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Snowpiercer - "First, The Weather Changed" - Review

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Snowpiercer - "First, The Weather Changed" - Episode 1 Review

It has arrived! Bursting through the snowy wasteland that is our entertainment right now is the mighty locomotive Snowpiercer! A reboot of Director Bong Joon-Ho's film and the 1982 French graphic novel on which it was based, Snowpiercer on TNT took many twists and turns and years to make its way to television. The post-apocalyptic thriller tells the tale of a perpetually moving train of 1,001 cars that circles the globe amongst the frozen wastelands that used to make up civilization.

The show begins with a nice little animation setting up the world for us. It explains that the climate warmed so the big brain scientists thought they could cool the Earth a little but screwed it up and ended up killing the world with ice. A Mr. Wilford anticipated the end and built an Ark train to save humanity. Of course he only could save those who could pay or work, leaving the rest to popsicle up in despair. Not satisfied with that some non-ticketed people rushed the train and, after fighting their way on, settled in the tail of the train as it departed from Chicago.

Seven years later and veteran actress Jennifer Connelly appears to give the daily announcements on the train. We'll find out her characters name is Melanie and that she is in the Hospitality department of Mr. Wilford's locomotive. She gives the updates and temperature and lets the people aboard know they are entering the Yukon area of what was formerly Canada. People come and go from traincar to traincar and children make their way to school.

In the rear of the train the "Tailies" receive their disgusting looking food rations and go about dividing it up for the different people, the Strong Boy, and the rats. A group of obvious leaders discuss their plan to escape the tail section. They've had enough of the forced sterility, lousy food, arms frozen off as punishment and they want change. They've timed out all the factors but don't really know what is beyond their doors and train car. Our dreadlocked hero from the beginning train rush, named Andre Layton, cautions against haste and suggests they wait a bit for more information. They decide to go ahead with the revolution anyways.

Melanie walks among the first class passengers and speaks Cantonese with a couple Dads dealing with getting their kids done with breakfast. She discusses First World Problem Sauna times and practices with a well-to-do Mrs. Folger who doesn't want to have to deal with the rowdy Scandanavians. (Played by a super sweet actress named Kerry O'Malley that I worked on a tv show with a long time ago! Crazy!) Melanie takes care of her issues with her Hospitality co-worker named Ruth and assures them that there is no problem in the the rear of the train.

In the actual rear of the train the Tailies are gearing up for war. They are planning to attack the guards when they bring them their food but that plan goes wonky when Ruth from Hospitality unexpectedly shows up with the troops. She tells the people that they have a requested removal and that it's Layton they want. The group pauses the attack as there are too many guards and they don't know whats going on. They take Layton as people protest but take him they do. Two guards watch as a Doctor checks out Layton and disinfects him. They outfit him in a Sanitation outfit and lead him through the train. They take an internal rail system that facilitates traveling between cars at great speed possible. They lead him into a traincar full of windows and the sun blinds him for a moment. He looks out the window for the first time in a long time and sees the frozen wasteland of whats left of civilization. Layton meets the head Breakman named Roche. (He's played by Mike O'Malley from the old ESPN ads and Kerry's brother!) Roche feeds Andre a grilled cheese sandwich plus tomato soup and actor Daveed Diggs plays this moment with a fantastic sense of wonder and longing as he sees fresh food for the first time in seven years. Roche tells him they need his help in solving a murder. There's a body.

In the tail, Layton's friends take care of his possessions and try to figure out whats going on. There are assurances that everything will be alright, but given the circumstances it doesn't seem like the words ring true.

Layton observes that the body has been cut up and wedged into place in the trains structure. He tells them he won't help and that they should figure it out themselves. As the guards lead him away they shove him into a side room and proceed to kick the crap out of him. Roche appears and stops the beat down. He introduces Layton to Melanie and dismisses the two bad guards. Melanie apologizes and explains her position on the train. She tells him that she wears many hats on board and that they need his help. Hmmmmm. Mr. Wilford wants the issue solved right away. Layton declares he wants immigration into 3rd class, 3rd class calories, and reproductive rights for him and the Tailies. Melanie agrees to nothing but tells him that there's someone serving time for a previous matching crime right now and that Mr. Wilford is "asking" for his help.

At the detention center known as the "Drawers", a sleeping suspended animation punishment unit, a Doctor tells Layton and Melanie that the accused is the longest sleeping person they've had and that it will be difficult to bring her out of her sleep. Melanie tells him to make it happen. Melanie also offers Andre a position as Train Detective and a berth in 3rd class. Layton agrees to nothing yet, but is still working the case. Interesting system there, very Phantom Zone-esque if you ask me.

Roche shows Layton to the "Chains", an area of cars where mostly young people are living and sleeping together in groups. Roche calls them Freaks and leads the former police officer to the victims partners and lead suspects. He sees that one of them is his ex-girlfriend Zarah who got out of the tail section to work in something called the "Night Car". Hmmmm, wonder what that could be? They talk in private and fight over their old lives, with Zarah chastising Layton for dragging her along as she just wanted to die with her Mom and Andre's brother. Harsh. She wanted out of the hell that is the tail section and she isn't sorry. So is death preferable to servitude or forced servitude? Hmmmmm.

Layton and Roche enter the greenhouse and Andre is blown away. Rows of strawberry bushes and carts full of apples astonish him. Roche tells him there are a hundred or so more cars like this one but they still aren't going to share with the Tailies. They certainly are front and center about their classism in this show. They show over and over again the system that is place aboard the train and we see how it truly is a microcosm of the world as a whole and how it works. Melanie appears and asks how it went with the suspects. Layton tells her that they didn't do it. He tells her there's more to the case and she funnily agrees. She tells him everything on Mr. Wilford's train is connected. So true. It's a train. Layton tells her that if she wants his help she knows his demands. Immigration, food, breeding, etc... Melanie ponders this a moment and then cooly lays out how the strawberry in her hand is from a constant rotation of crops. It has energy within it and such power is needed by Mr. Wilford's train. Needed more than he is. Ohhhh dammmnnnnn. Burn. Mel throwing shade like lightning bolts up in here.

In the tail section the group sings Happy Birthday to Old Ivan. He asks for them to get the hell away from him for an hour while he listens to the only Rachmaninoff in the tail section. He revels in his privacy, enjoying the music and getting teary eyed over the photo of the long lost love of his life. The music cuts out and the Tailies are sad when they find out that Ivan has hung himself in the back of the car.

A female diver goes deep underwater to retrieve a shell. She uses the item to make a small meal and puts it in a box. The chef tells the arriving Melanie that the meal is for Mr. Wilford. Melanie and the chef talk and discuss the fact that the girl who was accused of murder is going to be brought out of the Drawers. Melanie asks the woman to keep an eye on her along with the Doctor. Melanie tells her that once the murder is solved, then the "other work can continue". Hmmmmm what's that I wonder?

In the tail section Pike (played by the great Steven Ogg of Walking Dead and other fame) gets all his fellow Tailies all wound up for war. They gather their weapons and lure the guards inside by telling them Ivan died. They come into the rear and all hell breaks loose. A massive fight erupts with blood being spilled by both sides. The Tailies primitive weapons are effective and Strong Boy helps to advance the group out of their car. Extreme violence explodes off the screen! A guards hand is chopped off and Holy Cow!! a little girl grabs it and takes off running with it! Best moment in the show by far! She presses the loose hand to the lock and the doors open. Standing there in front of her is a heavily armored goon squad and their vicious leader!

Melanie takes the prepared food box and heads into a new traincar. Suddenly an alarm erupts so she puts down the meal and takes off.

Layton arrives at the tail section and witnesses the carnage. He offers to go in and broker the peace. Once in Pike tells him to leave and calls him a traitor. Andre continues and finds Pike and Strong Boy holding a female guard hostage. He tells them what he's seen and heard and that he has a plan to take the train. He convinces them to enter the Drawers and that he needs them there, waiting. Layton convinces the arrived Melanie that he'll take the job if she shows mercy on the tail section. She agrees but tells him there needs to be punishment so Ruth will take a significant arm off. Weird that that is such a common occurrence that everyone knows what it is. Yikes. More harshness.

Melanie makes her way into the engine section of the train and we find out that it is her apartment. She changes clothes, relaxed and dons a M.I.T. hoodie. Oh so she's a smarty pants eh? She makes her say into the main driving compartment and relieves a man there of his driving duties. He's just finished up a report for her as she is revealed to actually be Mr. Wilford himself!!?? Whah?? The Snowpiercer is her baby? Wow, I can honestly say I did not see that coming. I assumed a cameo from a big star was going to be Mr. Wilford but her being the one is pretty cool. Nice twist. It really makes all her self referencing Mr. Wilford lines throughout the show really mean so much more.

Snowpiercer was a mix up of messages and stories but I really liked it. The different cars are amazing and can honestly be mined for material for years to come. 1,001 cars is a ridiculous premise but who cares! It's sci-fi fun and the production design was fantastic throughout the entire episode. Obviously we will have many talks about class and money and societal roles with something like this, which I think sci-fi is a great medium in to have those conversations. I'm in.

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