A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Snowpiercer is a sci-fi action series about the challenges of a group of people living on a futuristic high-speed train. Following the same premise as Bong Joon-ho's 2013 film but with new characters, the show focuses on the disparity between the privileged class living large at the train's front and those struggling for life in the back. Expect frequent violence: One of the major storylines involves a group of people who attempt to violently overthrow the train's hierarchy. Violent acts range from someone getting beat up to a riot with guns and knives. Deaths are shown, and there's lots of blood. Profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," and "damn," and characters drink and use (fictional) recreational drugs. Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs co-star.
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What's the story?
In SNOWPIERCER, the earth has been covered in frozen tundra, and humanity's few survivors live inside the Great Ark, a high-tech train that circles the globe. The wealthy live at the front of the train; the poor at the back. Civil unrest is a fact of everyday life, but the corporation that runs the train has so far managed to keep the third class citizens under control in the tail cars, even as they continue to plot revolution. When a grisly murder with political implications takes place, the train's director of hospitality, Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), recruits Layton Well (Daveed Diggs), a former homicide detective who is now one of the "tailies," to solve it -- though the investigation and its results threaten to rip the Great Ark's society apart.
Is it any good?
It's hard to imagine how this series would be judged if it didn't come on the heels of its beloved, singular movie predecessor. Much like his 2019 Best Picture winner Parasite, Bong Joon-ho's 2013 film Snowpiercer is a fairly straightforward allegory about class warfare. It succeeds on the back of its elegant structure: Revolutionaries make their way from the back of the train to the front, fighting compartment by compartment through the lower classes in order to overthrow the rich. The premise is so simple, but it's easy to see how a TV adaptation could expand upon it beautifully. The longer run time could mean more character development, richer backstory, or even an episode dedicated to each section of the train.
Unfortunately, this series chooses a different track, needlessly complicating the setup by making the central character (the woefully miscast Daveed Diggs) into a homicide detective in search of a serial killer in an attempt to steer the wild plot more toward a standard mystery. It's the type of focus-tested plot you'd see parodied on Bojack Horseman or 30 Rock (they actually use the phrase "train detective!"). Things only get more chaotic and muddled from there, and without the benefit of compelling characters, great dialogue, or a richly developed setting, Snowpiercer the show turns a fascinating premise into a bit of a muddle.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about shows set in the future. How does science fiction explore issues that humans deal with in the present? What does this show try to say about climate change? Class struggles? Do you think a train like the one in Snowpiercer could be a reality someday?
What's life like for the people on the Great Ark train? How is society divided? How do different classes interact with one another? How do they treat each other? Who is in charge? Are there ways in which the society in Snowpiercer reminds you of everyday life? How?
Trains are often the setting for mystery stories. Why do you think this is? How does the setting of a show or movie affect what happens in it?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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