Sunday, May 17, 2020

REVIEW: 'Snowpiercer' - Melanie Requires Layton's Skills to Maintain Social Order in 'First, the Weather Changed'

TNT's Snowpiercer - Episode 1.01 "First, the Weather Changed"

Snowpiercer, the Great Ark Train, has kept the last remnants of humanity alive for almost seven years. A rigid class system maintains order, with First Class holding power over workers, while a condemned Prison Class struggles to survive in the Tail. Now, a grisly murder is stoking class division, so Melanie Cavill, the powerful head of hospitality, deputizes a dangerous rebel to help solve the killing - Andre Layton, the world's only surviving homicide detective.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of TNT's Snowpiercer.

"First, the Weather Changed" was directed by James Hawes with story by Josh Friedman & Graeme Manson and teleplay by Graeme Manson

If the apocalypse happens, then the wealthy and well-connected are likely to survive because of their stature and influence. They may not have the skills and conviction necessary for that. However, they have financial stability to ensure their lives won't be disrupted even if scientists send the Earth plunging into an Ice Age. That is the essential premise at the heart of this drama. The wealthy were given the ability to buy passage onto the Snowpiercer, a train that navigates around the Earth keeping humanity alive. People fought to ensure such safety as well. Those from lower socioeconomic statuses thought they had just as much right to exist as those who can simply ignore the apocalyptic hellscape the world has become. They fought to get onto the train. They continue to fight seven years later. They are condemned to seven train cars at the back. They are treated as vicious animals and savages. They are barely given enough resources to survive. They remain hopeful about a revolution. The young children believe that showing off their impressive skills will be enough to earn apprenticeships elsewhere. And yet, there is no certainty that any of them will be able to escape their fates. They are seemingly condemned simply because of that action when the train first embarked on this journey. It can never stop. A rigid structure must be maintained. There has to be solid divisions so that everyone onboard knows exactly where their place is. It's an identity designed by the mysterious creator of the project, Mr. Wilford. He has people speak on his behalf who try their best to maintain that order. The harmony of this place is under threat though. It doesn't come from the revolution constantly on the verge of happening in the tail though. Instead, these dire consequences may be coming from the class structure that presents a sense of perfection. The elite believe that nothing could be wrong with the lives they are living. They feel entitled to this privilege because they gained entry the proper way. The biggest issue they have to deal with is etiquette in the sauna. That's still something that Melanie has to navigate and maintain as the head of hospitality. She is the public face of the company. She is the person whose role is to keep everything running smoothly. Of course, she also happens to be the woman behind the curtain who made all of this happen in the first place. She has that vision. She knows what it might take in order to survive. She also allows herself to live amongst the people in order to experience what concerns are apparent amongst the passengers. She understands the First Class residents better than those in the tail. However, she isn't as openly hostile towards Layton as some of the security forces are. He is assaulted over and over again because he doesn't believe he should just comply with the orders to solve a murder. A death is the incident that sends the plot into motion. It's a little lame and formulaic. The show gets to play around in this fantasy world that details a confined space for humanity. It instead decides to focus on a murder which is meant to be significant but doesn't quite have the same severity. It's odd. It mostly just props up Layton's argument that in order for the tail revolution to be successful, people have to make it out of there and serve as allies on other cars in this train. He can gain access through this partnership with Melanie. He offers a valuable service. He sees that potential in the longterm. Right now though, his allies fear that he has betrayed them. He has escaped to a better life and condemned the tail to even more hardships. Others have made that choice in the past. There has been plenty of death and despair in the tail. They may have to adapt and embrace a new way to inspire their revolution. They can't just fight their way out of any situation. Brute violence only gets them one train car ahead. Layton's influence is enough to potentially make it all the way to the top. He is willing to play Melanie's game. Others condemn that choice and see him as a traitor. It's complicated. But it's also complexity that allows the system to go unchanged. The bones are present to make this an engaging story about class and who is allowed to survive in the world. The execution just rings so hollow. It's hard to find any of the characters all that important beyond the central leads. It's blunt and forced without feeling all that engaged with the material and the important discussions that should happen as a result.