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Series / Snowfall

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I bet the FX logo's on crack.

Snowfall is a series airing on FX, created by John Singleton, Eric Amadio, and Dave Andron, produced by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah and starring Damson Idris, Carter Hudson, Emily Rios, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta. The series began its run in July 2017, and ran for six seasons, with the finale airing in April 2023.

When a cocaine dealer suffers an overdose in 1980's Los Angeles, a local CIA operative sees an opportunity to gain a foothold in the business. Elsewhere, an ambitious young black man stumbles upon a similar opportunity when his white friend wants to score some party drugs, and an aging Mexican wrestler seeks a change of career.

This series contains examples of:

  • The '80s: The show begins in the summer of 1983, and follows the crack epidemic as it develops and gradually devastates the black neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
  • Accidental Murder: In the hopes of stopping Kev from shooting a Mexican gangster and starting a war, Franklin shoots him in the leg. He figures that because it's only a leg wound, Kev will merely be incapacitated. The next episode reveals that Franklin's shot hit an artery; Kev bled out and died, and Franklin is arrested for murder.
    • Leon gets into a shootout with a few of Skully's men and ends up killing Skully and Khadijah's young daughter.
  • Adopted to the House: Franklin spent some time living with his white friend Rob. Rob's father tries to invoke this kindness in hopes of being forgiven for stealing some of Franklin's cocaine, but Franklin isn't having it.
  • The Alcoholic: Franklin's dad Alton used to be a Black Panther, but his drinking put an end to that. In season 2, he finally decides to get sober. By season 4, he's cleaned up his act so thoroughly that he's now running a shelter for other recovering addicts.
  • Alternate Universe: The first half of "Other Lives" explores a world where Franklin Saint never got involved in the drug trade, but was instead recruited to the CIA by Teddy McDonald.
  • Ax-Crazy: Skully, one of the new players who tries to take advantage of the power vacuum in season 4, is the kind of lunatic who crucifies people and shows up to a shooting high as a kite. Naturally, Franklin wants him off of the board before his gang causes too much carnage.
  • Badass Israeli: Avi is a deconstruction; while he is hugely successful, his paranoid and erratic behavior make him a pain in the ass to deal with, and it's glaringly obvious that his organization is held together mainly by the force of his personality. Sure enough, in the second-season premiere, he gets arrested, and his operation almost falls apart.
  • The Big Guy: El Oso is a former luchador, and still has the wrestler's build.
  • Bigot with a Badge: Franklin Saint kills black cop Andre Wright. Following this, Wright's beat is taken over by white racist Hubert "Nix" Nixon, who uses Wright's murder, and his correct suspicion that Franklin was behind it, to harass Franklin and his family. This ends up backfiring when he kidnaps Franklin's mother and bashes her head against Andre Wright's grave; hassling a suspected drug dealer is one thing, but beating up a civilian gets him banished to desk duty.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cissy is in jail, and Franklin is completely obliterated financially when Veronique steals what's left of his savings and runs off. On the other hand, Leon and Wanda get out of LA, and Leon eventually returns to start a free legal clinic, while Oso learns that Xiamara has found a safe haven in North Carolina and is waiting for him.
  • Bookends: Season one, episode one opens with Franklin stopping two kids stealing ice cream, saying they need to learn that isn't how America works. The season ends with Franklin effectively buying ice cream for all the neighborhood kids who can't afford it, telling the ice cream truck vendor he'll pick up the bill for any kid who can't afford it whenever he visits the block.
  • The Bus Came Back: Franklin runs into Ray Ray in prison. Ray Ray has him beaten to a pulp for what he did to Lenny back in the first season.
  • Category Traitor: Franklin's mom Cissy used to be a rent collector at an apartment complex owned by a white man but populated by black people, which means that her job often required her to kick black people out of their apartments when they were unable to make rent. This did not endear her to other black people in her neighborhood, and the resulting harassment that his mother received has made Franklin cynical enough about black culture that he's willing to work with Avi.
  • Character Development: Through the course of the series, Franklin goes from a naive young man new to the drug business into a hardened, no-nonsense drug kingpin.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Claudia Lewis is not afraid of using her bisexuality as a means of asserting dominance over the younger women who work for her. In "Story of a Scar", she demands that Louie sleep with her in exchange for setting up the meeting between Franklin and Lenny.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Officer Nix is a particularly self-righteous version of the crooked cop, taking bribes from dealers while pretending that he's doing so in order to extract "justice" for all the carnage they cause.
    • Season 4 introduces Oscar Fuentes, the new Chief of Police in Tijuana, who uses his position to squeeze Teddy and Oso for new bribes. When they balk at the price, Oscar sends his men to kill Hernan and his wife and make their kids disappear.
  • Disappeared Dad: Franklin's dad left his mother years ago and spent years living on the streets. In season 2, circumstances force him to move back in with Cissy, though it takes a while for him to reconcile with Franklin.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Leon has been stuck with the nickname "Lil' Leon" ever since his stint in juvie. He hates it.
  • Downer Ending: The series finale shows this, albeit with some bright spots. Overall, the Saint family and its criminal empire have eroded completely as Los Angeles enters the 1990's. Louie remains on the run from the DEA, while Gustavo remains in exile in Mexico, albeit with the knowledge that his family has successfully moved to North Carolina and is protected. Leon and Wanda have returned to Los Angeles with the latter beginning a music career and the former looking at setting up outreach programs for poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Franklin ends up becoming a drunk recluse boarded up at his home despite several notices from the city demanding he vacate the premises, but insists that he has become "free".
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: As part of his psychological warfare against Lenny, Karvel helps himself to a box of Lenny's cereal.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Franklin tries to keep his mother from finding out about his extracurricular activities. She eventually does find out, and kicks him out of her house, but reconciles with him after he promises to eventually become a legitimate businessman.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Franklin and Jerome go to confront Jim Volpe for stealing some of their cocaine, Jim whines about how he needed to sell the cocaine to cover the expenses of raising his son, which he has meticulously tallied up. Jerome may be an unrepentant drug dealer, but he is so appalled at the notion of keeping a running tab on your own offspring that he summons Jim's son and goads the boy into beating up his dad for being such a stingy asshole.
  • Evil Power Vacuum:
    • In the third-season finale, Franklin's recovery from his near death coincides with the LAPD being over-exerted as a result of the Summer Olympics. The result is a massive power vacuum that leads to a very ugly gang war.
    • In the final season, Leon beats up and deposes local dealer Big D because he kept shooting out the lights in the Projects, making them unsafe at night. The next episode, everyone else in the Projects comes to Leon demanding to know who's going to be in charge now, as Big D was the only one keeping all the other dealers out.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Beneath Manboy's civil and pleasant demeanor is a ruthless snake who will stab anyone in the back. None of Franklin's associates like working with him, but the alternative is Skully, who is too unstable.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: Season 4 opens with Leon cutting ties with Franklin after learning that he's still in business with Reed and Oso, who Leon blames for Kev's death.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
    • When first introduced, Skully and Manboy are small players whose feud mostly harms each other's gangs. By the fourth season, the power vacuum in Los Angeles has given them a much larger field to spread their mayhem.
    • In the final season, Leon and Wanda return to the Projects to find out that they've been taken over by Big Deon, a cocky ally of Louie's who took advantage of Leon's trip to Ghana to expand his territory and now runs the Projects with an iron fist.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Teddy receives a call from Rigo, arriving to the latter's club to be surrounded by his men and led to a room entirely covered in plastic, a chainsaw noticeable on the table. A furious Rigo reveals that the DEA is targeting him for his connection to the Villanueva's (of which "Reed Thompson" is the sole link), Teddy quickly and calmly resorting to blowing his cover to reveal himself as a CIA officer and offering Rigo a more defined friendship with the U.S government, the only way to get out of the situation with his life and limbs intact.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • In the fourth season, Mel's attempt to kill Franklin may have left him dependent upon a cane, but he still manages to command respect.
    • In the final season, one of Jerome and Louie's new allies is a deaf gangster named Mack.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Alton looks much better once he shaves off his beard.
  • He Knows Too Much: In "Comets", Franklin's buddy Rob Volpe gets in trouble after one of his friends shoots someone while high, and Rob lets slip that Franklin has a CIA connection that can help them out. As much as Franklin loves Rob, he can't have someone in his life who's going to blab about his CIA connections to casual friends, so Franklin reluctantly kills him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the first episode, Logan dies after overdosing on his own cocaine supply.
  • Inspector Javert:
    • In season 2, DEA Agent Lorena is determined to bring down the Villanueva cartel, and doesn't care how much carnage she has to inflict in order to do it.
    • In season 3, Andre Wright becomes determined to rid his neighborhood of Franklin Saint and his rocks.
    • Deconstructed when Andre Wright's investigation attitude and tendencies end up biting him in the ass when he gets drugged and loses his sidearm. When he correctly deduces that Franklin was behind the theft, his superiors assume that he's become obsessed with Franklin and put him on suspension.
  • Intrepid Reporter: In season 4, local reporter Irene Abe starts looking into Franklin's business.
  • Ironic Echo: In the first episode Franklin discusses with Melody his liking of working and doing things on his own terms compared to some better paid but overall worse job, in essence gaining "freedom from all of it". In the series finale Franklin is now a alcholic recluse, having lost literally everything except for the clothes on his back compared to the powerful drug kingpin he was, but declares to Leon that that he is indeed now "free from all of it".
  • Jurisdiction Friction: In seasons 2 and 3, Teddy and his CIA operation butt heads with Lorena and her DEA operation. They make a truce at the end of the season, with Teddy promising to turn over all his cartel contacts in exchange for Lorena letting the operation play out, but then Lorena gets killed, and her handler Tony decides to go after Teddy.
  • Masked Luchador: El Oso is a masked wrestler in Los Angeles' Mexican immigrant community. He's smart enough to realize that he can't keep wrestling forever, which is why he decides to get involved in the cocaine business.
  • Mercy Kill: One of the things that drove Alton out of the Panthers and into the bottle was his guilt over killing his cousin Jack. Jack had been a police informant who had been compromised, and the Panthers intended to torture him to death, so Alton shot him dead in order to spare him the pain and suffering that he would have gotten if the Panthers had found him alive.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Kev gives up the manufacturing process to Lucia in exchange for the identity of his cousin's killer, harming Franklin's business in the process. Although he's tired of Franklin's management, Kev's real motivation for this is to avenge his cousin's death.
  • The Mole: Pedro and Soledad are both working for the DEA, and they've infiltrated the Villanueva cartel in order to bring it down.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Franklin is devastated when he finds out that he accidentally killed Kevin.
  • Naughty Narcs: DEA Agent Lorena is so obsessed with bringing down the Villanueva cartel that she tries to sabotage a CIA operation and nearly starts an ugly gang war. While she hasn't outright broken the law yet, it seems like only a matter of time. In season 3, she joins Teddy's operation in order to make sure that he keeps his promise to help her bring down the Villanueva cartel, but is accidentally killed by Oso, who didn't know that she had joined the operation.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In "Slow Hand", Teddy insists that a shipment of weapons bound for the Contras have the serial numbers filed off to prevent anyone from connecting the weapons to the United States, but then he blows off doing the actual filing in order to visit his girlfriend and son, and thus the weapons are sent on to the Contras unaltered.
    • In "The Rubicon", Jerome tries to negotiate with Avi for a lower price on the cocaine, despite Franklin being perfectly fine with the current price. Avi does not take kindly to this and ends up raising the price instead.
    • In "All the Way Down", Oso is pulled into a DFS (Mexican intelligence) operation to spook crooked cop Oscar Fuentes into running off to his hacienda so that DFS can storm the place and capture him. Oso decides to toss one of Fuentes' goons off of a building. Unfortunately, the DFS didn't authorize any public violence, and thus disavow the operation, forcing Oso and Teddy to storm Fuentes' compound with no backup.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Franklin's attempts to antagonize Officer Nix end up backfiring when Nix kidnaps Cissy and roughs her up. On the other hand, events backfires as well for Nix when his boss finds out; while the LAPD was willing to turn a blind eye to him harassing a known drug dealer, roughing up a real-estate dealer is not a good look for them, and thus Nix gets reassigned to desk duty.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Franklin is the victim of this, suffering the first time when Lenny and Ray-Ray rob him for his drug money and the second time by Ray-Ray again, alongside with his goons in prison.
    • In the final season, Leon beats the crap out of local dealer Big D because the latter keeps shooting out the lights in the Projects in order to facilitate drug deals.
  • Noodle Incident: Teddy begins the series removed from active service in the CIA for unrevealed reasons. We later find out it's because he freaked out over one of his agents being caught up in the Iranian Revolution and tried to attack his superior with a Civil War-era saber.
  • Oh, Crap!: Franklin and Leon are horrified when they realize that Karvel's method of getting Lenny to talk consists of brutally sodomizing him.
  • Percussive Prevention: In "Sleeping Dogs", there's a variation; Franklin lets Jerome beat the shit out of him in order to discourage him from going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against a heavily-armed and guarded Manboy.
  • Pet the Dog: In "The Rubicon", Franklin buys ice cream for the kids in his neighborhood.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • In "Prometheus Rising", Kev hears a rumor that two of his guys got castrated by the Mexicans. Franklin has to spend the episode searching for answers about whether or not the rumor is true before his crew starts a race war in retaliation.
    • Teddy neglects to inform Oso that Lorena left the DEA and joined his team. When Oso shows up at the stash house and finds Lorena waiting for him, he shoots her dead.
  • Properly Paranoid: Teddy, Oso, Avi, and Franklin all conduct their business with a certain level of paranoia. Given that they work in the cocaine business during the 80's, this is understandable.
    Franklin: I am a black man in America! Hell yeah I'm paranoid!
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Karvel viciously rapes Lenny to get him to reveal the location of Franklin's money, which horrifies both Franklin and Leon once they realize what he's doing.
    • In "Concrete Jungle", Franklin and Jerome set aside their differences and team up with Lee and Skully to murder Kane after he kidnaps Louie and plans to have her gang-raped.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Teddy was banished to a desk job in Los Angeles for flipping out on his superior. He sees Logan's operation as an opportunity to get back into the field.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In order to prove his toughness to Avi, Franklin straps on a bulletproof vest and offers to let the crazy bastard shoot him at short range.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Khadijah tries to put out a hit on Lee in revenge for the death of her daughter. She assumes that she'll have a lot of eyes and ears on the street hunting for Lee, but in practice, she ends up with a bunch of amateur gangbangers shooting anyone with an afro in the hopes of making some quick money. And then, when Manboy refuses to pay people for bringing in the wrong corpses, she tries to take matters into her own hands, which goes even worse, as she and her incompetent posse end up shooting Louie instead, sparking an outright war between Manboy and Franklin.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In "Concret Jungle", Jerome slaughters Kane's gang and kills Kane himself after the latter kidnaps and tortures Louie.
  • Scary Black Man: Karvel is a very intimidating black man.
  • Shoot the Dog:
    • After discovering Alejandro in the act of killing Victoria to prevent her from learning his identity, Teddy kills Alejandro.
    • In order to secure a peace between them, Franklin pays Ray Ray to murder Lenny.
  • Start of Darkness: In the second-season finale, Franklin is left deeply embittered by his time in prison, and upon being released, he resolves to take a much less forgiving approach to running his business.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: In "Slow Hand", Franklin is desperate to recover his money, and thus enlists the aid of hardened criminal Karvel to help him rough up the guys who stole it.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After Alejandro murders Victoria in order to prevent her from finding out his identity, Teddy decides that he can't work with someone like Alejandro anymore and thus shoots him dead.