After human intervention in the face of climate change goes awry, mankind's only survivors board the Snowpiercer, a train with over 1000 cars that perpetually circles the planet. After years of neglect and mistreatment, those in the tail car begin to form a rebellion.
Spoiler Level: Low
From comics to film to television, the concept behind Snowpiercer remains fascinating and exciting even in its third iteration. With a focus on themes of class warfare, climate change, and mankind’s unbreakable will for survival, it’s a thrilling story that has remained relevant throughout the nearly forty years that have passed since its original publication. Television may well be the perfect medium to give this story the deeply thorough telling it deserves, expanding on an old classic in a way that modernizes and enhances it for the current viewer.
The first episode begins with a brief animated prologue, narrated by the ever talented Daveed Diggs with his inimitable sense for emotionally rhythmic storytelling. “First, the weather changed.” It’s a simple sentence that not only gives audiences the sense of how artistic this show will be, but also gives them an overwhelming sense of then. First this, then that. First this, then they. First this, then what?
Snowpiercer grips viewers in the very first instant with the quintessential hook and implores them to ask questions—deep, meaningful questions, to which there are no easy answers. The only way to get answers is to keep watching, which will inevitably lead to even more questions than they started with. There’s a beautiful balance at play here in a demonstration of expert storytelling.
While the show does take liberties with the original content, the creators have so far displayed a deep respect for the book’s themes and have taken steps to reinforce the tone of the story. Small changes to the plot allow for a topical commentary on timeless ideas. The choice to cast a black man as the lead role in a show about gross social injustice creates critical parallels in the first American telling of the story. This is, first and foremost, a show that relies on its morals and principles. A show that acts as an exploration into specific aspects of the human experience.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun to watch.
This episode is a study in opulence, and I expect the series’ production to become even more impressive as we move further towards the front of the train, where wealth and extravagance thrive. Throughout my viewing, I did find myself craving just a bit more of that rounded feeling of cinematic indulgence that we see from heavy hitters like Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale, but Snowpiercer still has excellent artistry, especially for a pilot episode. I hope to see more of it as the show progresses.
In the meantime, the quiet cinematography really gives characters the chance to shine. Each of the players are interesting and multifaceted, particularly the leading man. Diggs delivers an endearing performance and plays off of his fellow performers with an ease that only immerses audiences deeper into the story. He’s doing something special, here, and it’s just downright enjoyable to watch.
This show is fun. It’s thoughtful. And it’s quite a bit more than I expected from a story that I thought I already knew. This episode played to my emotions quite a bit more than the comics or the film ever did, which is the straightest path to my capacity for empathy. I look forward to seeing how this show extends my emotional reach.
Snowpiercer: The Expansion of Emotionality
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 7/107/10
Production - 9/109/10
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