Sean Bean loves causing trouble on trains – James Bond fans will remember GoldenEye’s embittered secret agent 006, whose grudge against his former colleague led to him blowing one up. As the major new addition to Snowpiercer’s second season, which sees a perpetually-moving train circle the globe, Bean is back on tracks as the locomotive’s former master operator Wilford – and he’s up to his old tricks again.
The season opener drops us straight into the chaos of last season’s finale. Wilford – originally thought to be a myth – is very much alive. With his own train latched onto Snowpiercer, an assumed hostile takeover is imminent. The class divides that drove the story have been all but demolished, with Snowpiercer’s inhabitants now unified against this new threat. Outside the train, major developments are kicking off in the earth’s sub-zero conditions.
The first season of Snowpiercer coasted in off the back of Bong Joon-ho mania (the Parasite Oscar-winner directed the feature-length Snowpiercer in 2014 and serves as executive producer on the show). Now that the appetite for engine-powered class warfare has died down, creators Josh Friedman and Graeme Manson have introduced a self-serving and erratic leader. The show continues to present the extremes of human behaviour in cramped, claustrophobic conditions, but this time it has an even more modern relevance. A testosterone-pumped band of villains on the train might as well be wearing MAGA caps.
Navigating us through this batch of troubles is Daveed Diggs as leader Layton. The most compelling of the ensemble cast, the former Hamilton star continues to play it straight while maintaining an enigmatic air of mystery. The other headline performer, Jennifer Connelly, is given more material to play with this season as a revelation about her estranged daughter allows her to become more vulnerable. Around these three key players, supporting characters are well developed. It’s the hammier personalities that stand out though, like Alison Wright’s brisk head of hospitality Ruth.
Elsewhere, the rhythm of the show remains unchanged. Violent conflict features heavily, with heightened sound design and unflinching bursts of gore. Twists and fresh character developments fall on just the right beats.
Snowpiercer season two is running at the same speed, just on a new track. Its consistent unpredictability and absorbing lead performers are just enough to sustain the appeal of the show’s first season. In casting Bean, however, it has scored its biggest win. More than a seasoned villain at this stage in his career, the actor’s effortless, lip-curling depiction of malevolence makes him both chilling and wildly good fun to watch. It’s the slightly camp, invigorating injection that the show needs if it’s going to make it to its third season intact. Thought it’s not Bean’s style to make it through a project without his character meeting a fantastically violent end, here’s hoping that this is one of the rare instances that he gets to make it out alive.
‘Snowpiercer’ season two is streaming on Netflix now