A lack of choices will breed desperation. The kind of desperation that causes you to lose sight of yourself and operate solely within a fight-or-flight primal panic. Black people have been living in this state for centuries, experiencing the world in constant survival mode to the extent where stress is so abundant that racism has been declared a public health crisis. Generations of Black Americans have lived their entire life in a society that will do anything to deny them their basic human rights. If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s simple to see how racism and systemic inequalities impact each tier for Black Americans, making our needs harder to meet. When battling for basic rights is the norm and not the exception, people will turn to anything.
In Snowfall, we see firsthand how the living conditions of Black people in poverty lead to extreme desperation. This has led to Franklin entering the drug game, people turning to illegal substances to feel relief, and for the pursuit of money to prevail above all. Historically, the ’80s were when the income gap in America began to increase, with California being one of the top states where the “poor got poorer and the rich got richer.” Wanda and Leon continue to acclimate back to California after leaving Ghana, but the worsening state of the projects is impossible to ignore. Besides the rampant drug use and violence, Deon has begun a habit of shooting the street lights, making it harder for cops to see his men engaging in illicit activities. He’s mainly targeted the playground, literally stealing light and innocence from the children in his neighborhood. Leon cannot stand for this and attempts to get Kane to stop, but Kane ignores him, stating that as the cops are cracking down on drug-related sentences, he must protect his workers. He’s right about cops cracking down; between 1979 and 1990, the federal incarceration rate for Black Americans increased from 39 to 53 percent, and The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was on the horizon.
Later in the night, Leon and Wanda are taunted by Kane and his crew as they slut shame Wanda, calling her “community pussy,” and whatever other disgusting insults they can think of. Leon admits that he’s second-guessing leaving Accra, stating that the decay he’s witnessing is beyond his help. The next day, Leon catches Deon shooting out another one of the street lights and immediately charges at him. They get into a full-out fight in front of the whole neighborhood, tussling with each other and trying to assert dominance. It’s gritty, the pure aggression of each man manifesting in physical violence. It exemplifies that primal instinct to protect themselves and their people under such dire circumstances. They go back and forth for a while, with Leon lying on the ground at one point while Deon taunts him even more, claiming that Leon left his people while they were starving and didn’t have the heart to be in this world anymore. This attempted blow at his ego is the final straw for Leon, who gets up, shatters a glass over Deon’s head, and walks away victorious.
It’s not only the people in the projects acting out of desperation; all the Snowfall characters are being backed into a corner. While lights are breaking in the projects, Reuben gets a call about broken pipes, summoning him to work. Though pipes aren’t literally broken, that’s just whatever spy code words they use, his operation is definitely in a predicament. Now that they know that Teddy is onto them after the botched mission in Costa Rica, the KGB must act fast before Teddy can make another move. With only one chance left, Reuben approaches Gustavo with an offer for full immunity and protection in exchange for giving up Teddy’s warehouse location. He finds Gustavo drunk at a bar after a fight with Xiamara and, without revealing his identity, explains that he knows Gustavo is a double agent for the CIA and the DEA. Then he reveals to Gustavo that Teddy has been lying to him for months since he doesn’t work for the CIA anymore, leaving Gustavo with an important decision to make … and offering only 24 hours to make it. Regardless, Gustavo will be forced to do something because the DEA is ready to raid the warehouse the next day.
As Rueben leaves, we see Teddy steaked out outside of the bar, snapping away pictures of the KGB spy. Clearly, Teddy knows more than he’s letting on to Gustavo. Beyond that, he knows his time trying to make this operation work may be coming to an end. He opens up about this to Parissa and warns her that it may be best to stay with him until things settle down. She declines the offer, asking if he’s using Russian spies as an excuse to move in together. Then she asks about his next steps. He has two options: shut it all down and salvage what’s left of his career, or take the money he’s accrued and flee the country. The latter is a death sentence for Teddy, who barely has a sense of self outside of his zealous patriotism. Either way, he has a choice to make.
Also, between a rock and a hard place, Franklin is so distressed about his current situation that he’s officially unhinged. Scrambling to get his money back and rebuild his empire from the ground up, he relinquishes some control to Cassandra and Veronique to track down his fortune. Their plan, which involves conning an investment banker to steal documents, leads to a dead end once they find out Teddy is truly the only one who knows where the money is. Franklin loses his cool at Cassandra, verbally berating her for not finding more information. Still, Veronique keeps her mother from leaving — under the condition that they take things into their own hands while Franklin focuses on repairing his business in the streets.
Kane, still recovering from his injury, is slowly re-entering the game now that he’s out of the hospital. Dressed like he’s about to have a meeting on Wall Street, Franklin pulls up to Kane’s house in his version of having his tail between his legs: he approaches Kane with business advice, pointing out areas for opportunity and promising more money. Obviously, Kane is a bit prickly toward Franklin, correctly interpreting it as Franklin trying to regain control. However, he knows that Franklin is both valuable and vulnerable, and like he tells one of his men later in the episode, in his eyes, Franklin is a hoe: Franklin is willing to lay down to get what he wants, so why not exploit him to the fullest?
With Kane’s blessing, Franklin goes to the cookhouse where Kane’s men are making product with the goal of tightening up the operation to meet the demand in their territory. It’s a sloppy mess with girls hanging around, people using, and little work getting done. They have no respect for Franklin, who at this point is essentially a cautionary tale for flying too close to the sun, and reject his advice. Unhinged as he is, Franklin asserts his dominance by burning one of the cook’s faces on the hot oven burner. He orders everyone out except those willing to work to his standards.
Todd, the victim of Franklin’s outburst, first airs his frustrations with Kane but isn’t met with sympathy. So he turns to Jerome and Louie, figuring the enemy of his enemy is his friend. He tells them where Kane is staying and, now on Jerome and Louie’s team, participates in shooting up the house while Kane and Franklin are meeting inside. The irony is that right before they began firing shots through the windows, Kane and Franklin were fighting about Franklin’s decision to discipline one of the workers. They briefly see that Todd was one of the assailants before shooting him in the head (and spitting on his dead body) and narrowly making it out of the house and into a getaway car.
• Einstein is such an interesting side character. I enjoy seeing Leon mentor and encourage him to go to college. But what Deon told him is, unfortunately, a very common situation in the hood — why go to college for an average life with book smarts when you can live an extraordinary life with street smarts?
• I truly feel for Wanda; being back home near crack and crack addicts is torturing her mentally. Seeing how she reacted to those kids spray painting a passed-out addict was devastating, though I know she’ll do so much good working in the shelter.
• In the most random development of my week, I learned that Brandon Jay McLaren, the actor who plays Beau, also played the red Power Ranger! What a small world.
• I’m so fascinated by the camerawork during scenes with just Franklin and Veronique, mostly because I don’t trust her or her mom. When the couple spoke to each other after Franklin’s outburst at Cassandra, I found it interesting that they at first spoke back to back, only facing each other when deciding their next move. They don’t seem to be fully on the same page or even coming from the same place.