Certain shows draw you into a new season like a long-separated friend's familiar hug. All the time that's passed, the months and months we've waited. It's all forgiven the second we see that train again.
Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 1 immerses us once again in the frozen wasteland of a bleak and disturbingly possible future. The action now chases the hope of a warming planet and a potential land-based home for humanity.
Where Snowpiercer Season 2 began with the shocking takeover of Snowpiercer by Wilford's Big Alice, effectively turning two trains into one, we begin this season after Layton, Till, Josie, and Alex manage to split the Snowpiercer engine and a few cars off to create a pirate train in order to retrieve Melanie's climate data.
With a lot of action taking place on both trains, the double narrative runs the risk of growing bulky and unwieldy. After all, with six months of exposition to introduce and new roles and contexts to establish, how much can they manage in an hour?
Two trains. Two chapters to tell. One runs hot and fast. The other lumbers slow. Cold cast in Wilford's iron grip, an armored tortoise plodding after a hare. Everyone under a single thumb, serving a single obsession, to retake the pirates and exact his revenge.Layton
Happily, the answer is a heck of a lot.
As always, leading is never easy. And as demonstrated here, it doesn't matter if that's leading three thousand or seven.
When you're one man responsible for nearly three thousand, it's not enough being the disciplinarian. You need to add a little chaos to the mix.Wilford
Layton's pirate train is crewed with his most trusted partners, but it also carries a captive Miss Audrey as assurance that Wilford will do right by the citizens of Snowpiercer.
In addition, there's Sykes, Wilford's one-time muscle, and, surprisingly, Martin Colvin, who had the bad luck to be napping in his First-Class quarters when they broke away.
My hope for Audrey's redemption is waning, sadly. All through Season 2, I held to the belief that her Stockholm Syndrome was a really convincing charade she'd put on to fool Wilford into trusting her again.
I think watching her deliver Roche to the Drawers on Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 8 might've been the first sputter in my flame, but when Layton took her as collateral, I thought maybe -- just MAYBE -- she'd been in on the plan all along.
Last chance. Get back with Wilford, or dig a grave with Layton.Audrey
My thought now is that Audrey's allegiances remain with her own well-being.
While she was clear-sighted about the dangers that having Wilford aboard would present and warned everyone against parlaying with Big Alice, she has now pivoted her thinking to believe her odds of survival are better if she remains loyal to the Eternal Engineer.
Caged and without her stage and entourage, she has lost some of the glamorousness she wore as Queen of the Night Car. Only Martin seems to be in her thrall at this point.
Meanwhile, Layton's crew is by no means a quietly compliant one. Only Ben seems to share his enthusiasm for the data.
Till: Six months of going around the world with nothing to show for it.
Layton: And we learn something from every stop. Think of them as data points.
Till: Okay, Professor Layton, they were not frozen hellscapes, they were data points.
Josie is grimly determined to see it through but lacks faith in Melanie's theory of the earth warming enough to colonize again.
Alex and Till are weary of repeatedly failing to find a viable site.
His dynamic with Josie is also fraught with tension. Once, they were comrades in battle, lovers, and even co-adoptive-parents to Miles and Miles (remember him?). Now, they're partners in this new endeavor, but back on Wilford's train, Farah is pregnant with Layton's baby.
It's an awkward situation at best.
Layton: You know, one time, just for a change of pace, you could respect the chain of command.
Josie: Chain of command? Layton, this isn't a battleship, it's a bloody liferaft.
On the main train, life is bleak, but in an elegant reversal from her role in the Melanie-as-Wilford days, Ruth now rallies the resistance as its hidden leader.
It entertains me greatly that Pike plays her second-in-command.
Unlike when he's been forced to work with Layton, Pike doesn't see Ruth as any sort of competitor. He can be the strong, effective, and positive force he has always been capable of being. Charming too, to boot.
I'm also a bit tickled by the fact the resistance is able to function on the train for the intermittent six months, evading Wilford and Kevin the whole time.
You'd think they could've used Jupiter to track the leader down instead of having her sit guard on Javi in the engine.
Poor Javi. His shrouded stillness is so much worse than death. Farah's attempts to reach him are in vain, and his road back to anything approaching normality is bound to be profoundly painful.
Kevin: Perhaps there's another way to conserve energy. Like a cull.
Zarah: No, Kevin, you ghoul. Please remind him there are rules.
Wilford: Sorry to disappoint, Kevin, but minus an arm or two, we keep everyone as alive as possible so Audrey stays as alive as possible.
In the meantime, Kevin proves himself much more contemptible than we ever imagined. The sadistic pleasure he takes in carrying out Wilford's missions is senseless depravity.
Taking an objective stance on it, he must be incredibly lonely. On a train of three thousand, he takes his orders from Wilford and gives his orders to a handful of jackboots and random thugs. Who else does he interact with? Socialize with? Plot with?
I mean, even LJ has Oz. Kevin's life since the Freeze has been Wilford and, tangentially, Sykes and Alex. With the women on the pirate train, he's left with Wilford, who makes a suitable object of worship but a poor drinking buddy.
It's almost enough to make me feel bad for the guy. Almost, but not.
Inside, it's a backwards world. Only one class now, the working class. Freezing, stitching, fixing, suffering.Layton
There's a lot to absorb as the action picks up speed.
It boggles my mind that they're playing cat-and-mouse -- or tortoise-and-hare -- with TRAINS. On TRACKS. Across CONTINENTS.
And then there's Asha.
When TNT announced in December that Archie Panjabi would join the cast as the enigmatically titled "Last Survivor," it led to waves of speculation.
Obviously, Snowpiercer and Big Alice carried many other survivors, so what makes Asha the last survivor?
What information and skills will she bring with her? Who will she support in the Layton and Wilford conflict?
How much will her trauma factor into her life now that she is among people again?
Every season of Snowpiercer feels like the world has been reframed, renewing the interest and vigor of the characters and boosting the momentum of the narrative.
In the span of a short hour, we already understand that the pirate train must go back and the power struggle will continue; Zarah and Layton's child is the next Headwood experiment; the hope of New Eden is the pivotal element in defeating Wilford; and if Asha survived all these years, there could be others.
The heart of hope still beats aboard Wilford's rolling gulag, one thousand and twenty-three cars long.Layton
All of this lays a track for a meaningful and dramatic Season 3, which I look forward to exploring.
As you watch Snowpiercer online, consider this: How many nuclear reactors are there in the world? Every one of them is a potential colony of survivors.
What do you think? Is New Eden the right focus for the citizens of Snowpiercer? Is it full-steam ahead, or should they hit the brakes? Toot your horn in the comments below!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.