“East/West” is the weirdest but also one of the best episodes of Fargo‘s fourth season, a daring deviation into metaphor with dire consequences.
This recap of Fargo season 4, episode 9, “East/West”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“East/West” is a deliberately weird episode of television, even by Fargo standards. It has all kinds of perplexing structural and artistic flourishes, leaves Kansas City for especially Coen-y parts unknown, delves into the meta connective tissue of the show’s only loosely-connected storytelling, clips back the typically thorny monologues, and works, on some level, as a metaphorical standalone homage to The Wizard of Oz. Except you can’t really classify it as a bottle episode since it’s jam-packed with eccentric new characters, several familiar ones, actually seems quite expensive, and advances the season’s overarching plot with the death of a few pretty important characters and the abandonment of another.
Like I said – it’s weird.
It’s also kind of great, both in terms of what happens and how much fun unpacking the rest of it is. Framed by Omie’s hunt for Constant Calamita, he trips and falls into a storybook setting right outside the town of Liberal, Kansas, where a Bertrand Russell epigraph and some torn pages from The History of True Crime in the Wild West tell us to expect to witness the fate of one doomed Willy Bupor in the lonely filling station where he works as an attendant. While we see – in tasteful monochrome – Omie arrive with his Fadda captive, Aldo, and settle in to wait for Constant, most of “East/West” is devoted to Rabbi and Satchel, who’re on the run from the worsening Kansas City gang war.
Rabbi and Satchel find themselves in black and white, too, as well as in Liberal, and as guests at a rooming house called Barton Arms, a former home of a murderous family now split literally in two by warring sisters and stocked full of eccentric guests. They find a little dog named Rabbit locked in their room’s armoire – one of many Oz references – and meet many of the brilliantly-named guests, including Hickory J. Milch, off to Texas to make a fortune in oil, and Pastor Roanoke. The place is like a filing cabinet for characters with really Coen-y names and quirky backstories that can’t fit in any overarching narrative.
The ironic way in which Liberal is grounded in reality is that it’s deeply racist. Rabbi spends most of his time there becoming steadily more annoyed and dangerous after spending the entire season, more or less, being characterized as unusually compassionate, at least for a gangster. He begins to take particular issue with a guy putting up a billboard which, half-completed, reads “The Future Is…”. By the time he’s heading to the doomed gas station where we know Omie and Calamita and ill-fated Willy Bupor are, the sign has been completed – it reads “The Future Is Now.” Satchel walks past it later, accompanied by Rabbit and nobody else, presumably thinking that the future won’t be any more accommodating to him that the past was.
Rabbi, meanwhile, never makes it out of that gas station. Neither do Calamita or Omie. All three are swept up by a tornado, presumably never to be seen again. In the context of “East/West”, that barely seems unusual.
Thanks for reading our recap of Fargo season 4, episode 9, “East/West”. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?