Layton and his small crew of rebels have successfully escaped the clutches of Wilford, though many of Layton’s supporters were left behind.
Six months on and Wilford has consolidated his position aboard the main train, though whispers of rebellion and resistance are never far away. As Wilford tries to seek out his adversaries, Layton, Ben, Till and Alex try to find further data proving Melanie’s theories as right and that there may be areas where the world is warming once more.
The race for both men is on and as allegiances shift and tracks are chosen, the future of the human race may be in the balance…
“Two trains. Two chapters to tell. One runs hot and fast. The other lumbers slow. Cold cast in Wilford’s iron grip, an armored tortoise plodding after a hare. Everyone under a single thumb, serving a single obsession, to retake the pirates and exact his revenge...”
The haunting sound of music from even before my youth (actually a cover of The Seekers’ Morningtown Ride) heralds a new dawn for Snowpiercer and its viewers, though there’s a lot to sort out as we begin. The problem with any returning series is casting your mind back to the previous season’s finale and remembering where everything and everyone was left – usually on something of a cliffhanger. It may not have been that long since Snowpiercer was on our screens – almost miraculously it managed to shoot a massive portion of this third run ahead of and around the restrictions of the COVID chaos – and it was last seen in March last year. However it does take a little while to bring everyone back up to speed.
When last we journeyed across the frozen tundra, things got very complicated with Jennifer Connelly’s Melanie apparently activating the global beacons that could track the parts of the Earth that were beating the temperature odds (though possibly losing her life in the attempt); the revolution against Wilford (Sean Bean) and his ‘Big Alice’ train did not go quite as successfully. Layton (Daveed Diggs) and a handful of supporters managed to separate the two trains and escape, but their escaped included only Snowpiercer’s engine and a handful of carriages – so many were left behind on the still viable (and much bigger) train. Remembering who was on which train and showing their current situation was largely the remit of this opener and on that level, though there might still be moments of confusion, it generally worked well.
Layton’s immediate team is essentially Alex Cavill (Rowan Blanchard), Ben Knox (Iddo Goldberg), Josie (Katie McGuinness) and Bess Till (Mickey Sumner). It’s a good mix of characters and actiors, each bringing something to the mix. Though Alex has the brilliance of her mother, it’s Ben who has most of the knowledge for keeping the train running and so when he’s critically-injured during an icy sojourn outside the train, it’s a set-back that makes everyone assess their chances. All of them believe in Layton’s cause, especially when Wilford’s the only other option, but conditions are bad and their chances of surviving, never mind triumphing over Wilford are receding.
Back on Wilford’s convoy of carriages, the six months since the train-separation have helped him consolidate his power-base. The distinctions between the classes of carriages might have blurred and some allegiances have shifted, but he still rewards those who support him and spares no effort to deal with those who do not. It’s great to see previous supporter Ruth now firmly on Layton’s side and acting as an organiser and disruptor, though – realistically – it’s hard to believe that in those six months she’s always managed to stay just ahead of her pursuers in a finite space like the train.
There are heroes in this show and people of huge bravery and moral compass (as well as the despicable – Bean has made Wilford one of his best roles in years and his simmering servant Tom Lipinski’s Kevin is the kind of character you want to die horribly and slowly, but soon), yet it’s in the greyer areas that the show often triumphs – giving us deeper characters who tend to look out for themselves… sometimes doing the wrong thing for the right reasons or the right thing despite themselves. Given only minor tweaks to events, certain people could have ended up in very different circumstances for better and worse. It’s fun to watch people navigate their survival, whether we like them individually or not. Annalise Basso as LJ Folger – already a murderer, a sociopath but always ready with an exit strategy that’s left her as the sole survivor of her privileged family – still has much to offer, Sam Otto as her boyfriend and guard-turned barman John Osweiller remains equally enigmatic. Steven Ogg as Pike looked to be the Judas of Layton’s disciples in the last run but has become one of the mainstay revolutionaries against Wilford as events played out.
The character of Audrey (played by Broadway star Lena Hall) was a fascinating pivot all the way through season two, one of the most enigmatic figures in the launch season seemingly under the spell of Wilford. Throughout the second run viewers likely thought she was simply playing possum, trying to be an ‘insider’ gaining Wilford’s trust so she could help the revolution against him win at just the right moment. However last season’s finale indicated (and this opener confirms) that what we saw is what we get… whether it be true allegiance or just selective pragmatic survival instincts, Audrey’s actions (as a prsioner on Layton’s train) indicate she’s still very much Wilford’s asset and a real danger to Layton and his assorted ‘pirates’. But even isolated and devoid of the spotlight, make-up and stage, she’s a captive who’s captivating and a real danger.
There are impressive production values throughout. The opener has a lot of scenes put in the icy wilderness and though the close-up shots may have been another pragmatic technique for lensing the show, they add an up-close-and-personal feel that leads to an even greater sense of isolation on the ice. Inside the train, the limited space continues to be used well and – ironically – it’s those close, claustrophobic spaces that are opened up wider by well-placed dressing and quality camera-work.
While it’s early production and journey to the screen were fraught with problems, Snowpiercer has certainly evolved into something quite different from the compelling (yet contained) movie that inspired it and each season opens the world up just a little bit more without losing that feeling of a lifeboat lost in the high-seas. The Tortoise and the Hare sets up for more interesting developments – from the experiments on Zarah and Layton’s baby, to the allegiances of a new survivor recovered from the icy wasteland (Asha, played by Archie Panjabi). The metaphorical ice keeps shifting as much as the real kind and on the strength of this return, it should be able to hold our attention through this run and beyond.
- Production Design / VFX9