Keeping in mind that TEN MONTHS elapsed between shooting the finale and the beginning of production for this season's premiere, Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 1 does an over-the-top incredible job with creating continuity between the narratives, literally picking up where they left off.
The finale's three shockers -- Mr. Wilford, Alexandra Cavill, and Big Alice -- gave the premiere a pile of exposition to play with.
And yet, the tension never lets up. Pike's shenanigans might have lightened the mood at times, but I was constantly leaning in, anticipating the next reveal or twist.
Big Alice and everything (and everyone) she carries aboard opens up a whole new world of possibilities for this post-apocalyptic adventure. And Sean Bean is guaranteed to make things interesting.
I'm also a fan of the visual throwbacks to the graphic novel origins they use to bookend the seasons. It's a device that enriches the story-telling aspect of the show, providing a canvas for the opening voiceover, and gives the audience a second to settle into the world they've built.
On the eve of our nineteenth revolution, the great Mr. Wilford came out of the cold. It was the time of two engines. The Tail no longer the tail but a borderland. A time of great gamesmanship and great trainsmanship, of revolutions interrupted, and fresh track on new terrain.Layton
Full disclosure: I find it challenging as a reviewer to pick apart a show that functions so smoothly as a holistic endeavor.
Throughout Snowpiercer Season 1, I often marveled at how well this show's cast and its scripts seem to dig into a bottomless pit of talent and layered meaning.
When I spoke with the showrunner, Graeme Manson, as the first season wrapped, he recognized how powerfully the cast's bond and supportiveness translated onto the screen.
Because there are so many stories to tell, there's an unavoidable overlap in the hero's journeys that are taking place.
Layton was thrust into an alien environment at the start of Season 1, only to reshape that environment by the end with the Tailies' hard-won victory. Season 2 opens with Melanie crossing the threshold from the familiar to the strange, surrounded by danger.
She remembers you. I was half hoping she would eat you.Wilford
Melanie has always viewed Wilford as a danger not only to herself but also to all of Snowpiercer as an ark of humanity.
In Season 1, she described his vision of Snowpiercer as a hedonistic and nihilistic end-days joyride.
Her impression was supported by Miss Audrey's statements about the Night Car and how Wilford and Melanie saw it serving two very different purposes.
Everything we see of Wilford and his actions here seems to confirm the reputation that precedes him (unless you ask Ruth, of course).
All the items on the list Alexandra demands of Snowpiercer appear to be gathered for the express purpose of Wilford's comfort. Right down to the cucumber slices he uses on his eye bags.
Wilford's early read is of a man capable of ingenuity and vision but accustomed to privilege and deference.
Wilford: The utter ignorance. The insult to think that they could gain some kind of leverage with a hostage. For you.
Melanie: What can I say? They're new at this.
His sense of entitlement and class superiority is what the Folgers and other First Class passengers would have identified with and understood.
His blatant gloating over his pirate-like takeover of Snowpiercer is almost childlike in its giddiness. Similarly, his rage at being defied.
The interactions between him and Melanie speak to a long history together and a thousand and one cars of emotional baggage too.
Alexandra's paternity has been purposefully left ambiguous, I believe. If she is Wilford's daughter, unbeknownst to the man himself, her birth may have been the trigger that pushed Melanie to steal the train.
In the face of Wilford's smug lording -- and even the shock stick Kevin zaps her with -- Melanie manages a calm composure, which only cracks when Alex makes her entrance.
Melanie: Alex, you're alive.
Alex: [long pause] I am distinctly underwhelmed.
Wilford: Life's big moments are often like that.
I love Alex. She is delightfully teenage-snarky, understandably angry, and yet, incredibly vulnerable. Add to that she's probably as brilliant, if not more brilliant, than her mother.
Most of all, I'm excited to see her juxtaposed with Ms. LJ Folger. Now, there's a couple of teen titanesses who are capable of derailing both trains, inside and out.
The moment that sealed my fan-love of Alexandra Cavill was the look of admiration when Melanie's sticky-charge trap was sprung, fusing the two trains.
Despite claiming to be underwhelmed by her mother's return to her life, Alex can't help but be impressed that her mom outplayed the great Mr. Wilford. Or "Dubs," as she calls him. LOL.
The Freeze has traumatized all its survivors, and Alexandra is doubly damaged by both the guilt of surviving her grandparents and her mother's perceived abandonment.
The train is our world now. We can control this.Alexandra
Not to mention the fact she's been raised and trained for seven years by an angry vengeance-driven "Dubs."
I wonder if Audrey does family counseling.
Speaking of which, Audrey's warnings about Wilford are probably the most worrisome bits of foreshadowing thrown into the chaos.
Mr. Wilford doesn't just want control of this train. He wants control of all of you, body and soul.Miss Audrey
And it's not like she's subtle about it. She's straight-up telling everyone that he's the devil.
I can sort of see how her warnings fall on distracted ears. After all, every time Big Alice brings Snowpiercer to a stop, a very short clock starts, counting down the seconds before they all freeze to death.
And Layton's more distracted than most.
He's trying to juggle the politics within the train, the military strategizing to deal with Wilford and Big Alice, and the personal issues that have come up with Farah, their impending baby, and Ruth's "assistance."
Let me tell you something, Layton. All this personal shit? It ain't making your democracy any easier to believe in.Z-Wreck
There's a beautiful irony in the fact that Layton and the Snowpiercer army attack Big Alice in an attempt to save Melanie when her sticky charge is what ends up saving them.
After you've watched Snowpiercer online, let me know in the comments how you think this unholy union of Snowpiercer and Big Alice is going to look like going forward.
Train experts, tell me how a train with two engine functions.
While you're at it, please explain how Wilford's carriage is at the back end of Big Alice, but Alex's engine controls are adjacent to his dining room.
A few questions to get the conversation started:
Where is LJ living now?
If the sub-train was down, how were runners able to get everything in twelve minutes?
How extremely creepy were the Drs. Headwood? Were they like that before The Freeze, or is this what Dr. Pelton has to look forward to?
And how perfectly fitting was it that Pike was the point of contact for the weed traders?
Who's got money on Breachman Boki and Icy Bob meeting up for a beer sometime soon?
Hit the comments with your questions too! Now is not the time to prepare to brace. It's full-speed ahead!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.