nor did she articulate a coherent enough perspective on events to be compelling as anything more than oddity. It’s fun to have a character like this around, because they have a tendency to throw out carefully made plans, but in the end, Oraetta was just a sad, restless woman who managed to murder people for a while, and then one day, the best to get away with it. The fact that she would have ended up in prison thanks to the silly misconception with Doctor Harvard makes her seem too inert to be truly scared; and if it’s not scary, and it’s not tragic or really funny, well, why introduce it in the first place?
I mentioned last week how happy I was to see Ethelrida in the mix. I probably should have watched this episode before I said it. After Loy brought her plan in the previous episode, Ethelrida is once again back on the sidelines here. We see Lemuel and the others carrying Loy’s belongings out of Smutny’s home, showing that Loy is at least as good as his word. Near the end of term, we see her reading paper she wrote to her parents, before cutting it to show her sitting in a room somewhere with a pair of suitcases; the implication is that Ethelrida is probably going places. Which is lovely. It would have been nice if she had been more of a walk on here. I’m not even sure she has a character arc – she’s smart and inventive in the beginning, then solves the Wall’s caseder Nurse, and finds a way to pay her family financial obligations to Loy’s crowd. She didn’t learn anything because she already knew it mostly; maybe we saw so little of her because she was too good at her job for a show about fuck-ups.
As for Loy, he gets what he wants before losing it forever. I was wondering how that ring was going to solve everyone’s problems; somehow Ethelrida and Loy knew that giving Ebal the identity of Oraetta and the people he represented would be the end of the gang war, and what is happening more or less. Did Loy know that Josto and Oraetta were hooking? I didn’t think so, but that would have made this much more sense. As it stands, it’s as if the characters read the end script before we did, and made their decisions accordingly.
So, Ebal takes over the Fadda establishment, making some “minor” adjustments to the deal with Loy ending with Loy losing about half of what he thought he owned. Like Josto being kicked out in favor of a more organized version of organized crime, this twist isn’t much of a turn; it’s strange that Loy even raved about it. If the season had spent more time letting us get to know Loy and his family, if more effort had been made to highlight the challenges facing Black of mob in the ”50s (and only B’s).lack of life in general), there might be some picking on this, but as it is, it’s a shrug.
It was lovely to see Satchel and his family rewas united, and some painful dramatic irony in Satchel had to see his real father die so soon on the heels of the loss of his borrowed father. But Loy’s fate had few bathos in it. Zelmare was so prominent in Chekov’s gun figure that although I briefly forgot it, I was not surprised to see it appear at the end; and given that, to our knowledge, Loy has completely ordered Odis to shoot her and Swanee, it is difficult to feel so sad for him. Fate was not knocked over. He made ruthless choices, and he paid for them.
It’s all very pretty to watch, and the soundtrack is impossible, but it’s not much more besides. While many characters made bold statements about America (“Josto is a school. But there’s nowhere to go.” Quite well), there was never any sense that this season was actually saying anything more than obvious. Hell, even the last post-credits sequence, which brings back Bokeem Woodbine for a short cameo, just tells us something we already knew. In a better season, that would have been a delicate grace note, a short goal toward the future. Here, it feels like yet another dismissal. I had wondered if Fargo done after its third season, and I had hoped that the mess of that season was going to lead to something new. But season four was just leftovers at best, and nothing at all.
- Oh hey, remember the Roach? No sign of it this week. What was the point of that? And why did he save Ethelrida from Oraetta?
- They spent a lot of time reinforcing the importance of the exchange of sons between crime families; Satchel’s story was one of the best of the season, but the exchange itself always played more like the idea of something with thematic weight and the thing itself. Lots of that going around, unfortunately.