Synopsis: Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, the remnants of humanity inhabit a perpetually-moving train that circles the globe, where class warfare, social injustice, and the politics of survival play out.
The first episode titled ‘First the Weather Changed’ opens up with a brief animated sequence and some narration, which talks about how the lower classes forced there way onto the tail section of the train, which was developed by a Mr. Wilfred. The train, which is 1001 carriages were designed to save humanity from the extremely cold temperatures caused by global warming. But as you’d expect it was only the world wealthiest and those that were willing to service them that won the lottery of getting a place on the train.
Once the brief backstory is out of the way we get introduced to Melanie Cavill who makes announcements over the intercom and works in hospitality amongst many other things. Over the course of the episode, we learn that Melanie is pretty much responsible for the smooth operation of the train and is also in charge of deciding what food rations and water is allocated to the tail section, which isn’t much.
As the episode steams along we get introduced to life in the tail section of the train, which is decidedly brutal, but with a pretty strong sense of community. We get introduced to some of the characters as they receive the bad news that their food rations have been cut again. A group of these people, which include Andre Layton, Pike, and Old Ivan who lost an arm in a past rebellion are planning to try and take over the train. Andre says they need to take their time and plan carefully, but Pike is resistant to this and thinks they should go for it. A vote is taken and the decision is reached, but as the rebel group is about to execute their plan they get interrupted by the trains security forces who order Andre Layton to go with them. We learn that Melanie needs Andres skills as a former Police Detective to investigate a grisly murder where the victim has been butchered and had his genitals removed. Andre reluctantly goes along with it and agrees if certain terms are met, which include better rations for the Tail section, Melanie cannot agree to the terms, but her hand is forced when Pike launches the planned attack and Andre is needed to talk Pike down.
As we move into the second episode, which is titled ‘Prepare to Brace’ the train is about to move through a particularly rough patch of track where avalanches are common. Meanwhile, Andre having gotten some concessions for the tail section and leniency for Pike and his other conspirators is beginning his investigation, which leads him to his estranged wife who got herself upgraded from the tail section to 3rd class where she works on the night train. While visiting with his wife Zarah Ferami. Andre learns that the investigation for a previous murder was fast-tracked and the person that took the fall was innocent.
While investigating Leyton, for the most part, is being accompanied by one of the train’s security guards, but this doesn’t seem to be preventing him from gathering intelligence about the layout of the train, which he plans to take back to the tail section to stage a takeover.
By the close of the second episode. Layton has found where the corpse’s arms and legs were taken after they were butchered but also has figured out that other murders have likely been covered up by Melanie and her crew.
Steven Ogg of Grand Theft Auto fame puts in a solid performance as Pike who is really kind of a version of his GTA role that is fighting for some social justice as opposed to in it for himself. Ogg has a brilliant scene at the beginning and at the end of the first episode with Daveed Diggs’s Layton, which sets up Layton’s role in the series as the trains Detective and secret rebel leader.
Jennifer Connelly gets a great chunk of both these episodes as Melanie, who seems to work across several areas of the train as Hospitality, security, and driver, and is at one point referred to by one of the other drivers as Mr. Wilfred. Melanie has a lot of good scenes and has a really strong scene at the end of episode two where she gives Layton a lecture about balance in an attempt to justify why she allocates so little to the people in the tail section, which many on the train think of as stowaways anyhow due to how they got on the train in the first place.
These first two episodes do a brilliant job of setting up the world of Snowpiercer and introduce us to some really intriguing characters. I am especially interested to learn more about Melanie who has an air of mystery around her as well as a coldness in the calculated way she makes decisions. Layton on the other hand is a little easier to figure out in that he seems to have a strong sense of social justice and wants to protect and help the lower classes that live in the tail section of the train, which is both cramped and dirty. But you have to wonder if Layton is compensated for something and only wanting to help out of a sense of guilt for a past misdeed.
Snowpiercer’s first two episodes are available now on Netflix and the third episode will be available on the 1st of June.
- CGI & Stunts9.4
- Incidental Music9.1