Wednesday, July 5th saw the premiere of the new FX series Snowfall and I must confess that the only thing I love more than a 10-hour Netflix binge is a hot new show about drugs. I probably sound like an addict, right? That’s because I am. Except today I’m not addicted to drugs, I’m addicted to TV. It’s no secret that I’ve been eagerly awaiting Snowfall, John Singleton’s new show about the rise of the crack epidemic in LA, so let’s get right into it.
The opening scene is a Technicolor South Central LA of the early 1980s. It looks like any other suburban street of the era. A couple of pre-teen delinquents steal some treats from the ice cream man. Just as they are about to escape, our strapping hero, Franklin Saint (Damson Idris), snatches them up and makes them drop the ice cream, which he returns to the vendor.
The boys run off and Franklin’s two friends roll up, having witnessed the whole scene. They call him “neighborhood watch” and “Black Magnum PI” and ask why he cares. Franklin replies that the kids “gotta learn that ain’t how America work.” It’s clear this scene is meant to emphasize how idealistic young Franklin was and the sunny, friendly neighborhood he lived in—before crack.
Franklin and his pals hit a Mexican wrestling match. It’s the gnarly 1980’s greasy kind. A burly dude in a Lucha libre mask, “El Oso” (played by Sergio Peres-Mancheta), is fighting a sweaty guy with long, bleached-blonde hair in purple spandex panties. (Worth noting at this point that the costuming for this show is amazeballs. No pun intended.) El Oso makes eye contact with a pretty Latina who just arrived at the match.
El Oso gets his ass kicked, then heads to the alley to conduct some business. He’s meeting Lucia’s cousin, Pedro (Filipe Valle Costa). Franklin runs up, interrupting. He asks El Oso for an autograph and Lucia lends him a pen. Five bucks says next time we see these three together, the situation won’t be so cordial.
Finally—the drugs! Yippee, it’s a Hollywood naked cocaine party in a beautiful house. There are three girls and two guys snorting blow and doing other unmentionable things. Just when I start to think it looks fun, the girls are screaming. One of the dudes has overdosed. The girls are begging the other guy, Alejandro (Juan Javier Cárdenas), to call an ambulance, but he doesn’t. He’s strangely calm.
Cut to a generic fellow with a beard waking up in a crappy apartment, getting dressed and going to work in an office in a nondescript warehouse. It looks like a front for something. Oh, that’s right. It’s the CIA and this is Teddy McDonald (played by Carter Hudson). Looks like he’s having a boring day at work until Alejandro from the naked cocaine party walks in. He marches up to Teddy’s desk and announces that he’s a friend of Logan Miller, who I’m guessing is the guy who overdosed. He says Logan told him to find Teddy if there was ever a problem. Clearly, there’s a problem. Teddy reluctantly agrees to go for a ride with Alejandro, but brings his gun. I would, too.
Franklin goes to his Aunt Louie (Angela Lewis) and Uncle Jerome’s (Amin Joseph) house. Uncle Jerome is Franklin’s mom’s brother and also a pot dealer. Remember pot dealers? So vintage. Franklin works for him, but it’s a secret from his mom because she would kick both their asses if she knew. Franklin hides the scale he uses to weigh his weed in one of his stereo components. Because 1980s.
Alejandro takes Teddy to the fabulous house, which looks decidedly less glamorous in daylight, minus the trays of blow and naked chicks. Funny how that works. He shows him dead CIA officer Logan and a hot tub full of cocaine. Like 50 kilos of cocaine. Alejandro explains that he and Logan had some sort of deal that involved trading coke for weapons and supplies for soldiers in Nicaragua.
Franklin and his friend Leon (Isaiah John) take a long bus ride to the Valley, where Franklin went to high school. His mom wanted him to get a good education and go to college, but he’s disillusioned by his experience being the token black kid at a white upper-middle class school. Not eager to repeat the experience in college, he’s working at the corner store and selling weed for his uncle. So, he’s delivering a bag to his high school pal Robert in the Valley, whose dad is a porn producer. The scene at Robert’s house is like Boogie Nights.
Teddy returns to the house in the Hollywood hills and cleans up the scene of Logan’s OD. Teddy pitches the Alejandro/Nicaragua operation to his boss, who agrees reluctantly with the stipulation that it’s off-book. Meanwhile, Lucia and Pedro hire El Oso to steal some money.
Franklin is at a pool party at Robert’s house in the Valley. Robert runs out of cocaine and he’s afraid to go score from his parents’ dealer, Avi (Alon Aboutboul) by himself, so he asks Franklin to go with him. When they get to Avi’s house, Robert reveals that the guy is “legitimately insane” so he’ll wait in the car. Franklin enters, Avi is seeing if a bulletproof vest will really stop a bullet. There is a guy lying on the ground after being shot with the vest on. He’s alive, but has a huge bruise.
Avi is lounging in bikini swim briefs and matching paisley shirt. It’s fantastic. He’s offended when Franklin pulls out two hundred bucks and asks to buy coke. He doesn’t sell to kids, he sells kilos to people with money. Franklin has a brainstorm and asks Avi to front him a kilo—tells him he has access to an untapped revenue stream in South Central. Avi makes Franklin wear the Kevlar vest and prepare to take a bullet to prove he is trustworthy, but doesn’t really shoot him. Franklin has 24 hours to sell the kilo and get $12,000 back to Avi. Oh crap.
Franklin takes the coke to his uncle. Uncle Jerome is pissed—he only deals weed. He warns Franklin that the coke ain’t worth the trouble that comes with it. An epic understatement. He thinks this is his big chance. Aunt Louie is a former party girl and she still has some connections. She overhears the conversation between Jerome and Franklin. When Jerome sends Franklin away, she sneaks over to his house and tells him she can help him sell the coke.
Meanwhile, El Oso is pulling the robbery. He sees a family picture and realizes the victim is a relative of Pedro and Lucia. The guy comes home halfway though and they fight. El Oso throws him down the stairs, killing him. Meanwhile, Teddy is talking to Alejandro about the local coke trade. Avi, Pedro and Lucia are all in his file. Teddy questions Alejandro about the night Logan died because he suspects there were other people in the house that night and Alejandro killed them.
Aunt Louie takes Franklin to an underground club and they meet with the kingpin, Claudia (Judith Scott). Not that I’m pro-drug dealer, but how refreshing that the kingpin is a woman! She agrees to buy the coke for $16,000, so Franklin has successfully made his quick profit. As Aunt Louis drives him home she tells him the coke is trouble and he should just connect Avi and Claudia and be done with it. He says no way. They stop at reed light and a homeless wino crosses the street in front of the car. Aunt Louis asks Franklin is he wants to get out and talk to his dad. He tells her to just drive and he turns and stares out the window, crying silently.
Snowfall is off to a scorching start. I know I’ll be watching next week.
Photos courtesy of FX