Is there any series that is not improved by the addition of Sean Bean (aka Ned Stark in the first season of Game of Thrones)? TNT clearly doesn’t think so, bringing Bean on board for the second season of Snowpiercer, the television reboot of the critically acclaimed 2013 film by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite). Bean will play visionary billionaire Mr. Wilford, who invented an eternal engine that is now driving a massive train filled with survivors around and around the world after an apocalyptic event known as the Freeze.
(Spoilers for S1 below.)
As we’ve reported previously, Bong’s film itself was an adaptation of a 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, about remnants of humanity trying to survive an ice age inside a 1,001-car train. The train is run by a reclusive transportation magnate named Mr. Wilford, who has separated the passengers according to class and has a nefarious plan to ensure life on the train remains sustainable.
TNT’s series is set seven years after the climate catastrophe that produced the ice age. Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Blindspotting) plays Andre Layton, a prisoner at the tail end of the train who gets caught up in a revolutionary struggle against the imposed social hierarchy aboard Snowpiercer.
Jennifer Connelly (Alita: Battle Angel) co-stars as first-class passenger Melanie Cavill, who is the Voice of the Train, responsible for daily public announcements and the train’s smooth operation (both mechanically and socially). The show’s large ensemble cast also includes Alison Wright (The Americans, Castle Rock) as Ruth Wardell, who works in hospitality and is devoted to Mr. Wilford (to the point of obsession), as well as Mickey Sumner (The Borgias, and daughter of musician Sting) as brakeman Bess Till, whose move to second class in S1 to be with her romantic partner was threatened when she started to question the train’s status quo.
While Bong Joon-ho’s film is a juggernaut of almost nonstop action, the TV adaptation takes a more leisurely approach, fleshing out the details of life aboard the train. And S1 introduced an onboard mystery: Layton was tapped to investigate a brutal murder—like an apocalyptic version of Murder on the Orient Express. As I noted in my S1 review, “This is one of those slow-burn shows that takes a while to build, which could try viewers’ patience. But that patience is rewarded when everything kicks into high gear for the final few episodes, ending on one last cliffhanger twist.”
About that cliffhanger: Melanie eventually confessed to Ruth that Mr. Wilford had never been aboard and that she had abandoned him to die at the boarding site, convinced the passengers had a better chance of surviving without him. In the penultimate episode, Layton and his revolutionary “Tailies” finally succeeded in wresting control of Snowpiercer—albeit at a cost, since Layton was a forced to disconnect seven cars and send all the people in them to their inevitable deaths. Melanie told him this this was the kind of hard choices she has had to live with ever since the train began its endless journey.
Layton assumed leadership of the train, with plans to set up a democratic style of government on board. But as the train approached Chicago, a mysterious signal was detected—from a supply train called Big Alice. Melanie feared Wilford was aboard. Thinking the supply train had things they could use, the engineer, Bennett (Iddo Goldberg), slowed down Snowpiercer and Big Alice clamped on, stopping the train. A young girl emerged: Alexandra (Rowan Blanchard)—aka Melanie’s daughter, whom Melanie believed was dead—demanding that everyone aboard surrender to… Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean). And, scene,
The official S2 synopsis is short and sweet: “Mr. Wilford returns to Snowpiercer and brings chaos and corruption to the freedom just won.” The trailer opens by briefly reminding us of where we left off, with Mr. Wilford taking over. Sean Bean is clearly having a terrific time hamming it up as the flamboyant new leader with a gleefully sadistic side, but it’s clear that, having fought so hard to take over the train, Layton and the Tailies aren’t going to be passively submitting to the new regime. And Melanie has a few issues to work through with the daughter she thought was dead these past seven years, who understandably might have some abandonment issues.
Judging from this trailer, the production values remain top-notch, and now that all that obligatory first-season world-building is out of the way, I’m looking forward to seeing the series really find its footing.
Snowpiercer S2 debuts on TNT on January 25, 2021.
Listing image by YouTube/TNT