As someone who is a fan of the source material and Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 adaptation, I’ve been looking forward to TBS’s Snowpiercer series for quite some time (I’ve been getting emails on it for nearly a year now) and just based on what’s established in the first episode, I’m completely enthralled and totally on board for what this iteration of Snowpiercer is doing.
“First, the Weather Changed” sets the groundwork for what’s to come over the course of these 10 episodes: we learn that there’s been a catastrophic climate event and in response to that, the mysterious Mr. Wilford of Wilford Industries has built a perpetually in motion train that traverses the Earth’s icy terrain, and the lucky inhabitants inside of the Snowpiercer are the only survivors left on the planet. The train consists of 1,001 different cars (which gives us endless possibilities of areas to explore as viewers).
The population of the Snowpiercer is broken up into a class system, with only the most wealthy and influential passengers making up First Class, and eventually the system trickles all the way down to those who ended up as stowaways on the train and are now forced to live in squalor in the tail end of the train. It’s established in this first episode of Snowpiercer that we’re now a little over years past the global climate event, and even for those living in the lap of luxury, things aren’t nearly as idyllic as they may seem on the surface. As it turns out, one of the passengers has been murdered, and those in charge aren’t sure how to proceed. They need to nip it in the bud though before word gets out, as that kind of gossip can be dangerous to maintaining sociopolitical balance aboard the titular train.
Part murder mystery, part social thriller (that ventures into slightly satirical territory at various moments), this new take on Snowpiercer’s thematic elements still adhere to the spirit of the original graphic novel, but are also traversing some new storytelling territory, which is great to see thus far. I’m not sure exactly what it’s all building towards, but that’s what is most exciting to me as a fan of both the source material and the previous film.
As expected, sociopolitical issues and a clash of cultures, even amongst the higher class passengers, are front in center in this iteration of Snowpiercer, but I was rather intrigued by some of the sexual politics that are introduced in this first episode and I’m curious how much that will play into the rest of this first season. But one aspect about the Snowpiercer series that I have so far is the fact that “good guys” and “bad guys” are being established, the characters themselves are not caricatures, and we have an initial idea of just what’s driving them (at least so far – I’m sure some allegiances will probably shift as time goes on), which was nice to see.
I’m not a Hamilton person per se, but so far I am enjoying Daveed Diggs in this, as he’s being framed as one of Snowpiercer's centralized characters – the only homicide detective aboard the titular vessel – and he carries the weight of being our entry point into the story exceedingly well in this first episode. Jennifer Connelly, who I have adored for decades now, is utterly fantastic as well as Melanie Cavill, head of hospitality, and I must say that Mickey Sumner, who plays one of the members of the train’s security detail, has intrigued me thus far.
If there’s anything holding this version of Snowpiercer back, it’s a slight lack of focus. It does feel like there is A LOT thrown at us during this first episode, and admittedly, when characters names just get tossed about and we’ve only seen them extremely briefly at this point, it’s a little difficult to keep everyone straight in my head. And for those who know the Snowpiercer film well, there is an air of familiarity here that’s hard to shake, but I feel like the murder mystery storyline might just be enough to keep things interested for fans.
All in all, I do think Snowpiercer starts off rather strongly, despite its ambitious narrative that wants to throw a lot of information at viewers, and I’m hopeful that maybe the narrative will tighten up a bit further down the line.
Be sure to check back right here next Sunday when I rundown everything we see in the second episode of Snowpiercer and dig into where the series is possibly headed as well.