Did we really need a serial adaptation of the 2013 sci-fi film Snowpiercer? Probably not but here we are anyway with another small screen adaptation of a big screen blockbuster. To be fair though, this troubled series actually gets off to a pretty good start here, adopting a similar set-up and plenty of scope to flesh out more of its class-divided carriages over the weeks.
With a second season already green-lit and a plot that certainly has the scope and promise to deviate from its source material and deliver some interesting twists and turns along the way, Snowpiercer’s future remains obfuscated but there’s certainly room for this one to grow.
Episode 1 of Snowpiercer begins with an animated opening, introducing us to this hostile world as we see the final days of the Freeze and the 1001 carriage train known as Snowpiercer ready to take off round the globe. As multiple people scramble onboard, the train departs from the station with a whole carriage full of stowaways.
We then skip forward 6 years in time. The poorer members of the train are given rationed portions to eat. Among those squeezed in this cramped carriage are quiet Andre and young boy Miles. Together, the group discuss taking over the next carriage and rebelling against the guards who arrive to give them their food. Working out they have a 70 second window, Andre contemplates whether they have the strength and manpower to push beyond “The Night Car”.
Further down the train whispers begin to turn into quiet murmurs as word gets out that trouble is brewing in 3rd class. Train worker Melanie tasks her colleague Ruth to go and investigate and she joins the guards down in the bottom carriage. The resistance efforts are thrown a serious spanner in the works though when Ruth greets them and removes Andre. Given he’s the main catalyst for their plan, that’s abandoned for now as he’s dragged off by the soldiers to the carriages ahead.
After being washed and handcuffed, Andre is finally given the chance to see outside for the first time in years, marveling at the frozen cities that lie across the wasteland. After wolfing down fresh soup and toasted bread that’s brought before him, Roche sits opposite and quizzes Andre over his position as a homicide cop before life on the train.
It turns out someone has been killed and they’re currently cut up in pieces under the floorboards. Given Andre’s expertise on the matter, the guards task him with finding out who’s responsible for the killing. Despite an initial refusal to help, when Melanie arrives personally she eventually convinces him, offering any resources he needs.
Andre’s forced investigation brings him to Zarah, a woman he saved despite her reluctance to join and board the train. After a less-than-pleasant trip down memory lane, Andre is shown the 100+ cars of food being picked and artificially grown, scoffing at the notion of it not being shared with those who need it most. He tells them he’ll agree to help on condition of sharing the food which Melanie predictably declines.
Down in the 3rd class carriage however, another death sparks the entire carriage to rally together as an old man hangs himself on his birthday, unable to cope with the conditions any longer. His death prompts the tail-end of the train to prepare their resistance and fight back, just as Melanie gets on the tannoy and announces they’re coming up to a mountainous area so bumps will lie ahead.
As the guards enter the carriage, the “tailies” work together, forcing their way up the carriage as their main muscle clears a path for them all, dispatching guards left and right. It’s chaos but as the carriage doors open, more guards arrive prompting this swift rebellion to be quashed as quickly as it began.
With dead bodies lining the ground, Andre convinces Melanie and the others to allow him diffuse a volatile hostage situation. It’s here he learns about the hanging and he tries to reason with Mike, telling him he has a way of getting them out of this situation alive. He spills details about the 100+ carriages ahead and promises to work with them to take the engine and control the train.
Approaching Melanie, Andre agrees to help with the murder investigation in exchange for his people being put to sleep rather than killed. As the episode closes out, Melanie agrees to his terms.
The idea surrounding Snowpiercer has always been a fascinating one and seeing this plot played out in serialized format rather than a 2 hour action thriller is interesting but also something that could backfire just as easily. Given this has already been renewed and there’s lot of scope for more of the passengers and carriages to be fleshed out going forward, it remains to be seen whether Snowpiercer can keep its audience on track over the coming weeks.
Although the detective crime drama idea has been well-worn by now across the medium, the episode gets around that with some interesting world-building early on. You certainly don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy this and it’ll be interesting to see where the extended run-time takes this going forward. For now though Snowpiercer is worth hopping on for the ride but the verdict’s still out over whether it can keep all its passengers for the long-haul.