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 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,

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


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


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,

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


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


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,


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

Adjusted Score: 66.553%
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.
Synopsis: Remnants of humanity live in a perpetually moving train after the world becomes a frozen wasteland in this futuristic drama... [More]

Tag Cloud

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