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‘Snowfall’ Review: FX’s Dense John Singleton Drug Drama Lacks Focus

Deadline logo Deadline 6/30/2017 Dominic Patten
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No one could ever accuse FX’s July 5-debutingSnowfall of lacking ambition, but the John Singleton executive produced series about the rise of the crack epidemic seriously stumbles in its execution. Where there should be a hit of sheer adrenaline, the unfocused Los Angeles 1983-set first season simply plods along, as I say in my video review above.

Things do get sharper as you go deeper into Snowfall’s 10-episode first season, but it is a sluggish journey reaching that point in the drama created by the Boyz N The Hood director, EP Eric Amadio and showrunner Dave Andron. As almost everyone who lived through the horrors of crack’s devouring emergence and the sticky CIA backchannel fingers of the Iran-Contra Scandal back in the Reagan era knows there was suddenly a lot of dirty money and cheap drugs moving around.

The late Gary Webb’s book Dark Alliance, based on the Pulitzer Prize winner’s newspaper writing, offered one perspective about how those drugs flooded the African American neighborhoods of California and who helped them get there, or at least looked the other way. Obviously there are some who see things very differently than Webb, but Snowfall is trying too hard to tell too many tales.

Originally set up as a pilot at Showtime before moving to John Landgraf’s fiefdom in 2015, the first half of the 10-episode first season of the series starring Damson Idris, Emily Rios, Carter Hudson, Alon Moni Aboutboul and the excellent Sergio Peris-Mancheta flounders in the big goal of its own fictional ambitions, where less is more could have been a much smoother line to Snowfall‘s own ends.

With a setup that seems to reset every episode from what I’ve seen, the parallel storylines — Idris’ driven street entrepreneur Franklin Saint, Hudson’s disgraced CIA officer who takes over a drugs and weapon campaign for Nicaragua’s Contras, a Mexican crime family’s generational civil war, and moves into the cocaine business lead by Breaking Bad alum Rios — seemed only to vaguely intersect for far too long. By the time the ragged threads start coming together, Snowfall may have left you feeling less like you’ve been on a bender and more likely bored, which is a real shame.

Click on my video review to see more of my take on Snowfall, and tell us, will you be watching July 5?

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