‘Fargo’s Best Duo Isn’t Who You Think

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The Big Picture

  • Fargo Season 4 delves into the origins of crime and gang violence, offering a deeper understanding of characters.
  • The complex relationship between Josto Fadda and Oraetta Mayflower highlights the contradictions within their characters and explores the morality of their crimes.
  • Fargo Season 4 raises important questions about morality in crime and the ironic cycle of violence perpetuated by characters trying to outsmart each other.


Double-acts and odd-couples are a staple of our Fargo diets and have been since the 1996 original. The movie went on to inspire Noah Hawley‘s FX series that features a brand-new story each season, all cut from the same thematic and tonal cloth as the film. In the movie, Steve Busciemi and Peter Stormare star as a criminal duo that became the stencil for Season One’s Mr Wrench (Russell Harvard) and Mr Numbers (Adam Goldberg) as well as Season Two’s Kitchen Brothers (Todd Mann and Brad Mann). The series also gave us the pairings of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor, and Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst respectively, both of whom became real-life couples as a result of their odd-couple work on the show. But none come close to the hilariously dark antics of Jason Schwartzman and Jessie Buckley.

Although the show’s fourth season is almost-unanimously the fans’ least favorite, there is still lots it has to offer, including fleeting moments of series highs. After being shot by a BB gun, Sardinian mob boss Donatello Fadda (Tommaso Ragno) is taken to a hospital where his son Josto (Schwartzman) begins a relationship with nurse Oraetta Mayflower (Buckley). Disarmed by her jolly persona, the audience is later surprised to witness Oraetta killing Donatello with a morphine injection and stealing his ring. This is where Fargo introduces us to “The Angel of Death” and the odd-couple that allows the series to explore the depths of murderous minds.

Fargo

Various chronicles of deception, intrigue, and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. All of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, North Dakota.

Release Date
April 15, 2014

Cast
Juno Temple, Jon Hamm, Joe Keery, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Rysdahl, Lamorne Morris, Richa Moorjani, Dave Foley

Seasons
5

Studio
FX


‘Fargo’s Fourth Season Is About the Personification of Murder

Fargo Season 4 is narrated by teenager Ethelrida Pearl Smutny (E’myri Crutchfield). In the first episode, she establishes the origins of the rivaling Kansas City mobs. “Whoever was last off the boat, finding the doors of honest capitol closed, rolled up their sleeves and got to work getting rich the old-fashioned way.” Fargo explores ground-level American crime, but this season provides an explanation as to how and why these crime stories came to be so prominent. Each new ethnic group finds themselves marginalized, forced to fight for their place on top. It may not entirely endear us to the idea of gang violence, but it certainly offers us a deeper understanding of characters like Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), and this season’s Loy Cannon (Chris Rock).

As the season to explore these roots in the most detail, it stands to reason that it also takes the most time to analyze the minds of different kinds of killers, personified here by Josto Fadda and Oraetta Mayflower. Donatello’s death means Josto inherits the role of boss, which sends him on a journey of conflicting morals and desperation for respect. Oraetta, on the other hand, is a nurse and a serial killer, which may sound contradictory, but in fact, her willingness to surround herself with pained patients and those in need of the mercy of death goes hand in hand with her desire to take lives. Where the contradictions really do creep in, however, is in her relationship with Josto. These characters represent two sides of the same coin; those whose lives are inherently burdened with the responsibility of killing others, be that due to compulsion, as in the case of Oraetta, or due to the system they’re born into, as in the case of Josto.

Oraetta Mayflower and Josto Fadda are ‘Fargo’s Best Odd-Couple

As well as being two fantastic actors performing two hilariously-written roles, this coupling illuminates the complex layers within each of them. While coming to terms with his new responsibilities, Josto finds Oraetta to be a maternal constant in his life, unaware of her dark side. He confesses his love for her, which she brushes off. Despite his desire to be feared as a ruthless leader, Josto is ultimately a child out of his depth. When forced to, Josto instructs Antoon (Sean Fortunato) to have Loy’s son Satchel (Rodney L. Jones III) killed. This is an example of ordering the death of a child, but knowing that if he were forced to look the child in the eye himself and pull the trigger, he would find the task too difficult due to his persistent moral conscience. Oraetta, on the other hand, relishes the act of killing, always unflinchingly face-to-face with her victims.

After Ethelrida finds Donatello’s ring in Oraetta’s apartment, it is used as a peace-broking gesture with the Fadda family. Oraetta confesses that Josto’s words seemed to imply an indirect order for her to kill Donatello, and the two are sentenced to death by the mob. While his orders may have only been a half-truth, this ultimately just goes to show that, in typical Fargo fashion, karma has a funny way of bringing justice to all types of killers, even if they’re punished for entirely different crimes. Josto pleads to gunman Joe Bulo (Evan Mulrooney), “Hasn’t there been enough killing?” The irony of Josto asking this question only once it’s his turn to die triggers laughs from Joe and even Oraetta. But Josto elaborates about the bigger picture, “This is it – what they make us do […] we eat each other!” Hilariously, Oraetta requests Joe to kill Josto first so she can watch, and both are swiftly executed. But Josto’s question survives, echoing throughout the series.

This Odd-Couple Raises ‘Fargo’s Most Important Questions

Jason Schwartzman and Jessie Buckley in Fargo Season 4
Image via FX

Fargo Season 4 sees differing gangs double-crossing each other in order to have them eliminate themselves. It’s suggested, as the season progresses, that this is a commentary on how the entire gang war is merely a ruse by the governmental system to let the ethnic crime problem take care of itself. The irony is that when faced with this revelation of puppetry, characters find themselves desperate to prove their own self-governing power and this often results in more acts of murder, which again appeases those they’re trying to outsmart. Joe Bulo even had his own poetic fate solidified back in Season 2, where he (played by Brad Garrett) is captured in a similar-looking area to where he executed Josto and Oraetta, and Josto’s words seemingly come back to haunt him.

When Josto learns of Oraetta’s twisted crimes, he undoubtedly sees himself on the moral high ground, having not intentionally asked her to commit such a heinous act himself. But just because Mayflower’s eager crimes are not the product of a pre-established organization, does it mean her crimes are any more evil than his? It’s pairings like these that bring depth to Fargo, and explore the questions of morality in crime. This is something the Coen Brothers have long-discussed in their countless crime stories, and these contradictions between two similar-but-opposite people are precisely what Fargo is about. After all, it’s only once Marge (Frances McDormand) finally meets Gaear in the movie, that the film finally poses its complex thematic question. “And for what? A little bit of money. And it’s a beautiful day…”

All seasons of Fargo are available to stream on Hulu in the U.S.

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