Snowpiercer: The Complete First Season review

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-Ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.

Snowpiercer was an extraordinary fresh, and often bloody, take at class system when it debuted in 2013. The film featured a remarkable cast with Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho and a rising Chris Evans just at the start of his blockbuster career playing Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bong Joon Ho’s (Parasite) film didn’t seem open-ended enough to warrant a sequel let alone a TV series.

Still, a series with Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) and Jennifer Connelly (Spider-Man: Homecoming) is enough to warrant checking out for at least a few episodes. That should be all it should take for viewers to get hooked on the series, which feels like a natural extension of the series without needlessly stretching out a great concept in an uninspired spin-off.

The show is set seven years into the end of the world as the planet becomes a frozen wasteland due to decades of neglect by its population. Mr. Wilford had the foresight to create an ark of sorts — a massive 1,001 car train — filled with various amenities including an aquarium, nightclub and even a cattle area for burgers and beef. Wilford didn’t intend for the lower class to crash the boarding party however as Snowpiercer was meant to be a mobile paradise for the rich. That checks out.

snowpiercer-tv-series poster

Stowaways, referred to as the Tailies, are forced to earn their keep as essentially a slave labor force with the poorest conditions and a security force largely intact to keep them in line. Beyond the security force, Wilford has uniformed spokespeople like Melanie Cavill (Connelly) to remind the masses of their place and station on Snowpiercer. Diggs plays Andre Layton, a former detective, that’s summoned up the train to deal with a murder.

For Andre, it’s been seven years since he climbed aboard Snowpiercer and the investigation offers him a chance to experience things he’d almost forgotten like soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Diggs is a charismatic lead and the role is a terrific showcase for his versatility as a performer.

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Connelly makes for an excellent foil as she helps make Mel more than the cold, frigid mouthpiece for Wilford. There’s far greater depth to her character than Swinton’s spokesperson in the film and she’s thankfully not just an outright villain.

Showrunners Josh Friedman and Graeme Manson are able to dig deeper onto the class discussion the film could quickly touch on before going to the next spectacular action sequence. That’s not to suggest the show lacks action though rarely on the scale of the film. Those scenes are well-staged, but they lack the video game feel of conquering stage after stage of the train.

snowpiercer-tv-series - jennifer connelly, mike o'malley and daveed diggs

Friendman and Manson’s commentary on the rich isn’t groundbreaking — they’re horribly out of touch, easily bored, arrogant and at times psychotic in their ends to ensure the status quo — yet feels very appropriate in these times.

The real question for the series is how sustainable it is since by virtue of the film, ultimately the Tailies won’t one day overcome their place and the ‘good guys’ won’t eventually win. At least for one season, Snowpiercer proves worthy of another season’s rotation.

VIDEO/AUDIO

Snowpiercer gets an attractive transfer with 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition. Details like wrinkles in skin and some fabric showing through. Given the darker settings in the Tail section, some details get lost in the deep blacks. The transfer doesn’t quite hit reference levels although some scenes like the aquarium and nightclub pop with strong colors.

The sound, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, is also solid. Train and crowd background noises are ever present, but kept to respectable levels to not drown out dialogue. Bear McCreary’s sensational score is given the right balance as well to capture the majestic flair without becoming a distraction.

snowpiercer-tv-series-daveed diggs and jennifer connelly

SPECIAL FEATURES
There’s 20 minutes worth of bonus footage, which is a worthwhile allotment of extras
  • Overview (3:12)
  • Class Warfare (3:02)
  • Jennifer & Daveed – Behind The Scenes Interview (2:09)
  • The Train (5:56) — A breakdown of the intricate settings of the train and its many cars.
  • Behind the Curtain: Art of the Frozen World (4:09)
10 ONE-HOUR EPISODES
  1. First, The Weather Changed
  2. Prepare to Brace
  3. Access is Power
  4. Without Their Power
  5. Justice Never Boarded
  6. Trouble Comes Sideways
  7. The Universe Is Different
  8. These Are His Revolutions
  9. The Train Demanded Blood
  10. 994 Cars Long

Own Snowpiercer The Complete First Season on Digital, Blu-Ray and DVD today on Amazon.

Photo Credit: Warner Bros Home Entertainment

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