It’s been a long and winding post-apocalyptic train ride around the world to get us where we are today. TBS has snatched up the TV adaptation of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and revealed its official release date. It’s now set to come out out in 2020, with two seasons guaranteed. By the time it actually airs, the show will have been in talks for five years. In that time, Snowpiercer has seen it all: pilot reshoots, a new showrunner, public squabbling, and a lingering question of whether it’s actually worth it.
WarnerMedia announced at Upfront that Snowpiercer will move from TNT to TBS, and that the show has already been renewed for a second season. It stars Jennifer Connelly (Alita: Battle Angel) and Daveed Diggs (Hamilton), alongside Alison Wright, Steven Ogg, Susan Park, Iddo Goldberg, Katie McGuinness, Sam Otto, Roberto Urbina, and others (according to Deadline, Rowan Blanchard will become a series regular in season two). WarnerMedia reportedly showed a trailer during the event, but it hasn’t been made public yet.
#WarnerMediaUpfront showed off a trailer for Snowpiercer, which looks gorgeous but I still have no idea how they're going to extend it to a series.
— Alex Zalben (@azalben) May 15, 2019
The series is designed to be a soft reboot of the original 2013 film, which starred Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton. It takes place seven years after a climate catastrophe forced the remnants of humanity to live inside a massive train that constantly circles the globe. It’s as much a science fiction epic as it is an exploration of class warfare, as the train’s citizens are segregated based on economic status.
The original film was a surprising success, and rumours of a TV show adaptation have been going on since at least 2015.
Things finally started coming together in November 2016, when TNT ordered a pilot for the potential series. It would be helmed by Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), with Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) directing the pilot. However, the train ended up getting blindsided by an avalanche. In February 2018, it was unexpectedly announced that Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson would be taking over as showrunner, with TNT citing creative differences with Friedman.
However, Friedman claims he was pushed out, for refusing to be “compliant” and sacrifice his vision for the network’s demands.
Hold up: It keeps going. Just a few months later, Derrickson announced that he would not return for what he claimed were “extreme reshoots” for the pilot. James Hawes (Black Mirror) ended up replacing him. In a statement on Twitter, Derrickson denounced Manson’s extensive changes. He called Friedman’s original script the best he’s ever read, and said “the feature-length pilot I made from that script may be my best work.”
The 72-page Snowpiercer TV pilot script by @Josh_Friedman is the best I’ve ever read. The feature-length pilot I made from that script may be my best work.
The new show runner has a radically different vision for the show. I am forgoing my option to direct the extreme reshoots.
— N O S ⋊ Ɔ I ᴚ ᴚ Ǝ ᗡ ⊥ ⊥ O Ɔ S (@scottderrickson) June 29, 2018
Ogg, who was added to the cast last August, had previously said Snowpiercer would debut in June 2019, which has since been revised to spring 2020.
In the meantime, a graphic novel prequel to the original comics and film is set to come out in September, though it doesn’t look to be connected to the show.
I struggle to think what’s going to happen between now and 2020, given how long and troubled this production process has been — all for a series based on a film that was surprising and powerful at the time, but, after several intervening years filled with post-apocalyptic dramas, no longer feels quite so novel. At this point, it’s hard to say what the final product of Snowpiercer is going to look like, whether it can work as a series, and whether the public will care anymore.