Snowpiercer Season 1, Episode 2 review: Slowly repairing the track

Snowpiercer Season 1, Episode 2 - Courtesy of WarnerMedia/Justina Mintz
Snowpiercer Season 1, Episode 2 - Courtesy of WarnerMedia/Justina Mintz /

The plot thickens in Snowpiercer Season 1, Episode 2

This week’s Snowpiercer remains crippled by the missteps of the premiere, but it shows signs of improvement as the plot thickens.

After the underwhelming premiere, it was hard to have high hopes for the second episode of Snowpiercer. However, this week’s chapter admittedly improves on its predecessor by further expanding on its premise and setting.

The plot thickens in Layton’s investigation, which is a big part of why the story is more compelling this time around. The fact that one of the victims was a Wilford informant who possibly spilled some dirty secrets is a fairly effective twist, and it’s nicely supplemented by revelation that his limbs were hacked off and put in the butcher’s meat supply. It keeps the detective plotline from feeling quite so standard.

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More broadly, it aids in showing that the upper and lower classes of Snowpiercer are not so different, which is the episode’s strongest theme. It’s interesting to see important similarities between the various communities on the train, such as need for human connection, the desire to unwind, spite toward their superiors, and the simple bliss of being alone once in a while.

The commonalities aren’t the most subtle in writing or direction, but their significance is once again sold well by the acting. Through Daveed Diggs’s subtle reactions and shifting demeanor, you can feel Layton’s shock and uncertainty as he observes the other passengers and becomes more personally involved in the investigation. He’s clearly conflicted about his place in Snowpiercer, especially as he experiences fleeting moments of happiness and belonging with his former flame. This adds some welcome facets to his character which were sorely lacking in the pilot.

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Surprisingly, we see that same attention briefly applied to the front of the train. Jennifer Connelly once again proves the most interesting one to watch as she mixes her enigmatic authority with a tense uncertainty. We’re shown that’s it’s far from easy to run this colossal enterprise. Like with any balancing act, a shift in one element has a huge impact on the other branches, and the employees constantly have to compensate for unforeseen setbacks, such as environmental hazards.

In turn, they must methodically dole out the resources afforded to each class and the sacrifices they all must make. This explains the relevance of the apprenticeships introduced last week, and it makes for a fairly poignant scene where one of the upper-class employees (complete with a bad impression of Tilda Swinton from the film) offers apprentice positions to select children in the tail car.

Katie McGuinness in Snowpiercer season 1. Image courtesy Justina Mintz / TNT
Katie McGuinness in Snowpiercer season 1. Image courtesy Justina Mintz / TNT /

They could simply take the children like they did in the movie, but it’s more affecting when it’s optional. The parents must cope with potentially losing their kids forever, but they feel duty-bound to let them go to give the next generation a better life.

Granted, this would resonate more strongly if the tail passengers were developed in any way, but the simple visual of separation, as well as the performance by Katie McGuinness, gets the job done reasonably enough.

Sadly, developing the occupants of Snowpiercer remains an issue. The conversations here still don’t feel entirely natural. In addition, the writers seem to subscribe to a growing trend in entertainment: to presumably make the show relatable to today’s jaded, cynical audience, they make the characters overtly obnoxious, sarcastic, and self-aware.

I’m not a fan of this trend, as it takes you completely out of the world and diminishes the likability of the cast. Here, much of the dialogue amounts to little more than high school sniping. If the series wants to succeed, then it needs to work on this aspect. The actors can only pick up the slack for so long.

Overall, though, this episode of Snowpiercer is definitely an improvement over the pilot, and it’s largely thanks to expanding on the intriguing concepts from before. Although the script still has issues, the series is taking small steps toward finding its footing.

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What did you think of the second episode of Snowpiercer? Are you any more invested in the murder mystery? What do you think of the expanded setting?

Snowpiercer airs Sundays at 9 pm on TNT.