The opening scene of Fargo S4E6 sets an ominous tone for the episode, which starts to feel like we’re finally entering the descent into the dark abyss. Ethelrida walks into her family home and finds her parents waiting, unaware of the scene that took place in the last episode. We see the cake and the depression in the frosting where Dibella cut out a slice for Zero Fadda under Loy Cannon’s order, the image now a symbol of Cannon’s place in the Smutny home. The chilling figure of the ghost that showed up in Swanee and Zelmare’s hideout looms over Ethelrida as she blows out the candles of her sixteenth birthday cake.
Whatever the apparition really is, in Fargo S4E6 he represents the fear that leads to the troubled choices humans make that turn them into adults. Ethelrida has seen that the world of the law is ambivalent to her and her achievement, no matter how astute. So she’s reached out into the unknown, led cautiously but naively by her parents, and decided that if the law isn’t on her side, maybe she’ll find better luck as an outlaw herself. After all, what better way to fight the homicidal darkness of Nurse Mayflower? She writes an anonymous letter detailing Nurse Mayflower’s crimes, and I can’t help but notice that Doctor Harvard is far less disturbed by the homicides than he is the property theft, but something tells me Ethelrida figured as much.
This concept of primordial fear now gives us a new perspective on Gaetano. His unhinged sadism has grown more flamboyant as he claims his ground. Are his fascistic tendencies a defense mechanism more than an authentic expression? He’s in hiding with his bodyguard, Paulo, and I can’t help but notice the flowery decor, mannequin, Paulo’s glass of absinthe, and Gaetano’s suggestive stabbing into the mannequin. Gaetano’s performance as a crime boss is juvenile and grotesque, but it’s also a performance. I first assumed the title of Fargo S4E6—“Camp Elegance”—was the name of a place, but I think it’s actually a description of some of these characters’ behavior, a subversive theatrical display of wealth and status: “camp elegance.”
When Swanee and Zelmare first arrive disguised as call girls, the duo relaxes but neither seem too eager to rush downstairs until gunfire prompts Paulo to grab his weapon and head down. When Gaetano hears footsteps coming back up the stairs, the camera follows the sound around the corner, but there are also packed suitcases and a closed cabinet in the frame. Gaetano looks at the suitcases before firing aimlessly into the door, killing Paulo and winding up hostage to Swanee and Dibella, who takes him back to Loy Cannon in retaliation for Doctor Senator’s murder.
Cannon is rebuilding his army into something else entirely, but of course there’s no telling how his plan will play out. Fargo has shown Cannon as slightly ahead of the game with planning, but his organization so far this season has been derailed by bumbling incompetence and chance. In Fargo S4E6, we see that he understands the American consciousness, as he says, “I’m fighting four hundred years of history. I’m fighting a mindset.”
Unlike Josto’s dilemma, which is laid out pretty bare and thus the holes in his plot are pretty glaring, we don’t really see how Cannon is planning to reshape the situation into his advantage until his plan unfolds. But the main difference between the Cannons and Faddas is that Loy recognizes he can grow stronger by bringing the chaos agents—and I’m including the Smutnys in this as well as the pair of outlaws—into his organization rather than hunting them down and executing them. Cannon wields power in a way unseen on Fargo before, but it’s fascinating and I’m really curious where it takes us.
Violante also returns from New York accompanied by a younger Joe Bolo (Brad Garrett’s character from Season 2, drawing the connections to the Sioux Falls incident even tighter) and just as I thought, he seems genuinely bummed about Doctor Senator. We also get a flashback with the good Doctor, which I think puts some extra emphasis on how much his death will impact the remainder of the season.
There’s a part of the Kansas City story that is primordial, but if there had to be a moment where it turned from a generic American crime story to Fargo it’s here, when Josto orders Antoon (Sean Fortunato) to “take care” of Satchel. “The kid thing is over.” Antoon leads Satchel Cannon to a snowy field, where he says he carved his name into stone at the bottom of some stairs. He sends Satchel down to look, but cannot go through with the execution. Just as he puts his gun away, Rabbi arrives and shoots him in the back.
I wish Antoon had a bit more screen time leading up to this decision, but the few moments we get with him leading up to this still establish enough that what transpires has some emotional weight. Fargo has examined and explained the human reasoning behind myth-making and storytelling so much, but here we have a tragic character detailing the story of America as he saw it. “Fields of corn. Bread for every meal. Land of plenty. That’s in the Constitution,” he tells Satchel. It isn’t, of course, but Antoon believed that the America he lived in was so committed to the idea of prosperity it was enshrined in its founding documents. This moment goes a long way to capture the conflict of survival and making yourself into a new person in a new world.
The scene is tragic and gut wrenching, and also Fargo Season 4’s best. The Fadda organization isn’t just crumbling from a power vacuum, we are watching individual members face the realities of the world they’ve built for themselves as Americans. In the end, it doesn’t matter that Paolo survived a shoot out. It doesn’t matter that Antoon put down his weapon. They lived and survived by the sword, and they got their guts blown out.
I’m particularly struck by the way Fargo unfolds the bigger story by swinging back and forth between time periods. The story doesn’t move forward as much as it expands, and each new iteration comments on what came before. In Season 3, V.M. Varga represents the process of “mergers and acquisitions” that decimated small businesses and communities in a ruthless laissez-faire marketplace for the last few decades. It adds to the tension of this squabble over this particular criminal territory. The futility of all of these deaths isn’t just an abstract, we’ve seen that in the long run it all goes nowhere.