Revolution comes to Snowpiercer in episode 8, along with the truth about Mr Wilford’s fate. Melanie is taken into custody by the jackboots and everyone finally has to choose their side. Miss Audrey finds a fabulous outfit for the occasion and LJ fires the first shot before things take their bloody turn.
Ruth has the voiceover this week. At first it appears we’re viewing a commercial for her posh Bed & Breakfast from the Old World, but before long the ways she’s been changed by life on the train sneak in. This is the Ruth whose Hospitality protocols include freezing off the arms of children in retaliation for their attempts to make a better life for themselves, not the Ruth who takes in strangers from the storm and gives them personal attention even though they don’t have a reservation.
“I believe some folks on this train forget just how generous and wonderful a man Mr Wilford actually is. Not me. I could never forget. It’s Wilford who runs our Sacred Engine. It’s Wilford who has His finger on our pulse, Who knows exactly what we need- how much food and water, how much heat and space, how much discipline. It’s Wilford who saved us from the Bitter Cold. He’s the only reason we’re alive. Yet somehow, on this train we all call home, there are passengers who see fit to challenge Him, passengers who think they know better, passengers who take for granted this great miracle that He’s given us… One day, I know I’ll see Mr Wilford again. And when I do, I will thank Him, from the bottom of my heart, for everything that He’s done. For me. For all of us. These are His revolutions, 1,001 cars long.”
Ruth isn’t riding Snowpiercer. She’s riding her idol Mr Wilford’s train. She has quite the crush on Him. Wonder if they ever slept together or if she just keeps his picture by her bedside to think about when she gets lonely.
While Ruth speaks, she inspects the 1st Class dining car, ensuring that it’s ready for breakfast, with no spots on the silver or wilted flowers.
Order is so calming.
While Ruth speaks of passengers who see fit to challenge Wilford’s order, Miles is up late doing his homework in the top bunk of Melanie’s cabin. He checks his watch as the train shakes a bit, then sneaks into the engine, where Javi has the train. Javi is busy listening to music through headphones and drowsily reading something. Miles turns breaker switches off and on a couple of times to flash lights that can be seen from the Folgers’ cabin.
LJ is awake and waiting for the signal. She meets Miles at the door to the engine section, giving the password “Eat the rich”. He tells her to take off her shoes and be quiet. She’s surprised that she’s meeting a kid.
She didn’t realize that using child soldiers is a habit for Layton.
After Miles opens the door to the engine itself, LJ wanders straight in and looks around, while Miles whisper yells at her to come back. She smiles impishly and continues to look around, moving right up behind Javi, who’s facing front, with his nose in a book and his music turned up loud.
LJ crouches down behind Javi for a moment and gets a feel for what it’s like to be in the conductor’s chair on Snowpiercer. Then the enormity of where she is hits her and she leaves the car, mind blown.
Next Miles takes her to Melanie’s cabin, which I guess must be meant to belong to the chief engineer/Wilford. It’s obvious that he doesn’t live there. LJ pokes around the cabin, confirming for herself that there’s really no Wilford hidden in some biosecure corner. Miles tells her that’s what Layton wanted her to see. She takes one of the photos from Melanie’s closet door to use as proof that she’s been in the room, then they leave.
LJ passes by Ruth in the corridor when she gets back to 1st Class and makes the W sign on her chest, like the sign of the cross, as she walks by. In voice over, Ruth says she plans to thank Mr Wilford someday.
That should be fun.
The jackboots continue to search the Chain for Layton. He’s in a backroom holding a strategy session with Bess, Miss Audrey and the leaders of 3rd Class. He points out strategic locations on a train blueprint- did LJ get that for him? He lists Tail, Comm, subtrain, Night Car, then says, “Everything hinges on us meeting the jackboots midtrain. We hit them with overwhelming strength on our turf.” He points at the Night Car.
A teenage girl with a birthmark on her face runs through the Chain passing messages. Miss Audrey reads the message that the lights flashed in the Folgers’ car, which is the signal that LJ made it into the engine as planned.
Till reminds Layton that the brakemen could take either side in this battle. He doesn’t feel their fight is with the brakemen, but he accepts that people are going to get hurt.
Till goes back home and asks Jinju to stay out of 3rd for the rest of the day, but refuses to say why. Jinju immediately guesses that Till is involved with Layton and accuses her of lying in previous conversations. Till counters by asking why Jinju told her to be careful around Melanie. Jinju says that Till is getting involved with things she doesn’t understand. Till guesses that Jinju knew that Melanie drawered Layton and has been protecting Melanie. Jinju says she was protecting Till.
Till asks if Jinju knows that Melanie tortured Josie to death. When Jinju doesn’t answer, Till wonders just how many secrets her girlfriend is hiding. Jinju says, “Please don’t make me choose between you and the train.”
That’s chilling. Jinju not only drank the kool-aid, she made the kool-aid. It would probably be best if Till avoided the Aquarium Bar and all food and drink made by Jinju for a while.
Till leaves and Jinju sits down. Will she call Melanie?
The Folgers ask Ruth to their cabin under the pretense of planning a party. When she gets there, Grey is waiting to ask her if she has any secrets she’d like to share with the group. Ruth, oddly, seems to have joined Till and Javi in the “Honest Passengers Club”, so she’s confused about what they mean.
Poor Ruth. It’s another bad day for her. Especially since it’s the Folgers, of all people, who are the bearers of the bad news that her beloved Wilford isn’t in the Engine Eternal. Grey and the Folgers point out that none of them have had any first hand contact with Wilford since the day the train left the station. If Melanie is indeed in control of the train, then this can’t continue and someone else needs to “assert governance of this train.” Grey directs Ruth to gather the 1st Class Committee.
In the engine, Miles and Miles is in the conductor’s seat, while Melanie shows him Chicago on a route map, explaining to him that they’ll reach it in 1.5 days. They pass the Washington Monument in Washington, DC during this conversation.
Miles confirms with Melanie that this is their slowest revolution and they’re 22 hours behind their average time. Melanie explains that they lose a little time with each revolution, so they need to find ways to reverse the trend. Miles already knows that if Snowpiercer stops, they all die.
Next he asks about her daughter. Melanie freezes for a second and almost can’t speak about her. She cries a little as she does. She says that Allie was smart, like Miles, and much nicer than Melanie. Ally was with Melanie’s parents and they all had tickets for the train, but they didn’t make it before departure. Miles tells her that his birth parents died, too, but he has Josie now. Melanie doesn’t say anything.
She’s rescued from her awkward moment with Miles by Ben entering with the message that she’s wanted urgently in 1st Class.
She leaves Miles on lookout, rather than saying he has the train- he reports to Javi and Ben.
This next scene is amazing in many ways, not least of which for its camera and sound work. We are mostly given Melanie’s perspective, but I think we’re also given some of Ruth’s and other passengers’ as well, as they feel their world closing in on them, some of them realizing just how fragile it is for the first time, something Melanie has always known. What she’s realizing is how fragile her grip on power is. She’d grown a little too comfortable recently. This is atmospheric filmmaking at its best, without turning into a horror movie.
The scene begins with a somewhat standard questioning of Melanie’s authority, which she tries to brush off with her usual tactics. Grey and Lilah tell her they need to see Wilford in person this time. When Melanie tries to go to the phone to call “Mr Wilford”, she walks straight into a pair of jackboots.
They tell her that LJ has been to the engine and seen that there’s no Wilford up there, sealed up tight in biosecure lockdown. Melanie and Martin question why anyone would believe LJ. Martin calls her a “psycho”, causing the room to erupt. 1st Class has a deal that they defend each other’s children.
The pact to help each other in down times and to support other’s children is a crucial part of how the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful through the generations. The emphasis on loyalty and dynasty building is not a result of wealth and power. It’s one of the rules of how generational wealth and power is built and maintained. The Firsties will defend this custom to the death.
LJ interrupts the arguments over her mental state and Martin’s loyalties to tell them that she also visited Melanie’s cabin and picked up a souvenir. She pulls out the photo of Melanie’s dead daughter that she took from the inside of her closet door.
For the first time, Melanie loses her composure in public and lunges at LJ, telling the jackboots to let her go. Various other people shout, lunge, shove and generally get involved, including some of the bodyguards.
It wasn’t clear to me why bodyguards were suddenly pulling the jackboots off Melanie- I’ve never noticed her travelling with a pair of them, but maybe they’re always in the distant background. I wonder, though, if what happened next was part of Layton’s plan.
One of the bodyguard’s pulls out their gun and fires at a chandelier, breaking lots of glass dramatically. Grey reacts by calling all available jackboots to 1st Class. Melanie tells him he can’t do that, because they’re needed downtrain.
Grey: “I don’t take orders from you anymore.”
Yup. Now that he knows she’s just a woman, without a man backing her up, he no longer believes she has any expertise that could be useful in managing the train. Right now, they all think the train must have run itself for the last 7 years and she’s a complete fraud.
Roche and Oz see the jackboots jog by their station, but aren’t told why. Roche orders Oz to double up the brakemen’s patrols. The jackboots who were on break in the Night Car are called to 1st Class. Miss Audrey gives them a fond farewell as they leave: “Come back again soon, boys.”
It’s an inside joke for her own amusement.
Layton tells Miss Audrey to send out the signal. Small, homemade red flags appear all over the train. Astrid sends one to the Tail, where they’re turning everything they can into weapons.
Till handcuffs Layton and takes him back to the Tail.
Thanks to Layton, Grey effectively executes a bloodless military coup by locking Melanie in the Hospitality office and the 1st Class passengers, including the Folgers, in their quarters. He and Ruthie head to the engine to confirm that Wilford is no more.
In Ruth’s mind, their coup against Melanie is warranted, but would be mutiny if Wilford is still giving the orders. In other words, the government is only bad enough to rebel against if the orders are being given by a woman in a blue suit. If the train is being run badly by a man who paid her some complements, well, she’s sure he has his reasons.
I’m not sure what Grey’s thinking- he might be planning to take care of Wilford the way he’s planning to take care of Melanie. The concept of what the engineers do beyond looking out the windows seems to be beyond both Ruth and Grey’s ability to comprehend. And everyone else who isn’t Jinju, Boki or an engineer, for that matter. They really should give regular tours and explain how hard the job is, instead of keeping it such a secret.
Astrid brings the Tailie sanitation crew uniforms to change into, then takes them to meet with Thirdie contacts for their prebattle mission assignments. Big John is paired with Jakes the tunnelman. Lights is with Astrid for now. Aus, who’s dressed as a jackboot, is paired with Miss Audrey, who looks totally sharp in her faux uniform.
When Melanie gets to the Hospitality office, she entreats a female jackboot who she knows by name to let her get her spare picture of her dead daughter from the booth. “”It’s just, if something happens to me, I want her close.”
The jackboot says it’s against the rules, but then relents. This might be the first sign of humanity we’ve ever seen in a jackboot. This is definitely the first episode in which we’ve clearly seen their faces.
We’re being reminded that they’re people before Layton and Grey sentence them to death.
Melanie searches through a drawer for the photo, surreptitiously flipping a switch at the same time, which sets off the lockdown alarm in the engine.
In the engine, Ben tells Miles what the alarm is for. When Miles asks why they’d need to lockdown, Javi blames Miles, since this has happened after he’s only been here 2 days.
While Javi happens to be right, there’s been trouble brewing for a long time, coming from every direction. It was a mean-spirited but lucky guess.
They hear pounding on the engine room door, so Ben tells Javi to lock down the door. Javi runs to the back of the room, but notices on the monitor that it’s Grey and the jackboots.
He insists to Ben that they open the door and tell the truth, reasoning that they can’t kill the engineers they need to run the train. Ben screams at Javi to lock the door.
Javi must not have seen the video of how Erik died. That does not need to happen in the engine room, and it’s what would happen when they discovered more “traitors” there and no Wilford. On the other hand, the jackboots will get through the door eventually.
Javi opens the door. It’s the door to the entire engineering section, a few cars down from the actual engine- the one where Miles asked LJ for the password. When Ben realizes what Javi did, he punches Javi in the face, causing the younger engineer to fall and land outside of the engine room. Javi yells for Ben not to leave him alone outside of the engine, that he had to open the door. Ben closes and locks the engine itself just before Ruth, Grey and the jackboots get there.
Now is Javi’s chance to tell the truth, since he’s probably right. Somebody needs to come clean who knows the truth and isn’t Melanie. And he’s clearly the less experienced engineer, who’s less able to handle a crisis without panicking, so Ben is the one who should stay in the engine and keep the train running at all costs. This is actually a pretty good outcome.
Plus, Miles, hostage and child soldier, is safe in the engine with Ben, who seems to be one of the most benign and level headed characters. Hopefully he won’t turn out to be the cannibal king. The engine really should remain neutral ground in this war. Wonder if there’s a subtrain entrance in the engine room.
Ruth asks where Wilford is. As he’s being shoved up against a wall and cuffed, Javi tells them, “He’s dead. He’s been dead since departure. Melanie took the train. I had nothing to do with it. You have to believe me. I’m sorry.”
Ruth is devastated. She backs into Melanie’s cabin, which should be Wilford’s, and is shocked to find Melanie and Miles’ things there instead. It’s like blasphemy to her, to see these two interlopers’ possessions where her God’s precious belongings should be. She can’t even understand what Melanie’s possessions, the instruments involved in keeping the train alive, are.
Grey follows her in and asks if she’s ok. She tells him that Wilford has been dead for years and no one knew. She didn’t know. Somehow, she didn’t feel it in her heart when he died, like she was in a romance novel. Like he was a part of her.
He’s gone and he’s been gone all along. How did they survive without him? How will they go on without him? What will people do without the idea of Wilford to get them through the cold, dark nights?
Grey agrees that Melanie deceived them all. He stands in front of Ruth and looks at her like he’s going to kiss her. Instead he tells her the train will get through this because of him, her and order.
He pictures himself as the new Wilford, the real power, and Ruth as the new Melanie, the powerless frontwoman. They assume that the train just has to go along as it has been for the last 7 years and things will be great. It doesn’t occur to either of them that Melanie has worked herself to the bone keeping the train going. She hasn’t been a power mad dictator who kept as much as she could for herself.
Melanie has been so much like what the passengers expected Wilford to be that they couldn’t tell she wasn’t him.
They all thought their great God Wilford was the genius, all-knowing engineer. They can’t wrap their heads around the idea that Melanie could also be a genius all-knowing engineer who’s also crucial to the train’s survival.
Not even Layton figured that out. It doesn’t even seem to have crossed his mind that she could be more than a Hospitality politician, even after she fixed the train. Miles is going to have to tell him how wrong he is about her.
Astrid brings Lights to Walter the Papermaker. Lights has the Tail’s blue chip and gets them into the Electrical Room.
When Till and Layton reach the Tail, the one jackboot who’s still on duty uses some police brutality on Layton. Then the jackboot tries to call uptrain to confirm the order that he’s being returned to the Tail. Lights and Walter disconnect the wires for the phone so that his call can’t go through. Till knocks him out. Layton chuckles.
Till lets them into the Tail. As they pass from the jackboots’ station into the Tail, the world goes out of focus, so much so that I suspect they pass into another realm and transition into the next stage of their existences.
The Lord of the Chips
Before we spend the rest of the episode involved in a battle worthy of The Two Towers, let’s take a break with some lighter fare and look at some symbolism.
In the commentary of episode 7, I briefly wondered if Snowpiercer and Layton are doing a Lord of the Rings allegory. That question is answered in this episode. Layton spends the episode in his Aragorn/Strider coat with the hood up, the way Strider had it when he practiced invisibility. How many times have I commented on people in this show practicing invisibility?
The train symbolizes power overall. The chips are rings, but it’s not that simple. The Tail’s blue chip is a powerful ring. I’m not sure there’s a “One Ring”, but I am sure that Miles is Frodo. He’s already in the engine, as far as he can go, so is that actually where the power can be destroyed or does he need to go deeper?
Melanie isn’t really Sauron or Saruman, but she’s been corrupted by power, so she’s one of the people it needs to be kept from.
Josie was Boromir, noble and courageous but momentarily tempted by the power of the chip.
Till is Legolas. Roche is Elrond and the Brakemen are the Elves of Rivendell.
Miss Audrey is Galadriel and Zarah is Arwen. (Or maybe Audrey is Elrond and Roche is Galadriel- I’m not very good at the nuances of these characters.)
Except Oz, who is Gimli and the Janitors are the Dwarves.
Wilfred is Sauron. The jackboots are the composite of the wraiths and orcs and whatnot. Grey is Grima Wormtongue. Ruth is, hopefully, Theoden.
There seem to be a lot of Hobbit types running around- most of the Tailies, plus LJ is Merry or Pippin. I’d say the Tail is the Shire, but it seems too bleak. Layton tried to frame it that way for Melanie, so maybe we’re just living in his fantasy. The Chain is much more Shire-like.
I think 1st Class is the White City of Gondor, which means LJ should be Boromir. But I can’t make that work, other than saying that she’s more than what she seems. Which is what I’ve been saying all along. And that leaves us without Boromir’s brother, Faramir, unless LJ is both, which would be good, for obvious reasons. Or maybe Erik was Boromir.
I think the engineers are wizards, but I don’t want to call either Ben or Melanie a particular one and I don’t know what to do with Javi at all. He said that he shouldn’t even be in the engine, so I suspect he’s something different. He has a hobbit’s curly hair and nature, if we’re being honest.
I can’t help but hope that Miles is trapped in the engine with Gandalf the Grey, who’s ready to evolve into his full power, rather than with Saruman the evil White Wizard. I wonder if Miles has fulfilled his tasks as Frodo by destroying Melanie’s grasp on power and is now ready to evolve into a wizard-engineer himself. Maybe Melanie is also ready to evolve into a new metaphor.
No idea where we are in the story, there are so many epic battles in the middle, but I have a feeling a king with return in episode 10.
Layton is greeted warmly by the Tailies, but they become agitated when they notice Till. He explains that she’s one of them now. Then he makes his prebattle speech.
“Look, I know you all got trust issues. I got ’em, too. People uptrain, they shoved us down here in the dark to fend for ourselves. We learned how to survive in the shadows. Well, today, let’s leave this H–l behind! We will fight with everything we’ve got. ‘Cause out there, right outside that door, there is a future that does not include us. But it will. Today, we take this train and we remind them exactly who it is that they locked up back here! Today we march for Josie! For Suzanne! For Old Ivan! For everyone that we have lost to hunger and to sickness, to all the failed rebellions. We got people who are willing to lay down their lives for us, because they believe, like we know, that it is time for this train to work for all of its passengers! Today we march to the Engine!”
Mr Riggs yells, “OneTail!”
Layton corrects him, “No- OneTrain!” Then he leads the train in a chant of “OneTrain” as they march out of the Tail section for the last time and into the subtrain, where Big John is waiting for them.
Oz and a couple of brakemen find Lights and Walter coming out of the electrical car. Oz recognizes Lights as a Tailie, then they discover that the phone line is dead. He sends a brakeman to warn Grey, then shushes Lights.
As Audrey brings Aus to the Drawers, she tells him that Layton has an important promise to keep. He points out that the Tailies in the Drawers are his friends, too. She calls him Murray, which he acknowledges as his real name. How did she know?
After Audrey introduces Aus and Klimpt to each other, they open Strong Boy’s drawer. It’s time to wake up the Tailie ringers planted in the front half of the train.
In the Folgers’ cabin, Lilah tells the room that the “three of them”, meaning her, Robert and Grey, should inform the passengers about who’s in charge, so there’s no confusion.
Grey lets out a scoffing half laugh. He doesn’t plan to share power for more than about another 30 seconds.
LJ answers the door when Oz’s messenger arrives to tell them that the Tailies are out. Grey jumps up to blame everyone else for distracting him from his real job with this talk of Wilford and to assume it’s not a coincidence that the Tailie rebellion is happening at the same time as his coup. He and the jackboots leave at doubletime, with Grey yelling for them to take the tunnels.
All of that Order makes every move an enemy makes predictable. There’s a place for LJ’s chaos.
LJ is very excited to hear that the Tailies have come out for a visit, by the way.
Ruth visits Melanie in the Hospitality office. Even though they’ve discredited and deposed her, they’re still giving her the respect due a head of state. Throughout this scene, Melanie is backlit by white light coming through a window, reminding us that no matter what Ruth thinks or feels, or how far off track Melanie got, she is the one true Goddess on this train. Wilford was a false God who Melanie hid her light behind because she didn’t trust her people to understand her true nature. Perhaps she was right.
We’ll never know how it would have gone had Melanie let Wilford live in the flesh, so the passengers had a chance to overthrow him themselves. They probably would have ended up right here, because she still would have been quietly running the train and they still would have needed a leader and they still wouldn’t have believed that she could be capable of everything she’s accomplished.
The needs to assign a woman’s accomplishments to a man and at the same time blame the woman for his wrongdoings are culturally powerful. I see women like Ruth and Melanie do it every day. They are often happy to step aside and let the man take credit for their own work in order to maintain the status quo, they’re so convinced it’s necessary.
Ruth tells Melanie not to talk. It’s her turn now. Ruth remembers all of the times she and Melanie spent together working hard, times she thought they were doing something real and important, times which she now realizes were a lie on Melanie’s part. Melanie even gave Ruth a personal commendation from Mr Wilford for her outstanding dedication to the company.
Melanie says that Ruth earned the commendation, but it’s meaningless to Ruth if it comes from Melanie instead of Wilford. Melanie was the one who was in the trenches with her and could actually see her outstanding, dedicated work, so she was in the best position to evaluate it honestly. For Ruth, the praise of a female friend she sees as roughly her equal (or maybe as a big sister) can’t hold a candle to the opinion of an unattainable father.
Ruth accuses Melanie of purposely making a fool of her for 7 years, which is the other aspect to this. The entire train will feel humiliated that they didn’t figure it out, and someone will have to pay for that. The witch imagery surrounding Melanie might come to bear fruit in that case.
She asks if Melanie was the one to kill him. Melanie tells her that Wilford was a fraud. Ruth insists that Wilford built the Eternal Engine.
Melanie: “No he didn’t. I did. I built this train, Ruth. I put everything I had into it. Everything. And Wilford sold tickets. He didn’t believe it was possible to save humankind. And he was never even going to try. He was going to waste it. All he wanted was to live as well as he could, for as long as he could, surrounded by accolades and booze and prostitutes in the Night Car. We wouldn’t have made it one revolution. So I took Snowpiercer and I left him trackside to die. I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry for all the things that I did wrong. I’ve been fighting to do what I know is right.”
Ruth: “You’re a filthy liar and a murderer. Order will be restored. Tomorrow, you will be executed for your betrayal of Snowpiercer. Goodbye, Melanie.”
She makes the sign of the W across her chest.
Pretty sure she doesn’t have the authority to pronounce death sentences. Ruth is the woman Melanie made her, not Wilford’s creation, no matter what she thinks. The train has always been Melanie’s train, despite the ubiquitous Ws (or upside down Ms). And now Melanie has to live with what she’s created, including the fact that harsh punishments are the norm, handed out without approval from an authority recognized by the people.
The Tailies march through the industrial section of 3rd Class unimpeded, since Grey has called all of the jackboots uptrain to deal with 1st Class and then sent them back to 3rd through the tunnels. The teenage girl from the beginning of the episode tells Layton and Till that Roche and the brakemen have taken a stand in the Chains.
Oz is on the frontline with Roche. He’s doubtful they can hold this line against 400 Tailies and Thirdies, but Roche is as stalwart as ever. Layton and Till are in front of their army. They work to convince the brakemen and Thirdies listening that Wilford really isn’t on the train and Melanie’s ouster is inevitable. Layton reminds them that there’s no reason for the Tail, 3rd Class and the brakemen to fight each other. When this is over, they can band together to run the train, even those who choose not to fight. The brakemen will still be needed to maintain law and order. Layton asks for the civilians to go home and the brakemen to step aside, so the revolution can play out.
Layton and Till tell Roche they know that he’s a good person who wants to do the right thing, especially for his wife and daughter. Oz choses this moment to cut and run, saving himself. Roche gives in and tells the brakemen to stand aside, grumbling that he’s going to have to break the news to his wife, Anne, that Wilford is gone.
It’s Strong Boy’s turn to vomit black goo as he comes out of the drawers. Once he’s done, he complains about the experience in Mandarin.
This is shocking, because not only did he not speak Mandarin before he went into the drawers, he didn’t speak at all.
I KNEW THERE WAS SOME KIND OF SHARED CONSCIOUSNESS EXPERIENCE HAPPENING IN THERE.
Also, why is it my life lately to write so often about black goo in relation to people’s heads and the mysteries of the universe? What is this TV trend? Are our souls black???
Layton’s army weapons up in the schoolroom while Big John and Jakes prep their crew and weapons in the tunnels. They assemble a machine the Tailies have somehow created that resembles a medieval-looking barricade which fires rounds of spears at the oncoming jackboots.
This is what happens when you lock people up for years at a time with the train’s extra luggage and nothing to do. Eventually, they get bored and become creative about producing weapons.
The spear-throwing barricade is extremely effective, as you might imagine. Soon blood is flowing through the tunnel. Grey decides it’s time for him to leave the grunts to the frontal assault, while he tries a rear assault through the corridors. He leaves quickly, without any parting words to inspire his men and keep them fighting this grueling battle.
In other words, he’s not a brave, noble captain who’s going down with the ship. He’s a captain who’s going to take care of his own behind. You’d think he’d already know that Layton is in the corridors, but he probably underestimates the threat and doesn’t call ahead. We’ve seen the jackboots have an easy time of it on manhunts and quelling the Tailies’ smaller rebellions. Those have served to make Grey overconfident.
Grey and his troops find the Night Car apparently empty, with strobe lights flashing and loud music playing. This was where Layton planned to make his stand. There’s a box on the floor in the center of the room. Inside is the head of the jackboot who was stationed at the Tail.
Was this inspired by LJ’s Dicks in a Box? 3rd was pretty upset about that and didn’t get their retribution.
Layton is up on the balcony with Till and a group of archers. Yes, archers on the train. He calls for the attack once the jackboots are in the center of the club, on the dance floor.
It’s a bloody, horrific free for all. Patterson is stabbed in the back with a sword, straight through his chest. Grey slices off a woman’s hand. Till and Layton slice and hack at the enemy mercilessly until Grey calls for his soldiers to retreat. Grey uses the teenage girl we’ve been noticing all episode as a human shield. When Layton gets close to him, Grey slices her throat and shoves her at Layton so that he can escape without Layton chasing him. Layton covers the girl’s throat, but there’s no hope.
The rebels cheer that they’ve won this battle.
Down in the tunnels, they’ve run out of spears at the barricade, so Big John tells the rest of the fighters that he’ll cover them while they fall back to the next barricade. With Josie gone and that bad cough he’s had all season, he’s ready to sacrifice himself. He puts up a fierce fight, because he is a lion, just as Josie said. But the jackboots vastly outnumber him and they kill him with the same enthusiasm they showed toward Erik.
The train might be better off if all or most of the jackboots were gone. They are stormtroopers who are there to support a fascist regime, not peacekeepers who protect private citizens. They seem so violent that it’s hard to imagine retraining them and the train shouldn’t need a standing army if it’s run properly. Brakemen and reserves ought to be enough.
What normal small town of 3,000 has a standing army consisting of 10% of its population, the way Snowpiercer does? Only one that’s in a war zone. Snowpiercer is an island with no neighbors to fight, just refugee and inequality crises its brought on itself.
The Night Car floor is a pool of blood, just as in the tunnel, and there were many casualties, but the rebels are hopeful because they achieved their objective. As they gather their weapons to continue the march uptrain, the jackboots throw tear gas into the car, driving them back into the area behind the Night Car instead. While the doors to that section are welded closed, Jakes tells Layton that the barricades in the tunnel are holding as well, but Big John didn’t make it.
So they hold slightly less than half the train (the Night Car is the center point) and have lost a few key people, but the enemy is also in disarray and sustained substantial losses. The rebels are used to losing after 1 car, not half the train, while Grey is used to being in complete control and at most losing 3 or 4 men, not dozens.
The rebels control the industrial sections of the train and all or most of 3rd Class. I’m not sure about Ag-Sec- I think some of it is uptrain, but some might be downtrain. Grey has 1st & 2nd Class and the Engine, but the engine is locked down, effectively neutral.
What I’m getting at is- where are the food supplies? Where are the bulk of the gardens?Can the rebels starve Grey and the upper classes out? Does 3rd Class need the uptrain cars in order to survive for long? Which half of the train will a siege hurt more?
The Aquarium Bar is uptrain, so 1st Class could eat seafood and poison for a while, anyway.
Melanie is still in the Hospitality office, possibly forgotten about in the chaos. I don’t believe she’s handcuffed and I don’t believe a locked door will hold her in. She designed the train. She, for sure, put an escape hatch in that booth.
Aus and Klimpt are still in the Drawers waking up Tailies. Grey stomps by, giving orders to resupply before they finish off the rebels.
Grey still hasn’t thought this through. He’s on a power trip, and determined to dominate the entire train, but he can’t get many more jackboots. There are a thousand or more Thirdies who can fight.
Klimpt is spooked and wants to quit, but Aus won’t let him. If the Tailies leave the Drawers right now, they’ll become prisoners. Strong Boy and Z-Wreck are coming around, so it’s time to open Pike’s drawer.
Except, Pike isn’t in his drawer. Judging by the look on his face, Klimpt already knew this and didn’t say anything.
Pike is wide awake and in the 1st Class dining room, enjoying some delicious chocolate lava cake. Unlike Layton, he’s using a fork while he puts on his show for Ruth, the Folgers, Grey and a squad of jackboots and bodyguards. Grey asks if Pike has insight into Layton. Pike says he’ll spill what he knows for the price of more cake.
He knows Layton intimately. Layton always thought his own politics were more refined than Pike’s. He was always so righteous.
Pike: “The thing about Layton is he’s an idealist. A good cop. Doesn’t have the stomach for sustained cruelty. He took a big risk today. And he lost. Keep grinding. He’ll crumble.”
As Pike speaks, Layton surveys his troops. They are bloody and wounded. Like Grey, he is still covered with blood from the battlefield. He looks a little like a Klingon.
Winning the Battle
In the final sequence, when Layton walks through the wounded, Till is there, Zarah is there, Miss Audrey is there and they are all unharmed. So is he. Roche is at home with his wife, Anne, and his daughter. Miles is under lockdown in the engine. Everyone Layton cares deeply about, who was alive at the start of the day, is still alive. For a Tailie, that’s got to be a good day anytime. He kept the civilians and elderly away from the battle, so they are also safe.
Some of those Layton cared about are gone, but he’s lost soldiers all along the way, both young and old. Thanks to the way Snowpiercer has been run for 7 years, the Tailies are hardened to loss. The Thirdies are tough, too, though not like the Tailies. Layton has been working toward this day for years and knew what it meant. He didn’t lose the battle, though some soldiers died. His losses were sad, but in the range of acceptable. In a war, that is all a general can ask for.
Pike is still working for the rebels. Layton has known almost nothing but sustained cruelty for 7 years. Of course he has the stomach for it. Grey was the one who couldn’t handle the realities of battle, who abandoned his men in the tunnel, then used a child as shield in the Night Car. Idealism has nothing to do with toughness. Idealists are sometimes extra tough because they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to protect others, as we saw with both Josie and Big John. It’s the selfish whose bravery is often solely meant to impress others and crumbles under pressure.
We still don’t know Layton’s whole plan. He has 3 of his best fighters in the Drawers room who he hasn’t deployed yet. Is Miles going to let them into the engine to take control? Do they have specific hostages in mind, like Melanie and Jinju, who are crucial to the functioning of the train? Maybe they’ll gather some valuable hostages in Jinju’s cabin. In this Lord of the Rings scenario, the battles are a distraction while the real work is done out of sight, which is why Pike told Grey to keep grinding away at the rebels.
The jackboots won’t last through sustained battles. It’s the Tailies who are hardened and expect no softness or respite. The jackboots have frequently shown the same entitlement and lack of discipline that we’ve seen in Grey. They are used to people who back down in fear from their mere presence or a small group who fight for a few minutes. They aren’t used to an army who aren’t afraid of them and just keep coming. Like the brakemen, it won’t take long for them to decide the fight isn’t worth their lives.
Just to note again- Zarah was with the rebels at the end of the episode. She wasn’t being ostracized in some corner of the Chains for choosing her baby over Josie. Layton didn’t acknowledge her as he walked by, but he didn’t speak to anyone. She was specifically shown as one of the 3 women who are his main allies.
Ruth and Melanie
I’m waiting for Ruth to figure out that Melanie is actually the Goddess she wants to follow and has already been following for 7 years. Okay, I really mean her Naomi, as in the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, which is one of the best Bible stories ever and you have to go read it right now if you don’t know it. It has some of the loveliest language in the Bible, used at weddings and such.
Basically, Ruth is Naomi’s daughter-in-law. When they’re both widowed, Ruth’s supposed to return to her own family, but says that Naomi has become her family and refuses to leave her. Naomi would be alone in the world, save for Ruth making this choice. Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi’s people, where Ruth does what she can, as a single woman, to support them both. This and that happens, and eventually Ruth lands a good husband, Boaz, and Naomi gets to live with them and their kids. Ruth’s devotion leads to a better life for both.
It’s one of the few Bible stories, or ancient stories period, of two women showing undying loyalty to each other. Snowpiercer’s Ruth can’t have been given her name by accident. She is very loyal, but her loyalty has been misplaced. Both she and Melanie had an evil train husband.
I was touched by the stories Ruth told about the two of them working side by side all of these years. Does Melanie have anyone else like that? Jinju is sensitive and frightened of Melanie, but Ruth is right there next to her, ready to take an arm or execute a Tailie if necessary. Ben prefers to stay in the engine and follow orders, but Ruth walks the entire length of the train with Melanie and does the same work, from the dirtiest to the most sophisticated. Ruth might not be able to repair the train, but with her attention to detail, she’d be a better night watchman in the engine room than Javi is.
I hope Melanie figures out how much she’s taken Ruth for granted over the years and the two work their friendship out.
Wilford Is Remington Steele
Remington Steele was the 80s TV series that made Pierce Brosnan famous:
Remington Steele’s premise is that Laura Holt, a licensed private investigator played by Stephanie Zimbalist, opened a detective agency under her own name but found potential clients refused to hire a woman, no matter how qualified. To solve the problem, Laura invents a fictitious male superior she names Remington Steele. Through a series of events in the first episode, “License to Steele”, Pierce Brosnan’s character, a former thief and con man (whose real name even he proves not to know and is never revealed), assumes the identity of Remington Steele. Behind the scenes, a power struggle ensues between Laura and Steele as to who is really in charge, while the two carry on a casual romantic relationship.
[It was a great show, with a talented cast and sparkling 80s rom com writing. I recommend it, if you can find it. It was one of the early shows, outside of Norman Lear and Mary Tyler Moore, to explore a female character who was more competent than her male counterpart without overly belittling the character in its comedy. For more like this, also look up the show Hart to Hart with Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers, one of the few rom com detective series, or rom com series in general, to show a happily married couple who have adventures together as equal partners and stay happy together for the run of the series, the way buddy detectives would in a platonic relationship.]
Like Melanie, Remington Steele’s Laura Holt always met with her clients alone and pretended that her boss was unavailable for one reason or another, until the con man who pretended to be the Remington Steele character showed up. Melanie says she took care of this issue by offing the con man. There’s simply no fun in that premise, so someone is going to show up on the train and be Wilford. Probably just after the train thinks they’ve settled the governance issue.
Pike’s secret early retrieval from the Drawers was foreshadowing for Wilford’s entrance. Remember that time that Oz was alone in the Drawers room, and then the next morning he was just so happy to be alive and on the train? And you know how Terence is just so overconfident these days?
My money is on Oz having found Wilford stashed in a drawer. Either Melanie told someone to put him on the track and they put him in the drawer instead, or she lied to Ruth and she really put him in the drawer. My money is on the latter. Melanie doesn’t like to kill people, but she does like to drawer them. She wouldn’t want Ruth to know Wilford was drawered, because then Ruth would wake him up. Melanie and Ben are both smart enough to know that a live Wilford could come in handy someday.
I think that Terence, Oz and the janitors got Wilford out and have been reviving him. After 7 years, it would take a long time and a lot of kronole to wean him off the suspension drug safely. They’re waiting for the right time to stage their own coup- when everyone else is too exhausted from fighting it out to fight them and will be thrilled that Wilford is alive after all and can restore order.
More Thoughts on Character and Strategy
The thing is, when all of the people who love Wilford’s discipline and whatnot think it through, they’ll have to realize that it’s all been Melanie all along. There never was a Wilford who designed or ran the train, just Melanie. Wilford put on a good show as frontman in the real world, then tried to continue it by saying he was an engineer and she was just a Hospitality worker. It’s only misogyny that keeps them from approving of her as leader if they like almost everything but her as the intermediary.
Guess Jinju either protected Bess and herself and didn’t warn Mel or it was too late by the time Till warned her. Jinju did warn Mel earlier in the season after her own screw up led to Till and Layton questioning Nikki.
I’ve had a hard time figuring out who some of the characters could be in a Lord of the Rings scenario, but finally realized Jinju is Eowyn– the high ranking but underestimated woman who will slip in at the last minute and play a crucial role. Even, or maybe especially, her girlfriend Till underestimates her importance to Snowpiercer. Layton certainly does.
Like the Tailies in the Drawers, Junju is another ringer, sitting safely in 2nd Class, waiting for the moment she chooses a side and takes action. Never underestimate the value of poison as a weapon. It can silently kill a monarch or take down an entire army. Who do you think formulates the tear gas?
Then there’s Jinju’s knowledge of the train’s secrets. She could stage her own coup with what she knows, just as Eowyn could have been queen on her own. Jinju is one of the most powerful players in this war, and she’s been held in reserve so far, like a chess player holding back their queen. But which side will she fight for? She says she’ll choose the train. What does that mean to her? If the janitors do have Wilford, will she choose him? Will she team up with Ben and Miles in the engine?
(The characters won’t all have 1 to 1 correspondences, of course, it’s just a game I love to play. We won’t have enough information to know for sure who’s who and how far they’re taking the allegory until after the season finale.)
Marie Antoinette was talking about Pike when she made her comment about cake.
Actually, Pike is acting as Merry or Pippin, happily misleading the enemy while enjoying their delicious food.
After Ben stuck close to Miles in episode 7 and covered for him and Josie a bit, Ben and Miles are paralleled in this episode. So are Javi and Miles, but Miles stays with Ben, so he chooses his side: some combination of the train and Layton’s instructions. There are similarities in the sequences where Miles shows LJ the train room and Ben throws Javi out of the train room. Basically, Miles and Javi switch places from one scene to the other, with Javi passive in the first and rebelling in the second and the opposite for Miles. Miles is trying to get LJ to stop jeopardizing the mission in the first scene, then Ben and Javi disagree in the second scene.
Ben and Miles are both able to follow their commanders’ rules and orders, even in difficult situations, so they end up on the inside, as the last bastions of order. Javi isn’t much of a rule follower, questioning everything, every step of the way, so he ends up on the outside as the truth teller. (This isn’t a criticism of either side. It speaks more to personality type. Both types are necessary.)
Images courtesy of TNT.
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