TV: Fargo Season 4: Episode 9: East/West – Reviewed


Photo Courtesy of FX

I’m usually worried when a show adds an episode to the season, when all previous seasons have been a specific length. For example, remember Season 2 of Stranger Things? Season 1 had been 8 episodes, which felt perfect, and when there was news of an additional episode for Season 2, I was quite excited… until I saw it. Eleven’s adventure to Chicago was smashed right in the middle of a literal cliffhanger and fans either loved it or hated it. I was in the latter camp. The Duffer Brothers corrected themselves in Season 3 and were better for it. 

The latest episode of Fargo, entitled East/West, does something similar but manages to pull off the trick. As with anything, it’s all a matter of opinion and taste, so I’m sure this episode will end up being just as a polarizing. For me, however, it was a welcome break from the formula we’ve been seeing for too many weeks in a row. 

East/West opens with a house in shambles in the dead of winter, with pages of a book all blowing all over the snow and debris. What book could it be, you ask? (This is the moment in the review where I congratulate myself on referencing said book numerous times this season.) Why it’s none other than The History of True Crime in the Mid West

East/West takes place within True Crime’s Chapter 7, entitled Who Shot Billy Bupor?, and is set in Liberal, Kansas, in 1950. As the camera zooms in to the chapter heading and picture, the screen transforms into a black and white vista, with Omie Sparkman (Corey Hendrix) holding one of the Fadda men in his trunk as he searches for Calamita (Gaetano Bruno). 

After meeting with a local gas station owner and hiding out inside to await Calamita’s arrival, the perspective shifts to Rabbi Milligan (Ben Whishaw) and Satchel (Rodney L. Jones III), who are on the run and in need of shelter for the next few days. 

At this point I should mention that this episode heavily pays homage to The Wizard of Oz in a variety of ways, including the black and white cinematography, the bleak Kansas setting, Satchel discovering a Toto-like dog and, yes, an eventual tornado. 

It’s a fun idea and works quite nicely as a metaphor for Satchel’s eventual need to grow up faster than he may want to. By the end of the episode, he’s very much “not in Kansas anymore.” 

Throughout East/West, Rabbi makes continued attempts to find money he stashed away in a building wall years prior, only to discover that the building he once knew is now under different owners and has completely changed. Those owners discovered Rabbi’s money and spent most of it to open the business. 

Rabbi, Omie and Calamita’s stories converge when Rabbi visits the gas station featured in East/West’s opening act, which ended with Calamita arriving after Omie shot and killed the man in his trunk. Calamita has wounded Omie and, after an intense shootout, Calamita gains the upper hand on Rabbi. Just as Calamita is about to shoot and kill Rabbi, both men, along with the gas station, are sucked up into a tornado that touches down during the calamity. 

When Satchel realizes that Rabbi is not coming back, he opens the door to his room and suddenly we’re back to seeing everything in color, with Satchel departing on the road with this new dog. 

I felt as though East/West represents Fargo at its best and felt the most Fargo-esque than anything else this season, with some minor exceptions. It is a comedy and tragedy all at once, with all the elements in place; a detour from the overall story and a welcome respite at that. 

If Satchel is going to grow up to be Season 2’s Mike Milligan (a brilliant Bokeem Woodbine, who stole the entire season with his performance), East/West certainly serves as a wonderful, if at times heartbreaking, origin story for such an amazing character. 

I couldn’t help but also feel remnants of The Road to Perdition in this episode, which might be another reason I love it so much. In this case, Rabbi is serving as a father-like figure to Satchel, though maybe an older brother is more appropriate. Both men are on the run and driving through the Midwest in hopes of finding sanctuary and eventual happiness. 

As with that film, happiness comes at a price, which is so often the case with Fargo. It works perfectly in this episode and reminded me – as if I needed it – why I love this show so much.  

Bravo, Noah Hawley. Bravo. 

--Matt Giles