Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Snowfall searches for meaningful conflict in a solid, if middling, second episode

Alon Aboutboul, Damson Idris (Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FX)
Alon Aboutboul, Damson Idris (Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FX)

Freedom is mine, I know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good.
—“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone


Those are the words that decorate and accentuate the opening scene of Snowfall‘s second episode, “Make Them Birds Fly.” Snowfall may have a knack for the obvious music cue, but the words here are certainly appropriate, and the swinging, muscular beat underscores the vibe in Franklin’s bedroom as he looks at the money from offloading a whole kilo of coke in a single night. In the series premiere Franklin says that all he wants is his freedom, and now here’s Nina Simone echoing that sentiment. Franklin believes he’s found his freedom. He’s riding high on a big win, stepping up during a moment filled with uncertainty. Of course, it won’t be long before he comes crashing back to reality. Freedom, he should know, isn’t so easily earned, especially considering the current company he’s involved with.

Starting anew is the connective thread here though. While Franklin takes in his newfound cash flow, even going so far as to spontaneously splurge on a motorcycle—a moment that perhaps reveals his naiveté about his current situation; the same bravado that makes him a great dealer also blinding him to good common sense—Teddy wakes up to start over as a key part of the CIA’s drug war (or lack thereof), and Gustavo is now a man with blood on his hands, though that blood may lead to a lucrative job. The pilot established who these characters are, and “Make Them Birds Fly” takes the next step, challenging them to adapt to circumstances they couldn’t have predicted.

For Franklin, that means walking into Avi’s house with all the confidence in the world, only to be given the job of driving a man with internal bleeding to the hospital. Sure, Avi is impressed that the kid sold the coke in 24 hours, but Franklin isn’t exactly his top priority. There’s a disconnect there that could prove dangerous for Franklin. He says that he delivered on the coke so he deserves more opportunities, and while that may be true, he’s also overestimating his importance. Surely Avi could find a number of guys to work the way Franklin does, even if he doesn’t have the connection with Claudia, now that he knows there’s a market in the community. That makes Franklin disposable, but he views himself as anything but. He’s already acting like a kingpin, and yet he’s barely a foot soldier at this point.

Where Franklin is seemingly blind to everything that’s going on around him, presuming he’s the center of attention despite being merely a cog in a much larger machine, Gustavo is certainly paying attention to the cartel family he’s working his way into. Meeting with Pedro and Lucia the next day, he tells them that he’s not ready to hand over the money he stole just yet because he doesn’t trust a man who’d rob his own father. He shows them the family picture he found and says that until he gets some answers, he’ll be holding the money in a safe place.

Similarly, Teddy is changing his arrangement with Alejandro and Avi in order to better suit his own needs. He wants more control, so he calls in for a new stash house, orders Alejandro to pack up all the coke, and then joins in on a meeting with Avi, something former CIA operative Logan Miller never did. Unlike Franklin though, who ends up a victim of his own bravado by episode’s end, Teddy’s brashness pays off. He confronts Avi and doesn’t back down, laying out how the two can work together to achieve a common goal: selling drugs and making money. It’s a solid start for a storyline that seemed DOA in the premiere, but it’s still rather formless. Teddy’s endgame of career revival is easy enough to understand, but how everyone else fits in remains unclear, and that robs the storyline of some necessary tension.

In fact, a lack of tension is the most worrisome part of “Make Them Birds Fly,” especially when it comes to Franklin. Thankfully, it’s something the episode addresses in its final moments. The problem throughout this episode, and some of the premiere, is that Franklin seems untouchable. From his ability to sway Avi in his favor despite being a stranger, to being able to keep all that coke hidden in his backpack, Franklin’s character was running the risk of being far too capable, which leads to convenient, complacent plotting. That risk is still present, but as “Make Them Birds Fly” comes to a close, Franklin is lying in the street, beaten and bloodied, while two guys take off with his backpack, money, and motorcycle. The consequences of his blind confidence and intrusion onto someone else’s turf have arrived, and we’ll see if Snowfall can keep the conflict coming. It’s the only way to make sure Franklin’s story, which is the beating heart of this show, has the stakes necessary to keep it compelling from week to week.


Stray observations

  • I may criticize his lack of foresight, but make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed Franklin blowing some of his cash on a motorcycle just a few hours removed from scoring his first big payday. You do you, Franklin.
  • I mentioned last week that I was hoping for a little more insight into Cissy’s life, and we get a bit here. She’s in a tough spot, struggling with the fact that she’s in charge of kicking poor black families out of their homes, and yet also needing a paycheck. On top of that, her white boss seems pretty handsy, and Franklin takes notice.
  • So you know how Lucia and Pedro used Gustavo to rob Pedro’s father, who also happens to be the leader of a cartel? Yeah, he’s pretty upset about it, promising to investigate every last member of his group until he finds out who betrayed him.
  • Lucia to an undecover Teddy when she shows up to make a deal for Alejandro’s coke: “Who are you, the replacement white boy?”
  • So it looks like Lucia and Pedro are trying to get into the coke business while Pedro’s father sticks to weed. That seems to be a line for many characters here, as Franklin’s uncle won’t help him out with Avi’s coke, and Gustavo is surprised to see Lucia diving into that kind of business.