In The Iliad, war is a game marked by fate and fury. Writing of the epic’s fall in “Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange,” Karl Marx asks, “Is Achilles possible when powder and shot have been invented? And is The Iliad possible at all when the printing press and even printing machines exist? Is it not inevitable that with the emergence of the press bar the singing and the telling and the muse cease, that is the conditions necessary for epic poetry disappear?”
Episode five of Snowfall season five, “The Iliad: Part 1,” chronicles a war of modernity made possible by capitalism, greed, imperialism, surveillance, new military technologies, and an increasingly fixed racial world order. “This empire y’all are buildin’, it’s gonna crumble,” Cissy tells Louie and Jerome as the group gathers for lunch. Urging them to begin mapping out their escape plans from the drug game, Cissy, alongside Veronique, turns the lunch into a call to arms.
As a last-ditch effort to reason with Louie and Jerome after they rejected Franklin’s offer to put all their money into legitimate business deals with some downtown L.A. properties, the women encourage the couple to think about their collective future. “There’s never gonna be any future for any of us long as we’re in this drug game, y’all know that,” Cissy tells them. Suddenly, their future talk is interrupted by present peril. Louie and Jerome’s pagers begin to beep, going off incessantly. When Jerome finds a pay phone, he calls Franklin, and here’s the news: “We got hit at the drop,” Franklin tells him. Before Jerome can process, an orange car pulls up with shooters perched in its windows aiming at the restaurant. As their earnest lunch is overwhelmed by gunfire, Veronique and Cissy crouch fearfully on the ground by some bushes. Louie ducks down and begins shooting back at their assailants as Jerome runs back to her from the pay phone. As the restaurant staff and a few patrons lie bleeding on the ground, Cissy, Veronique, Jerome, and Louie run away. When the cops follow them, Veronique opts to take their guns before they are stopped, stowing away their arms in her white crossbody purse. After they are each made to put their hands on their heads with guns at their backs, the group is forced to sit on the curb. Veronique’s crying facilitates a much-needed distraction from the officer’s intent to search, creating a moment that allows Louie to name-drop Officer Bo Buckley, who, despite being as insufferable as ever, manages to get the cops off their backs so that they can get back to the club safely.
Unbeknownst to them, the hit during Franklin’s drop with Teddy is much worse than he let on. Things are off from the beginning. When Franklin explains that Peaches is sick and introduces the new guy, Teddy looks at him suspiciously. “You offer sick days now?” Teddy asks. “You gotta take care of your people, man. Otherwise, they’ll sneak behind your back,” Franklin explains (say it with me: “Worker’s rights!”). Mid-conversation, an orange van pulls up to their undisclosed location and unloads gunfire on Franklin, Peaches Two, Teddy, and Gustavo. Peaches Two is shot dead almost immediately, Gustavo gets grazed on the arm (not El Oso!), and Teddy is shot in the chest. Driving off to save himself, Teddy leaves Gustavo behind and kicks into survival mode. Helping Gustavo into his car, Franklin rear-ends the orange van and drives them to safety.
Now riddled with bullets, the car is dying slowly and leaving a heavy cloud of smoke in its wake as it strands them in a Mexican neighborhood that is in gang territory. Franklin and Gustavo make their way to a pay phone in the hopes of orchestrating a rescue. Unsure of exactly who was behind the hit, Franklin racks his brain for answers. “Gotta know your enemies, mijo,” Gustavo tells him. “Maybe they followed you!” Franklin responds defensively. Gustavo rejects this suggestion outright and suspects Peaches was behind it, but Franklin brushes past the suggestion. Franklin calls Jerome while Gustavo watches his back. A group of young guys with bats approaches and asks what’s in their bags (following the abandonment of their car, Franklin and Gustavo had to walk on foot carrying the $3 million for Teddy). “Pinche ropa sucia,” Gustavo answers indignantly. As it turns out, this group of boys only looks tough, but soon enough, real gangsters with real artillery arrive, and Franklin and Gustavo must run to safety once more, so they stow away underneath one of the homes in the neighborhood. “This morning, I got a phone call I thought was gonna set my whole family up for life; now, my whole family might be gone,” Franklin tells Gustavo as they sit in the dirt beneath the home. “This morning, I was making pancakes in dinosaur shapes,” Gustavo responds (awww!).
Speaking of family, none of Franklin’s “family” is spared from these acts of war. When Leon goes to meet Avi to pick up guns, he, too, is attacked by a group of shooters, this time in a cream car, who kill one of Avi’s men and shoot at the men indiscriminately. Leon shoots one of their attackers and is surprised when they drive off without their comrade. “They left one of their dead behind. No ID,” he notes. Shocked that someone could have intercepted such a private deal, he begins to wonder who could’ve known of his plans with Avi. “Whoever did this was close,” he says. With Peaches out sick and Black Diamond and Dallas on their days off, fingers begin to point to Franklin’s foot soldiers. As the episode unfolds, no clear answers are provided. Still, troubled intimacies remain a threat to all the characters caught up in Franklin’s web of networks.
After driving far away from the site of the intercepted drop, Teddy accesses his wound and puts cocaine on it to hold himself over. Eventually, he stops at what appears to be a random home. When the home’s owner, a woman named Parissa, comes back from her run, she notices a blood trail leading to her front door and calmly asks, “Whose bleeding in my home?” She finds Teddy on her kitchen floor, bleeding out. “Thomas, what a surprise?” she says. “Parissa, how you been?” Teddy asks between groans and winces. “Better than you,” Parissa responds (Queen of comedy!). When Parissa attempt to call an ambulance, Teddy talks her out of it and tells her to fix him herself. She negotiates a medical bill of a quarter-million in exchange for operating on him. After inspection, she explains that the bullet hit an auxiliary artery and shouldn’t be fatal. “You won’t die unless I want you to,” she says. Before running to the hospital to steal surgical supplies, she throws salt on his wound. “Nothing keeps you awake more than pain, Thomas,” she says.
Things take a turn for the weird when Parissa begins to operate on Teddy. As he lays on her makeshift operating table, she comments on the pleasure she derives from a surgeon’s power over their vulnerable patient. “I miss the high you get from surgery,” she says. “Seeing someone so raw, so exposed. helpless.” As it turns out, though she is only a nurse in the U.S. In a previous life, before her immigration, Parissa was a trained surgeon. “Here in America, I’m only allowed to change bedpans,” she comments. As she operates on Teddy, her pleasure in the surgical process proves psychosexual. Touching herself as Teddy lays before her sedated, Parissa reveals dark fantasies about sex and violence. “I always thought it was a bit weird, so I hid it. I never told anyone, but I don’t hide anymore,” she says. (This whole story line really gives Phantom Thread meets Snowfall: Phantom Fed, if you will.)
Hiding out at Louie’s club, the rest of Franklin’s crew have regrouped to plan their next moves after facing respective encounters with these anonymous shooters. Jerome is sent to talk to Peaches since he has known him the longest, and Cissy and Veronique are told to stay at the club for their safety until Franklin is found. To calm them, Jerome emphasizes Franklin’s resilience. “Franklin is a survivor,” he says.
Still fighting for their lives, Franklin and Gustavo decide to leave the money they’d been carrying under the house to retrieve later. Lighter on their feet now, the two men sneak into a house without a car in the driveway. Upon entering through the window, they quickly realize that the owner of this home is a fan of taxidermy. When Franklin attempts to use the house phone, he realizes it is unplugged just a few seconds before he feels a sharp pain. As he turns around, he realizes he has been shot by the home’s owner, an old white man with a tranquilizer gun. The man proceeds to shoot Gustavo next, and the two men fall to the ground. “I told you muchachos, keep bothering me, I’d get new security,” the man says (Gran Torino, is that you?). Franklin panics, worrying that the man has plans to stuff them. The old man assured him that he is far too slender to be an ideal candidate for taxidermy. Gustavo, however, he finds to be the perfect size for such an experiment. (If this man actually stuffs El Oso, I will scream!)
As the men slip into tranquilizer-induced sleep, their fate lies in the hands of a stranger. When he awakes from his sleep, Franklin finds that he and Gustavo are caged next to a tiger. Still groggy from the tranquilizer, Gustavo struggles to gain clarity amid Franklin’s clarifying fear. As he comes to, he will confront the source of Franklin’s alarm: War has brought them face-to-face with all of God’s creatures. For Achilles, the animal world was an allegory for untenable dissonance: “There can be no covenants between men and lions, wolves and lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other out and out an through.” If Franklin is the Achilles of this Iliad, he will have to find his inner beast if he wishes to outfox fate.
Musings From the Siege of South Central
• Hector of the Hood: Before their meeting with Avi goes left, we see Leon back in the project debating with Big Deon about the constitution. “Malcolm X said Article II of the constitution provides you and me the right to own a gun,” Leon explains emphatically, trying to convert his associates to his new cause. One of Big Deon’s men struggles to roll his joint amid Leon’s revolutionary rants. Can the fires of revolution light a blunt?
• Thetis, Mother of Achilles: When Cissy meets up with Rubén, he gives her a pen with an audio chip that she needs to put in Franklin’s office. “Killing Teddy is one thing, recording my son talking about illegal activity is a-motherfuckin’-nother,” she tells Rubén. Cissy crossed the Caribbean sea twice for her family. Come hell or high water, she won’t steer her son in the wrong direction.