When I started watching this show, I knew nothing about the premise, the source material, or even the film. In Pajiba world, I think I’m the only one who’s made it to the end so far, mainly out of sheer stubbornness but partly because incredulity demanded it. ‘What the damn hell is going to happen next?’ I would wonder, every week.
There will be spoilers ahead, but to make it a bit more interesting, I’m going to hide a fake spoiler in here somewhere. See if you can guess which one can’t possibly be real.
When the show premiered, Tori called it Murder on The Survival Express, and Emily explored the economic inconsistencies of the Snowpiercer world. Since then, the show has been on a journey. The whodunnit phase was wrapped up in a few episodes, and was mostly used as exposition that could be fired out of a confetti cannon for phase 2: Opposite World. Are you ready for Opposite World?
We can’t go outside or we’ll die. (They go outside.)
Nothing else is alive out there. (Apart from some other survivors.)
We probably shouldn’t rebel. (Nah, let’s rebel again. Who needs arms?)
The drawers are bad. (No, wait, they are fine.)
When people come out of the drawers, they are messed up. (Unless they have plot armour, in which case they’ll be fine.)
Snowpiercer is 1001 cars long! (Uh, I mean 994. No, 1034 maybe?)
That rich girl’s a psycho. (Aw, now she’s sad!)
The train is in perpetual motion. (The train stops.)
Even the genre went on a journey. Murder mystery, the great train conspiracy, threat of the week, revolution, then to a twist, with a few classic train set pieces along the way, all wrapped up with a dystopian bow and a hammered home with some explicit moralising for the cheap seats. Rich people are the worst! Global warming is bad! Surviving is full of TOUGH CHOICES. The metaphors may as well be neon. Rebels are quickly disarmed — literally — with an actual sledgehammer. The passage of time is measured in revolutions (geddit? Because of the track and because of the rebel… oh wait, we all got it) and we went through maybe four rebellious revolutions in one round the world revolution? I don’t know. I lost track. (Geddit? Sigh. I’ll get my coat.)
So, subtle it ain’t. But it definitely is bananas. Try to summarise an event from Snowpiercer and it will either sound mind-numbingly dull or like the pitch scene in Spice World: The Movie. Or even both at the same time. Take the episode where something goes wrong and part of the train tilts a bit. Ooh, sounds thrilling. But then Spice World it up: There’s a bridge! Everyone nearly dies! Melanie has to dangle out of a hatch underneath the train for reasons! Even when the stakes are low (oh look! More snow than we expected!), there is bonkers escalation. (Oh no! A window broke and now a whole species is extinct). Sometimes the snow pierces back, y’all. (I’m not even sorry.)
After all the twists and turns, where are we left by the end of season 1? Here are the highlights. During one of the revolutions, there was Snowpiercer’s version of a conscious uncoupling, which brought the number of cars down to 994. Everyone in the abandoned cars is presumed dead, including Angry Army Man, Mr and Mrs Cersei (the Folgers), and a whole load of imprisoned Tailies. Because TOUGH CHOICES. Melanie had been deposed after the great Mr Wilford Conspiracy, because she was bad. But maybe not as bad as Mr Wilford, who wasn’t stashed in a drawer somewhere but left for dead by Melanie on departure. Melanie wasn’t just the boss of the train, but the real brains behind it, and although she was a ruthless authoritarian torturer, she wanted to be Dystopian Noah and save the world with an Ark, whereas he wanted to be the king of some post apocalyptic resort hotel on wheels. The clues were there from the beginning though. When she spliced together an announcement in Mr Wilford’s voice from her secret stash of recordings, that voice belonged to Sean Bean and he wasn’t being Northern, and thus by the Sean Bean Accent Code, he was clearly evil.
Melanie was left needing allies against the coup led by Angry Army Man, Mr and Mrs Cersei and Ruth, Melanie’s zealous and embarrassed Hospitality Number Two, and so naturally joined the Tailies, who she had literally just been torturing. It’s an uneasy alliance with Andre, considering she just murdered his girlfriend. It’s definitely an arc. (Geddit? Because she’s like Noah?)
Andre has been in charge for maybe five minutes before he realises that it’s hard. Because TOUGH CHOICES. Without Angry Army Man’s Angry Army, there’s chaos and looting. Some Tailies get busted for nicking lettuce. That’s how bad it is. But that’s not it, folks. There’s another twist to come.
Suddenly, out of a flurry of snow, the distinctive choo choo of another train. With a big W on the front.
Presumably, Mr W is back. We don’t see him, but Sean Bean is going to be around for Season 2, so unless there are flashbacks and all manner of twists to come, let’s assume it’s him and that he’s not a happy bunny. Of course there was a spare train just lying around. He wouldn’t give up the dream of being Dystopian King that easily. Melanie nicked his big train, and now he wants it back, so he chases it down and hijacks it with Alice the Abandoned Supply Train. Did he pick up the uncoupled coup cars along the way? Would that make him less evil, for rescuing stranded people, or more evil, for rescuing the nasty Folgers?
(Side note: are there even more trains out there? Is Thomas the Tank Engine going to make an appearance? What about Greaseball and Electra?)
Andre takes an army to meet the interloping Fat Controller. Ruth thinks a children’s choir is a more appropriate force. TOUGH CHOICES. What about Melanie? Well she’s on top of the train in her special Snow Suit and magnetic boots, for reasons.
Alice locks on to the back of Snowpiercer, which I think technically makes it the New Tail, and when the door on the front opens, the W turns upside down, because METAPHORS, and who should appear but Melanie’s long lost daughter, thus completing the show’s revolution into full on dystopian soap opera, and taking the incredulity level up to about 15. The train has stopped, Melanie has fallen off, because METAPHORS, and Snowpiercer has minutes to surrender before everyone dies. And this all happens in Chicago, where the revolution counter starts, because METAPHORS.
I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted. I’d like to tell you it was a twist too far for me, but that would be a fib. I’ll totally be back for season 2, to see what the damn hell is going to happen next.
Did you spot the fake spoiler? Plot twist: they were all real. I did warn you.
Header Image Source: TBS