Review: Sean Bean gives Snowpiercer a charismatic villain to stir the pot

The unexpected arrival of the presumed-dead Mr. Wilford throws a wrench into the revolutionaries’ plans to reform governance aboard the train, in the second season of Snowpiercer, TNT’s Television adaptation of the 2013 film of the very same name, directed by Bong Joon-ho. Most of the talented ensemble cast members who created S1 so worth watching are back and as very good as ever, but in the end S2 belongs to Sean Bean, whose portrayal of Wilford gives the series the charismatic, bigger-than-life (human) villain it required to actually raise the emotional stakes.

(Spoilers for S1 under. Major spoilers for the S2 finale below the second gallery. We’ll give you a heads-up when we get there.)

As we’ve reported previously, TNT’s series is set seven years immediately after the climate catastrophe that made the Freeze. Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Blindspotting) plays Andre Layton, a prisoner at the tail finish of the train (aka the “Tailies”)—those without having tickets for the train who managed to climb onboard at the final minute, just before the train departed and left the rest of humanity to die. In S1, Layton gets caught up in a revolutionary struggle against the strictly imposed social hierarchy aboard Snowpiercer. The circumstances in the tail are squalid, and standard punishment for insubordination is possessing one’s arm stuck by means of a portal into the cold outdoors till it freezes strong and shatters off. There’s also a prison vehicle to punish much more severe infractions, whose occupants are kept in suspension in “the Drawers.”

Jennifer Connelly (Alita: Battle Angel) co-stars as 1st-class passenger Melanie Cavill, who is the Voice of the Train, accountable for every day public announcements and the train’s smooth operation (each mechanically and socially). The show’s substantial ensemble cast also involves Alison Wright (The Americans, Castle Rock) as Ruth Wardell, who functions in hospitality and is devoted to Mr. Wilford, as properly 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 companion is threatened when she begins to query the train’s status quo.

S1 ended on a cliffhanger. Melanie ultimately confessed to Ruth that Mr. Wilford had by no means been aboard and that she had abandoned him to die at the boarding web site, convinced the passengers had a much better opportunity of surviving without having him. In the penultimate episode, Layton and his revolutionary Tailies ultimately succeeded in wresting manage of Snowpiercer—albeit at a expense, given that Layton was forced to disconnect seven automobiles and send all the folks in them to their inevitable deaths. Melanie told him this was the sort of challenging decision she has had to reside with ever given that the train started 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 provide train named Big Alice, running on a prototype of Snowpiercer‘s eternal engine. Melanie feared Wilford was aboard. Thinking the provide train had issues they could use, the engineer, Bennett (Iddo Goldberg, Peaky Blinders), slowed down Snowpiercer and Big Alice clamped on, stopping the train. A young girl emerged: Alexandra (Rowan Blanchard, Girl Meets World)—aka Melanie’s daughter, who Melanie believed was dead—demanding that absolutely everyone aboard surrender to… Mr. Wilford. And, scene.

As I noted in my S1 critique, “This is one particular of these slow-burn shows that requires a even though to develop, which could attempt viewers’ patience. But that patience is rewarded when anything kicks into higher gear for the final handful of episodes, ending on one particular final cliffhanger twist.” I’m pleased to report that these minor pacing troubles have been resolved with the second season. Freed from the burden of creating out an elaborate fictional planet, showrunner Graeme Manson and his group of writers delved into the complex relationships, political machinations, and shifting political loyalties that inevitably arise with Wilford’s unexpected return.

“Invisible” effects

Snowpiercer S1 boasted some eye-popping visuals, and S2 maintains these higher production values. While VFX specialist Damien Thaller (who worked on Game of Thrones just before Snowpiercer) and his group had been in a position to reuse some of the effects from S1, the second season expands the storytelling atmosphere a bit beyond the train’s interior, providing us exterior shots not just of Snowpiercer and the icy terrain about it, but also of frozen, decaying city skylines in the distance, such as Minneapolis. “The focal point was constantly about what was taking place in the story, so our visual effects required to be [mostly] invisible,” he told Ars.

One instance is Melanie lying on her back in the snow beside the train, watching a single exquisitely rendered snowflake fall from the sky. It’s substantial for the plot, given that this is the 1st indication that the Earth may be ultimately beginning to thaw from the Freeze—until now, it has been a lot also cold for snowflakes to type in the atmosphere—but it really is also an impressive achievement from a VFX standpoint.

For that scene, Thaller and his crew researched how the geometry of a snowflake would interact with light. “We realized that they would start off to appear glassy and unrealistic in a lot of strategies,” he mentioned. “The Snowpiercer planet is an Ice Age, so our snowflakes required to really feel not also soft and fluffy they required to really feel much more icy, with much more colors, much more bling.” Thaller even recalled borrowing his wife’s diamond engagement ring one particular day, holding it up to the sunlight to observe not just the reflections but what sorts of colors it picked up from the surroundings. Much of that opening sequence was shot in the studio on front of a green screen, with practically none of the original shot left immediately after all the CGI had been added.

(Warning: some key spoilers under this gallery. Stop reading now if you have not completed watching the season.)

Each S2 episode opens with a voiceover from the point of view of a distinct character, offering rotating perspectives. Those voices include things like Miss Audrey (Lena Hall, Girls), who runs the Nightcar in Third Class and turns out to have a complex history with Wilford, threatening her loyalty to the revolution Alex, whose loyalty to Wilford is tested when she starts to bond with her mother Josie (Katie McGuinness, The Borgias), who miraculously survived intense exposure to the cold and is nursed back to wellness aboard Big Alice (acquiring a outstanding resistance to cold in the course of action) and Ruth, who has one particular of the most dramatic arcs this season, transforming from her practically fatuous devotion to Wilford into one more ally for Layton. In the course of action, she need to reckon with the cruelty of her previous actions, as properly as what life on the train beneath Wilford’s iron-fisted rule would genuinely be like.

But it really is Bean’s portrayal of Wilford that drives the primary narrative engine in S2. He brings just the appropriate mix of sadistic flamboyance and playful cruelty to the character—the proverbial match thrown into what was currently a potentially explosive circumstance. Diggs’ Layton remains the moral compass of the train—at one particular point he taunts Wilford by calling him “an old white dictator with a train set”—while Wilford describes himself as “morally dyslexic.”

He’s getting generous Wilford’s only “morality” is centered on what ever is finest for Wilford, and his generosity and favoritism can turn on a dime. That’s why Melanie stole Snowpiercer in the 1st location, and primarily based on what we ultimately understand about his “governance” of Big Alice, she created the appropriate get in touch with. Yet he’s also utterly brilliant, producing him a genuinely formidable opponent. He’s in a position to constantly remain a step ahead of Layton and his allies with his machinations and superficially charming adequate to seduce the hearts and minds of quite a few of the passengers who do not (however) know any much better.

TNT renewed Snowpiercer for a third season in January, even just before S2 premiered. That’s wonderful news, given that the finale ends on one more game-altering cliffhanger: Wilford ultimately regains manage of his train and abandons Melanie to die in the cold. Ruth joins Layton, Bess, Alex, Josie, and Bennett to generate a ten-vehicle pirate train, breaking off these automobiles and the eternal engine from the rest of Snowpiercer (now propelled forward by Big Alice) to go save Melanie. They are also late: Melanie sacrificed herself by walking into the Freeze in order to conserve the remaining heat at the station, thereby guaranteeing that the information she has collected survives. That information shows Melanie was appropriate: components of the Earth are certainly starting to thaw. The pirate train crew resolves to go get the rest of Snowpiercer back, setting up however one more new train configuration for S3.

The actual query is no matter whether Melanie somehow miraculously survived the frozen expanse Connelly’s function in S2 was drastically lowered due to scheduling conflicts. But executive producer Becky Clements said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood that the actress will be returning for S3. It could be in flashbacks, or it could be as a key player—we’ll have to wait and see. As for the season as a entire, Clements mentioned there would be “a bit of a time jump” to establish the new planet order, so to speak, and teased a “major new character.”

All episodes of Snowpiercer S1 and S2 are now readily available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Listing image by TNT

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