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Snowpiercer 2.03 Review: A Great Odyssey

The game of chess begins.

Andre, Melanie and the crew of Snowpiercer wait for Big Alice to open her doors.
(Image: © TNT)

Our Verdict

Melanie gears up for the biggest risk of her life in another strong episode of 'Snowpiercer.'

For

  • 🚄Andre and Wilford's game of chess is heating up to be a strong arc this season.
  • 🚄Melanie and Alex's relationship is more believable in three eps than some shows are after years of rapport.
  • 🚄Ruth Wardell continues to be excitingly complex.
  • 🚄Sean Bean's deliciously evil Wilford is just absurdly good.

Against

  • 🚄We're two episodes into this Tailie assault arc. Because there's so much going on, it's not currently getting the attention it needs to be done well.
  • 🚄Where is Miles?

This post contains spoilers for Snowpiercer.
Check out our last review here

"A Great Odyssey" signals two beginnings. The first is obvious — Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) is about to depart Snowpiercer in a hail mary attempt to save the remainder of humanity. The second is a little more nuanced but no less important — the game of chess between Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) and Joseph Wilford (Sean Bean) really beings. Both make up two major parts of another pretty strong episode of Snowpiercer, but it feels like only one has the legs to remain engaging through Season 2's run.

Jennifer Connelly has proven herself a tremendous actress time and time again, but a story about her off on her own for a month gives me pause. Melanie is at her most interesting when she has people to play off of — something that's proven repeatedly in "The Great Odyssey" — so the idea of cutting to her trying to save humanity while Wilford wreaks havoc isn't as appealing as watching her continue to actively fight to heal the wounds she's caused on Snowpiercer. But a girl's been wrong before! 

Before she leaves, Melanie has an opportunity for more time with Alex (Rowan Blanchard). Wilford declares Big Alice as a "No Ben zone," so the head engineer's beau is forced to stay behind. Part of the reason Snowpiercer remains so engaging is the fact that little moves like this one continue to result in big things over and over again throughout the series. In this specific case, it means a telling conversation between Bennet (Iddo Goldberg) and Layton on Wilford's specific kind of jealousy and manipulation as well as some exceptional character-building moments between mother and daughter on Big Alice.

I gush about the performances in this series all the time, but the chemistry between Connelly and Blanchard has to be applauded. In three episodes the two have created a more believable bond than some mother/daughter duos build after seasons on-screen together. Young Alex Cavill has had to grow well beyond her years in a short period of time while also living under a tyrant. She doesn't know what to do with love or trust, and cracks in her relationship with Wilford already begin to show as he sees her budding devotion to her mother. Meanwhile, Melanie just got her daughter back and now finds herself forced to choose humanity over her family for a second time. When done wrong, that's a soapy mess. When done believably, you get the incredible representation of familial trauma that the series has built. 

As for Layton and Wilford's battle for dominance, oh boy. Get ready for a feast. The way Sean Bean's opulent malevolence plays off Daveed Diggs' conflicted man of the people is already incredible. Because of his hubris, we'll surely see Wilford underestimate Layton more often than the tables will turn. But don't take that to mean that Layton won't have his slip ups. Currently, Wilford has the only solution to saving the frost-bitten Josie (Katie MgGuinness). Don't think for a second that Andre won't make some silly choices in order to save the woman he loves. And don't forget that Zarah (Sheila Vand) doesn't have a single scruple, so we can definitely expect her to make some kind of shitty deal before all of this is said and done. 

The only areas that we're seeing Snowpiercer struggling in as of episode 3 are the stories that it's introduced but hasn't had time to flesh out just yet. We've had several Miles (Jaylin Fletcher) references, but Josie and Andre's surrogate son remains unseen in Season 2. Then there's Lights' (Miranda Edwards) mutilation by presumed Wilford devotees. It's an important part of the Season 2 narrative, but the series just hasn't had time to dig into it yet. Having a lot going on isn't necessarily a detriment, but this arc's beginning might have been treated the way it deserves to be if we introduced it a little later. 

Our parting acknowledgement for "The Great Odyssey" has to be for one Ruth Wardell (Alison Wright). She's a troubled character — one that teeters right on the edge of Wilford worship — but as we've spent more time with her we've learned that the character is more complicated than she seems to be at first glance. She's the only person who's treated Melanie with normal, human, reactions to her lies, which has been an important developmental tool for both characters. Her coldness toward her former best friend came to a head in a tearful farewell when she was asked to ensure Alex's safety should anything go awry at the station while Melanie tries to save humanity. The moment came after a reminder from Snowpiercer's head engineer that she could be Layton's greatest asset provided he never lies to her.

Ruth Wardell remains a curious wild card, and Season 2 has done a lot of work to ensure she remains both layered and engaging as her story unfolds. In the premiere, she told Layton that she wasn't on anyone's side but Snowpiercer's. Perhaps that's truer than we may have thought when she initially delivered the line.