“The Land of Talking and Killing” bucks a trend by refusing to introduce a typical “hero”, instead weaving a complex web of rivalrous families, agents of chaos, and plenty more besides.
This recap of Fargo season 4, episode 2, “The Land of Talking and Killing”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The average American’s impression of a cop in 2020 is a far cry from the idealized, morally-upstanding lawman often seen in crime dramas – this is especially true for those who’re some kind of racial, ethnic, or sexual minority. You’ll recall that in its fourth season premiere, Fargo made a point that all of its major characters, not just the Black ones, were deemed un-American by the white powers-that-be, ostracized from polite society and left to fester in the criminal underworld. It might be set in the ‘50s, but “The Land of Talking and Killing” suggests this season of Fargo might be the most contemporary in its politics by introducing an obsessive-compulsive Kansas City cop, Odis Weff (Jack Huston), before quickly revealing that he’s deeply corrupt. A hero, he most certainly is not.
This only reinforces the idea of Ethelrida as not just our narrator but our moral anchor, the only fundamentally good character in this tapestry of corruption, psychopathy, greed, and gangsterism. This second episode adds two new components right from the jump in the form of Zelmare Roulette (Karen Aldridge) and Swanee Capps (Kelsey Asbille), escaped prisoners who find freedom in an opening obviously inspired by Raising Arizona (it’s always fun to spot nods to the wider Coen oeuvre.) Zelmare, as it turns out, is the sister of Ethelrida’s mother, Dibrell, so she and her accomplice head straight to the King of Tears, and in-between debating robbing a bank offer to help Dibrell and Thurman with their financial issues.
Nevertheless, funeral homes seem like smart investments in this kind of climate; King of Tears is busy enough to require replacement formaldehyde from a different establishment, which Ethelrida is sent across town to collect. She stumbles on the funeral of Donatello, which is attended by Gaetano Fadda (Salvatore Esposito), Josto’s brother who, in the previous episode, he declared wasn’t even American since he had been working in Italy, and Oraetta, for some reason, who continues to take a creepy interest in Ethelrida, continuing to be condescending and racist to her but also offering her some cleaning work, among other suggestive things.
“The Land of Talking and Killing” keeps Oraetta enigmatic, but it obviously has a keen interest in her. The scant information we do get only paints a starker picture. As it turns out, she’s in the habit of killing her patients and dressing up murder as mercy, but when she’s called out on it, she expertly negotiates her discovery to her own advantage. She’s clever and manipulative and clearly quite mad; the nature of her interest in Ethelrida is anyone’s guess.
With Donatello dead and buried, we also see the beginnings of a Fadda leadership struggle, as it quickly becomes apparent that Josto and Gaetano have radically different ways of looking at and doing things. Big brother carries bloody teeth around in his pocket, a reminder of wartime work with Mussolini, and if I were Josto, I’d have been worried about his return too. In its way, Fargo season 4, episode 2 is about family, particularly the contrasting habits of the Faddas and the Cannons. Satchel and Zero are briefly allowed to visit with their fathers, and we later witness the differing approaches to this unusual circumstance during Thanksgiving. Satchel is healthy and looked-after enough but is kept at arm’s-length with Rabbi, while Zero is if not embraced in the Cannon household then at least treated as if he were part of the family – for now, anyway.
Remember, we got a glimpse of Loy’s home life in the premiere, and saw it to be a far cry from his business dealings. But there are clearly some similarities in his approach to both family and work; he’s less hung-up on notions of loyalty and family and country, more open-minded in his way. He speaks respectfully to both Zero and Rabbi, building tentative alliances with both, especially given the presence of Gaetano, who he of course clashes with, especially when he and Doctor Senator, given seemingly no choice by Josto being unwilling to play ball, try to finesse a Fadda slaughterhouse. There’s some good, solid tension-building in “The Land of Talking and Killing”.
If this fourth season has a problem at this early stage, it continues to be including too much of everything so early. We get a whole bunch of new characters and dynamics here, some of which could have probably stood to be introduced later. With the sudden arrival of Gaetano, the entire Fadda situation is thrown into flux, and that’s without the subplot involving Josto’s pending nuptials to Dessie Gillis (Katie Kershaw), which seems a marriage of convenience for Jotso and Dessie’s ambitious alderman father Milvin. Jotso and Milvin openly hate each other but are perfectly willing to use Dessie to further their own ambitions; it’s difficult to tell which of the two cares about her the least, not that she seems to be able to notice either way.
Minor (at least for now) characters pop up all over the place, and while there’s every reason to believe that they’ll get interesting things to do later, that feeling of being overstuffed is difficult to ignore, and you feel it way before a big-name cameo in the episode’s cliffhanger ending. It’s obvious that we’re building towards all-out gang war between the Faddas and the Cannons, but exactly what role everyone else will play in that – including the enigmatic Oraetta – is anyone’s guess.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.