Season 4, Episode 10: “Happy”
“You always lose until you win,” says Loy Cannon. “That’s why they call him ‘outsider’.”
Throughout the season, Loy has played a weak hand masterfully and the Faddas have played a strong hand incompetently. Loy did not have the manpower or the firepower to take on the Faddas directly, and his race will always deny him institutional support. He doesn’t have the luxury of acting impulsively like Josto and Gaetano. In fact, his most violent act on the show so far has been beating Leon Bittle (Jeremie Harris) for suggesting he should act more violently.
He went out of his way to avoid all-out war with the Faddas, choosing instead to stir up tensions between the brothers, manipulate others into fighting for him, and seize any territory available to him.
Now the inevitable bloodbath is finally playing out and Loy is in an unusually vulnerable position. He is the underdog, having lost 27 men and counting in war, and in his despair, seeking a lifeline from Happy Halloway (Edwin Lee Gibson), whom he rightly does not trust. Loy needs “the muscle of the country” to keep him afloat for two weeks, what we will learn later is also the timeline the Faddas are considering for ending the war.
Sensing a weakness, Happy immediately turns around and offers Josto a deal to install Leon, reclaim Loy’s territory, and get a piece of trucking in exchange for Loy’s betrayal. While Loy seems to be anticipating this knife twist, maybe not much can be done about it.
After stopping for a much-needed standalone episode away from Kansas City last week, “Fargo” scrambles frantically to make up for lost time. While the show lacks the thematic and conceptual cohesion of its tribute to “The Wizard of Oz,” there was not a moment wasted this week. Yes, there are a few monologues – Loy reflecting on Satchel’s birth, Gaetano talking about the girlfriend he had at 11, Ethelrida’s mother telling him about the family curse – but none of them slowed down its impetus for navel-gazing, and most have immediate payoffs. Despite all of its pretensions, the show still operates most reliably as a relentless storytelling machine.
The season also begins to come full circle returning to Ethelrida, who introduced us to the early ’50s gangland in Kansas City in the first episode and has only appeared periodically since. The Smutny family side of this story has been a bit underfed; they’re the only example of what it’s like to be a normal (or relatively normal) family caught up in all this deadly intrigue. All the Smutnys want is to make their home morgue viable, but because of a bad loan and bad fortune, they are at the mercy of the bad guys. The only silver lining to all the violence that explodes around them is that business is booming.
Finally, finally, the conflict between Ethelrida and Oraetta is drawn into the gang warfare that rages around them. Oraetta appeared to have let Ethelrida down after the anonymous letter to her boss at the hospital didn’t have the desired effect. But Ethelrida has by her side the son of a Mafia leader and a coolness she inherited from her mother. Ethelrida is candid about all the discoveries she made about Oraetta – the tokens, the “death bottles”, the poison pies – but that isn’t enough to shake the nurse, who has the confidence of a white woman who knows her story is going to be believed on that of a young black woman. (“How does it feel to be so sure you’re right and know that no one cares?”)
The story of the Smutny Family Curse is too long before even a true supernatural presence foils Oraetta’s attempt to kill Ethelrida in her sleep. “Fargo” already has enough quirks without opening up the spectral dimension to tie up the loose ends. Better let Ethelrida use her research powers to get the information she needs to save her family from peril. A few nimble tricks from the microfilm reader lead him to discover that a pinky finger that Oraetta removed from a patient belonged to Donatello Fadda – a revelation Loy can use to end the war. The “how” part is unclear.
Two main characters will not be there to find out. After escaping from Deafy Wickware and the machinations of the two Mafia outfits, Odis decides to act like an honest cop and arrest the Fadda brothers. (His captain is hilarious in disbelief.) This immediately seals his fate. And after a season spent watching Gaetano upset his friends and foes, his accidental death is a testament to his essential character. He may have been able to stifle Loy’s attempt to turn him against his brother, but he was always stupid, destined to die as he lived.
The table is set for a final reduced to two major rivals, Loy and Josto, and a few others who could intervene. Will Happy’s alignment with the Faddas turn around now that Loy knows it and Gaetano is dead? What will happen when Zelmare inevitably returns to the scene? And after a tornado last week and the ghost of a slave ship captain this week, what crazy deus ex machina will conclude?
3 cent stamps:
There aren’t many references to Coen in this episode, but the way Gaetano died sounds like a joke in Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight”, in which another idiot with a gun stumbles while trying to go up a flight of stairs and shoot yourself in the lead.
The scene in which Satchel challenges the two white men who harass him on the road lends more credence to the popular fan theory that Loy’s youngest son will become Mike Milligan, the stylish hitman played by Bokeem Woodbine in the second. season.
OK, a very minor detail from Coen: the way the camera heads towards the Smutny’s front door as Oraetta breaks in at night is reminiscent of a signing gesture from Barry Sonnenfeld, who shot the first three films of Coen. It is also reminiscent of the camera work in “Evil Dead II”, which was done by Coen’s boyfriend Sam Raimi.