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Snowpiercer episode 1 review – Baby it’s cold outside… (very minor spoilers)

Snowpiercer has a heady concept.  In order to fight global warming, scientists shot something into the atmosphere to cool the planet down, the unfortunate side effect being it caused the entire world to freeze.  That itself would be a cool TV series, but it is merely the introduction to where the story picks up – the last remaining survivors on Earth ride on a specially designed 1001 car train that must keep moving to keep them alive. 

Snowpiercer is a TV series adaptation of a 2013 movie of the same name, which itself was based on a graphic novel (both of which I’ve seen/read).  Like comic and movie, the backstory and train provide a sci-fi element, but that’s merely a mechanism to examines issues of class inequality.  The fortunate people live in opulence in the front of the train, with the castes moving downward as you move through the train culminating in the tail car holding the ticketless travelers who hold the lowest rank.  The lives of the people struggling to survive in the tail car are juxtaposed with the fortunate people in the first class.

Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

One challenge in turning a movie into a series is the additional material needed.  Snowpiercer accomplishes this in a number of effective ways.  First and foremost, it adds a murder mystery as the continuing plot that carries over across episodes.  Sprinkled throughout are teases at other interesting questions that I’m sure will be teased out during the series. While I am interested in the murder mystery, I find myself more curious about these other mini mysteries.  This show also provides a glimpse of life before the train started its journey and I’m curious to see if the show employs more flashbacks.  Finally, the primary benefit of the series format is the ability dig deeper into the characters and tease more detail about the society of the train.

Two main characters are established – Jennifer Connelly’s (Rocketeer, House of Sand and Fog) Melanie Cavil, who represents the front of the train and Daveed Diggs’ (Black-ish, Wonder) Andre Layton, who represents the tail car.  Layton is pulled from the from the tail to solve the murder mystery because he’s the only homicide investigator on the train.  The show also effectively establishes some supporting characters, particularly the residents of the tail car.  While I found the tail end passengers more compelling as whole, the most interesting characters from the front of the car were the two security/police that Layton partners with.

Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

The Snowpiercer movie was highly exaggerated, which emphasized the gap between the castes.  The series is more grounded.  The hallmarks of the disparity are still there, but it feels more realistic.  The one area where things are a bit surreal is the dimensions of the train.  Sometimes the inside of the train seems bigger up front, but this provides a visual reminder of the dichotomy with cramped end of the train. The special effects are solid for a television series, with one fight scene in particular standing out.

Everything is explained in the pilot so no knowledge of the graphic novels or movie is necessary. Readers/viewers of the book or movie will find the world familiar, but there are ample differences so as to not spoil the show.
Movie adaptations are hit or miss.  So far, I’d say Snowpiercer is a ride worth jumping on.  Viewers should be aware that there is a fair amount of dying and blood, so some parental discretion is advised.

The first episode will air Sunday, May 17 at 9:00pm ET/PT on TNT in the United States.

Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on the 2nd episode of the series.

Are you excited for this series? Feel free to chat with me on Twitter or leave a comment below!

Darren Shulman
Darren Shulman
Darren is a professional lawyer and amateur movie/comic/TV reviewer who is lucky enough to have found a wife who is into the same geeky things he is. Darren has been making the trip from Ohio to San Diego Comic-Con since 2009. Other interests include, in no particular order: monkeys, LEGO, dinosaurs, and playing basketball poorly.

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