Carter Hudson (Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX)

At the end of last week’s episode of Snowfall, Franklin got a rude welcome into the business of dealing coke. No longer slinging weed within his own neighborhood, Franklin was taking his first steps into a bigger, badder world. His big mistake was thinking that he could just waltz into the market and avoid any sort of competition. Of course, that attitude and ignorance got him a beatdown at the hands of a couple others looking to sell to Claudia. That very physical welcome to this particular drug game turns out to be just the beginning though, as “Slow Hand” introduces Franklin to a whole new level of horror.

The episode picks up in the immediate aftermath of the beatdown outside Claudia’s place. Franklin somehow manages to pick himself up and stumble back into the club; he wants to know who those guys were and where he can find them. Claudia isn’t about to give him all the information, but after pressing her, she gives him two names: Lenny and Ray Ray. Franklin enlists Leon, who in turn enlists a seriously bad dude by the name of Carvell, to track down the guys who jumped him in the hopes of getting his money back.

Before getting to the outcome of Franklin’s doomed quest, which represents the episode’s best, if not exactly easy to watch material, let’s shift the focus to the other stories, which aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. It’s still early in the season, but at this point Teddy’s story, intertwined with that of Alejandro, is a frustrating viewing experience. Not only is it bogged down with familiar tropes—Teddy is such a sad dude who just wants to make right on his past mistakes— but it’s also needlessly vague.

Certainly Snowfall, or any show for that matter, doesn’t need to spell out every single bit of plot, but a little clarity would be welcome, especially when it comes to how Teddy and Alejandro are supposed to be helping each other. Without some sort of knowledge of U.S. foreign policy in the ’80s—of which I only possess a bit—it’d be hard to keep up. It would seem that Alejandro is a member of the Contra soldiers that were funded by the Reagan administration to fight back against the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Reagan gleefully used the CIA to organize coups all over Latin America, and it would seem that that’s where Teddy fits in.

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That’s all well and good, and adds a bit of realism to the sometimes exaggerated feeling of the story, but there’s still a lack of explanation that keeps the story at an emotional distance. For example, the sudden appearance of Teddy’s wife should be a big character moment, but instead Jules is used as a meaningless storytelling device, a way to drive a wedge between Teddy and Alejandro. Again, the details inspired by real life occurrences are intriguing—Jules mentions Teddy having some sort of mental breakdown in Tehran, where they were stationed together, which based on the timeline would perhaps put them in the heart of the Iranian Revolution—but the emotional nuance is lacking. When Jules basically asserts that her and Teddy’s relationship has run its course, it doesn’t land the way it should because this is the first we’ve seen of Jules. The split is a seventh-episode moment tucked away in the third episode, well before the show has had any chance to lay the emotional groundwork.

Similarly, the storyline that sees Gustavo slowly working his way into Lucia and Pedro’s inner circle is floundering. Gustavo’s struggles with his own moral compass remain interesting, as he asserts himself as the episode rolls on. His challenges to Pedro reveal a complex character, as he’s dead set on making a better life for himself but also unsure how far he’ll go to do so. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to keep the story moving. Again, the problem seems to be that Snowfall is spread too thin. With so much of the focus going (rightly) to Franklin, there’s little room to explore the complexities that come with Teddy’s CIA-funded war, and the inner workings of the cartel that Gustavo is quickly becoming a part of.

At least Franklin’s character arc remains compelling, and “Slow Hand” really pushes him to evaluate his choices. Last week’s final scene may have been the first moment of conflict for our protagonist, but this week’s excruciating, drawn-out interaction with Lenny is something totally different. Again, Franklin’s selfish, ignorant nature is exposed. When he seeks out Carvell to help him retrieve his money, he doesn’t think about anything besides getting the money back. He thinks it’ll be easy, a sign that he hasn’t been part of this world for very long. The retrieval is anything but easy. In fact, after Leon and Franklin can’t find the money, Carvell goes about getting the information out of Lenny in any way he can. Swiftly, he moves from beating the hell out of Lenny with a baseball bat to eventually raping him behind a closed door, all before leaving with Franklin’s cash.

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The loss of money is one thing for Franklin, but he’s lost so much more here. Looking into Lenny’s eyes after he’s been raped by Carvell, Franklin understands that this is on him. He was the one who brought in Carvell, and he did so without any understanding of the lengths he’d go to in order to get that money. Up until this point, Franklin has treated his drug dealing like a game that has no consequences, and one that doesn’t involve any real people. Now, he’s confronted with the reality. There’s no way to be in this game and remain clean, and now he’s left with a choice. Keep slinging, make money, and maybe sacrifice whatever morals he still holds dear, or walk away once and for all? Something tells me this won’t be the last difficult decision that he faces.

Stray observations

  • Teddy’s motivation when he abandons Alejandro and their work grinding the serial numbers off of government weapons is a little shaky. I understand that he’s supposed to be doing all of this for his family, and that it’s a surprise to see them, but isn’t the idea to actually do the work so that he can be reunited with them? His self-destructive behavior feels out of place considering the path Teddy has been on to reclaim his life.
  • Carvell proves that eating a box of cereal can seem really, really menacing.
  • “This is fucked.” What more do you need to hear from Franklin? He’s in way over his head.

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