Sean Bean has arrived as Mr Wilford on Snowpiercer (Picture: Netflix)
In season one of the TV adaptation of Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film of the same name, Andre Layton (Hamilton star Daveed Diggs), the leader of the maltreated ‘Tailies’ at the back of the train, successfully enacts a rebellion to overthrow those in charge, namely Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly).
While Melanie has been head of hospitality on the train for seven years, she has also secretly been running all operations, under the guise that Mr Wilford – the man who built the locomotive – is calling the shots.
After it is discovered that Mr Wilford is neither on the train nor alive, Melanie loses all of her authority, resulting in Layton taking over as the new person in charge with a pledge to create a fair democracy on board.
But just as he’s about to set his plan into motion by the season finale, a supply train called Big Alice comes out of nowhere, latching itself onto Snowpiercer and bringing the vehicle to a halt.
Layton and his compatriots are informed by Melanie’s daughter Alexandra Cavill (Rowan Blanchard), who was also believed to be dead, that Mr Wilford is not only alive and well, but that he now holds their fates in his hands. Enter: Lord Ned Stark, Boromir… Sean Bean.
When a sneak peek at Sean, 61, as Mr Wilford was first revealed in July last year, Netflix promised that the character would ‘blow your mind’. As a man who is both highly revered and feared, it is a tall order to bring the character to life. So how did Sean fare in the season two premiere?
The first instalment of the new series boasts a fair amount of bloody action, featuring a grisly character who bears a scarily strong resemblance to the zombified Gregor Clegane in Game of Thrones. But when it comes to Mr Wilford, his arrival is somewhat understated.
The name ‘Mr Wilford’ carries a lot of power. In the first season, it was like he was the wizard behind the curtain, perceived by some – most notably hospitality’s Ruth Wardell (Alison Wright) – as an all-powerful being. So when he is shown to be an obnoxious, rich playboy living a life of splendour, it admittedly does feel a bit anticlimactic.
But this is just the first episode out of 10. Things are only just warming up, and Mr Wilford has seven years of pent-up fury to unleash.
Layton and his fellow Snowpiercer passengers are suspicious of Big Alice’s arrival (Picture: Netflix)
Considering the extent to which Melanie distrusts and despises Mr Wilford – Melanie, who we witnessed freeze Josie (Katie McGuinness) to death in the previous series – something tells us Mr Wilford will demonstrate just how conniving and ruthless he can be.
As one of the standouts of the show, it’s refreshing that we will see a new side of Melanie’s character in the second series, as she is reunited with the daughter she thought she had lost. With the grown-up Alexandra firmly under the thumb of Melanie’s nemesis, she now has more than just power to fight for. And as we all know, Melanie isn’t prone to letting things get in her way when she knows what she wants.
Rowan’s introduction is one of the most exciting aspects of the new series. In just one episode, the former Disney Channel actor delivers a confident, intriguing performance as the younger Cavill, firmly standing her ground in scenes with household names Sean and Jennifer.
Will Melanie forge the mother-daughter bond with Alexandra she yearns for? (Picture: Netflix)
One area where Snowpiercer failed to measure up to the original film was in its ability to consistently convey the gritty nature of the story without it feeling forced. It’s early days yet to see whether this will remain the case in the upcoming episodes. But hopefully, with Layton facing up to Mr Wilford as the new leader of the train, Daveed will have plenty of captivating content to work with.
The fact that the Snowpiercer TV series is based on a film but deviates from its source material gives it a strong advantage with its audience. Whether viewers have seen the film or not, the story could go in any direction. Despite Sean’s reputation for frequently dying in the roles that he plays, for all we know, Mr Wilford could come out on top.
The programme does have a tendency to rely on gruesome action sequences to move the narrative forward, sometimes at the risk of seeming predictable and repetitive. Nonetheless, the strong performances from its leads keep the drama engaging and viewers eager to find out what will happen next.
Starting where we left off, the premiere of Snowpiercer season two isn’t necessarily as riveting as one would hope. However, it lays the groundwork for plenty of exciting storylines to come. With Sean’s ability to command the screen, it will be surprising if his character doesn’t emerge as one of the most entertaining facets of the thriller.
Snowpiercer is available to watch on Netflix.