Sergio Peris-Mencheta as Gustavo Zapata, Damson Idris as Franklin Saint. Photo by Ray MIcksaw/FX.
It’s only a rivalry if you lose sleep over each other. Franklin and Teddy, the troubled principals of Snowfall, are unblinking enemies. Franklin had a full-on panic attack the night his uncle Jerome got shot. Teddy can barely make his shady phone calls to informants and clandestine double agents without nodding off. Their running debt is grist for the mill in an ever simplifying story. The cocaine profits are their fuel but the drugs are up in smoke like their families, reputations, and soon, their bodies. At this point, contraband is an afterthought.
The shadowy bedroom scenes that spy on the two main men show broken competitors. And what is this teleplay but a series of tension-driving talks from bedrooms to back alleys? Louie, once a ten-toes-down sister and aunt, decides almost haphazardly to keep the leftover blood bonds after war. Since Jerome’s death she has nothing but her family and grief-mugged haze, after all. So, she makes a back alley deal with Teddy, only to renege and stay in Franklin’s camp. In the bedroom, Teddy proposes to Pari, desperate to make his final plea before the inevitable showdown with Franklin.
“We’ve all been carrying this weight for a long time, Oso. Can’t be for nothing.” Franklin is pleading with whoever will listen — in this case, Gustavo — or team up to help him destroy Teddy and the hold the CIA has on its Compton constituents. He’s also quietly ringing the show’s death knell.
Much of episode eight, “The Ballad of the Bear,” hinges on Gustavo. Once a minor player and Teddy’s foot soldier, he’s had to make deft moves to protect his family. Snowfall coaxes us into engaging with social themes like how the predatory free market turns reckless players into flesh for consumption, and family men into demons. Viewers stress knowing Franklin doesn’t have long, and the proof is in the prolonged setup of his capture. You can’t help but wonder whether Louie will hang him out to dry (she won’t), or Gustavo will cave to the DEA and/or KGB (he doesn’t) and leave our main character in a lurch. Perhaps, in a major comeuppance for the Black and Brown folks, they’ll turn on the interloping oppression agents to further fuck over the colonized. (Also, no.) With the battle for street supremacy come and gone, the pride before the fall is the only unresolved struggle, and that leaves a lot of waiting and ruminating.
Franklin’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, unsure he can secure the bounty for Gustavo to deliver Teddy to him. Teddy’s underhanded deal with Louie to get Franklin looks like a ruse for her to kamikaze-bomb the drug trade altogether. But it’s Gustavo’s scenes with his family that goad us with throat-gripping anxiety. As he offers his old luchador masks to his young sons, growling with them to assert a manhood he might not witness them assume, we fret. His wife frets. Will another beloved character utter his final lines?
Just as we’re biting nails numb, Franklin’s dangling feet appear as he swings from a slipknot. Although his scenes with his wife Vee scan business-like (with him asking her to “liquidate the properties” in a telling comment about their love overall), they presage the final twilight and awash in sunset amber. The final showdown in the warehouse is a cliffhanger where Gustavo survives his aggravator and must clear the path for Franklin and Teddy to go at it. A fervent sequence of Franklin facing death — then Teddy, then Gustavo again — feels like the show doesn’t know who to kill or why. Then again, nothing ever happens ‘til it does. An epic two-episode death match could give fans the memento the season’s been wanting.
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