Snowpiercer Series Premiere Recap
TNT’s Snowpiercer series adaptation, created by Graeme Manson and based on Bong Joon Ho’s critically acclaimed movie as well as the graphic novel series that inspired it all, introduces a new post-apocalyptic tale centering on the last remnants of humanity on earth, trapped together on a speeding train that roams across a dead, icy world. In the midst of an impending revolution planned by those forced to suffer as they struggle to survive, our main character, Layton, is dragged into a homicide investigation that could change everything.
The End of the World
“First, the weather changed.” The series premiere begins with an animated introduction voiced by Daveed Diggs’ Andre Layton, explaining how the world fell into a frozen, apocalyptic landscape. Layton tells the story of the “visionary Mr. Wilford,” who prepared a Great Ark train known as the Snowpiercer, 1,001 cars long. During the final days of the freeze, the rich, many of them responsible for the end of the world, gathered on the train leaving the less fortunate out in the cold, so “we the people, the survivors left behind” invaded Snowpiercer. Many made it onboard the train as others froze to death. Some of the unticketed passengers were killed, while the rest were forced to the very back of the train, sealed away in the Tail section. “These are our revolutions,” Layton says. “1,001 cars long.”
Nearly seven years later, Wilford’s Head of Hospitality, Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), wishes the passengers a good morning and we get our first glimpse at life aboard the locomotive. Upper-class kids are allowed to attend school as those imprisoned in the crowded and filthy Tail section are brought their usual disgusting protein bars to eat, where the already starving group is informed they are being fed half-rations from now on. Layton clocks how long the gates remain open while the train’s police force, known as the Brakeman, drops off the cart of “food.” Afterward, Layton checks in with young Miles (Jaylin Fletcher), asking him what his tutor his currently teaching him. He mentions that Miles’ math skills and education will help get him an apprenticeship uptrain to be an engineer, the kid’s ticket to getting out of the Tail section one day.
Pike (Steven Ogg) comes to collect Layton so they can continue planning for their inevitable revolution. Their goal is to charge the rest of the train in order to reach a certain car that will allow them access to the electrical junctions. Layton is hesitant about Pike’s particular plan, pointing out that Old Ivan (Mark Margolis) is the only one of them who has been outside of the Tail section. Josie Wellstead (Katie McGuinness), Layton’s comrade in arms and Miles’ surrogate mother, argues that they have to do something sooner than later now that the rations have been cut once more on top of the sterilization of the women as no Tailie children have been born in five years. Another Tailie, known as The Last Australian (Aaron Glenane), agrees, wanting to be a dad one day, but Layton reminds the group that they have informants “in half a dozen different sectors” and they should focus on the networks they are building. Their last rebellion resulted in 62 deaths and 13 arms taken in punishment, hence the need for help and alliances. Pike accuses Layton of being a coward and rallies the crowd for the new plan. Layton half-heartedly gives in. Old Ivan later wishes Layton luck, telling him, “Resistance is never futile, but Wilford’s train is a fortress to class.”
First World Problems
Elsewhere, Melanie navigates petty complaints from the First Class Folger family, including their daughter LJ (Annalise Basso), who are upset about a lackluster sauna experience as others gossip about rumors of violence from the Third Class. Melanie takes her right hand in Hospitality Ruth Wardle (Alison Wright) aside, telling her to get down to the Tail section, where the Tailies are preparing to make their move. When they realize that Hospitality has come to speak with them, they hold off on their signal to charge. Ruth reads from a removal request drafted up by Mr. Wilford for Layton himself, who is unexpectedly and suddenly snatched from the car, taken from the Tail section and his people. Layton is examined, doused with water, cuffed, and forced to wear a sanitation uniform as the Brakeman take him further up the train.
They eventually arrive at the Third Class mess hall car, full of windows to the outside world, and Layton sees natural light for the first time in years, revealing that the earth is still nothing but ice. Layton meets with Lead Brakeman Sam Roche (Mike O’Malley), and two of his fellow Brakeman Bess Till (Mickey Sumner) and John Osweiller (Sam Otto). After feeding Layton real food, Roche explains he was pulled from the Tail section to help them catch a killer. In his former life, Layton was a homicide detective, and is now the last one left. Wilford’s Brakeman need the extra help considering that the security detail is not entirely made up of experienced investigators, with Osweiller admitting he was formerly a soccer player. Layton laughs, saying, “I guess Mr. Wilford didn’t think that rich people would murder each other.” When prompted, Till admits she was an officer with the Detroit P.D. pre-Snowpiercer.
Back in the Tail section, Miles tells his mom that he’s put Layton’s stuff away so no one can steal anything. He tells Josie that he is more motivated now to get an apprenticeship, reminding her that no one ever comes back to the Tail once they leave and that someone needs to go find Layton.
The Last Train Detective
The Brakeman take Layton to the crime scene, where a Third Class agricultural worker named Shawn was found murdered and mutilated. Layton asks about forensics and Till tells him they don’t have a crime lab but they have access to some scientists. When Till tries asking Layton his thoughts on Shawn’s genitals being cut off, Layton says the Brakeman can figure it out themselves and demands to be taken back to the Tail. Osweiller says this is his chance while Till questions why Layton would want to go back there. Layton doesn’t want his people to think he’s a traitor. Frustrated by his lack of cooperation, the Brakeman take Layton to a room to beat on him before being caught by Melanie and Roche, who reprimands his officers and sends them back to Tail duty. Melanie apologizes to Layton “on behalf of Wilford Industries.” Layton recognizes her as the voice of the train.
Melanie explains that Wilford wants this solved quickly as Roche reveals that two years prior there was another murder, same M.O. Melanie says someone else is already serving time in the drawers (a morgue-like prison complete with suspended-animation) for the crime, meaning they falsely convicted an innocent person. Layton tells Melanie he’ll do the job for rations and Third Class immigration for the Tail. Roche explodes, telling Layton the Tailies are not entitled to anything, calling them rats. Melanie calms Roche down, telling him to uncuff Layton and reminds Layton that Mr. Wilford is “asking” him to contribute. Layton is then taken to the drawers and meets the creepy doctor, Klimpt (Happy Anderson), and the unconscious Nikki (Madeleine Arthur), the girl who was convicted of the first killing. Melanie says Layton can clear her name, and if he solves the murders, he’ll be made a Third Class train detective, but Layton says he hasn’t agreed to anything. The doctor warns that Nikki has been in the drawers longer than anyone, and she will take a while to recover.
Melanie leaves Roche to take Layton to meet their suspects. They arrive at the Chains car, where young people are “living and screwing in groups.” Layton meets Shawn’s partners and the suspects, one of them ending up being Zarah Ferami (Sheila Vand), Layton’s ex-wife who left the Tail section voluntarily to work in the Nightcar. Layton tells Roche to give them a minute alone as it’s been five years since they’ve seen each other. Zarah says she told them Layton was a detective to help clear her name and because someone she loved had been killed. Layton is angry with Zarah for abandoning him and the other Tailies, and Zarah is angry at Layton for forcing her onboard in the first place, saying it would have been better had she died with her mother and brother-in-law. She accuses Layton of sleeping with Josie after she left, and Layton tells her he didn’t. They just survived. In the Tail section, Pike accuses Layton of knowing Hospitality’s plan to retrieve him, raising tensions among the Tailies.
A New Plan
Roche takes Layton through a greenhouse car, telling him there are 130 more cars like it and no, they can’t share. Melanie catches up to them, and Layton tells her that Zarah is innocent and that he knows there’s more to the case than Melanie is saying. Why is she so desperate for his help? They tell him a murder could upset the entire ecosystem. Layton says, “You need me because this murder threatens Mr. Wilford’s precious order.” He repeats his demands, saying he’ll help for “Third Class calories, space, and reproductive rights for the Tail.” Melanie says that everything on Snowpiercer survives thanks to the mercy of Wilford’s balance, unwilling to bend on Layton’s demands.
The Tail celebrates Old Ivan’s birthday, who asks for an hour of alone time with some music (they use a phone with tunes already on the device that has to stay plugged in or the battery will die). It doesn’t take long until the music abruptly stops, though, and the Tailiies discover that Old Ivan has hung himself. In a different part of the train, we meet Jinju Seong (Susan Park), the Head Agricultural Officer. Melanie has a drink with her, telling Jinju that they are bringing Nikki out of the drawers because they locked up the wrong person. Melanie asks her to help Klimpt monitor Nikki and learn what she can. Melanie says once the murder is solved, the other work can continue. She’s confident that Layton will take the case.
Pike is riling up the Tail section following Old Ivan’s suicide, and they’re ready to begin their fight for the train. As Melanie gives an announcement that track conditions will deteriorate over the next 24 hours due to the weather, a group led by Pike charge the Brakeman who come to collect Old Ivan’s body. The uprising quickly turns bloody, and Till is taken hostage as the plan essentially fails when they are unable to make it past more than one car. Melanie, Roche, and Layton arrive back at the Tail section, where Commander Grey (Timothy V. Murphy) suggests using Layton as their own hostage since Till is being held by the Tailies. Instead, Layton convinces them to let him speak to the Tail. When he finds Pike and the other surviving members of the revolt, Layton learns of Old Ivan’s death before talking the men into surrendering themselves to the drawers, saying it’s better than being put to death, and that Layton can now use his knowledge working as a detective to piece together more information, like schedules and security detail, for their real revolution when the time comes. Layton tells Pike they need him uptrain, waiting, for when they take the engine. Layton goes back and tells Melanie he will solve her murder, and she agrees for Pike and the men to be taken to the drawers and not killed, though an arm must be taken by someone as punishment.
At the end of the episode, we learn a huge twist in the story when it’s revealed that Melanie is not just the Head of Hospitality, but is actually Mr. Wilford herself. Only a couple of people seemingly know her secret, one of them being Bennett “Ben” Knox (Iddo Goldberg), an engineer who knows Snowpiercer’s systems and is one of Melanie’s closest confidantes. The twist confirms what Layton already suspected, that there’s much more to the murders than Melanie is letting on.
What did you think of the series premiere of Snowpiercer? Let us know in the comment section below!