Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) and his bodyguard Peaches (DeRay Davis) stand outside their car in a field while contemplating their next moves in “Snowfall.” FX’s exceptional drama series, now in its fifth season, follows the fictional Saint’s rise from prep-school dropout to driver of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.

“Snowfall” has been one of television’s most underappreciated dramas since its FX debut in 2017, when it began carefully plotting out the rise of prep-school dropout Franklin Saint from amateur drug dealer to one of the world’s largest cocaine distributors.

Four episodes into its fifth season, the mid-1980s period drama continues to impress as family members interfere with Saint’s (Damson Idris) thriving drug organization. The consequences of Saint’s business have been well documented throughout the series’ run, with Los Angeles’ Black community descending into the crack cocaine epidemic as he ascends his field.

Additionally, Saint has recently discovered he is a pawn in the U.S. government’s efforts to arm the Contras in Nicaragua. Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson) has been the CIA’s point man in aiding the Contras, buying large quantities of cocaine and selling them to Saint for a profit used to buy and transport arms to Central America.

Season five jumps ahead one year to the summer of 1986, with Saint now the world’s largest crack cocaine distributor and the consequences of his trade felt nationwide. The first episode opens with a dramatic reenactment of Len Bias’ overdose the night he was selected second overall in the NBA draft, setting the tone for what’s to come in “Snowfall.”

Even as Saint continues to expand his business, he is under the CIA’s thumb and must deal with insubordination within his own organization. His Uncle Jerome and Aunt Louie, played by Amin Joseph and Angela Lewi, are pushing to become independent dealers, making Saint into a middleman. Saint’s best friend and second-in-command Leon Simmons (Isaiah John) is keen on assembling a makeshift army to retaliate against brutal LAPD raids in the projects, much to Saint’s chagrin.

Meanwhile, Saint is revealed to be in a long-term relationship with series newcomer Devyn Tyler’s Veronique, a real estate manager who is pregnant with his child. Veronique is his tie to the white collar business world, and he wants to invest in downtown LA real estate and assume a hands-off role in the drug business. Veronique represents the newer, fiscally savvy side of Saint, but he also is aware he has unfinished business with his family and drug crew. To further compound his stress, his mother Cissy, played by Michael Hyatt, returns to LA in the fourth episode of the season with an agenda of her own.

Even with so many storylines and themes highlighted this season, “Snowfall’s” storytelling for the most part stays organized. The writers cleanly trace Saint’s metamorphosis from a prep school student with an apparently bright future to a power hungry kingpin. Additionally, the series touches on subjects including the intersection of class and race, and draws parallels between how the U.S. government harmed the Black community during the 1980s and how the country continues to fail Black Americans today. Almost six years after its premiere, “Snowfall” continues to carry out the vision of the late John Singleton, who created the series to paint an accurate portrait of 1980s LA and shine a light on various catalysts of the crack cocaine epidemic.

Beyond impressive social commentary, “Snowfall” boasts incredible performances from an ensemble largely composed of actors who were unknown prior to the show. Series star Idris, who only worked on a few other projects prior to “Snowfall,” has developed into one of the best actors working in Hollywood. Arguably the most well-established actor in the series, Hyatt, who portrayed Brianna Barksdale, sister and advisor to West Baltimore drug kingpin Avon in “The Wire,” excels in a similar, albeit deeper role in “Snowfall.”

Drawing influence from “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad” with its willingness to inject social commentary while depicting the metamorphosis of an antihero, “Snowfall” is one of television’s most ambitious dramas. And its fifth season has the potential to be the series’ finest.

Arkansas Traveler Score: 4 out of 5

Where to watch: FX and Hulu — new episodes airing Wednesdays, streaming next day

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