“The Pretend War” continues to lay the groundwork for a brutal conflict, even if it’s unclear yet how all the pieces fit together.
This recap of Fargo season 4, episode 4, “The Pretend War”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
One of the best scenes in “The Pretend War” comes early, and is, in fact, one from which the episode takes its name. It’s another sit-down meeting between Ebal and Doctor Senator, but in a clever twist on last week’s version of the same, it’s Ebal who gets the monologue. He explains how when he first came to America, he knew nothing – what to eat, how to dress, how to act, all of it was a mystery to him. But he figured it out. He understood that financial values were what a thing is worth; human values were what a thing really means. But so-called “American values” he was never quite able to get to grips with. The best he could come up with was that being an American is playing pretend; laying claim to land that was stolen in the first place. Fair enough. But Ebal isn’t good at that. He can’t pretend that the Faddas and the Cannons aren’t at war if they are – and he has every reason to believe they are.
This is all a response to a stylish opening scene in which the Cannons jacked a weapon-smuggling Fadda truck with a fiery barricade and branded Constant’s face with the searing barrel of a rifle, which was itself a reaction to the raid on Loy’s safe house and the attempt on his son’s life. You’ll recall, though, that the robbery was conducted by a flatulent Zelmare and Swanee entirely independently of the Faddas, and Ebal had no knowledge of the hit on Lemuel. This all comes as news to him. The Cannons have been puzzling over who’s really pulling the Fadda’s strings at this point, and it seems like Ebal doesn’t know either.
Because of all this uncertainty, Loy is smart not to take a rash approach. He sends most of the stolen guns north to Mort Kellerman in Fargo, selling them at cost but in exchange for devotion. Even with 100 of the firearms left over, he doesn’t point any at the Faddas. When he shakes down one of their number, it’s Rabbi, who he perceives as an outsider anyway, and even then it’s with a knife – a quieter, more personal weapon that makes less of a statement but still draws blood. You can’t cut off the head of the snake, after all, if you can’t tell one end from the other.
There’s also a chance that if Loy is patient enough Josto, the ostensible head of the Fadda family, will end up either killing himself with an overdose or getting strangled to death by Oraetta while trying to earn the drugs in the first place. It’s hard to tell at this point whether Josto is smitten with his new lady friend or the narcotics she seems to have an infinite supply of, and that mystery isn’t lost on her either. If I were him, I wouldn’t become too dependent on a woman who likes to have sex with two hands around your throat, but then again he’d probably prefer her hands to Gaetano’s. At this point, either of them seems likely to choke him. And while the few remaining loyalists in the Fadda ranks – including Rabbi – might be willing to rally around him for now, we all know what rats do when a ship starts taking on water.
And the Fadda ship is undoubtedly getting a bit leaky, especially since Deafy has decided that he’ll be remaining in Kansas City, close to Odis. And Deafy isn’t fond of Italians, happily recalling to Gaetano and Constant how, when a couple tried to move into Salt Lake City and make junkies of its sons and w****s of its daughters, they were dragged for miles behind horses until their heads popped off. Deafy is a bit like Oraetta, in some respects. Both are pretty finicky about manners and language and such things, both are, at least thus far, somewhat outside the central conflict but intimately related to, and it isn’t immediately obvious how either is going to factor into the rest of the story. Nevertheless, though, the implication is clear – Deafy is in opposition to the Italians, who’re in opposition to the Cannons, and there’s no way their paths won’t cross again.
Speaking of Oraetta, her weird sexual peccadilloes are only the tip of an iceberg that includes a closet full of trophies from various killings – including Donatello’s ring – and a somewhat romanticized idea of the world that Oraetta believes positions her outside of its rules and norms. Of course, it’s Ethelrida, looking to earn some money by organizing her apartment, who stumbles upon the evidence of what Oraetta’s really up to and leaves signs of her meddling behind. If “The Pretend War” doesn’t quite make clear how all these plot threads are going to intertwine, it at least promises that they will – and when they do, nothing pleasant will come of it.
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