Episode 7, aptly titled The Universe Is Indifferent, brings us not just the fridging of Josie, but the actual freezing, at the hands of her fellow white woman, Melanie Cavill. Though she dies so that others can live and emote, Josie goes out calling for justice and a sense of morality based on what’s right and wrong, rather than moral relativism based on convenience.
This might have the most self-aware fridging in TV history, given the way Snowpiercer narrowly avoided the Bury Your Gays trope. Josie could have saved herself by giving up the name of Bess Till, a lesbian character, probably dooming Bess to death instead, but she refused to betray another woman the way Zarah betrayed her. (Zarah is pregnant and her unborn child was threatened, so that’s a different issue.)
Josie hasn’t been one of my favorite characters, but she went out fighting for the greater good even beyond the needs of the train, proving she was the conscience of the Tail all along. I respect that. Before she died, she passed the role of Train Conscience on to Bess. Let’s hope Bess can rise to the occasion. And stay alive.
LJ brings us the opening voiceover from the Night Car this evening, while she watches a performance by Miss Audrey:
“To be human is to be self-involved. Everyone believes they’re the center of the universe. We can’t help it. It’s in our nature. We scheme. We plot. We play our silly little games. Like, why do we think we’re the most important thing in the world? We’re just not. See, I understand something most people are afraid to admit. The universe is indifferent. It doesn’t care about our stupid little plans. Or our fragile little hearts. The universe has its own plans for us, aboard Snowpiercer, 1,001 cars long.”
Up in the engine, Javi is worried about what Layton will do with his knowledge of Melanie’s secret, but Meanie is confident that he won’t say anything right away. He’ll hide out and wait until the right moment to reveal that she’s Mr Wilford. Melanie is sure she can stop him before then. Ben agrees with Melanie, but gives Javi a thoughtful look when she leaves.
Melanie announces to the train that Electrical Engineer DiMarco died during the crisis yesterday, so today she’ll pick an apprentice to replace him. She chooses Miles as the new apprentice and signs off.
Miles is in school. Everyone congratulates him.
It’s Ruth’s day off, but she stops by the hospitality office anyway. She’s worried that Melanie is promoting Miles too quickly. Melanie brushes Ruth off.
Josie and Layton are getting dressed after spending the night together when they hear the announcement. He can tell that she wants to see Miles and tries to talk her out of it. She knows that it’s probably a trap and that Miles is also a hostage. Layton says that they successfully got a Tailie into the engine room, but they need to work on getting enough of 3rd to join their cause. She tells him to work on that. They also need to make contact with Miles to give him his part of the plan.
Klimpt tells Melanie and Jinju that he last checked Layton’s drawer 2 days ago (the day of the trial), so Layton escaped sometime between then and when he attacked Melanie yesterday. Klimpt confesses that there are also several bags of the suspension drug missing, but no one else is missing from the drawers.
Melanie has Terence brought in for questioning. He’s very smug for someone who’s being threatened with the loss of his dominant arm. The hand that feeds, as he notes, or the hand that supplies the train with kronole, as she notes. He touches her shoulder when he says the hand that feeds, which is quite forward for a 3rd Class janitor toward a stiff, 1st Class engineer like Melanie. I think they could be saying that, despite what she and Roche said when they brought Andre out of the Tail, she does supervise and profit from the kronole trade, maybe with few or no intermediaries between her and Terence.
She’s a very hands on dictator.
She accuses him of helping Andre escape, but he denies it. When she remarks that, based on the state of his hands, he clearly doesn’t do any actual janitorial work, he relents and tells her about his meeting with Andre about 5-6 weeks ago, on Fight Night. Old information doesn’t help Melanie, so Terence promises to turn Layton in if he shows up again looking for help.
Josie comments to Layton that it almost feels like they’re a normal couple who’re getting ready for work. Andre gives her the security chip bracelet and says, other than the need for that. Then he tells her she’s beautiful.
Still no words of love between them.
He startles at a knock on the door. Someone slips a note underneath that tells him they’ll help him escape to his new hideout soon. He and Josie say a tearful goodbye. They tell each other to be careful. She says they’re not looking for her.
Andre collapses against the wall after she leaves. Maybe there was more in that note than he let on. Did they tell him that Melanie is actively looking for him now and knows about the chip? Because that trail should lead straight to Josie and Astrid.
It’s odd that it doesn’t occur to Josie that Astrid could have gotten caught and they could be looking for her now, too.
Clay wheels Andre up to Miss Audrey in a laundry cart. She calls him “The Great Revolutionary.” He asks for help out of the cart.
Ben goes to pick up Miles from school to take him to the engine. The teacher gives Miles a tangerine as a going away gift.
Commander Grey stops Ruth in the hall to complement her professionalism when she made her special announcements during the crisis. Then he asks her to lunch and she accepts.
Jinju stops Bess and asks where she was when she didn’t come home all night. Bess says she was nervous and stayed in 3rd. Jinju is skeptical and asks if Bess knows where Layton is or if she helped him escape.
Jinju: “Bess, there are things happening that you don’t understand. If you know where Layton is, you need to tell me now.”
Till denies knowing anything. She’s late for work.
Miles and Ben are still in the classroom. Miles works at his desk, while the teacher reads a story to the rest of the class. Ben asks Miles how he’s doing. Miles says he doesn’t feel good. Ben wonders if he’s worried about leaving the other kids, then says that’s, “The life of an engineer. But up there, we get to see things nobody else does. Sundogs and destruction.”
Miles vomits all over his desk. The teacher has everyone in the room put on a mask in case he’s contagious. Protocol says the teacher needs to get a sub for the class and take Miles to the clinic.
All of the students rush to put their masks on so that they don’t get sick. Ben says he’ll come along to the clinic, but he doesn’t wear his mask properly.
Andre tries to convince Miss Audrey to call a meeting with the labor leaders of 3rd class. She’s not convinced that his desire for war is the best path for the Thirdies. She’s been working for bloodless change using tactics like the work strike that was planned for the day before. Andre says Melanie Cavill got in the way of both Audrey’s plans and his own. Miss Audrey wants to know how Melanie got in the way. He says he’ll explain when she gets him the meeting he wants.
Dr Pelton brings Miles into the exam room and insists on closing the door to help avoid spreading Miles’ illness. She lets Ben watch through the glass. The women all comply with mask and contagion protocols. Ben doesn’t.
So much like real life.
Josie reveals that, behind the mask, she is the nurse who’s helping Dr Pelton. She warns Miles to act like nothing unusual is happening. The teacher tries to distract Ben.
Josie stands with her back to Ben and says that she’s sorry they gave Miles medication that made him feel sick. It was the only way she could see him. He tells her he misses her. She says they can’t be together yet. The revolution is starting soon. Layton has a plan and they need Miles’ help. Miles says he’s in. Josie whispers instructions to him, then hurries out of the office before Ben can catch her. He follows her out and catches a glimpse of her as she rounds the corner in the hall, but doesn’t try to stop her.
What was that? Ben knew something was up, but he let it happen. It almost seemed like he knew about the plan, but the others didn’t know that he knew. Could he be at the very top of the secret rebellion? Or is he just a sympathizer?
Ruth and Commander Grey (Nolan) meet in the Aquarium Bar for their date. Swanky. The man knows how to show a girl a good time.
She’s wearing a snakeskin print dress that shows off her legs. Snake, as in the serpent in the Garden of Eden. He pours them a drink out the same square pitcher Melanie used to poison Andre.
The omens aren’t good for this meal. Has anything good ever happened in this room? This place is starting to remind me of the saying “sleep with the fishes”.
Nolan notices that she’s nervous, since she hasn’t dated in a while. Ruth reminds him that there aren’t many options on the train. “Everyone boarded two by two, didn’t they? Except me.”
A reference to Snowpiercer being an ark. Eventually, I’d like to know more about the humans boarding two by two.
He asks her how she ended up on Snowpiercer.
Ruth: “In the Old World, I had a Bed & Breakfast, in Kendal, and one night, in the middle of this rainstorm, this strange man turned up. He had no reservation. He had no luggage. He was soaked to the bone and it was the off season, so I took it upon myself to look after him, you know, make sure he had everything he needed. We got to talking and he told me all about his fabulous luxury liner that he was building. Said he needed people just like me and gave me a job on the spot. That’s how I met Mr Wilford.”
They toast to Wilford’s health.
Ruth mentions that it’s been two years since Nolan’s wife died. She wonders why he asked her out now. He says that he’s been interested in her for a while, but he had an additional motive for asking her to lunch today.
Enter the Folgers, who greet Ruth cordially. Robert says it’s a perfect day for fish. Nolan says, in a serious voice, that they need to discuss something. Robert tells her that a number of passengers feel Melanie has too much power and influence with Wilford. Lilah adds that they’ve decided to petition Wilford for a change in management, the way 3rd petitioned for a change in the Tribunal. Would Ruth be interested in Melanie’s job if Wilford were to agree?
Ruth is insulted that Nolan toyed with her affections in order to draw her into a treasonous plan and shocked that she’s been asked to take part in said treasonous plan. She moves to leave. Nolan plays on her affections again, assuring her of his high opinion of her and trying to convince her that she should be the one in direct contact with Wilford, not Melanie.
Melanie pays Zarah a visit in the Chain so they can discuss Andre. And Zarah’s pregnancy. Melanie is at her spider woman best, moving and speaking with deadly slowness as she congratulates Zarah on the baby she then threatens to kill. So, she asks, who helped Andre escape?
Layton and Miss Audrey meet with the leaders from 3rd: a bartender, the tunnelman who found Shaun’s body, and Astrid (or possibly Brigid?), plus Dr Pelton from 2nd. The tunnelman and the barkeep argue that the Tailies don’t bring enough to the table and want too much. Layton and his allies try to convince them that there’s enough space on the train for everyone, once 1st Class is open to all. And that the Tailie cohort of 400 will be an effective complement to the 3rd Class fighters against the train’s force of 300 jackboots and brakemen.
Then Layton says he can open all of the doors and he has an explosive secret. They tell him to spit out what he knows. He replies that he was thrown in the drawers for this knowledge, but deep down they all probably already know this.
He’s spinning it up into a good story, just as he did with the cannibalism story.
Melanie leads a unit of jackboots to the Tail so that Zarah can point the finger Josie. Before they take her, Melanie introduces herself to the Tailies and makes a speech warning them not to rebel again. Big John fights to stop the jackboots from taking Josie away.
Josie is brought to an interrogation room and handcuffed to a table. Melanie sends Till out of the room. She wants to conduct the interrogation herself, alone with Josie, so that no one else hears anything they shouldn’t. Bess questions Melanie, because according to the rules a brakeman should conduct the interrogation. She leaves without much fuss, because she has something to hide, too. Her face shows how torn she is, looking for a moment like she might break in two.
Josie is already worked up. She knows that she knows too much to come out of this alive and she doesn’t want to betray the Tail. Her strategy is to disorient Melanie as quickly as possible, in an attempt to keep the questions and torture from going too far.
Melanie offers to let Josie save herself by turning in Layton, the way Zarah saved herself by turning in Josie. Josie responds by telling Melaine that she knows about Wilford. She knows that Melanie drawered Layton because he knew the secret, so she doesn’t expect this to go well for her, no matter what Melanie promises her. Melanie says that then Josie must know that she’ll do anything to find him.
Josie: “Including using Miles? Did you know his mother died getting on this train? He was alone in the world when I found him and now you’re gonna take me as well?”
Melanie: “Well, he’s part of my family now. And you can stay in his life. If you make the right choice.”
Josie needles Melanie a little, listing her crimes, but then backs down a little, saying that Melanie must have had her reasons for them. But she has to know that this isn’t right.
Melanie: “Mr Wilford engineered Snowpiercer to function in a certain way. If I’d have created it, I would have created a different world, a more just world, but I didn’t. I inherited someone else’s creation. You know, people seem to think that those in power answer to no one- they’re free to do as they choose. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The person in power answers to everyone. I make choices, not because I want to, but because everyone demands it. The train demands it.”
Melanie has made basically this same speech several times, trying to convince herself and others that she has no choice about how she runs the train. It’s become more and more obvious that this isn’t true. No one is happy with Melanie’s leadership. Every level would be happy to replace her if it could be done easily.
As the unrest grows, Melanie seizes even more power, and that power corrupts her judgement more thoroughly. She has no one left around her who is able to talk sense into her without risking their lives. Jinju, her closest confidant, is terrified of her. Ben keeps a wary, cool distance. She looks more like a scarecrow all the time, as all of the softness melts from her.
In one last attempt to draw some humanity out, Josie asks her what made her like this?
Melanie hardens even further, which didn’t seem possible a moment ago and is frightening in a “silent scream” sort of way. Pray no one ever gives you that look.
Melanie acknowledges that she can’t say anything that will convince Josie to talk. She unhooks a hose that’s designed to siphon in frozen air from the outside. When Josie still refuses to tell her where Layton is hiding, Melanie freezes the pinkie finger on her right hand. She smashes it with a hammer, while Josie screams and begs her not to do it.
Just before they meet with Terence, Miss Audrey reminds Layton that, “Janitorial is the most corrupt crew on the train.” Layton knows they shouldn’t trust him, but they need Terence’s cooperation to succeed. Despite his visit from Melanie, Terence is still in a jovial mood. He’s surprised that Audrey would get involved in such a messy, bloody enterprise, one which is likely to make her wealthy clients unhappy. Audrey knows there’s a risk.
Terence tells them about his meeting with Melanie, but says he won’t actually turn Layton in, because he doesn’t want to take sides in their war.
Terence: “Uniting the classes. It’s just never gonna work.”
Layton says that Terence has to want it. It’s the will of the people. Terence doesn’t think Layton has the numbers to win.
Melanie vomits in a bathroom, leaving Josie alone for a few minutes.
Could Melanie be pregnant or is it just difficult for her to do her own dirty work?
Till takes advantage of Melanie’s break and checks on Josie. Josie convinces Till that she should join the rebellion because it’s the right thing to do, no matter the consequences to herself. The rest of humanity needs Bess even more than the train does.
Bess can’t break Josie out because of the jackboots guarding the door, so Josie asks her to get a message to Layton telling him that Zarah betrayed them and Miles is ready. Then she asks Bess for one more favor.
With her dying breath, she doesn’t send any sort of personal message to Layton, either from or about herself or their son, Miles. She is a soldier on a mission and so are they. I think that might explain the strangely cold interactions between her and her family at other times as well. The cause and the mission have always come first, including the need to put their lives on the line.
Ruth finds Melanie just as she’s about to go back into Josie’s cell. Ruth tries to tell Melanie about her lunch meeting, but Melanie assumes that Ruth is involved in another frivolous 1st Class upset and yells at her dismissively to take care of it herself. She adds an insult about Ruth’s past running a B&B for good measure.
Let’s note here that it’s Ruth’s day off. It is, in fact, Melanie’s job to “fix it” today, if it were an actual train problem.
But Melanie is involved in a sort of off the books interrogation of a prisoner based on her own personal witch hunt, which she is using train resources to conduct. The root of this mess is the fact that Melanie improperly imprisoned Layton. And on top of that, it was ultimately Layton who got Josie caught by outing himself to Melanie when he stole the chip bracelet and made an attempt on her life.
This is Ruth and Josie becoming collateral damage in Melanie and Layton’s personal war, not the actual revolution. Bess is being added to the damage, as we’ll see in a moment.
Ruth’s British good manners kick in and she accepts Melanie’s unfair rudeness with grace, at least in the moment. She leaves without making a scene. Melanie thanks her, but perhaps also wonders for a second if she made a mistake. Bess and the jackboots overhear the exchange.
This is obviously not the end of this story. The highhandedness Melanie showed in this exchange is exactly what everyone has been complaining about. She’s barely even bothering to pretend she’s not the dictator anymore. Plus, Ruth has been one of her last few allies. She may have lost that.
When Melanie returns to Josie, she tells her prisoner to choose between Layton and Miles. Josie has already made a third choice, herself. She had Bess freeze her entire arm and now she smashes it herself so that she can break free to fight Melanie. She takes her own arm before Melanie can take it, empowering her and turning the state’s favorite punishment into a weapon.
As they fight, Melanie continuously screams for help, but the room is very well sound-proofed so that the screams from torture don’t escape and any secrets revealed stay secret. Melanie becomes a victim of her own machinations. This is why there are always two authorities in the room during an interrogation. She has silenced herself in her relentless drive to silence the entire train.
And here’s the blood Terence warned Audrey about. It’s frozen, but it’s still terrible. They have a knockdown, drag out fight for their lives. Neither is in good shape to begin with and neither has a powerful weapon they can use to end it quickly. Josie tries to use the cold air hose, but she uses it to strangle Melanie rather than to freeze her face and neck, which seemed obvious to me. I don’t understand what the writers were thinking, other than that Melanie needed to win and come out undamaged. Josie is such a great strategist, I don’t see why she’d drop the ball here, unless she wanted Melanie to live for some reason.
Anyway, the hose breaks off at the wall so that cold air pours in continuously. Melanie gets up and gets out, leaving Josie to freeze to death. She watches until the porthole in the door frosts over. As she turns away, Nolan Grey rushes into the corridor, yelling at Melanie for conducting an interrogation without him. Melanie simply tells him to take the body to compost.
That all happened quickly at the end. Then it went to commercial. There’s a small chance that if Nolan went straight into the room, Josie might still be alive. Or he might have been able to keep her alive long enough to get some very interesting information out of her.
That was a horrific sequence, but kudos to all of the actresses involved. Snowpiercer and Graeme Manson are giving women some complex roles to play, from teenager to older woman, from dictator to new mother. And they get to be played by more than Tatiana Maslany this time, LOL. (Just kidding, Orphan Black also had many complex roles for women. Love you always, Delphine.)
Clay escorts Till into the Night Car back room. She chokes up as she tells Layton that Josie didn’t make it.
Ben drops Miles off with Melanie at the entrance to the Engine room.
Ben: “This guy’s a trooper. Finished his exercises, said goodbye to his friends and no one interfered.”
Technically, this isn’t a lie. Ben has no proof that Miles was poisoned to get him to the clinic. And he did say goodbye to everyone, but no one, not even Josie, tried to stop him getting to the Engine.
Melanie begins her pep talk: “You know, once you pass through that door, there’s no turning back. You’ll be an engineer. But to be an engineer on Snowpiercer, you have to make sacrifices. And that can be hard.”
Miles asks if she’s happy.
Melanie: “The needs of the train are more important than our own happiness. We’re engineers. We keep the world alive.”
Melanie gathers her strength, straightens her shoulders and they cross through the door.
Miss Audrey sings Frank Ocean’s Bad Religion while Layton screams out his grief in a private room. This is the performance we saw in visuals during LJ’s opening voice over. It’s a memorial for Josie, with anyone who met her that isn’t in the Tail in attendance, some holding up candles.
Clay calls LJ into a private room for her Night Car experience. Layton steps out of the shadows. LJ is worried about his intentions for her. He says he’s been thinking about her love of dirty little secrets.
“How would you like to know the dirtiest little secret on the whole train?”
Lena Hall on Running the Queer Space on Snowpiercer, Hedwig, and Pride- Lena’s insights into Miss Audrey and the Night Car.
Maybe Layton should find a more hidden hideout than the Night Car back room? Just a thought, since we’ve seen Melanie pop into the Night Car for a chat with Audrey numerous times. He’s almost in plain sight, like he wants to be caught.
Where was Oz during this episode? Is his absence connected to when he woke up alone in the Drawers room, then disappeared before Till got back from helping Josie with Layton? He was missing all night after that. What did Oz learn or steal or both? Terence was just so uncharacteristically smug and forward with Melanie. He’s usually confident, but not overconfident. I wonder if Oz discovered something in the files or helped someone else out of a drawer. Klimpt could have been lying.
Maybe Oz found Wilford’s drawer and the janitors helped him out of it. Maybe Terence is so pleased with himself because he’s got Wilford stashed someplace, detoxing. Would Wilford be more vegetable or disoriented aggressor as he detoxes?
Where has Lead Brakeman Roche been since the trial? Was Mike O’Malley busy or too expensive?
Guess my hope that Ruth and Roche are married isn’t true. Next wild marriage theory- Roche and Miss Audrey, with Clay as the surviving child. I don’t actually think this is true, because if anyone was Audrey’s only child on the train, it was Nikki, and Roche would have been much more upset about the whole situation if Nikki had been his daughter. But he could have held it together publicly until after the trial, and have gone into seclusion to mourn Nikki afterward.
Roche and Audrey as a couple wouldn’t be as strange a match as it sounds at first. He’s laid back and accepting. There are many couples with one dramatic, colorful partner and one calm, reserved partner.
Was the burly, bearded man who was standing behind LJ her new bodyguard? Can I ship him with Clay? Not for any good reason, really, except they were next to each other and we need more romance. They’d be cute together.
How to Parent in an Oppressive Regime
It’s between the baby and Josie. I can’t blame a mother for choosing her helpless child. I was a little put off by Josie poisoning Miles so that she could give him instructions on how to perform his part as a child soldier. Yes, they got to have a brief visit, too, but that didn’t seem to be the real reason for taking the risk. The love between them seemed to be Miles’ enticement for risking his life for the Tail instead of accepting his apprenticeship with no strings from his old life attached.
Miles is no longer a child. He’s a resource, a worker, a soldier, being fought over between the Engine and the Tail. His loyalty and courage are commendable. The fact that adults are forcing him to use those traits this way at his age is despicable. Josie and Layton are using him the same way Melanie just used Zarah’s baby and the same way Winnie was used in the previous rebellion. Suzanne died from taking Winnie’s punishment for that act. Winnie could just as easily have died.
Eating your children’s lives for your own purposes instead of sacrificing yourself for them is a form of spiritual cannibalism. It’s already circling back on the train, turning it into an ouroboros. We keep hearing talk of OneTail and that Melanie feels responsible for everyone on the train, but there doesn’t actually seem to be any sense that children are the future and they all need each other to survive. Or that staying alive is the way to get to the future. People of all ages die at an alarming rate on this show, for a population of 3,000 souls.
Zarah’s action, which we’ll see in a minute, looks like betrayal on the surface, but she chose her child over her cause. That’s a choice everyone has to make for themselves. Personally, I feel that in order to retain our humanity, we have to have some lines we won’t cross, even for the most important cause.
You have to maintain the connection to who and what you’re fighting for or you become unmoored and forget how you’re different from the enemy and why some things are wrong. If you are on the side of right, then you are on the side of love and justice. Sacrificing your own family isn’t compatible with that. To maintain my own sanity, that’s where I draw the line, so I stand with Zarah. I won’t sacrifice anyone else’s children either.
Zarah sacrifices her relationships with others in order to protect her own child. I think she understands when she does it that she’s sacrificing their trust. Melanie certainly does. That’s why Melanie refers to Layton as “Andre” in that moment. She’s acknowledging that this will likely sever Zarah and Andre’s bond.
Josie’s willingness to sacrifice Miles is offset somewhat by her later sacrifice of her own life, but it still felt like she did it to get Miles into the Engine and keep Layton at work recruiting Thirdies. Plus she coerced Bess into helping her for the second time. If Bess wants to join the revolution, great. But it should be of her own free will, not because Josie coerced her into it.
There was an element of fate bringing them together that could be important, since Bess could also connect Layton to Jinju and Ben, which connects Layton back to their son, besides being a beneficial tactical connection.
Though I understand how desperate things are in the Tail, I still tend to side with Miss Audrey’s methodology of working toward a bloodless coup, if possible. Or at least as little blood as possible. If you go for the head, you can leave the body intact, yeah? And if you can sneak a few people up to the head, you have a better chance of doing damage than sending a very obvious army roaring into an easily defended siege point.
The Tailies have fought and fought and fought and it gets them nowhere. They need to work through intrigue and allies instead, as Layton argued early on.
Which almost makes me wonder if Layton is pulling a Lord of the Rings strategy, with Miles as Frodo and himself as Aragorn, leader of the distracting revolution.
Images courtesy of TNT.