First look Netflix UK TV review: Snowpiercer Season 2
Ivan Radford | On 23, Feb 2021
This review contains spoilers for Season 1. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free of the first season here. Episodes of Snowpiercer Season 2 arrive weekly on Tuesdays.
As we all know from GoldenEye, nobody puts Sean Bean on a train without expecting things to go pear-shaped. And so it’s with a frisson of excitement that he boards Snowpiercer for Season 2 of the TV series based on Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 sci-fi flick.
The show, which airs on TNT in the USA, follows Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs), a detective on the titular train who found himself the head of an uprising against Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), the head of hospitality and representative of Mr Wilford, the man who invented the train to begin with. By the end of Season 1, that revolution had reached its climax, but Melanie had also been unmasked as the chief of the train, with Mr Wilford nowhere to be seen – much to the shock of his faithful followers, including Melanie’s number two, Ruth (Alison Wright).
Season 2 begins with a shaky democracy now in place, with Layton and Melanie broadly heading up a fledgling republic in which everyone works together for a fairer society. But that was put in jeopardy in Season 1’s closing cliffhanger, with the appearance of another train on the track: Big Alice. At the helm? Mr Wilford.
Yes, Sean Bean is the Big Bad himself, and much of the second season’s appeal is simply getting the chance to see him embrace a villainous role once again. Bean is clearly having a blast playing the sociopath who carries himself with the grandeur of a god and the snickering manipulations of an egotistical politician. He demands trophies such as eggs and beer from his former locomotive as peaceful gestures of welcome, while toying with anyone he suspects of being disloyal – a sequence involving a bath and his dog makes it clear that no matter how gleeful Bean’s performance gets, the show isn’t afraid to take things to very dark places.
The introduction of a new threat to the newly unified Snowpiercer should make for a straight-forward us-versus-them scenario, but it swiftly becomes apparent that Mr Wilford still has devoted fans tucked away across the carriages, who regard him as their long-awaited saviour. The way that people can be divided through lies, rallying speeches and seeds of discontent still carries some political punch, but Snowpiercer’s satirical origins have been shunted to the rear engine somewhat in favour of more immediate thrills – and, as Season 2 begins its second lap around the never-ending track, it’s a slight realigning of the wheels that makes sense.
The cast are still the key to powering the show through its steadily paced beats, with Diggs the standout as Layton, who has to declare martial law to keep things in order while he combats the latest risk of civilisation crumbling; he’s a man with a clear conscience, who knows that if they don’t pull together, their fragile ecosystem won’t work, even as Wilford forces him to make increasingly questionable moral decisions to match his enemy’s plotting. Alison Wright, meanwhlie, maintains Ruth’s brisk, polite efficiency, balancing a near-fanatical love of Mr Wilford with a love of things that are honest and play by the rules.
Also getting the chance to bring fresh shades of grey to her character is Jennifer Connelly, whose Melanie slowly begins to let down her stoic facade as Wilford brings with Big Alice her estranged daughter, Alex (Rowan Blanchard). Their scenes together are genuinely moving, as Connelly and Blanchard mix suspicion and awkwardness with a genuine curiosity and respect for their mutual survival this far in to the icy apocalypse.
Scientific discoveries and mad-laboratory advances threaten to tip the series into silly territory, but that central quartet ground the show, their shifting dynamics and rising personal stakes echoing the twisting and evolving dramas and tensions unfolding all the way down the trains. The CGI sequences of the vehicles traversing the globe, too, have become more complicated and convincing as a result, and there’s renewed suspense and intrigue in the way that the two engines have to work in tandem with each other to avoid them both crashing or shutting down entirely.
All of this is enough to give Snowpiercer an added boost of momentum for its second voyage – and, while there’s still a relatively limited set of destinations at which this train can arrive, Snowpiercer is finding enough potential for its wider universe to grow and change that there’s still a chance of something surprising lurking round the bend (Season 3 has already been greenlit). Until then, there’s Sean Bean to enjoy, and he’s riding a first-class ticket.
Snowpiercer: The Series is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.