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SYFY WIRE Snowpiercer

All aboard our express trip into TNT's fast and frosty Snowpiercer series: A primer

By Jeff Spry
train 2

Pulling promptly out of the station and gathering steam starting on Sunday, May 17, is TNT's frigid sci-fi fantasy series, Snowpiercer. Based on the 2013 dystopian cult feature by director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), and loosely adapted from Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette’s acclaimed 1982 French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer should provide the cable network ample ratings momentum rolling into the summer months.

The prequel's cli-fi plot is set just over seven years after our planet has become encased in a tomb of ice and snow following a cataclysmic ecological disaster, and focuses on a determined band of survivors, both poor and wealthy, all existing aboard a high-velocity, perpetually moving train with 1,001 cars that constantly circumnavigates the globe.

Created by Orphan Black's Graeme Manson and starring Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Mickey Sumner, Sheila Vand, Lean Hall, and Iddo Goldberg, this 10-episode series was in development for nearly three years and bounced around a bit between TNT and its sister station TBS before getting a slot in the network's spring schedule.

As the Great Ark Train shelters the last remnants of humanity, a strict class system maintains a harsh form of order, with First Class having dominion over workers while a violent Prison Class endeavors to survive in the Tail. When a gruesome murder enflames class division, the head of hospitality and "voice of the train" Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) deputizes a reckless ex-detective rebel named Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) to help solve the homicide.

To prime you for the frosty train trip and punch your ticket to TNT's big-budget production, SYFY WIRE is presenting three essential things you need to know before you bundle up and ride into Snowpiercer's dystopian wastelands.


At the start of the 2013 Snowpiercer movie, set approximately 10 years after the events of TNT's prequel series (though the show is not part of the same canon as the movie), it's explained that this new Ice Age blanketing Earth was caused by the unknown side effects of a chemical agent called CW-7, which was released into the atmosphere in 2014 to fight global warming. Climate engineering backfires to the point where the last shards of Mankind must now live on this ginormous globe-lapping train since it's -119 degrees Celsius outside. Brrrr!

By attempting to counteract severe climate change, Earth has now been plunged into a deep freeze as once-proud cities are now suffocated by ice. This extreme weather event results in what's been theorized as creating a Snowball Earth, which was the name of one of our planet's icehouse climates where Earth's surface became entirely frozen sometime during the Cryogenian period some 650 million years ago.

ice city

Here's the explanatory narrative heard at the film's introduction:

“Protests from environmental groups and a number of developing countries continue... Today, 79 countries will begin dispersing CW-7 into the upper layers of the atmosphere... CW-7 is the answer to global warming... According to scientists, CW-7 will bring down global temperatures to manageable levels... A revolutionary solution to mankind’s warming of the planet.”


Snowpiercer showcases some high-wattage talent and stars Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (The Rocketeer, A Beautiful Mind) and Grammy and Tony Award winner Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Black-ish). The pair portrays Melanie Cavill, a first-class passenger who delivers concise daily announcements via the PA system to the rest of the train's 3,000 residents, and Andre Layton, a common man struggling to survive in the train's tail end.


Diggs and Connelly are seemingly playing iterations on the same characters portrayed by Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton in Bong's 2013 movie. Melanie is not only a valuable commodity keeping the fragile peace on Snowpiercer, but this multi-talented lady is also a Yale and MIT-educated engineer capable of keeping the speeding machine on the rails. Andre is a former police inspector and happens to be a leader of the aptly named Taillies, those unticketed passengers who survive while packed into the final carriage of the 10-mile-long train.

Additional cast members include Annalise Basso (The Red Road), Alison Wright (The Americans), Susan Park (Vice Principals), Mickey Sumner (Low Winter Sun), Kate McGuinness (Roots), Sheila Vand (24: Legacy), and Sam Otto (The State).


The titular Snowpiercer train is a pivotal character in the show and was built, in-world, by Wilford Industries to circumnavigate the planet once a year. It's described as being two-and-a-half stories tall and 1,001 cars long, with an average speed of 100 kilometers per hour. The ultra-luxury train is powered by a revolutionary new perpetual motion "eternal engine" that pulls its lengthy string of cars with maximum efficiency.

For the mega-rich, this traveling resort features a clear-roofed Sky Lounge, first class dining room, an aquarium/sushi bar, elegant living quarters, an aviary, athletic club, library, art gallery, and Thermae Spa. Those of lesser classes and way back in the prison cars experience a considerably less refined lifestyle, causing considerable strife, friction, and unease. But they do have a haunted house and a rockin' neon-lit dance club!


Each of the cars has a mini-airlock system, so if there’s ever an incursion into First Class by the more unfortunate passengers, revolts can be limited within one car. It's a closed ecosystem and completely self-sustaining in terms of food, water, and waste. The train had been originally designed prior to the global disaster for extreme luxury travel through all the various climate zones of Earth, including the desolate arctic tundra, but has now been retrofitted for hardcore polar survival.

TNT's Snowpiercer premieres on Sunday, May 17 at 9 p.m. ET.