Snowpiercer makes a dark scene from the comic even darker
The evolution of one 'Snowpiercer' character in the comic, movie, and book perfectly illustrates what makes the series great.
TNT's Snowpiercer series isn't a direct adaptation of Bong Joon-ho's movie, and it isn't a copy of the original comic either. The new show, which premiered on Sunday night, takes ideas from both of its source materials while creating something new, and there's nowhere that's more clear than in the story of Old Ivan — a riff on John Hurt's memorable role as Gilliam in the Snowpiercer movie — who gets one of the most powerful scenes in Episode 1, ripped straight from the original graphic novel.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for Snowpiercer Episode 1 (and also Bong Joon-ho's movie, I guess).
In Snowpiercer Episode 1, Mark Margolis (you might remember him as Hector Salamanca from Breaking Bad) plays Old Ivan, an elderly man who asks to celebrate his birthday in Snowpiercer's tail section with an hour of alone time spent listening to classical music on the only remaining smartphone. Then, with everyone's back turned, he unplugs out the device's charging cord and uses it to hang himself in a gruesome reminder of how dark life has become for the train's oppressed underclass.
If you remember the movie, where a similar character named Gilliam helps lead the tail's revolution (and is later revealed to be in cahoots with Snowpiercer's creator, Wilford), this probably came as a surprise, but fans of the comic may have seen the twist coming.
In the first volume of Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, the tail section of the train is a very different place. (For one thing, it's completely cut off from the rest of Snowpiercer.) When a man named Proloff escapes the tail by crawling outside of the train, he reveals that they ran out of food a long time ago and all that remains is survivors feeding on human corpses. Then he shares a story of a "little old man" who asked for a moment alone in the tail and then killed himself.
The way each version of Snowpiercer depicts this old man character reveals a lot about the similarities and differences between the three versions of this story. Both the show and movie are, in the end, stories about revolution, and revolutions need heroes. Ivan and Gilliam both function in that role, even if one kills themselves while another is killed by the enemy.
The comic is even bleaker, imagining a world where even revolution is unimaginable. By drawing inspiration from both of the stories that came before it, Snowpiercer the show presents itself as a more realistic version of the movie.
Bong Joon-ho painted in bright and bold colors, leaving little room for nuance. With eight episodes and one thousand and one train cars (another callback to the original comic), the show has much more room to show the brutal realities of life on Snowpiercer.
Snowpiercer airs Sundays on TNT.