Life is nothing but a competition to be a criminal rather than the victim. Episode 9 of Fargo Season 4 begins with these words showing on screen as the camera smoothly tracks across rubble.
Complete with a black and white lens for its entirety, the race to find Rabbi and Satchel continues as Omie finds himself in hot pursuit. Stopping by a nearby petrol station for refuge, Omie agrees to help paint the place in exchange for keeping him and his hostage safe. This works out fine… until Constant rocks up in his car. Omie shoots his hostage dead and we cut to black, specifically back 24 hours to follow our fleeing duo.
Rabbi and Satchel pass a sign for Kansas and decide to hold up for the night at a secluded, solitary hotel. Tellingly, there’s a billboard by the side of the road that says “The Future Is”. It’s half-finished and a visual motif that’s repeatedly constantly this episode. Watch this space.
After making sure Satchel is safe in his hotel room, Rabbi heads off to an old building where he stashed $5000 dollars in the past. When he arrives though, Rabbi realizes the wall he left it in originally has been knocked down. Defeated, he turns and walks away.
Satchel meanwhile finds a dog in his wardrobe and follows it al the way down to the ground floor. A charming but slippery man named Dale Cairney greets him and asks one simple question: “East or West?” As the pair get talking, Rabbi returns and breaks up this chit-chat.
After an evening of conversation and food with these colourful hotel residents, Rabbi and Satchel head back on the road again. That billboard from earlier? Rabbi stops by this time and asks the worker nearby exactly what it’s supposed to say.
“You’ll have to wait for it to finish.” He says back. “It’s not right to live with uncertainty,” Rabbi replies irritably, heading back into town again to get his money.
This time though, Rabbi is not messing around. He shows up at the department store and holds the owner up at gunpoint. He asks them for the money and manages to get his lucrative funds back. Or…well… what’s left of it.
Rabbi curses his luck but heads out the door as a nosy police officer appears and demands Satchel get out the car. He does no such thing but thankfully Rabbi manages to stop this situation from escalating.
After collecting what’s left of his funds, Rabbi and Satchel head back to the hotel. It turns out it’s actually Satchel’s birthday and, feeling obliged to get him something sweet, Rabbi heads back on the road again.
The billboard has been completed and the full sign reads “The Future Is Now!” This worker goes on to explain that this could mean seizing the day.
Rabbi makes it to the petrol station we saw at the beginning of the episode and immediately senses something up. The wind blows mercilessly as Rabbi takes out his gun and finds Constant holding Omie up at gunpoint. He notices Rabbi though and shoots him in the shoulder.
Omie then shoots Constant. Constant shoots Omie back and just as all hope looks lost a giant tornado suddenly appears and whisks everyone away.
Back at the hotel, Satchel finds himself all alone and those people he once thought were quirky and colourful seem to hold a much more menacing presence now. This is particularly interesting given it occurs when Satchel opens the door and colour floods back into the scene.
With no Rabbi in sight and Satchel all alone, he heads back on the road again with his new dog and walks up to the billboard by the end of the road. Looking at the words, we fade to black.
The Episode Review
Bottle episodes can sometimes be great. Season 1 of Warrior for example featured a wonderful ode to the old Westerns with a shoot-out in a saloon that served to also further the characters and their motivations.
Here though, Fargo chooses style over substance and what artistic intrigue and thought provoking themes there could be is lost with an over-explained plot line and some disappointing character work.
Omie, for example, is unceremoniously dumped (or blown away) without a decent ending while Rabbi’s kindness sees him meet an untimely end too. While this has perhaps been orchestrated by the bill-board, the fact this occurs thanks to a tornado rather than a significant character is a bit disappointing.
This leads nicely onto the subject of the billboard. The first time this is shown it’s a nice inclusion and a thought provoking one at that – especially given the ambiguity of what it could mean. Constantly showing this throughout the episode though loses its effectiveness and power that it could have had.
In fact, it could easily be rectified by not showing what it says. You could still have Rabbi ask what the billboard means without showing the sign until the last frame where “The Future Is Now” could be left to our own interpretation.
As bottle episodes go, this is not one to remember and while many will enjoy the art and the black and white visuals, the episode leaves the plot stuttering and the pacing a bit of a mess -which has actually been a problem throughout this season. Ah well, with 2 episodes to go this feels more like a proverbial deep breath before the final plunge.