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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Snowfall caps off a tense season by examining the consequences of Franklin's expanding empire

Illustration for article titled Snowfall caps off a tense season by examining the consequences of Franklin's expanding empire
Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FX
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There was a time when, all things considered, you could have called Franklin’s goals noble. Way back in the first season of Snowfall, Franklin was a kid staring down a world that didn’t have much to offer him, a world filled with obstacles and oppression and uncertainty. He understood he wasn’t alone in this; he saw the struggle in his community. So, he set out with a plan for empowerment. However misguided it may seem, Franklin’s initial foray into the drug business was in part an attempt to grab some power in a society set up to deny it to him.

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It’s important to remember how Franklin got started because this season of Snowfall, and particularly the finale, is largely about how much he’s changed and how this business has grown into something that creates its own side effects, no matter how much Franklin tries to remain in complete control. This season began with a drug war, and spiraled out of control from there. Franklin’s been holding on for dear life while trying to protect those closest to him.

So how did we get here? “Fight Or Flight” goes back to the beginning, or at least near it. A young Franklin is being chastised by his teacher and the school principal for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. Alton’s been called in to deal with the situation. Decked out in his Black Panther garb, Alton tells them that his son won’t be attending that school anymore, that it’s the boy’s right to not salute a flag that represents a country that doesn’t give a damn about him.

It’s a small scene, but it works to establish that Franklin’s anti-authority streak has always been there; thus, his initial hopes of empowering his community in the face of systemic issues are deeply rooted. Also, this gives us a deeper understanding of Alton. He’s often soft-spoken, but this scene sets the stage for his blowup later in the episode, one that (presumably) leads to his death; one of the more satisfying bit of character work in an episode chock-full of them.

Snowfall hasn’t always been great at juggling its various plot threads. The first and second seasons were particularly spotty, with anything involving Teddy/Reed or Gustavo and Lucia usually being very hit or miss. But this season has really managed to bring everything together in a satisfying way. Where previous seasons the plot threads felt like they operated separately, to the detriment of dramatic tension, this season has brought everyone together to show how various bad decisions, misguided beefs, and endless greed creates a fallout that affects everyone.

“Fight or Flight” lays out the idea that no matter what kind of control Franklin thinks he has, there will always be consequences in this business. This has been an incredibly tense season, one driven by devastating consequences and multiple deaths. The bodies have piled up; Fatback ended up dead, Skully’s daughter was caught in a drive-by shooting, and Skully himself takes multiple bullets through the season and the finale. It’s easy enough to make your show exciting by propelling the plot forward through double crosses and violence, but what Snowfall really achieves in “Fight or Flight” is an examination of the aftermath, and how the violence has changed these people.

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There’s Leon, struggling to deal with the fact that he killed a child; plus, he was already feeling responsible for getting Wanda hooked on drugs. There’s Alton, risking it all to try and do what’s right and get justice for Irene’s death, and expose Reed in the process. There’s Louie and Jerome coming face-to-face with a vengeful Skully, and barely avoiding disaster. Same goes for Alton and Cissy, who manage to escape to Cuba and live their lives, with Reed promising to lay off after Alton threatens to expose him.

The thing is, while these people think they’re recovering, they’re actually just hurtling towards more disaster. Leon is pondering getting out of the game, but Franklin pulls rank and tells him to keep doing his job. Jerome and Louie set out on their own in Little Rock, feeling confident about their chances to keep building something there, but how long can they go uncontested? Then there’s Alton, who must have known that Reed would eventually show up in Cuba to finish the job. We don’t see Alton die, so anything’s possible, but it’s hard to believe Reed will leave that loose end dangling.

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Which brings us to Franklin. This is what he’s brought into his life. He’s put his family and his friends in constant danger, and things are only escalating. But this Franklin isn’t like the old Franklin. He’s been reborn, forged in this world of violence and survival of the fittest. He’s the kingpin. In the finale’s final scene, we finally get another look at Mel. Franklin pays her a visit in Texas, and on his way out he hangs up his cane, walking out on his own, no help needed. He’s THE MAN, and he knows it. But when you’re The Man, you’re the biggest target. “Fight Or Flight” not only confirms Franklin’s status through wonderful character work, paying off a season focused on Franklin’s decisions, but also sets up a fifth season that’s bound to see him dealing with the pain and consequences of his endless need for power.


Stray observations

  • “Your daddy will always have your back.” I’ve been pretty mixed on Alton’s presence in this show, but credit where it’s due, this season really delivered in terms of a complex, heartbreaking father-son dynamic. That near-shootout scene with Reed? My heart was about to leap out of my chest. “You want me gone? You gon’ have to do it yourself.”
  • Speaking of which, do we think Reed killed Alton? I think it has to be that way. No way he hops a plane to Havana after a tense standoff just to have a conversation, and obviously Alton’s death would add a lot of dramatic tension to Reed and Franklin’s relationship next season.
  • I never really loved what was going on with Gustavo and Lucia in the first two seasons, but I’m hopeful that if they bring the character back, this version of the show will have more for her to do.
  • I didn’t think Franklin was going to harm Mel in that final scene—I know he killed her father, but I still think he’s trying to keep blood off his hands—but I think his controlled, menacing attitude here was definitely meant to signal that Franklin is heading to a place he won’t be able to come back from. Killing Andre was a line crossed for the previous version of Franklin. Who knows what this new Franklin is capable of.
  • Lots of death this season. A lot. I think the season got off to a solid if slow start, but things eventually picked up and I love the way everything all came together. Season Five is shaping up to be a doozy. I’ll see you there.
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Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.