‘Snowpiercer’ Season 2 review: Sean Bean’s marvellous villainy saves the show

The second season has thrills and violence aplenty, and a villain so mundane, so believable and so charismatic that it is difficult to take your eyes off him

Most of the flat writing and low stakes in the first season of Snowpiercer, have been righted in the thrilling second season. A lot of the credit for that goes to Sean Bean’s marvellously villainous Mr Wilford. The eccentric inventor saved the last remnants of humanity (the jury is out on that) after a climate experiment turned the world into a frozen wasteland.

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Wilford made Snowpiercer, a self-sufficient ark train 1001 cars long, that constantly circumnavigates the globe. His chief engineer, Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) hijacked the train from Wilford. At the end of season one, the revolution is a success and Melanie hands over charge to Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs).

As Snowpiercer reaches Chicago, they pick up signals from Big Alice, a 40-car supply train, with an eternal engine like Snowpiercer. Though Melanie suspects Big Alice could be run by Wilford, the engineer, Bennett (Iddo Goldberg) slows the train allowing Big Alice to clamp down on Snowpiercer. The finale of season one ended with Melanie’s long-believed dead daughter, Alex (Rowan Blanchard) demanding Snowpiercer’s surrender.

The second season follows Wilford’s taking over of Snowpiercer, Melanie’s attempts at a research station to discover if the earth is warming up, Till’s (Mickey Sumner) promotion to train detective to investigate attacks on tailies, the rekindling of Audrey’s (Lena Hall) masochistic relationship with Wilford and severely frostbitten Josie’s (Katie McGuinness) transformation into an ice woman.

Snowpiercer (Season 2)

  • Episodes: 10
  • Duration: 44 to 51 minutes
  • Showrunners: Josh Friedman, Graeme Manson
  • Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Mickey Sumner, Alison Wright, Iddo Goldberg, Susan Park, Katie McGuinness, Sam Otto, Sheila Vand, Mike O’Malley, Annalise Basso, Jaylin Fletcher, Lena Hall, Roberto Urbina, Steven Ogg, Rowan Blanchard, Sean Bean
  • Storyline: A thrilling face-off between Wilford and Melanie power this strong sophomore season

Ruth (Alison Wright), Melanie’s second in command in hospitality learns hard truths. A pregnant Zarah (Sheila Vand) and Layton try and give their relationship a second chance. Psychotic LJ (Annalise Basso) is in janitorial and discovers feelings for brakeman Oz (Sam Otto). Pike (Steven Ogg), is doing a brisk narcotics trade between the trains. Javi, (Roberto Urbina), the other engineer is moved to Big Alice in an attempt to break up the team.

There are thrills and violence aplenty, and in Wilford is a villain so mundane, so believable and so charismatic that it is difficult to take your eyes off him. His torture and brainwashing of Kevin (Tom Lipinski), Big Alice’s head of hospitality, is horrific. While he might, like Layton says, be an “old white dictator with a train set,” his description of “moral dyslexia” is chillingly accurate. He does not think anything of using people or disposing of them when they cease to be of use to him. He seems imminently reasonable when he tells Melanie, “You cannot sugarcoat the end of the world.”

Some character arcs are explored satisfactorily including Ruth, Josie, Alex and Till. Others not so much—Layton continues to be a bit of a cypher, Melanie has unfortunately turned into a one-dimensional saviour, Audrey is a plot point and LJ is plain, over-the-top crazy.

By taking the action outside — passing a frozen Drepung Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet and Melanie’s one month solitary stay at the research station (a heartbreakingly beautiful interlude) Snowpiercer has opened up the field. The long shots of the grizzled train thundering by on its lonely circumnavigation are moving.

Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013), which the show is based on with Joon-ho serving as one of the executive producers, placed the action in 2031 with the Big Freeze happening in 2014. Going by that chronology, the show is set seven years after the Big Freeze and in 2021… so we have 10 years for Sean Bean to turn into Ed Harris! Both the show and the film are in turn based on a French graphic novel Le Transperceneige (1982) by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette.

With a hopeful ending, a pirate train led by Layton and gang ready to take back Snowpiercer, and a third season already commissioned, we can look forward to more thrills aboard our favourite train.

Snowpiercer is currently streaming on Netflix

 

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