Post-apocalyptic sci-fi series Snowpiercer has returned for a third season, with new episodes streaming weekly on Netflix. Featuring a new status quo, a new direction and new cast members, the premiere episode rattles along. Matthew Turner gets on track.
The previous season of Snowpiercer pulled off a clever narrative trick with its cliffhanger, essentially dangling the basics of it (the fire-damaged train leaving a main character stranded) in the middle of the season before circling back to that point in the finale. Consequently, the second season ended with a significant status quo adjustment – with Snowpiercer now split into two and the crew of the pirate train in possession of Melanie’s data, indicating places on the frozen planet that may now be able to support life.
That data gives the show a new direction in its third season, which picks up six months after the events of the second season finale. Rather than attempt to reunite with Snowpiercer, the pirate train crew are instead investigating the global hotspots indicated by Melanie’s data, in the hopes of eventually beginning a new off-train colony. Meanwhile, a vengeful Wilford (Sean Bean) is doing everything he can to track down the pirate train and recapture Snowpiercer’s engine.
Similarly, there’s a new status quo aboard each train. Without the engine to keep the compartments warm, Snowpiercer has become a “rolling gulag” under Wilford’s rule, with everyone forced to work in freezing conditions.
However, there’s still a Resistance, led by Ruth (Alison Wright), with help from Pike (The Walking Dead’s Stephen Ogg), though they constantly have to keep one step ahead of Wilford’s armed forces, known as Jackboots. Meanwhile, Oz (Sam Otto) and Lilah (Annalise Basso) are now running the Nightcar club and are feeding information on the Resistance back to Wilford.
On the pirate train, events take a dramatic turn as an imprisoned Miss Audrey (Lena Hall) seizes her chance to make an escape while Layton (Daveed Diggs) and Josie (Katie McGuinness) are off the train rescuing Ben (Iddo Goldberg).
At the same time, Layton makes an unexpected discovery in an underground North Korean compound and also experiences a vision of a tree, which will presumably be important throughout the rest of the season, seeing as it features in the redesigned credits sequence.
Reframing the series so that there’s a focus on hope for an off-train future is a smart move for the show, seeing as there are only so many times you can stage a bloody revolution on a train before it starts to get samey. It also gives the now quite fed-up passengers an excellent reason to rally behind Layton again, although we’re presumably still a few episodes away from that happening.
There are other new plots afoot too. For one thing, Wilford is doing something unspeakable with Zarah’s (Sheila Vand) unborn baby, judging by the episode’s closing moments. It’s also a fair guess that seemingly minor new character Jackboot Whiggins will be playing a key part this season, as they’ve cast Kristian Bruun (a familiar TV face, best known for Orphan Black) in the role.
Over the course of the previous two seasons, the show has garnered a reputation for seemingly lacking the bottle to actually kill off any of its main characters – at least two characters have miraculously come back from the dead (or presumed dead) so far, and the third season premiere once again pulls off the same trick, which is either amusing or infuriating, depending on your point of view.
Indeed, despite the new change of plot direction, Snowpiercer shows no signs of slowing down. The production values remain extremely high, and the train-based set designs (now given a frozen make-over) are as impressive as ever.
Similarly, the whole cast continues to do excellent work, with an eclectic and consistently interesting collection of characters. Special focus is particularly due to Chelsea Harris as Sykes (Wilford’s ass-kicking bodyguard) this season, because she’s been promoted to season regular and is already showing signs of wavering loyalties, having spent the last six months aboard the pirate train.
In short, the third season of Snowpiercer (only nine episodes long this time) looks set to continue the standard of excellence maintained by the previous two seasons. A fourth season has already been commissioned, so here’s hoping the producers have a final destination in mind for the show rather than dragging it out as long as possible before cancellation. For now, though, we’re all aboard.