“Snowpiercer” is a post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction television series based on both the 2013 South Korean-Czech film of the same name, directed by Bong Joon-ho, and the 1982 French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette.
The series is set seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland and follows the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, Snowpiercer, which circles the globe.
– Jennifer Connelly as Melanie Cavill
– Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton
– Mickey Sumner as Bess Till
– Alison Wright as Ruth Wardell
– Iddo Goldberg as Bennett Knox
– Susan Park as Jinju Seong
– Lena Hall as Miss Audrey
First Episode Broadcast Date: 12 July 2020
Final Episode Broadcast Date: Ongoing
Total Number of Episodes: 30 (as of end of season 3)
Total Number of Seasons: 3 (as of May 2023 – season 4 is trying to find a new home for its release)
“Snowpiercer” is a gripping post-apocalyptic science fiction television series that expertly intertwines elements of drama, thriller, and dystopian fiction. Based on the 2013 film of the same name by Bong Joon-ho and the 1982 French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige”, the series presents a chilling portrayal of a frozen world, where the last vestiges of humanity subsist aboard a perpetually moving train known as the Snowpiercer.
Set seven years after a catastrophic event has turned the Earth into an uninhabitable frozen wasteland, the story follows the struggles of the train’s inhabitants, who are strictly segregated by class. The Snowpiercer, a marvel of engineering, is a 1,001-car-long train that ceaselessly traverses the icy globe. However, within this mobile city, a stark societal divide exists. The wealthy elite luxuriate in the front of the train, enjoying lavish lifestyles, while the impoverished masses languish in the squalid tail-end, barely surviving in crowded, deplorable conditions.
Jennifer Connelly stars as Melanie Cavill, the train’s Head of Hospitality. Officially, she serves as the voice of the Snowpiercer, making daily announcements to keep passengers informed. Unofficially, she’s the train’s de facto leader, carrying more secrets and responsibilities than initially meet the eye. Melanie’s calm demeanor and diplomatic skills mask her profound understanding of the precarious balance needed to maintain order on the train.
Opposing her is Andre Layton, played by Daveed Diggs, a former homicide detective and a tail-end resident. Layton’s disillusionment with the harsh conditions and inequity in the tail section sparks a revolutionary spirit, making him a natural leader among the disgruntled passengers. When a murder occurs in the front of the train, Melanie recruits Layton to solve it, pulling him into the complex politics of the Snowpiercer.
The show skillfully navigates themes of class warfare, social injustice, and survival politics. The class disparity is not merely economic but extends to access to resources, justice, and opportunities. The tail passengers endure brutal repression and systematic deprivation of basic human rights, fueling a simmering resentment that threatens to boil over into outright rebellion. The show continually questions the morality of sustaining a system that privileges a few while condemning many to misery and destitution.
Yet, “Snowpiercer” is not simply about class struggle; it’s a survival story. Every character, regardless of their social standing, grapples with the existential dread of life in a world that exists on the brink of extinction. The harsh reality of their situation forces characters to make difficult, often morally gray decisions. It illuminates the fragility of civilization and the lengths to which people will go to protect their way of life.
The series benefits immensely from a talented ensemble cast, each bringing depth to their roles. Mickey Sumner plays Bess Till, a brakeman who starts questioning the system she’s part of. Alison Wright is Ruth Wardell, Melanie’s loyal second-in-command, who clings to the established order. Other memorable characters include Miss Audrey (Lena Hall), the madame of the Nightcar who provides emotional solace to passengers, and LJ Folger (Annalise Basso), a privileged young woman from the front of the train who becomes embroiled in the darker aspects of life aboard Snowpiercer.
“Snowpiercer” offers viewers a thrilling ride, full of unexpected twists, intricate world-building, and thought-provoking themes. It captures the claustrophobic tension of life aboard the train, juxtaposing the starkly different realities of its front and tail-end inhabitants. The series excels in its portrayal of the train as a microcosm of society, reflecting our own world’s disparities, power dynamics, and struggle for resources. The visuals are stunning, creating a richly detailed, oppressive yet fascinating environment that adds to the narrative’s depth and intensity.
The series excels in the development of its characters. As the narrative unfolds, characters reveal layers of complexity that move beyond the initial archetypes. Andre Layton’s transformation from tail-end leader to reluctant detective and then to a revolutionary is both believable and compelling. Melanie Cavill, initially seen as the antagonist, emerges as a nuanced character grappling with impossible choices, and her character arc is one of the show’s strongest points.
The drama intensifies with the introduction of new characters in the second season, such as Alexandra Cavill (Rowan Blanchard), Melanie’s daughter, believed to be dead, and the charismatic yet threatening Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean), the train’s supposed creator. Their inclusion expands the story’s scope, adding more layers of intrigue and conflict.
“Snowpiercer” also leverages its unique premise to explore deeper philosophical and existential questions. What does it mean to uphold justice in a system inherently unjust? Can humanity retain its compassion and decency in the face of survival? How far will individuals and societies go to maintain their power, and at what cost? These questions resonate throughout the series, giving the narrative a thought-provoking edge.
The show’s suspenseful storytelling, rich characterization, and exploration of societal issues make it more than just a survival drama. “Snowpiercer” is a thought-provoking exploration of class, power, and the human condition, set against the backdrop of a frozen post-apocalyptic world. As the train continues its endless journey, so does the struggle for equality and survival, making “Snowpiercer” a compelling commentary on our times.