‘Snowfall’ Season 2 Starts Connecting the Dots Between Street Drugs and the CIA

The subterranean layers of history fuel FX’s “Snowfall” as it enters a second season. The dots are starting to connect as the various storylines from the first season start to slowly form a bigger, darker picture. Set in the 1980s, “Snowfall” is a riveting series which takes a different story angle from the usual, ever growing crop of drug shows. The usual character types are here, from the hustlers to the kingpins, but the Cold War becomes the larger canvas. As the new season opens, the rise of crack starts to connect with the Reagan White House’s secret wars in Central America. Sometimes politics and drugs mix quite deeply.

Emerging dealer Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) continues to make a name for himself in the Los Angeles drug scene of 1983. So far he has managed to keep a steady flow of cash coming thanks to the drugs supplied by Israeli gangster Avi Drexer (Alon Aboutboul). But as more ears around the neighborhood catch wind of Franklin’s success, he will slowly become the target of fellow up and comers. A major wrench is thrown into his plans when Drexer is arrested in a drug raid, leaving Franklin with the urgent need of a new supplier. Meanwhile President Ronald Reagan is struggling with securing congressional approval to fund the right-wing Contras against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. CIA agent Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson) is approached by his superiors to find a way to secure funding for the Contras through underground means. It dawns on Teddy that cocaine is actually a sure road towards fast cash. All he needs is a dealer, and with Drexer now in prison, this of course puts Franklin in his sights. For Mexican gangster Lucia Villanueva (Emily Rios), opportunity to make big money comes with the appearance of crack cocaine. She will try to get other local Mexican syndicates join her in making a profit off the drug. For the CIA, crack could be another avenue for funding its counterrevolutionary projects down south.

As television “Snowfall” proved to be a stylish and exuberant creation in its first season, combining multiple storylines which all flowed separately but hinted at links that would emerge later. Now in season two, the threads combining the narratives start to emerge. This is essentially the secret history of the drug trade in America, and how it possibly linked with the final years of the Cold War. The season premiere opens with Reagan addressing Congress, warning of a communist takeover of Central America as we see Franklin hustling and partying. While other, excellent shows like “Atlanta” and “The Chi” deal with urban themes in a very personal, microcosmic way, “Snowfall” in this season is even more about how the streets and world history can link. The U.S. wants to overthrow the Sandinistas, Reagan can’t get the money, so the CIA will by any means necessary. This was a theme explored in the early season but now we begin to see how it will involve Franklin. Now it makes more sense to flow in and out of such different worlds. For many viewers simply the history of U.S. involvement in the Central American wars of the 1980s will be a revelation. “Snowfall” helps us remember history long forgotten.

Co-created by renowned director John Singleton, there is a vibrant authenticity to the show’s settings. Franklin and his companions, especially Amin Joseph as the dynamic Jerome, don’t act or talk like flashy movie gangsters (although Jerome loves the newly-released “Scarface”) , they are savvy and cocky for sure, but they are people cornered in the same neighborhood who see opportunities in a little trafficking. It’s a smart move to not make Franklin a high roller so soon, as the story evolves so does he. McDonald’s storyline is now becoming edgier and more fascinating as he recruits his brother Teddy (Jonathan Tucker), a Vietnam veteran and pilot, to help fly him around for his new project. McDonald is written like a focused Cold Warrior, never questioning the validity of selling drugs to fund the Contras, he is simply doing what he must as an agent. In the final scene of the season premiere he makes contact with Franklin by crashing into his car, then knocking him out without hesitation. He is a man on a mission. The Lucia Villanueva storyline crackles as well, as she seeks partners to sell the new crack product. As played by Emily Rios, Lucia is a drug queen in the making, still jittery in moments of tension. There’s a scene where local L.A. dealers make her try her own crack supply in front of them, to prove it’s the real deal. She goes for it. With that kind of spirit, this lady is going places. Standing by as always is her love and loyal partner, Gustavo “El Oso” Zapata (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), who only looks on as she cuts deals and smokes the crack sample.

“Snowfall” is history and urban drama, with spies and cartels thrown into a feverish mix. With the pieces falling into place, season two promises to be as good as the first, delivering a speedball of high octane television.

Snowfall” season two premiered July 19 and airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.