‘Fargo’ Season 4 Episode 5 Review: We learn a valuable lesson on race even as we lose one of the best characters
Spoilers for ‘Fargo’ Season 4 Episode 5, ‘The Birthplace of Civilization’.
It may sound like a broken record when you say that ‘Fargo’ has amazing writing. But that doen't make it less true. And apropos of that, episode 5 of ‘Fargo’ season 4 is some of the best writing the show has ever seen. The episode chronicles the escalation of aggression between the Fadda crime family and Loy Cannon’s gang. And that escalation was as inevitable as entropy. But it is not the escalation that makes it phenomenal as a chapter. Rather, it is what is said in that context. ‘Fargo’ season 4 is obviously heavily about race. More than season 2, which admittedly was a great story about race and class. But with season 4, it is no longer subliminal messaging. It is a story of capitalism and its unreliable intersection with race in America.
It begins with Josto Fadda using the police to attack Loy’s outfit. White cops attacking Black men without evidence. Cops even choke a Black man - it’s on the nose but it’s important. But what is absolutely powerful is when Josto explains to Loy’s imprisoned men how Americans love criminals and underdogs winning fights against the proverbial man but only if they are White. He even takes a dig at future president Donald Trump. Again, it’s on the nose. But it’s really good.
The episode makes a good case for the kind of subtle racism that exists even in our biases for stories. How we view certain people as the heroes (even if they are morally suspect) and we view certain people as bad (no matter where their moral compass’ north lies) just because of the color of their skin.
Of course, even beyond the power of this message, the episode itself (in terms of story) also devastates. Doctor Senator, one of the show’s best characters, is killed. The worst thing about his death is the utter inevitability of it. One could already feel it in their guts in the previous episode that this was about to happen when he and his men attacked Constant. But this did not take anything away from the blow of his death. At the cafe where he meets Ebal regularly to discuss the philosophies of their individual criminal organizations, Doctor is surprised to see Constant sitting in his usual seat. As Gaetano silently eats a sundae in a corner booth, Constant threatens him. Doctor reminds him while putting sugar in his coffee that “respect is earned” and that “you’re just boys making a mess that one day I’m going to have to clean up.”
As Doctor walks out, Constant guns him down. Later that night, we see an upset Loy and his crew visit the still-untouched crime scene.
For some people, the constant conversations in ‘Fargo’ -- the speechification of dialogue, if you may -- can get tiring. And admittedly, it is not a thing that everyone loves when they want to watch a crime dramedy. But it is one of the things that make it a good show. And this episode was ample reason why many love the show.
‘Fargo’ Season 4 airs every Sunday at 9 pm ET, only on FX.