April 24, 2024

‘Snowfall’s’ Cissy Wants More For Franklin But This Ain’t The Way


SNOWFALL “Sacrifice” — Season 6, Episode 9 (airs Wednesday, April 12th) — Pictured: (l-r) Michael Hyatt as Cissy Saint, Carter Hudson as Teddy McDonald. CR: Ray MIcksaw/FX.

“Idolator! Your soul is required in hell!” ends the dramatic action in 1991’s New Jack City with an act of God. After smugly praising the American criminal justice process, fictional gangster Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) grins at the camera and shouts out his mother. Then a character credited only as “Old Man” screams that line as his shaky hands trigger a bullet into Brown’s chest. Cissy (Michael Hyatt) delivers her own “Old Man” act of God in the penultimate episode of Snowfall, “Sacrifice.” 

As Teddy phones the bank to release the money he owes Franklin, Cissy confronts him about killing her husband, clutching a crumb of hope that he’s alive in Puerto Rico. You kind of wonder whether Teddy could’ve saved himself by answering her with respect, or claiming culpability for his lies.

But that was never Teddy’s character, nor was it the CIA’s. They were about stirring up geopolitical strife, guarding imperial power, and blurting out boisterous denials for as long as we could say “The War On Drugs.” Snowfall stretches past its plot parameters to deliver this moment, of course. Much of the final season has looked like an attempt to drive home the point that this critique of society has been missing all along. Black pathology didn’t destroy the hood, it claims, government predators did. Scenes like Cissy’s come-to-Jesus gunshot render the point like a half-truth or a convenient lie. When Hyatt transforms into a nameless angel of morality, her work in the series rings hollow. Teddy’s torture scenes—as baffling as the Louie scenes three episodes ago—go wasted or grease the artificial machinery that manufactures plot. She could’ve been more effective confronting Teddy in high-stakes moments, but she’s relegated to playing Franklin’s conscience in a sterile tag-team with Leon.  

Rather than rehash where the show’s strayed since John Singleton’s passing, this recap diary attempts to find its place in our Black archives. Snowfall struggles to find redeemable work once a character is in the tank for wealth and power, but Cissy does all of that work. Franklin never betrays his mother because she keeps his best interest at heart. They may not always agree, but their humanity wins over their greed. And the greed is plentiful. Teddy’s been a worthy arch nemesis for Franklin but he smooths over their conflict, after taking hot oil burns on his torso, by simply offering half of the blood money they’ve earned. Neither one will admit they’ve been dishonorable, and Teddy rattles off a state propaganda manifesto even on his dying day. Franklin’s admonition to leave the “God and country shit” out of it slightly undercuts the scripted lines in that monologue by exposing their pretense. Teddy MacDonald can’t represent the United States’s hypocritical interests and play an adequate human villain. Franklin Saint can’t embody the worst of greed and flit through his family values like he tries on khakis. The missing pieces are too chunky and jagged to ignore. But just as the Old Man in New Jack City delivered empty pleas to justice, eventually enacting a vigilantism that corrupted him too, Cissy surrenders to the game she’s begging her son to quit. 

Snowfall’s creators waved the white flag by having Cissy kill Teddy impulsively. Neither she nor Franklin will come out of it unblemished, but it does an injustice to their character work when random acts of violence determine an entire story.  


Andrew Ricketts is a writer from New York. He wants to tell the story you share with a friend.

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