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Review: Snowpiercer Episode 1

May 17, 2020
6 min read

When you first start watching the premiere episode of ‘Snowpiercer,’ there’s one thing you know for sure: The show is going be reminiscent of Bong Joon-ho’s gritty thriller ‘Snowpiercer,’ which satirized contemporary socio-economic affairs. Now unlike movies, most sci-fi shows strive to iron out their storylines with time instead of directly plunging into what they intend to portray. ‘Snowpiercer’ does the same, and at its outset, it harkens back to the origins of the dystopian train, depicting how the passengers of the tail end first managed to get in.

Bong Joon-ho’s movie struck a chord with critics and viewers alike because of how realistically it envisioned the lives of the poor in the train with its stylized, claustrophobic filming choices and relentless violence. The TV series treads a similar path by weaving out a completely original narrative that draws enough parallels for those who are familiar with the original and generates unique ideas of its own to compel those who are not. Still, although it’s too early to draw any vital collations between the two, the series only offers some little tremors of excitement in its pilot. It will have to do a lot more to satiate the cravings of the viewers who have been looking forward to this follow-up. [SPOILERS AHEAD]

Snowpiercer Episode 1 Recap

The world drastically heated up because of global warming. To resolve this life-threatening ecological condition, scientists developed a bio-engineered technology that could keep the rising temperatures in check. However, this backfired on humanity and marked the inception of a new Ice Age. While the rich secured a safe place in the highly coveted Snowpiercer, a train that circumnavigates across the world, the poor seeped into its back end to survive the world’s freezing temperatures. Little did they realize that this action of illegally entering the train’s premise will lead to a life of imprisonment and oppression.

After setting its foundation, the series introduces the characters who accommodate the tail of the train. In its early moments, the passengers plan a revolution against the rich and carefully deduce strategies that they think might work. However, during its time of execution, the leading figure of the poor, Andre Layton, gets taken away by the higher authorities of the train. Andre is then briefed about a murder that recently took place, and since he is the last surviving homicide detective of the world, he is expected to use his skills to solve the murder case. In return, he is granted an upgrade in his status, which will allow him to live in the third level of the train for the rest of his life.

At first, Andre refuses to betray his people back at the tail end. But soon, the powerful head of the hospitality, Melanie Cavill talks him out of his defiance to comply and convinces him that this is for his own good. In the meantime, after the oldest passenger at the tail commits suicide, another revolution breaks loose. Although it brutally fails, the passengers of the tail are able to take some of the officials of the train as hostages. This is when Andre steps in to help Melanie and convinces his men to leave the officials. He assures them that while working as a homicide detective for the upper class, he’ll get access to all of their security systems and procedures. In turn, it would later help them start a well-planned revolution and lead them to the front end of the train.

Snowpiercer Episode 1 Review

Because of lesser runtime limitations, the show takes its time to drop insights on the world outside and the current situation of the people on the train. Pretty much like the movie, it also drops subtle cues on how Wilford, the creator of the Snowpiercer, ensures that everything runs according to the rules and regulations set by him. Set seven years after the extinction of humanity, the show establishes how even eight years before the events of the movie, the conditions of the impoverished passengers are no different. Their food supplies are restricted to protein bars made out of insects, their reproduction is being controlled through sterilization of women, and their population is being brashly eradicated concerning the supply and demand of the train.

Even so, compared to the events of the movie, the conditions in which the characters sustain themselves in the show seem a lot less disturbing. Now, this was either done intentionally just to create a contrast between the two timelines. Or, it could simply be a reflection of the flaws in the direction choices of the show.

While the main narrative of the series revolves around Andre, other subplots reflect on the trivial first-world problems faced by the elite class. These subplots play a key role in creating some solid subtext to the dynamics between the classes. Just like the rich, the poor, too, have conflicts and have a tough time getting along with one another. But what unites them is their common desire to seek freedom. Establishing the chasm effectively, a few shots earlier in the episode, also gives you a glimpse of the ravaged wasteland that the planet has become. But despite its stellar production value, the show still feels less unsettling.

For now, it’s hard to predict how the show’s seemingly noir-esque narrative choices will later come in tandem with its socio-economic undertone. Nonetheless, it’s good to see how it’s not too preachy with its parables to the real world. When it comes to the cast, as a viewer, you strangely find yourself rooting for Jennifer Connelly’s character instead of the protagonist. The first episode itself makes it pretty evident that she will be the highlight of the show with her scene-stealing performance, despite her negative role.

Overall, episode 1 is quite promising, especially in context with the new direction of its overarching plot. I, personally, would love to see how the show will meld its murder mystery drama with its themes of class warfare. Moreover, even its stark representation of all the other lower levels of the train is also quite plausible. So far, it isn’t as gritty and intense as the original movie, but captivating enough to make you stick around for more.

Rating: 3/5

Read More: Snowpiercer Movie Filming Locations

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