After premiering its first season in the peak of a national lock down, during the height of uncertainty and managing not to get lost in the chaos; Snowpiercer returns for a second season with an even more wild ride and bigger stakes to lose. It’s always a toss up when shows decide to start their new seasons in the same place the first one ended, especially when the timeline is as close as mere moments between them as is the case with Snowpiercer. However here, the decision to begin right where we ended was the best choice and the madness of the season premiere puts this roller coaster levels above the first one even though this is just the first episode.
First, the briefest summary of season one I can give: Classism, capitalism and white privilege rule even when the entire population exist on a one thousand and one cars long train. The haves pretend that the have nots don’t exist except for when it’s absolutely necessary. While first and second class live in luxury, the tail end of the train live in poverty and third class chases the dream of better while fending off the threat of less. Andre Layton, a taily and their unofficial leader, quietly plots the next revolution that will lead his people to better living conditions. However all of that comes to a halt when he’s pulled to the front of the train by the Head of Hospitality and Voice of the Train, Melanie Cavill. A women with the biggest secret on the train. She needs Layton to solve the problem of a murder in first class. The murder though, is nothing compared to the secrets and betrayals that run rampant through out the season. And when the revolution finally does happen, new democracy has been just been born before it’s shoved to the back burner for a bigger problem. The real Mr. Wilford has returned, latched his impressive train Big Alice onto Snowpiercer and he is pissed. Melanie had better count her days. Now it can no longer be the front vs the end, if our favorites are going to live then it must be Snowpiercer vs Big Alice.
In the season opener, there is no time for reflection. A battle may have just been fought and won (lost for some) but the passengers aren’t allowed a moment to mourn those who have died, think about the actions they took to survive or even celebrate the relief of victory. Snowpiercer has been viciously jerked to a stop, shocking everyone aboard no matter what section they reside in because we all know the one thing the train can never do is stop. As the end of the train is opened by force, and the taillies stand ready to attack, Melanie risks everything by getting off the train to see if she can get them back rolling and to install some extra security of her own. But when the train starts moving and she’s still crawling through the snow, getting back on means climbing aboard Big Alice and facing Mr. Wilford now instead of on her own terms.
Inside where it’s warmer, but not by much, Andre, Ruth, Till and the others are greeted by Melanie’s thought to be dead daughter Alex. She has come through the hole made in the tail end of Snowpiercer by Big Alice and she has a list of demands that the passengers must meet or else Mr. Wilford will leave them to freeze. The list is incredibly mundane and seems almost like a joke but Layton can’t afford to take chances, soon he and several people are running off to collect the items. Since word travels fast on Snowpiercer before everything can be collected they all know that Wilford has returned but none of them really know what that means.
Meanwhile Melanie is met with hostility from pretty much every person she encounters on Big Alice. They all know that she stole Snowpiercer and left them to die in the cold. Her having the audacity to still be alive seven years later is like salt in the wound to them. Even though the tension of a Melanie and Wilford reunion has only been building for less than a full episode, the pay of them coming face to face for the first time is a great one. Wilford is not what we were expecting. His almost cheery demeanor and casual attitude makes for a confusing first impression. Mr. Wilford is supposed to be revered by all, frightened by all. But the man that Melanie meets is full of light tones and playful banter. Until suddenly he’s not. With the quickness of a light switch, Wilford can go from fun and playful to deadly serious and scary. Not to mention he’s got the ace up his sleeve that Melanie didn’t see coming, Alexandra is still alive. Obviously nothing about Big Alice latching onto Snowpiercer is as simple as survival of the fittest, there is something else at play here.
What I like most about Snowpiercer, is the complexity of its characters. In terms of development, this show is one of the few that leaves no story behind. Obviously the one to have the biggest development this season is most likely going to be Melanie but it’s the progress of other characters that I find myself more drawn to. When it comes to Melanie, I’m pretty split about her. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t actively like her either. Her constant excuses that she simply inherited Snowpiercer and all of it’s injustice plays heavily into the trope that white women are always throwing rocks and hiding their hands. Melanie ran Snowpiercer for seven years, and in not one of those years did she think that she could make life better for all? It’s upsetting but not surprising. So now that she’s going to have to deal with the fact she’s more like Wilford than she wants to admit, season two has potential to turn me into a Melanie fan. But only if she’s going to be given a redemption arc that looks more like accountability than redirected blame. As a side note though, the plot to have her daughter be under Wilford’s mentor ship is brilliant and could provide some pivotal moments in Melanie’s character progression.
Our other lead however, might have been given a plot line that could hinder the development of his character. I am a massive fan of Andre Layton, I think he’s probably the best thing to come out of this show. But I am not a fan of the baby subplot that he’s been hooked with. Zarah’s never ending betrayal all throughout season one has soured me to her character permanently, so I don’t have even a corner of a sympathy card for her. The pregnancy situation between her and Layton doesn’t make me yearn for them to rekindle their relationship, it doesn’t even make me hopeful that there will be future generations in this world (which can be questionable with the state of things). The reason I have such resentful feelings for Zarah is because she only seems to care about Layton when it benefits her. She left him in the tail for a better life and as soon as that life went to shit she was selling him out in the hopes his pre-freeze job could save her from a murder charge. She didn’t want to get back with him once he became the train detective and she wasn’t helpful at all in any plan for the revolution. Sure she took care of Layton when he was having withdrawal from being stuffed in the drawers but that was only because if he dies then she is screwed. To me, the relationship between Zarah and Layton falls into the toxic trope of white women only using Black men as shields and nothing more. No matter what they claim to feel for them. I would have much preferred if Layton’s subplot of season two was dealing with the racism that’ll come with him being in charge now. If classism and capitalism still exist in this world, then there’s no doubt that racism does too. And to gloss over it, especially with a Black lead feels like a disservice to the story. Still though, I’m excited for Layton’s journey this season and I’m really interested to watch the partnership that he and Melanie must have to survive, get a little bit more attention.
Despite how interested the two leads of the show are, it’s the supporting characters that I’m most excited to learn about this season. In particular, Bess Till. Her switch from Brakemen to honorary tailly was quick and almost completely in the background of the first season. One minute she was following Roche’s orders and then the next she was helping Josie break Layton out of the drawers and standing at his side ready to fight. She lost her girlfriend and the respect of those she’d been working hard to like. Not to mention she just fought in her first ever revolution. Till is probably going to spend a lot of season two reeling and trying to cope. Plus, Layton and Till’s friendship was the highlight of the few episodes we got to see it in. It would be great to see them strengthen the bond and get closer in this new chaos they’ve been thrown into.
Last thing I want to talk a little about is Mr. Wilford himself. The new shiny villain, played by Sean Bean, is like a character straight out of a fairy tale. He’s charming and suave and handsome, but his smile can turn terrifying with a simple tweak of his lips. Which means he is dangerous as hell. But he’s also fascinating as hell. This man has waited and plotted his revenge for seven years. Over two thousands days he’s been working on getting his train back. And since he was thought to be dead by Melanie, he has the upper hand on her for now. Though he never so much as raises his voice in the first episode, it’s the passengers of Big Alice and their reaction to him that says everything one needs to know about how life is on Wilford’s train. At the end of the wild first episode, we’re left with something that completely blew me away. When Wilford gives Alex the order to get the trains moving again, his Head of Hospitality Kevin who has been captured by the taillies of Snowpiercer begins to pray and give thanks to Wilford for sparring them; like he is their literal god. We only got to meet a few of the people aboard Big Alice and though they seem better off and far more advanced in their medicine than those on Snowpiercer they all have an air of fear about them. And if all of his passengers fear him like he is God, the things they’re willing to do to stay in Wilford’s good graces promises to be unheard of, unsettling and hopefully irredeemable.
The first season of Snowpiercer wasn’t the best thing on television while it was airing but it was compelling enough. I personally really enjoyed it despite the glaring flaws. However it seems that season two intends to fix some of the small setbacks of its predecessor, especially its pacing. Season one was a ride but it was a slow burning one, this first episode of season two gives off the vibes that things are being kicked into high gear and there will no longer be a slow burn of anything. The chaos and urgency of the “The Time of Two Engines” leaves viewers sitting on the edge of their seat even when the scenes in front of them are easy. There is a sense of underlying dread that comes with Wilford and his Big Alice. And I can’t wait to watch it all play out.
Snowpiercer airs Monday nights on TNT and can be streamed on HBO Max
PS: if you made it to the end and enjoyed what i had to say, cashapp me some lunch $danyi13