Photo: Philippe Antonello (FX)

Before we begin, I should back up.

Last week, I neglected one important plot element in my recap/review: At the end of the episode, Angelo (Andrea Arcangeli) made a decision to help young Paul escape from what seemed like certain death (or, bare minimum, angry maiming) at the hands of Primo. That mini-cliffhanger of a moment turns out to provide almost all of the narrative drive for “Silenzio,” an episode that functions as kind of a companion piece to “That’s All Folks” (not least because it actually uses that episode’s titular line), also directed by music-video vet Dawn Shadforth. Shadforth helps turn “Silenzio” into the series’ tightest and arguably most effective episode so far.

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Here’s the quick recap: Angelo and Paul run through the woods. Primo finds out. His uncle and mafia associate find out. The rest of the village finds out, and its citizens are informed that they will be rewarded for Paul’s re-capture and horribly punished for harboring him. Angelo and Paul run through the woods some more. There are a few token scenes with bigger stars like Hilary Swank, Donald Sutherland, and Brendan Fraser (as before, the Swank-centric scenes connect the most directly to the rest of the action and are better for it). Angelo and Paul seem like they might have eluded the mafiosos, hordes of tracking dogs, and various flunkies. And then, well, I’ll get to that in a moment.

The plot is not really what makes this episode work so well; boiled down, as above, it doesn’t have much nuance (although what plot does, boiled down?). That’s not to say the story lacks nuance; there’s a low-key poignancy in, say, Paul Getty’s epic flakiness, which allows him to spin a romantic idea of Angelo joining him back in America, maybe even sending for Angelo’s great-cooking grandma, not long before Paul petulantly decides he cannot run any longer and must go knocking on farmhouse doors for help, even though Angelo seems to know and communicate that this is a bad idea. Paul still isn’t an especially interesting character, but “Silenzio” does a nice job of illustrating, without drawing too much attention to, how his presence can be destructive even when he’s kinda-sorta the victim. Or at least a victim.

The dynamics of the small Italian town forced to serve as de facto accessories to kidnapping are also interesting, though they’re not explored in a lot of depth. It’s mostly just fodder for Trust working as a tense, fast-paced thriller, bringing to mind that forest-pursuit episode of Fargo Season 3 that made me think, man, maybe Noah Hawley should actually just make horror movies and quit trying to philosophize so hard. (When he brings in some thematic heft at the end of that episode, it only convinced me further.)

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Shadforth does a lot of the heavy lifting in making “Silenzio” such an experience. A couple of skinny guys running madly through the forest certainly touches on Danny Boyle-like imagery, but her use of extreme camera angles, especially in the scene where Angelo and Paul lurk at the bottom of a mini-ledge where their pursuers rustle just up above them, gives Boyle a run for his money in terms of goosing familiar material with expert style. There’s also a terrific shot that zooms out as the guys make their way through the hilly landscape, creating tension from who might appear at the edge of the frame and also, even if no one does, just how far away they are from proper help. All the close scrapes—Paul’s mother accidentally giving them away on the other end of a phone line; the train-hopping that dead-ends—are expertly shot and staged.

There’s an element of horror to the way these guys are tracked through the forest with dogs, a whole town turned against them, and “Silenzio” toys a bit with genre conventions when Angelo and Paul do finally turn to strangers, an elderly couple, out of desperation. Both potential outcomes of this situation—the fugitives place an innocent couple in danger, or the couple is forced to turn on their houseguests—are potential cliches. But the episode, to my eyes at least, does a credible job of feinting toward one form of dread (these nice old people are going to be punished for their hospitality and decency!) before pivoting to another (wait a minute, the old guy is playing loud music, and the woman is praying to herself...). That’s what a lot of good horror does, after all: It needles at your expectations and turns them into dread, rather than upending them completely.

Which is how we arrive at the end of this episode, which I will not neglect to recap this week. The old folks signal Primo and company that they have the fugitives (plied with food and drink), Primo shows up, and shoots Angelo in the head with a shotgun at close range, blood splattering on Paul’s face. That’s all, folks. End of episode.

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In a way, that abrupt end could very well render this whole episode moot. Most viewers will figure at the outset that Paul is not going to be on the run for the rest of the series; there’s a kidnapping plot that needs resolving. Angelo’s death is surprising, but the net change here—bad, impulsive people are in over their heads, looking for ransom money for Getty, who’s in way over hers—is negligible. What it tells us about the Getty family is relatively minor, too; a bit about Paul’s flakiness, a little bit about Gail’s frustrations. But it’s also a great demonstration of what TV can do with a story where detours may be more interesting than the straight-ahead version. Tight as it is, these 45 minutes would not fit into a movie, or even necessarily the kind of “ten-hour movie” that TV shows chase these days. But it fits into the episodic, detouring Trust just fine.

Stray observations:

  • This week in All The Money: Yeah, pretty much zip. This subplot does not exist in the Ridley Scott version and is kind of why this show is working a lot better than the movie.
  • This is Dawn Shadforth’s last episode on the show. I hope she gets more TV work or a feature career out of this. She’s got chops.

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