In episode 5 of Snowpiercer, LJ goes to trial for her part in the murders of Sean and Nikki, Josie goes uptrain to search for Andre and Miss Audrey takes action to ensure that Melanie will get Nikki the justice she deserves. The Folgers pressure Melanie to go easy on LJ. Bess moves in with Jinju and gets a 2nd class chip implant to go with her bourgeois 2nd class privileges.
It’s a tough episode for Melanie, but she manages to find some stress relief.
We begin with Andre, who is sealed up tight in a drawer. He normally looks so robust, despite 7 years in the Tail, but now he has a grayish cast to his skin. The version of kronole used as a suppression drug is so poisonous that it gives the entire body a death pall, while turning the insides jet black, which can be seen externally by viewing the gums.
As Nikki claimed, it’s not like sleep. He’s having a combination of flashbacks and dreams. He’s back in the Tail, reliving memories of subduing the cannibal cult. That story was real, and largely happened the way he told it, if these dreams reflect reality. But he killed the cult leaders alone, at the insistence of the rest of the Tail, using a shiv they’d created, instead of the story about group solidarity overcoming an evil villain that Andre told in the Drawers.
The Tail leaders did all share in eating the heart, including Josie, Pike, Last Australian, Z-Wreck, Strong Boy, Big John and Lights.
Interspersed with his memories, Andre hears Nikki singing Sealed with a Kiss, the Bobby Vinton song that LJ played for him. He repeatedly sees Nikki’s bloody, mutilated body standing at the end of an aisle in the Drawers, singing the song, staring at him as if she’s the evil little girl in a horror movie.
Was it trading away the ring that doomed him?
Andre knows that he hasn’t really gotten justice for Nikki. He’s gotten an errand boy killed as a literal sacrificial lamb and sent a 1st Class designer accessory out to take the fall, so the mob can feel like someone uptrain paid for the murders of Thirdies.
The person or people who are really responsible, the ones who ordered all of the murders, are still untouchable, free to order more murders when someone gets too close to their business dealings or secrets.
Layton thought he could put his revolution above individual justice, but his dreams are keeping him honest. The bodies of the victims have probably gotten progressively more gruesome with each murder because they’re being used to send harsher and harsher warnings.
Has his subconscious mind figured out who’s ordering the murders, and who they’re warning off?
Miss Audrey’s spoken voiceover: “I see now that as the Freeze killed everyone I ever knew, I mistook my survival for freedom. But justice never boarded and Wilford doubled down with a jackboot on our throats and a fat finger on the scales. Now, some of us are ready to change his terms. It will be perilous, filthy work. More precious souls may be lost. But we didn’t come this far, suffer this much, to give in to the same tyranny that destroyed us in the first place. Even on a frozen dead planet, humanity needs hope. For these are our revolutions on Snowpiercer, 1,001 cars long.”
Audrey is in the empty Night Car, holding a photo of Nikki from before the Freeze. Did they know each other then? Audrey looks ten years older than she does when she’s performing, onstage or otherwise, as she silently weeps for Nikki.
Snowpiercer has taken its toll on her, as it does on everyone.
Her assistant pokes his head in to signal they’re ready. She nods to confirm that it’s time to enact their plan. In 1st Class, one of the Night Car staff switches places with a busboy from the 1st Class dining car. He pulls out a covered dish from the underside of the cart and places it on top.
It’s lunchtime again for Lead Brakeman Roche. LJ is in the cell and she’s as fascinated by his perfectly formed and packed lunches as I am. She asks him questions about himself, but gets no respect. He remains silent, until he finally tells her that anything she says to him is admissible in court.
LJ doesn’t care, because she’s innocent, so she can’t incriminate herself. Since he won’t tell her how he and his wife met, she tells him that her parents met in St Moritz on a chair lift.
Of course they did. The frozen Swiss playground of the rich and amoral.
She’s just getting around to threatening him a little when Melanie brings the Folgers in. It’s LJ’s trial day, so she gets to go home and prepare. Melanie makes sure she understands that she’s on trial for murder, will be judged by a tribunal of ticketed passengers and will be expected to testify.
Melanie says that Wilford will be following along with the trial. Robert is glad, so that Wilford can see how silly the accusations against LJ are. Roche gets angry, since the Thirdies are taking the trial very seriously. They want justice for their 3 victims. Guess that first victim from years ago, when LJ was 12ish, is back on the table.
Lilah reminds Melanie that LJ is a minor child and the actual murderer is dead. Melanie says this was just the required pretrial detainment.
There’s no provision for a judge or Wilford to determine whether she should stand trial as an adult or a minor then? Because it seems like she’s being treated as an adult, but she was arrested based on evidence that only pointed to Erik, not her. Andre made up the rest of the story and she didn’t argue with him, allowing him to persuade her into becoming a public sacrifice.
Rewatch the scenes if you don’t remember it that way. Layton does the talking and LJ never admits to anything, beyond recognizing the J-hook and being close to Erik, neither of which was a crime. She fully cooperates with the investigation. Layton makes up a scenario he finds plausible, then exaggerates it further to make sure 3rd Class will hate the spoiled 1st Class suspect.
He turned her into another Nikki, so Nikki is haunting him. As a cop, he knows the murders aren’t over.
On her way out of the garrison, LJ tells Melanie that she doesn’t belong in the drawers and she just wants to thank Mr Wilford for the chance to prove it.
Roche and Melanie agree that there’ll be trouble in 3rd if she isn’t convicted.
Josie treats the remainder of Suzanne’s arm, which has developed a serious infection. It’s revealed that Josie was a vet before the Freeze. She’s qualified medically to help Suzanne, but has no supplies to work with and no way to keep a wound clean. Winnie brings Josie a new message from Astrid, asking Josie to meet her in sanitation today.
Bess and Jinju are moving in together, which means that Bess gets a shiny new 2nd Class chip inserted in her hand. The Notary and the Doctor go through a little ceremony with them, in which Jinju promises she’ll be responsible for Bess during the probationary period. If Bess makes a mistake, Jinju will be punished too.
With that, Bess is granted access to 2nd Class and all of its entitlements. The officials offer congratulations, then leave the lovebirds to their celebration. They’re both sure about their relationship and very happy. Three months is the longest Jinju has waited to move in with someone.
Still Snowpiercer’s most adorable couple, with no serious competition.
Back in their own car, the Folgers worry that something could go wrong during the trial, leading the tribunal to convict their daughter. Lilah wants LJ to rehearse her testimony again. LJ is distracted, playing a game, then wondering what it’s like in the drawers. Finally she asks Robert if she can… pop out his glass eye and mess around with it, putting it in her own mouth and pretending it’s a mouth-eye.
Robert chuckles, but Lilah is impatient and insists they get serious. She tells LJ to remember to tell the jury, “He forced me.”
LJ: “He did force me. You do know that, right?”
Robert: “We know that, sweetheart. We know.”
Lilah silently walks away. Maybe because she doesn’t believe LJ, maybe because she feels so helpless.
As the breakfast rush empties out of the 1st Class dining car, Ruth orders her assistant, Tristan, to stop staring out the window. He explains that he used to dream of seeing the Amazon, so he likes to watch it when it goes by. As lacking in imagination as ever, Ruth snaps that now it’s just a frozen lump. She tells him to set the car up for the Tribunal once everyone is gone, using the usual floor plan.
Weren’t we led to believe that there had only been one tribunal, Nikki’s? Or did they just mean there had only been the one murder trial, but there have been trials for other, lesser crimes? If there are regular trials, that makes it even more important to root out unfairness in the system.
Audrey’s replacement busboy wheels his cart into 1st Class and over to Sharma’s table. He says to enjoy the dish, complements of the Night Car, then leaves the dining car while the dish is still covered.
Ruth has taken notice of this unusual display- Sharma didn’t order anything and breakfast service is over anyway. Sharma lifts the cover just as she’s telling him not to. Inside, the dish is live bugs served on top of dead bugs. While everyone screams, Ruth sends Tristan to get Melanie.
Melanie visits Miss Audrey in the Night Car and says, “That stunt was beneath you, Audrey.”
Audrey: “No, it really wasn’t.”
If Melanie won’t play fair, neither will Audrey.
Melanie expresses her condolences for Nikki’s death. But she doesn’t understand Audrey’s anger, when there’s one suspect in custody, waiting to stand trial, and another is dead. What more does Audrey want?
Audrey says that the trial is a joke, since it takes place 5 miles uptrain, with a jury made up of passengers from 1st and 2nd, who are judging whether another upper class passenger killed three of her people from 3rd. They have no motivation to find one of their own guilty.
Melanie: “The Night Car is supposed to be Switzerland. Why are you politicizing it?”
Audrey has a thick book open on the counter. She points to it now: “Third has the right to petition Wilford in labor disputes and matters of jurisprudence. We want a new tribunal drawn. One representative from each class. And a delegation to observe the trial.”
Audrey says that Melanie used to try to make a difference, but working closely with Wilford has hardened her. Melanie remembers when Audrey told Wilford she wanted the Night Car to be more than the brothel he envisioned. Melanie backed her up when she explained that she thought the train would need a place to work through their grief. Now the train depends on Audrey and her vision of the Night Car as that place. If Audrey overtly takes sides, her club will no longer be a place where everyone feels welcome.
But Audrey sees her role as the caretaker and voice of the needy on the train, the ones Wilford and Melanie might forget. She might have been separate from 3rd class in the beginning, but she’s seen how much more they suffer than 1st and 2nd. She’s not the type to stand by and do nothing.
Melanie walks the train everyday, so she’s no stranger to its conditions. But people share their inner lives with Audrey in a way they never will with Wilford’s mouthpiece.
Audrey: “We depend on you… On your voice to Wilford’s ear. Recommend a new tribunal.”
Melanie tries to call Audrey’s bluff, the way she did with Lilah, but this isn’t a bluff. Audrey reminds her that Thirdies work in every department of the train and they can make life very difficult.
And with one significant pause, Audrey hints to Melanie that she knows the truth about Wilford.
Melanie’s next stop is the Drawers, where she asks Klimpt what his autopsy showed about how the suspension drug affected Nikki. He says she had necrosis of her adrenal tissue and hepatic insufficiencies, but he didn’t have enough time to find out whether she would have regained her normal mental state. She wasn’t fully detoxed when she died.
In other words, in addition to all of the obvious side effects of the drug, Nikki’s liver and adrenal glands were severely damaged. This is a terribly unethical situation to continue to keep the other Sleepers in.
Jinju asks if the Sleepers have Locked-In Syndrome, a rare disorder in which patients are fully conscious but unable to move or communicate. Klimpt says they might. He insists that the Sleepers need to be awakened more slowly than Nikki was.
That won’t cure the damage to their internal organs.
Melanie says they have 400 drawers, which someday might all hold Sleepers. They have to make sure the Sleepers won’t wake up traumatized. Klimpt says he’s trying.
That’s a lot of prisoners and experiments and a lot of concern for their welfare when they wake up. Something else is going on here. Is she hoping to eventually sell spots in stasis to the highest bidder, so Firsties can sleep through the rest of the ice age instead of using up resources and growing old?
They should start by using a drug that doesn’t turn sleepers’ mouths black.
Jinju has heard the rumor that the Thirdies want a spot on the Tribunal. Melanie is considering giving in. She tells Jinju that LJ may get what she deserves. Jinju doesn’t look as certain as Melanie that it’s a good idea.
Up in the engine, Ben and Javi are also skeptical about upsetting the status quo, especially Javi, who thinks pushing the Firsties too hard will aggravate the train’s class divisions too much.
Which leaves Melanie stuck, since 3rd is already aggravated. She asks Javi to take the wheel while she speaks to Ben privately.
Melanie and Ben go to her cabin, where they have an afternoon quickie on her desk, not even pausing to move Mr Wilford’s paperwork.
What will the boss think???
Afterwards, Ben lies in Melanie’s tiny single bed and says they haven’t had sex since the bees died. He’s sensing a pattern.
You think??? The woman really is a death goddess.
They briefly indulge in remembering what they miss most- Melanie wishes she could open a window or go for a walk. Ben misses the sound of rain. When he asks if she’s really going to change the rules for the tribunal, she says she just wants to breathe.
The tribunal is chosen using ping pong balls randomly drawn from a cage, the way bingo numbers are chosen. Each passenger is assigned a number. The Voice of the Train announces that Mr Wilford has agreed to allow a 3rd Class member on the Tribunal, so one name has been chosen from each class.
Ruth’s face makes it clear that this decision is sure to bring on the general downfall of civilization.
The tribunal members are Firstie Edith Gusterfeld, 2nd Class primary teacher Mary-Elizabeth Gillies, and Thirdie papermaker Walter Flemming. 3rd Class cheers their representative as he makes his way to Hospitality.
Josie has joined the sanitation crew again so she can search for Andre. At break time, Astrid knocks on the second door in the break room and tells the Tailie crew that Josie should meet Terence the Janitor in the Market, at the symbol of the yellow butterfly. She and Josie switch clothes so that Astrid can take Josie’s place until the next break.
Melanie greets the tribunal members as they arrive in the hospitality office. The tribunal members are friendly and open with each other as they get acquainted, even the Firstie, Edith Gusterfeld. She laments that she doesn’t get to mingle with other classes more.
Ruth: “Doesn’t Mr Wilford understand that you can’t just change the rules?”
Melanie: “I guess they’re his rules to change. He chose the will of the people.”
Ruth: “We don’t have will. We have order.”
Ruth walks out. Her assistant opens and closes the door for her.
Guess Ruth missed the page in the Big Book of Snowpiercer’s Rules of Order that Audrey pointed out earlier.
Till and Oz are tasked with bringing the delegation from 3rd to the 1st Class dining car. He accuses her of having joined the bourgeoisie. She retaliates by asking if he’s still trading drugs for sex. He says his probation is almost over. She says she wants to stay at the trial long enough to hear Jinju’s testimony. They achieve a truce of sorts.
He gathers the delegation and makes a speech instructing them to act like people rather than animals while they’re uptrain, then he and Till lead the delegation the 5 miles from the Night Car to the 1st Class dining car, accompanied by a unit of jackboots.
As the delegation moves uptrain, Robert tries to convince Lilah that everything will be fine. But Lilah understands the truth: “You don’t see what’s happening, do you? There’s an idea traveling uptrain, Robert. It wants to live, this idea. It wants to set the train ablaze and all it needs is a spark. All it needs is to wrap its thick fingers around your daughter’s throat and choke her out for the working man.”
Lj enters the room and Lilah tells her they should continue working on her testimony. Lilah must have gotten through to Robert, because he tells her he’ll take care of it.
From Lilah’s prediction to Layton in the drawer, having nightmares about the cannibals in the Tail. It’s not clear if these are accurate, if jumbled, memories, but I’m assuming they are. If so, it’s a strange story, since everyone else made Layton face the cannibals alone. When Layton told the story, he made it sound like most of the Tail had fought the kill cult.
He looks like he might have been drugged into taking the job, as if the rest of the Tail tried to send him back to the cannibals to be their next sacrifice and got lucky when he killed the cannibals instead. He puts Miles up in a bunk to keep him safe. Everyone wishes him luck as they insist he has to save them. Mama Grandé gives him a weapon, then he charges the cannibals’ lair.
Josie finds the Market, then one of the janitors finds her and brings her to Terence at knifepoint. Terence hasn’t been paid for this meeting and is only interested in how it might benefit him. Josie explains that they think Layton is in a drawer. Terence suggests that Layton might have made Wilford mad and have gotten “his head stuck out a port.”
There’s a fun thought. That would certainly make it hard to identify his body, unless you knew him really well.
Terence and Annie were considering taking a trip to the drawers themselves, so they decide to go along with Josie that afternoon, while the train is distracted with LJ’s trial.
Robert and a delegation of Firsties, including Sharma, Eugenia and Martin Colvin, meet with Commander Grey to discuss a regime change. Robert makes it clear that he’s not a bigot. He’s just a conservative attempting to maintain order. It doesn’t do anyone any good for Thirdies to get ideas above their station.
Grey asks if Robert is speaking as a citizen or LJ’s father. Robert says both. The rest of the delegation stand behind him. They’re all afraid that 3rd will come for their children. Grey says his job is to uphold the rules. He doesn’t make them.
Eugenia says that since Wilford has locked himself away, he’s grown out of touch with the needs of the people. Grey points out that Wilford has “the skills to keep us all alive.” He asks what Eugenia brings to the table. She says she has hundreds of millions of dollars in early investor status and “a whole world of pain when it comes to my survival.”
What does that threat mean? She’s talking to the man who commands the only remaining standing army. How does she think she’ll physically harm him? Does she have nuclear codes that she thinks will still work? A mobster shadow army?
Sharma interrupts Eugenia’s rant and explains that they’re fine leaving Wilford to himself. They’re more concerned with the day-to-day aspects of running the train- everything that isn’t military and infrastructure- and feel they’d do a better job in charge of those aspects. Grey asks about Melanie. Robert says she’d be the first to go.
Grey nods slightly, but stays silent.
I thought Grey hated Melanie and wanted her out, but something about that conversation makes me think he knows she’s Wilford and supports her. Kudos again to Timothy V. Murphy. He kills it in this role.
Martin Colvin turns out to be one of Melanie’s spies and runs straight to her with the story. She asks how Grey reacted. Colvin says the Commander just stared at them, coldly. She tells Colvin she’ll speed up his renovations.
As they leave for the trial, Lilah gives LJ a few last minute reminders: cry contrite tears, make eye contact and be sincere. Robert pulls his Lilahs in for a family hug. A jackboot escorts LJ to the trial.
In the dining car, Ruth acts as judge to keep order during the trial. She says that tribunals are called to handle cases of crime, conspiracy or negligence. LJ is accused of 2 counts of murder.
Roche is the first witness: “Once the accused was apprehended, the brakemen did a full and thorough search of the Folgers’ quarters. There we found the most striking evidence in the case. Hidden in Lilah Junior’s jewelry box were the particularly preserved, severed penises of two male victims.”
Tristan brings out a jewelry box with the souvenirs in it and shows the Tribunal and the crowd.
I hate to discredit Roche, but every witness in this trial has serious issues. LJ looks shocked when the jewelry box is brought out. If it was found in her room, shouldn’t she and her parents have known and been prepared for this testimony? More importantly, it would have been simple for one of the brakemen who searched the room (cough *OZ* cough) to plant the souvenirs in the jewelry box or even just in the evidence file later, in order to falsify evidence.
Most importantly, no teenage girl hides severed penises in her jewelry box, where her mother might find them while looking for a pair of earrings. The souvenirs would have been hidden more carefully. A jewelry box is the kind of place a man would think a woman would put them and would have easy access to during a search when he wanted to plant evidence. Roche may or may not know the evidence was planted.
Erik could have also known he was in trouble and have planted them there to implicate LJ.
Let’s remember how many men have died in recent episodes, from Tailies to butchers to Erik. Penises to preserve and use as false evidence aren’t hard to come by on Snowpiercer. But my guess is that they found the appendages when they searched Erik’s hidey hole in the storage closet, then planted them to ensure LJ’s conviction. Erik was the serial killer and collector, not LJ.
Next up is Dr Pelton, who did her very first autopsy on Sean Wise. She was led through it by Layton, but now she’s an expert, embellishing her findings as well. As she discusses her findings, Tristan shows the J-Hook around, which now has LJ’s fingerprints on it.
That would explain why LJ sat in front of Layton and made the chopping motion with it.
Sometimes I’m extra slow on the uptake. This why I write 10k word recaps instead of 1 page police detective reports.
Dr Pelton: “Sean Wise was bound and choked multiple times with a thin ligature. He was very much alive when his genitals were chopped off.”
Moving on, the Tunnelman who found Sean’s body plays up the horror of finding such a coldly mutilated human being. If you’ll recall, when Layton and Till interviewed him at the cannibal lunch counter, his only emotion was impatience at having to tell the story a second time, since he’d already told everything he remembered to the brakemen.
Then it’s Jinju’s turn. She sells LJ up the river as the criminal mastermind who controlled Erik, her serial killer puppet and partner in a wicked conspiracy.
Jinju: The whole time, Erik’s focus was Lilah Junior. I was as much her hostage as I was his. (Jinju takes a long look at LJ.) That was what they wanted, Erik and LJ, to kill us all in a nihilistic rage. But the Eternal Engine is still here.”
In fact, Erik said “she” had predicted something and Jinju asked if he meant his girl. Erik ignored her. A little later, Jinju repeatedly asked him his name, which he ignored. But Erik was careful to make sure Jinju wasn’t harmed, even when he shot at the electrical box and knew he was about to die. There’s no evidence that the “she” he referred to was LJ and there was no way for Jinju to know what he was thinking about, unless she’s psychic.
Miss Audrey testifies on behalf of Nikki. She tells her listeners that Nikki was a beautiful person who’s been ignored by the upper classes, just like 3rd Class always is. But it’s time for them to start caring, because they depend on Thirdies for their lives to run smoothly. Meanwhile the Thirdies suffer physical hardships 2nd Class and Firsties don’t experience. Miss Audrey says that she hasn’t come to her current political stance easily. In the beginning, she agreed with Wilfred’s order. But after 7 years, the train needs compassion and justice for more than just the rich.
She says Nikki’s name, in a nod to the “Say Her Name” movement, as the crowd erupts. Ruth calls a recess, after which LJ will testify.
Annie the janitor stops Klimpt as he’s on his way back to the trial and pickpockets his keys to the drawers. Josie, Terence and Annie break in, then the two janitors quickly steal large quantities of chemicals, probably the suppression drug or its precursors, and leave. They toss Josie the keys to the individual drawers on their way out and wish her luck, assuring her this isn’t personal, just business. Josie also pockets a few tubes of medication, likely including an antibiotic for Suzanne.
Melanie pulls Lilah aside in the corridor and warns her to stop her political machinations.
Lilah: “Let me tell you a Folger family story. When LJ was 7, she put out Robert’s eye. Lashed out with a fork and punctured it all over his face. And even as the jelly was running down his cheek, he held her through the tantrum, protecting her. So you go ahead with your Hospitality show trial and prepare to suffer the consequences. Because you’re messing with my bloodline.”
Lilah walks away. A group of passengers is standing several feet behind Melanie, undoubtedly eavesdropping, ready to spread the story of LJ’s history. Rather than proclaim Lilah Junior’s innocence to the train, Lilah’s defense strategy is to turn her daughter into a force to be reckoned with, just as LJ wished for in her conversation with Layton about cannibalism.
As always, the eye story may or may not be the whole truth. It doesn’t matter, just like it doesn’t matter with the testimony against LJ. The point is that Lilah claims royal privilege for her daughter and has already proven in words and deeds that she’ll back it up with a scorched earth war against Melanie if her child comes to any real harm.
Josie frantically searches the files and open surfaces in the Drawers, hoping to find something that will indicate which drawer Layton is in. She knows she doesn’t have time to open 400 drawers.
LJ swears to tell the truth, then goes straight for the contrite tears her mother suggested. She says she loved Erik, but he had a power over her that left her afraid and confused. She’s unsure whether that was really love, but Erik said it was.
She looks straight at Melanie when she gets to the important part.
LJ: “He made me watch him do terrible things and I can still hear those men begging for it to end. Uh, but Erik said fear makes people honest. I think that’s true. Sean Wise, just before he died, said he was an informant, a spy for Mr Wilford. Sean said that shadows and lies were taking over our beautiful train, from tip to Tail, from Ag-Sec to the Drawers. “400 hundred secrets that rock us to the rails,” he said. But he would never spill them. (LJ speaks to Ruth) Can I say this part to Mr Wilford?”
Ruth: “Yes, he’s following along.”
LJ: “I am so sorry for the part that I played in this tragedy. I was silent when I should have spoken, but Sean Wise gave his life to save humanity from the darkness that almost swallowed me whole. If the train shows me mercy, I promise to do my part for her, too. That’s all I can say.”
She stops crying to make her promise and looks Melanie directly in the eye. Melanie has been visibly distressed during LJ’s testimony, since she understands that Sean knew and spilled her deepest secrets. LJ offered to trade her silence for her life and help she could give Melanie in the future. Melanie has to wonder how many other people know her secrets and whether LJ wrote anything down and hid it, maybe in a letter sealed with a kiss. This is a turning point in Melanie’s strategy of violently silencing anyone who finds out that isn’t already a close ally.
Ruth calls another break while the Tribunal deliberates.
Josie seems to develop some sixth sense for which drawers hold Tailies and opens a few. The first two hold children who’d been chosen for the apprenticeshop program, Mia and a young boy. Layton is in the third.
Melanie and Jinju retreat to the Hospitality office and discuss LJ’s testimony.
Melanie: “Maybe he told her the drawers are experimental. Maybe he told her about the list.”
Jinju: “Well, that changes the calculus, doesn’t it?”
Melanie sends a note to Ben and Javi through the vacuum tubes. Javi doesn’t like what it says. He’s mad that he’s even working in the engine. He confronts Ben about his relationship with Melanie.
When Josie can’t wake Layton up, she removes a wrist cuff which results in his heart stopping. Oz and Bess are outside in the hall and notice that the Drawers have been broken into. They investigate and find Josie hiding in the drawer with Layton. Oz pulls her out and brutally beats her until Till knocks him out with her baton.
Till, like everyone else, thought Layton had gone back to the Tail. He’s convulsing and barely has a heartbeat. Josie injects him with something which begins to bring him around. Till tells her they have to get out of the Drawers before they get caught.
The Tribunal finds LJ guilty on all counts, by unanimous vote. Jinju and the teacher look especially pleased. In the engine, Ben tells Javi that he has to follow Melanie’s orders for the worst case scenario. Javi doesn’t think Melanie should interfere with the results of the Tribunal. Ben sends a message to the 1st Class dining car.
Ruth reads the message, which says Mr Wilford is commuting LJ’s sentence due to her status as a minor. The 3rd Class delegation explodes into a riot as the Folgers and the rest of 1st Class are rushed out of the dining car.
Till helps Josie drag Layton to Zarah’s place in the Chains. Josie tells Zarah that Layton was drawered and the Tail needs to be able to trust her now. Zarah pretends she doesn’t know about the blue chip. Josie rushes back to sanitation to relieve Astrid. Zarah helps Layton up to one of her hiding spots.
Melanie has a chat with LJ in the Hospitality office about discretion and secrets. Jennifer Connelly earns her pay with some excellent line delivery, as she tries to convince LJ to play by her rules from now on. LJ promises to keep Mr Wilford’s secrets and look out for his well being, but she also seems overconfident. She thinks she’s safe, but she’s now also a very important pawn, since she’s been exposed as the Folgers’ greatest weakness and as a danger to Melanie. She might not go to the drawers, but accidents can happen to anyone.
Till returns to the Drawers for Oz. He’s gone, but the wall next to where he was lying is marked with red blood and black scuff marks, as if a fight took place. It’s not from his fight with Josie. Who found him there and who won the fight? The jackboots?
Layton continues to convulse, with Zarah holding him down so he doesn’t hurt himself. He remembers bringing a heart out from the cannibals’ section of the Tail and slicing it up. Everyone took a piece and said, “Never again,” before eating it. He remembers Strong Boy, Mama Grandé, Santiago, Josie, Lights, Z-Wreck and Last Australian. No one says OneTail.
Then he wakes up and opens his eyes. He doesn’t know where he is, but Zarah is curled around him and kisses his forehead.
Will try to add more screen caps soon.
Cannibals, Sacrificial Lambs and Switzerland
The themes of this episode are cannibals, sacrificial lambs and Switzerland. Sacrificial lambs in the sense of a symbolic sacrifice made by a group which is meant to take the place of the group itself. LJ takes the place of 1st Class. Suzanne’s arm took the place of all of the other rebels who escaped, most especially her own lamb, Winnie. Layton may have unknowingly entered the cannibals’ lair as a sacrifice rather than a protector. The shot of him placing Miles out of the way symbolizes Miles as the potential lamb he’s replacing/protecting.
In the film, children tasted the best, so the cannibals went for them first. People place great value on their children, so they would make the best sacrificial lambs. Curtis gives up cannibalism and eventually sacrifices himself for the children in the film. Layton defeats the cannibals in the Tail. But Melanie makes a deal with the 1st Class cannibals uptrain in order to protect her secrets, though she tells herself it’s to protect the train.
The cannibals and the Swiss are nearly equal symbols in Snowpiercer, with the cannibals admitting that they are motivated by their worst impulses, while the Swiss pretend they are neutral. They have situational morality and thus define what is right as whatever is good for the wealthy and powerful, sacrificing the moral beliefs that drive most of the world’s great religions on the altar of greed and ambition.
As Audrey pointed out, though Melanie defines herself as separate from 1st Class, in her actions she is actually no different from them. It becomes more clear with every episode that Ruth considers herself a de facto member of 1st Class, though it’s not clear yet why she believes she’s above the rest of the senior staff. Ruth enjoys every bit of class based injustice she hands out.
The irony of this episode is that 3rd Class was looking for real change, but would have accepted LJ as a sacrificial lamb, had she received a punishment commensurate with her alleged crimes. The problem is, no one would willingly allow their only child to be sacrificed to appease an angry mob, not even the most amoral of gangsters. By convincing LJ to let herself be caught, Layton hit 1st Class in the one place they couldn’t easily defend. They might have abandoned another adult to their fate, but not a child. Now 1st Class doesn’t trust Melanie to protect their children and 3rd Class doesn’t trust her to give them the justice they deserve.
I suspect that the discovery of Mia and the other boy in the drawers will have the same effect on the Tail. I don’t know how Layton could have planned for Josie to find them or if he saw clues while he was in the Drawers as an investigator that led him to believe Mia was in one. But now the Tailies have another reason to rebel, since their children are being taken, experimented on and left to die. Since no new babies are being born in the Tail, in a sense they have nothing left to lose. The apprenticeship program was the one beacon of hope for the Tailies. If they think that’s a lie, there’s no reason for them not to tear everything down.
Lilah is a bit of a Cassandra. with a very strong sense of where things stand on the train. I think she’s more than just a classist Firstie interested in staging a coup, though she is that. She also wants to preserve the status quo for the safety of her daughter more than anything else and can see how badly a class war would affect the train as a whole. While she’s willing to make the threat of war to protect her daughter and to go through with it, she’d rather win with a bloodless coup.
Lilah and Melanie have called each other’s bluffs now and made the other back down. They’re testing each other’s limits, and sooner or later, they’re going to hit the point where neither will back down.
Or Melanie will find that she’s hit Audrey’s limit on the other side, if she didn’t do it with her pardon of LJ. Audrey wanted a show of justice and Melanie gave her hollow spectacle. Now Layton is waking up to further stir the pot in 3rd and the Tail.
Amidst the talk of cannibals, there’s also been talk of eating utensils. Now that he’s an apprentice, Miles has his own fork. LJ put out her father’s eye with her fork. There are knives all over the place on the train. Jinju’s are some of the sharpest. Roche’s lunches and Melanie’s dinners are precisely made but don’t require a utensil.
Don’t be fooled by 1st Class with their love of money and jewels. On Snowpiercer, food and emotional ties are the true valuables and the best weapons.
Zarah was very affectionate with Andre once Josie was out of the way, giving hope to my shipper heart. Andre seemed to melt into her more than he did with Josie as well.
I missed Andre in the present day in this episode. At least they found a clever way to include him and he was only sidelined for one episode.
Now that LJ is free and clearly had what she needed to free herself, I can forgive him for his part in her arrest and trial and be angry at Melanie for experimenting on children instead. What the heck are Melanie, Jinju and Klimpt up to? It seems like they’re attempting long term stasis, but Nikki’s results should be enough to stop the drug trials and pull everyone out.
How on earth does Melanie justify doing such dangerous experiments on children when there are so few left in the world? We knew she was cold and classist, but I had hope that she wasn’t as bad as she seems. Apparently, she’s worse. So is Jinju, though she always seems like she might have no choice but to go along with whatever Melanie wants.
And what is the list Melanie and Jinju mentioned? Is it a naughty list or a nice list? Is stasis solely for criminal and political prisoners, or is Melanie afraid it’s the only way humans will survive the Freeze?
Please, can a Tailie computer hacker walk by those server banks and get curious? Or can Javi defect to the rebels and explain what they’re for? We’re shown them multiple times an episode. That’s not a coincidence.
Josie tells Terence that Layton isn’t the dying type. Is this another hint that he was sent into the cannibals alone as a sacrifice but unexpectedly survived?
Wow, Ruth is really invested in the system and the rule of unchanging order. Like to a pathological degree. Maybe Erik was her hitman.
I bet Ruth loves the Big Book of Snowpiercer’s Rules of Order. Where did that book come from? Is it a covenant between Wilford and the passengers?
So Josie is actually a medical professional. The visuals were confusing me. Sometimes it seemed she was just comforting the patient while someone else was doing the doctoring.
Now that Josie’s seen what’s happening in the drawers, will she be instrumental in solving the detox issue or improving the stasis drug? As a vet, she might have a slightly different knowledge base to work from than Klimpt and Jinju. Plus, she has some real world experience with kronole that they don’t have.
Why on earth has Melanie left so many professionals with valuable skills back in the Tail? I’m never going to get over that. Plus, if the train is emptying out cars that were used for food storage, why can’t the Tail expand into some of those?
Melanie could incorporate the Tailies into the rest of the train much more quickly than she is. It’s hard to guess how much she’s dragging her heels because she likes having the example of the Tail to use to scare the rest of the train into doing what she says, so they don’t end up starving and in rags; and how much she needs to integrate the Tailies slowly to keep the resentment of the ticketed passengers to a reasonable level.
Miss Audrey Is Much More Than a Pretty Face
Miss Audrey’s look during the opening sequence is the result of a masterful blend of cinematic techniques which are used to add depth to her character. Audrey (and Lena Hall, the actor who portrays her) is a beautiful, glamorous woman. But in this scene, she looks older and harsher than we’ve ever seen her. Instead of a pampered star, she looks like an aging working class night club manager.
Miss Audrey also looks like a survivor with the moxie to take on 1st Class and Melanie. She’s fought a few wars of her own and isn’t afraid to get down in the dirt. She may work in show business, but she’s not Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. She’s Rick Blaine, the world weary café owner from Casablanca. She knows who she is and who her people are.
She’s chosen her side, because there is no true neutrality, even in the real world.
Switzerland is actually a wealthy country which caters to the wealthy of the world. It’s far from neutral; it simply chooses to protect the wealthiest class rather than taking sides in politics, as Melanie attempted to persuade Miss Audrey to do. Switzerland chooses to remain neutral in political disputes between the factions of other countries and regions not out of some moral position, but rather because choosing sides would interfere with its business transactions. Far from promoting morality, the country facilitates the high crimes and safeguards the fortunes of some of the most morally corrupt people in the world.
Melanie tries to argue that if Audrey takes the side of 3rd Class, she’ll inconvenience the upper classes, who then might feel uncomfortable in the Night Car, affecting business and affecting the mental health of the train, since the Night Car functions as a therapy car. It’s a circular argument which doesn’t take into account the mental health or physical wellbeing of 3rd Class, by assuming the wealth of 1st Class is what keeps the Night Car in business.
Miss Audrey’s look in this scene is achieved through several techniques, such as lighting, hair, makeup and camera work. The lighting is deceptively golden, tricking the eye into thinking it will soften her features, but there’s an underlying clarity of tone to the color and a harshness to the contrast that the shadows bring.
The camera is also in such sharp focus that it brings out every fine line in Miss Audrey’s face, probably because of the lens that was used, but I’m no cinematographer. It’s hard to see this in a screen cap, but if you have a good TV or other screen, pause the scene in a few spots and take a look at how they worked to make the lighting and focus unflattering to Lena.
Lena also positions herself to make her face look sad, old and unhappy by gritting her teeth and tensing her jaw and neck. Her makeup, which is perhaps meant to look like stage makeup, is too intense to be flattering up close, especially her lips and eyebrows, and also helps to emphasize the fine lines in her face. Her hair, which is normally perfect, is dull and bordering on frizzy.
She has a fake (?) tattoo and glitter on her chest and shoulder which almost look like a rash or burn scars at first glance. I thought of this later during her testimony when she brought up the diseases in 3rd Class that don’t get treatment and wondered if the decoration hides something else, like a scar or skin cancer.
Taken together, all of these pieces show us that Miss Audrey may be able to pull herself together to put on a good public show in her widow’s weeds, but she’s privately devastated by Nikki’s death. If you thought the widow’s weeds in episode 4 were simply a dramatic performance, you were wrong.
When her look is combined with the photo and the voiceover, we can guess that Nikki symbolizes everything Miss Audrey has lost. She was the one who Audrey had held onto through the Freeze and the inequality of the train. Now she’s been unfairly taken away and Miss Audrey will be sending some messages of her own. The words of the song resonate for her as well.
Though we’ve gotta say goodbye for the summer,
Hey, I’ll promise you this,
I’ll send you all my love in a letter,
Sealed with a kiss.
Sealed with a Kiss
The way Sealed with a Kiss was emphasized in episode 4 kept nagging at me, since it suggested that the song was more than just a random choice by the creators. This episode makes me certain of that. Layton knows he’s missed something in the case and it’s nagging at him, even in the drawer, in the form of a song stuck in his head.
Nikki sings the same lyrics from Sealed with a Kiss that were emphasized by LJ in episode 4, except for changing “baby” to “hey”: “Though we’ve gotta say goodbye for the summer, hey, I’ll promise you this, I’ll send you all my love in a letter, sealed with a kiss.”
The lyrics, by themselves, suggest a few possibilities.
“Say goodbye for the summer” has obvious significance on Snowpiercer. They’ve all said goodbye to the summer, forever. Movement from summer to fall and winter is also a reminder of the power structure on the train. For example, Roche shook hands a few times with Wilford before they boarded the train, but hasn’t seen him since he holed up in the biosecure engine after the permanent winter journey began. Saying goodbye to the summer was also saying goodbye to the original, accessible Wilford.
In this episode Miss Audrey reminds Melanie that they were once united in convincing Wilford to do the right thing for the lower classes. She hints that she knows Melanie is Wilford, but keeps it ambiguous.
Nikki and Audrey were close. Layton only spoke a few words with Nikki in life, but if there’s some sort of shared consciousness happening between residents of the drawers, courtesy of those endless server banks, he may be haunted by an upload of her mind or seeing and hearing a leftover echo.
“I’ll promise you this” I have a few thoughts here. First, it’s time to mention that Sealed with a Kiss was used in the 2006 cult slasher film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. In the film, Emmet and Mandy, a pair of bullied high school students, get revenge on their classmates while keeping her involvement a secret. They have a suicide pact, which Mandy reneges on. At the end, Mandy and Emmet fight each other to the death, she wins, and then rides off into the sunset with Garth, a 2nd, cuter boy, who thinks she’s a heroic victim. The film turns the Final Girl trope on its head by revealing that she survives because she’s a villain, in addition to fulfilling the usual characteristics of the trope. Plus she also kills the slasher when he turns on her, suggesting their alliance was tenuous all along.
I’m not sure what the “Mandy” filmmakers were trying to say and I’m not sure where Snowpiercer’s showrunners are going with LJ’s arc, but there are some obvious similarities between these two stories. It rarely occurs to male writers when they write women’s stories like this film or LJ’s arc on Snowpiercer that women are frequently coerced by their violent, abusive boyfriends into cooperating with the boyfriends’ violent crimes. It’s as if Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t exist.
Male creators have often observed women’s behaviors very closely and can write women accurately from an external point of view. But they don’t understand the potential motivations behind the behaviors at all, as if it’s never occurred to them to just talk to a few women who’ve been in similar situations.
They write these shows in such a way that the only understandable motivation for the characters, as written, is that they were coerced and abused. But in the shows, the woman is the femme fatale, the criminal mastermind, the evil Eve or Lolita who led the poor, unsuspecting male astray. And of course an evil woman deserves a harsh punishment. Eve was thrown out of Eden. Lolita was thrown out of the Eden of childhood, passed between men and finally left a single teenage mother. The show becomes nothing but another male fantasy.
Our culture, as a whole, trains us to be oblivious to so many forms of everyday abuse, whether its racism or ableism or sexualized violence or abuse of power by an authority figure. The higher your natural position in the power structure, the less you notice what’s going on around you, unless you’ve been a victim of that particular form of abuse. This is true of everyone. We all live in our own bubble.
The lover in the song promises to send love in a letter, sealed with a kiss. Promises can be coerced. During torture, promises are broken.
A promise is also form of consent, which a minor child like LJ can’t legally give to an adult man like Erik.
This song is associated with both Nikki and LJ. 3rd Class still wants the justice they were promised for Nikki’s death, while LJ has promised to keep Wilford’s secrets and make herself useful in exchange for her pardon. Those two promises are about to start a class war, unless Melanie does some quick thinking. Layton was in the drawer for these developments, but he knew something like this would happen. He helped create Nikki as the ultimate 3rd Class victim and LJ as the ultimate symbol of 1st Class privilege, with both as symbols of broken promises.
“I’ll send you all my love in a letter” I have a few ideas for this one and very little evidence. Something must be tickling the back of Andre’s mind. Maybe Zarah sent a message to the Tail telling him about Miss Audrey’s giant book of Snowpiercer’s rules and regulations. That would be something he could use if they went for negotiation and a less violent revolution. That book will be important in some capacity, that’s for certain.
Maybe he realized the implications of something he read and pushed to the side in the Folgers car. Or another message he received from uptrain when he was still in the Tail. Or maybe Melanie slipped up somehow. Maybe something about her Fight Night message from Wilford clicked in his brain. Was that a message to Erik or another of her minions?
There’s also still that puzzling quote from Erik to Jinju, “She said this was coming.” Was Melanie sleeping with Erik, too? Humbert Humbert sleeps with Lolita and her mother, so the precedent is there.
“Sealed with a kiss.” That can only be secrets and/or poison. Poisonous lipstick, the Judas kiss, the Kiss of the Spider Woman, the kronole stuck in the cheek: there’s just no other way this is going. Betrayal is in the air. Every witness at the trial lied or seriously embellished the truth. Even those we thought were honorable. I’d bet a lot that a brakeman, probably Oz, planted the penises in the jewelry box. That’s just not where LJ would keep them.
The cop in Andre knows he needs to look into the connection between the black market, kronole and the murders. Just as the Tail couldn’t be safe until the cannibals were gone, kronole will cannibalize the entire train unless it’s eliminated. Terence and Annie showed us in this episode that they are far from benevolent.
In her testimony, LJ said that Sean Wise told her and Erik that “Shadows and lies were taking over our beautiful train.” and “Sean Wise gave his life to save humanity from the darkness that almost swallowed me whole.” She’s talking about kronole. That second quote suggests that she was threatened somehow. She also says his death helped save humanity from kronole. How? Was he selling it as well as informing? Did he try to get LJ hooked?
Nikki’s Body and LJ’s Guilt
LJ has an airtight alibi for Nikki’s murder. The entire train saw LJ in the Night Car for the fight, right up until the very end, when the Folgers were forced to leave at last call. That was the period of time when Nikki was being murdered.
When he was done with Nikki, Erik stayed in public for hours, where he’d be seen, in the 3rd Class dining car, perhaps so that LJ couldn’t be implicated. He only left when he knew Nikki’s body was about to be found. Then he went to the bee storage unit, and stayed there until Till and Oz found him.
Was he leading the brakemen to his hiding place, so they could find something important he’d hidden there? The J-hook that he left among his possessions in the Folgers’ car also leads back to the storage unit, providing another tip off to search that area. As LJ basically says in her trial, Erik is the one who tortured and questioned Sean. He heard the secrets Sean spilled. That’s likely why Erik was targeted for death next, after Nikki and Sean. (Remember, someone told him this was coming.)
But whoever Erik works for, or whoever put the hit out on him, didn’t count on him carving up Nikki so thoroughly. Her throat isn’t just slit (well, it might be when he leaves her). By the time Melanie and Andre get to her it’s opened wide and something electronic, with a flashing light, has been inserted inside.
Is that a message for Melanie, the Voice of the Train? Is it a medical implant Nikki had due to a previous injury or illness? We’ve already been shown that Klimpt violates the bodies of the living. He’d have no problem violating the bodies of the dead.
Whoever wanted Erik dead also thought that his secrets would die with him. Melanie was honestly floored to realize how much LJ knows, which means she didn’t think LJ was actually the mastermind who ordered Erik around, or even involved in the crimes at all. She knew the trial was a sham. As did virtually everyone involved in it. They were all playing out a piece of theatre meant to appease 3rd Class so they could get back to their normal lives as soon as possible.
Melanie would never have allowed LJ to take the stand if she thought LJ could reveal her secret. Since Sean was her informant, he had a high likelihood of guessing the truth. Layton guessed that was the real reason why he was brought out of the Tail- because Melanie was afraid Sean told the killer her secret.
Melanie thought her secret died with Erik and that LJ had no involvement, so putting her on trial would show Melanie’s own power over 1st and gain her some favor with 3rd. But either Layton or Erik shared the truth with LJ, or she was really present when Sean died. My money is on Layton giving her the ammunition she needed, but Erik also fed her pieces of the story.
Graphic photos of Nikki’s injures from episode 4 follow. Fair warning if you want to skip them.
Layton is dreaming about Nikki singing LJ’s song with a mutilated neck , with lyrics about sealing letters with a kiss. He knows he’s missed something with this case, and that Nikki’s throat holds a key clue.
Layton must have caught the tiny flashing light inside Nikki’s mutilated neck, but was distracted from processing it by all of the anger and regret in the room. Roche helped heap blame on everyone, extending the argument. That’s not the only time I’ve questioned Roche’s motives lately. Maybe he’s not as honest as he seems.
No idea what’s causing the light.
Screen Caps from Opening Credits
Collider interview with Daveed Diggs
Interview with Snowpiercer Production Designer Barry Robison– Includes an in universe explanation of how the chains came to be.
Snowpiercer Zoom call backgrounds
Essential viewing: Explore the Train
This might be the greatest fan theory of all time.
Images courtesy of TNT.
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