TNT’s Snowpiercer TV series is based on the 2013 film of the same name and the original French graphic novels. In the not-so-distant future, the Earth had been overwhelmed by global warming. Scientists tried to reverse the process, but things went wrong, causing the planet to become a frozen wasteland, with temperatures dropping to -199° Celsius. The only humans that managed to survive The Freeze were the 4000 or so people who managed to board the great ark-like train known as Snowpiercer. The perpetually-moving luxury train has been moving non-stop for nearly seven years—if it were to stop moving at any time, those on board would quickly freeze to death.
The 1001-car train extends for over 10 miles, and has its own delicate ecosystem, built upon a class system. Every aspect of the train’s functions are dictated by Snowpiercer’s mysterious but beloved inventor, Mr. Wilford, head of Wilford Industries. Those in the first class section at the front of the train used their power, money, and influence to purchase their way onto this savior of humanity. They enjoy spacious cabins, real food, and all the creature comforts and luxuries of their former homes. Early into the journey, Mr. Wilford locked himself away in the engine room, and assigned Head of Hospitality Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind) to serve as his eyes, ears and mouthpiece to the passengers and crew. She delivers his orders and proclamations over the train’s loudspeaker for all to hear. Helping Melanie keep the first class passengers happy is Ruth Wardell (Alison Wright, The Americans), who has a deep respect and admiration for Mr. Wilford, and would follow his orders without question. The first class passengers employ their own personal bodyguards in addition to the train’s military-like Jackboots, who maintain order under the command of Commander Grey (Timothy V. Murphy, Quantico).
While the first class passengers purchased their way onto the train, the third class passengers have earned their spots thanks to their skills. They are the lifeblood of the train, and keep things running. They are the ones cleaning and servicing the train, and maintaining the all-important crops and livestock. They are the doctors, acientists, technicians, skilled laborers, and even the entertainment. The Night Train is a Switzerland-like neutral zone in the middle of Snowpiercer, where passengers in first, second and third class can all enjoy a drink, or some burlesque entertainment. Helping to keep order in the middle of the train are Captain Roche (Mike O’Malley, The Good Place) and his Breakmen. They are more like traditional cops, rather than the military force of the Jackboots.
At the tail of the train are the passengers who sneaked onto the train just as it was taking off. These “Tailies” didn’t have tickets or jobs on the train—they were just folks who were desperate to survive. They are all crammed into one car at the back of the train, without any glimpse of sunlight for years, and are given just the bare minimum of protein rations to survive. Occasionally a Tailie may have the opportunity to move up the train, but they are usually viewed as traitors by the others. Over the past seven years, the Tailies have tried to rise up several times, but their attempts are always brutally crushed. With their rations growing increasingly smaller, they are once again growing restless, and plotting their rebellion. Leading the charge is Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs, Hamilton).
As the series opens, there is a serial killer aboard the train, who has dismembered another passenger. Melanie orders that Andre Layton, the only former police detective on the train, be brought in to investigate. He reluctantly agrees to help, seeing this as an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the train in order to plan the Tailie attack. However, as he investigates the murder, he starts to find evidence of a much larger conspiracy aboard the train, and finds that someone is eager to stop him from uncovering this mystery.
I quickly binged through all ten episodes of this first season of Snowpiercer. This series takes viewers on a roller-coaster ride as the delicate order that has kept Snowpiercer running for seven years starts to crumble and fall apart, and the different classes aboard the train start to revolt and plot against one another. It is an action-packed thriller with some very interesting and complex characters. In general, no matter what class they are, those aboard the train are not good or evil (well, except the serial killer), they are just trying to survive in a very desperate situation. They must make some pretty horrible decisions—starting with their initial choice to leave loved ones behind to die when they boarded the train. While the passengers mostly try to do what’s best for the greater good—except for those greedy first class passengers—the lines of morality are often a bit blurred. The series does an excellent job of exploring all aspects of life on the train and how the events affect each of the classes. Each episode also opens with a narration from a different character, with a different role/viewpoint of the current events on the train.
The cast is excellent, starting with leads Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs. Melanie and Andre have this really interesting dynamic where they don’t really trust one another, but know they need to work together. And by the end of the premiere, we discover a big bombshell about what’s really going on with Melanie. The supporting cast is also fantastic—each of the actors does a great job of making you care about (or in some cases, loathe) their character. I especially enjoyed the always-delightful Mike O’Malley, who adds a bit of humor to the series, as well as the always-amazing Alison Wright. She was one of my favorite parts of The Americans, and in some ways, she plays a similar role here—Ruth is this loyal woman who is unknowingly being duped by someone she trusts. However, in this series, Ruth is not a meek pushover, and proves she is also a really strong, confident woman.
While I enjoyed the whole season, the tension and drama really start to kick in by the fourth episode. There are lots of exciting twists and turns, and the season finishes out really action-packed and strong, with a shocking twist that sets up the upcoming second season, which premieres soon on TNT.
Warner Bros’ Blu-ray release looks and sounds amazing. The picture is pretty immaculate, with rich colors and nice detail, even in the fast-paced action sequences and darker tail-set scenes. The picture is especially great in the brighter, colorful first class side of the train. The only negative is that some of the exterior shots look very CGI, and not that realistic. The audio track is excellent, making extensive use of the surround and stereo channels to provide a fully-immersive and exciting viewing experience. This is evident right from the opening as passengers desperately clamor to get aboard the train. There is also the constant ambiance of the roaring of the train, which is louder in the tail, while the first class passengers up front have a smoother, more silent ride. Dialogue comes primarily from the center channel, but remains easy to understand throughout. The first season’s ten episodes are evenly split across two discs, which are placed on either side of a standard HD keepcase, which is packed inside a cardboard slipcase. Included is an insert detailing the episodes, and a code to redeem a digital copy of the season via Vudu. The second disc contains about 18 minutes of behind-the-scenes promotional featurettes with the cast and filmmakers.
- All 10 episodes of the first season:
Disc 1: “First, The Weather Changed”, “Prepare to Brace”, “Access is Power”, “Without Their Power”, “Justice Never Boarded”
Disc 2: “Trouble Comes Sideways”, “The Universe Is Different”, “These Are His Revolutions”, “The Train Demanded Blood”, “994 Cars Long”
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH
- HD digital copy redeemable via Vudu. Only includes the episodes.
- Overview (3:12)
The cast and filmmakers discuss the premise of the series and what makes it unique. Includes interviews with director James Hawes, showrunner Graeme Manson, and stars Alison Wright (“Ruth”), Jennifer Connelly (“Melanie Cavill”), Daveed Diggs (“Andre Layton”) & Katie McGuinness (“Josie Wellstead”).
- Class Warfare (3:02)
The cast and filmmakers discuss the class struggles that play out aboard the train, the design of the sets, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with director James Hawes, showrunner Graeme Manson, and stars Daveed Diggs, Katie McGuinness, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Otto (“John Osweiler”) & Iddo Goldberg (“Bennett”).
- Jennifer & Daveed Behind-the-Scenes Interview (2:09)
Stars Jennifer Connelly & Daveed Diggs talk about their two characters, the relationship between them, and the premise of the series. Also includes behind-the-scenes photos.
- The Train (5:56)
A narrator describes the premise of the the series, and helps the cast and filmmakers give a tour of the train. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with production designer Barry Robinson, special effects coordinator Gary Minielly, and star Daveed Diggs.
- Behind the Curtain: Art of the Frozen World (4:09)
The cast and filmmakers discuss the sets, the visual effects, costumes, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with showrunner Graeme Manson, special effects coordinator Gary Minielly, visual effects supervisor Geoff Scott, director James Hawes, costume designer Cynthia Summers, and stars Daveed Diggs & Jennifer Connelly.
Digital: (Redemption deadline 3/31/2022)
Collection of promotional featurettes originally created for TNT. Bonus material can be found on the second disc.
I thoroughly enjoyed this first season of Snowpiercer TV series, even more-so than the original feature film. The series allows more time to develop and explore the characters and the class warfare and politics aboard this perpetually-moving luxury train, while also introducing an exciting, action-packed larger mystery. The series, which features an excellent cast, builds to a a shocking and suspenseful conclusion that sets things up nicely for the upcoming second season on TNT. Warner Bros’ Blu-ray release looks and sounds amazing, and includes a digital copy as well as 18 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes. This release comes highly recommended!