A Look at Fargo- Season 4, Episode 5: “The Birthplace of Civilization”

War were declared.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Lemuel and Leon taken into police custody- FX, Fargo

The episode begins at a nightclub where a jazz band entertains the crowd with some lively music. In the audience are Lemuel and Leon, but the fun for them is interrupted when the police arrive. They don’t break up the party, though, as they’re only looking for Lemuel and Leon specifically. The two are chased into the tack, where they’re clubbed and hauled into custody.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Josto and the Italians watch as Lemuel and Leon are arrested- FX, Fargo

Who might be watching the boys hauled off, but the Italians? As Josto tells his men, this is how it’s done.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy gives some of his guns to Mort Kellerman- FX, Fargo

Loy and his men deliver the guns to Mort Kellerman in exchange for loyalty. It’s unclear yet whether they’re gong to war. They soon load up the guns and depart. The men then discuss what to do about the funeral home, but this meeting is also interrupted by the arrival of the police, Weff among them. He tells the Cannons that they’re breaking the law which, in this case, means having too many teeth.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Weff points his gun at Loy- FX, Fargo

Weff then grabs a bag of money that apparently belongs to him, but then Loy suddenly recognizes Weff. He’s heard all about this officer. Odis was a minesweeper in the war. There was a lot of turnover in Odis’ unit and this made him twitchy until he couldn’t take it anymore. He laid down in the grass and looked at the clouds when the army showed up. They asked if he cleared the field, and he confirmed that he did.

See, the colonel had to take a leak, but when he stepped into the field…boom! He had to be sent home in the pot you put soup in. Odis orders all of the men hauled off except for Loy, who tells Odis that he didn’t fight in the war because why would he fight for a country that wants him dead? However, per Josto Fadda’s word, Weff reminds Loy to stick to the deal.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Deafy watches Odis from a distance- FX, Fargo

As Odis leaves, he’s unaware that Marshal Deafy is watching him from a distance…

The Birthplace of Civilization- Thurman reminds Ethelrida that tomorrow is her birthday- FX, Fargo

Oraetta is also hard at work tonight with a moaning patient that refuses to be quiet. At the same time, Ethelrida writes a letter to Dr. Harvard, under the guise of another doctor, to inform him about Oraetta’s actions. She’s interrupted by the arrival of Thurman, who reminds her that it’s the big day tomorrow: her birthday, in fact. She asks her father about a particular painkiller that could be dangerous if you take too much.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Thurman tells Ethelrida that she shouldn't be around Nurse Mayflower- FX, Fargo

She brings up seeing it as Ms. Mayflower’s home, but Thurman writes that off to her being a nurse. Still, it’s not something that one should just keep around the house. Ethelrida then asks if they’ll see Aunt Zelmare again. Thurman is sure that they will, but she is still an escaped convict. He tells Ethelrida that Zelmare is staying at some residential hotel downtown and that Ethelrida better not even think about going there.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Ethelrida writes a letter to Dr. Harvard- FX, Fargo

As for Ms. Mayflower, Thurman believes that she’s nice, but not someone Ethelrida should be around. They’re in a precarious position, living outside the law. Not to mention she probably poisoned that pie. With that, Thurman turns out the lights for the night. Even after he leaves, Ethelrida returns to writing her letter, claiming that she’s worked with Oraetta for years.

Now it’s time to bring her actions to Dr. Harvard’s attention. Those actions being that Ms. Mayflower’s patients have all died under mysterious circumstances.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Rabbi Milligan and Josto talk about math- FX, Fargo

The next day, Rabbi Milligan watches over Satchel as he does his math homework. Josto joins them and learns that Satchel is learning long division. Josto informs Rabbi that they have Gaetano on the run. If things are right and sorted out straight, Gaetano may go home. Rabbi then asks Josto if he would ever go to another city. Some men from Italy may come to provide assistance, but they’re Gaetano’s men and loyal to him.

Rabbi does have an idea, but him saying it and someone actually doing it won’t make it any easier. This problem that Josto has is a math problem: you divide them or they multiply. When Josto leaves, Rabbi tells Satchel that when the shooting starts, they vanish.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Zelmare offers Ethelrida a drink- FX, Fargo

Ethelrida heads to the Prairie Hotel to visit Zelmare and Swanee, who has somehow miraculously recovered. The two teach Ethelrida a whistle so they know when she visits next time. Zelmare offers Ethelrida a drink for her birthday, even though liquor clouds the mind. Still, the two escapees drink inher honor. Ethelrida asks Zelmare what she’d do if she saw something wrong and could fix it.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Zelmare explains the difference between criminals and outlaws- FX, Fargo

But Zelmare wouldn’t do a damn thing. Not because she’s a criminal- she’s not- because they’re outlaws. Outlaws reject the game. Nothing’s organized about their crime because their crime is freedom. Nothing’s broken and there’s nothing to fix. They just want to live while they’re alive, and die with a gun in their hands. Criminals, by comparison, play the game.

Zelmare figures that Ethelrida would make for a good outlaw. But Ethelrida isn’t a outlaw, or a convict, or a square. She’s just Ethelrida Pearl Smutny and she’s one of a kind.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy and Buell argue- FX, Fargo

Loy arrives at home and finds Buel in a foul mood since Lemuel has been arrested, but Loy assures her that Doctor Senator will bail out Lemuel. Buel intends to go down and handle this herself, but Loy assures her that he’ll handle this. She doubts that he can handle all of this. Loy reminds Buel and his mother that all they have comes from the razor’s edge. They don’t remain rich by saying their prayers.

Lemuel went to a club and got lit up for it. Loy fights for his family. He asks Buel if she’s scared to take the risk. They’re on a ride and can’t get off until the roller coaster stops. Now Buel needs to take off her coat and get Loy some damn coffee! Buel backs down, but Mom won’t even give Loy a mm-hmm. How rude.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy's men in holding- FX, Fargo

Meanwhile, Loy’s men stew in holding and go over their potential futures on the chain gang. Leon is reprimanded for having Lemuel out there in a club, so Leon realizes that he’s fucked. Some officers enter and seal some of the windows. They depart, but in their place are the Italians, including Josto and Rabbi Milligan.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Josto tells Loy's men why Americans love a crime story- FX, Fargo

Josto says that Americans love a crime story because America is a crime story. But when hearing a crime story, we root for the taker- the guy with the gatling gun. The country loves a man who takes what he wants…unless he looks like a Colored. Society looks at Josto and sees a guy who uses crime to get ahead. But they look at the Coloreds and they just see crime.

Josto can take all the crime and pussy he wants and still run for president.

The Coloreds, though? It will always be the rope. Josto wants a message passed onto Loy: it’s time to surrender. When Josto leaves, Rabbi asks what Loy will do: settle or war? But there’s no going back to the way it was. Rabbi promises to keep Satchel safe. He’s still implored to bring Satchel home where he can be kept safe among his own, but as far as Rabbi is concerned, the Cannons are all going to die.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Deafy pays Weff a surprise visit- FX, Fargo

Deafy pays Weff a surprise visit to talk about the raid, saying that Weff should’ve called. Weff doesn’t consider them partners, though Deafy still offers his assistance. As Deafy inquires about Weff’s personal life, he asks how his wife-to-be died. Turns out she was raped and murdered when Weff was in France. He recalls the story that Loy shared and talks about how different clouds are when overseas.

So what did Deafy need? Nothing, but he had a vision when saying his prayers. Shake the tree and suspects shall fall. He wants Weff to accompany him, but Weff is confident that Deafy can handle his work alone. Still, Deafy will let Weff know if anything comes up in his work.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Gaetano threatens a kid who laughed at him- FX, Fargo

Calamita and Gaetano have their own work to do as well, though Gaetano takes a slip on some ice in the process. Calamita and Gaetano approach a nearby kid laughing at the slip when Gaetano gets in his face, shutting him up. The two head to a restaurant and discuss Josto. Calamita tells Gaetano that they need to make a move, though Gaetano is more focused on the condition of his coffee.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Gaetano not a fan of the coffee- FX, Fargo

Gaetano’s not a fan of this milk and sugar concoction. As far as Gaetano is concerned, America’s Jesus looks like a lady, and everyone thinks they’re going to be President one day, so nobody does their job. In Italy, meanwhile, you’re paid to sweep and make coffee. You make that coffee like Michelangelo. Gaetano asks the poor kid again if he thinks it’s funny that Gaetano slipped on the ice.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Gaetano kills the kid and barkeep- FX, Fargo

In Italy, their version of Jesus was nailed to a cross, but he came down and killed every motherfucker in Jerusalem. Gaetano demonstrates this by killing both the kid and the barkeep. That must’ve been some really shitty coffee.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Dibrell and Thurman prepare for Ethelrida's birthday- FX, Fargo

At the Smutny home, preparations are made for Ethelrida’s birthday, though Dibrell is still giving Thurman the cold shoulder.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy pays Thurman and Dibrell a surprise visit- FX, Fargo

To Thurman’s surprise, Loy arrives- with Zero accompanying him. Loy explains to Thurman that it’s been a long night. Dibrell offers to fix whatever this is, but Loy is aware that he was paid back with his own money, after Thurman’s proxy robbed him blind. Loy then explains that Zero isn’t his son, but he traded him for power. Loy sleeps like a baby, though his wife cries herself to sleep every night. Loy will do what it takes to win.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy asks Dibrell where Zelmare is right now- FX, Fargo

Also, yeah, better get Zero a piece of cake. Hell, Zero is the real winner of this meeting. Loy tells the two that they’ll sign over the deed this afternoon, as their business is now his. They’re past the point of ‘Please.’ Also, Loy demands to know where Zelmare is- he even knows her by name and knows that she and her butch Indian broke out of jail. As for what Loy will do, he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants.

Thurman takes blame, having not asked Zelmare where she got the money, but he didn’t. The rules now are that Thurman tells Loy whatever he wants or Loy will murder everyone.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Deafy asks Ethelrida where Zelmare is right now- FX, Fargo

Over at school, Ethelrida is again called into the principal’s office. The principal already has a guest: Marshal Deafy, who asks for him and Ethelrida to speak alone. He’s been thinking about her and brings up Zelmare’s past crimes. Yeah, Zelmare wasn’t just in jail for littering, and now Ethelrida is protecting her. If Ethelrida considers herself a civilized person, she has to act in a civilized manner.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Ethelrida tells Deafy that Africa is the birthplace of civilization- FX, Fargo

So Deafy asks where Zelmare is. Ethelrida, though, sticks on the word ‘civilized.’ She notes that civilization began in Africa, so both of their ancestors came from the same place, and that’s factual. Fascinating, but not why Deafy is here. He makes it simple: give up Zelmare’s location or Ethelrida will be expelled. It’s Ethelrida’s life that gets ruined or Zelmare’s. Which one it is depends on Ethelrida.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy tells his men to arm up- FX, Fargo

Loy’s men arrive back at their base of operations, with Loy ordering Leon to take Lemuel home. The others, meanwhile, are to get ready, as they’re heading out in five minutes.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Deafy is headed to Zelmare and Swanee's location- FX, Fargo

Deafy apparently got the information he needed, as he radios other offices that he’s headed to the New Prairie Hotel where Zelmare and Swanee are holed up.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy recruits Zelmare and Swanee- FX, Fargo

However, Loy arrives at the hotel first and orders the women to get dressed. Dying is too easy. He wants them to work for him as invisible soldiers. After all, whose more invisible than them? Zelmare isn’t keen on working for someone else, but she doesn’t have much of a choice right now.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Deafy arrives too late- FX, Fargo

At the same time, Deafy rushes upstairs, but he’s a few seconds too late. Well, son of a biscuit.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Doctor Senator finds Gaetano and Calamita at the diner- FX, Fargo

Doctor Senator heads to the diner and finds not Ebal, but Calamita…and Gaetano, who is sitting in the back, eating an ice cream sundae. Calamita implores that Doctor have a seat and asks if he’s ever seen a baby in a box. He explains that this arrangement with Ebal is over because the Doctor isn’t listening. Calamita wants some indication that Doctor understands, but Doctor reminds Calamita that he just said they’re done talking.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Calamita asks Doctor Senator if he understands him- FX, Fargo

However, Calamita kept talking. This gets a laugh out of Calamita, who brings out his blade. He then explains to the Doctor that he was a baby in a box when he came over, just him and his 15-year-old mother when they arrived in America. Tuberculosis took mom from him, so it was just Calamita against the world. This isn’t just a sad story, though. Being an orphan in a box toughened him.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Doctor Senator talks about how respect is earned- FX, Fargo

So when Doctor ends up dead with shit in his pants, he should have listened, and that’s a fact. Doctor then informs Nadine that he’ll have that cup of coffee. More than that, Calamita has it all wrong. Doctor brings up how Machiavelli once said that he who knows how to obey must know how to command. As the Doctor receives his coffee, he concedes that he doesn’t know how things work in Italy.

But in America, respect is earned. You earn Doctor Senator’s respect. Calamita and Gaetano are just boys making a mess that the Doctor will have to clean up. With that, Doctor departs.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Calamita shoots and kills Doctor Senator- FX, Fargo

However, as he does, he and one of Loy’s men are quickly gunned down by Calamita. Even as Doctor lay dead on the ground, Calamita puts another bullet in him.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy and his men look over Doctor Senator's body- FX, Fargo

Later that evening, Loy and his men look over the scene and contemplate what to do with the bodies, with Leon saying that they don’t deserve to just lay in the street like this. Even still, Loy and his men depart as the episode comes to a close.

So this can no longer be a pretend war. Starting right off with the death, killing Doctor Senator will no doubt be a boiling point for Loy. Doctor was Loy’s right hand man and advisor. He was the level-headed one who could keep things diplomatic and, like Ebal, saw the value of a conversation versus going straight for violence. Glynn Turman has been great from the start and it will be sad to no longer have him around.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy's men gather after Doctor Senator is killed- FX, Fargo

It’s another member of the old guard brought down by this war. Like Donatello, Doctor believed in order. He knew how to play the game as a criminal, but Gaetano and Calamita’s actions put them more in the ‘outlaw’ group because they’ve operated outside the terms of the deal. If the Italians attempting to kill Lemuel was the spark to the powder keg, killing Doctor is the explosion.

It further shows the divide between Josto and Gaetano. As the opening showed, Josto is willing to play somewhat by the book by just having Loy’s men incarcerated. He wants everyone to stick to the deal, but Gaetano is someone who would prefer to dictate the terms.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Doctor Senator is dead- FX, Fargo

But going back to the Doctor for a moment, he’s a man who commanded respect, not orders it. I have to imagine that may be why Calamita waited until after their conversation ended to kill him. At least give the man the courtesy of the conversation instead of a cheap ambush. He’s been in the game long enough to know how the rules work, but Gaetano is more reactionary.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Calamita and Doctor Senator talk- FX, Fargo

Part of me wonders whether Doctor knew he was going to die the moment Ebal wasn’t waiting for him in the diner. He didn’t bring anyone inside with him and the only protection was waiting in the car. On the other hand, perhaps he didn’t think the Italians would pull such a dirty move as killing him in what seems to be neutral territory, kind of like the barbershop in Luke Cage.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy sees that Doctor Senator has been killed- FX, Fargo

It’s a major loss for Loy who, until this point, hasn’t really suffered any losses. He’s faced setbacks, sure, between the robbery and attempted assassination of Lemuel. Beyond that, he’s stayed on his toes and now lost a major player. The Italians have faced their own setbacks, but they lost Donatello in the premiere, and through no fault of the Cannons.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy tells Buel to get him some coffee- FX, Fargo

But Loy is too deep into the game to just get of now. Like he told Buel, they can’t get off until the roller coaster stops. Continuing from the previous episode, this episode gave Rock more of an opportunity to showcase his acting. We see Loy’s growing anger as he’s fighting battles on multiple fronts from the police, the Italians, and the Smutnys.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy knows that Dibrell and Zelmare are sisters- FX, Fargo

The conversation at the Smutny home is, for my money, probably Rock’s best scene of the season so far. Very thick tension throughout when he told Thurman that he knew that he was paid back with his own money. If I had to guess, Loy didn’t kill Thurman and Dibrell because Zero was there, but more than that, he can muscle them out of their business and learn Zelmare’s location.

He’s making power plays to win, but not resorting to tactics you’d expect from Gaetano. I like to think that Loy has been biding his time because while he doesn’t trust the Italians, he’s had no reason to pull moves like rob them of their guns…until the Italians attacked first. Not that Loy is reactionary, but when he strikes back, he strikes hard.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy knows about Odis' time during the war- FX, Fargo

More than that, he doesn’t buckle under pressure, as seen when Weff arrives to arrest some of his men. The question aside of how Loy knows about Weff’s military past, we saw that it was enough to rattle the officer. I find that Rock is at his best in these one-on-one confrontations. Loy isn’t staying ahead by playing Mr. Nice Guy. He’s staying ahead because he’s doing what it takes to win.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Loy reminds his wife and mother that he fights for the entire family- FX, Fargo

That doesn’t mean he ignores the needs of his family. He’s fighting for them and would love nothing more than to have Satchel back. But more than that, as evidenced by his credit card idea, he wants to change things in the mobster world.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Josto explains that America is a crime story- FX, Fargo

That’s hard to do because, as Josto pointed out, America don’t see Coloreds as people can take what they want in the crime world. Italians are seen as second class, sure, but they still look White in the eyes of Americans. Less so with the Coloreds. Loy has to work twice as hard not just for his family, but to, in his own way, shape America’s perception of Coloreds in the crime business.

Though I could do with less of the monologues about what makes America…America. These monologues aren’t out of place in the Fargo world, but there have been so many of them about the same thing. When the monologue is building towards some violent action, like before Gaetano killed the teenager and barkeep, then no problem.

But when it’s talking for the sake of talking about the same thing, it gets a bit annoying, even if I do still like how Noah Hawley writes dialogue for these characters.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Odis talks about his time during the war- FX, Fargo

It was nice to get some of Odis’ backstory and learn a bit more about what led to his nervous tics. Him being a minesweeper in the war makes a lot of sense, given how meticulous of a task that must be. After all, we’ve seen how detailed he is on the job right now. But the reveal of his wife’s murder could also be an explanation of why he has these tics.

Despite Weff being in the pocket of the Italians, this backstory humanizes him and shows what has led to his current condition. Though Deafy is sure to keep an eye on him, having seen Weff leave Loy’s establishment.

The Birthplace of Civilization- Deafy questions Ethelrida for information- FX, Fargo

Deafy is just one step behind in this episode. He’s proactive, I give him that, and good on him for prying Zelmare’s location out of Ethelrida, even if he was too late. That was a nice reversal, because I didn’t expect Loy to find Zelmare and Swanee before Deafy did, even though we knew that Loy was looking for her. But you know he’s not going to just let this drop.

By the way, I wonder if Ethelrida managed to send her letter to Dr. Harvard. I appreciate that she’s bringing Oraetta’s actions to light, but I do hope she doesn’t wind up in the crosshairs. After all, she does still have Donatello’s ring and it doesn’t seem like she realized that she left her notebook in Oraetta’s closet.

Still, this was a very good episode and the murder of Doctor Senator will no doubt kick off a war. How will Zelmare and Swanee’s invisibility factor into Loy’s odds? What will Josto do after learning that Calamita and Gaetano are responsible for Doctor’s death?

We shall see.

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