4×01: “Welcome to the Alternate Economy”
Directed & Written by Noah Hawley
* For recaps & reviews of previous seasons, click here.
* For a recap & review of “The Land of Taking and Killing,” click here.
Ethelrida Pearl Smutney (E’myri Crutchfield) is writing a history report, quoting Frederick Douglass about the paradoxes of slavery and freedom. She gets hauled to the principal’s office for a hard belting. We hear some history about Kansas City, like the Moskowitz Syndicate, a bunch of Hebrews with control over the city’s underbelly. After that the Irish turned up, forming the Milligan Concern. This caused friction. So, each side offered up “their youngest son” as a trade to keep peace, to raise the enemy’s son in order to find common ground. In 1928, things in Kansas City turned violent as the Irish took up arms against the Jews. They used the traded son, and then they gave him a gun to kill the Moskowitz boy who’d been put in his place. The boy fired with help from his father, killing the other traded son.
1934. The Fadda family, a group of Italians, arrived to stake their claim on the city, bringing another supposed truce into being between them and the Irish. Another trade of sons, then. But would that truce, in fact, last? Could the sons assimilate to their enemy families? Ethelrida knows about assimilation. She knows it’s not as easy as trying to “become American” in a country that’s built upon the blood and sweat of immigrants. And back in the early ’30s, the Irish found themselves double-crossed just like what they’d done to the Jews years before, and this time it wasn’t a son helping his father, it was a son taking revenge for being given away. And the son was the one to put a bullet in his father’s head this time, too.
We find out Ethelrida’s got a white father, Thurman (Andrew Bird), and a Black mother, Dibrell (Anji White). The husband-wife team run a funeral home: dad does the white services, and mom looks after the Black services. Not exactly an easy environment for a family living through the 1950s. We get a dose of that from Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley) who thinks Ethelrida is “certainly the product of miscegenation” and proceeds to paw all over the girl’s dark skin. Yikes. Probably just a day in the life for Ethelrida and her parents.
1949. The Fadda family were suddenly dealing with a lone Black man, Loy Cannon (Chris Rock). Loy did actually come with back-up, he just didn’t bring them out to lineup immediately as expected. He calls his pals out from all over the street, from alleys and cars around the corner. He’s got just as much family as anybody else, even if they’re not all related. And Loy doesn’t do the traditional spit shake. No, he’s more inclined to offer a blood oath. What about the trade of sons? Loy goes through with that part of tradition. But will he be able to use that to his advantage later? Or will his son resent him like Rabbi Milligan (Ben Whishaw) did his Irish father?
Soundtrack: “I’ve Got a Sousamaphone” by Riot Jazz Brass Band
The year is now 1950. Donatello Fadda (Tommaso Ragno) and Loy Cannon continue to try working together as best they can. Meanwhile, Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman) is less amicable about Black-white relations, starting trouble with some of Cannon’s men over nothing. Loy doesn’t like the way Donatello treats him as the help, but he sees them as “both in the gutter together” as far as White America’s concerned. An uneasy alliance. Josto spends his time trying to convince his father that Blacks aren’t to be trusted.
“Be who you need to be.
Don’t forget who you are.”
At a stop sign, the Italians think they’re about to be assassinated by some Black men. Donatello’s nearly having a heart attack in the backseat, but it turns out to just be a lot of stuck gas. Then he accidentally gets shot in the neck by a boy with a BB gun, opening a hole in his throat. His men rush off to the hospital. They wind up having to deal with hospital administration who only deal with “a certain class of people,” as in not Italian. For all the power the Fadda family has they’re effectively powerless in traditional society. They manage to get Donatello to another hospital, but he’s not doing well after losing so much blood. They’re left in a Vito Corleone situation. Josto also runs into Oraetta at St. Bartholomew’s and gets some drugs, which they happily share.
Elsewhere, Loy and Doctor Senator (Glynn Turman) are looking into new business opportunities. They’re pitching the idea of credit cards and the appearance of wealth. They need a white bank to help push this “financial instrument” through the market. They don’t get the reception for which they’d been hoping. Let’s hope that white banker isn’t going to steal their idea, either. Highly probable.
Things at the Cannon house are odd, now that they’ve got a little Italian boy living with them in place of their son. Loy tries to assure his wife it’s all temporary. Something tells me she’s a smart woman who knows that’s not exactly the case. The Fadda family are busy making sure nobody sneaks into St. Bartholomew’s to finish off the job on Donatello in his weakened state. Someone’s always watching the boss, and Minnesotan Oraetta’s there for comfort, too. The nurse might not be quite Florence Nightingale. She’s actually more of an angel of death, putting Donatello out of his misery under cover of darkness. Then she pulls the ring of his finger with her teeth. What a woman!
That night, Ethelrida asks her father what’ll happen to her out there in the world, outside of the comfort of their family. He tells her she’ll find her place. She desperately wants to know about some men in their house after the funeral. Thurman says they’re having money troubles— Dibrell didn’t want to say anything in front of their daughter, out of pride. This worries his daughter. But dad assures things will work out fine. Will those money troubles somehow get the Smutney family mixed up with the mob? Hmm. And what about Oraetta, living just across the road? Are they safe from her? Hard to tell what further role she’ll play.
Fargo is a great series, all the way through. I’ve personally loved each season, albeit some more than others. Season 4 is off to a fantastic, intriguing start. Excited to see where these characters go, because, as you know, Fargo‘s an unpredictable show that offers plenty of surprises.