Snowpiercer debuted Sunday night on TNT, and Deadline reports more than 3 million viewers tuned in, making it the cable network's best showing since its adaptation of The Alienist in 2018. Whether those viewers will stick around for all 10 episodes of this first season remains to be seen. This is one of those slow-burn shows that takes a while to build, which could try viewers' patience. But that patience is rewarded when everything kicks into high gear for the final few episodes, ending on one last cliffhanger twist.
(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)
Snowpiercer is essentially a reboot of the critically acclaimed 2013 film by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), fleshed out into a full-length series. Bong's film itself was an adaptation of a 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, about remnants of humanity trying to survive an ice age inside a 1,001-car train. The train is run by a reclusive transportation magnate named Mr. Wilford, who has separated the passengers according to class and has a nefarious plan to ensure life on the train remains sustainable.
The film starred Chris Evans as revolutionary leader Curtis, with Tilda Swinton as second-in-command Minister Mason. Bong shot much of it on a specially constructed set: a train mounted on a giant gyroscopic gimbal, the better to mimic the movements of an actual train. Snowpiercer earned critical raves and went on to gross $86 million worldwide against a roughly $40 million production budget.
TNT's series is set seven years after the climate catastrophe that produced the ice age. Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Blindspotting) plays Andre Layton, a prisoner at the tail end of the train who gets caught up in a revolutionary struggle against the imposed social hierarchy abroad Snowpiercer. Jennifer Connelly (Alita: Battle Angel) co-stars as first-class passenger Melanie Cavill, who is the Voice of the Train, responsible for daily public announcements and the train's smooth operation (both mechanically and socially). The show's large ensemble cast also includes Alison Wright (The Americans, Castle Rock) as Lilah Anderson, who works in the train's spa, and Mickey Sumner (The Borgias, and daughter of musician Sting) as brakeman Bess Till, whose recent move to second class to be with her romantic partner is threatened when she starts to question the train's status quo.
Bong Joon-ho's film is a juggernaut of almost nonstop action, as the lowest-class passengers revolt and fight their way to the head of the train, with Curtis leading the way. The TV adaptation necessarily takes a more leisurely approach, given S1's 10 episodes, fleshing out the details of life aboard the train, along with bits of expository backstory. And it introduces an onboard mystery: Layton is tapped to investigate a brutal murder that just might be the work of a serial killer—like a dystopian version of Murder on the Orient Express.