In many ways, “Snowpiercer” is a criminally underrated show. The series features some of the best writing and set design of any TV show in the 2010s. Despite having great names and great performances all around, including Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton”) and Jennifer Connelly (“Alita: Battle Angel”), the show failed to capture popular attention that’s been given to other high-caliber projects like “Stranger Things” and “Chernobyl.” Although it’s a good show, it wasn’t going to get a fair shake unless it had a real powerhouse to propel the show into the spotlight. This all changed during the Season Two premiere with the advent of A-list actor Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones”).
“Snowpiercer” is set in the same extended universe as Bong Joon-Ho’s movie of the same name, and the show was greenlit in the hype surrounding his later film “Parasite.” The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is relegated to a single, massive train due to environmental disaster. The majority of the passengers — called the “tailies” — live in squalid, miserable conditions, while those in the front of the train live incredibly vain and wealthy lives.
The man at the top of this hierarchy is the elusive Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean, “Game of Thrones”), a figure who the tailies — and the audience — aren’t completely certain exists. At the end of season one, it’s revealed that Mr. Wilford doesn’t actually live on the train; instead, this train was stolen from him — now he wants it back.
Season Two picks up right in the heat of where the first season left off. Having successfully overthrown the front of the train, the tailies, led by Andre (Daveed Diggs, “Hamilton”), desperately try to create a functional democracy while balancing the needs of both the lower and recently displaced upper classes.
However, his aim for a greater democracy is immediately derailed when another train attacks. Unlike its predecessor, where the thrill came from unraveling the deep and enthralling mysteries of the world, the second season is jam-packed with shocking twists, turns and much, much more tension. But the biggest shock in the season premiere is the reveal of who exactly is behind the attack: the deeply unsettling Mr. Wilford.
Bean has an incredible talent for playing villains, whether it’s the calculating 006 in “GoldenEye” or the conniving Boromir in “Lord of the Rings.” In many ways, playing the eccentric and cruel Mr. Wilford is the perfect role for an actor who always plays the villain. From his authoritative introductory scene to the explosive moment when he learns that the underclass dared to rise up against him, Bean brings the perfect amount of dangerous, erratic and cruel confidence to an already well-written character.
When it comes to “Snowpiercer” and its universe, the name Mr. Wilford is one of the most recognizable characters in the show. The fact that season one of “Snowpiercer” still managed to captivate audiences without such an iconic character speaks to just how impressive the show actually is.
Now, with the explosive introduction of a new villain, “Snowpiercer” went from a decent watch that slipped under the radar to a great piece of television.
Daily Arts Writer Josh Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.