The third season of Snowfall opens with something we’ve seen before. The skyline takes up the entire frame, scorching sun and crystal clear blue skies populated by the occasional tree. We’ve been down this street before, back in the series premiere, where the promise of the open sky collided with the searing heat of the neighborhood asphalt, promising impending calamity in a way similar to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. This time around, things are different. Officer Andre rolls through the neighborhood in his squad car, but things are more composed than before. Lots of people out walking, chatting, just enjoying the day.
Andre looks perplexed, like this isn’t the scene he was expecting. Or perhaps just marvelling at how places change. Then, rounding a corner, he sees a woman diving into the window of a car to steal some crack cocaine. The driver takes off when he spots Andre, but the woman hangs on, grasping for a rock. She finally snags one and then lets go of the door, slamming into the ground and rolling to a stop. Andre approaches, worried, but the woman just rolls over, takes a hit, and eases into the pavement. The hit matters above all else. The neighborhood might be changing, but not all of those changes are good.
Snowfall’s formula hasn’t changed all that much since the series premiere. Seasons one and two both followed similar arcs, with Franklin’s business growing until he ran into some trouble, while the stories of Terry, Lucia, and Gustavo populated the fringes and largely landed like a wet blanket. Along the way though, the show has tweaked the characters and the situations just enough to avoid any sort of complacency or repetition. Snowfall might not be the kind of must-see TV that populated screens a few years ago, but it is absolutely one of the more confident, stylish, well-written shows on TV right now, and without the faux prestige baggage that comes with some other supposed favorites.
“Protect And Swerve” suggests that the show still doesn’t know how to make anything involving Teddy matter, but Snowfall continues to grow in interesting ways, to the point where the black hole that is every Teddy story doesn’t really matter. Instead, the show thrives by tracking Franklin’s rise, and teasing his downfall. After Teddy helped get him out of prison in last season’s finale, Franklin is now back in business...and business is thriving. Crack cocaine is the new drug of choice, and it’s selling like mad.
With that success though comes a new set of trials and tribulations. A new crew, headed up by a dude named Man Boy, is encroaching on Franklin’s territory, just about setting off a war between the factions. When two of the new crew try to rob one of Franklin’s trucks, Leon shoots them dead in the middle of the street. It’s a shocking, visceral, violent scene, one meant to convey that this violence could happen to anyone. Leon, Franklin, and the others have to act hard, but the truth is that the shooting shakes them. As their game grows, the threats begins to multiply. When Franklin sits down with his mother later on and says that he can keep everyone safe, he knows he’s uttering empty promises. His face is contorted into a look of fake comfort, if only to protect his mother from what he knows is coming somewhere down the line.
Other crews battling for business is nothing new, but “Protect And Swerve” offers up a more intriguing season-long plot in the heated confrontation that closes out the episode, a terse exchange between Franklin and Officer Andre. In that single scene is the entire thematic framework for this season. Franklin, all ego at this point, toys with the officer, telling him it’s time to get out of the racist police force and join his people on the streets. Andre laughs it off, and details his own time trying to work a hustle after getting home from Vietnam and finding his life in shambles.
The socio-political bent to the conversation is powerful. Andre’s speech cuts down Franklin’s ambitions, and shows him how plenty of kids before him thought they’d figured out the hustle too. In the end though, you just end up awake at night, dreading the day when the cops come crashing through your front door. And Andre promises to do just that, while also lambasting Franklin for profiting off the destruction of the community he purports to represent. Andre knows crack cocaine is a different kind of drug, and he drops Franklin off in front of a crack house to witness the devastation it’s causing.
Now Franklin not only has to reckon with control of his business, he also has to truly question the morality of what he’s doing, and if this is what he wants for his people. That’s a fascinating internal struggle that this season could get a lot of mileage out of.
- R.I.P. to the great John Singleton. Every day is a good day to cue up Boyz N The Hood.
- Poor Jerome. Jammin’ Jerome’s didn’t even last a day.
- That final montage is great. As Andre talks about finding all the little mistakes that will lead to him taking down Franklin and his friends and family, we see Leon shooting the getaway driver from earlier, and Louie coming home from maybe killing Claudia.