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What We’re Watching: ‘Snowpiercer’ on TNT is a Wild Ride on a 1,001-Car Train

A Snowpiercer promotional image with Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs

If you watched the 2013 Snowpiercer movie, you might have walked away scratching your head, wondering what the hell you just watched. Many people loved it. Some hated it. Others were convinced it’s a Willy Wonka sequel. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, you should at least consider the show. It’s very different but still quite good.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes, I want to address the difference between the show and the movie. If you’re a fan of the movie’s gritty, dark, headstrong nature and expect the same from the show, you’ll be disappointed. You need to approach the show with an open mind because it’s not a show based on the movie; it’s a show based around the same idea as the movie.

The movie takes on socio-economic clashes headfirst, though this is far more dulled in the show—that’s the main reason why some people who loved the movie don’t care for the show. That and the show is effectively a crime drama, which subdues the issues that the movie so aggressively addresses. But if you can look past that and see the Snowpiercer show as a different idea based around a similar concept, then it’s easier to enjoy. In fact, go ahead and throw out any preconceived ideas about the show you have based on the movie now.

For those who aren’t familiar with Snowpiercer, it’s set in an apocalyptic future where the entire world is frozen. The sole survivors of the human race are aboard a 1,001-car train—called the Snowpiercer—that endlessly circles the Earth. It was designed and built by the often-referenced-but-never-seen Mr. Wilford, which is a crucial thing to pay attention to early on.

The train has to keep moving to keep people alive, and the show starts in the seventh year of it circling the globe. It’s a wild concept in itself, but the drama and societal rifts between passengers are what drive the story.

Just like in this world we live in today, there are different classes on the Snowpiercer. The rich and entitled first-class passengers, who paid lots and lots of money to secure their place. The second class, which seems to consist of mostly white-collar professionals of some kind (though this is just an observation, as it’s never explicitly stated how they made it to second class). The third class is filled with blue collar workers who keep the Snowpiercer running from day-to-day. And finally, there are the “tailies”—folks who illegally forced their way onto the train to avoid freezing to death and live tightly packed in the train’s tail.

There are a variety of other colorful cars on the Snowpiercer (considering it is 1,001 cars long), including an aquarium, livestock cars, vibrant greenhouse cars, and a lot more. These are all the things that keep the Snowpiercer functioning as an ecosystem, but all thousand (and one) cars aren’t specifically for lodging and ecosystem needs. There’s also the odd “night car,” which is sort of a … brothel meets bar meets night club meets … some other stuff? It seems to be the hangout spot for “thirdies” (third class) to blow off steam and often serves as a middle-ground between certain jobs and classes. TNT put together a fun website that lets users explore the cars of the Snowpiercer, which is pretty neat.

A detailed image of the engine room on the Snowpiercer
The Snowpiercer’s engine room TNT

In the world of Snowpiercer, the poverty-stricken tailies understandably want more than they have. The third-class workhorses feel constantly underappreciated for everything they do, especially considering the train’s ecosystems would collapse without them. And the first class, of course, thinks everyone else below them is, well, below them. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s very similar to how our society works.

As I said earlier, the show starts in the train’s seventh year around the planet. For the most part, people play their part, stay quiet, and follow the rules. That is until a maintenance man finds a corpse with its arms, legs, and, erm, genitals severed. It’s pretty gruesome, but also not the first time something like this has happened on the Snowpiercer. A killer was convicted the first time around, but now all signs point to the fact that they got the wrong person. Oops.

That leads the woman in charge of the Snowpiercer, Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), to pull Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) from the tail to investigate the crime. Back in the before world, he was a detective and happens to be the only one aboard the Snowpiercer with any real detective experience. So, for all intents and purposes, this show is a crime drama—at least to start.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there are several twists and turns throughout the first several episodes. In my opinion, which honestly may not amount to much when it comes to TV because I’m admittedly easily entertained, each episode of the show up to this point has been better than the last.

You can see the biggest turns before they come in Snowpiercer, so nothing is really all that shocking when it comes to light. Still, it’s an interesting story and a fun watch. Some of the characters are a little bit over the top—the prominent first-class Folger family comes to mind—and others fall a little flat at times. For the most part, I think the writing is okay. And the acting is solid enough, though Daveed Diggs is easily the standout to me.

The Snowpiercer cutting through the frozen tundra that is the world

If you haven’t seen the movie, then you’ll probably like the show just fine. But if you decide to watch the movie after you’ve already started the show, you should also keep in mind that the two are very different. I watched the movie after seeing five episodes of the show, but I appreciate them both for what they are.

If you’ve seen the movie and loved it, you’ll need to approach the show as a new idea. You might not like it otherwise, especially because the way it addresses socioeconomic rifts is very watered down compared to the flick.

If you watched the movie and hated it, well, you might like the show better. It’s far less dark, gritty, and “weird.” There’s no whimsy to be found in the show, so it’s more palatable for those who may not like the wild ride the movie takes you on.

Snowpiercer is currently airing in its first season on TNT Sunday nights at 9:00 PM EST, or on-demand on the TNT app.

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is Review Geek's former Editor in Cheif and first started writing for LifeSavvy Media in 2016. Cam's been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times. In 2021, Cam stepped away from Review Geek to join Esper as a managing Editor. Read Full Bio »