Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FX
A testament to the narrative potential embedded in Snowfall’s historicized fiction, this week’s episode takes its audience and its characters on a trip. While “Celebration” is, of course, the highly anticipated wedding episode in which fan favorites Jerome and Louie — a couple whose longstanding bond has earned them (in my mind) the status of the Jay and Bey of South Central — tie the knot, it’s also the episode when the tightly wound theater of the drug game and its ensemble cast of kingpins, runners, addicts, informants, agents, and operatives unravels at a psychic level. Returning to the idea of the “war inside,” the wedding, the episode’s titular celebration, is transformed into a stage for a host of internal and interpersonal dramas.
With this dramatic psychic frame in mind, it comes as no surprise then that the scenes leading up to the nuptials of Louie and Jerome, the women in and around the Saint family are more concerned with addressing their imperiled realities than realizing marital romance. More crime boss than Bridezilla, Louie takes the days before her wedding to tie up loose ends and negotiate new business relationships. After giving Officer Buckley the “okay” to plan a hit on Kane, Louie sets up a meeting with Teddy (and, to a lesser extent, Gustavo) to discuss new arrangements for the chain of hands the product must pass through before it reaches her. As the two make a point to note, it has been some time since Teddy and Louie have interfaced. And in that time, the two have each survived a gunshot wound and come out on the other side more tenacious than ever. Louie makes her intentions behind the meeting clear: she wants to cut Franklin out of the chain and buy directly from Teddy. Knowing Louie, this is no impulsive move. She mentions that she considered going to the Colombians to arrange a deal but decided Teddy was her best bet. “Better the devil you know,” Teddy remarks.
Just a few days before her brother’s wedding, Cissy meets with Rubén on a park bench and spills the beans about the wedding’s invite list, including (surprise, surprise) all of their drug game contacts and allies. Despite divulging these details, Cissy remains adamant that she won’t offer her son up on a platter by recording him. Rubén explains to her that Franklin is crucial to gaining intel about the inner workings of his networks and his ties to Teddy. “Franklin is the answer. In the end, only he can bring your enemies down,” he tells her. Next up in the succession of women consumed by the fear of death knells rather than the sweet sound of wedding bells is Veronique. Pulling up on Kane in a dimly lit bar, Veronique comes at the ex-con straight. “I’m Franklin Saint’s girlfriend. I’m also having his child,” she tells him after sliding into his booth. After asking Kane to put out his cigarette (LOL), Veronique effectively tells him that her future is in his hands. Regardless of Franklin’s assertion that a deal with Kane had been negotiated, Veronique knows better than to accept these terms. After all, this man shot at her and Franklin’s family once, what’s to stop him from trying again? Whether she can stay in L.A. or must flee to the east is all up to Kane. “I intend to keep my word,” he tells her. “So, me and my baby will be safe?” she asks again for clarification. “You ain’t got a damn thing to worry about from me,” Kane responds.
Only after this series of meetings does true wedding planning begin. And what, you may ask, was at the top of Louie’s priorities? A chocolate fountain, of course! Jerome, always a musical man, has an idea for the DJ versus band conundrum. Feeling light in anticipation of his wedding, Jerome is beaming. “I ain’t lost my temper in ’bout three weeks. Ain’t had a drink in three days. And I got this mean tuxedo jacket,” he tells his fiancee. However, his light dims when Louie tells him about her meeting with Teddy (he breaks his three-day sobriety immediately). Louie reminds Jerome that he knew this day was coming, and he reminds her that he considers Franklin to be family and that he won’t go to war against his own blood. Although Louie assures him that it won’t come to that, she can’t deny that Franklin will be “mad as hell.” But to Louie, “This is how we control our future. It’s the only way.”
Lawfully wedded under a metal archway covered in tulle and other ornaments, Jerome stands in his blue suit across from Louie in a very ’80s white wedding dress. When the officiant asks Jerome if he will take Louie as his wife, he shouts in a booming voice, “Hell yeah, I do!” When it is her turn, Louie matches his energy and yells, “Yes!” After the two share a kiss, the guests, a mix of family, friends, and former foes hoot and holler with joy. “Good Times” by Chic leads them into the reception as dancing and eating commence. All the major players are in attendance aside from Teddy (even their arms dealer Avi shows up!). The wedding fun is quickly soured for Cissy when a cater-waiter comes over to offer Champagne, and she recognizes him as Ruben undercover. Meanwhile, Franklin is crushing the strawberries at the chocolate fountain when Veronique decides to leave to allow him to enjoy his time with his family. Before he can fully process Veronique’s early exit, Franklin begins to depart from reality. As he and the other wedding guests soon realize, the chocolate foundation has been laced with either LSD or MDMA. Inaugurating marital bliss with a mass psychedelics trip, the wedding guests’ internal narratives begin to bend toward hallucination.
This plot development is a particularly powerful choice within the conventions of the show’s drug game drama as it introduces the sensory and psychological influence of the illicit substances at its thematic center. With this hallucinogenic turn, the episode does not restate the show’s argument for framing drugs as a socio-economic lubricant for state violence and exploitation but instead takes a moment to expose their double-sided psychosocial influence. Just as drugs can offer reprieve, they are just as prone to inciting reflection and reckoning.
First up on the ecstasy express is Franklin himself, who stumbles around awkwardly running into Wanda, Avi, Skully, and Leon before he ventures into the house on the grounds and begins to suffer a full-fledged panic attack. The trip forces the inimitable Saint to face his demons, as his face distorts in the mirror, he is visited by Rob, who confronts him about his decision to kill him at the top of the season. “I couldn’t fuckin’ trust you,” Franklin explains in a panicked voice as he backs away from his deceased friend. “No, you couldn’t control me,” Rob rebuts before shooting Franklin to settle the score. It’s not a real death, but it feels real (“Today you guys are gonna learn about acting!!!”). As her maternal spidey senses kick in, Cissy goes looking for Franklin who she finds passed out in the bathroom. Once she gets her son off the floor and talking, Cissy begins to speak the unspoken. Franklin, noticing the light leave his mother’s eyes, inquiries, “Mama, what’s wrong?” In response, Cissy unleashes the very judgment he fears. “What’s wrong?” she asks rhetorically. “I got a son that puts white people above their father and money before God, that’s what’s wrong. Everything you do, you do for yourself. That’s not what your father taught you. That’s not what your mother taught you. Where did that come from?”
Spooked by his mother’s words, Franklin scares her off, but his reprieve is short-lived as his next hallucination forces him to face Veronique, who reminds him that he “can’t be a gangster and a family man” and that he’ll have to kill those closest to him because he drives everyone to betray him to survive. In the end, he faces Teddy (calling him while high to tell him he will kill him if he has to) and the scariest person of them all, himself. “Your fear let the worst thing your dad did come true for you,” Franklin’s tethered tells him. As his mirror image recounts the death toll he has facilitated, Franklin flounders to defend his actions.
As Franklin’s trip takes a turn for the worse, Louie and Jerome’s highs lead them to profess their love once more. “You took me into your family even though I was from the streets, from the sewer. … You never let nobody say I was less,” Louie reflects. A sharp contrast to the lovers, Leon sits with Avi and muses about Malcolm X’s 1964 speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,” which leads the men into a long conversation about the importance of travel in developing a global perspective on liberation and anti-imperialist organizing. “Travel? I ain’t no goddamn tourist,” Leon tells him (“A tourist is an ugly human being,” word to Miss Jamaica Kincaid!), but as he listens to Avi’s reasoning, he begins to see another possibility for travel.
As Franklin’s trip begins to wane, he exits the house and initiates a dance with the bride, apologizing for his controlling manner of doing business. “I always wanted to be in charge so I could know exactly what everybody was doing. I said it was to protect you, but it wasn’t that. You were right; I should’ve listened. I should’ve treated you like a partner … It’s not too late” he tells her. “Yeah, it is,” Louie says as she walks off. The episode closes as Officer Buckley has Kane and his boys in view. Louie’s plans are already in motion, and Franklin has yet to get the rhythm of his aunt’s steps. He dances in denial, and she dances with conviction. Franklin has long thought he was the undisputed lead in their dance, but this time Louie dips him.
• Louie and Jerome’s track: “Let’s Play House” by Parliament. No further explanation is necessary!
• Cissy’s track: Cissy has been nothing but stressed in the U.S. and in Cuba. Even the psychedelics can’t bring her peace. Gotta give Mama Saint “Temporary Highs” by Snoh Aalegra.
• Leon’s track: Leon grabs Wanda at the wedding and tells her that he is leaving the country to travel to “Africa maybe” and tells her he wants her to come with him. “How you gon’ say that now,” Wanda asks him, looking torn. “So you not gon’ come or?” Leon questions as she walks away. His song is “Drugs N Hella Melodies” by Don Toliver (featuring Kali Uchis).
• Wanda’s track: Wanda, the queen of sobriety, is the only one in the family to be spared from the trip. She also manages to get promoted by Franklin to property manager during the wedding. It sounds a bit legendary if you ask me! Only a song by a Grammy award–winning artist could capture such iconic energy. Wanda gets “I Don’t Do Drugs” by Doja Cat (featuring Ariana Grande).
• Parissa’s track: Gotta go with “You’re Making High” by Toni Braxton for this Persian queen. As Teddy is photographing documents and bugging Franklin’s home, Parissa is moaning on the walkie-talkie to distract him and convince him to take her out to dinner. “I’m sort of glad you got shot,” she tells him. “This is much more fun than my usual Saturday nights.”
• Skully’s track: Early on during the wedding, Skully directs a curious amount of attention to the chocolate fountain, drawing one of the caterers away from the table. Later on, he says he hopes that Jerome and Louie enjoy their wedding gift. Not Skully drugging the entire party! “Toxic Chocolate” by Kali is right on theme.