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.

Killer in the engine room

Ruth, the second-in-command aboard Snowpiercer provides the episode’s introductory narration focused on Mr Wilford and his generosity and how the head of the train is the only reason they are all alive in a frozen world. Little does she know that Mr Wilford is long dead and that his his existence aboard the train is a ruse concocted by her superior Melanie Cavill (the train’s head of hospitality, played by Jennifer Connelly) to maintain order. Miles lets LJ Folger, the young serial murderer who now knows Melanie’s secret, into the engine quarters (she gives him the password “Eat the rich”. Ironic, considering she’s a privileged young woman responsible for the deaths of multiple third class passengers). They enter Melanie’s room and LJ is excited over the fact that there really is no Mr Wilford and steals a picture of Melanie with her dead daughter.

Ruth meets with the Folgers and Commander Grey (head of security on the train), who are planning to stage a coup against Melanie and have Ruth replace her. They are suspicious of Ruth now since LJ let them in on the fact that Mr Wilford is not on the train and that Melanie is running the show. Ruth tells Grey he’s lost his mind. Grey tells Ruth to gather a committee from first class to find out the truth.

Security officer Till, who has defected to Layton’s cause, handcuffs Layton and escorts him through the train as they strategically place pieces of red cloth, a signal for the rebellion to begin. In the Tail, the group is fashioning weapons from whatever they can find when they the receive the call to arms. With Layton’s head covered with a cloth, Till leads him through the train as Grey tells first class passengers to stay in their rooms while Melanie is held for questioning.

The secret’s out

Melanie is accosted by security. She asks if she can take a photo of her daughter from the engine car, but uses this ruse to send a signal to Ben, Javi (her engineer co-conspirators in the Wilford fiction) and Miles to lock it down. Ben is forced to lock Javi out when Javi decides not to keep Melanie’s secret any longer. Javi is arrested by Grey before telling Ruth the truth that Wilford has been dead since departure. Ruth cries in Melanie’s quarters, disturbed by the news. She tells Grey she wants Melanie to pay. Ruth confronts Melanie in the interrogation room for making a fool of her. Melanie tells her that their friendship was real. She claims that Wilford a fraud, saying she built the train, not him. He wasn’t the saviour he was made out to be. All he wanted to do was sell tickets and live well. She took control of Snowpiercer and left Wilford to die at departure. Melanie apologises to Ruth for keeping this from her, but maintains that she’s fighting for what she knows is right. Ruth calls her a liar and a murderer and vows to restore order on the train. The next day Melanie is to be be executed.

One train

Layton’s rebellion begins when Till brings Layton back to the Tail. Layton reassures his people that Till is now on their side, delivering a speech to incite his troops and leading them in chanting “one train”. Grey sends all units to the fight. The rebellion officially kicks off when a few of the tailies attack Grey and his officers with their makeshift weapons. Their front line killed or wounded, Grey takes a group into the night car (the train’s brothel). Layton, Till, and their group attack Grey and his troops there. There is a bloody fight with many casualties on both sides before Layton hears Grey orders his men to retreat and escapes. Just when the rebels think the battle has turned in their favour, officers gas the car and the tailies retreat.

At the drawers, a tailie named Pike is is discovered to be missing. He’s then shown to be having a meal in first class as he is questioned by a bloodied Grey for information about Layton. He’s willing to give up information in exchange for more first class food. He reveals that Layton doesn’t have the stomach for prolonged bloodshed. He says that if Grey keeps pushing, Layton will fall apart.

Creator: Graeme Manson, Josh Friedman
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs
Seasons: 1 (2020)
Streaming on: Netflix

For previous recaps of the show, see here.