Damson Idris as Franklin Saint in the series finale of Snowfall (Ray Micksaw/FX).
At the last sunset of Snowfall, Franklin Saint roamed lonely alleys he once ruled. His teeth cracked, the king’s a zombie, fogged in past dreams and disappointments. After a shaky season, this feels fitting.
He had every chance to affirm brotherly love for Leon but chose ruinous greed. He could’ve shown Veronique fatherhood meant more than revenge. He could’ve forgiven his mother for her desperate bid to save him. He might’ve even made peace with Louie and escaped to the hills. Yet, at every turn, Franklin’s consuming lust for more stunted him. He wanted power. He fed off fear: that which he inspired in others, and his own fear of trust and intimacy.
Saint’s tragic epilogue marks a more natural end to a series that does the work of good art, creating more questions than answers. But plot pitfalls often shaped the sixth season and left boils on scarred skin. For instance, John Singleton’s passing irrevocably altered the show. Franklin doddering through a Compton movie set is as obvious an Easter egg as ever and underscores the late director’s unfinished business. What if Singleton had shaped the final season? Would we have felt more of a moral letdown with Jerome’s loss? Would there have been a greater commitment to exposing government and media corruption?
But, the show gives us important character studies, with Franklin’s at the forefront. Snowfall does its best when it avoids tropes and leans into performance. Damson Idris understood the assignment, giving a King Lear-like 30 minutes of acting. When he confronts Peaches, now shackled by addiction, it’s a vivid omen. Before he has time to reckon with feelings of betrayal, confusion about the stolen loot that sent Peaches packing, he’s shot the man. (DeRay Davis offers quiet power and hints of dramatic promise in his solemn couch death.) This is a pivotal moment, even more than his blind killing of Miguel, the innocent locksmith. Franklin can’t conceive of a world where all the bloodshed he’s enabled doesn’t lead to his eternal wealth. He has become the miser Cissy feared he’d be. Instead of taking his life, the moral arc destroys his future, sinking him into a purgatory between what he is and what he could’ve been.
That’s a lasting fable and completes the heavy lifting other characters struggled with. Take Leon, for example, who ends the series as a “good guy.” We won’t ever know how he exited the drug game or whether he did, but we suspect goodwill drives him to find Franklin. They were just kids rocking up cocaine in his mama’s bedroom a blink ago. That lone action means more than his high-minded mission to Go Back to Africa. Like Sincere in Belly, the naive escapist refuses to accept their part in propping up bad systems. Leon veers into similar idealism only to learn he’ll need to face a dilapidated hood at some point. Cissy accepts that she’ll have to concede her freedom for small retribution. Her late husband skewed more obtuse, often ignoring that he’d put his family at great risk to expose the CIA. Her obsessive crusade carries the torch while knowing it’ll flame her too. Louie’s relegated to a life on the run, and her only hope will be achieving anonymity.
Franklin’s is the fate that looks more like what I’ve seen in my own life. Shows like Power or American Gangster tend to glorify villainous dealers meeting their ruthless end or well-meaning hood entrepreneurs somehow getting out of the game. Franklin’s sloppy, decrepit, stained conclusion is more commonplace than we’ve been led to think. So often, the drug users in our families, the alcohol-soaked conflicts don’t blow up in our faces. They steadily wear down, leaving us with hollowed-out human husks. Damson Idris as Franklin Saint at times defaulted to volcanic anger and bare-knuckled intimidation. But in his final form, he’s a boy unable to fight inner demons. Maybe someone should’ve taught him how to squabble.