Before Bong Joon-ho made the Oscar-winning film Parasite (2020), he gave audiences the cult classic Snowpiercer (2013). People who saw it knew he was on to something. In the film, the earth is frozen. The survivors, rigidly divided according to class, circumnavigate the desolate world in a massive train that never stops. A thoughtful and fun movie, it was under-appreciated. The Snowpiercer series, which was recently released on Netflix, is a new story set in the film’s post-apocalyptic world. It retains the setting and themes from the movie, but fills the train with new characters and swaps the bloody rebellion by the train’s oppressed tail-folk for a whodunit.
The controversial jury selection
Tensions built up in previous episodes between the classes of the train are reaching a tipping point as Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), the train’s manager of hospitality, selects the the jury for the trial of LJ Folgers, the serial murderer. Third class workers threaten to go on strike, demanding representation on the jury. Melanie does select a passenger from third for the jury. This does not go over well with the privileged first class passengers up-train. Particularly Lilah Folger, mother of the accused murderer LJ, who’s worried that the inclusion of a thirdie will put her daughter at risk of being convicted.
Imprisoned in cryo storage in the drawers, Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) dreams about past conflicts in the tail and of the dead murder witness Nikki as a voiceover from Audrey says how third class passengers are tired of all the injustices and are ready to overthrow the train’s system. Layton’s dreams of fighting cannibals in the tail and a dead girl covered in blood coupled with this voiceover from Audrey, the head of the train’s Nightcar, seem mismatched. The Nightcar is commonly known as the train’s brothel, but is really a place where people go to feel intimacy and express their grief over the state of the world. It’s unclear why this imagery is paired with Audrey’s talk of revolution.
LJ testified about her love for Eric and his influence over her. She told the jury and audience how Eric once said that “fear makes people honest”, giving viewers the impression that she would follow the directions given to her by her parents and say she was coerced by Eric. However, this merely leads up to her real move. She reveals the truth about the murder victim, saying “Sean Wise said he was an informant, a spy, for Wilford”. She threatened to reveal a very specific “400 secrets” hidden by the train’s administration, referring to the 400 drawers prisoners kept in suspended animation, subtly blackmailing Melanie into letting her go free. This also teases audiences with the fact that there is still more to the drawers than meets the eye. LJ and Eric could have uncovered some sensitive information while torturing Sean.
The jury finds LJ guilty on two counts of murder. However, she is saved when an urgent message comes in from “Mr. Wilford” (the man is long dead, Melanie has been impersonating him to keep up appearances for passengers), saying that she will be remanded to her parents’ custody due to her age.
The rescue operation
Meanwhile, Josie (Layton’s partner in the tail revolution) breaks in to the drawers with Terence, the janitor who aided Layton in his investigation. Terence, however has no intention of helping Josie rescue Layton. He steals valuables from the detention area before leaving Josie there. Scrambling after the double-cross, she manages to locate Layton in a drawer. However, she also discovers two younger tail passengers who were supposed to be integrated into the administration as a part of an apprenticeship program. Security officers Till and Oz suspect foul play, enter the detention area and find Josie hiding in Layton’s drawer. Till is shocked to see that Layton has been placed in a drawer after his investigation of the serial killings. As Oz mercilessly beats Josie, she knocks him out from behind and takes Layton and Josie to Zarah, a former flame of Layton’s.
In Zarah’s care, Layton convulses uncontrollably, a result of withdrawal from the drawer sedatives. He is assaulted by memories of his violent take-down of the tail’s cannibalistic kill cult. He sees a vision of himself, Josie and some others ceremonially eating the flesh of the cult members after their victory, saying, “Never again”. Layton opens his eyes as the episode cuts to black and the credits roll.
Creator: Graeme Manson, Josh Friedman
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs
Seasons: 1 (2020)
Streaming on: Netflix
For previous recaps of the show, see here.