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Snowpiercer: The Tallies and The Murder

When the movie Snowpiercer came out in 2013 I begged my aunt to take me to see it. She did and I fell in love with it. Everything about it was perfect. Now, fast forward seven years and Snowpiercer the tv show has made its way onto screens with a prequel that aims to set its self apart from both the movie and the graphic novel that precedes them both. Obviously, there was some hesitancy to watch on my end. More often than not, stories that share backgrounds are pitted against each other from the moment they’re made known. Which is a shame really, however, Snowpiecer hit the ground running last night and jammed its feet into the dirt. It’s not going down without a fight.

As the never stopping train named Snowpiercer circles around the globe for close to seven years, an uprising is quietly being planned in the tail end. While the passengers upfront bicker over the most mundane things, the survivors desperately push another revolution as their rations are cut again. At the front, head of hospitality Melanie Cavill spends her time making sure everyone who boarded with tickets are living as comfortably as possible. But when there’s a murder in third class she must enlist the help of the only homicide detective still alive, Andre Layton. Who just so happens to be a tallie and the leader of the impending revolution. Melanie thinks she can sway him to turn his back on the tail end of the train if she offers him third-class relocation. Andre only sees a way to make taking the engine easier. They both recognize they need each other to ensure their personal needs are met, so a deal is made. And the fun begins.

With a sixty-six minute premiere, Snowpiercer wastes no time in getting setting its mood and getting straight to the point. On the surface, this is a murder mystery and the heat is on Andre to come up with answers for Mr. Wilford. But beneath that, this show is about the structural classism that human beings cannot seem to let go of. It’s the end of the world and with only 3,000 still living, the human race can’t let go of the idea that there should be people on top and people on the bottom. The tallies live in a kind of poverty that has no real reason to exist other than cruelty disguised as order. And while pretty much all audiences are on the side of the tallies, Snowpiercer doesn’t forget to humanize its big baddies and throw in a bit of compassion for them. Everyone had a life that was turned upside down by the big freeze, not everyone outside of the tail is living peacefully.

I liked the first episode of Snowpiercer a lot. It’s fast-paced but didn’t get ahead of itself and didn’t spare the small moments. The best scene in the premiere is when Layton is taken out of the tail and taken to a third class mess hall. It’s the first time he’s seen the sun in seven years, it’s also the first time he’s had any real food. When a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich are placed in front of him, Layton is brought to tears and eats the whole thing in less than two minutes. It’s in this moment where Daveed Diggs is really allowed to flex his acting muscles and shine. His hunger is palpable and his face able to convey the immense pain of not deep starvation a way that makes your heart hurt. In just a few minutes Daveed has gotten everyone on Layton’s side, we’re ready to follow him into the revolution.

While many details of the show were sharpened and polished, there’s one that fell flat. Andre Layton’s hair leaves much to be desired. It’s understandable that his locs wouldn’t be freshly twisted and laid because this is a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s very obvious that it’s a wig attached to Daveed’s head. The placement of the locs and the styling changes in just about every scene, which can be distracting for those of us who know what real locs are supposed to look and move like. This isn’t a drag of the show, just a call out to the fact that the diversity in the hairstyling department is lacking.

It’s hard to judge a show by just one episode, so my excitement still remains for Snowpiercer. Co leads Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly seem to have thrown themselves completely into their roles and I can’t wait to watch them play off each other and create tension as the season goes on. I’m curious to watch the build-up of class structure and stance on capitalism and to see where the show takes it. Hopefully, it’s able to follow through on the strong points it’s trying to make. What I enjoy most is that, so far, this show is not trying to copy the movie nor is it trying to replicate the graphic novel. TNT’s Snowpiercer is simply expanding an already established world, which is rarely if ever a bad thing. I’m very excited for what’s to come next Sunday.

Snowpiercers airs Sunday nights on TNT

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-Danyi