‘Snowfall’ Season 6, Episode 3: Leon Can’t Stay in Ghana Forever
In episode 3 of Snowfall, reality hits for Leon and his new wife Wanda after trying to escape for a better life in Ghana.
“Violence as an act of salvation,” utters Leon, in his newfound oracle role.
The bottle episode has become a marker of prestige television. It’s when a supporting character ventures into their own world to realize themselves, often separate from the storyline. Leon Simmons, the capo who turned conflicted general, travels to Ghana to marry Wanda (Gail Bean), his longtime girlfriend and main beneficiary of his endless goodwill.
But Leon’s trip brings into full relief a ruling question and subtext of Snowfall as a series: How did Black Americans end up in this position? There’s a rough metaphorical line drawn between the mortal cruelty of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the viciousness of the 1980s drug trade. Leon’s acted as this allegory’s conscience, the symbolic saint that Franklin left behind in his bloodlust for empire. This haphazard analogy, though, does an injustice to actual truths, reducing the unthinkable violence of crack cocaine and mass incarceration to the original betrayal of continental Africans who allied with slavers. The complex relationship between how history’s portrayed and how fiction can embolden and brighten the individual choices that drove history carves Snowfall into a unique niche. The Woman King also suffered from this catch-22: how much of the dramatist’s job is it to stay true to what’s written in the scrolls? And, more importantly, who cares what history says? Give us the conflict, romance, death defiance, and plot twists of great stories. Let the comments sort out the rest.
Leon and Wanda’s escape
Leon and Wanda’s first appearance in the final season recalls the lost love that once endeared them to us. Their playful hide-and-seek in a Ghanaian market, festive wedding, and recommitment has all the flourishes of youth since defiled. The “Door of No Return” backdrop overshadows their reclamation project though. The couple’s escape to a perceived better life in Ghana ends up a “grass is greener” moment when they trek the haunted corridors of bodies shipped to their literal or figurative annihilation. Leon is the perfect kind of character to explore these themes but not on this show. His desire to restore Black pride rings familiar, and Franklin’s father also used nationalist ideas to deliver addicts from the depths. Yet leapfrogging 300 years into the future to a government-orchestrated drug war dampens the effect here. Colonial rule, rampant capitalism, racist theory all drove the choices individual Black folks made, and most weren’t slavers, heads of state, or politicians. Only a few depraved, desperate, greedy and malformed actors decided the fate of many unknowing brethren. That’s the notable parallel between the captivating fiction and the actual record. But without revealing the intervening stories of presidents and kings actively working to hoard forced Black labor, any other comparisons fall short.
Andrew Ricketts is a writer from New York. He wants to tell the story you share with a friend.