Snowfall, created by Boyz n the Hood writer-directer John Singleton, premiered with a bang last week.
Snowfall is about the expansive story of how crack cocaine got its start in L.A. during the ’80s. There are three narratives to the story: Franklin (Damson Idris), the kid from East L.A. who is smart, ambitious and ready to do what it takes to get to the top. Lucia (Emily Rios), from the West Side, is a woman on a mission — she goes against a powerful drug lord to build her own empire. Perhaps the most disturbing narrative is that of Teddy (Carter Hudson), a CIA agent who takes over the cocaine operation of a dead colleague who funneled money to the Nicaraguan drug runners.
Personally, I think this is a whole lot of story for one series to handle. Franklin’s tale is by far the most engaging, and I think the series would be much better if all three tales were told through the eyes of Franklin. I can already see that the story isn’t going to be in any hurry to go anywhere. When the TV show isn’t focused on Franklin, it loses something. The script gets convoluted, perhaps it’s a bit too detailed for a television series. That isn’t to say the show isn’t engaging and the perfect summer crime drama. The show is surprisingly explicit. Almost HBO territory. Warm and cool filters are used at just the right times to give the show the impression of nostalgia. The soundtrack is top notch too, giving the show a strong early 80’s vibe.
The show is about ambition. Even if you can’t agree with what the characters are doing, you can respect why they do it. The game is rigged, and it’s rigged for all of the players, so they choose to find a way to beat the system. The show is about what it was like to grow up in a time of excess and to want to be part of that excess. The show is about loose morality, what’s wrong and what is right can get blurry. The same guy who might stop neighborhood kids from stealing might also sell weed on the side. Did I mention that it was really really explicit for basic cable, because I’m pretty sure it’s also about sex and violence. I have only seen one episode, and it’s really hard to judge a show by the first episode, or even the first few episodes these days. So far, though, Snowfall makes the same mistake as several other series, with its slow burn. I can only hope the show picks up the pace quickly. While shocking sexuality grabs the attention the first time, it won’t carry the show past the first couple of episodes.
I can only guess the mixed storylines are used because Singleton didn’t have anything to gain from taking sides, so he uses several stories to avoid entanglement. Franklin, Lucia and Teddy don’t know each other, but they all have a similar goal, even if they don’t know what that is yet… exactly. The multiple storylines create the impression that the crack epidemic had several places it started from; no side taking necessary. Unfortunately, for Snowfall to become the show it wants to be, it will need to have more focus on a central character so that viewers can focus on a more fleshed-out character, instead of attempting to follow multiple storylines.
The show has lots of great things going for it, too: Great actors, amazing sets, a top-notch soundtrack and a top-notch concept. Snowfall is a good way to spend a summer evening before the more established shows come back in the fall. I give the show three stars and hope subsequent episodes will let me up that rating a bit.