Episode 5, “The Cradle of Civilization”


Glynn Turman as Doctor Senator

Glynn Turman as Doctor Senator
Photo: Elizabeth Morris / FX

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It’s a problem of pace, I think, but it’s a difficult problem to pin down. This season of Fargo has gained momentum, and this week’s episode ends with a dramatic death, always a good way to get our attention. But while “The Birthplace O Civilization” has its share of strong scenes and striking visuals, there is a lightness, a void, that prevents these individual scenes from connecting with each other in the most intellectual way. This week’s theme is a little more clearly stated than usual, and it’s not bad, and there are moments of suspense. But whenever it seems like momentum is building, whenever it looks like the series can shift into a higher gear, there’s a hitch or character beat that doesn’t quite make it through. prevent making this transition.

Take the scene where Gaetano takes revenge on the teenager who laughs at him for slipping in the mirror. It has all the characteristics of FargoThe Approach to Violence: A Long, Slow Burn, a monologue that delays the inevitable even as it emphasizes the so-called inevitability (in this case Gaetano is talking about how Italy is harsher than the America), then the sudden, almost comical brutality of the murder. I don’t know if all of this is done badly, other than my problems with Salvatore Esposito’s performance. But I’m also not sure that’s a necessary scene. We know who Gaetano is at this point, we know he’s an angry guy, and we know he despises America. We know he is capable of violence. I guess this shows us that he’s capable of committing violence himself, and not just ordering it, but having him take down his aggression against random people we’ve never met before is a waste.

The problem is not that the sequence is explicitly bad. Its good. But it’s not so great that it absolutely has to be in the episode, and putting it in context with everything else, it mostly comes across as a distraction. There is a lot of characters in this season of Fargo, and it seems like each of them has their own plot to follow. That’s not confusing, as none of the individual plots are that complex (the characters can be bizarre, but their goals are all pretty clear, aside from the wild card that is Oraetta Mayflower), but it does lead to a broadcast of the concentration that makes it hard to care so much about any of them. There are characters that interest me more, but everything is diluted by the time we have to spend recording everywhere, so none of it seems absolutely vital.

Still, some parts stand out. Last week I complained that Odis Weff’s nervous tics were a little too weird; this week i was completely wrong when we get an explanation as to why the guy is acting like him. Two explanations, in fact. In the first, when Odis and his men come to arrest several members of Loy’s organization (in a two-pronged attack ordered by Josto in the previous episode; the other has the cops attacking a box of night where Lemuel and Leon watch some great jazz, stopping them both), Loy gives a monologue about how Odis was a minesweeper during the war – and he was good at his job too, until one day that Turned out too much for him and he just lay in the grass, lie that the job was done and let a senior officer blow himself up to pieces.

It’s rather good; Rock delivers the monologue quite well (his performance this week was a bit more relevant than usual, perhaps because he spent much of the hour being angry and threatening people), and it transforms Odis. the contractions of a showy writing and performance to something more complex and tragic. Then later in the episode, Deafy stops by Odis’ apartment and we learn the real reason Odis laid down on the grass: he had just received a letter from the house telling him that his fiancée had been raped and murdered. So now a guy who sounded like kind of a joke is someone who deserves our sympathy – which is why Jack Huston was in the role.

It works, and I should have waited before doing my review last week (luckily I’ll never make that mistake again) (sarcasm!), But I’m not sure this structure is the most efficient way to deal with it. the -up set and the reward. Loy’s monologue gives us enough context to make Odis more interesting in itself; discovering ten minutes later that his story is even sadder seems like a waste, when it is something that could have been held later in the season. To his favorite, FargoThe episodes have a kind of quirky internal logic that lets us think something deeper is going on, but while this season clearly tells a story, it tells it in a way that seems ineffective and self-defeating, forcing us to work harder. hard. to catch the convincing elements and ignore the rest.

The main events of this week are the aforementioned police strikes against Loy and his people; Loy takes over the funeral home and obtains the location of Zelmare and Swanee from the terrified Smutnys; Deaf getting said location from an equally frightened Ethelrida; Zelmare and Swanee leave with the cannons; and, the big event, Calamita shooting and killing Doctor Senator while Gaetano watched him, smiling. I’m sorry to see Doctor Senator go, as Glynn Turman is always a pleasure to have with him, but it was time for Loy to lose someone important to him, and given that the scene before Dr. Senator is yet another intense scene. men exchange threatening monologues, someone had to die or it would just have been silly.

We even have a little theme this week, thanks to Zelmare and Swanee explaining to Ethelrida why they are “outlaws” and not “criminals”. A criminal, you see, is someone who inherently respects the institution of civilization even as they violate their laws – a sort of ‘honor in the breach’ kind of thing, their illegal behavior designed with the ultimate goal of breaking down. ‘go straight and take their place alongside other honest citizens. Outlaws, on the other hand, reject all of this, taking whatever they want to survive and living outside normal conventions and rules.

This is what Zelmare and Swanee aspire to, even though we see the limits of such aspirations. It’s also a good way to explain the issues with Loy trying to go to war with the Faddas. Josto and his men are criminals; Loy and his men are outlaws who also want to believe they are criminals. Zelmare and Swanee can’t afford that luxury, and I won’t be completely surprised if Loy gets a hard lesson before the end of the season. Presumably, most of these people will die before the end. Some of those deaths will be ironic – the possibility of Josto being strangled or otherwise terminated by Oraetta seems likely (perhaps too likely) – but Loy’s fate will almost certainly be tied to his ambitions. It’s good to have that underlined at this point in the season, but I wish I had been confident that the series would be able to deliver on that promise.

Observations errantes

  • I don’t think Loy’s confrontation with his wife about their children really works. It gives Rock a chance to get angry, which is good, but we’ve seen his wife so little that it doesn’t matter. Like the Gaetano scene, it feels like something we’ve seen a thousand times before (the wife upset by her husband’s criminal activity), without enough specificity to make it fresh.
  • Ethelrida writes a letter to Dr Harvard, claiming to be a nurse who has worked with Oraetta in the past and informing him of his crimes. I don’t know if she sends it. It is also a light week in Oraetta; we just get a brief glimpse of her at work, banging her head against the wall as a patient moans.
  • Rabbi Milligan is determined to protect Loy’s young son in the chaos to come. I wouldn’t have made the connection between him and Mike Milligan since FargoIt’s the second season, but it’s a smart nod.
  • “Why fight for a country that wants me dead?” -Loy
  • “Here in America, respect is earned.” -Doctor Senator, leaving.


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