Roush Review: Can ‘Snowpiercer’ Get Back on Track?
Two trains are not better than one.
That becomes clear early on in the second season of Snowpiercer, the claustrophobic thriller set in a future Ice Age, when what’s left of humanity lives aboard the 994 cars of the title’s perpetual-motion locomotive. The propulsive action of the first year grinds to a narrative halt upon the arrival of the train’s long-thought-dead inventor, the megalomaniacal Joseph Wilford (Game of Thrones‘Sean Bean), who’s stayed alive aboard the 40-car supply vessel Big Alice.
Smugly gloating and preening in a posh wardrobe, relishing his autocratic villainy, Bean hams it up as Mr. Wilford battles for control against Layton (Daveed Diggs), Snowpiercer’s revolutionary leader, and Melanie (Jennifer Connelly), the dour engineer who purposefully left her sadistic boss behind at the start of Snowpiercer’s journey. “You can’t hurt me anymore,” asserts Melanie, who for seven years pretended to be Wilford’s conduit — and she believes it until she meets her sullen and unforgiving long-lost daughter Alex (Rowan Blanchard), who’s been raised as the ward and protégé of her nemesis.
Stalemate. Or, as Layton declares, “It’s gonna be a long, cold war.” Long is right.
What worked as a taut 2013 cult film from Parasite‘s Bong Joon-Ho (inspired by a 1982 French graphic novel) stalls as an open-ended series. The potent class conflicts that fueled the first season are subsumed by a Team Layton versus Team Wilford standoff of divided loyalties, which takes so long to come to a head that Snowpiercer (with its origins in a graphic novel) begins to feel like an endless ride to nowhere.
It says a lot that the best episode (the sixth of eight previewed) takes place mostly off the train, when Melanie embarks on a risky and frigid solo mission to a remote research station — shades of George Clooney’sThe Midnight Sky on Netflix, although not quite so bleak.
Here’s hoping the show gets back on track before the season finale this spring.
Snowpiercer, Season 2 Premiere, Monday, January 25, 9/8c,TNT