Warning: Spoilers ahead for Snowpiercer series premiere, “First, the Weather Changed.”
TNT’s new take on Snowpiercer — Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 breakout film — immediately tells you it’s different from its apocalyptic cinematic predecessor. While Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton play the most memorable characters from Bong’s original movie, neither actor appears in Snowpiercer The TV Show, which premiered on May 17. Instead, Daveed Diggs stars as “tailey” protagonist Andre Layton, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly acts as Melanie Cavill, the pragmatic announcer/hospitality manager of Snowpiercer’s titular Wilford train. There’s even a murder investigation to spice things up (TNT loves murder investigations).
All together, these changes from the serial killer-free OG Snowpiercer should be enough to distinguish these two versions of the material. But, series premiere “First, the Weather Changed” saves its biggest surprise for the final second: Melanie Cavill isn’t simply Melanie Cavill. She’s also the series’ train conductor and seemingly therefore the “real” Mr. Wilford, the alleged creator of Snowpiercer.
With one twist, Snowpiercer makes sense of some of its most bizarre plot points — and suggests exactly where the drama is going.
“The Weather Changed” eases us into its Melanie reveal with its final scene. First we see Melanie approach a door marked “Engine” as she holds a box of food. After what we’ve seen over the course of the premiere, it’s easy to assume the super stewardess is bringing a late-night snack to Mr. Wilford after a stressful day of crime solving and working class uprisings. Yet, Melanie gets a little too comfortable to be preparing to chat with her boss. She takes off her shoes and slips into a MIT sweatshirt. The idea of being a woman who worked her way through MIT only to become the relentlessly undervalued steward of some never-seen male “genius'” vision is instantly devastating.
Then Snowpiercer tells us Melanie is living no such life.
Once Melanie is properly cozy, she walks into the control room of the Snowpiercer engine. The man sitting in the conductor seat isn’t surprised to see her — or nearly as elderly as old as Mr. Wilford (Westworld's Ed Harris) in Bong’s original film. “You’re in my chair,” Melanie says. “Sorry, boss,” the man, whose name is Bennett Knox (Iddo Goldberg) according to IMDb, responds, quickly relinquishing the captain's seat. As Ben leaves, he tells Melanie, “You have the train, Mister Wilford.”
This is our confirmation there is no mysterious, rich old man masterminding Snowpiercer, as we saw in the 2013 movie. Instead, this is Melanie’s train, and she likely created the alter-ego of Mr. Wilford to maintain order on her humanity-saving vessel. Viewers are meant to assume misogyny led Melanie to this decision — what’s one lie in the face of protecting the species on the most important train ever built?
All of a sudden, Melanie’s intensity over “Weather” makes sense. She didn’t find her way into the murder investigation now at the center of Snowpiercer to appease her unseen boss. Melanie is embroiled in the grisly crime because solving it is integral to the success of her life’s work. If people believe Snowpiercer is home to killers, the carefully orchestrated harmony she created will shatter in seconds.
The Melanie reveal also explains one of “Weather’s” most confusing conversations: the strawberry lecture. Towards the end of the episode, Melanie explains to Andre, in minute detail, why the strawberries in a Snowpiercer greenhouse aren’t a sign of “abundance,” as he assumes. Melanie goes into “kilocalories” and fungi threats. If Melanie were a basic hospitality manager, her obsessive knowledge about a random fruit would be proof she is taking her job far too seriously in the face of armageddon.
Now that we know Melanie is the person who put together the strawberry rotation, and every single other Snowpiercer detail known to man, her defensive behavior makes sense.
As Snowpiercer season 1 chugs forward towards more death and destruction aboard the train, Melanie will likely become even more protective of her little society. In the 2013 film, Tilda Swinton’s Minister Mason, who is partially the prototype for Melanie, was ready to die for the values of Snowpiercer — and she was merely a woman who benefitted from the abuses of the vessel. Snowpiercer is Melanie’s. Expect to see her ready to sacrifice anyone, or anything, for “Mr. Wilford’s” glory.