When we got aboard the Snowpiercer, it would seem like a new world order was going to be happening. Well, that still holds true for Season 2, but not quite the way we were initially imagining. Did you see what I did there, “got aboard,” because it’s a train. OK, OK; that’s my one joke. Last we saw Daveed Diggs’ Layton, he’d finally managed to seize control of the train carrying the last of humanity following an apocalyptic freezing of the planet. His reign is extremely short-lived, however, as he is almost immediately threatened by the return of Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean) and Melanie’s thought-dead daughter, Alexandra (Rowan Blanchard). I can tell you that after this cliffhanger of a season last season, I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation for the next season. And this season doesn’t disappoint, as the power struggle for the train is continued with a new adversaries, as old adversaries become new allies.
The series never takes its foot off the gas, as Layton finds himself thrust into a brand new struggle against the very person responsible for the train that is humanity’s salvation. Last season, Mr. Wilford was thought dead after being left behind by Melanie due to a fear that humanity would not survive under his leadership. She creates an elaborate ruse to keep the idea of Wilford alive in order to keep peace on the train, a ruse that is eventually discovered and leads to a degree of anarchy on the train, resulting in the uprising that has placed Layton in charge. Now he must confront the man who was originally supposed to lead Snowpiercer. In this respect, Melanie’s fears prove right, as Wilford is in possession of a truly sadistic and cruel nature. This nature is shown perfectly in flashback sequences that show just how ruthless the man can be.
Sean Bean is a great vehicle for displaying the character’s cruelty as well as his manipulative nature. I’ve seen him in many things; I’ve seen him play noble characters, and I’ve seen him play deceitful ones. If I had to choose, I think I prefer a deceitful Sean Bean, especially here. He is a great foil for Diggs’ Layton, who is hesitant to embrace his cruelty. Layton works for the betterment of everyone aboard the Snowpiercer, while Wilford only seeks to seize back what he’s lost. Watching this power struggle play out over several episodes made for a truly rich and engaging story.
That brings us to the character who links them both: Melanie. She was Layton’s foe last season, and now she has transitioned into one of his most trusted allies. How quickly things change on the Snowpiercer. That said, I can totally see how the two were able to put their differences aside and join together. The enemy of my enemy and all. More to the point, there is a great deal of respect between Layton and Melanie, as they both in the end are trying to do what they believe is the right thing. That respect is a testament to the chemistry that exists between Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly. Their chemistry was evident in the first season and follows through to this season even though the characters do spend the latter half of the season apart.
Connelly’s Melanie has a bit of inner turmoil to deal with this season with the return of Alexandra, the daughter she thought she lost. As expected, their relationship starts off rocky, especially given that Alexandra has spent the years they’ve been separated under the tutelage of the very man that Melanie attempted to abandon. While it was obvious how their relationship would eventually evolve, as there was only one way for it go, I was glad to see that it was rushed. Call it brainwashing, call it abandonment issues, Alexandra wasn’t eager to trust her mother. Even so, you could see her longing to reconnect with her mother. Kudos to Rowan Blanchard making this process feel organic, as well as landing on her feet after the ending of Girl Meets World.
I did miss the mystery element that the first season had. The whole storyline of the murder was among the most compelling aspects of last season for me. However, I recognize that was not sustainable this season, and I’d much rather the storyline be focused on the power struggle rather than try to rehash something that was wrapped up in the previous season. Despite being wrapped up, the murderer remains a fixture this season, as she draws closer with another hated member of the train. While having these two twisted individuals find love proves that there is someone out there for everyone, it’s hard to root for two characters who are responsible for so much suffering.
Then there is the love triangle of Layton, Josie, and Zarah. Now here is a triangle that had me leaning in. For Zarah’s part, she has some making up to do, especially given her earlier abandonment of Layton. I was just starting to believe that she was redeeming herself when she repeated her old mistakes over again. Josie ,on the other hand, got a bit of a raw deal in reference to the things that she suffered. One of the most compelling moments of the love triangle was when Zarah was holding Josie’s fate in her hand. I will admit that I thought she was going to make a different choice.
Snowpiercer: The Series is presented in the aspect ratio 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 16mbps. The presentation of the film is a bit disappointing in the way of capturing detail. A good portion of the backgrounds are CGI, and just about everything outside of the train is CGI, and the quality of that ranges from decent to kind of bad. To be fair, this is a TV series, and basically you can see just about every penny the production had to spend is on the screen. While it does have a robust color palette, defining the different classes on the train we see an assortment of colors in first class, but as it goes to the rear, color is mostly stripped away. There is a bit of crushing going on, but it’s not distracting from the story.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very well used to always remind you that you are on a train at all times. Aside from the ambient engine noise, the sound design sets you up nicely in the middle of the action where impacts are all around you. The dialog is clear throughout, which is important for many of the sequences with a lot of dialog and characters talking over one another. For a television show, this is really well done.
All of the extras are very brief promotional pieces that appear as if they were network spots. Almost all of it is centered on Sean Bean and repeats much of the same short interview material.
As far as my favorite episode goes, it would have to be the season finale. There were so many great elements to it, with allegiances shifting once again, as old enemies became new allies and others shifted sides. That is an element of the series that I enjoy, as the characters are not locked in when it comes to their allegiances. Then, of course, one character’s fate was left ambiguous. While their particular fate is speculated, I remained skeptical and hopeful that we have not seen the last of this main character. However, only time will tell.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani & Brent Lorentson