The Snow Girl is a tense, well plotted thriller based on the novel La chica de nieve by Spanish writer Javier Castillo. Though it’s set in Málaga it shares a lot in common with Scandi-noir thrillers and it follows the story of a missing girl and the journalist with her own dark past attempting to solve the case.
There’s a lot going on in its season one finale, including the vaguest of suggestions of a potential season two – here’s a breakdown of what went down.
What happened to Amaya?
Amaya was kidnapped by Iris, one of her mother’s patients at her fertility clinic. Iris and her husband Santiago had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child and when they came across Amaya crying in the middle of the crowd, having been separated from her father, Iris decided to take her and make Amaya her daughter.
Over the years, Iris and Santiago convinced Amaya that she was their daughter, and re-named her Julia. They told her that she could never leave their rural home because there were too many bad men in the world who would hurt her.
By the time Amaya is found, she has forgotten her birth parents and her earlier identity, and only responds to the name “Julia.” Technically, Amaya’s parents finally see her again. But the five year old they once knew is lost forever.
What was with all the jumping about in time?
The story takes place across three different time periods; 2010, when Amaya is kidnapped, 2016, when Santiago gives the police the first video of Amaya to show that she is alive, and 2019, when he sends the second video to Miren.
The 2010 storyline focuses on the immediate impact of the kidnapping on the family, and on the identification and then ruling out of the prime suspect, David Luque. The 2016 storyline focuses on Miren continuing to deal with her own past trauma, making the discovery that her rape (which happened before the 2010 kidnapping) was filmed and confronting one of the men who watched the recording.
The 2019 storyline ramps up the plot and brings the story to a conclusion. The second video says “goodbye” because Santiago couldn’t keep up with the mortgage repayments on their house and he and Iris were about to relocate, so they wouldn’t be leaving any more videos for Amaya’s parents. However, the parents and the police understandably thought this meant they were about to kill Amaya, and stepped up their efforts in the search. It is this second VHS tape eventually leads Miren to where Iris and Amaya are living, thanks to the rarity of VHS players in 2019.
Who killed Luque and Foster?
This one isn’t definitively answered in the show, but all the evidence points to Miren herself.
In the 2016 storyline, Miren finds out that David and his late son Samuel had been providing child pornography videos of their victims for a website called Slide, and that Foster was a user of this website. In exchange for taking photos of her to keep in his caravan, Foster gave Miren a list of usernames connected to the website.
Miren didn’t take action against Luque and Foster straight away because she was hoping she would be able to use this information to find the men who raped her and posted the video on the website. Presumably she also thought she might need more information from them in the future. However, she was following them and taking photos of them herself with a long-distance lens. Miren’s mentor Eduardo found the camera and the photos in Miren’s car, so he took out the memory card and gave it to Miren to destroy.
We aren’t told exactly why Miren decided to kill Luque and Foster in 2019, but it seems likely that either she decided she wasn’t going to get any more information out of them and wanted to kill them to avenge their victims, or she thought they were planning to drug and abuse more girls and women – or both.
Millán, the detective investigating both the disappearance of Amaya and the deaths of Luque and Foster, tells Miren that, “I’ve seen victims become killers many times. Sometimes the line between victim and killer is a very fine one.” She is probably fairly certain that Miren killed Luque and Foster, but considering they were both serial rapists and paedophiles and that the police have no conclusive evidence to connect Miren to the murders, she probably isn’t going to put too much effort into proving it. Miren certainly seems to be free and unworried about it in the series’ coda, set in 2021 (in a world without a Covid-19 pandemic, by the looks of the bustling bookshop she is doing a signing in!).
What was the cliffhanger with the Polaroid about at the end?
That 2021-set coda ends in a cliffhanger. Miren receives an envelope that looks like the ones Santiago left containing videos of Amaya, showing an image of a woman who is tied up and saying, “Want to play?”
This photo obviously wasn’t sent by Luque, Foster, Santiago, or Iris because they are all definitely dead. And yes, for those of you who have watched a lot of TV over the years and are on the lookout for twists, the police found the bodies of all of them. We saw Santiago run in front of a car and we saw the police tell Iris he was dead; although the audience were not shown the bodies of Luque and Foster, Millán confirmed that both bodies were found and identified after the fire (despite the attempt to destroy the evidence of their murders), and we saw Iris’ body after the car accident in the finale.
So this is someone else. There are still some unsolved mysteries brought up over the course of the series that may be connected to this case. As Luque pointed out, there are many, many criminals out there, and we still don’t know who raped Miren, recorded it, and uploaded it to Slide. Since the photo was sent to Miren specifically, there’s a good chance that it was sent by someone connected to Slide (which she was investigating, and on which a video of her had been posted), possibly the people who raped her years earlier.
Javier Castillo has written a sequel to the book the series is based on called El Jeugo del Alma, The Soul’s Game. That book opens with Miren being sent a Polaroid of a girl who is tied up, and the tagline is “¿Quieres jugar?”, “Do you want to play?” So it seems pretty clear that if Netflix greenlights a second series, it will be based on this second book, and we’ll have to wait for the next season to find out the answers to these questions.
Did the TV series stick closely to the book?
The TV series made a few changes to the source novel, but the overall plot is mostly the same.
Most obviously, the series shifted the setting from New York City in 1998/1999, 2003, and 2010 to Málaga in 2010, 2016, and 2019. As a result of this change, the names of all of the characters were also changed, so that they had Spanish names rather than American names – so Kiera Templeton became Amaya Martín, her parents became Ana and Álvar rather than Grace and Aaron, and so on. Kiera is taken from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November in the original, and this was changed to the Spanish Three Kings Parade on 5th January for the television version.
Presumably the reason for these changes was that the series is a Spanish production, and it was therefore much easier and cheaper for them to film in Spain rather than trying to make Spain look like the very recognisable New York City. The updated setting may have been for similar reasons, and it meant the series avoided being set around the 2008 economic crisis that affected Spain particularly badly.
Amaya/Kiera was also slightly aged up from three years old to five, possibly because the older a child actor is, the easier it is to work with them. This is probably why the finale takes place nine years later instead of twelve – so that Amaya/Julia is still only 14/15 in the finale and therefore still clearly a child, not a young woman of 17/18 (her birthday is a couple of months after the date of her abduction). It also places most of the action firmly before the Covid-19 pandemic, with the exception of the coda.
Other minor changes include a change of gender for the detective investigating the case and Iris being a patient of Amaya’s mother. The gender flip increases the roles for women in the story and she is the only female character who is not either the victim or perpetrator of a serious crime, so that was probably a positive choice. The connection between Iris and Ana gives Iris a reason to take Ana’s daughter specifically, and she persuades Amaya to come with her by pointing out that she knows her mother.
The TV series also added some extra material around Miren’s backstory and the child pornography website Slide. This put more emphasis on Miren personally and may link to any prospective second season, if it plays into the plot of the new story.
Why add extra grim stuff?
The clever thing about the increase in the grimmer aspects of the story, like the Slide website, during the first four episodes is that when the answer to the central mystery is revealed at the end of Episode 4 and the beginning of Episode 5, it’s actually not as dark or miserable as you might have feared.
Now obviously, we’re not suggesting that the abduction of a little girl and keeping her prisoner and isolated from the world for nine years is not a terrible thing, and poor little Amaya/Julia is going to need a world of therapy to recover. But if you consider some of the real life abduction cases that might have partially inspired the story and what has happened to many real life girls and women who were kept prisoner for many years, the story here is actually slightly less grim than reality often is.
Iris and Santiago are extremely misguided people – especially Iris, whose idea the kidnapping was – but they both genuinely love Amaya and care for her in a way that they have convinced themselves is loving and positive. Amaya actually seems reasonably happy in several scenes in Episode 5, the episode which shows us what happened to her in the nine years following her abduction. No doubt she won’t be so happy when she realises what her ”parents” did, but she could have been worse off.
The inclusion of so many grim subplots about sexual violence in the previous four episodes cleverly has the audience expecting the absolute worst from the solution to the mystery – it’s a really neat bit of misdirection. It also connects with another change from the book. Rather than telling the young girl that the world is full of electromagnetic waves that will make her sick as in the book, in the TV version Iris tells Amaya that she needs to keep her safe from bad men who would hurt her. The previous four episodes have demonstrated the very real risks in the world outside, and this change connects the kidnapping thematically with the rest of the story.
Why is it called The Snow Girl anyway? Where was the snow?
The change of setting from New York to southern Spain means there is no actual, physical snow involved. Instead, the ”snow” refers to the snow on a videotape – which also partly explains why the story kept the use of VHS tapes despite the updated setting. (The other reason is that the rarity of VHS players and the difficulty of repairing them provides a vital clue at the end).
Snow also, of course, evokes Scandi Noir, a genre that has clearly provided a lot of inspiration for the story and for the TV adaptation. If you enjoyed this series and just can’t wait for season 2, we’d recommend diving into some Scandi-noir stories – The Killing, The Bridge, the Wallander series (Swedish or British version) and the Millennium stories, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version of all three original books available, American film of the first) are all good places to start if you’re unfamiliar with the genre. If you’ve already watched all of those and you want to venture a bit further south, French series Engrenages (Spiral) also includes plenty of grim storylines and gloomy shots of a European tourist destination (Paris). Enjoy!
The Snow Girl is available to stream now on Netflix.