This atmospheric crime drama meanders at times, but hints at tremendous potential
You can see how hot the streets are on “Snowfall,” John Singleton’s new drama for FX that tells the origin story of the crack epidemic. Sweltering heat crushes the Los Angeles streets as Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) moves between his neighborhood, a working-class area of South Central, and a gilded mansion stocked with cocaine in another part of the city.
Franklin has options, afforded to him thanks in part to an education at an integrated high school where rich kids were his classmates. One of those school friends has a girlfriend with a taste for white drugs and knows that Franklin, a stock boy, deals weed on the side.
“Snowfall, ” premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m., takes place in 1983, when cocaine was still the purview of rich white people and still a relative novelty in working-class neighborhoods. In bringing us to this time and place, Singleton and his co-creators Eric Amadio and Dave Andron are piecing together an origin story for American inner cities in general. Its chronicling of a party drug’s transformation into an annihilating menace that floods communities may one day be seen as an allegory for the ways that the vices of the wealthy are paid for by the poorest, resulting in an addictive society rife with widening inequities and rotting from the bottom up.
For now, it’s enough that “Snowfall” introduces the incredibly talented Idris, a young actor who pours a quiet, pained innocence into Franklin even as he slides into a dark and deadly world. Franklin is a smart kid who initially finds little thrill in putting his life on the line but who also has far fewer opportunities for upward mobility than his wealthy white peers.