If the basis for TNT's new sci-fi drama Snowpiercer seems a little absurd, well, that's kind of the point.
In the not-too-distant future, an apocalyptic climate event has caused a new ice age and forced humanity's 3,000 survivors aboard a 10-mile-long train that must circle the globe, never stopping. The wealthy enjoy lives of luxury at the front of Snowpiercer's 1,001 cars; stowaways barely subsist in squalor and deprivation at the rear.
Think of it as The Hunger Games meets The Little Engine That Could. "If you take a premise like that and fill it with real character drama," says executive producer Graeme Mason, "that, to me, makes great sci-fi."
The show — based on a series of graphic novels and a 2014 film adaptation starring Chris Evans and directed by Parasite's Bong Joon Ho — opens nearly seven years into the train's endless journey, with conflict simmering between the haves and the have-nots. As the "Tailies" talk insurrection, one of them makes it out: A murder has prompted ruthless head of hospitality Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) to send for Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs, below, with Sheila Vand), the last surviving homicide cop.
Layton, says Mason, is "a revolutionary at heart. So what may begin as a detective story really turns into a one of resistance and revolution." In other words, if the crime itself doesn't upend the Snowpiercer's delicate balance, what Layton witnesses of the privilege beyond the tail (like sushi, saunas, and strawberries) just might.
Those ticketed passengers uptrain do get their day in the sun, both literally and figuratively. While the film focused on the Tailies, we'll meet the Folgers, a powerful First Class family, and get to know more about Melanie herself. Mason calls the sleek-suited and steely character "a woman with a lot of secrets. While she may be cast as the series' great villain, at the same time you're understanding her deeper motivations."
In the end, though, Snowpiercer is a ride. Expect a healthy dose of dark humor and plenty of action. Even Mother Nature has a few tricks up her sleeve. As Melanie warns, "It's a good day to stay seated and ready to brace."
Snowpiercer, Series Premiere, Sunday, May 17, 9/8c, TNT