Snowpiercer: 1.03 Access Is Power

Let’s get ready to rumble! It’s time for fight night on board the Snowpiercer.

The Romans kept their people distracted by hosting gladiator fights. Lavish spectacles of violence in the huge amphitheatres to quell any thoughts of rebellion or dissatisfaction. On board the one thousand and one car long Snowpiercer, these thoughts of rebellion and dissatisfaction are exactly what is occurring. Train overseer Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) decides a fight night is exactly what’s needed to provide a much needed distraction from the various troubles ailing the thunderous train. The winner gets bumped up to second class and access to all the luxuries and amenities that provides. Meanwhile Layton, the homicide detective from the tail, continues his investigation into the murders and uncovers a conspiracy in the process. Someone is peddling the highly addictive narcotic kronole on the black market and it might just all be linked to the killings.

My hopes that the television adaptation Snowpiercer is going to be anything more than a vague distraction are fading rapidly. After an already lacklustre start to the series, Access Is Power stalls badly. It’s almost as if the show is modelling itself after the rolling blackouts that plague its titular train. The main problem I find is that the characters introduced so far have so little backstory that it makes their motivations quite hard to distinguish. It’s also very difficult to care about people when you barely know who they are.

A good example of this is the story involving Nikki. She was found guilty of the original murder and put into suspended animation for punishment. Now woken up, she becomes central to the murder investigation and everyone wants to talk to her or keep her hidden away accordion to their own agenda. Unfortunately we know so little about her as a character that it becomes very difficult to feel concern for her, even when she is confronted by a murderous psycho at the episode’s climax. On a side note, I still don’t get the thinking behind storing people away. A few lines of dialogue maybe explaining that humans are now such an endangered species that every individual is too important to lose or something would go a long way. Of course this does sort of fly in the face of the guards and dailies constantly killing each other to maintain a pointless stalemate.

Another example of underdeveloped characterisation is found in the episode’s main plot concerning the fight night. It is built up as though it is a very big deal, with everyone looking forward to the spectacle and a chance to improve one’s position on the train. It turns out however to be a bit of a damp squib. Granted a train carriage, albeit a fairly large one, is never going to be a substitute for the Coliseum but the whole sequence fails to excite, even when it does turn into a small riot at its conclusion.

One of the main factors is that once again we know virtually nothing about the two fighters who are duking it out for a chance of a slightly better life. Surely giving us someone we could root for would have been a fan better piece of storytelling? Also, after the hype and excitement that the fight night generated onboard the train I was expecting something akin to a Thunderdome experience. Instead we get two virtual strangers just punching each other for a bit. The whole fight sequence appears to be nothing more than showing us another example of how repulsive the first class passengers are, as they bray and jeer whilst they watch people of a lower social level fight for their amusement. Subtle it isn’t.

The murder investigation sees Layton and Till following up leads and finally getting a chance to interview the newly awakened Nikki. She’s not really up for talking much though, as she seems to be suffering from Kronole withdrawal. This leads Layton to suspect that Kronole is derived from the drug used in the suspended animation process, a suspicion that is soon confirmed by Dr Klimpt who has been providing the drug to nefarious shady characters. The introduction of the drug plot to the already muddied murder storyline only seems to add to the confusion and I’m hoping that things become a lot clearer as the show continues and some of its mysteries are brought out into the light.

Mickey Sumner as Till is probably one of the better written characters in the show; we are actually given some of her backstory and pieces of her private life are also revealed. Layton continues to be a one note, no-nonsense taking, gruff type and as the lead he is not especially memorable. Jennifer Connelly gets far more to do and is one of the shows more redeeming features, trying was she does to keep her composure as the train and its occupants seem determined to self destruct around her. Hers is also the most intriguing storyline as she fakes the message from Mr Wilford about fight night and is always pretending to do the bidding of the fictitious man in charge. I’m assuming this pretence will play out further as the show progresses, indeed one passenger in Access Is Power states that they met Mr Wilford several years earlier so presumably he did exist at one point. What has happened to him sounds like a mystery that I’d much prefer to see rather than the mediocre murder investigation that we are currently engaged in.


Updated: Jun 04, 2020

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