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Amin Joseph as Jerome Saint in Snowfall
Amin Joseph as Jerome Saint in Snowfall
Photo by Ray Micksaw/FX

What You Won’t Do For Love: How 'Snowfall' Used Jerome To Save Franklin

The Snowfall final season is a blood bath. Jerome didn’t have to die for this.

“Unc? Unc!”

Franklin Saint’s pained outcry in the “Jerome Dies” scene will define this series’ arc and, sadly, how it’s remembered. It sounds like the collective wail of disappointed loyalists who’ve hitched heartstring wagons to Jerome Saint (Amin Joseph), one of the few layered, unerringly human characters left in what’s become a bloodbath of a show. With only a handful of Snowfall episodes remaining, we know how far gone Franklin’s failed empire is.

The signs:

A mother-in-law who prefaces doom: she’s experienced it before with “monsters” like him. And that’s just a thin slice of the family feuds.

A team of allies blinded by their — at this point — incomprehensible compassion: even as Vee refuses to see the father of her child negatively, the entire second act of episode six suggests Franklin’s an abject sociopath, unable to see the consequences of his frequent double-crossing until it’s much too late.

Strange bedfellows: the alliance with Kane, based on common enemies, seems built to dissolve and like a deus ex machina moment that the Snowfall writers hope to unleash less clumsily than they do. Kane has no abiding reason to team up with Franklin after the shootout with Jerome that nearly kills him and his crew. It's an unnecessary risk for a hobbled general, but that’s papered over so he can serve as the foil for Franklin’s exercise in futility.

A “roundtable” scene of characters Franklin has coaxed into his doomed foxhole: rarely, if ever, has the entire Snowfall cast appeared in a scene. Their storylines haven’t intersected since Franklin’s intoxicated wedding. Few even have lines. It’s unnatural and a pretty severe tell.

But the chips are stacked, the dominoes lined.

American television, deep in its prestige era of experimentation and long-tail plots, still keeps to trite endings. Good guys ride on, reformed and redeemed. Bad guys die. Franklin’s uncle Jerome stood tall throughout the series. He had a code. He protected his family, his woman, and the integrity of the game. While sometimes subject to sentimentality beyond what any drug dealer could sustain, Jerome felt like the kind of family member we knew. He kept up his interest in ridiculous and powerful sound kits, rode around the old haunts with a bottle of ‘yak and a texturized shag for the ages, and threw hands when guns would’ve been more convenient. The way Jerome walks and how Joseph holds his character’s monumental posture is one of the best bits of performance the ensemble boasts.

The only perceivable reason to kill off his character is to further motivate Franklin toward extreme action. The problem with that is: Franklin’s been unhinged for years. His decisions to break ties with Leon, Jerome, and Louie, to join forces with the CIA and various snitches, and to turn away from his father show he’s long since “broken bad.” The incongruent epiphany to save Louie (and risk his uncle’s rash reaction) leaves questions lingering. How does loyalty to Kane help Franklin track Teddy? How does aiding in Louie’s kidnapping and her rescue not put everyone’s lives at risk? How can he overlook Kane’s deranged vendetta against him? The man’s been castrated in a shooting! Jerome died for this?

As Snowfall hurtles through plot points, prestige slumps into gutters like stereotypical pimp characters, aimless goons, villain origin monologues, and gratuitous torture. Franklin’s passivity through these moments is not solely an indictment of his traits; it’s the writers tipping their hand. We watch minor characters frolic through suspense-building esoterica (like what turned an abused child into a predator) and Franklin saves his gravelly whisper for empty threats and throwaway extortions. Jerome and Franklin, who acted their Dickies off in the best scene of the season, deserved more than this. But neat and tidy series finales wait for no one.