Review: TNT’s Snowpiercer
Review: Snowpiercer — Humankind’s obsession with progress doomed the planet to a frosty death. A few stalwart humans find themselves on a train to nowhere, designed to ensure their future of humanity. The private project derails before it begins as hundreds of people stowaway on the train creating an unexpected class of passengers in an already stratified social structure. (Visit the show’s website on TNT here).
The plot is simple. The situation is not unique: a human population trapped on an island (the train) must invent a social structure that works for them after the one imposed by design frays at the edges. The passengers who stormed the train without tickets make up the lower class, at the tail of the train. They are treated poorly and want equal rights.
Based on a series of comic books and proceeded by Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 Snowpiercer film, the TNT tale takes place in the same world, but ahead of the film (see our timeline here). Viewers trek around the globe entrenched in the dissolution of an initial mythology for the burgeoning life aboard Snowpiercer and glide clackity-clank into a replacement mythos in search of its center.
At the core is the proxy for Snowpiercer’s founding father, Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly). Her calm planning and acquiescence to authoritarian rule reinforce the haves-and-have-nots dichotomy of the train. Everything is a dictate by Snowpiercer’s creator, Mr. Wilford.
As is often the case, some rich people indulge appetites that the poor cannot afford. Sometimes those appetites lead to murder.
There is murder aboard this science experiment of a train 1001 cars long. Facing an uneasy aristocracy and an increasingly mutinous end of the train, Cavill ends up offering a temporary truce with Andre Layton. This former police detective discovers more than a murder plot.
Snowpiercer faces several issues well beyond the class divide. How it works through those issues, and the physical threats still erupting from a frozen earth, form the framework of the series.
The premise that Earth’s mightiest brains clash with politics to create a world-ending catastrophe stretches the imagination only in detail, not in possibility. The solution, however, of a mechanical train, 1001 cars long challenges believability. A train that continuously runs around the desolate tundra—and as long as it runs—it keeps its denizens safe.
But the story could only happen on a train. The great length, the separate cars, the ability to transform function by car lends to the ease of which one can imagine that the deep divides remain containable. Everything on a train is containable in a way. While there are places to hide, a train offers no infinitely varied options. Systematic, close inspection eventually yields an answer.
And the very connections of water and power that flow through the train create a system that cannot but facilitate collaboration and communication among the residents. Even closed doors and authoritarian stricture erode in the face of monotonous attacks. Eventually, even the most profound secrets will find light along with the most repressed or suppressed hope.
TNT’s Snowpiercer creates a credible world full bright a glorious detail in first class, with opulence turned down to grime as one walks through the vast stretches of the train.
The acting proves universally robust, with Connelly and Diggs doing the heavy lifting, but with no poor performances. All prove believable from the piloting team who know and protect many secretes to hospitality and stewards that attempt to maintain the status quo.
Annalise Basso steals her scenes as the wily rich girl whose life, and family, drip privilege. Happy Anderson puts in a creepy performance of necessity and twisted proclivity as Klimpt, the keeper of those deemed unnecessary or dangerous.
Review: Snowpiercer — And in the end
I won’t give away the ending. It was one I expected, which was pleasant in and of itself. But since I know TNT already greenlit season 2, the lack of resolution did not surprise me.
Snowpiercer Season 1 ends in a very different place than it begins. Still, all of its agonies and revelations, sacrifices and heroism, deviant behavior, and tender moments, its cruelty and redemption take place in a close universe running around the Earth in a seemingly closed loop of endless necessity. But sometimes even a premise requires a challenge to evolve.
Graeme Mason and his crew bring a deft hand to a world that some already know through the film or the comic books. They do justice to their inspirations and deliver a substantial viewing experience for those who hop on board.
For more reviews from Daniel W. Rasmus click here.