After many years of trying to get off the ground, Snowpiercer finally departed from the station last year on TNT. Based on Bong Joon-ho’s critically-acclaimed dystopian thriller of the same name, the series was one that was at a disadvantage from the very beginning due to questions about the need to continue this story on the small screen. The first few episodes were a little clunky due to the expedited world building they were attempting to pull off, but by the end of the season the show had evolved from its almost procedural aspect to the pointed commentary on class warfare that we only hoped it could be. At the end of the season, Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs, Hamilton) and the Tailies had succeeded in their revolution and intended to implement a democracy, but in the final moments a train called Big Alice clamped onto Snowpiercer and demanded a surrender from Mr. Wilford, whose presence had been fabricated by Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly, Requiem for a Dream) for some time. The cliffhanger was thrilling, and this sophomore season mostly capitalizes on what was set up.
The biggest shake up this season is finally getting to see Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean, Game Of Thrones) in the flesh. The man is a larger-than-life personality who wants all 1001 cars of his train back, a drive which fuels most of the season through frenzied altercations. There is a stark divide between those on Snowpiercer who still put their full faith in Mr. Wilford and those who recognize the train has become something much larger than one man. The opening episode of the season finds Mr. Wilford trying to extinguish any thoughts of autonomy aboard his former train, but some quick maneuvering from Melanie sets a course for a symbiotic relationship that leaves the mastermind none too pleased. We will come to know Mr. Wilford as a deeply manipulative man, and through this we get to know more about Miss Audrey (Lena Hall), the Night Car’s lead madam who played only a slight role in the initial season. This season is very concerned about digging into the characters beyond the marquee names that anchor the show.
That is not to say that the main characters are pushed to the side. On the contrary, one of the most satisfying developments of this season is the evolution of Melanie. Portrayed in the first season as an immaculately put-together leader for the train, we see further cracks in the facade which allows her humanity to shine through. Most notably, the return of her daughter Alex (Rowan Blanchard), who she thought had died seven years earlier, shakes up her world. Alex is just as fascinating as her mother, confused over whether or not to support her mentor, Mr. Wilford, who has been indoctrinating her in the intervening years or believe her mom when she says she did not mean to abandon her. Melanie also has a journey this season that opens up the world to something more hopeful as she investigates if there is any hope that the residents of the trains may ever one day be able to inhabit the frozen wasteland of Earth. The train has enough compartments to keep things expansive, but growing beyond that proves to be fruitful
Not all of the notable ideas of the season are executed flawlessly, but for the most part the momentum of the storytelling continues to escalate quite nicely. There are a number of female-drive plot threads throughout the season that make an impact. The Miss Audrey arc is a bit frustrating in where they choose to take that character, but Ruth (Alison Wright, The Americans) continues to be a figure most worthy of intense exploration. At first a Mr. Wilford devotee, Ruth’s beliefs get more varied as she collaborates with Layton on a counsel for the good of Snowpiercer. The arrival of Big Alice brings with it some more kooky elements such as a giant man called Icy Bob who can withstand cold like a champ, which shows that the series is not above injecting some levity to the proceedings. It is difficult to say where Snowpiercer goes in its third season, but it has already been renewed and filmed so we will know soon enough. The show has been one of the more pleasant surprises in recent years, so we hope it can maintain its quality moving forward. There are many rich themes just waiting to be tackled.
Snowpiercer: The Complete Second Season arrives on Blu-Ray with a beautiful AVC encoded 1080p transfer in its original 1:78:1. Once again, this is an upgrade from the broadcast and streaming versions of the show, as the disc provides a more consistent and stable image. The levels of detail on display in this presentation is quite striking, as all of the minute details in the production design are easily identifiable. Black levels are appropriately deep and give way to a nice amount of detail in shadows. The bright whites do not fall victim to any blooming in this presentation. The color palette tends to be more cold and steely to match the dystopian setting, but certain locations in the upper-class cars display some sumptuous instances of beautiful colors popping off the screen. Skin tones appear very natural across the entire cast. There are no egregious instances of aliasing or compression artifacts detectable here. The Blu-Ray is quite pleasing as it showcases the cinematic feel of the season to great effect.
This Blu-Ray comes with an active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that creates a fully fleshed-out world within this train and even a bit in the outside world this season. Dialogue always comes through crisp and clear without being stepped on by the score or any sound effects. More kinetic moments are given the appropriate power in the mix with a forceful showing in the low end. Ambient sounds are also precisely placed in the rear channels. The track handles panning effects around the room really well so that everything sounds natural to the world. One of the standout aspects of this show is the soaring score from The Haxan Cloak. Their work perfectly sets the tone for the story, and it creates a nicely enveloping soundscape that draws you further into the show. The audio presentation here is fantastic on all levels.
- The Great Engineer – Bringing The Mysterious Mr. Wilford Aboard: A nearly eight-minute featurette which shows how the series went about introducing the mysterious character, how his presence impacts the narrative, the performance of Sean Bean, the aesthetic of the character and more.
- Season 2 Overview: A four-minute look at what the season has in store with comments from some of the cast members.
- Behind The Character – Mr. Wilford: A three-minute look at the character of Mr. Wilford and the power he has over so many of his followers.
- Season 2 Roundtable: A four-minute discussion between Daveed Diggs, Steven Ogg, Alison Wright, Lena Hall, Mickey Sumner and Showrunner Graeme Manson about the direction of the new season.
- Daveed Diggs Season 1 Recap: A four-minute overview of the events of the first season.
Snowpiercer continues to be one of the more surprising adaptations to hit the small screen in recent years. While the first season was a mixed bag, it really started hitting its stride in the back half and continues that momentum into its second season. There are a few creative bumps along the way, but with a strong cast, inventive production design and stylish direction, the series succeeds more than it falters. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has brought the second season to Blu-Ray with a top-notch A/V presentation and a few bite-sized special features. If you found yourself enjoying the first season, you should be pleased with how the story continues to develop. Recommended
Snowpiercer: The Complete Second Season is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.