The passengers on board a train in continuous motion are dealing with class warfare and a murder mystery in TNT’s new sci-fi drama, Snowpiercer, premiering May 17, 2020. Inspired by the 2013 film starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, which was based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, the show is set in the year 2021, seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland. Mankind was trying to stop global warming and ended up freezing the Earth instead.
The series opens with a voice-over from Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) talking about how 3,000 survivors were able to board the Snowpiercer, a gigantic perpetually moving train that’s able to provide the only warmth left in the world as it circles the globe. It’s run by a multi-billionaire, Mr. Wilford, who had the resources and foresight to build the high-tech massive train and use it to keep the extremely rich and powerful alive.
Also on board are ex-military and guards to keep order and peace. They’re necessary because in the rear of the massive locomotive are the refugees and stowaways who fought for their lives and snuck on board just before the train started its never-ending trip.
Snowpiercer examines the class warfare and injustice that occurs on the speeding train as the rich are catered to and enjoy the high life in the front compartments while the stowaways barely survive on tiny rations in the rear cars. The class differences play out as the main plot of the series diverts from the 2013 film by introducing a murder among the elite.
Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), who’s the voice of the train and speaks for Mr. Wilford, reaches out to Layton – one of the stowaways – to help solve the case. Why? Because before the world went cold he was a homicide detective. Still wanting to be a cop and seeing it as an opportunity to perhaps plan a possible coup, Layton eventually agrees to work the case, getting access to the crime scene and multiple other cars of the train.
There is so much wrong with TNT’s new series it’s hard to know where to begin. The first two episodes of Snowpiercer have a very different tone and rhythm, and barely feel connected. The pilot episode is a little stronger as it sets up and explains the post-apocalyptic world and the characters who live on the huge train. It also reveals – too soon, to be honest – the identity of the mysterious Mr. Wilford. It quickly shows the stowaways are planning another violent rebellion to try to take over the train. (We learn they attacked three years previous which resulted in massive casualties and extreme punishment to others as a reminder of their epic failure). The pilot episode also reveals the murder and then takes it’s time to bring Layton into the fold of being recruited to investigate.
The second episode’s pace is painfully slow as it reveals a little more about the murder, its grisly details, and the suspect who was obviously wrongfully convicted of an almost identical crime a few years prior. The episode drags out a flashback scene with Layton and his wife in the real world before it went cold. It’s clear from the vastly different tone and pacing of the two episodes that major changes occurred while the series was in production. In fact, the behind-the-scenes team has changed over the course of production due to creative differences with the network.
The script is disappointing and the characters – at least over the first two episodes – are too one-dimensional with the exception of Connelly’s Cavill. The various subplots are ridiculous and the dialogue at times comes off as cartoonish. The acting is heavy-handed and Diggs’ blasé performance as Layton leaves much to be desired.
TNT’s Snowpiercer is sluggish and poorly acted. After watching the first two episodes viewers will most likely be ready to disembark this trainwreck.