During the course of the July 5 series premiere of Snowfall, FX's new drama from co-creator John Singleton (Boyz N The Hood) about the rise of the crack epidemic in 1980s Los Angeles, viewers are introduced to a plethora of intriguing characters. The show sprawls across the sun-soaked landscape of L.A., telling a series of stories that are seemingly disconnected but will almost certainly begin to intertwine more and more as the season goes on. The focal point of the most central plot line is Franklin Saint, played by British actor Damson Idris; but if events during the premiere are any indication, Franklin may soon "break bad" on Snowfall and prove his own last name to be something of a misnomer.
When viewers first meet Franklin, he's something of a contradiction: he's a good kid who went to a fancy high school in the Valley, doesn't drink, stops young boys from stealing, and asks his friend to turn his music down on the bus… but he also abandoned his college aspirations to stay home and make money dealing pot instead. Granted, his secret line of work comes from Franklin's desire to provide for his single mother (his absent father is a homeless vagrant who Franklin can't bear to talk to) — but that doesn't necessarily make his career as a drug dealer any more noble.
Of course, any new show about the drug trade will always exist in the shadow of Breaking Bad, perhaps the definitive take on the subject; and while Snowfall is very different from that AMC series in that it's inspired by true events, their protagonists may end up having very similar arcs. One episode in, and there's already reason to be worried about Franklin; in the premiere, he's introduced to Avi Drexler, a seemingly psychotic Israeli drug lord who helps the young dealer graduate from casually slinging pot on the side to unloading a full kilo of cocaine in one night.
Franklin's first brush with hard drugs has already compromised him in many ways: he now has another secret from his mother, his uncle refuses to have anything to do with him, and he's in deep with both Avi and the nightclub owner who he turns to for help distributing the coke — not to mention the fact that he's peddling a drug that viewers have already seen lead to one grisly overdose, and that they know will eventually lead to the deterioration of the very streets that Franklin calls home.
It's probably foolish to hope that Franklin Saint, unlike Walter White before him, will somehow be able to maintain his integrity while he gets drawn deeper and deeper into the crack scene. But just how fully will he "break bad"? Will the young man who doesn't even touch alcohol be able to resist the lure of his own product? Will he be able to keep his double life from his mother, or will she end up drawn into his schemes, Skyler-style? Will Franklin continue to deal drugs for the "right" reasons… or will he eventually find himself drawn to it for the danger and the love of the game?
In just one episode, Snowfall has set up a compelling trajectory for the figure at its core — and there's already the sense that, when all is said and done, Franklin's story can only end in tragedy. The only questions that remains are: how far will he fall? And, unlike Walter, will he ever be able to climb back out?