A 'Snowpiercer' refresher that won't leave you out in the cold

Snowpiercer Tnt
(Image credit: TNT)

This post contains spoilers for Snowpiercer Season 1

Starting a new society after a man-made environmental disaster that wiped out most of the world’s population is no easy task. Instead of a post-apocalypse utopia, the Snowpiercer passengers of the 1,001-car train inhabit a class system that favors the rich while everyone else suffers — seven of the carriages (with people onboard) were sacrificed in Season 1 bringing the total down to 994. Based on the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and subsequent Bong Joon Ho 2013 movie adaptation (Bong serves as executive producer), the TNT series is about to enter its second season after a bombshell cliffhanger revealed these passengers are not the only survivors.

Revolution is central to the events of Season 1, which kicked off with a murder investigation and an introduction to former homicide detective Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs). A non-ticketed passenger, his expertise was sought after another unexplained gruesome death aboard the luxury train. In an attempt to maintain order within the delicate and undemocratic ecosystem, the enigmatic Snowpiercer visionary Mr. Wilford took a gamble by plucking Layton from the impoverished tail section. What followed was an uprising that revealed the true identity of Wilford to the other passengers and the arrival of a new train in the tense finale that changed everything (again).

Before Snowpiercer returns for Season 2 on January 25, here is everything you need to remember about the insurrection, who is on the train called Big Alice, and the freezing cold location where we left series antagonist Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connolly). 

Andre Layton and the Tailie Uprising 

It took seven years aboard Snowpiecer to launch a successful revolution and all it required was a series of grisly unsolved murders as the catalyst. The first few episodes suggested this version of Snowpiercer was more CSI: Post-Apocalypse Locomotive, but using a crime to break Layton out of the tail section enabled the grand unifying plan and effectively established the different classes to viewers. Solving the murder revealed the culprit as sociopathic rich teenager LJ Folger (Annalise Basso) who egged her bodyguard boyfriend on to commit the heinous crimes — inflicting horrifying wounds on men from lower classes. As with everything on board this train, punishment is dished out based on wealth and privilege. 

LJ attempted to seduce Layton before turning on the innocent waterworks during her trial. For a girl who stabbed out her father’s eye during a childhood tantrum, it is clear this is not a one-off act of disturbing rebellion. Despite her troubling behavior, Layton turned to the adolescent when he needed to gather evidence against the head of hospitality Melanie Cavill. The reason? Layton’s love interest Josie (Katie McGuinness) was killed by Melanie after an interrogation-gone-wrong — and a near escape aided by brakeman Bess Till (Mickey Sumner). Josie was a vital part of the uprising with Layton setting the final plans in motion in retribution for her sacrifice. A bloody but successful battle was fought with the rebels taking control of the train. Unfortunately, the surprise arrival of Big Alice means the new democratic era will encounter some major obstacles before there is anything close to equality within this society. There is some good news for Layton as his ex-wife Zarah (Sheila Vand) is pregnant with their baby — the pair’s uncomfortable reunion spilled over into a passionate Night Car hook-up. On Snowpiercer, women in Third Class are selected to have children (another horrifying practice to control the population) and this unplanned pregnancy will likely have wider consequences.       

Melanie Cavill’s Scheme 

There is no longer a Mr. Wilford or so we are led to believe when it is revealed that Melanie has spent the last seven years faking it as the man whose name is all over this train. She believed he would doom their existence with his self-serving philosophy so she left him in Chicago to die. Instead, she used his moniker to preserve control and believed her actions served the greater good. The latter is dubious considering how much suffering has occurred for the majority of the passengers while the First Class lived a life of luxury. She did make sacrifices including leaving her young daughter Alexandra behind — the men she sent to collect Alex were not successful — but her pragmatism is no excuse for the disparity. 

Few know the truth, but engineer boyfriend Bennett Knox (Iddo Goldberg) is part of Melanie’s trusted inner-circle. Unfortunately, Bennett did not tell his beloved about Big Alice's arrival — before it was too late — and she cut the engineer's air supply so he couldn’t assist outside with cutting the uplink between vessels. Melanie is out in the sub-freezing temperatures when her supposedly dead daughter Alex (Rowan Blanchard) makes her grand Snowpiercer arrival. Little does she know her mother is lying outside in the snow after the abrupt stop. Control is what Melanie craves and this development will certainly cause more chaos in the already unstable environment. Plus, Melanie has to get back on the train before she freezes to death — or Snowpiercer leaves one passenger short.  

Hospitality and the Brakeman 

The majority of residents have designated jobs to maintain food resources, power, law, health, education, and even entertainment. Some of these roles are based on past experience but there is little wiggle room for progression and most are doomed to stay within limitations. Some switched sides including brakeman Bess Till — she was a police officer before the freeze — and she actively aided Layton to overthrow Melanie. Bess even broke things off with her girlfriend Jinju Seong (Susan Park) when it became clear they were on different sides of this cause. A tough fighter, she stood by Layton’s side when the unwelcome new arrival dished out threats.

Layton is flanked by Wilford’s biggest fan Ruth (Alison Wright) who has long been singing the train inventor’s praises without realizing he was never aboard. Now the fur coat-wearing First Class Concierge has found out he is still alive, it remains unclear how much of a danger to progress she will be if Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean) recognizes how devoted she is. 

Big Alice  

With a foreboding name like Big Alice, the new addition is actually only 40 carriages (not that big, Alice) and was the original Eternal Engine prototype. Big Alice’s other purpose was a Snowpiercer supply vessel, but when Melanie ditched Mr. Wilford at the station in Chicago she didn’t factor in this being used as an alternative residence. It is unclear how many people are on board — besides Alex and Mr. Wilford — but the threat is very real. Now instead of one society coming apart at the seams, there is a potentially dangerous (and vengeful) man wanting to take back the world, which he believes is his. Snowpiercer might be longer, but it is now under the control of Big Alice and those within. It is not going to get any easier for the rebels and they might have to turn to Melanie for support.

Two trains will go to war with the arrival of Mr. Wilford when Snowpiercer returns to TNT on Monday, January 25.   

Emma Fraser

Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.