In season 2 episode 4, Snowpiercer throws a party and invites the gang from Big Alice over to wait with them while they send up another weather balloon to collect data. Once the balloon has done its work, Melanie is meant to collect the data from the research station, proving she’s still alive and has reached her destination. As the party approaches, emotions run high and tempers flare. Miss Audrey attempts to dance away her nerves, but the dancing seems to affect her more like the cursed child from The Red Shoes, as she spirals back into Wilford’s toxic orbit.
Josie was wrong last week, when she compared Layton to politicians and revolutionaries. He’s still treating the train like it’s the beat he worked as cop and the other passengers as if they’re either other cops, criminals or criminal informants. He’s thinking like an emotionally distant head detective or chief of police, putting his problem solving efforts into foreign relations and law order. In this episode, Audrey’s status moves from fellow cop to criminal informant, while Zarah figures out how to get herself off Layton’s informant list and back into the coworker category.
Layton needs to figure out that he’s the mayor of a troubled small town, soon, and begin to work on his domestic policy, regardless of Wilford’s shenanigans. With Melanie and Jinju MIA, Till, Zarah and Ruth might be the only people who fully understand the ways he’s dropping the ball, since the Train Detective and Hospitality serve the whole train and see the full extent of the friction between the factions each day.
This is another episode that deals graphically with suicide. Please take care of yourselves and consider carefully what you watch during these dark times.
Miss Audrey does the voice over this week. She practices her dance routine in the Night Car while the first major exchange of food for train parts takes place at the border, supervised by Ruth, Roche and Sykes.
Miss Audrey looks like a marionette in her tutu, gradually descending into disturbed dance movements. I’m sure that’s not an accident, since she’s remembering her past with Wilford. Ruth takes note of Kevin’s continuing absence when Sykes gives her a communique for Layton’s eyes only.
Miss Audrey: “Every day, every one of us makes a trade. A pencil for a pen. An apple for an orange. A dance for a smile. But these trades don’t always go the way you plan. You give more than you get. The terms change. You end up having to trade with yourself. I staked my future on a single trade. A life with him for a place on this train. It’s been 19 revolutions. No matter how far I travelled, I should have known Wilford would find me. On Snowpiercer, 1,034 cars long.”
Miss Audrey ends her dance with a view of the long scar that runs up her inner forearm, typical of suicide attempts. Similar to Kevin’s from just a couple of episodes ago. Scars follow Wilford- that’s what Miss Audrey just told us in her voice over. Her outer scar is serious, but it’s nothing compared to what she’s carrying on the inside.
She was Wilford’s girl in the before times, then made a deal to continue be his and run the Night Car. We learned last season that he planned for the Night Car to be nothing more than a brothel. Melanie negotiated with him to turn it into a cabaret. When Melanie took the train, she saved Miss Audrey from the deal with the devil that was meant to save her mortal life but steal her soul. Without Wilford’s influence on board, Miss Audrey was free to use her empathic and artistic talents to turn the Night Car into the train’s heart and soul. It became the emotional and cultural center just as it’s the physical center.
She took her existential, mixed up grief and used it to help the entire community process their own conflicted emotions. Now Wilford is back and Miss Audrey knows he wants to take her soul back, which means next he’ll take the soul of the entire train as well. He’s stirring up the conflicted emotions of the entire train, reminding them of what and who they sacrificed to get where they are.
While Audrey speaks, Wilford sits thinking of her and scheming.
As Layton’s eating breakfast with Zarah in the 1st class dining car, she mentions that he’s planning to meet with Miss Audrey and tells him to be gentle with her, because Wilford leaves her feeling fragile. He nods in agreement, but I’m not sure he understands what Zarah’s saying.
Ruth arrives with the latest communique and greets them both cheerfully. He continues to give Ruth the cold shoulder, but does tell both women that Wilford is offering to have the Headwoods treat Snowpiercer’s frostbite victims from their recent battle with Icy Bob. Ruth thinks it’s a generous offer, but Layton is more cautious. He scrawls his reply on the back of Wilford’s note and sends it straight back with Ruth. He doesn’t tell her what he said.
Not that he actually needs to keep her informed of his every move, but they do need to determine her job parameters under the new regime.
Zarah asks if he’s considering Josie for the frostbite treatments. Layton says they have 14 frostbite patients who could be helped, then kisses her goodbye (on her hair).
Ruth holds out as long as she can, then checks his reply while she’s alone in the corridor. She’s not impressed.
Alex brings the communique back to Wilford, who’s sitting at the helm for once. He’s dozing, so I’m not sure it counts. As she’s opening the pouch, Alex mentions that Ben and Javi launched their climate instruments so that they can send the data to Melanie. Wilford wonders what they’ll do if the uplink with Melanie doesn’t work and there’s just silence. Alex figures Melanie will have frozen to death, just as Wilford predicted.
There are other options that could delay her, such as equipment malfunctions, non lethal injuries and running into other survivors. No one mentions them.
Alex reads Layton’s response: “What do you want?”
Alex already knows what Wilford wants next. He’s ready to see his “paramour”. She suggests he just invite Miss Audrey over.
Wilford: “What I want is much more fun. How about a night out, my dear, on Snowpiercer,
1,034 cars long?”
Bess shadows Boki through the market and then into the Tea Room, where he prays at the Wilford altar. She turns her back to him to blend in, and is blindsided when she finds herself facing the memorial for those lost in the revolution. She breaks down at the photos of the Tailies and Thirdies she fought with and lost. Pastor Logan offers her a cup of tea and conversation, both which have a universal ability to soothe.
Of course the Tea Room is the place that morphed into a place of meditation and remembrance. A nice hot cuppa helps us slow down and calm down. People would naturally head there for comfort and serious conversation. Community bulletin boards would be created. The rest would soon follow.
Ben and Javi have a little techie bro talk, with Ben noting that they received the 3 replacement bogie motors in trade, while Javi preps the last of the climate instruments and balloons for launch. Ben worries a little about Mel, since she’s been gone for 3 days, but Javi assures him that she’s all warm and cozy at the research station, waiting to receive their climate data.
Layton has his meeting with Miss Audrey, which mirrors his interview with LJ in Season 1 Episode 4, Without Their Maker. In both interviews, he’s coercive with his female informants, pretending that he’s on their side in order to get them to behave according to his needs but against their own best interests. Both women were teenagers when they became involved with much older, violent men. Through a stroke of luck and a bit of Melanie’s violent manipulations, both got out.
Layton, the Emotional Needs of the Train and the Women who Surround Him
Let’s recall that in this scene, we’re dealing with Miss Audrey and Layton, but also with the echoes of Wilford’s relationships with Audrey and Melanie, both of which began when they were teenagers. He plucked them both out of obscurity and made them his favorites in their fields, then treated them like he owned them. Now he does the same with Alex, who was even younger when he began to raise her.
This gives a different resonance to LJ’s trial in season 1, where Audrey, who hates herself for the sins she thinks she committed with Wilford, wanted LJ to pay for a crime it wasn’t even clear she’d committed, while Melanie, who was saved from poverty and obscurity by Wilford, saved LJ, despite the ongoing dangers LJ presented, even to Melanie herself.
Then there are the issues of Nikki Genet and Alex, who were both believed to be dead at that time. Audrey’s relationship with Nikki still isn’t clear- perhaps a surrogate daughter to match Melanie’s lost biological daughter? Did Melanie save LJ because she was a link to Alex, while Audrey condemned her because she was complicit in the loss of a daughter or daughter figure?
And where does Wilford fit in all this? Is he connected to Nikki? Is he Alex’s father?
This is what Layton walked into in season 1 when he coerced LJ into accepting the blame for Sean and Nikki’s murders. Whether or not she did it, he had no right to take away her right to due process and claiming she was innocent until proven guilty, especially since she’s a minor child and Erik Sotto was clearly the person who actually committed the murders. The train wanted blood, so he gave them LJ, because to him she’s a worthless, pampered throwaway. He sees her the same way 1st class saw Tailies.
Because of Layton’s machinations, by the end of the episode both Audrey and LJ publicly behave as if they were in control of their situations with Erik, in LJ’s case and with Wilford, in Audrey’s case, when careful thought reveals that’s a patently ridiculous notion in both cases. Both women’s reputations are permanently ruined, on Snowpiercer and with the audience, because they do what Layton wants. He shows little emotion over the damage he does to them.
Let me remind you all again, the evidence against LJ could easily have been planted. She was raised in the system this episode is named after and understands that she needs to play by certain rules. She’s not stupid enough to argue about her violent reputation while living on the streets. She was a child. There’s a reason we don’t try children as adults.
Metamaiden can’t forgive Layton for his exploitation of these two women. I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he’s otherwise likeable and seems to have good intentions, but it’s been clear since we learned the truth about the cannibals in the Tail that he’s somewhat emotionally removed from almost everyone. I don’t know if this is bad writing or if it’s going somewhere eventually, but it’s been part of his character from the start.
Deep down, I don’t think Layton trusts or cares about anyone the way he cares about his political ideals, except possibly Zarah or Josie. Like Josie, he’ll sacrifice anyone to his cause. Like Zarah, he’s an opportunist at heart, though he uses his opportunism for the greater good rather than personal gain. Zarah’s role in his life is to humanize him and make sure he doesn’t forget to take care of himself as well. After she left the Tail, Miles humanized him. Josie’s role was to keep him focused on his idealistic political goals so that he didn’t get too distracted by day to day life. I think Zarah will be better for him in the long run, because she’s better at finding the balance required for running a country and she understands the train, not just the Tail. She also understands Audrey, his current issue.
Back to the recap.
Layton asks Miss Audrey to help him understand her relationship with Wilford, so she tells him the basics of their story: “When I was 18, I was already a high-end escort. Private parties for the most powerful men and women in Chicago. They would go on for days, these parties, and they were all on his trains. You need to know- I was his, exclusively, for years. It paid in gold, but I lost everything, and now you’re asking me to reopen Pandora’s box?”
Layton wants to use her as a spy who would steer Wilford in the direction they want him to go. He promises everyone will support and help her. “This is the cause now, Audrey.”
Audrey agrees to help, but for her own reasons, not to save the train or for the recolonization mission.
More on Layton and the Emotional Needs of the Train
And with that, he tells her that she should be willing to sacrifice her life and sanity for this, if necessary, and convinces her to go along with his plan. He also shows that he still doesn’t understand Wilford at all. No one is going to steer him and no one can help Audrey when she’s alone with him.
And no one can take Audrey’s place on Snowpiercer after Layton and Wilford’s mind games have broken her completely. But Layton doesn’t really understand how the social system of the train works, either. I think one reason Melanie left was to push him to immerse himself in the social system of the train instead of depending on her and others to interpret for him.
He understands the Tail, and gets the basics of 3rd class, but I don’t think he’s capable of giving equal weight to the needs of the former 1st and 2nd class. He doesn’t think he needs more than a few of them anyway, but in fact they are the people who run the departments and who know Wilford best, with Ruth and Boki being the prime examples. He needs their support and their wisdom. They influence the entire train.
He has some reverse classism in him that allows him to believe the uptrainers had complete free will to make decisions, so he still blames them all, and thinks they didn’t have any real problems of their own, at least not any that compared to his, even before the ice. We were shown the reality in season 1- the uptrainers had more material wealth, but otherwise they were as locked into their lives and had as many problems as downtrainers. They had more eyes on them and less freedom of movement in many ways, plus many have demanding, pressure-filled jobs that keep the people of Snowpiercer alive. Till’s breakdown in this episode was representative of the stress Snowpiercer’s professional class feels everyday.
There’s a reason LJ seems more lighthearted now, even though she’s living in poverty. She used to live with 3 abusers while everyone told her she should be grateful for her perfect life. Now she makes her own destiny. Even the supposedly slothful 1st class passengers were extensively involved in the spying and black market trade systems on the train, at the very least.
Alex’s life also illustrates this- sometimes it’s better not to be noticed by the powerful. She gets the most fresh food, but she also gets to witness Wilford’s murders and madness firsthand and to wonder when it’ll be her turn. It seems clear that Wilford has only kept her alive and close because she’s his most valuable pawn in his game against Melanie.
Before Wilford had Alex, he had Melanie and Audrey. Zarah is also his physical type- I’m very afraid of what will happen when he finds out she’s pregnant with Layton’s baby. It’s a toss up over whether he’ll want her in the Headwoods lab or his bed. Or both.
Back to the recap again.
They send an official invitation to Wilford and Big Alice for their final balloon launch party that night. Wilford is excited but isn’t sure he wants to bring a delegation as the invitation suggests. Alex tells Sykes that Wilford can’t wait to see his paramour, which causes Wilford to snap at them both. He tells Alex not to use that word.
Wilford: “She’s a poem, do you hear me? Witchy bird of grace that holds the soul of the train. She’s a key.”
Definitely still obsessed with her, then. But is she the key to his heart or does he already know she’s the key to unlocking Snowpiercer?
He goes on to plan his outfit.
The rest of the Big Alice crew are enjoying their fresh food. Alex eats with her bunkmate Emilia. Wilford and Sykes draw 3 names from a hat to decide who will join them on Snowpiercer. Wilford draws Oiler Bob (not Icy Bob) and food service worker Damien Ho. Alex says she’s rigged it already for her friend to be the third name called. Wilford announces seamstress Emilia will also join them. She tears up with happiness.
Audrey, Layton, Roche, Ben and Ruth meet to discuss their plans for the evening. They are developing into his inner circle, along with Zarah, Till and Melanie. There are three names they don’t recognize on the guest list, undoubtedly the three we just heard called. Roche will check with the Notary to see if they were ticketed passengers and pull any available info on them. They need to be aware of anyone who they can potentially convince to work for them.
Ben goes over the plan to launch the last balloon and make contact with Melanie. He and Ruth agree that making contact with Mel is the most important part of the evening, since it provides hope for the evening to both Snowpiercer and their guests from Alice. They want Wilford to be compelled to cooperate with the mission by its popularity on both trains. They refuse to even consider what will happen if Melanie doesn’t respond.
Layton reminds them that this is their chance to show the crew of Alice how great life is on Snowpiercer, before Wilford can demonize them as individuals. Miss Audrey says that Wilford will do the same thing- he’ll use this as a chance to charm their crew over to his side. “He’s already got his hooks into some of us.” Ruth thinks Audrey means her, but Audrey says she’s talking about everyone who knew Wilford before the ice, especially those he hired personally. That includes everyone in the meeting, except Layton.
I need to note here- that means any of them could be Wilford’s spy, though the one person I trust is Ruth, oddly enough. She seems too unaware of his true nature to be working with him.
Layton tells them that they have to trust each other. He reiterates that the mission is “to give Mr Wilford the greatest night he has ever had aboard Snowpiercer.” They all agree, some with more enthusiasm than others.
I wish Layton would have given them a bit more of a unifying speech in this moment. Ruth needs to feel like he sees her as part of HIS team and Audrey needs to feel like she really does have the weight of Snowpiercer as a whole and the leadership team specifically behind her. Basically, this group could use a bonding retreat, but that’s not going to happen, so Layton needs to work to pull them together as a supportive network for each other instead of hanging back while they continue to work through past and present traumas. He was always able to say what needed to be said to the Tailies, despite his arguments with them, but he can’t bring himself to give his new team a motivational speech.
If he doesn’t do it for his team and the train, someone else will. The question is, will it be Pastor Logan or Wilford?
Over her cup of tea, Bess explains to Pastor Logan that when she looked at the memorial, she was overwhelmed by the loss. She feels like there are so few people left, but she’s still there and wasn’t even injured. Logan asks her what she still stands for.
She says that she used to know who she was and where she belonged, but now she’s all alone in the world. Logan takes her hands and reminds her that there are still 3,000 survivors. She pulls her hands away and tells him there are 2,747 souls on Snowpiercer. Then she corrects herself. Actually, it’s 2,746, since a mess chef died yesterday.
Bess feels all alone, but her heart is so big that she’s coping with it by keeping track of every single person who’s still alive on Snowpiercer. 😢
Pastor Logan tells her the survivor’s guilt feels unbearable because there are so few left in the world, but she’s not alone.
The Headwoods arrive on Snowpiercer to treat frostbite victims. Obviously Kevin doesn’t escort them. Ruth escorts them to the clinic, where everyone is amazed by the healing gel. Mr Dr Headwood starts to explain the gel’s properties, but Mrs Dr Headwood gives him a look that reminds him they aren’t supposed to reveal anything.
When they finish with the last patient from the battle, Layton says there’s a patient in the 2nd class clinic he’d like them to look at. He doesn’t say who it is and blocks Ruth from following. She informs him that she knows who the patient is and it’s her job to escort the Headwoods. He mildly scoffs at her and leaves her behind anyway.
Ruth may have taken several arms over the years, but she had nothing to do with what happened to Josie. And, once again, let’s recall that Josie did most of this damage to herself in an assassination attempt on Melanie. She was willing to die to take Melanie with her, which is hardcore, but she’s tainting her sacrifice now by not owning up to it and blaming Melanie for all of the damage. Melanie may have planned to kill Josie anyway, but we’ll never know for sure, since Josie struck first. The way the show goes back and forth with Josie, between pure, virginal Madonna and hardcore revolutionary, is disconcerting. We haven’t been given any reason why she’s so beloved by the rest of the Tailies or why they respect her opinion so much and will now follow her absolutely. Has her return from the dead given her the status of savior? I suspect that’s where the show is heading.
The Headwoods are impressed by the level of Josie’s injuries. They can treat her, but she’ll need such extensive work, including custom skin grafts in a sterile lab, that it will have to be done on Big Alice with no visitors. The Headwoods are practically drooling with excitement and trying not to show it. Layton asks for a moment alone with Josie.
Know who else has custom skin grafts? Icy Bob. The Headwoods may be thinking that Josie’s survival reflects a genetic predisposition toward cold tolerance similar to Bob’s. That would make her the perfect candidate to be their 2nd test subject. With no visitors and no mirrors, she might not even realize they’re turning her into Icy Josie until it’s too late.
Ruth vents her frustration with Layton’s lack of trust in her to Zarah. She says that he doesn’t appreciate how hard she works. Zarah tells her she knows that Ruth is a diligent worker. Ruth says she may admire Wilford, but she’s loyal to Snowpiercer, the train. She doesn’t like the way Layton is pushing out her and Hospitality as a whole. Zarah suggests that she and Ruth could help each other. She wants to join Hospitality.
This is a perfect solution. I knew Ruth and Zarah were a perfect match and could help each other, but I didn’t expect it to go in this direction. Zarah can work as Layton’s double agent, acting as his eyes and ears throughout the train and a buffer between him and Ruth. Ruth will know that her concerns are being heard by Layton and she’ll have a partner to share the workload, just as she did with Melanie. And Layton can now be seen and act as the “Wilford type” overall leader, with trusted lieutenants in Melanie’s two former roles- Ben in engineering to keep the train going and Zarah in Hospitality to take the pulse of the train’s passengers each day.
Layton is worried that the offer of frostbite therapy is too much of a coincidence, but he can’t figure out who would have told Wilford about Josie. He’s rightfully concerned that once they isolate her, they’ll do cold resistance augmentation experiments on her.
That’s assuming she’d say no if they asked for her consent. As I said, Josie is hardcore and she’s in bad shape. If she thought there was something to be gained by becoming an ice warrior, she’d do it. We were shown all through season 1 that she’s a risk taker and her family isn’t her first concern.
She points out the seriousness of her condition to Layton. He hasn’t faced just how serious her condition really is, but she says she won’t get better on her own.
It’s kind of a miracle that she doesn’t have an infection already, between her extensive open wounds and all of those visitors getting up so close.
She offers to act as a spy, sending information back through Pike’s weed pipeline. Layton reluctantly agrees to it and they stare into each other’s eyes for a moment.
LJ wanders by Terence’s HQ in the market with her mop and bucket, walking slowly so she catches some of his conversation. She may have fallen from the top to the bottom of the social order, but she still understands that work isn’t the only valuable commodity. Information can save your life. The thing about a Firstie girl is that she’s in a position to understand the significance of some information that a Tailie might let go by him.
Connections can be so important.
Terence and Pike are arguing about their latest weed deal. Pike is still miffed that Terence insulted the Tail and makes sure he realizes that the Tail controls the border and the flow of smuggled goods. The Janitors answer to him now. Terence pays with more encyclopedia volumes.
Lights, Strong Boy, Last Australian and Z-Wreck hijack Boki into a dark alley to warn him and the Breachmen off any more harassment and assault of the Tailies. They want no part of his Wilford games. Boki claims the Breachmen didn’t amputate Lights’ fingers, but they and the rest of the train’s Wilford supporters will be happy to take on the Tailies anytime. More Breachmen show up and a gang fight breaks out.
Lights mentioned there are 10 Breachmen and 400 Tailies. She hasn’t updated her count since the war. Or maybe Tailie is now Snowpiercer code for homeless and unemployed, so the ranks have grown since the war. Either way, the Tailies are starting to seem like an organized crime mob. Layton is basically using them as his personal army and spy network rather than helping them assimilate into the rest of the train in an organized, legal way. This is more evidence of Layton’s difficulties with trusting anyone who didn’t fight on his side during the war, which plays straight into Wilford’s hands. It will allow Wilford to play the great uniter, as someone who wasn’t on either side.
Wilford’s guests dress up for the occasion, then talk about the Night Car while they wait for him. When he arrives, he warns them all that this is his night, not theirs. From their reactions, it’s clear that displeasing Wilford would be a very, very bad idea. A Kevin and the chicken wings level bad idea.
The Tailie/Breachmen fight gets broken up. Bess, Layton and Roche are angry that the Tailies were carrying weapons and didn’t wait for them to solve Lights’ case. Layton asks Boki about his history with Wilford. He says he’s a Wilford lifer who first met the industrialist in person at age 14 while building one of his bridges in Serbia.
Bess kicks Boki in the side as payback for everything Wilford and his supporters are doing to Snowpiercer’s society. She’s worried about what the Wilford supporters will do while their man is in the Night Car. Boki is their most vocal leader, so they decide to lock him in the brig under martial law for now. And possibly confine the rest of the Breachmen to quarters? Bess warns Layton and Roche that there’s something deeper going on.
Bess’ worry pairs with Layton’s sense that there’s a Wilford spy in the upper levels of government or the Tail that they haven’t caught yet. We already know Pike has no loyalty to anything but himself and especially enriching himself, so he’s an obvious suspect to be an unwitting double agent now that he has a pipeline. But I’ve been sure since Ben introduced the short wave backup radio last season during the war that at least one person has been communicating with Wilford all along. Multiple people could be reporting to that person or people. And there’s just no way that Melanie didn’t have a spy in the Tail, echoing the film. Maybe Wilford did, too.
Josie tells the Tailies that they have to stand by Layton, no matter what. Last Australian makes a face. Mama Grande tells her they got her a goodbye gift.
It’s Miles! He’s grown several inches! Josie says she didn’t want him to see her like this, but he says he doesn’t care. They tell her that Miles has transferred from the Engine Eternal to learning engineering in Life Systems. He’s helping prepare for the move back outside. In a callback to the film, he wants to be one of the first to recolonize Earth.
Josie tells him to hold onto his hope. Then Strong Boy lifts her into a wheelchair and they take her to the border, while the group of assembled Tailies salute her by pounding their weapons on the floor in unison. The Headwoods receive her on the other side of the door.
I hope that’s not the last we see of Miles. Sounds like he’s working with the dearly disappeared Jinju and Klimpt. No need to research how to keep people in the drawers long-term anymore. Those two are probably in charge of recolonization life systems instead of suspension technology now. I’ll look forward to their collaboration with the Headwoods in season 3. Should be freaky.
While Layton dresses for the party, Zarah makes her debut in
Melanie’s Hospitality teals, her way of announcing her new job. Layton is against the change, but Zarah tells him working in Hospitality was her idea, not Ruth’s. She promises she’ll have his and Audrey’s backs and keep an eye on Ruth. She also takes his suit jacket back off him and loosens up his look, telling him he needs to come off as a man of the people. Layton remembers that this type of thing was always her strength and relaxes a little.
Ruth, who has let her hair down for the evening, introduces the Big Alice crew to the Night Car, then shows them to Mr Wilford’s area. Layton officially welcomes them before Ben and Javi appear on a TV screen for the balloon launch. They explain the procedure, while Wilford tosses out his typical mocking comments, then successfully launch the balloon.
They’ll check back in with the audience in 75 minutes, when the balloon will have reached the proper altitude for Melanie to receive its signal. She’ll send a signal back to the balloon when she receives the data, which Snowpiercer will hear as a ping. When they hear the ping, they’ll know she’s at the research center and receiving data.
Zarah lets Miss Audrey know that Wilford is ready for her. Miss Audrey is still getting dressed. She says she’s always made Wilford wait for her. She gives Zarah a tray with a bottle of liquor to take to Wilford. She asks Zarah to rescue her after 30 minutes alone with Wilford if she hasn’t come out before then.
As the train crosses the Great Bering Strait Bridge between Alaska and Siberia, Layton makes a toast to the great Mr Wilford, who connected two shores that hadn’t been connected since the last ice age. Wilford thanks him, then basically accuses Layton of stealing his train. Layton tells him Snowpiercer isn’t his train
Miss Audrey makes her entrance, in a showgirl’s silvery white dance tuxedo. A web of sequins studs her neck and chest, as if she hopes they’ll repel any blades Wilford might aim in her direction. Wilford is finally serious without being angry, engrossed in her performance of Portishead’s Glory Box. Afterward, they speak awkwardly for a minute, then she takes him to one of the private rooms.
Miss Audrey: “Are you brushed and watered?”
Wilford: “I intend to be.”
Wilford sits down and tries to take command of the experience, but this is Miss Audrey’s domain. He asks to look at her and says she’s changed, while attempting to run his hand inside her sleeve and up her scar. She jumps out of his reach and explains how the purpose and function of the Night Car changed once the reality of the Freeze hit everyone.
Wilford doesn’t think he needs help with his grief, because he never loses. On second thought, he does regret losing her for the last 7 years. She moves in closer again and tells him the Night Car Experience requires an open heart. When she asks if he’s capable of that, he gives her a cunning look.
Outside in the club, Ruth asks Layton exactly what’s going on, referring to Miss Audrey as a honeypot. Layton tells her it’s up to the others, who have 40 minutes to make something happen before the engineers’ next act.
Last Aus and Emilia meet and discover they are no longer the last Australians- they are now the new Adam and Eve of Australians, the only hope for keeping the dream alive. LJ makes sure Alex sees her, so Alex slips away first chance. Turns out they were playmates as children. Neither has had another girl their own age to talk to since the Freeze. LJ leads Alex off on an adventure.
Z-Wreck and Sykes have a conversation, but we don’t hear any of it. Bess hooks up with a tall, beautiful bartender. Layton watches over the whole scene. There’s a good chance Last Aus, Z-Wreck and LJ are acting with encouragement from him, based on what Roche learned from the Notary. Hopefully Bess made her connection by herself.
Emilia tells Last Aus that she was supposed to be in the laundry on Snowpiercer, but the train left without “us”. He asks what she does on Alice. She tells him she can’t say. He asks if they’re okay on the other train. She says they are, but doesn’t look like she means it. He gives her his lucky goggles, telling her to wear them on Alice if she needs to get in touch with him. Someone will contact her.
LJ brings Alex to an observation dome, a bubble on top of the train that allows them to watch the Northern Lights. She says her janitor’s chip gets her in everywhere. She also brought Alex a gift- the W volume of the encyclopedia, which she says has the wooly mammoth, a totally cool, extinct animal. Then she pulls out a joint for them to smoke together.
Maybe the encyclopedias aren’t valuable as rolling papers after all. Maybe people are hungry to use them to remember their lost world.
Audrey asks Wilford what he sees during his visualization. At first he sees them together dancing to a band. Then the scene changes to them sitting together in his tub on Alice, the way he sat with Kevin, but they are clothed. He hands her a straight razor, the same way he gave one to Kevin. She says “no”. He just stares at her with various malevolent looks until she cuts her wrists.
In the present day, she realizes what he’s seeing and says, “You made me cut my own wrists.” He replies, “But I saved you.”
He once had complete ownership of her free will, so he thinks he can trust her completely. In his mind, since he saved her, he owns her. Now his trains have saved everyone, so he owns all of them.
He tells Audrey that he wants it and needs it. He needs her. She’s the only one. The only one. He gets down on his knees in front of her. She tries to refuse, then gives in. It’s not totally clear what kink he wants to act out, but it seems to be along the lines of her gently dominating him, since she pushes at his face a little with her hand and his chest with her shoe, then puts something in his mouth that might act as a gag. This would be a domination game, in which he can relax and let her manipulate him for a while because he trusts her, but they both know that he’s always the one who’s really in charge.
Out in the club, the engineers give their 5 minute warning. Zarah opens the door to warn Audrey their time is almost up. Wilford is on his back and she’s feeding him something.
While they get high, LJ and Alex talk about their potentially frozen parents. Alex is surprised by how much she cares about Melanie. LJ says the whole rest of the world froze, so her parents are no different from them. They notice the weather balloon is reaching altitude, so it’s time to go inside. Before they go, they sarcastically decide to be enemies.
Ruth is worried that Mr Wilford won’t make it back into the club in time for the next balloon broadcast. Zarah tells her and Layton that he’s on his way. It’s clear that Ruth doesn’t approve of Mr Wilford fraternizing with that trollop Miss Audrey. Alex comes back and they talk about whether she believes Melanie is still alive. She says Wilford doesn’t, but she thinks if anyone can survive, it’s her mother.
Wilford arrives, without Audrey, just in time for the presentation. Ben and Javi explain that Melanie should make contact when the balloon reaches 35,000 feet. They count off its altitude as it rises, reaching and then passing the expected contact point. Everyone gets nervous. Wilford loudly pops one of the Night Car party balloons. Melanie makes contact just after the balloon passes 35,250 feet. Most of the crowd cheer. Some complicated emotions cross Wilford and Alex’s faces.
Once the Night Car has cleared out, Miss Audrey dances out her feelings again. Alex lays in her bunk and looks up at Breslauer Research Station on the map. The danger for Melanie isn’t over yet. Javi and Ben toast to the night’s successes.
Layton stops back to check in with Audrey. He asks if he should be worried about the weird intensity between her and Wilford. She says she warned him things might go that way. Wilford is exactly where they want him. He takes her at her word and leaves.
She’s definitely not okay.
Over on Alice, Wilford peeks in on the headwoods’ lab, where Icy Bob and Josie are resting on side by side cots. Josie senses his eyes on her and turns toward him.
I miss engineers telling each other they have the train. As an honorary passenger, I felt much safer knowing who was responsible for keeping everything together. There’s currently no doubt in my mind that Melanie is the only person who can run this joint and keep every system functioning at once, from the Tail to the Engine Eternal.
Layton has legitimate reasons to hold a grudge against Ruth, but he kept her on his team, so he needs to get over it and treat her like a full member. If he can’t bring himself to trust her, he should find a suitable transfer that uses her skills but doesn’t involve working directly with him. Surely she could organize housing, education or employment for the
refugees Tailies or keep the housekeeping aspects of Hospitality but give up diplomatic responsibilities. She’s good at the diplomatic protocols, though, so I’d rather see him learn to work with her, just as he learned to work with Melanie. And he really does need to appoint a Council for Tailie Readjustment.
Knowing that Wilford’s first name is Joseph, and what his relationship with Audrey and so many others on the train was like even before Snowpiercer and the ice age, gives Audrey’s performance of Murray Head’s “Say It Ain’t So, Joe” from S1Ep2, Prepare to Brace, so much more resonance. Audrey has also lost Nikki and her assistant from last season, Clay. Now Zarah, Audrey’s last support person, is moving on to Hospitality and to living in 1st class. That’s not surprising, since Zarah’s pregnant, but it’s another loss for Audrey, who also has to cope with the return of a long term abusive lover who began grooming her when she was a teenager.
Also, my worry that Wilford was attempting to molest Alex seems even more realistic. He has a certain physical type and likes to search out intelligent, talented, very young women he can consume until they are wholly owned by him. He collects people this way and gets off on seeing how far they’ll go for him. He’s addicted to Audrey because she’s both his greatest success but also unpredictable, as is Melanie. They are the two women he just can’t
I wonder if he did something to LJ when she was little that sent her over the edge. Maybe she stabbed her Daddy’s eye because no one would believe what she said about Wilford. Any little girl who spent much time around him would have reason to hate men and want revenge. Alex uses her clothing to armor herself up so no one can get near her body.
Here is Snowpiercer’s partial route map again. I went over their route in S1 and so far this season in the season 2 episode 3 recap. The light blue circle over North America highlights the Rocky Mountain Test Track, which is barely visible between the main sections of track in Chicago and on the west coast. This season the trains took the Test Track spur west, dropped off Melanie so that she could do research at the fictional Breslauer Research Station, then picked up the section of track they were on when season 1 started on the west coast of North America, heading north this time.
They’ve traveled north through Canada again and passed through Alaska. In this episode, they crossed a fictional bridge over the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. The existence of the bridge is meant to show us the scale of Wilford’s wealth, influence and accomplishments, since the US and Russia have been uneasy rivals for decades who are currently unlikely to agree to build a structure that would allow such easy movement between the two countries. Since 2012, the Russian coast has been a closed militarized zone.
The Bering Strait is 51 miles wide at its narrowest point and only 180 feet deep at its deepest point. There have been several proposals to build bridges and/or tunnels across the Strait since the 19th century. Some have elicited interest, but none has worked out so far. There are 21st century rumors of worldwide railway plans that would include the Bering Strait and link major world cities. (X X)
Images courtesy of TNT.