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'Snowpiercer' 2.01 Review: The Time of Two Engines

Who will win in the war of Snowpiercer vs. Big Alice?

Sean Bean and Jennifer Connelly as Mr. Wilford and Melanie Cavill in 'Snowpiercer.'
(Image: © TNT)

Our Verdict

"The Time of Two Engines" illustrates a war that's far from over, but will Wilford divide Snowpiercer further or unite them against his tyranny?

For

  • ❄️Melanie Cavill remains the absolute GOAT.
  • ❄️Bean's performance as the wicked Mr. Wilford shines as one would expect.
  • ❄️Alex's relationship with her mother is already proving to be a complicated and emotional road.
  • ❄️The dude who seems to be immune to frost bite is a curious new player in this war.

Against

  • ❄️Snowpiercer and its occupants are more to highlight Wilford than actually be a part of the story in this first chapter.

Check out our Snowpiercer Season 1 reviews here.

Snowpiercer returns on January 25th with its Season 2 premier, “The Time of Two Engines.” At the end of last season, we saw the Tailies finally succeed in freeing themselves from the cruel caste system that Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) upheld after wresting the train from Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean). Her allegiance has now shifted to join Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) and the rest of the train for a more united and democratic Snowpiercer. But, before we can find out if the train can truly survive a fairer system, we have to see if it can survive the return of Wilford himself.

No time passes between the two seasons. We ended right at the very end of the revolution, with Melanie stranded outside in an attempt to wrest her beloved Snowpiercer from Big Alice’s grasp, and that’s exactly where we pick things up again. Alexandra Cavill, revealed to be alive at the end of Season 1, blackmails the survivors of the revolution for fresh produce, morphine, and booze lest she allows them all to freeze to death while her mother remains unwitting to her survival outside. Wilford’s got his feet kicked up while he sends Melanie’s daughter to do his dirty work while she’s outside getting frostbite. Pretty rude.

We learn plenty about the two trains in “The Time of Two Engines,” but to keep this as spoiler free as possible let’s just say this: each train’s occupants can learn a lot from one another. Snowpiercer managed to maintain a kind of ecosystem that allows them to enjoy fresh meat and produce. Big Alice and her occupants were forced to get creative in their small space (and the tyranny of Wilford). They’ve got a kind of goo that can replicate skin without scars. Much to the glee of the Tailies — they also have weed.

With her daughter in his charge — and believing him to be her savior — Wilford believes he has Melanie in his grasp. He wants his train back, but she points out that it’s no longer hers to give. This admission feels like a big step for the character, even though we watched her allegiance switch long before her reunion with her abusive ex-boss. Wilford is the type of man who believes he can beat or blackmail what he wants out of anyone, so he continues to apply pressure to the real brains of his operation. We’ll watch him try to use Alex (Rowan Blanchard) to his advantage several times throughout Snowpiercer’s premier. But his problem remains the same as it’s always been: Melanie Cavill is smarter than him.

The Tailies’ former foe has always said that she’s survived as long as she has — and kept the train going as long as she did — because of her brains. Season 2 saw an opportunity to showcase that right out the gate, and it took it. Connelly’s performance has always been believable, but I'm always here for any series that takes the opportunity to show rather than simply tell. Her actions will ensure the survival of Snowpiercer. It’s occupants, on the other hand, may be a separate question.

The young Alex Cavill is proving to be an interesting player in her own right. She’s furious at her mother, and still believes Wilford to be what he wants her to. But we’re already started to see small cracks in his façade. While Alex’s wrath at Melanie is well-earned, you can also see that there’s a part of her who believes her mom did everything she could to get to her. It’s the very beginning of the season and we’re already seeing small moments of mercy from Wilford’s cold protégé. The fact that she got to see Melanie best him right out the gate probably doesn’t hurt either.

Snowpiercer faces its own problems while Melanie deals with familial drama back on Big Alice, though they do play second fiddle to her and Wilford's story in this first episode. Andre is stuck in a complicated position. He just fought a war for democracy, but is there time for that while they're fighting for their lives? We'll see Snowpiercer's new leader make some regrettable decisions in "The Time of Two Engines," but they're the kind that will result in more character depth rather than those that can be chalked up to bad writing. 

Ruth Wardell (Alison Wright) remains the most curious of wild cards as we shift into this new season. At the end of Season 1, she's distinctly anti-Melanie, furious that she's been lied to, and firmly on the side of first class. When Big Alice docked with Snowpiercer, her elation was nearly palpable. However, it seems Ms. Wardell might be remembering the kind of man Mr. Wilford really was now that the chance of seeing him again has sunk in. When faced with a choice, she insists to Andre that she's on the side of Snowpiercer (as an entity) and has no further allegiances elsewhere. I'm not saying the lady's trustworthy, but this new layer is an interesting development. 

Snowpiercer will air Thursdays on TNT.