“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.”
— and what Snowpiecer dares to do in season one, and achieves masterfully, is to use its premise of Noah’s ark, fashioned into a perpetually moving, self-sustaining train, packed full of 3,000 of humanity’s sole survivors, and cleverly leverage the science fiction genre to lay humanity’s blindspots out for all to see — all in order to layer in social commentary that will make the events of the past few years resonate in a way no other genre quite could.
But, perhaps, what’s most incredible about Snowpiercer, is that season one is an entertaining ride from start to finish, and balances what it has to say with the spectacle that today’s competitive TV landscape demands — to keep an audience’s attention both during and after the show. In fact, it’s already been renewed for season 3.
So, sit back, relax, and let us tell you why you should not be sleeping on TNT‘s new runaway hit, and why you need to make plans for next Monday evening when this train departs.
*****Spoilers for Snowpiercer Season One Follow*****
Why Build A Bunker When You Can Build A Train
One of the more compelling aspects of the show itself is its focus on world-building, and just how well it does it.
The show never grinds to a complete halt in order to explain to its viewers what exactly happened to the world we know in order to make the world of Snowpiecer possible. It realizes that after seven long years of living in this fictional universe, aboard Snowpiercer, no one would still be discussing these matters in excruciating detail. Life for this luxury locomotive, for better or worse, has moved on.
Instead, that’s a testament to showrunner Graeme Manson‘s respect for the audience’s time and intelligence because when the show does provide a peek behind the curtain of the time pre-departure, it is revealed through key character insights. The inherent drama that inhabits these characters at the end of the world — some of which who knew each other before departure, and some who had to make tough choices to leave people behind — warns us of a possible, yet improbable future that awaits viewers if we don’t change the course of our present actions. Something Rod Serling knew very well.
The most enthralling part of this show so far is absolutely the world building. The more we learn about the train, its factions, its underbelly, the more immersive it becomes. – Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
The show also peppers in the real danger that these survivors may be confronted with at any given time. The very premise of the show leads its viewers to expect that the train would have its mechanical issues in the same way a show about a boat would at some juncture spring a leak, but what’s cool about Snowpiercer is it not only reminds you of how absolutely cold it is beyond the confines of the train cars but how that cold is used for cruelty, punishment or how much of an obstacle it can be while simply needing to make repairs.
All in all, it’s ironically a microcosm of the earth these characters left behind, but in a much more demonstrative way. If the train stops, society stops for good. During a tense moment in the latter half of the season, one of the engineers explains that although the engine may be eternal, its parts are not.
When the last of humanity fits onto a 10-mile-long train, 1,001 cars long, does a class-based hierarchy still make sense?
This, hands down is one of our favorite dynamics that Snowpiercer tackles head-on in season one: is it status or skillset that makes a passenger rich? What kind of government should the end of the world have? And, where do immigrants (the “Tailies” — you know, because they live in the tail) fit into this equation?
The show depicts, albeit briefly, the rush of non-ticketed passengers outside the city of Chicago as they try to escape the inescapable reality of humanity plunging itself into a man-made ice age.
Families are broken up, the illusion of safety and order persists despite the looming ever-present chaos, and the spark of having “earned” your spot on Snowpiercer vs having stowed-away starts a slow burn that comes to a very powerful head in a way that the movie’s runtime couldn’t afford.
One could argue this is torn straight from the headlines or that life imitates art or vice versa, but this is where Snowpiercer shines. It allows us to view parallel events objectively, or in cases like in the most recent Battlestar Galactica remake, what the other side of the argument may be.
Snowpiercer…is arriving at exactly the right time for its narrative to really hit home for anyone who might be sitting at home and watching it. – Ron Hogan, Den of Geek
But, it’s not just the status of the people the show dives into with regards to its class-based hierarchy, it’s an examination of how those classes overlap and how thin and fragile society at any given moment is.
The police are largely symbolic as the two characters we spend the most time with are a former rookie and soccer player. Hospitality and concierge services are seemingly the most prestigious jobs for making sure that the first-class citizens are well taken care of. For all intents and purposes, the janitorial staff essentially runs Snowpiercer‘s black market of goods, and joining them in third-class, the mechanics and engineers (sans the ones in the engine car) are also working-class citizens.
The majority of the occupants in the third class section, in short, are what keeps Snowpiercer functioning for the benefit of everyone, yet they are not the most valuable commodities on the train. Add to this equation of the Tailies who have grown tired of being without luxuries like sunlight since their journey began, and a criminal justice system that favors the elites, and you soon have a rebellion rallying behind one simple manta: one train.
So, why are we hyped for Season 2? It’s one thing to fight for what you want, it’s another thing entirely to get it.
Though the train’s mechanical trials and tribulations were overcome with little to no long-lasting effects (well, that’s debatable for a few cars) the rebellion whose seeds were planted the day Snowpiercer departed, finally make their way all the way up to the Engine. This, compounded by the fact that Mr. Wilford, was a lie to keep the masses under control — that no one should be living on Snowpiercer stacked on top of each other when First has rooms to spare — and that Snowpiercer may not be the only ark of its type has driven the citizens beyond the point of no return.
As if that wasn’t enough, what happens when the person who is now in charge doesn’t have the experience of their predecessor? He has the will of the people, but the side that’s been in charge doesn’t know if he can be trusted or if they are only counting down the seconds to a strong and swift retaliation.
And of course, the biggest question of them all — why wasn’t Mr. Wilford on Snowpiercer, and now that he’s back, what does he intend to do in order to right that wrong?
We want answers, and we know you do too.
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