‘Snowfall’ Review Roundup: FX Drug Drama Feels Fresh Despite Tired Premise
FX’s Snowfall follows a group of black teenagers as they navigate the drug scene in 1980s Los Angeles. The 10-episode series sets up its tone from the very beginning, so despite telling the story of the rise of crack cocaine, which has been done, Snowfall gives a fresh perspective. Boyz N The Hood director John Singleton acts as co-creator, producer, writer, and director.
The biggest faux pas appears to be focusing on too much too fast. The pilot follows three different story lines, some more stereotypical and stale than others. Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) is the center of the show, but his dynamic storyline could be overshadowed by Avi Drexler (Alon Aboutboul) and CIA agent Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson).
SNOWFALL REVIEW ROUNDUP
“Telling a story about the drug trade where every character on each side of the law has a morality that’s complicated by social, economic, and bureaucratic factors isn’t unexplored territory on television. With that said, what Snowfall does offer is something perhaps much more valuable in the age of Peak TV: a confident vision and compelling atmosphere from the get-go… Snowfall‘s season premiere largely has a voice that feels confident and all its own. If it can wrangle its trite storytelling devices and embrace the nuance given to Franklin’s emotional and physical journey, FX could have something compelling on its hands.”
–Kyle Fowle, A.V. Club
“This is all to say that Snowfall is a better written show than it is a visual show, a grand, tragic story that is admirably inclusive but struggles to reach a personal level. Underneath Snowfall‘s sprawling plot are untold amounts of stories of marginalized men and women destroyed by the promise of capitalism to save them from situations often caused directly by the (largely white) capitalists in power, most notably the President. (It’s not surprising that when Franklin gets his first big pay-off, he buys a motorcycle off of a local and the camera hangs pointedly on the Honda brand name.) And yet, for all the very real anger, horror, resentment, and sadness that bubbles up underneath FX’s latest drama series in spurts, the series can often come off as a well-written Wikipedia page rather than the furious political drama that it clearly means to be.”
–Chris Cabin, Collider
“Ever since the project was announced, I labored under the misperception that FX’s Snowfall, about the rise of crack in the 1980s, was going to be another The People v. O.J. Simpson. The finished product is a plot-driven, retro-pulp thriller that takes more of its cues from gangster movies than from docudramas. The most striking thing about Snowfall, though, is that it never seems less exciting, less special, than when it’s doing the standard Scorsese/Tarantino thing and putting groups of treacherous men (and a few women) at cross purposes, then watching them threaten and bluff each other until the guns come out (or don’t). What makes this series from John Singleton, Eric Amadio, and Dave Andron unusual is the attention it pays to the sights, sounds, and textures of people’s lives in 1983 Los Angeles, and to fine details of characterization — in other words, the sort of stuff that would never get a dramatic series a green light unless drugs and violence were attached to it.”
–Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture
“That’s a lot of story for one series to handle, and, at least in its early episodes, Snowfall never quite finds a way to balance the changing setting and tone as it jumps around. Harrowing violence gives way to parental drama, which gives way to murder plots. The writing and plotting are just not quite deft enough to compensate for its ballooning world, which only gets more complex as Franklin, Lucia and Teddy delve deeper into their plans. Early episodes are too slow, too confusing and too overstuffed with exposition, as the series takes its time before even mentioning “crack.” The CIA/contra mission feels the most disconnected, and too convoluted to be properly addressed. For all its faults, however, Snowfall is still an enjoyable and mostly engaging watch, and gets a lot of mileage out of what it does well. TV has no shortage of ’70s and ’80s period pieces, but Snowfall manages to carve out its own distinctive visual style, leaning heavily on the contrast between the the bright blue L.A. sky and the violence and crime happening beneath it. Even in moments of harrowing violence, it’s hard to look away.”
–Kelly Lawler, USA Today
“Hasn’t TV OD’d on drug dramas yet? I know I have… At this point, even the best-intentioned treatments of the drug trade — the ones that aspire to tell us something about race, class, or American materialism — still perpetuate stereotypes and romanticize nihilism. The subject matter remains relevant; television needs to find fresher ways to light it up. I’m not sure FX’s Snowfall is the show to do that. It wants to be a big-saga historical fiction chronicling the origins of the early-’80s crack epidemic in Los Angeles. For now, it’s a good-looking collection of clichés, dull sensationalism, and echoes of better pulp.”
–Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly
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