Who is truly king in the land of taking and killing?
The episode begins at a secure facility as we close in on a woman trying her damnedest to break through a drainage pipe grate. She manages to escape, pulling out another woman with her as they celebrate their freedom.
The women, Zelmare Roulettte, played by Karen Aldridge, and Swanee Capps, played by Kelsey Asbille, head into town and clean up in the women’s washroom. They admire the getup of the woman who clearly doesn’t get the point that she’s supposed to volunteer her coat. As they exit the facilities, a man approaches and asks which of them wants to take a ride with this strapping buckaroo. Sounds enticing, am I right?
Over at home, Ethelrida hears some noise, but Dibrell tells her to get back to bead. Turns out that Zelmare is Dibrell’s sister. The two have arrived, escaping of their own recognizance, but Dibrell informs them that they can’t stay. Ethelrida is found out and comes down to give her aunt a hug, but Dibrell warns her sister to not get any ideas.
Swanee and Dibrell explain that they’ve got prospects in bank robbing, so Dibrell again tells Ethelrida to get to bed. Grown folk talk again. Swanee and Zelmare explain their escape and decided to come bail out Dibrell since she’s in the hole with some big-time leg-breakers, but Dibrell refuses her sister’s help. Thurmane, meanwhile, regrets taking the loan.
Over at the hospital, Dr. Harvard speaks with a Mrs. Mathilda Will about her plan to open a cancer ward. She’s fine with the arrangements. Just no Jews. That’s her only request. Well, you can’t please everybody.
As the two head outside, they’re ambushed when a car of Italians speed by and open fire. Though Dr. Harvard was probably the intended target, the Italians manage to hit just about everyone but him. I guess there’s no accounting for aim, either.
Ethelrida heads to the Kingdom of Mercy Funeral Home to retrieve the formaldehyde her father wanted. There’s been problems with the Italians, so she’s advised to wait for what she needs. The Italians aren’t exactly fond of the Coloreds.
Indeed, the Fadda family is mourning the loss of Donatello. Nurse Mayflower turns up and is surprised to see that Ethelrida speaks French. Josto storms out, recognizing the nurse, who tells him that his father went peacefully. Still, Josto is livid that some people are still breathing air while other, better people, like Donatello, are buried in the ground.
Even though, as one of the men points out, Donatello hasn’t actually been buried yet.
Josto’s mother has also arrived, and she’s grieving as well. She suspects that Josto took his father’s ring, though Josto counters that no one took anything from Donatello. Josto’s younger brother, Gaetano Fadda, played by Salvatore Esposito, talks about killing Communists during the war. It was good for the family and business was good.
But then the Americans came and the war turned. Il Duce was no longer good for business, so they had to make a choice. First, they killed Mussolini and hung him upside down in the town square. Gaetano even keeps teeth in a tin as a reminder of how things work: business, family, and country. Gaetano demands to know what Josto was on during the war, but Josto wants to know what side his brother is on now.
Meanwhile, police investigate the crime scene at the hospital. One officer, Odis Weff, played by Jack Huston, in particular counts the number of bullets.
He speaks to Dr. Harvard about the shooting. The administrator wants the hatchet men charged with murder. He’s no bigot, but men of Italian origin were turned away not that long ago and believes they were the shooters. Weff isn’t really convinced that they’re the cause of this shooting. He needs Dr. Harvard to know for certain that the men who opened fire are the same ones he had removed from the hospital.
However, Dr. Harvard admits that he only saw the gun. That and the blue Ford that the men drove. Before Weff exits, he knocks on the door over and over and over again before finally opening it. Seems our detective might have a case of OCD.
Loy brings Zero to meet his family while explaining that while he’s not his father, he’s responsible for him. Still, the people inside are his blood. He explains to Zero that the way to determine if the people inside love him is if they look him in the eye and come to his level. That way, he knows that he’s not just along for the ride. Loy wants Satchel brought out first.
Gaetano is also here and tries to talk with Zero, but Loy tells him to back off. Before the two can come to blows, Josto comes out and orders his brother to stand down. Zero heads inside just as Satchel is brought out, but Loy invites Josto to talk in the future to talk things out now that the situation has changed. As far as Josto is concerned, though, nothing’s changed.
Loy is reunited with his son and learns from Rabbi Milligan, played by Ben Whishaw, that his son is being fed and sleeps well. He’s also receiving an education in that the world is a dog-eat-dog world. But Loy says that’s how dogs work. Men are more complicated.
Loy asks about Gaetano, but Milligan has no idea how long Gaetano will be sticking around. While Loy is concerned about Satchel’s safety, Milligan assures Loy that nobody interferes with the boy, as he’s entirely in Milligan’s care. Satchel is still ready to come home, but there’s still no telling when yet. Loy then informs Milligan to tell Josto that the two of them need to talk. Satchel is left to watch as his father leaves him.
Following this, Doctor Senator informs Loy that he reached out to three other banks, but none are biting on the credit card idea. He didn’t mention the idea, but did say that this is a groundbreaking financial instrument, and they could be the first on their block.
Loy figures that they can just keep this plan in their neighborhood. After all, how do they know that someone else won’t burn down the Colored neighborhood once they hit it big. They need White restaurants, banks, and establishments- not the other way around. Loy then brings up Josto’s brother- he’s younger, but a hell of a lot bigger, indicating that that there could be a power struggle between Gaetano and Josto.
Doctor Senator suggests that they expand now before the Italians get their heads on straight, though Loy wonders if this is a ploy to make the Cannon Limited crew spread thin. Fair, so Doctor suggests starting small and test the flanks to gauge their response.
Loy remembers that before Donatello died, the two talked about taking over the slaughterhouse. Thus, their position: Loy asked, and Donatello gave permission. So Loy says, anyway. Thus, Doctor will take Opan and his crew. Meanwhile, Senator asks Loy how far he’ll go with this, in case it becomes a skirmish or war. Money’s coming in and business is heating up. Maybe they just get rich anyway, so why stress the system?
As for who else is in the groove? The lion in the cage. He paces back and forth. Doctor counters by pointing out that the lion with his head mounted on the wall has no groove. Instead, he just has the smile forced on his face. I suppose that’s one way to put it.
At the same time, Josto, Gaetano, and the rest of the Italians figure that the Coloreds will make a move to test them. These spooks are twisted, always with their handouts. If they’re so hungry, let them eat bullets. Ebal, played by Francesco Acquaroli, says that murder is bad for business, but as far as Gaetano is concerned, murder is business.
Still, Josto sees no need for murder. They’ll just respect the deal. Gaetano is fine, though not happy about it. But he’s not going anywhere for a few days.
The meeting is interrupted by a pair of visitors: Josto’s fiancé, Dessie Gillis, played by Katie Kershaw, and her father, Milvin, played by Eric Slater, who wants to speak with Josto alone to ask if he’s being fucked. Milvin is only letting Dessie marry a greaser like Josto is because he has political ambitions. As far as Milvin is concerned, Josto won’t get part of the Gillis legacy until he can promise and deliver votes.
After all, mayors don’t elect themselves and elections aren’t free. Still, Josto ensures his father-in-law that he will indeed become mayor. But first, Josto has to pump some babes into Dessie one at a time and twice on Sundays.
Something to look forward to, I suppose.
Josto has a new visitor: Detective Weff, who notes the blue Ford parked outside. Noteworthy, as witnesses at the hospital saw a blue Ford fleeing the scene of the homicide. More than that, Weff has been informed about the Italians booted from the hospital a few days ago. Yet the Italians aren’t curious about who was killed.
Without naming Dr. Harvard, Josto asks if “he’s” dead. Weff then refers to Josto as “boss” and reminds him that you can’t kill civilians. Josto feels that Harvard deserves it for putting his family on the street. Fair, but they still missed. Now an innocent person is dead and officers higher up than Weff are talking about moving in.
Weff can find a patsy to frame, but for now, the Italians have to lay off of Dr. Harvard. Ebal agrees that they won’t bother Harvard this near, but next year is fair game. In the interim, no doubt Dr. Harvard will forget what happened, but the Italians certainly won’t.
Nurse Mayflower visits and cares for a Greek patient, Mr. Cosmopolis, looking over his patient file. The doctors say that there’s not much they can do, so Oraetta will volunteer her services to end the man’s pain. That’s why she’s an angel of mercy (death), you know? Thankfully, she’s caught in the act when other doctors enter the room.
Dr. Allen Sneet, played by Ed Kross, chastises Nurse Mayflower for this highly irregular behavior. More than that, providing such a high dosage of the wrong medication would lead to death. You can’t have that when patients come to care. Of course.
While Oraetta is apologetic, though she blames the problem on poor handwriting, this isn’t the first time patients have expressed concern with her care. Patients dying or being rushed to the ICU without biological provocation, discrepancies in medicine requested and removed- it all links back to Nurse Mayflower. In summation, Oraetta is fired.
Out of nowhere, Oraetta proposes a cover-up- an incompetence of doctors, if you will. She’s no scapegoat. She dares Dr. Sneet to call the police or even the press. Last she checked, this is America, not Soviet Russia. Yet Dr. Sneet would condemn Oraetta for the inability to read poor handwriting? She wants three months’ severance pay, but Sneet settles on two.
Personally, I’d just call her bluff and inform the authorities anyway, but what can you do?
Mayflower arrives at her bus stop and heads to the mortuary to speak with Ethelrida, who is learning French on her own. Not at the Negro school. Oraetta admires Ethelrida’s pluck, as she’s been told that she has it as well, being a Sagittarius and such. She explains the astrology signs to Ethelrida and, upon learning that the girl’s birthday is December 1st, concludes that she is also a Sagittarius.
In a way, as far as Oraetta is concerned, that makes them sisters. Before Ethelrida can head inside, Oraetta offers her some after-school work to put a bit of money in her pocket. Nothing too tasking- just a little housecleaning, though Ethelrida isn’t in a hurry to become someone else’s “help.” Still, Oraetta decided to make Ethelrida one of her special projects. Also, pie. Yes, pie is on the way because everyone likes pie.
So Doctor Senator assembles his crew as they head to the slaughterhouse. One of the men, Leon Bittle, played by Ptonomy himself, Jeremie Harris, is all but ready to do more than muscle work, but Doctor wants to see how he handles himself tonight with the easy stuff. After that, then they can talk strategy.
They head in, catching the men inside off guard. Doctor informs the Italians that they’re not here for a robbery. It’s more like a transition of power. A few blades to the hand help emphasize that point as the men head for the hills. As for now, Doctor instructs his group, telling them that now they wait.
Mayflower, meanwhile, prepares her pie, which includes not just apples, but ipecac and a bit of her blood after she accidentally slices her finger.
I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.
That night, Gaetano and his men arrive at the slaughterhouse, where Doctor and his men are waiting. Doctor talks about his father working in a slaughterhouse for 33 years. Doctor Senator introduces himself, saying that Gaetano has to give respect to get it, but Paolo believes that in the land of taking and giving, Gaetano is king.
Doctor informs Gaetano of Donatello’s deal with Loy, which is news to Gaetano. Territory was allotted from the Fadda family to the Negro syndicate. This is Cannon Limited coming to collect. In Italian, Doctor tells Gaetano that his father made a deal. If Gaetano can’t respect that, then they can’t respect anything. Gaetano asks if Doctor’s words would taste spit from the mouth of the wolf.
Muscle and bone are power, as far as Gaetano is concerned. He takes a seat and states that if this is a misunderstanding, then fine. Gaetano will talk to Josto. If it pans out, he will honor this. But if not, well, Gaetano illustrates this by elbowing one of Doctor’s men. For now, Doctor decides to head out, reminding Gaetano that he just got here yesterday. Doctor, though, is part of the land, like the wind and dirt.
Loy and Josto’s respective families assemble for dinner. Loy prays over the meal, telling everyone that climbing makes them strong. The meek work to inherit the earth. They understand loss so they would know joy of victory when it arrives. They can bear this burden because their hearts are pure.
Oraetta has completed her masterpiece of a pie and heads to the mortuary, leaving it at the front door. Thurman answers the door, finding no one but a pie.
Not long after, a fleet of officers, led by a man who we’ll get to next time, heads to the mortuary and prepares to make their entrance as the episode comes to a close…
Within the context of this season, “The Land of Taking and Killing” could easily be a subtitle for America itself. Between this and the premiere, we’ve had many conversations about the country’s history, how citizens made a name for themselves, and who makes history in the aftermath of war. Not to mention atrocities committed, like when Swanee casually mentions others raping the native out of her.
In addition, we see how America’s ideals match up to the actions of other nations, such as when Gaetano discusses overthrowing Il Duce while in Italy, or when Odaella reminds Dr. Sneet that they live in America, not Soviet Russia of all places. Keep in mind that we’re still in 1950- not too long after the start of the Cold War.
Just as that war was a period of ongoing tension between Russia and the United States, the same is applicable here with the growing tension between the Coloreds and Italians.
Donatello’s death hasn’t helped, and things can only escalate from here now that one of the leaders is dead. Sure, the culprit hasn’t been revealed yet, but Donatello’s death is still one of the driving forces as both sides head towards war.
Consider: Josto is all about maintaining the peace, but Gaetano could and probably will push him towards violence because he believes that violence is business. He’s the more level-headed of the brothers based on what we’ve seen so far, and because Gaetano has such a threatening presence, but that doesn’t mean Josto is a saint.
He’ll honor the arrangements and doesn’t want any bloodshed, yet he’s willing to have Dr. Harvard killed because of how he threw the Italians out of the hospital. Not to mention how much Harvard hates Italians. Josto doesn’t even bat an eye when Weff offers to find a patsy in order to take some heat off the Italians. He might be the calmer one between him and Gaetano, but even he has a limit with how much he can take.
Like Loy, he knows what it’s like to be treated as a second-class citizen. His own father-in-law calls him a greaser right to his face and is only allowing Dessie to marry him in exchange for the Italian vote. With his father now dead, Josto is trying to maintain things as best he can. He’s been thrust into this leadership position, so he could use this as a chance to prove that Italians are the Roman Empire he told Donatello that they are.
Or he could take things a step too far and incite a war or kill an innocent person, which we see happen with the hospital shooting. Revenge for Donatello’s death, but without a clear culprit, Josto could just be looking for any victim- indirect or otherwise. But at least he had his sights set on someone he deemed at least indirectly responsible for his father’s demise.
Gaetano makes for a great counter to Josto. While Josto is more reserved and only lashes out when pushed, Gaetano is more in your face about his intentions. He’s ready to start a confrontation with Loy despite only knowing him for a few seconds, and he tells the Cannon Limited gang to leave the slaughterhouse, even though the revelation of the “deal” was only just made known to him.
Yet he deems himself king in the land of taking and killing, and he seems perfectly capable of both taking and killing in order to make a point. While we’ve seen more emotion from Josto, we haven’t seen that at all from Gaetano, despite just saying goodbye to his father. This gives Gaetano the potential to be more dangerous than Josto because you can’t predict what he’ll do.
So it puts both families in a complicated situation where they’re both pushing each other’s buttons to see how they’ll react. Loy is still out to advance his credit card idea and expand outside of the Colored community, but both he and Doctor Senator realize that now’s the time to venture outward while the Italians are in mourning.
They’re more in the business of taking than killing, although they can also make a killing by becoming rich. Still, Loy gets that in order to grow, they need resources from other communities where people like him aren’t even welcome. He even warns about the threat of violence if Coloreds became too affluent, and if history is any indication, he has plenty of reason to be concerned.
No matter Loy’s individual status and wealth, that means nothing in the eyes of the majority of America at the time. He may be a smart, honorable man, but to society, he’s also still a Colored man. Still, he’s out to stake his claim by being first. Even though Donatello didn’t flat out say the Cannon Limited could have the slaughterhouse, they strike first, thus forcing the Italians to counterattack.
By the way, Odis Weff, like Oraetta, is another of those characters who feels like they would exist in the Fargo world. First off, it wouldn’t be Fargo without the meticulous cop, but Hawley throws a curveball when it’s revealed that Weff is in the pocket of the Italians. A change of pace from the usual, idealistic police officer who is just trying to do the right thing.
His OCD is also an interesting character addition because besides the deaf Mr. Wrench in the first season, we haven’t had many characters like this that set them apart from the others. Hell, Dr. Harvard even refers to Weff as a retard for how much he repeatedly knocks on doors before opening them. Weff could’ve just been an ordinary guy with no standout traits, but I like this addition.
Also, I just like Jack Huston in general. He was great on Boardwalk Empire and I’m happy to see him in the Fargo world.
Then there’s Oraetta. Well, even though she hasn’t been busted for Donatello’s murder, she’s caught in the act earlier than I expected- just two episodes into the season. But again, it’s a twist that I like because now her actions are out in the open. More than that, I’m left wondering just how many damn people she’s killed already? Had she not been caught, she’d no doubt keep doing this.
Yet she’s crafty enough to talk her way into a glowing recommendation and two months’ severance from her boss. She’s smarter than many would give her credit for because she’s so unassuming, but that could allow her to get away with these murders. So what’s her end goal? Why is she so fascinated with Ethelrida?
Also, why the hell is she trying to feed poisoned pie to people? Yeah, everyone loves pie, but not that much!
The only other thing to discuss would be the arrival of Zelmare and Swanee. Given that they’ve got prospects in bank robbing and already managed to escape from prison, they could be an interesting X factor for Dibrell and Thurmane. I do hope they stick around.
Overall, “The Law of Taking and Killing” escalates the brewing war through the introduction of some new characters, the hospital assassination attempt, and the fight over the slaughterhouse. Now we wait until next time now that more authorities have gotten involved.