[This story contains spoilers from the fifth season finale of FX’s Snowfall.]
Family loomed in large in Snowfall’s fifth season, which came to an end with tonight’s suspenseful season finale, from Damson Idris’ Franklin expecting a baby to his Aunt and Uncle finally getting married as they plotted to secure their own financial future.
But it was Louie’s (Angela Lewis) move to break away from Franklin, setting up her own deal with Teddy (Carter Hudson), that fueled the panic-filled events of the latest episode. After a tense standoff in which Franklin points a gun at her face, the two threaten to kill each other. And Franklin gets an unexpected offer of help from his mother (Michael Hyatt), who tells him she’s been working with the KGB.
For showrunner Dave Andron, who wrote the finale and the penultimate episode, this past season is just the first part of a two-season endgame he pitched to FX last year.
“I knew that season five was going to be about the destruction of the family unit and that that was an important thing to really take some time and to earn to watch the family split up, and it just felt like to rush that in any way would have started to feel really inorganic and not the way we wanted to play that out,” Andron explains of his approach. “So we took our time and spent more time on character this season than we have in some seasons’ past and really tried to make sure that we had set up the relationships the proper way and earned the things we needed to earn to bring everybody to a crisis point to take us down the final stretch.”
Snowfall’s upcoming sixth and final season, announced earlier this month, will be much “heavier” than what’s come before, Andron says, with a tone that’s more consistent with that of the past two episodes.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Andron opens up about crafting the show’s endgame and Louie’s rise as well as why Franklin didn’t expect to get robbed and how the low point he reaches at the end of the episode leads to something potentially helpful. He also breaks down the significance of the two hit songs featured prominently in the episode, including why that “In the Air Tonight”-soundtracked sequence could have sounded very different.
When did you know that the sixth season would be the last one?
Last spring or winter when I went in to pitch FX, before last season, I pitched [seasons] five and six. We wanted to have an endgame in mind, so we sat down and had some creative conversations with some folks on our side, and we decided six seasons would do it and was what we needed to finish telling the story, and FX as usual was supportive, so we’ve known for a little while.
One of the key moments that affects the family, at least toward the end, is Louie deciding to make that deal with Teddy. It’s been interesting to watch Louie grow into this businesswoman. When did you figure that she and Jerome (Amin Joseph) would be the ones to break away from the family like that?
I think I’ve known for a long time. One of the arcs from the very beginning of the show that was the most interesting to me was Louie’s. Knowing that she was going to go from this girl who was from the bayou in Louisiana who came to L.A. at a very young age who was exploited and taken advantage of and found safety in Jerome and was this sort of big fish in a small pond and to watch her grow confidence in herself, even early on, just wanting her to be treated by Jerome like an equal partner in their relationship and to see them really struggle to get over that hump, and then once she had established that footing, it felt to me like it was only a matter of time before she wanted the same things as Franklin. And Franklin for whatever reason was never going to be able to treat her as an equal. And she’s been through so many traumatic things, the most probably prominent of those having been shot last season and what that did to her mindset where she has decided that if she is going to be putting her life on the line, she wants to be making the decisions that put her in that position. For me, this season, in early episodes when she wants to be able to talk to Teddy about the pricing, she’s out there doing all of the legwork and putting herself at risk and Franklin doesn’t understand the things that she’s doing and won’t even let her talk to Teddy. For me, that just triggers, in my mind, all of the things from her that made her feel like this worthless girl from the bayou and she couldn’t have that anymore. That again was one of those things where if we were going to get Louie to the point where she was going to break away from Franklin, we really needed to spend the time with her and earn it, because it is a big move and if you were watching it suddenly, you’d be like, “What, she’s acting crazy?” But I think it’s the most earned thing on the show. She had the ambition down in her from the first time we ever saw her. We’ve been building Louie’s arc for a long, long time, and it feels very gratifying to me to watch it play out.
The penultimate episode ends in somewhat of a triumphant way for Franklin, where he’s walked away, he’s made all of this money. And then it’s pretty early in the finale when he learns that his money is gone. Later, Louie says Jerome has frozen their assets. Why didn’t Franklin do that? It always seems like Franklin is one step ahead and very calculating. Why do you think he felt like his money was safe and he was out and safe with no strings attached?
I think that for as smart as Franklin is, there’s an element of hubris that sometimes gets in the way of him covering himself from every possible angle. I don’t think he had any inkling that Teddy was able to get this information, that Teddy knew where these accounts were in Panama and that he would go out of his way to do this to Franklin. The other thing that happened was Franklin wasn’t intending necessarily to break away from Teddy in that moment. It happened all pretty suddenly and he made what was sort of an irrational, impromptu decision based on the move that Louie had made, and he was upset and he probably acted too quickly and he probably should have taken his money and put it elsewhere or done something to really watch his six. But he felt like he had been wronged, and he felt like he had the higher moral ground, and he felt like with all of the things that he and Teddy had been through and all of the money that he had made him that he would be able to walk away and Teddy was going to let him and he miscalculated.
At the end, things come back to Cissy and the KGB — this is finally her opportunity to tell Franklin and to pursue her mission. How did you figure out that this would be the way into that?
I knew I didn’t want to repeat the Alton (Kevin Carroll) framework. I didn’t want to turn it into a situation where Cissy was going to try to go around Franklin and recruit someone else to help them without Franklin’s knowledge. I didn’t want it to come to Franklin where it put him in a really bad position. It was like, “Wouldn’t it be great if the information about the KGB could actually come to Franklin through Cissy at a low point, at a point where he really needs that?” The way it reveals itself, you feel like, “Oh, wow, this could be the answer; this could be helpful to them.” But that would only work if Franklin was at a real low point where he needed something, some other card to play. So I was pleased with the way that we were able to construct that. It doesn’t come to the conclusion that everybody expects it to.
The finale featured some powerful and surprising music choices ranging from “In the Air Tonight” to “Straight Outta Compton.” How did you land on those songs for those moments?
I had written the whole Franklin sequence with Black Diamond (Christine Horn) and Dallas (Taylor Polidore) and we knew it was going to be set to something, it was written as a montage, but it was Alonso Alvarez-Barreda, our director, who early in the process got “In the Air Tonight” in his head and, my God, when you see it come together, you really feel the power of it, and it works so well and wonderfully and he shot it so that it would work with it, we cut it together, it worked amazingly and then Phil Collins’ [team] denied the usage of the song. And we were absolutely gutted. And I sat down and wrote a letter basically begging them to reconsider. And we had had a nice review in The New York Times, and I sent them that. I sent them a clip of the sequence in the episode and basically just begged. And then thankfully a couple of days later they called back and they said, “OK, yeah, you can use it.” My gosh, what a relief. We started trying other songs, and there was nothing that was even close. And then “Straight Outta Compton,” I hadn’t written a song. We knew we would use something, and Alonso, the director, also put that in the cut, and we went through, we tried a million things. And for the first time in the show, we cheated a little bit because “Straight Outta Compton” had not been released, the time frame is a little off, but we wanted to signify to the audience emotionally, we wanted to give them a different feeling. Because this last season I think is going to be a little bit different in many ways so we went out of what we had done before on the show and we leaned into what is coming around the corner, which is really the rise of the gangs and gangsta rap, so we just went for it.
You were just talking about how season six would be different. Is there anything you can tease from a thematic standpoint in terms of how it’s going to be different?
I think we’ve always tried to keep a bit of the light touch in this show. Obviously, the show is about very serious things and about a very dark moment in American history. We’ve tried to kind of find some of the levity in that because there is a lot of humor in the situations in the world, and it’s part of how people survive day to day. I think this last season, the story has to ultimately be a tragedy, and this last season is going to feel, I think, a little heavier. The last two seasons I think you can feel the moments when we’re trying to have things have a lighter touch, and then the last two episodes settle into a very specific tone. And I think the last season is going to be more represented by that tone.
Obviously, John Singleton was such a huge part of this show. How are you thinking about honoring his vision as you’re wrapping up the series?
So much of the DNA of the show came out of the four years that we did get to spend with John from early conversations about it to rewriting pilots and figuring out those first three seasons. And I knew then and know now what was important to him about the story we were telling, the backbone of it, which was the transformation of his neighborhood, how this Black working-class neighborhood went to a war zone in a period of four years. We always knew that was the backbone of this series. That will serve kind of as the guiding light as we head toward the finish.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.