In Snowpiercer episode 4, Sean’s murder is solved, Josie visits 3rd Class, Andre visits 1st Class and Melanie pulls out her bottle of poisoned sake. Andre and the writers go with the “Lolita made me do it” murder defense to explain why a trained soldier killed several people.
This is a disappointing development for Snowpiercer. No matter what layers and nuances the show might add to the scenario later, a young woman has been publicly blamed for provoking the crimes of her abuser. This is an abuse tactic in and of itself.
Jinju provides tonight’s opening monologue. As she speaks, she prepares a meal of sushi for herself and Bess, starting with gutting the fish and ending with the two lovers toasting each other over beautifully presented food.
Meanwhile, Erik finishes slaughtering Nikki and lovingly examines his handiwork. Presentation also matters to him. He takes care of his appearance, and Sean’s corpse was certainly presented in a very specific way. Nikki’s is as well.
Poor Nikki Genet. The actress spent all that time in the makeup chair and her character’s life was snuffed out before she could share her secrets. Snowpiercer is a big ole fridge.
The dead, bloody fish are juxtaposed with the dead, bloody woman (after Bess was juxtaposed with the cow in another episode) and then the two women eating the fish. Meat eating is equated with cannibalism and women again. This time violence against animals and violence against women are overtly linked. Hello, Vegetarian Ecofeminism.
Jinju”s voiceover: “Adapt. That’s what humans do, isn’t it? Our great leg up. We roll. We hack. Knuckle down and change. Even Snowpiercer is an adaptation. That was classic Wilford. While the world froze and the other mega-rich tried to hole up in bunkers or upload their consciousness, Mr Wilford dusted off his train set. Snowpiercer is his system. Systems resist change, even without their maker. I’m just a scientist. I’m here to save the world. Not change it. I know our chances at surviving are slim at best. All I can do about that is provide small moments of happiness on Snowpiercer, 1,001 cars long.”
I forgot to mention the knives. So many bloody knives on this train. Jinju’s knives and Erik’s knives and the butcher’s knives. Two of those three are definitely murderers. I think Jinju is indirectly a murderer by creating and cooking the suspension drug and the kronole. I suspect that one of the ways she’s found to spread a little happiness is by making and selling kronole.
We return from the opening credits to nighttime in Melanie’s cabin, where she’s working at her desk. Ben knocks and enters. He tells her she’s working too hard and he needs her to take better care of herself. The train depends on her too much for her to overwork herself into illness. Melanie appreciates his concern. He also wants her to ask for help more often.
He means he wants her to learn to delegate more responsibilities, but she asks him to peel her tangerine instead. Control freaks never change. As they share the orange, he asks if she’s found a workaround for the lost cow methane. She has. She’s going to replace it with goat farts (goat methane). They joke that her MIT degree is really paying off. So is her degree from Yale Engineering School.
Later we’ll discover they’re wasting human methane down on 3rd Class.
Melanie has a map of the world on her wall and has written notes on her wall, all around the map, but I can’t make them legible. The map is some kind of polar projection perspective, maybe of Russian origin. The opening credits show Snowpiercer’s track following the outline of the continents (screencaps of opening credits in commentary section). This map makes it easier to see how the continents could be connected by tracks at their closest points.
Roche wakes Andre up to deal with Nikki’s murder. Melanie gets the call telling her that Nikki is dead.
Jinju and Bess linger in bed after spending the night together. Jinju wants Bess to walk her to work, but Bess feels weird about it, because there’s a stigma among Thirdies about dating uptrain. Bess thinks that Jinju doesn’t understand, because 2nd Class can swing in either direction, socializing with 1st or 3rd Class, while the other two classes are segregated among their own kind.
Jinju says they need to put aside old differences, like being from Detroit and San Francisco, and new ones, and start over in what’s left of the world. Then she gets the call from Melanie telling her that Nikki is dead. She answers using her official title, Agricultural Officer.
Melanie finds Klimpt sobbing on floor. After a few words of sympathy, she charges him with redeeming himself by discreetly moving Nikki’s body, then helping with the autopsy in order to obtain essential postmortem data.
She says, “Do you understand what I’m asking you? Will you do that for me, Henry?”
That sounds like she’s asking him for more than observations about how Nikki was murdered. She wouldn’t sound so secretive about forensic data for the case. Does this have to do with “the other work” she mentioned to Jinju?
Andre heard their conversation, but doesn’t say anything about it. Instead, he asks Melanie why she didn’t make an arrest last night, when he gave her the killer’s description. Melanie says she was waiting until morning.
Bess realizes that the borders between classes have been closed all night, since the fight. Andre says that the killer is from 1st. He must have left the fight early to follow Bess and Nikki back to the Drawers, then gotten stuck downtrain overnight when the borders closed. He wouldn’t have had time to get uptrain. Melanie agrees that he must still be in 3rd.
Erik has been in the 3rd Class dining car for hours. When the restaurant switches to breakfast, he moves on, leaving a couple of 1st Class drink tokens behind.
Grey, Ruth, Roche and Till take over the Night Car to develop their strategy for searching for Erik. Roche is either equal to or in charge of Grey. Right now, he’s giving orders to the jackboot commander. Grey and Ruth try to get Andre sent out of the room when Melanie brings him in, so that he doesn’t pick up more details about the train.
Andre argues that he should be involved since he’s the one who obtained the killer’s description. Grey doesn’t want him going to 1st Class either. Andre and Melanie agree to question 1st Class together once the others are busy with the search for Erik.
Andre: “You have to clear that with Mr Wilford, or is that your call?”
Melanie lets Grey know that she decides whether Andre is allowed in 1st Class, not him, and tells Ruth to wake up everyone from 1st who was at the fight. Ruth doesn’t like the idea of upsetting the Firsties. Andre can’t believe she’s more worried about the comfort of the Firsties than finding the serial killer.
Grey will start at the Tail end of the train and Roche will start at the front of 3rd. They’ll do a thorough search and sweep, meeting in the middle at Ag Sec. The subtrain is still closed to all non essential personnel, but Grey will send an extra unit down anyway.
Roche sends Till and Oz to start the search. She’s shocked that Oz hasn’t been suspended for dealing kronole, but Roche maintains that they need everyone for this operation, so she and Oz will have to work out their differences on their own. (Her real problem might be that he ran from the Tailie rebellion, leaving her to be held hostage.)
Miss Audrey, dressed in widow’s weeds, makes her entrance down the grand staircase. She shoots Andre a look and he follows her into a private room to speak alone. But alone is never alone on the train, so this is still a coded conversation.
They speak in a padded room. Y’all know padded rooms are normally reserved for the severely mentally ill, right? Maybe some people need the private room experience more than others. Maybe on a super emergency, wearing a straight jacket so they don’t hurt themselves, type of basis.
Once they get in the room, Daveed Diggs and Lena Hall have so much chemistry together it’s ricocheting off the padded walls. It makes me wonder if the characters knew each other before the train. The way the scene is staged and shot is classic film noir, which generally means things are being hidden from the audience and probably from at least one of the characters, though I tend to think these two are co-conspirators hiding their plot from everyone out in the club.
The two circle and pace around each other as they speak, testing whether they can trust each other and whether one or the other is going to attempt to assert dominance, since this is the first time the two leaders have been alone. They’re on Audrey’s territory, but Andre is a man, physically larger and currently has Melanie’s ear. He could be a spy and he could assert physical or sexual dominance. He does neither and shows Audrey respect instead by showing her he values her opinions.
Remember this moment later for his conversation with LJ. He works to earn Miss Audrey’s trust and respect.
By the end, they’ve found at least a temporary sense of balance and trust, so they stand face to face and speak intimately. She gives him a bit of information about Melanie- that she never visits the private rooms. That means Melanie’s needs for intimacy are being met elsewhere, revealing a potential source of information, blackmail and a hostage if it comes down to it. Audrey also tells him that she’s sure there aren’t any leaks among her people. She agrees that Nikki’s death has the Thirdies riled up, but tells him he still needs to move cautiously toward engaging them in a full on revolution.
When Melanie enters, Audrey snaps at her to distract her from wondering what they were talking about. It’s a gutsy move toward the boss who allocates supplies and assigns people to jobs. Maybe Audrey has more on Melanie than she admitted to Andre. Or maybe the Night Car and Audrey are just that essential to the continued functioning of the train.
Andre: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Miss Audrey: “If the killer’s from First, they’ll only let you get so far, and there won’t be any justice for Nikki.”
Andre: “How’s Third gonna take that? Both victims are theirs.”
Miss Audrey: “That remains to be seen, Detective.”
Andre: “Now that I’ve got a sense of what you do here, I thought you might have a take on it. You know people, high and low. You know their secrets.”
Miss Audrey: “Strict confidentiality. It’s assured in the Night Car.”
Andre: “I appreciate that. Melanie Cavill ever have a session?”
Miss Audrey: “That would be confidential- if the answer wasn’t no- she’s never shown herself like that.”
Andre: “Maybe now she’ll have to. Think Nikki’s death could be a catalyst?”
Miss Audrey: “Catalyst for what?”
Andre: “From what I hear, a lot of workers are pretty fed up.”
Miss Audrey: “You need to step carefully Detective, but, many of us do want change.”
Melanie knocks on the door and enters: “We’re waking First. Audrey, I promise I’ll do everything I can…”
Miss Audrey interrupts her: “Cut the BS, Melanie. You have my support, Detective.”
Miss Audrey leaves the room.
Melanie: “I’m holding the subtrain.”
Andre: “Not a lot of downtrain faith that the powers that be actually want to solve this thing, now that the suspect’s from first.”
Melanie- “I want it solved. And it doesn’t matter which class the suspect is from. Let’s go.”
He tipped Melanie off that he knows she’s Wilford, so she isn’t even bothering to hide that she’s in charge anymore. It must be a scary relief to be honest for once. She says she’ll make sure the murder is solved, but that doesn’t mean she’ll make sure anyone other than Erik, who’s not really a Firstie, is taken down. Or that she’ll delve into the reason why Sean was killed, if she can simply say that Erik was a serial killer who chose random victims.
The Tailies examine the blue chip and discuss what to do with it first and how far forward it will get them. They decide to have one of the sanitation crew use it to leave their breakroom during lunch. One of the Tailies who made the apprenticeship program early on, Astrid, now works making their nutritional bars. If they can make contact with her, they can set up a communication system and contact Andre.
Since Big John is becoming too sick to work, it’s decided that Josie will take his place and use the chip. She’ll blend in more easily than one of the more familiar guys on the crew. Lights wraps Josie’s arm with a cloth bandage, hiding the chip inside.
When the jackboots call for the sanitation crew, Josie joins them. They give her the eye, probably looking forward to the show when they make the crew strip naked and hose them down with cold water. They do this before the sanitation work, possibly trying to stop the Tailies from bringing parasites forward into 3rd, but maybe just as a humiliation tactic.
Melanie walks Andre through a corridor lined with some of the most valuable paintings in the world. Andre is openly disgusted by the greed and hoarding this corridor shows. It’s clear that the lower classes aren’t visiting the museum.
Melanie: “Layton, I was born on a dirt farm in Eastern Pennsylvania. I came from nothing. I know a thing or two about class. That anger that you feel, when you look at all of this? It’s justified. Let’s use it. Whoever the killer is, First is going to protect their own, so you be their worst nightmare from the Tail. I’ll do the rest.”
He takes one more look around, then follows her into the First Class dining car.
At first I thought Melanie might have made up her rags to riches story, but watching how fiercely she says the lines, I think she was serious. She hates the Firsties as much as most of the rest of the train does, but they are part of the order of the train and thus a necessary evil. It would be too disruptive to force them to change, so she tries to keep them under control. I don’t think she was as upset by the loss of the cows as Jinju, since she replaced their functions quickly and the train can be repaired.
But that story was unprecedented honesty about herself from Melanie. It feels like a spider weaving a web to trap an unsuspecting fly. Miss Audrey was right about being cautious. There is an unprecedented level of theatre going on for the rest of the episode, amongst Melanie, Andre, LJ, her parents and the side players. Each has their secrets and goals and is steering the conversation accordingly.
There aren’t many people in the dining car, but a breakfast buffet has been laid out. Andre stalks in, announcing that he doesn’t care who any of them are, but he knows one of them has a thing for chopping off 1st Class male appendages. LJ springs to attention the moment he enters. Now she laughs out loud. She’s been waiting for someone to become her parents’ worst nightmare for the last 7 years.
Andre eats from a serving utensil and speaks with his mouth full. He complains to Ruth that some of the fight spectators are missing. York complains that getting them out of bed for this is uncalled for. “No one from 1st Class has ever been charged with a crime.”
York doesn’t see the irony in his statement.
Andre tells York that he should thank Melanie for his luck so far, but Mr Wilford is taking a different approach this time. Melanie confirms it when Andre points to her.
He asks where the bodyguards are. No one answers.
He asks Ruth how many arms she’s taken in the Tail. When she doesn’t answer, he tells her- 14. That would 13 in the Year 3 Rebellion and Suzanne’s in episode 2. He asks her again, this time in a more serious tone of voice, “Where are the bodyguards?”
Hospitality Deputy Ruth, while wearing her uniform, says in all seriousness, “I didn’t invite the help.”
LJ: “Erik didn’t come home last night.”
Melanie: “He didn’t?”
Robert (Lilah may be the Queen of 1st Class, but Robert is still the King, where the buck stops and the hammer falls.): “No. He asked to leave the fight early and when we came back, he wasn’t here.”
Sharma: “You knew he was missing and didn’t tell us?”
Melanie: “Tell Roche Erik’s a suspect.”
LJ: “He has his gun, too.”
Robert and Lilah: “LJ!”
LJ: “What? I saw he had it with him last night.”
Andre: “He has his gun? There are no guns allowed on the Snowpiercer.”
Sharma: “Our security was allowed to keep their sidearm.”
Andre: “The rest of us were disarmed to keep you safe. I’m going to need to see Erik’s quarters.”
I’m not clear how much of what Andre, LJ and Erik do for the rest of the episode is preplanned and I don’t know if Andre really didn’t know about the guns or not, but he uses this as a turning point. Erik’s been wearing his gun in a thigh holster and visiting 3rd Class all season, so bodyguards with guns should be common knowledge on the train, all the way back to the Tail.
This is my interpretation of what we’re shown.
Lilah refuses to allow Andre into their car. He certainly won’t be searching through their things. She demands to speak to Mr Wilford, on behalf of everyone in First Class. LJ is extremely amused by her parents discomfort.
Melanie looks uncomfortable, but she goes to the phone and pretends to call Mr Wilford. Ben answers and realizes that they’re pretending he’s Mr Wilford again, so he plays along. Melanie explains the situation to Ben/Wilford. Lilah stands her ground until Melanie holds out the phone to her, then she backs down and agrees to let Andre into the Folgers’ car, as long as Melanie is present.
Melanie tells Ben that his services aren’t needed after all. He says, “I miss you, Mel.” She says, “Thank you for that.”
Erik walks through the Chains, throwing off observers, until he finds the storage space he uses as his hiding place when he needs a break from the Folgers. He goes inside and puts his gun on a crate that also has candles on it.
The sanitation crew, which today includes Josie, Santiago and Last Australian, is brought into their horrifically toxic break room for lunch. It’s so filled with methane from the human waste they work with that the jackboot who escorts them wears a gas mask. It’s awful for them, too, but they’ve grown grown used to living in unlivable conditions, so they push through it. The crew has hidden anything they could scrunge in the cracks and crevices of the room. They pull out pajamas for Josie to change into from her sanitation uniform. It’s the middle of the night, so they figure the pajamas won’t be so noticable. The chip works, so she’s off to find the 3rd Class dining car and Astrid.
In the Folgers’ car, Andre tosses Erik’s sleeping area, rifling through the pages of every book and dumping out every container, then dropping them on the floor, like every TV cop ever. Though he’s quiet and polite as he works, Lilah and Robert are still put out. LJ offers him a beverage. He declines.
Andre notices a framed photo of Erik when he was a Marine. He asks what else they can tell him about their bodyguard. Robert says all they know about him is that they hired him to keep them safe and he did. LJ adds that he saved her life, but Lilah tells her, “It’s not pertinent.”
Wow, he lived with them for 7 years and the adults are going to play it like he was someone they barely knew and had no feelings about. Cold.
Andre finds a flat, squared off tool with a sharp edge. LJ says that it’s a J-hook, used for beekeeping. Erik found it and showed it it to her. She has a defiant look now. Ruth realizes that it’s from Snowpiercer’s old hives. Melanie explains that they used to keep bees until they died from colony collapse 3 years ago. Then the beekeeping supplies were packed up and put into storage. Andre asks them to send Till to find the crate the J-hook came from. While Melanie calls Till, Ruth takes Lilah and Robert into the living room to discuss their strategy for making sure this doesn’t affect the family’s reputation.
Josie sits down with Astrid as she’s eating a bowl of porridge in the dining car. Astrid is thrilled to see her. Astrid is in Food Processing, where she cuts and loads the bars, but she doesn’t have access to ingredients. She tells Josie that Andre is working as a detective, trying to solve a murder.
Josie explains that they want Astrid to make contact with him. She knows that Astrid could get sent back to the Tail for helping them, but they need her. Josie gets distracted by seeing the sun and the mountains outside. Astrid calls her back. They agree that they are OneTail. Astrid gives Josie her bowl of porridge.
Andre finds a stash of Erik’s photos and notices that he doesn’t come from a privileged past. LJ says he had a tough childhood. Andre asks LJ if she thinks Erik is capable of these murders. She replies, “Maybe. He sure wasted those rioters who tried to grab me on the way to Snowpiercer.”
Andre: “Is that when he saved your life?”
LJ: “He joked about being cold-blooded. Born for The Freeze.”
In the other room, Robert and Lilah assure each other that Erik’s actions don’t need to reflect badly on them. And Erik’s actions certainly weren’t their fault. But Lilah is concerned about the resulting track talk.
Robert: “Over the years, we learned that as a private soldier, Erik did things. That’s what he’s for. Not psychotic murder.”
Lilah: “It can’t come off like we have sheltered a monster.”
It seems clear who the monsters are. But we’re just getting started. It’s not enough to dehumanize the man they lived with for 7 years into a killing machine meant for their personal use. They intend to throw their daughter under the bus, too.
Meanwhile, Andre asks LJ if Erik ever got aggressive or weird with her.
He must have had some amazing sensitivity training back at the police station that led to him using that kind of specific language with a young woman whose best friend and bodyguard has turned out to be a serial killer. With Melanie the judgy ice queen sitting next to him.
Where’s the guy who was so effective with the Tailies after their rebellion? Who’s gotten so much information out of witness interviews, without the witnesses even knowing he was interviewing them? He takes the opposite approach with LJ, poking at her wounds so she’ll shut down and reveal as little as possible rather than making her comfortable so she’ll talk.
In addition to the other complexities of this situation, he doesn’t want her to reveal anything to Melanie that would compromise the revolution. I believe Erik was working for all of the sides on the Train: He was Melanie’s spy and hitman, the Folgers’ bodyguard and drug runner and an occasional rebel Tailie agent as well. Since LJ was with him so much, she knows much more than she even realizes she knows. And she clearly knows a lot.
LJ glances over at Melanie, then moves to the other side of the room and asks if they really don’t have windows in the Tail. Two can play the embarrassment game, Detective. She opens a shade, letting the light pour in, watching for his reaction, in the same the way he and Melanie are staring at her, watching for her every reaction. In the same way she’s been stared at as a Firstie every time she’s gone downtrain for the last 7 years.
But maybe it’s also an invitation to let some light in on her family’s life and on the activities of First Class.
Before she opens the shade, Andre tells her that most of the people in the Tail haven’t seen the sun in 7 years and asks how that makes her feel. She says that they didn’t have tickets.
Touché. It’s unfair to put the weight of the political system of the train on a child, especially one he doesn’t know. That political debate has nothing to do with what’s happening to her family right now. It’s his issue, which he’s forcing into this moment because he’s not really investigating a murder. He’s prosecuting a war.
And Melanie is standing right there.
Andre has no idea who LJ is inside and he’s not giving her any reason to show him. If anything, he’s encouraging her to hide behind the walls Erik built around her. Andre doesn’t care about LJ at all, and she can see that. He only cares about what she can do for him. He’s another man who’s interested in using the Firstie princess, like everyone else on the train.
LJ didn’t choose to get on the train or to be a 1st Class passenger. She was forced into her situation and is now trying to cope with her own lack of power or options for the future. She’s just lost the only friend she had who’s showed her loyalty and who wasn’t ancient by her standards or separated from her by class. Everyone else is much older or younger or in the lower classes, and they won’t accept her, as Bess told us earlier.
Where does that leave LJ? Erik was her abuser, but he was all LJ had, in many ways. Her parents are terrible and she probably hates them. Her life is a dead end. Like everyone on Snowpiercer, she has very good reasons to be depressed and even suicidal.
Melanie reminds LJ that Andre asked about her relationship with Erik.
Andre: “Did he tell you things or ask you to keep secrets?”
Andre is asking LJ this to determine whether she knows details about the murders, but these are also standard behaviors for abusers, especially pedophiles. A yes answer would almost certainly mean that Erik was having an inappropriate relationship with LJ, and that he pushed her to keep it to herself.
Andre is toying with LJ’s emotions, trying to box her into a particular corner.
LJ goes wide-eyed, then shifty-eyed, then glances at Melanie and moves to sit down. She doesn’t look straight at either of them the whole time. Finally, she refuses to talk about it. It’s clear the answer is yes, he asked her to keep secrets.
Andre uses a nod of his head to ask Melanie to leave the room. She joins Ruth and the Folgers, asking about LJ’s relationship with Erik. She picked up on their abusive sexual relationship.
But she left LJ alone in the room to be questioned by a strange man anyway. This is a terrible scenario for getting the information they want from LJ. Now she’ll be triggered rather than feeling more comfortable speaking about her abusive, traumatic memories. Normally, you’d want to bring in a young, warm female officer like Till, who LJ could relate to more easily, to do the questioning, not a large man who’s purposely been using threatening techniques.
I believe Andre wanted LJ to be triggered, so that she’d be disoriented enough to go along with his plans for her without thinking them through.
Astrid leaves Josie in a corridor near the breakroom. After they hug goodbye, Josie turns around and sees Miles, now renamed Christopher, walking past another mysterious server farm with a strange woman. He’s telling the woman that his mother would understand. They disappear into a room and don’t notice Josie.
Santiago is panicking in the breakroom, since Josie’s time is almost up. She slips back in with seconds to spare. Her friends help her with a quick clothing change. When the jackboots return to send them back to work, they don’t notice anything amiss.
Bess and Oz are sent to the Chains to search for Erik in the beehive storage closet. He’s still there when they find the closet, but he escapes through the ceiling and leads them on a chase throughout the car.
LJ tells Andre that Erik, who is mixed race, hated his white dad, but he brought some of his father’s old records on the train. While she’s putting one on the player, a cat jumps on the couch and startles Andre. He hasn’t seen one in 7 years. LJ explains that Erik saved Snowpeter’s life, too.
Smuggling the cat on board shows that Erik doesn’t torture animals, one sign of someone who is a psychotic, unfeeling killer. It also shows that he cares about more than just the upper classes, unlike most of the Firsties. Since the cat was smuggled on by one of the lower classes to save his life, rather than brought on as a Firstie’s pampered pet, he’s symbolic of the ticketless passengers and shows LJ’s true feelings about them as well.
Andre might still take Snowpeter’s presence as a symbol of 1st Class excess, if he’s never had a mouse problem. We know there are rats on the train and if anything survives the Freeze, it’ll be the mice, rats and cockroaches. Cats are essential.
But since LJ and the cat are both blue-eyed, and Andre brings up their eye color, he’s equating them together. They were both saved by Erik and continued under his “protection”, while Andre and Miles had to fight their way onto the train, then fight to stay alive. Miles’ mother was mercilessly thrown from the train and left to die.
She plays Bobby Vinton’s Sealed with a Kiss and slow dances as she sings along: “Though we’ve gotta say goodbye for the summer, baby, I’ll promise you this, I’ll send you all my love in letter, sealed with a kiss.”
For the rest of the scene, LJ acts in a sexualized manner, something we haven’t seen from her before, in actions or dress. She thinks Andre wanted to be alone in the room with her in order to perform sex acts, like he did with Zarah in the Night Car, and Erik and did with her. (The train is a small town with a large rumor mill.)
So, she puts on Erik’s sex music and dances for Andre like she did for Erik. Erik may even have been prostituting her out, with or without her father’s blessing, on their trips to the tail. The “Blue-Eyed Firstie Girl” would draw a good price.
LJ brings up the Tailie cannibalism story. She thinks it’s a good story, because it makes everyone scared of Andre. She’d eat someone to make everyone scared of her, the way they are with the Tailies.
She totally called him on that story. That’s exactly why he told it to Till and Pelton during Sean’s autopsy. Till has been busy creating the Legend of the Tailie Detective, just as Andre planned.
Andre thinks about what she said for a minute. She’s given him an opening he can use to to exploit her for his own purposes. He makes his decision.
“I know this song. So did Nikki Genet.” He’s telling her he recognizes what she’s saying. He’ll insert her into his official story of the crimes Erik committed.
LJ: “You know, you’re a lot cooler smashing the system than you are being Wilford’s dick.”
(This is about more than just the murders. Erik wasn’t just a hitman with a flare for gruesome crime scenes.)
Andre (chuckles): “Well, maybe we can do both.”
(He understands that. Next he offers his plan and where she fits in it.)
Andre, holding out the J-hook: “Erik ever tell you what he did with this?”
By asking her what Erik did, he’s admitting he knows she’s innocent and putting the ball in her court for a moment. This is her chance to back out and tell him straight out that she had nothing to do with Erik’s crimes. Or they can build a story that includes her in the murders, so that Melanie can’t sweep Erik’s death and all the others under the rug as soon as Erik’s dead.
LJ gets a sly look on her face. She understands what he’s doing.
Cut to Lilah saying “Never.”
Lilah accidentally acts like a mother for once and confesses LJ’s innocence for her, but it remains unheard.
Lilah tells Melanie that Erik practically raised LJ.
He cared about her in his twisted way and probably didn’t involve her in the murders or describe them to her. If she was the Bonnie to his Clyde, it was only after she was extensively groomed. The episode makes the case that Erik wasn’t born a killer either, he was turned into one by the abuse he suffered as a child, his military training and experiences and the oppression he suffered.
Robert insists to Lilah that they tell the truth, because it will come out anyway. He admits that “Erik and LJ are close”.
Robert: “I can’t say no to her. It’s these times. Morality is a moving target.”
After blaming Erik for following orders when told and/or paid to commit violent acts, Robert now admits that he gave a violent adult man permission to have sex with his young teenage daughter under his own roof. Then he blames his teenage daughter and society for his inability to say no.
Robert is a sociopath.
He generally lets Lilah take the fall for him in public, though it’s clear he’s the one with the ultimate power. He attempts to keep his hands clean and his reputation flawless at all times, and when he can’t, he claims he was led astray due to his compassion or some other understandable flaw, while others were the real wrongdoers.
Jinju visits Anton, a tailor in the Chains, to pick up a gift for Bess. Erik wears a hoodie and wanders the Chains anonymously while Bess and Oz search. When they spot him, he steps into Anton’s shop and grabs Jinju. Anton is shocked to see a gun. Erik tells both hostages to be quiet.
Andre tells LJ that they took him out of the Tail against his will to solve Sean’s murder. He doesn’t care how the case turns out. But Erik screwed up by castrating his victims, since that turns a cold-blooded contract kill into a crime of passion. And, according to Andre, castration is a punishment that women lay down on men.
A quick google search will tell you that this isn’t true, but, once again, this is fiction. Layton is sending this story in the direction he wants it to go, just as Melanie and Ruth spend their days doing.
He told LJ they could smash the hated system together, so she’s listening for what he’s offering. She could punish a man named Wilford if she goes along with Andre’s version of events.
Andre: “That wasn’t [Erik’s] idea was it? He was probably just controlling the victim for somebody else, right? So, are we playing your song?”
He holds the J-hook out to her with a small smile. She looks at it for a long moment, then makes her decision and takes it. She continues dancing.
He just asked her if she’s willing to go along with his version of events. By taking the J-hook, she agreed. She doesn’t completely understand the implications of what he just implied.
Andre: “S**t, if I was a blue-eyed Firstie girl, I’d be playing for time, too. Erik’s going down in a blaze of glory, right?”
I’m not completely sure about what he means about playing for time. He must be implying that she’s trying to put off being arrested for as long as possible, hoping she’ll get off, the traditional meaning of the phrase.
But it’s clear that’s not what she’s doing. She’s already turned Erik in and told them where to look for him. That’s the opposite of playing for time. I don’t think Erik planned to go down in a blaze of glory, though I do think he plans to shoot the electrical junction box, so maybe his death is also planned. This episode doesn’t give us all of the information we need to understand what’s happening during the questioning and manhunt.
LJ: “He’s not going to the drawers.”
Andre: “So, no one tells… And you finally got to feel something… When he held those men down for you.”
No one tells… Both Nikki and Erik die in order to ensure their silence. LJ revealed he hadn’t come home after the fight so that he’d be part of Andre’s investigation before the jackboots murder him, rather than after he’s dead when the case will quickly be closed. She also makes sure that he’s killed rather enduring whatever it is they’re doing to people in the drawers. LJ and Erik may have had a suicide pact saying they’d rather die than go to the drawers. He also doesn’t come home to continue abusing her.
And you finally got to feel something… I’m not sure about this yet- I think he’s giving her something to use in her trial, but it could be what he really thinks of her. She’s not numb inside at all, instead she’s putting up a good front, but anyone who resents her only sees the front, not the fragile bravado. At a trial that’s meant to crucify her and all of First Class, acting like a spoiled, numb Firstie who killed Thirdies for sport would make the lower classes even more angry, which is Andre’s goal. It’s also a good mask for LJ to wear to help her get through the upcoming ordeal. He probably already guesses he won’t be there for it, but she doesn’t.
When he held those men down for you… She hasn’t seen the bodies up close, so she needs to make sure her story fits the forensic story they tell. He’s giving her the information she needs.
She’s a little overwhelmed by how intense this all is. Then they look at each other with a glint in their eye and the deal is sealed. They play a little game, where she pretends to try to bribe him to let her go, but she’s really offering to actually get the Tailies stuff if they can figure out the logistics.
I believe that she and Erik were drug runners who were taking the kronole from 1st/2nd to 3rd Class, so this isn’t actually as naive an offer as it might seem. (They were getting noodle soup at the 3rd class lunch counter, remember?) She knows the bodyguards, the kronole network and is wealthy. She can use that for the greater good.
She offers to get blueprints; he counters with guns. We don’t see the end of that conversation, so whether or not they make a deal is left a mystery. But she points at his crotch, where he kept items that Zarah smuggled to him. Maybe she wants to trade sexual favors for whatever she can get him. Maybe she’s telling him others have made that kind of deal, as we’ve seen multiple times. Maybe she’s practicing her Bonnie and Clyde persona on him.
LJ having access to guns isn’t a surprise. Access to blueprints suggests there’s a sympathetic engineer. Is Ben a double agent?
Back to the manhunt for Erik. Things are getting real. Roche and Grey have pulled the bulk of their men toward the Chains. He has Jinju and Anton sitting on the floor of the shop at gunpoint. He says, “She said this was coming?” Jinju asks him, “Who? Your girl?” Strange that she would jump to that assumption. Does she know them? When Jinju says that, Erik elbows Anton in the head and picks up Jinju, taking her out of the shop with him.
He puts himself in plain sight at the end of the car and lets everyone get a good look at Jinju, train chef and chemist, plus Till’s girlfriend. He fires a shot into the crowd to make sure he has their attention- this part was preplanned. Then he drags Jinju through a set of doors and through 2 cars full of server banks.
Seriously, is every other car a server farm? What are they for? While that would explain their perpetual battery issues, shouldn’t the heat they generate easily heat the train?
When they get to the other end of the car, he opens a hatch to the subtrain. They get down to the next level just before the brakemen and jackboots catch up, led by Till.
Erik takes Jinju a little way down the track, stopping next to a sign that says “Subtrain 778”. He has her stand on the opposite side of the track from him while they wait for law enforcement to catch up. She asks his name, but he doesn’t answer.
When the jackboots reach the ends of the cars to either side of him, he has Jinju turn around and kneel. He tells the jackboots to drop their batons. Then he shoots at an electrical junction box that’s above Jinju’s head. The bullet ricochets off the box and hits Erik in the arm. It leaves a hole in the box with something venting out. Methane? Steam?
Once he’s incapacitated by the bullet, Grey has the jackboots advance on him. He puts up a good fight, but he’s no match for their axes. They hack him to death, then keep hacking until he’s in pieces. Roche calls Melanie to give her the news.
Melanie is still in the Folgers’ car. She’s on the phone a long time and has a strange look on her face. When she tells the Folgers that Erik’s dead, LJ bursts into tears. As Lilah holds LJ, Andre nods to Melanie that she should arrest the Folgers’ daughter.
Andre: “Erik was a dog who did what he was told. And Lilah Junior told him to torture and kill two 3rd Class men.”
The Folgers are outraged. LJ attacks Andre, but the jackboots subdue her.
Seriously? The first murder must have been when she was 12 or 13. She’s quite the femme fatale in the making. LJ thought she was admitting to acting as Erik’s accomplice, whose only crime was the castrations, which would be close enough to cannibalism to make her seem formidable to the train. She’d serve a short sentence in the drawers and then get out, like Nikki. But she wouldn’t be murdered, because there would be no reason to.
By saying that Erik held the men down while LJ committed the crimes, Andre made her the one who was culpable and him the accessory. Andre didn’t tell LJ whether he’d say she or Erik committed the murders. She should have kept her mother, an attorney, in the room during the questioning, in order to avoid this very thing.
As Voice of the Tain, Melanie announces that the killer is dead and another suspect has been arrested. Order has been restored and justice will prevail. Andre asks if she’s in charge of making sure justice prevails.
She offers to buy him a drink in the Aquarium Bar. They toast each other with sake and she asks him what he thinks Wilford’s secret was. He says he just wants to go back to the Tail. She tells him she can’t let him do that. He’s seen too much. And she knows he’s figured out her secret.
He passes out from drugs in the wine. She makes sure he doesn’t get hurt on the way down, then tells him she’s sorry.
Well, as long as she feels bad about it.
Last Australian passes out nutrition bars in the Tail, with the charm of any professional maitre d’. He finds a metal capsule from Astrid hidden in one and brings it to Josie. The message inside says, “Layton’s missing.”
Melanie oversees Klimpt as he preps Andre for the drawer. She tells Klimpt to keep him off book and undamaged.
Andre is nothing if not brave. He goaded Melanie into putting him in the drawers with Pike and the other Tailie rebels and she played right into his hands. But who would be willing to voluntarily undergo the drawers after everything we’ve watched Nikki go through for the last 3 episodes?
Grey had Erik thoroughly killed so that the story can circulate and become a legend which appeases the masses. We saw Oz weaving a similar story about the rebellion of episode 1. But if 3rd Class isn’t worked up about getting justice over a Firstie murdering Thirdies, they won’t join Andre’s rebellion. He needs a true pampered Firstie on trial.
Is it me, or does Ruth seem to be looking fresher and happier each day, while Melanie looks more frazzled, as Snowpiercer’s order becomes harder to maintain? And Ruth is always making sure she keeps Robert, the kingpin of First Class, happy, no matter what. When the military coup happens, does she have plans to become the new Melanie?
The holes the butcher made to breach the cattle car window looked alot like the bullet hole Erik made in the electrical box. Will the holes in the cattle car window be discovered and used to frame someone eventually?
Maybe that junction box has something to do with another resource intensive luxury food item only available in 1st class, like the strawberries, which will now die. It could be that the Tailie plan is to move forward while 1st Class is distracted during LJ’s trial, get Layton out of the drawers, and then squat in the empty cattle car(s) and whatever other cars might now be free. The cattle car(s) have running water, large windows and a walk in freezer. If the other affected car was used to grow plants, the Tailies could use those supplies to grow their own food and store it in the freezer. They could still have their own little country, but they’d be in much better shape. The Tail car was a storage car, which is why the Tailies have so many material goods. They may have many of the items they’d need to colonize other cars.
I can’t imagine that Melanie, Miss Audrey and Zarah are supposed to be sisters or even related, but they sure look like they should be. Somebody got Zarah called up out of the Tail and into the Night Car. Meanwhile Melanie and Audrey snipe at each other like two people with a history that goes far beyond a business relationship, especially if we’re to believe that Melanie doesn’t visit the Night Car. There’s some bad blood between them, and Melanie’s guilty enough about it that she lets Audrey speak in openly negative terms to her in front of Andre. Of course, that could be one of the reasons Andre has to go in the drawer at the end of the episode…
Speaking of 19th Century mourning practices (I will later), the hair of the dead was often collected and made into artwork or jewelry as a keepsake, much as we keep the dead’s ashes and sometimes make keepsakes with cremation ashes. Klimpt has been seen with passengers’ hair several times now. Could he be collecting samples for this purpose, since there wouldn’t be a crematorium or cemetery on the train? There might not even be photographs or any way to paint portraits, other than for 1st Class.
In her opening voiceover, Jinju mentions that many of the wealthy uploaded their consciousnesses. She ends by saying she just wants to provide some happiness on Snowpiercer. Nikki said being in the drawer wasn’t like sleep. This makes me wonder if the server banks hold uploaded consciousnesses and the people in the drawers are having their consciousnesses uploaded and experimented on. Did Nikki go to the San Junipero of Snowpiercer’s server banks while she was in the drawer?
That would add a new wrinkle to Melanie sending Andre to the drawers. Maybe she’s actually showing him another aspect of the train before she brings him in on her war against 1st Class. Server farms suck up an incredible amount of energy. If they hold wealthy people’s minds and much of Snowpiercer’s battery power goes to power servers, it would be an injustice most people aren’t even aware of. “The other work” might be the search for a way to create fast growing human clones and then develop a way to download minds into them.
Has Mr Wilford retired to a server, where he can frolic in the software scenario of his choice and be reborn into a cloned body when the world thaws? Is he locked in a drawer?
Jinju’s opening statement, in addition to her scenes with Klimpt, also lead me to believe she’s the one who makes the kronole.
I’m calling it now. LJ and Miles are the Adam and Eve at the end of the film who head out into the cold to either repopulate the Earth or feed the local polar bears. Though there is constant Eve imagery in this show, and Andre frames her as Eve, Lilah Junior is a proper Lilith. Look at that glorious wreath of red hair. It’s Lilith who has the strength, intelligence and independence to survive in the wilderness. LJ frames herself as Lilith, the sexual demon and potential baby killer, who can’t be tamed by a man.
This episode is full of optical illusions, mirror images and visual distortions. If you didn’t understand that nothing is as it seems on Snowpiercer before, the scene in Melanie’s cabin should have told you all by itself, between the skewed view of the world (map), the outer layer peeled off the fruit by a different person from the one who was meant to eat it (Eve gave Adam the apple, kids), the reversed image of the name of Melanie’s Ivy League school.
Then there was the way Melanie was up all night, alone, to figure out how to save humanity using goat flatulence. All of those heroes running around all episode, trying to catch a serial killer, and Melanie is busy being the real hero in the dark of night, figuring out how to use goats more efficiently. SO emasculating to the poor jackboots and their leader.
Both Ben and Melanie appeared in the mirror, suggesting he might have a double life we don’t know about yet, maybe just as her boyfriend, maybe something beyond that. Miss Audrey and Andre also spoke to each other while pacing in front of a mirror in a padded room. Contradictions upon contradictions. How are we to ever find the truth with those two?
There were reflected images everywhere in this episode, too many to analyze what it might mean for every character. They’re all spies, they’re all being spied on, they’re all using the black market and the black market is using all of them.
Widow’s Weeds and Proxy Wars
A note about Miss Audrey’s mourning outfit, which she’s wearing complete with the weeping veil, to make sure we know she’s in mourning dress: The custom of wearing of all black, or widow’s weeds, during a long period of mourning, often for a year and a day after the death of a husband or close relative, was at its height throughout the 19th century. It’s particularly associated with Britain’s Queen Victoria because after her husband died in 1861, she wore her widow’s weeds for the rest of her life, another 40 years. In the US, widow’s weeds are also associated with our Civil War, when so many died on both sides and many widows and children were impoverished because there were no men left for them to remarry.
Make no mistake, Miss Audrey is wearing that veil as a symbol of rebellion, to remind Melanie of her failures, and Melanie knows it. Miss Audrey is wearing a 50s/60s version of widow’s weeds, when she’d be mourning her Korean and Vietnam War dead- two Cold War proxy wars in which innocent young men died for the political struggles of the powerful and wealthy.
Similar to the way Sean, Nikki and Erik are dying for Melanie and the Folgers’ Cold War on Snowpiercer.
If you understand Miss Audrey’s outfit, you can solve Sean and Nikki’s murders, understand the kronole drug war and decode what happens to Erik and LJ in this episode.
More on the Power Structure on the Train
First, a little more of my theory of what’s happening on the train: My current guess is that the Folgers are the drug kingpins who ultimately finance and control the kronole trade, and probably other black market businesses, but Lilah and Robert don’t get their hands dirty. York is the COO who manages the daily drug and gambling operations, maybe more, such as prostitution, blackmail and protection for all of those independent small businesses in 3rd.
Erik and the other bodyguards are drug runners and possibly do collections for gambling debts and protection money. Jinju is the kronole cooker. She’s probably its inventor. Klimpt was covering for her, but he’s also heavily involved in the black market and probably in the drug market. He may actually be the one to hand kronole off to a courier, as he said.
That makes a minimum of 3 factions on Snowpiercer- Melanie’s official Authoritarian State, The Tail, and the First Class Black Market Empire. There’s also the military and the 3rd Class, with its independent economy of artists and small businesses.
Roche seems loyal to Melanie and Grey seems loyal to the Folgers. Grey also seems like he might be using the Folgers until he can seize control of the entire train in a military coup. Roche seems like his loyalty is real. For now, we should probably count the military as a fourth faction which can act independently, split in two or side with one of the other factions.
The same is ultimately true of 2nd and 3rd Class, since they are made up of individuals. Most of 3rd Class might side with the Tail, but they like to eat and have heat, too. Melanie provides that and there’s no evidence that the Tailies have thought through how they’d keep the lights on after their rebellion.
Before people will fully support the Tailies for the long term, they have to show they have engineers and ag workers on their side and can keep the train running, in good repair and continue to produce food, not just provide social equality. Otherwise, they may manage a rebellion, but the people may want a return to Melanie’s or Grey’s order soon after.
The Night Car is the final faction. It’s still a mysterious place, but if even 1st and 2nd Class use its services, it will make up for its small size with power and influence in the underground economy. The treatment and behavior of Miss Audrey seems to suggest that this is true. Audrey has made it clear from the start that she’s on the side of revolution, but she prefers to move slowly and carefully. She might not like having her hand forced by Andre.
Even without the Tailies’ rebellions, there is constant tension, which rises occasionally to Cold War status, between the other factions in the rest of the train. Sean, Nikki and Erik all fell victim to this. Andre knows much more about the front of the train than we were led to believe at first, but it’s not clear how well he understands these political nuances.
His goal is apparently to smash the train’s entire power structure, rather than to actually work with any of the leaders he’s seemed to make alliances with in order to restructure the system so it’s more just. Out here on the planet’s surface, you can theoretically smash the system and still get food and water and other resources while your country is in complete disarray.
Snowpiercer, on the other hand, is a delicate system that may go into a death spiral if not carefully handled, or so we’ve been told. There are still a lot of secrets, like what those endless server banks are doing. Are they full of people who are waiting for the thaw and new, cloned bodies? Are they the real, resource sucking 1st Class who contribute nothing to Snowpiercer’s survival?
Or do those servers hold the sum total of all human knowledge, including the genome for every living thing which had its DNA sequenced before the Freeze? When Melanie calls Snowpiercer an ark, is that what she means? Does the train hold the possibility of cloning lost species?
Beyond the servers, maintaining the health of the living things on the train, including the plants, animals and people, under such harsh conditions, for such a long time, would be next to impossible. Anyone who’s ever gardened or kept tropical fish can tell you that living things don’t do well outside of their natural environment. It’s hard work to maintain an artificial environment even when you can order what you need from Amazon.
There’s a reason Jinju and Melanie are the two most stressed people on the train. I believe Andre’s heart is in the right place, but because he’s been sheltered in the Tail, I’m afraid he’s not taking all of the variables into account and will kill the experts he needs to keep the train alive. Revolutions often initially succeed, only to have their countries fall into years of chaos or fascism. Or Andre might underestimate the power held by the Folgers and Grey, who will work together to seize control. They do understand how the train works and they’ll simply enslave the people who are essential to its survival.
Misogyny, Oppression and Child Soldiers
In 2020, it’s not okay to use the “Lolita/Eve Made Me Do It” defense, especially when Lolita/Eve is being framed to benefit a man. Even in war. By using LJ as a pawn, Andre proves that he’s no better than Melanie. I suspected that they were essentially the same character and that his warmth was just another tool in his arsenal. This proves it.
Andre and Melanie have the same fatal flaw. They both want to save people as an abstract idea, but in practice, they are willing to sacrifice or betray any individual in service of their goal. The end justifies the means, whether the means is a child of the enemy or their own spouse.
Perhaps even their own child. The Folgers have crossed that line. It’s not clear yet whether Andre has gone beyond using the idea of Miles and used Miles himself. Like LJ, Miles has certainly volunteered to be used as a child soldier for Andre’s cause.
Little Winnie has already been used in the rebellion. Suzanne took responsibility for sending her tiny daughter into battle and took the punishment for her, which was the right thing to do. Winnie was blatantly used because of her size. It’s not clear how much she even understood of what she was doing and she’s too small to defend herself from enemy soldiers.
The Tailies are desperate and crossing lines, while Andre is bragging to Melanie that his people are better than that. They’re not. They’re as oppressed as people can possibly be and they work hard to make their lives better in a variety of ways. But they haven’t created a utopia and they aren’t better people than the ones in the front of the train.
Everyone has lines that they won’t cross. I guess cannibalism isn’t that big of a deal to Andre, since he brags about it. The exploitation of children, particularly for sex and war, is my line in the sand. Andre crossed that line and I can’t look at him the same way now.
The Folgers are much, much worse, since they aren’t fighting wars against deprivation and oppression. They are just sociopaths who sacrificed their own child for profit and their own convenience.
But I’m worried that Andre and the writers look at LJ and see a spoiled rich girl who’s never wanted for anything and dares to complain about her petty problems when put alongside the overwhelming problems of the Tail.
My issue is, why is it a competition? The train’s system makes the passengers artificially compete for resources, just as in the real world, capitalism, classism and racism make people artificially compete for resources that are being hoarded by a few people.
Whether they’re fictional passengers or living in the real world, people shouldn’t have to compete for the compassion and empathy that we’re all capable of giving. Love and understanding aren’t something we need to hoard because the store might run out of them.
The Tail’s problems are extreme, and should never be forgotten, but their existence doesn’t mean that LJ doesn’t also have a dead end life, monstrous parents and a serial killer, pedophile boyfriend who began sexually abusing her when she was too young to consent, with her cold-blooded parents’ permission. That’s a horrific existence. No one should have to live with their rapist and his gun in an inescapable train car.
LJ was fighting her own war, and she finally won, only to be drafted into Andre’s war.
Miles had people who loved and educated him, but he lived in the extreme physical deprivation of the Tail and his adult body and mind will undoubtedly suffer for it. LJ had psychopaths who emotionally, sexually and probably physically exploited and abused her, but her body’s physical needs were comfortably met. Yet she did not have a healthy childhood, anymore than Erik did. They both sustained psychological damage that can’t be undone.
The abuse and exploitation of children crosses class and cultural lines and is layered on top of other issues which affect them. It’s never okay, for any child.
What Is Melanie’s Strategy with the Tail?
When Melanie agreed to allow Layton to immigrate to 3rd Class if he solved Sean’s murder, she intended to keep her promise. We’ve seen ample evidence of Tailies who’ve permanently immigrated to 3rd, including Zarah, his wife, so there’s no reason to doubt that.
Melanie reneged on her promise because, for his own reasons, Andre made it obvious that he was a threat to her and her need for order. Other people on Snowpiercer clearly know her secret but don’t threaten Melanie with the knowledge. In an authoritarian state, it’s not the knowledge of secrets that gets you in trouble. It’s not being able to keep your mouth shut.
When Andre went into the 1st Class dining car and was purposely the Firsties worst nightmare, he was also purposely Melanie’s worst nightmare. He did everything he could to let them know that she’s Mr Wilford. Lilah Folger even called her on it with the phone call, but then she realized that the middle of a manhunt wasn’t the time to act on that knowledge.
That time will come. Grey and the Folgers already strongly suspected or knew Melanie is Wilford. Andre just gave them more evidence. When they act, it may or may not help Andre and the Tail. He may find that Melanie’s regime is friendlier to his people than the leader of the vicious jackboots and the black marketeer kroney slingers. He may find that he needs to team up with Melanie after all.
But let’s get back to what Melanie’s current strategy for the Tail is.
We’ve also been shown that Tailies are used as day laborers for jobs that Thirdies don’t want to do, similar to migrant foreign workers in our world. The fact that Miles’ name has been changed to Christopher and he has a new mom suggests that the apprenticeship program might equally be a foreign adoption program.
There are probably other ways that Tailies are slowly being integrated with the rest of the train that we haven’t been shown yet. Melanie’s long term strategy appears to be to bring the Tailies forward a few at a time, when she has a job and a place for them, in order to keep them from overwhelming the system and keep the resentment of them down.
That seems to be working, uptrain. In the Tail, people are sick and slowly dying. Even those who are barely healthy are suffering tremendously. The individuals in the Tail can’t wait for Melanie’s slow process.
And then there is the more sinister side of Melanie’s control. Since no babies have been born in 5 years, there is some form of population control program in effect, most likely a contraceptive in the nutrition bars. She’s ensuring that the Tail population doesn’t grow. It will only get smaller over time, through death and immigration.
As far as we know, as long as the Tailies follow her rules, she doesn’t send jackboots in to randomly execute them. Her unspoken contract with them is that she’ll move them all out eventually, through immigration or slow starvation and disease.
This is the First World’s contract with people in long term refugee camps around the world. The Tailies live in a refugee camp and the conservative government of their host country thinks they’re lucky to have found shelter. Snowpiercer doesn’t grant them citizenship or any of its rights, so they have no method for getting out of the camp. Since it’s Snowpiercer and these displaced people can’t go home, the camp has become a small, destitute country of its own.
It’s hard to remember now, but when Snowpiercer was being filmed in 2019, there were caravans of Latin American refugees attempting to immigrate into the US being shown on the news everyday. Refugees who made it across the border were being kept in cages with concrete floors. Children were being separated from their parents. People were being left in cages in the desert heat in such terrible conditions that they died from exposure. This only stopped when the coronavirus made it too dangerous to the guards to keep refugees in disease-breeding groups anymore, so the refugees were released back into Mexico.
Illegal immigration has been a giant issue for the Trump administration. The Tail is a metaphor for that issue. Racism and other forms of prejudice are a huge part of the discussion of immigration in general. In the real world we’re also dealing with a pandemic, a crashing economy, police brutality, a revitalized fight over racism and civil rights and the issues that come with the lack of a social safety net, such as homelessness and poverty. Those issues are also reflected in Snowpiercer, because governments that promote hate and violate civil rights tend to have certain issues in common. The ills that plague humanity are concentrated in dystopias, whether they’re real or fictional.
The 2019 BBC/HBO/Russell T Davies miniseries Years and Years covered refugee camps, immigration and conservative governments really well. It also predicted the near future with scary accuracy.
Images Courtesy of TNT.