Review by Sean Boelman
Inspired by Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 film of the same name (itself an adaptation of a French graphic novel), the new TNT series Snowpiercer is one of the most highly-anticipated premieres of the summer television season. And while the series takes advantage of its intriguing premise more often than not, it is in desperate need for some streamlining heading into its already greenlit second season.
The series follows the last survivors of an apocalypse brought about by climate change, living on a perpetually moving train circling the globe. Much like Bong’s film, this series places an emphasis on the social commentary inherent in the premise, as the passengers of the eponymous train have divided themselves into different classes based on the position of their car.
It seems that the biggest challenge the creators of this series had in translating this story to a serialized format was trying to make it more accessible for primetime television. But instead of going all-in on the world-building as they should, the creators force in a procedural storyline. Ultimately, this investigation is a lot more conventional than the premise deserves.
That said, those portions of the show that explore the relations between the different classes in the train are absolutely fascinating, particularly in the later half of the season, which is undoubtedly much stronger than the first five episodes. And if the cliffhanger at the end of the season finale isn’t a misdirection, next year’s batch will be the intelligent satire that fans so desperately crave.
The first season’s protagonist, played by Daveed Diggs, is a pretty run-of-the-mill network television hero. Wielding a noble backstory that cements him firmly as a man of the people, and an uncannily clear perception of good and evil, Diggs may not have the same star quality as the movie version’s lead, Chris Evans, but he’s still charming enough to carry the series nonetheless.
Perhaps more interesting though, is Jennifer Connelly’s character who doesn’t have an exact analogy in the film’s version. Her subplot is infinitely more interesting than any other in the series, perhaps because hers is the arc that feels most complete by the finale. And of course, Connelly’s performance that is equal parts menacing and alluring helps as well.
Visually, the series is a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part, the production value is much higher than the average network show (hence part of the reason why it was stuck in development for so long), but there are still some areas in which it is lacking. The action sequences are edited in a way that is almost too hectic to the point that it is hard to keep up with them, and in other scenes, the CGI is not up to par. Thankfully, these issues mostly smooth themselves out after the first few episodes.
After waiting years for another visit to the eternal engine, TNT’s Snowpiercer may not quite live up to fans’ expectations. That said, more often than not, the show is entertaining enough to be worth a watch, especially given the potential it shows in its last three entries.
Snowpiercer debuts on TNT on May 17 at 9pm, with additional episodes airing on subsequent Sundays at the same time. All ten episodes reviewed.