The ‘Fargo’ Frozen Five: The Body Count Rises In A Weird Little Detour To Oz

The Fargo Frozen Five is Uproxx’s weekly collection of thoughts, observations, and goofball screencaps from each new episode of the FX limited series’ fourth season. We do not guarantee that there will be five items every week. There could be four, or six, or a dozen. Who knows? This show doesn’t follow the rules. We shouldn’t have to either.

Episode 9 — “East/West” (or “YO, TORNADO”)

5a. Fargo is a show where almost anything can happen. That’s the important thing to remember in all of this. The alien attack in season two is the best and most memorable example because, well, aliens, but weird stuff happens all the time on this show, often involving chaos in the sky. Spaceships, sure, but also the thing where fish rained down from the sky in season one and, to a lesser degree, Scoot McNairy getting killed by a falling air conditioner in season three. When you go back and think about all of it, about the show’s long history of devastation from the heavens, is it really all that strange that three characters got sucked up into a tornado in the middle of a gunfight in a black and white episode that loosely followed the structure of The Wizard of Oz? I mean, it is, yes, there’s no denying that on principle. That is not something that happens on most other shows. But… is it? For Fargo? You could make a pretty compelling argument that it’s par for the course, which is just about the best argument for this show I can think of.


5b. But let’s zoom in, from macro to micro. Rabbi Milligan and Satchel Cannon are running, from the Faddas and from Calamita and from anyone else who happens to be behind them. Their travels take them to Liberal, Kansas, a small town with a creepy hotel run by two wicked sisters (your witches of the East and West) and one filling station and a furniture/appliance store that used to be another establishment that once had a wall that had 5,000 of Rabbi Milligan’s dollars hidden behind it. Calamita and Omie Sparkman face off at the filling station. Satchel and the Rabbi meet a crew of characters at the boarding house: an old man getting medical care; a slick salesman named Hunk Swindell; a pastor named Roanoke and a creepy old man named Major Hamar. Satchel finds a neat little doggie. The action shifts from black and white to Technicolor. The Wizard of Oz of it all is undeniable.

4. How long did it take you to realize this is where things were headed? I’d like to lie and tell you I picked up on it all very quickly, but the truth is that I didn’t see it until some point between the discovery of the dog and the gangster-swallowing tornado at the end. I’m going to chalk that up to the thing I mentioned before about Fargo being weird enough for anything to happen, to the degree that I saw a black and white episode unfolding without most of the main cast and I was like “Hmm, cool” for a good 35-40 minutes before the hamster who runs the critical thinking wheel in my brain started limbering up.

3. If we are to assume, as I choose to believe, that young Satchel Cannon takes his dog and keeps running and one day becomes Mike Milligan, the seeds of a lot of that transformation are here in this episode. Start at the end and work backward, with him and the world brightly colorized as he stares at that “THE FUTURE IS NOW” billboard, the one that vexed Rabbi Milligan when it was incomplete and that kept that sign worker employed right up until it was completed. Then look at young Satchel having a moment because he “just wanted one thing” for his birthday, a birthday no one remembered, not the father who traded him for power and now thinks he’s dead, not the guardian who ends up hoovered into the heavens while on a guilt-fueled cupcake hunt, not anyone. Have you ever seen anything so sad? I’m glad he has the dog now. I’m glad he’s free. I’m glad he — probably — ends up becoming a loquacious mobster who makes his own way in the world. I hope the dog lives a long and happy life full of running in fields and snacks from the dinner table and satisfying belly scratchies. It’s dawning on me now that I care about this dog more than I care about most of the human characters on the show. I feel okay about it.


2a. Speaking of the human characters… that’s where this gets interesting. The previous episode ended with a shootout in a train station that killed Deafy Wickware and Swanee Capps, and a shootout at the Fadda home that killed various henchmen and Mama Fadda. Oraetta was about to hit the road to escape potential felony charges related to her strychnine macaroons but discovered Ethelrida’s role in ratting her out and was staring out a window with murder in her eyes. There’s a war brewing back home that’s about to be fought on a number of fronts. Taking a literal and figurative detour down a blood-soaked yellow brick road made for a fun episode that gave some secondary characters a little room to breathe, and let the creators flash a little creative muscle, and sucked Calamita into a damn twister just a few episodes after he took a scalding gun barrel to the cheek (tough run for that guy, but fun for me at home), but it all also left a lot to deal with in the home stretch. It makes me think this could all go in one of two directions: One, a little side-stepping, where not everything gets resolved and we all just have to learn to live with it, with some characters surviving but in a weird limbo regarding their future; two, non-stop violence until the end credits, blood flowing in the streets, as the Faddas seek revenge for the death of their mother and the Cannons continue their assault over Satchel’s “death” and Oraetta and Ethelrida circling each other like French-fluent cobras and Zelmare out for revenge against the entire world for taking Swanee away. And there are the ghosts. Again, a lot. It’ll be a fun experiment, if nothing else.


2b. Well, fine, I’ll just say it: I missed my hefty furious boy Gaetano very much this week. I bet he would have tried to punch the tornado. I also bet, if Fargo continues for many more seasons, there will be a character named Punch Tornado at some point.

1. Fish sticks for dinner at 5 p.m. every day is no way to live life, even if you are regaled with a critical analysis of the Goldilocks story that very justifiably points out what an unsatisfying end the story has, with Goldilocks left to continue roaming around homeless, probably burglarizing other homes in search of food and shelter, kind of like young Satchel Cannon is left to do now. It’s a whole thing. It ties back together. It’s a nice bit of storytelling in an episode that was very Coen-y from beginning to end, in a way that made for a great hour that might handcuff the remainder of the season. I suppose we’ll see. I cannot abide that many fish sticks, though. A line must be drawn somewhere.

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