The Snowpiercer has completed its journey. It’s the end of the line…
Lukewarm train jokes aside, it’s a bittersweet experience reading Snowpiercer Volume 3: Terminus as it signals the end of the series and the main mythology of this well-crafted world. Crafted several years after the second volume, Terminus attempts to bring a conclusion to the stories of the remaining heroes, picking up immediately following its preceding volume and throwing said heroes out of a frying pan and into a much scarier fire.
This concluding chapter in the Snowpiercer story proper, this time helmed by Olivier Bocquet and Jean-Marc Rochette, trades in the former two volumes’ noir claustrophobia for a different flavour of horror, allowing for ratcheting, increasing levels of horror that bleed into dystopian nightmare and body horror alike. By expanding the literal world, Terminus shows us its wider ramifications, including what happens when science runs amok and unchecked.
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The final volume kicks off with the ending of the prior volume in which a team of explorers, survivors of the cataclysm and passengers on the Icebreaker, have found the mysterious signal which plays on a loop over a desolate wasteland (we see the influence on Lost and we appreciate it). Soon after the group reunites with a struggle for leadership that leads to a series of stunning decisions, namely the election of a new leader in lieu of the heroic Pulg, and the capture of the Icebreaker group by a militaristic faction of survivors who take them to a mysterious settlement.
Taking the characters – including Pulg and his lover Val, who plays a more active, prominent role here – into a brand new setting could spell doom for this final instalment, but fortunately Terminus avoids these traps by exploring a new, terrifying aspect of the post-apocalyptic world and filling in key mythology about the Snowpiercer and the Icebreaker and the mission to save the human race. The latter comes back as a haunting mission statement, as Pulg, Val, and co. peel back the truth behind their new compound home and the leaders therein. It’s a thrilling development, a third-act shift of tone that doesn’t derail the story but instead gives a new impetus and energy to the saga.
Visually the third volume is exemplary, bringing in a variety of colour like never before, and allowing the introduction of the new environment and situations to invoke new hues. A transition between the volume’s climax and its epilogue is a swathe of crimson blood that proves startling enough for several full pages, while full shades of cerulean and stone pop bring forth the natural world, and sinister red overlays are used to haunting effect when a revelation about the settlement’s true nature is unveiled. The wider world of Snowpiercer is fleshed out here in more neat character details – the glowing cybernetic eye of a settlement leader, the angular, Dune-esque shapes of the mice’s helmets, the way that sticks on strings are used as a language.
Ultimately, the final volume provides an emotionally-satisfying conclusion to the main Snowpiercer trilogy, bringing together the themes of class, science, faith, and power that have shaped this world, and letting them play out to devastating effect. The final moments of the novel series are bittersweet and beautiful, providing a haunting and yet hopeful moment of catharsis that echoes, in some small way, the last beats of the hugely successful film. Thanks for the ride, Snowpiercer.