News

Snowpiercer Season 1 First Reviews: Great Action, Dull Mystery, and a Big Departure from Bong Joon-ho's Cult Hit

Critics say thrilling action sequences and an exceptional performance from Jennifer Connelly could be enough to keep some fans from hopping off of TNT's highly anticipated sci-fi thriller.

by | May 13, 2020 | Comments

Before he won an Academy Award with Parasite, director Bong Joon-ho made the politically-charged sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, which followed a non-stop bullet train filled with the last remnants of humanity as the rest of the planet got turned into an uninhabitable icy wasteland. The result was a widely celebrated film starring Chris Evans, so it’s not surprising that we’d get a TV adaptation.

The first season of TNT’s version of Snowpiercer adds a murder mystery on top of the sci-fi tale of class warfare from the movie and the graphic novels by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. The show takes place seven years after the world became a frozen wasteland and the perpetually moving train started going around the globe with the last 3,000 survivors aboard. Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) is the world’s last homicide detective, the de facto leader of the low-class tail-section of the train and the person tasked with solving a murder so the people at the front of the train can keep him in check before he goes and starts a revolution. The person that hires him? Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), the voice of the train and the right-hand woman of the train’s builder, the mysterious Mr. Wilford.

Does the series live up to the original movie? Here’s what critics are saying about Snowpiercer season 1:


JENNIFER CONNELLY SHINES AS A COMPLICATED FIGURE

Jennifer Connelly in Snowpiercer episode 101

(Photo by TNT)

Playing someone more human than Tilda Swinton did in the film, Connelly nicely juggles Melanie’s icy, passengers-facing facade with the MIT and Yale grad’s warmer private life.
– Matt Webb Mitovich, TV Line

As the co-lead, Connelly’s Melanie is compelling in a way that is subtly genius, and will probably provoke discourse and political parallels as audiences watch the series. While her character could easily serve as a sort of patron saint for white feminism, her nuances and flaws are peeled back in a fascinating way as the season goes along.
– Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com

The Academy Award winner for A Beautiful Mind is magnificent playing this many-faceted woman. She can be warm and welcoming, commanding and authoritarian or simply menacing in a matter of instants. It’s a role that proves, once again, that TV tends to reward established actresses with opportunities hardly found in movies.
– Patricia Puentes, CNET


THERE’S A MURDER-MYSTERY PLOT, AND IT’S KINDA DULL

Sam Otto, Daveed Diggs, Alison Wright, and Jennifer Connelly, in Snowpiercer season 1

(Photo by Justina Mintz/TNT)

Snowpiercer the TV show is a murder mystery — and not an intriguing one by any means — for a large part of its first season, with revolution on the back burner until Layton can figure out who’s trying out for an arc on Criminal Minds by hacking people to pieces.
– Tim Surette, TV Guide

Though Season 1 does revolve around the same tail section rebellion as the film, it takes a half-season detour when Layton, a former homicide detective, gets escorted up-train to solve a grisly execution. For about four episodes, “Snowpiercer” veers way too close to becoming a TNT police procedural, a la “Murder on the Polar Express.”
– Ben Travers, IndieWire

It takes the same core concept and expands on it, replacing inexplicable mystery with dull exposition. Some of that was probably necessary in order to sustain an ongoing series, but it misses the point of adapting such strange, singular source material.
– Josh Bell, CBR


EVERYTHING LOOKS MORE SPACIOUS IN THE SERIES

Lena Hall and Jennifer Connelly Snowpiercer Ep 105

(Photo by Justina Mintz/TNT)

Snowpiercer definitely captures the aesthetic established in the film, albeit in a largely less-surreal way. The set designs and costumes are an authentic blend of grounded and avant-garde, again contributing to the feeling that the train is truly lived-in. The cinematography also actively helps the series feel less claustrophobic than it could be, which is a blessing for those who are hoping to spend 10 hours with the series.
– Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com

As episodes further explore the train, giant stages, generous lighting, and plenty of wide shots give the impression of more room than there could possibly be, while illustrating admirable production design, vivid costuming, and skillful world-building of its own. This isn’t Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” it’s TNT’s.
– Ben Travers, IndieWire

Visually, TV’s Snowpiercer is not as claustrophobic as the big-screen version; the individual sets all seem to be as narrow or spacious as they need to be, though always within a certain amount of reason (especially if you are able to buy into the notion of a 1,001-car train).
– Matt Webb Mitovich, TV Line


THERE IS PLENTY OF BLOODY ACTION

Daveed Diggs and Sheila Vand in Snowpiercer Ep 101

(Photo by Justina Mintz/TNT)

The action scenes are efficiently staged, if a little jarring as they are dropped in. There are violent riots, battles between the rebels and the security force, and a stunt in which an unlikely crew member makes a repair while hanging upside down under the train in protective gear that looks like a space suit.
– Caryn James, BBC

What will really keep the audience returning to Snowpiercer week after week are the widely varied action sequences, which will either glue the viewers to the edge of their seats or have them leaping up and shouting at their televisions as the tensions mount.
– Michael Ahr, Den of Geek


UNLIKE THE MOVIE, IT’S WEIRDLY OPTIMISTIC

Daveed Diggs and Katie McGuinness in Snowpiercer - Ep 101

(Photo by Justina Mintz/TNT)

In direct opposition to the film, the show Snowpiercer tries to make humanity thrive on one narrow, icy railroad, hurtling toward the future.
– Sonia Saraiya, Vanity Fair

It bakes in a very earnest sense of hope and optimism. It’s clear that many within Snowpiercer are mourning the world that no longer exists, while also hoping that their “new normal” can be rebuilt into something greater and ideologically better.
– Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com


WILL IT PLEASE FANS OF BONG’S FILM?

Snowpiercer film (2014)

(Photo by Radius-TWC)

It’s a clearly inferior version of something that was already great and never needed to be revisited again. But even without taking the film’s existence into consideration, it lacks a certain edge that’s needed to stand out.
– Tim Surette, TV Guide

If the movie ever left you wanting to dive deeper into the various train sections, or learn more about the how of sustaining a society aboard a perpetually moving vehicle, the series (which is already renewed for Season 2) promises to answer such questions.
– Matt Webb Mitovich, TVLine

It doesn’t stay with you the way that Bong’s Snowpiercer did, but where the film was so eager to tear through the train to root out the truth, the show savors the details of life onboard, dissecting personal compromises and minor rebellions.
– Sonia Saraiya, Vanity Fair

#1
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: Snowpiercer takes a different route with its source material, crafting an ambitious sci-fi mystery with style to spare, but with little of the subversive bite of Bong Joon-ho's theatrical adaptation.

Tag Cloud

Chernobyl dexter Rocky black Sneak Peek Red Carpet Legendary TV One Paramount superman hist Image Comics Instagram Live dreamworks zombie Pop TV The Arrangement directors Super Bowl emmy awards fast and furious A24 james bond animated Nickelodeon Television Academy National Geographic 93rd Oscars SDCC 45 high school suspense sequel quibi Hallmark SundanceTV Fantasy NBA sequels PBS rt archives PlayStation hispanic spanish language Hear Us Out HBO Go name the review hollywood sitcom mcc aliens Lucasfilm halloween witnail Hallmark Christmas movies Reality TV Land Captain marvel BAFTA Fox Searchlight spy thriller venice finale worst independent Turner Classic Movies BET Awards Writers Guild of America nfl DC Comics reboot spanish serial killer First Look Cartoon Network sports Comedy Central scorecard Alien marvel cinematic universe Toys cults king arthur 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards blaxploitation Pop Star Trek Brie Larson Animation obituary Superheroe dark President Epix anime cars stop motion cooking Warner Bros. young adult diversity Mystery YouTube Netflix Christmas movies ABC Family green book TCA 2017 DGA superhero rotten Certified Fresh Mary Poppins Returns robots posters crossover The Walt Disney Company critics Polls and Games Black Mirror Best and Worst award winner Pacific Islander Paramount Plus Television Critics Association space chucky FOX IFC Films GoT TV movies Mary Tyler Moore rt labs critics edition blockbusters 2018 NBC popular cancelled TV series stand-up comedy VOD live action Infographic Comic-Con@Home 2021 FXX parents 007 documentaries satire CBS All Access Creative Arts Emmys psycho best Action TruTV prank saw Drama Academy Awards transformers HBO Max teaser festival Christmas Spectrum Originals crime anthology See It Skip It SXSW werewolf razzies Apple TV+ BBC America VICE live event twilight versus Extras 1990s TV Holiday Tarantino Rom-Com comic book movies hispanic heritage month Mudbound HBO Neflix Binge Guide Starz debate Food Network Rocketman documentary spinoff The Purge harry potter monster movies Trophy Talk El Rey thriller 72 Emmy Awards political drama Esquire christmas movies Amazon Prime Video Song of Ice and Fire Showtime Music docudrama scary 21st Century Fox 2021 Spike Discovery Channel 2016 breaking bad Travel Channel PaleyFest Emmys Women's History Month Sundance Now The Academy E3 Grammys Shondaland WarnerMedia Musical marvel comics X-Men DirecTV GIFs child's play elevated horror E! lord of the rings TCA Awards politics Mindy Kaling black comedy toronto TIFF San Diego Comic-Con Paramount Network ITV biography laika Lifetime Christmas movies children's TV BET international new star wars movies blockbuster 2020 kids cartoon Winners scary movies Valentine's Day canceled TV shows television olympics target genre Cosplay Broadway Universal 99% Biopics adventure Marathons Pet Sematary Thanksgiving boxing LGBT concert ABC Fall TV dramedy Star Wars MTV First Reviews Trailer Set visit screenings book adaptation renewed TV shows 90s Fox News festivals Vudu women heist movie GLAAD golden globe awards Britbox Black History Month A&E halloween tv Endgame Premiere Dates supernatural CMT video on demand what to watch Universal Pictures zombies adaptation sag awards indiana jones Apple jurassic park USA Network crime drama video Disney+ Disney Plus telelvision comic YA Western news stoner FX on Hulu TCA casting Country Acorn TV Pixar die hard Countdown 2019 Lifetime CNN Marvel Studios Trivia war slasher nbcuniversal nature Opinion Amazon Mary poppins tv talk vs. TV renewals Kids & Family Anna Paquin Shudder Year in Review Rock The CW all-time TCA Winter 2020 Sony Pictures Box Office Hulu Nat Geo YouTube Red dragons true crime french YouTube Premium comics theme song jamie lee curtis south america king kong films know your critic History critic resources technology criterion Calendar gangster AMC Plus Lionsgate vampires archives screen actors guild social media mockumentary Logo spider-man Video Games comiccon kong a nightmare on elm street dc Freeform Summer OneApp Nominations Sundance Emmy Nominations Crackle Winter TV natural history foreign Crunchyroll Classic Film streaming dceu reviews talk show Peacock Marvel Television Character Guide DC Universe revenge Syfy Tokyo Olympics basketball Pirates japanese OWN 2017 game of thrones Exclusive Video unscripted movie Election mob ESPN CBS Superheroes Wes Anderson adenture MCU Cannes japan justice league Holidays Ellie Kemper Awards Heroines Amazon Prime football australia game show Arrowverse godzilla Sundance TV TCM Reality Competition facebook singing competition romantic comedy USA NYCC Sci-Fi richard e. Grant art house franchise CW Seed sopranos Tomatazos WGN mission: impossible APB discovery streaming movies Elton John toy story cops worst movies new zealand Photos Teen FX crime thriller book Disney streaming service pirates of the caribbean kaiju fresh mutant deadpool Film Festival Columbia Pictures Dark Horse Comics Martial Arts based on movie Adult Swim latino action-comedy science fiction police drama ABC Signature free movies Tumblr cinemax composers Ghostbusters trailers feel good spider-verse BBC The Witch Avengers Baby Yoda Amazon Studios comic book movie romance comic books cats 4/20 Funimation movies Comedy Masterpiece 20th Century Fox Disney Channel The Walking Dead Interview rt labs cancelled TV shows 24 frames batman BBC One TLC legend Bravo Horror Walt Disney Pictures Spring TV slashers Apple TV Plus medical drama IFC IMDb TV universal monsters biopic historical drama joker indie comedies ghosts 71st Emmy Awards scene in color travel rotten movies we love miniseries TBS Chilling Adventures of Sabrina rom-coms Turner Marvel spain canceled VH1 zero dark thirty DC streaming service golden globes wonder woman docuseries cancelled binge 2015 Film Disney RT History dogs Tubi American Society of Cinematographers new york doctor who Netflix Disney Plus Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt ID psychological thriller royal family classics LGBTQ hidden camera remakes Family aapi Musicals Stephen King Awards Tour series New York Comic Con asian-american boxoffice MSNBC cancelled television Podcast ratings Comic Book Comics on TV RT21 TNT period drama ViacomCBS disaster italian Oscars Pride Month Ovation 73rd Emmy Awards Schedule strong female leads Quiz AMC Watching Series