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While talking about Franklin Saint’s character in the second season of ‘Snowfall’, FX star Damson Idris said during an interview with NewsWeek, “This season is really gonna go focus on how inner-city communities—and not only the African American community but also the Latino communities—were really targeted and really took the fall and were thrown under the bus for this huge epidemic. That’s something that this season’s gonna explore in detail so that we can understand why many of our communities are how they are today. We weren’t just born in horrible situations. We were placed in them.”
FX’s hit series ‘Snowfall’ tells the story of the crack epidemic which took America by the neck in the 80’s. As much as the CIA has been criticized for the spread of the epidemic, the Latino and American communities were further pushed to the margins due to their direct involvement with the drug trade. Season 1 of ‘Snowfall’ focused on the development of its characters in these times, as they tried to put up the stakes of their community in the times when America was suffering from one its deadliest periods of recession following the energy crisis of 1979. By December of 1982, the recession had reached its peak at 10.8%. In fact, the unemployment rate did not fall below 6% until September 1987.
It was during this time that South Central Los Angeles became the hub of the crack trade but it was the African-American community which became the largest victim of the drug trade. ‘Snowfall’ drops Franklin Saint amid this crisis. Backed by the generations of poverty that his family has faced and the current period of recession, Saint takes it upon himself to pull his family out of the current state of poverty. He jumped at the first mention of the opportunity and took it upon himself to deal cocaine with some of the biggest drug lords in LA including the millionaire Avi Dexler (played by Alon Abutbul) and Lucia Villanueva, the Mexican drug-princess (played by Emily Rios).
However, Saint only enters the trade with the perception that he will be able to quit immediately after things are well with his family. But things take a different turn in Season 2, which brings the show a lot closer to the LA of the 80’s. Splashed in the warm LA sun with the boxcars rattling down the neighborhoods, ‘Snowfall’ has always been the perfect setting for an 80’s crime series. Yet, there was something missing. The harsh, raw mechanism of a neighborhood did not bud in the show until the second season, where the neighborhood where Saint lives becomes a lot more vulnerable to the drug trade as compared to season 1.
Both Black and Mexican communities were presented under a similar light in Singleton’s ‘Snowfall’. (IMDb)
What makes season 2 even more compelling is that it set in a time when President Ronald Reagan declared his war on drugs which resulted in the indiscriminate hunting of African-Americans. When he declared the war in 1982 it led an orderless scheme of arrests and imprisonments for the African-American community. America certainly fell for Regean’s mythical promises about ending drugs and improving employment but that in no way helped the black youths of 1985 to cope with their poverty and the continuous harassment of racism. While the white youth’s employment rate increased, the black youth’s unemployment rate was four-time of what it was in 1954.
This is where Season 2 locks the deal with Franklin Saint. The doe-eyed boy who was a favorite of everyone in the neighborhood and who would return to his mother at the end of the day, and never sniff even a little amount of cocaine, is now rapidly climbing up the ladder in the drug trade. Doing away with his old trade, Saint is now more concentrated in finding out people who can produce the crack. If that means disposing of old relations, so be it. Season 2 sees Saint collide with some old allies as he tries to bring new people into the game only to grow his own alliance. However, it all came with a cost.
The 80’s drug epidemic saw the breaking down of many relationships, and Saint’s relationship with his mother was not spared either. Cissy Saint (played by Michael Hyatt) eventually asked her son to move out, “I know what you are doing, Franklin. You are welcome when you stop.” Probably that is the point where Saint becomes the actual demonic man who trades drugs for food. Saint’s plight here on is nothing more than a member of a distressed community trying to climb up the social ladder. During the 80’s African-American families who have been migrating to the States in search of prospects were pushed to the structural challenges of poverty. They were to stay in the crowded, dilapidated neighborhoods where violence breeds like an everyday weed.
Several of them were victims of discrimination by real estate agents and hence were unable to move out of the places that they were dumped in. This struggle finds its prominence in ‘Snowfall’. Saint was not a boy who would indulge himself in addiction but was there solely for the trade’s sake. Season 2 will probably see Saint experimenting with the drug by himself. In his fit of anger Saint screams, “I am a black man in America. Hell yeah, I am paranoid!” However, it was not just the black community which was threatened by the epidemic. ‘Snowfall’ Season 2 makes sure that every single community is portrayed under the same green light of the drug.
While Saint is driving around the neighborhood selling drugs in a food truck, the disgraced CIA agent Teddy comes forward to take the place of a patriot in this war. Making the controversy surrounding CIA a little more slanted away from the facts, Teddy takes it upon himself to end the drug war. He says, “If we win this war, we can change the course of history…And this war, we can win.” When the government didn’t want to fund his operation the CIA agent disguises himself as one of the drug lords who are willing to help Franklin get better deals with his trade. But the subtle moment of distress lies in the fact that Teddy himself isn’t entirely clean, he has after all been in the support of the rebels. He was compelled to take help from people out of the channels.
Season 2 gets in and out of situations where characters are seen plunging into moments of deep denials. All of this coupled with a cover of ‘California Dreaming’ makes for a perfect nomenclature of misunderstanding and crime. The series’ historical background has given Singleton sufficient material to play his characters around with, and it is in Season 2 that he has stretched it out for maximum utilization. His characters are sketched out in such a way that each seems to be oblivious of their own deeds. Saint certainly does not feel guilty about not having to run around for a job, rather he would look into matters which will help him expand his drug trade.
On the other hand, CIA agent Teddy seizes the opportunity to renew his lost status in the CIA but falters when the authorities refuse to help him. Ambition can drive a man to do mad things, and history is full of such men. Teddy might just be one of them since his ambition to win the drug war almost blurs him out of the fact that he is just a pawn in the game. While Lucia, the drug princess who in Season 1 struggled to be at par with the men, will also take up the opportunity to mark her place in her father’s family who would prefer a son take up his family business. Every single one of them is trying to prove that they are tougher than the rest, it is probably only Franklin who is actually doing the trade with a good intention.
The characters almost become inhumane to the extent that they overlook the murders which take place in the second episode. They simply do not consider the price which they are already paying by being a part of the trade. When Kevin lashes out towards the end of ‘Scarface’, Saint asked about Tony Montana- to know if he is dead or alive. Kevin replies, “Nah, buddy, everyone in that motherfucker dies.” When this was not enough to point out to Saint just how drastically times are changing, a robbery forces him and his aunt to put up bars on their windows. The peace abiding neighborhood has already fallen a victim to the traps of the drug trade. But none of the characters seemingly fathomed that all of this could affect their drug trade.
By the third episode, every single character is already trying to choke each other to claim their throne in the trade, including Saint who tries to overrule his uncle by forming his own alliance. Teddy doesn’t mind getting his mettle tested by the Colombian drug lords as he plans to kill the snake with its own poison. It is not about why or what exactly Teddy is trying to do, it is more about how the CIA agent is bringing in light to the controversy which has shaken up the authorities since decades. It can be said that in Season 2 characters play under the light of a sparkling LA which appears in all its glory but is constantly being preyed upon by the condemned trade.
‘Snowfall’ could be on of the few attempts to portray a generation which saw the rise and fall of the Rock ‘n Roll culture, the Vietnam War, and was finally flung into the bottomless chasms of crack-cocaine. For the very first time, ‘Snowfall’ succeeded in achieving what it has been trying to do in the first season, an acceptance of the past and its immediate effect in the present. Otherwise, why would anyone what to know about something that is done and dusted with? Probably this is where ‘Snowfall’ wins the deal. It has been able enough in Season 2 to grip its viewers and take them on a journey about betrayal, violence, and ultimate repentance.
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