“This is my history report,” she concludes proudly, in a sequence that crosscuts between her reading her report to her beaming parents and her speaking directly into the camera in an unknown room decorated by Henri Regnault’s Summary Execution Under the Moorish Kings of Grenada, the painting Loy Cannon had forged for his office. And with that, she literally picks up a pair of suitcases and walks away, ending the season.
Only that’s not the end.
In the middle of the closing credits—after the season’s shortest episode—we get a brief, silent stinger. By the look of the car driving down the road it’s some two-plus decades after the events of the rest of Fargo Season 4. Indeed, we’re paying a visit to a pair of characters from Fargo Season 2, Mike Milligan and one of the Kitchen Brothers, his muscle. You may remember Mike as the ambitious up-and-comer whose nearly accidental success in conquering the Upper Midwest for the Kansas City mob resulted not in a promotion to underboss, but a desk job in the outfit’s corporate-like structure.
But the joy doesn’t last long. Some time later, Loy stands outside the house with a bag of oranges in his hands. He’s just been informed that his territory has been taken over by the newly reorganized Italian mob, presided over by local boss Ebal Violante with the full support of the entire New York mafia machine behind him. But looking through his window, seeing his children and wife read (Satchel, inspired by the salesman at the hotel where he briefly stayed a few episodes ago, is reading Dale Carnegie) or play games or play the trumpet, all that fades away. He has a family he loves, and that’s enough.
Then Zelmare Roulette shows up and stabs him to death.
Satchel notices something is wrong through the window and walks outside to see what happened. Zelmare tells him “Shhhhhh,” and walks away, dropping her bloody knife behind her. Satchel crouches by his father’s side. He looks right into the older man’s eyes as he dies, wide-eyed and horrified.
So this is the memory, this is the history, that weighs on Mike Milligan as he drives through the middle of nowhere. He sees himself as a child, making that lonesome walk with his little dog by his side after his guardian, Rabbi Milligan, suddenly disappeared. For all that his personal style, his cool suits and gold rings, suggests comfort and pride, his demeanor makes him seem like that same lost boy. He takes out his gun, plays with it, loads it, doesn’t do anything with it in particular. Then the episode ends, with the sounds of the road under the car accompanying the closing credits.
But it’s Mike Milligan/Satchel Roy who must bear the weight of all this. It’s he who’s cursed to remember, he in whom the bloody history of this war is imprinted. And for the purposes of this episode, it renders him speechless. Who fits in and who is rejected? For whom is the power of violence sufficient to gain entry into the promised land? How many people must watch their loved ones die in front of them to feed the maw of the money machine? Mike has no history report to offer us. He stares out at the great American nowhere and fiddles with a gun and does nothing—and if that isn’t the “Storia Americana” that gives the episode its title, I don’t know what is.
Sean T. Collins () writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. He and his family live on Long Island.
Watch the Fargo Season 4 Finale (“Storia Americana”) on Hulu