In episode 6, Melanie saves the train from derailment and a workers’ strike, Andre tries and fails to assassinate Melanie, and the train has a party. It’s another busy day in the life of Mr Wilford and the Train Detective, odd couple of the apocalypse.
However, the train is bleeding and none of Melanie’s fixes address the underlying causes.
Oz gets the voiceover this week. It’s the morning after Till knocked him out so she could help Josie save Layton. He seems not only recovered, but feeling good after his ordeal in the Drawers and wherever he disappeared to while she was gone.
Oz is in his tiny, industrial gray cabin, shaving with a straight razor.
“People long for life before the Freeze, but I don’t know. I might like this life better. I think of me mum, chain-smoking at the kitchen table, fresh bruises under last night’s makeup. ‘Keep your head on a swivel,’ she’d say, ‘Cause trouble comes sideways.’ It’s a zero-sum world now. You set a thing in motion and watch it tumble down the line. All that’s coming is coming head on. The whole great s–tshow flattened down to a single line. To climb, someone else falls. To gain, someone else loses. And roundy-round we go, 1,001 cars long.”
As Oz speaks, we’re shown a worker hiding something behind a W seal in a duct in the industrial section of the train. Then we’re shown where Erik’s bullet came out on the other side of the electrical box and has caused a corrosive yellow fluid to leak down over various mechanical parts and levels. By the end of the voiceover, it reaches an important electrical junction and sets off an alarm.
Guess the jackboots got so caught up in killing Erik and the brakemen were so concerned with rescuing Jinju that everyone forgot about the shot he fired and the repairs were never done.
Layton is in hiding with Zarah, vomiting up copious amounts of black goo. That can’t be good.
Miss Audrey’s assistant, Clay, passes out flyers in the 3rd class dining car for a workers’ strike this evening at 6:00 PM.
Javi receives the electrical alarm in the engine. It’s for subtrain 3, platform 312. Ben says he’ll go check it out. Javi is resentful and accuses Ben of taking all the fun jobs and not following protocol. In a half joking way, of course.
Ben asks if he wants to invoke Wilford’s “no fraternizing in the engine” rule.
Javi: “When she first took this train, she said we’ll follow his order. But I guess if she can turn a trial into a total sham, you can shag the help, too, right?”
Ben tells Javi to get a girlfriend, but Javi grumbles he’d have to lie to her, too.
So his real problem is that he has to lie to everyone. And he’s isolated in the engine.
He needs to get out more. There are so many single passengers who share his secret about Mr Wilford. Maybe they should form a Facebook group or have support group meetings in Erik’s beehive storage closet.
The sham of a trial he blames Melanie for was a sham because of the rules Wilford set up for Tribunals. Melanie was trying to defuse a volatile situation and didn’t have a lot of leeway to work with.
(In the end, she gave each side something, making her justice in the case fairly even-handed. Her mistake is that she’s not pointing that out to Audrey and the Folgers. And Javi, I guess, since he’s slow on the uptake.)
Jinju attempts to talk Melanie through some guided meditation, but Melanie guides herself into her work uniform instead. She shows Jinju the workers’ strike flyer and says she’s going to crush the movement. She asks Jinju how her first night living with Till was. Jinju says Till never came home.
Till shows up at Roche’s office still wearing yesterday’s uniform, with her hair a mess. She spent the night looking for Oz, who’s already waiting for her and looking fresh as a daisy. Till tries to apologize for choosing the Tailies and knocking him out, but he shushes her. They’ve already been assigned to investigate the origin of the flyer and can discuss the other thing later.
After a long, restless night, Andre wakes up for real. He’s agitated and asks how he got there. Zarah explains that he’s okay, the worst of what he remembers were dreams. Josie brought him to her from the Drawers. She asks why they drawered him. He gets defensive and it turns into an argument. What he says doesn’t really makes sense. She slaps him, possibly to shut him up before he says something he shouldn’t.
Andre: “You drag me out of the Tail, you tell me that you love me? I almost believed it!
Zarah: “So did I!”
Andre: “We ended that night!”
Zarah: “I don’t want to talk about that night!”
Andre: “You should have kept your hands clean! You should have left me out of it! Then, all of this rage that you feel, all of the blame, then it would have been pure!”
Zarah’s voice is caring until she brings up Josie. Then I could see her either feeling jealous or trying to remind Andre that others will be listening. But he’s out of his mind from the drug withdrawal, so their normal low level of public discord spirals out of control. It sounds like his last speech might implicate her in the plot to murder Sean, maybe in the wider conspiracy. And Zarah’s not the only one with the potential to be jealous.
It sounds like he’s implying that she had him brought out of the Tail so he could solve the murders without implicating the wrong people, which he did. But I will never believe that he wanted to live happily ever after in his Tailie utopia while making rebellion plans that he knew would never work. That’s a lie he uses to manipulate people.
He asks if she’s going to turn him in.
Dude, she held you while you vomited all night. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. If she was going to turn you in, she would have done it before she was covered in black puke and other bodily fluids.
She tells him no and looks at him like he’s the stupidest man in the world, which, well, see above. And the rest of the episode. This drug really should be illegal.
Down in the Market, outside of Zarah’s hiding place, Melanie makes an appearance with a unit of heavily armed jackboots. Usually she leaves these types of speeches to Ruth, so she’s serious about this. Thirdies call her names like fascist and scum, then the jackboots hit them with their batons, hard, and yell for silence.
The weird thing is, this was filmed in 2019, before the US started using gas and violence against peaceful protesters at the whim of
illegitimate politicians. Mr Wilford Melanie reminds the Thirdies that their work is not only sacred, it’s also their ticket aboard the train. If they go through with the strike, they are no longer paying for their passage. Everyone has their place and the Thirdies need to remember theirs.
They aren’t people with innate human rights. They are workers who are obligated to serve the eternal engine
of capitalism or die. Sounds familiar.
The Thirdies yell that the train depends on them and they outnumber the rest of the passengers. The jackboots beat more of them. One of Melanie’s guards tells her to wrap it up before they lose control of the crowd.
Layton and Zarah watch from above. Miss Audrey and Clay are in the crowd.
Melanie: “If this work stoppage goes ahead, Mr Wilford will seize 10 striking workers at random and send them to the Tail. He will bring 10 Tailies forward to fill their posts. You think life in 3rd is bad? There are 400 souls downtrain who would kill for what you have! Protect it. Call off the strike. Thank you.”
And there it is. A fascist dictator speech straight out of Orwell’s 1984. She threatened to punish the workers, sure, but she also made sure they knew that their lives aren’t as bad as they think they are. That she is actually a benevolent dictator. That for now, she’ll just make things worse for a few people as punishment. But if they continue to strike, 3rd could become just like the Tail, and it would be their own fault, because they would have ruined the balance of their beautiful, sacred system.
This is also the first indication we’ve had that the Tail is used as a prison and that Melanie cultivates a sense of competition between the Tail and 3rd Class in order to keep them as enemies. She referred to the Tailies as killers, practically cannibals, who would come for everything the Thirdies have if they could.
Once Melanie leaves, Josie comes to move Andre to a new hiding place. She tells Zarah that anymore contact between her and Andre would be too dangerous. Zarah gives Andre a fresh set of clothes for the road and says she’s not the enemy.
Andre doesn’t speak to Zarah after Josie shows up, he lets Josie do all of the talking. Second wives can be so possessive.
As they move through the market, Andre asks Josie how she’s getting out of the Tail. She explains their system, referring to their food as “bug bars”, which confirms that they are the same cockroach protein bars as were eaten in the film, and the Tailies already know it. Yum.
Andre stops Josie in order to explain that Melanie is the real Wilford. He wants to make sure he’s very clearly told at least one other person in case something happens to him. Again. But he doesn’t want her to tell anyone, not even in the Tail, until they make plans.
Seems like her likelihood of getting caught is so high that she should also choose one extremely trustworthy person to tell, like Lights.
Ben finds the electrical panel that’s shorting out and follows the dripping liquid where it’s continuing to run into other systems. He doesn’t trace it back to its origin.
Josie brings Andre to Dr Pelton’s office. He doesn’t trust her, since he met her when she did Sean’s autopsy for Melanie and Klimpt. She wants to examine him to determine how much damage the suspension drug has done to his body, but he fights her and Josie. Josie tries to explain that she connected with Dr Pelton through their allies in the Tail, but Andre is still too affected by the drug to be reasonable.
Pelton: “Some people come out like vegetables. Others are agitated, impulsive.”
Which means that Nikki was the worst case scenario, a vegetable, and Andre is the best case scenario, agitated and impulsive.
Pelton: “Tissue damage is limited. As for your melon, could be days before the fog clears.”
After only a few days in the drawer, Andre already has a dark patch like a bruise on his arm where the drug was pumped in. After 2 years, the tissue on Nikki’s arm was necrotic.
As the doctor examines Andre and goes through the list of symptoms typical of the suspension drug that’s been in use on the train for 7 years, he asks her how she knows so much about the side effects of the drug. It shouldn’t be funny, but it is. He’s such a brilliant detective.
He tries to continue his witness interview with her. She tells them that she does medical exams on the prisoners who are released from the drawers, that’s it. Andre says they’re lab rats, not prisoners, but Pelton says the experiments are classified. She tells them that there are 12 cars involved in total, with hundreds of drawers between them, but she’s not sure what they’re for. Her guess is there’s a blacklist and the drawers are for mass incarceration of the people on it.
Oz plans to extort Till, and by extension Jinju, for everything he can get out of them, in exchange for his silence about what happened in the Drawers. He’s thrilled to discover that Till is a dirty cop, too.
They find Walter the Papermaker in the 3rd Class dining car. Oz takes delight in questioning Walter about the paper for the flyer, using his own sadistic methods, without Till’s interference. Walter says the paper is homemade stock, not his. Till asks if someone asked for advice on making paper. Oz squeezes Walter’s genitals extra hard and Walter admits that it was Clay from the Night Car.
Back in the Tail, Suzanne has succumbed to her infection. Her skin has the same gray cast with blackish lips as Layton and Nikki did when they came out of the drawers. She has some of the same skin lesions that covered Nikki’s face. The kronole may have killed her as much as the infection did.
Just in case there was any question, this makes it absolutely clear that there is no benign medical or casual use for the drug. It ravages users’ bodies and minds quickly.
Last Australian tells Patterson that as her next of kin and the head of the family, it’s up to him to decide on Suzanne’s burial rites. He suggests a song or a prayer. Winnie kisses her rag doll and leaves it with her mother’s body. Patterson’s grief is overshadowed by his anger. He doesn’t want a funeral and tells Aus to call for the body disposal team, then drags his little sister away.
Lights and Aus are bereft. They want to do something in memory of Suzanne and to lift spirits in the Tail. Lights asks for Aus’ help. She has an idea that will allow the Tailies to see beyond the Tail for the first time in years.
Melanie pops into the damaged section of subtrain for a little flirtation with Ben before they settle down to assessing repairs. He says they should have run away to Tahiti together, suggesting they were a couple in some form before the Freeze, which makes Javi’s reaction to their affair even more questionable than it already was.
It’s a bit churlish of Javi to object to Mel “getting some” approximately every 3 years, with her close friend who is her equal in age, education and professional stature, except for the tiny matter of the coup.
Does he want her to spend the rest of her life alone and celibate? Would he expect that of a man in her situation and refer to Ben as the help? Or would he expect that the real Mr Wilford would sleep with Thirdies from the Night Car and keep his secrets from them?
Or is he jealous that Mel didn’t pick him? Javi comes off as the train’s incel, resenting Mel because he lacks her and Ben’s social skills and adaptability.
Everyone on the train is keeping secrets from everyone, so Javi’s argument that he can’t be in a relationship for that reason is laughable. Melanie certainly doesn’t tell Ben everything. Or Jinju, her other close confidante.
Javi and Till are the only two people on the train who don’t understand that a lack of privacy and life in an oppressive regime equal a life of keeping secrets and wearing masks at all times.
Please, someone give Javi and Till a copy of Orwell’s 1984, and explain the relationship and betrayals between Winston and Julia, before they make the same mistakes.
In a fascist state, it’s imperative that you keep your deepest and darkest secrets to yourself. Secrets are power and they will be used against you and your loved ones.
Layton is still on the case with Pelton, questioning why she’s decided to risk her own safety to help Tailies now. She shows him a bag of passenger files, explaining that every passenger has one. They include medical history, entitlements, housing and a little checkbox on the bottom right side of the page. The box is checked on the file of roughly one in 10 passengers.
Pelton: “There’s rumors of a list. A blacklist. Enemies of the state. I think this is it.”
Pelton: “Because you’re on it. Both of you. And as of 2 weeks ago, so am I.”
She did Sean’s autopsy about 2 weeks ago. What is it that Melanie didn’t want her to see?
Boki the Breachman is talking to the schoolkids in the classroom, including Miles. He loves to tell a good story, encouraging the kids down on the floor to feel and hear the hum of the Engine Eternal. Melanie interrupts to send him downtrain to help Ben. Before he goes, he leads then in a chant for their savior, Mr Wilford.
Melanie checks in with Miles, asking about a special assignment she gave him. She’s impressed with his work, which looks like it involves a lot of higher math for someone his age. He tells Melanie that it’s easier for him to work alone, because he sees the solutions like pictures.
Zarah confides in Audrey while they’re both at work in the Night Car. She feels like she’s already lived several lives, then died and been reborn after each one. She lists the Freeze, the Tail, the Chain. She’s worried about Miss Audrey being sentenced to the Tail and not surviving the horrors there. Miss Audrey says that Zarah got out. She will too. They’re fighters. They protect the things they love.
She notices Zarah’s hand on her belly and soft smile, realizing that it means Zarah is with child. They share a moment of real joy.
They’re interrupted by the Voice of the Train, announcing a mechanical disruption in car 780. The subtrain is restricted until further notice and the section will be cleared.
For those keeping track, Erik shot out the junction box at subtrain station 778, 2 cars above the drip that’s crippling the train.
Josie needs to leave Layton and return to sanitation or Astrid will be stuck spending the night in the Tail. He grabs Josie’s wrist as he says goodbye to her, slipping off her chip bracelet without her noticing. While she says goodbye to Pelton, he takes a scalpel and slips from the room.
Josie notices that he’s taken her bracelet, but he runs beyond a barrier before she can catch him. He tells Josie that Melanie’s announcement included her location. Since she doesn’t know he’s out of the drawers yet, this might be his only chance at a surprise attack on her.
He flips up his hood for a clever disguise. Given the jackboots’ current mood this seems unwise, but he’s practicing being invisible today and so far it’s worked. One of Layton’s superpowers is manipulating how he appears to people.
On the other hand, he just put gates and doors between himself and Josie, stranding and endangering her and Astrid without a second thought, using the chip he passed to her with True Love’s Kiss.
When Zarah slapped him, he immediately recognized the danger his behavior was creating to her and became passive. Now, hours of detoxing later, all he can think about is Melanie, despite the way Josie begs him to think of her.
Ruth walks Melanie to the subtrain hatch as they go over the mechanical issue Melanie is attending to. She tells Ruth that it’s routine maintenance, helping swap out one bogie motor for another. Ruth notes that Melanie gets to put on grubbies. It’s a parallel to the pilot, when Melanie reminded Ruth that going to the Tail would be a chance to wear her fur coat.
Melanie says that she’s going at Mr Wilford’s request. Ruth asks how Wilford is acting now, after his out of character indulgence of 3rd Class at the trial. She reiterates that 3rd Class needs to be hammered down rather than coddled or they’ll get out of hand. As we know, she has strong feelings about maintaining order on the train She gets a bit emotional when she talks about Wilford’s slip. Before Melanie goes down the hatch, she reminds Ruth to breathe and maintain “Calm Train”.
The maintenance that Melanie needs to do is anything but routine. Ben, Boki and their team begin using chains to lift the heavy bogie motor out of place so that they can get to the brake lines and other essential systems that have now been affected. As they lift and guide the motor, one of the chains breaks, causing the large piece of machinery to swing into the face of one worker, then drop with a thud into the floor of the train.
It’s a lot of uncontrolled weight in a bad spot, just as the train is reaching a canyon bridge on a curve at high speed. The cars jostle and shake in a frightening way. Alarms go off in the engine room.
Layton lies in wait for Melanie in the same spot where Erik was killed. It’s also where Erik held Jinju hostage and waited for the jackboots to catch up to him before he shot out the electrical panel, which caused the leak that’s creating the brake issue.
Melanie arrives in a subtrain car, driving herself. Layton grabs her as soon as she gets out, greeting her as Mr Wilford and waving the scalpel in her face. He tells her he knows she has a list and accuses her of putting her personal and political enemies in the Drawers. Then he says, “Look at my face. It was a Tailie that got you in the end.”
Melanie tries to explain that he’s misunderstood the drawers. Then the motor falls, causing the train to lurch precariously on the track. The train goes into emergency lockdown. Alarms are blaring all over the train. Every car is affected. Melanie and Layton fall down and briefly wrestle for the scalpel.
He wins the knife, but she tells him that he needs to let her go because the train needs her. As he looms over her, she tries to explain.
Melanie: “The drawers aren’t what you think.”
Layton: “The drawers are H–l and my people are still in them.”
Melanie: “They’re not a prison. They’re a lifeboat. We’re hanging by our nails. Layton, we’re hanging by our nails. The whole GD human experiment. It can be undone by a bloom of mold. If the social order collapses, if resources fail, if the mechanics fail, our best hope is to keep life in suspension, to keep people in stasis, while we ride out this Freeze. 400 people. They were selected for diversity, for health, for skills, to give us a fighting chance on the other side.”
Layton: “You decide who lives and who dies.”
Melanie: “No, we all made that choice when we boarded this train and we left people behind. The train’s dying, Layton. Please, let me fix her.”
He lets her go and drops the scalpel. She picks up her bag and doesn’t call the jackboots, or even Roche and Till. She has more important things to concentrate on right now than catching Layton, which also gives him a head start.
That was, in a way, Melanie’s whole story. It’s probably as much of the core truth that serves as Snowpiercer’s guiding principle as Ben and Jinju know, maybe more. I’m not sure she would ever tell them how close to the edge the train is. She can say it to a Tailie who’s always close to death anyway, but not to her department heads, who depend on her to find a way to save Snowpiercer from every calamity.
Melanie climbs down to the engineering level below the subtrain level, where Ben, Boki and their team are trying to recover from the disaster with the motor. Ben says they’ve had a master hydraulics failure and he needs a controller. Melanie volunteers to go.
She crawls down into a crawlspace below Ben and works on a panel for a minute. It doesn’t work- Ben says there’s a telemetry failure. He’s not getting any readings from the pistons on that side. Melanie can tell that the problem is something physical on the underside of the train. She decides to suit up and be the one hang outside, through the floor of the train, to do the repair.
Ben and Boki argue with her, as any sensible humans would do. She just got done telling Layton that the train needs her. Mel tells Boki that he doesn’t know the specs and Ben that he’ll be better on diagnostics- she’s the action partner in this couple.
As a woman, it’s very satisfying to see another woman go all Tony Stark and pull rank in this way, especially after she just talked her way out of an assassination attempt by a man who’s twice her size and out of his mind on drugs. She may be a fascist dictator, but she’s still my hero.
Once the helmet for her cold suit is snapped on and she has audio with Javi in the engine, she tells him to take the train down to its absolute minimum safe speed. Then she asks how long it is until they get to Terreta Canyon. He says the engine will reach the canyon bridge in 8 minutes and Mel’s car will reach it in 14 minutes. Mel says that at this angle and speed the train will derail when her car hits the canyon. But never fear- she designed it, she’ll fix it. She climbs down into yet another lower level and tells the boys to seal her in.
Boki knows she designed the train and makes the decisions without consulting Wilford, then. Which means he probably knows that Wilford is no more. He must have been teasing her about being in hospitality instead of an engineer after the cattle car breach.
They seal the panel over the hatch.
Till and Oz are stuck in Roche’s office together, clinging to the cell bars. She decides that she’s had enough of his extortion. He says that her morality is almost as flexible as his. She says that there’s some kind of conspiracy going on and she wants to know what it is. And Layton shouldn’t have been in the Drawers. She tries to humanize Oz by asking who he’s thinking about. He says to leave him alone. He’s thinking about himself.
In the Tail, Lights sets up a combination periscope and projector and projects an image of the outside onto a sheet hung on the wall. It’s white on white, but it’s more than most of them have seen in 7 years. They’re in awe. It’s more than Winnie ever remembers seeing. She might have been the last baby born in the Tail, 5 years ago.
Ruth makes it to the hospitality office and reads the appropriate safety directive for possible derailment: keep calm and brace in place.
The engine reaches the bridge. The train shakes more than it ever has. The Tailies stand in awe of what Lights is showing them. They don’t need to brace yet.
LJ is in the first class dining car, sitting at a table, perfectly calm. Everyone else in on the floor, holding on to something. She pushes a glass dessert bowl to the floor. This is the second time we’ve seen her break glass on purpose. The first time was when she purposely dropped a glass in the Night Car at the end of Fight Night, while Erik was murdering Nikki.
Melanie unseals the hatch to the outside. It’s a race to see whether she can fix the disconnected hose before the train reaches the fatal point on the track. She sticks her head and arm out of the bottom of the train, reaching for the parts that need to be fitted back together.
Ruth ad libs another speech, telling the passengers and crew that this can’t be the end. She just knows that they’ll make it. Mr Wilford and his engine always provide. Keep the faith and find someone to hold close. “And please, try to stay warm.”
The speech works, warming the hearts of the passengers and uniting them in their time of need.
Layton rushes back to Pelton’s office, where the doctor and Josie are bracing in place. Josie yells at him and hits him. He tells her that he didn’t kill Melanie and that the damage to the train is bad.
Guess he hasn’t been paying attention to the announcements or the actual train. Pretty sure all of the other terrified passengers know they could die any second now. Hope his detective skills return someday.
Or his grasp of the obvious.
Layton to Josie: “All I could think was I wanted to see you.” They hug.
Yeah, she was certainly on his mind during those last few minutes when he was trying to find Pelton’s office and realising how badly he messed up. Before that? Not so much.
Melanie hangs upside down out of the train and makes repeated attempts to connect two ends of a metal hose that are the only two pieces of hose in sight. She can’t reach them; then she isn’t strong enough to connect them when she does. Finally, with only a few seconds to spare, she makes the connection.
Yay, Mel saved the day.
No one ever mentions that Boki absolutely should have been the one to do this job. Much as I love watching a woman take charge, they ruined it by having her be nearly unable to competently do the job. Boki would have done it on the first try, with much less risk to the train (and yes, I get it, less drama). He didn’t need to know the specs, since there was nothing else out there. Melanie just wanted to do it herself and she almost killed the train to do it.
But now anyone who knows that she was the one who made the repair thinks she’s the ultimate savior and won’t dare question her leadership for a while. Looking at you, Javi.
Oz admits to Till that he was thinking about his mother. She wasn’t a very good person or mother, but she was who he had. He’s used to dealing with harsh reality, and he gives Till a dose. He tells her that Layton will get caught and so will she, whether he says anything or not. He implies that he won’t tell and sends her off to find Jinju.
Ben and Boki pull Melanie out of the hole, relieved that she’s okay.
Till shows up at Jinju’s place with her stuff. She’s crying and shaky. Everything that’s happened over the last few days is sinking in. Till says, “What if I’m not the person you think I am?” Jinju asks what’s going on and says Till can talk to her, but Till knows that’s not true, since Jinju has made it clear from the beginning that she has to keep secrets. And reports directly to Melanie, who’s dangerous. They have love, but not trust. Till pulls herself together. Jinju has a strange look on her face.
Is Jinju trying to decide whether to turn Till in or to be honest with her? Because Till is the most honest person on the train, while Jinju is secretly doing unethical experiments on children and making a list that will potentially result in the wholesale murder of everyone who isn’t on the final version. She’s the one we should be scared of.
There’s a party at the Night Car for the heroes who saved the train. Ben and Boki get official credit as leaders of the repair crew. Mel changes back into her hospitality outfit and stands in the wings. Ben makes a speech that emphasizes the health of the Engine Eternal and the Great Mr Wilford.
Melanie pulls Miss Audrey aside.
Melanie: “Looks like the people in 3rd have had a change in heart.”
Miss Audrey: “The celebration will end, but their grievances won’t. Next time, you won’t have a disaster to save him.”
Melanie: “Hey, Audrey! Read the room. We’re alive!”
The crowd chants, “Wilford! Wilford! Wilford!”
Dr Pelton brings Josie and Layton to her cosy little 2nd class cabin for the night. She says she stays with a guy in Archives occasionally, so that’s where she’ll be. They should lock the door and not open it for anyone. Josie and Layton both look like they showered and generally cleaned up in the doctor’s office. His color is much better and he seems almost back to normal.
Did Pelton give him a wonder drug to clear the kronole out of his system or does it clear that quickly when you’ve only been on it for 2 weeks?
Josie reminds him that Astrid’s in the Tail because of him, but he’s sure she’s fine. Josie brings up Melanie, but he doesn’t want to talk about that either. She tells him to pick the topic and he kisses her, then takes off his shirt. She takes off her clothes and, having agreed on a topic, they continue from there.
Melanie has Miles brought to her in the Hospitality office. She shows him the engineer’s caliper that Mr Wilford gave to her and tells Miles that she’s passing it on to him. Mr Wilford would like a favor from Miles in return.
Children of the Train
When Layton tells Josie that Melanie is Wilford, but says that Josie can’t share it with the rest of the Tail until they figure out how to use the information to their own benefit, he proves my theory that he keeps information from the rest of the Tail and makes secret plans of his own without involving them.
Does Zarah’s pregnancy fit into his secrets and plans somewhere? Were plans put into motion when Dickless Sean won the baby lottery?
In this episode, both Melanie and the Tailies touch the outside for the first time in many years. Melanie has longed for escape nearly as much as they have. After this episode, you could argue that she has a death wish. Or at least a need to actually feel alive before she dies, which is making her reckless. Or you could also say she acts childishly, angering Javi, which could become dangerous in and of itself.
The first time Josie replaced Astrid, she thought she saw Miles in the corridors, but the woman he was with called the boy Christopher. In this episode, Miles is very clearly still known as Miles. Did Josie mistake another child for Miles? What was that? Are there clones on the train?
LJ probably boarded the train when she wasn’t much older than Winnie or younger than Miles. She’s grown up in 1st Class, but she’s still lived in the hermetically sealed, physically deprived world of the train. She can see the icy world through the windows, but she can’t experience it, and she’ll probably never experience it. It’s like she’s immunocompromised and on permanent Covid lockdown.
The lives of all 3 kids have gone through drastic changes in these past 6 episodes. Miles’ world is opening up. He’s moved uptrain, going to school and learning about a demanding career. In this episode, Melanie gave him his first tool directly related to becoming an engineer.
Before he left the Tail, Miles put away the things Layton left behind, perhaps symbolizing that both of them were done with that time in their lives. But also chillingly suggesting that he’s becoming Melanie’s child and leaving Layton behind. Or possibly that Miles is becoming a hybrid who understands and is loyal to the whole train. That’s what the train will need to survive.
Winnie’s been struck by tragedy, but she’s also beginning to learn that the wider world exists. She gave her mother her doll, showing not only her compassion, but also that she understands on some level that her childhood is over and she needs to put away childish things.
Layton told Josie that “Wilford is an illusion to keep the rest of us in line. Melanie Cavill is the one behind the curtain.”
At her young age, Winnie has already played an important role in one rebellion- using the chip in a severed hand to open the door to the next car and reveal what was behind the curtain. Suzanne died for her daughter’s part in the rebellion. In this episode, when Lights turned off the projection of the reality outside the train, Winnie very pointedly went and looked behind the curtain, trying to figure out where the real world went. While it was on, she looked at it from every angle, trying to thoroughly understand it.
Miles took care of his rats in the Tail and is now happy to go to school, learn and follow the rules and will make a great engineer because of those traits. On the other hand, Winnie has already put aside caretaking and started questioning everything. She’s a born researcher and rebel. As with Miles, her mother’s sacrifice won’t be wasted.
LJ has been kept artificially a child in some ways and was never a child in others. Unlike Miles and Winnie, her abusive childhood will never be acknowledged, because she has material goods and her parents put up a good front. But good parents don’t sell out their child to the authorities the way Robert and Lilah did, then reclaim her based on bloodline, after a public circus.
Lilah can tell Melanie stories all the stories she wants about how much her daughter means to her. It doesn’t change the fact that they hired a serial killer to raise their daughter and when they found out, their first thought was how it would affect their own reputations.
LJ may or may not be guilty of terrible crimes, committed with the killer who groomed her from the time she was a young child, but either way, she’s been used by the people of every single class on the train, from Melanie to the Tailies to her own family. Whether or not she was guilty before, she’s angry and alone now, with nothing to lose. The train has created the monster they wanted her to be.
She has no mentor who’s eager to teach her their trade, no loving community of Tailies offering her support after her loss (remember that time Erik, her only friend, died?), no one attempting to fight for her rights or smuggle her to a better place. No one has shown her any compassion or spoken to her like a real human being they cared about for herself instead of her position. No one. In the midst of testimony against LJ that was mostly lies, Jinju said she was nihilistic. The only defense offered for her was that she’d accidentally maimed her father as a young child, but her parents still consider her their daughter.
Why wouldn’t LJ be nihilistic at this point? Or as Layton suggested, need to feel and do something, even if it’s rage and destruction? That’s no different from what we’re watching Melanie and the Tailies do. Melanie and the Tailies have obvious places to direct their negative energy. LJ does not, so it becomes hopeless, helpless nihilism.
Patterson reacted to his mother’s unjust death with anger, though that’s as far as his story went this week. LJ may not be the only troubled teen for long.
Maybe They Should All Move into the Chains Together After the Revolution…
I joked about the way Andre stopped speaking to Zarah when Josie showed up, but it was actually weird. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would use his spouse/girlfriend as his gatekeeper, which is what Josie was doing. During their argument a few minute before, Zarah slapped him to calm him down and so he wouldn’t say anything he shouldn’t. He still spoke to her after that, though it’s clear he’s paranoid then and for most of the episode.
If the suspension drug induces paranoia in addition to agitation, it may explain why the cannibal dream seemed to show the Tailies sending him in to fight them alone. Or it could be the other way around, that the worst version was the truth. Maybe he and Zarah don’t trust anyone on the train but each other because the Tailies tried to use him as a sacrifice.
I’m a little lost as to Andre’s motives at this point, which is actually typical when you’re 2/3 of the way through a good noir. Generally, you’re not sure which of the 2-4 main characters will turn out to be the real villain and who will turn out to have been playing the most complicated game.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a good example of this that also uses a limited storytelling space and character mobility. In this case, the main character is stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg and his main interactions with the world are through his window, which looks out on the courtyard and other windows of his apartment building. The neo-noir Body Heat uses conspiracies, double crosses and mistaken identities between the characters to play out a tangled web of deceit.
But is Andre playing Jimmy Stewart or Kathleen Turner? Or Grace Kelly? He’s already played William Hurt’s role, but that could come around again.
Andre has had sex with two different women, Zarah and Josie, within 6 episodes. He’s also had a strong influence on several others: Till, Melanie, LJ, Pelton and Miss Audrey. He’s had indirect influences on Lilah, Nikki and Jinju as well. He’s the Homme Fatale of this show, keeping women on a string, in various ways. It’s hard to tell when he’s being honest and when he’s playing a role.
Whether his relationships with either Zarah or Josie are real remains to be seen. He says that after 7 years, he’s finally realized he loves Josie romantically. But he doesn’t want to use many words with her and she hasn’t spoken of love yet. He tricked her to get the chip bracelet off her wrist, then left her with Pelton in order to hunt down Melanie. Then Josie basically ran to the other side of the room after Pelton left them alone for the night. He had to coax her back and into bed.
Andre and Josie are frequently filmed with barriers between them and when they aren’t, Josie tends to keep her distance, acting like she doesn’t quite trust him. In other words, I just don’t feel their chemistry and the production is doing the opposite of helping.
Meanwhile, he and Zarah argue about whether or not they love each other every time they see each other. They always manage to say words to the effect that they love each other within the argument. Every time. They touch and kiss and drape themselves over each other. He didn’t try to escape Zarah, even in his drug-induced paranoia. Even when he could see Melanie a few feet away, ready to be followed and assassinated. He didn’t even rant at Zarah about hating Melanie when she gave him the opening by asking why he was in the Drawers. When he’s with Zarah, his focus is Zarah and their own plots or history.
And Zarah’s pregnant with someone’s baby, after she and Andre had sex about 2 weeks ago. Oz mentioned his mum during his opening voiceover while Zarah was shown holding Andre as he vomited. In other words, he was having her morning sickness. It’s a stretch, but it could be a hint that it’s his baby, instead of Dickless Sean’s. Zarah and Andre have been shown to be in tune with each other in various ways. Josie is shown with Big John when she’s not with Layton, holding his hands and staring into his eyes.
It could be that my theory that Josie and Layton are a fake relationship is true, despite the sex. This episode showed us that there are cameras on Snowpiercer, not just eyes and ears, so the characters are in a Big Brother situation of potentially always being watched, along with always being betrayed for their secrets and having their loved ones used against them.
In that situation, it’s safer for Zarah and her pregnancy if Josie seems to be the one that Layton cares about. Zarah can have her baby in peace while Josie accepts any punishment that’s meant to affect Layton. That would help explain Josie’s comment that it’s safer for Zarah if she doesn’t have further contact with Layton. Josie might not care about Zarah, but she’d care about protecting the baby, who’d be a link between 3rd and the Tail. A relationship between Josie and Andre could also be meant to protect Miles from punishments. Josie would want to help her son any way she could.
And it acts as a decoy, should anyone start to think that Zarah planned to have Andre called up from the Tail to work on a murder case. Maybe for a murder she was involved with somehow. Josie and Andre can fake a relationship for a period of time, then decide it didn’t work out and move on with their preferred partners.
Odds & Ends
Thank goodness Clay (Tom Kirk) finally has a name. It was driving me crazy calling him Miss Audrey’s assistant, but I couldn’t find his name anywhere until they said it multiple times in this episode.
Wild theory- Oz was involved in the first two murders and was the one who did the chop chop on the murder victims’ genitals. Maybe Oz and Erik were partners in their sadistic crimes, but Oz was the one who saved and preserved the genitals, then planted them in LJ’s room. In this episode we saw both Oz’s straight razor, which could have been used for the crime, and saw Oz grab and squeeze genitals to tease Till.
I feel like Oz is about to bust out with Queen’s I Want to Break Free in this screen cap. Just where was he while Till was looking for him all night? Maybe with the Janitors acting out the music video to I Want to Break Free.
Just as Melanie feels the train can’t survive without her, Layton is afraid the social order of the Tail will break down if he’s not there to maintain the cooperative OneTail attitude among them. And some are starting to succumb to their anger and resentment.
But others, like Lights and Aus, are stepping up. Lights is an especially exciting leader, both as a dark-skinned black woman and as someone who sees not just beyond the Tail, but beyond the train. Layton is stuck in the present, worrying about overthrowing the current class system, which is necessary, for sure, but it’s also divisive in a time when the train needs a leader to replace Wilford as God, someone with a prophetic vision equal to his vision of the train as an ark.
Lights is potentially a visionary leader who can foresee the future of humanity through the Freeze and out of the train. The entire train needs to hear her voice. Melanie is associated with death and utilitarianism. Even her plan to shepherd humanity through the worst case scenario, the drawers, mimics death. Layton is a political leader who’s focussed on justice in the here and now. He’s associated with strength, life and the world of the senses.
“The train’s dying, Layton. Please, let me fix her.”
The train is always on the razor’s edge of existence. That’s the reason for all of the knives, razors and other cutting tools. When the blue chip was traded the first time, to Firstie York, he traded a razor for it.
When Melanie says those words, I think she means them more literally than she realizes yet. The train’s infrastructure is aging and requires more and more repairs. Its class system is breaking down and she doesn’t care all that much about enforcing it anymore. She can’t say to him straight out that she’s tired of being the train’s hospitality queen and secret dictator, but she can say that she needs to focus all of her energy on keeping the train running.
There are various factions vying to take Melanie’s place, but Layton is her chosen successor. They are two of a kind. She understands that. He doesn’t yet. He doesn’t understand that the train is just a larger, slightly wealthier version of the Tail, where life and death decisions get made constantly.
Or maybe she’s not asking for help. Maybe that speech was a distraction.
Maybe the breakdown was a distraction.
Miss Audrey: “The celebration will end, but their grievances won’t. Next time, you won’t have a disaster to save him.”
The fact that Audrey says this, combined with how carefully aimed Erik’s bullet was and the lack of repairs for 2 weeks, despite fluid leaking all over, makes me think someone planned for at least the initial electrical problems, if not the end result. Any of the skilled workers in the right departments could predict the first accident. Only Melanie could follow the trail all the way to the end. It seems far-fetched, but these people live on a perpetual motion machine in an ice age, so nothing is off the table as far as I’m concerned.
I tend to think Melanie is pushing the people toward the revolution she wants, slowly and carefully. But maybe not. Maybe she wants a peaceful, calm train with 400 people in stasis in the drawers, plus herself and a small engineering crew keeping the train alive, and that’s it.
Maybe that’s the secret that Dickless Sean and Erik knew, and LJ knows, that has turned LJ nihilistic. There probably isn’t anyone from 1st Class on the list of 400 souls who’ll save humanity. Probably no jackboots either. They were needed to help Firsties get on Wilford’s version of the train, but they won’t be needed to get off the train in Melanie’s vision for the future.
Maybe Melanie wants to keep everyone going just long enough to perfect the stasis drug, then get rid of the bulk of them so that she can finally relax. If they’re lucky, she’ll upload the consciousnesses of the excess population into the server banks before she offs them.
Images courtesy of TNT.