Episode 7 returns to Snowpiercer, the train, after a field trip to Breslauer Research Station in the Rocky Mountains to visit Melanie in episode 6. Snowpiercer is in the Himalaya Mountains in Asia this week, in the process of turning around so that it can retrieve Melanie from her mission. The trip through Earth’s highest mountain peaks is surprisingly smooth, considering the tough time the train has had in the Rockies in both seasons. No bracing required.
Instead, the turbulence is all inside the train, where most of the hour is filled with aftershocks from the murder of every Breachman except Boki in episode 5. Till continues her investigation and finally finds a couple of suspects. 3rd class boils over and takes their dissatisfaction with Layton’s government out on any Tailies they can find. Pike is still in the midst of his breakdown over Terence’s death. Ruth, Roche and Miss Audrey realize they’ll soon need to choose a side in the Wilford-Layton war that’s brewing.
The population of Snowpiercer is spiraling and Layton still doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening. Unlike Melanie and Wilford, he’s not attempting to become the leader of the entire train or finding ways to restore law and order. The new version of freedom is sink or swim anarchy, which allows the people to oppress each other rather than the government doing it for them. The weight of accumulated grief, trauma and now the unfairness of his new government is bringing the population to a breaking point. Wilford is taking advantage of the chaos, but they might have reached this low without him. Layton seems just as traumatized as the others by his losses and the unrelenting pace of events.
This episode deals with suicide once again.
The first image of the episode is of a wall of buttons outside the Tea Room. The image is reversed. Things aren’t necessarily what they seem on Snowpiercer.
Bess Till gets the voice over as she looks over the crime scene and the Breachmen’s bodies:
“I thought I’d be used to death by now. What’s eight lives against the seven billion we lost in the Freeze? But it’s different this way. This isn’t the Cold. This is us. People. Wasting each other to violence. And we can’t stop. It’s our answer for everything. We get lost in it. I got lost in it. But now, all I want is for it to stop. I want just one night where I close my eyes and I’m not afraid of what’s on the other side. One night where I don’t feel so alone. On Snowpiercer, 1,034 cars long.”
As Bess examines the spot where Boki’s girlfriend, Cherry Sherry, died, she kicks a loose button across the floor. When she digs it out again, she finds that it has a Wilford “W” on it. It’s from a relatively rare article of clothing. The button becomes her first substantial clue.
Boki sits next to his fallen comrades and grieves for them while Pastor Logan prays next to him. Nearby, Layton tells Till that he’s certain Wilford has a spy on Snowpiercer. She agrees that someone must have told him about the political differences that are tearing the train apart. Till will continue her investigation while Layton tries to keep the train under control. Roche joins them and concurs that the situation is volatile. The border is on lockdown and the Brakemen are spread throughout the train.
Layton carefully tries to pay his respects to Boki, but all Boki can see in him is another Tailie. He tells Layton to get away from his dead friends. Layton and Roche leave as Till watches Logan give Boki one of his St Christopher necklaces.
St Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, but it seems a little late for that now for the Breachmen. Am I the only one who finds the gesture creepy? Without the speech he gave Till in episode 5 after their sparring match about Snowpiercer being led by the wrong shepherd, it seems innocent enough for Logan to have a signature saint. But that speech makes me wonder, why give everyone the same saint on every occasion, unless you’re marking them as part of your gang for when the fighting starts? Those medallions should be simple enough to make in the train’s machine shop using home made molds and melted metal scraps. It’s not a case of only having brought one saint with him when he boarded.
Pastor Logan promises Till he’ll stay with Boki. He says they’ll go to the Tea Room when they’re done in the makeshift morgue. Till leaves to continue her investigation.
LJ and Oz have moved up in the janitorial ranks and are now supervising an underling as he cleans up Breachman blood in the market. Till asks LJ about the vintage Wilford button, but LJ makes it clear that she wouldn’t snitch on a Firstie, even if she knew anything. Oz has no such class loyalties and understands the benefits of having an in with a high ranking police officer, so he jumps in to tell Bess that he knows someone who can help with the button. He doesn’t even negotiate for a reward when she asks him to take her to Katya, the woman with a couchette full of vintage wares.
Every week, I suggest Bess and Oz should be partners again, but does anyone listen? 😉
Ruth describes what happened when Miss Audrey chose to stay on Big Alice to Layton, Zarah and Roche. They agree that they want to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she stayed to complete her mission. But she knows too much, so they have to treat this like a defection to Wilford just to be cautious.
When they radio Big Alice to check in with Audrey, she’s soaking in the tub while Wilford minds the helm. He taunts Ben and Layton instead of calling her to the radio, as usual, reminding them the train will be going through the Himalayan Roundabout tonight in order to turn around and go back for Melanie. And of course he asks about the alarms from the night before.
Audrey joins them just as Wilford is complaining that she’s in a bad mood. She tells Layton that she’s fine and she’s not ready to return to Snowpiercer yet. Wilford angrily shuts off the radio while Layton is still talking. He tells her she’s not putting on a convincing show.
On Snowpiercer, they come to the same conclusion. They can’t tell which side she’s on, so they’ll stick to assuming she’s compromised.
This is a tough blow for Layton, after losing Josie and Melanie. Miss Audrey was one of his earliest and strongest allies in season 1. But it also helps make the case that she could indeed be undercover. She knows what Wilford is like better than anyone, other than Melanie, and she’s an amazing performer. She’s probably always performed when she’s with Wilford, so it will be tough for him to tell the difference, if she can get herself back in the right mindset.
Emilia and Alex don’t sit together at breakfast, but Emilia still asks if Alex knows anything about the alarms on Snowpiercer. Alex explains that she’s been replaced in Wilford’s affections by Miss Audrey. But she’s sure the other Aussie will be okay.
Alex’s safety would be another reason for Audrey to go undercover. She knows how important Alex is to her friend Melanie and the only way to protect Melanie’s daughter if things go south is to be right there to put her body between Alex and Wilford, if necessary.
Alex sees Sykes up on the balcony and decides to get some answers. But Sykes is enjoying her rise in the organization and Alex’s potential fall from grace. She says Wilford must not want Alex to know what’s going on. Alex should ask Wilford her questions.
To be fair, Wilford would probably cut out Sykes’ tongue if she said anything, and Alex should know that, unless she really has been locked in the engine for all of her waking hours for 7 years.
In the Tail, Pike has descended (Or maybe it’s ascended? Tough call.) to using a bong made from a nearly intact baby bottle. I predict he’ll start a trend. Also, this shows that baby bottles aren’t much in demand on Snowpiercer for their intended use. Hope Zarah plans to breastfeed.
Astrid tells The Last Aussie, Z-Wreck and Strong Boy that Tailies are getting harassed in 3rd because everyone assumes they murdered the Breachmen. She returns to work in 3rd. The Last Aussie and Z-Wreck decide to go uptrain to rescue Lights, Winnie and any other Tailies who need an escort to get home safely. Strong Boy uses the word “and”, the first English word he’s spoken since he came out of the drawers speaking Mandarin. They leave him in the Tail because he’s so recognizable.
Unfortunately, they’re recognizable, too. As soon as they get to the 3rd class dining car, they run into Jakes and then Boki. Boki charges them, saying he’s going to kill them. He tosses Last Aussie to the other end of the car, splitting his head open.
Add that to the long list of head wounds this season. Emilia will be so upset.
Once the fight gets broken up, Roche and Ruth escort Boki to the brig. Then my OTP stop to have a private conversation. It’s a little flirty. Do not argue with me- just let me have this moment, okay?
Ruth: “Sam, how worried are you?”
Sam: “I’m always worried when you start using my first name. What’s on your mind?”
Ruth: “When Audrey and Mr Wilford turned back at the border last night, he asked me to step over onto Big Alice.”
Sam: “But you’re still here.”
Ruth: “Didn’t know what to do. There was a time that I would have.”
Sam: “Now you’re not so sure.”
Ruth: “I serve Snowpiercer, just like you. We had order for seven years. I know it was Melanie, but they were his rules, weren’t they?”
Sam: “Yes, we had order. You want to do that job again? Taking arms? Running a gulag at the back of the train?”
Ruth sighs, THEN SHE FUSSES WITH HIS JACKET [swoon]: “Come on.”
This question is being discussed all over Snowpiercer, by reasonable people. For 7 years, Melanie was the real leader. But she was ruling according to Wilford’s rules. But she heavily modified Wilford’s rules and they were still terrible. The brothel became the Night Car, for example, but arms were still taken and the Tailies lived in squalor in a permanent refugee camp.
Wilford won’t feel any obligation to follow rules that were written 7 years ago, anyway. He’ll be so, so, so much worse. For example, there are no classes on Alice, but the lives of the crew are somewhere well below the standard of 3rd and closer to the Tail. Except the Tailies lived freely within their space and the Big Alice crew are constantly monitored, even Alex and the Headwoods. Plus, everyone is a potential science experiment.
As they walk, Till tells Oz that she thinks whoever murdered the Breachmen was under orders from Wilford. She thinks he has someone on Snowpiercer in charge of a spy ring. Oz doesn’t believe in the invisible hand of Wilford, but Till assures him it’s real.
Oz takes Till to a 3rd class cabin where a Russian family lives. The grandson, Elan, shows his grandmother, Katya, the button Till found. Katya says the button is from a coat that was part of a set. She and a tall woman from 1st class exchanged one of the jackets for a fur hat last week.
Katya was Mr Wilford’s neighbor in Sheffield sometime in the distant past. He was like a nephew to her. She took him to the park and the chapel. He loved the chapel and would light a red candle in the glass window. Till and Oz notice there are red lanterns all over the cabin. Elan says Katya has him light a candle in the window every day as a vigil until Wilford returns. She gives them out to her customers, who light them for Wilford as well.
Layton makes a speech to the entire train over the loudspeaker acknowledging and honoring the deaths of the Breachmen. He begins by blaming the murders on an unseen enemy who he claims is attempting to divide the people of Snowpiercer. We, the audience, know this is probably true, but most of the people of Snowpiercer don’t. They’ve been set up to blame the Tail, who they believe went after the Breachmen in retaliation for the mutilation of Lights’ hand.
The Breachmen, as the most staunch supporters of Wilford, were set up as the most likely perpetrators of the mutilation. Then they did nothing to convince the train that it wasn’t them, out of macho pride and possibly a lack of awareness of how polarized the situation in the train had become, due to their usual isolation in Muscle Beach,.
By the end of Layton’s speech, 3rd class is angry that Layton, a former Tailie, is letting the Tail off the hook for their crimes. Layton comes out and names Wilford as the one to blame for orchestrating the murders. He reminds reminds his listeners that they fought the revolution in order to be OneTrain. Instead of picking up on the OneTrain chant, Jakes leads 3rd class as they chant, “Wilford, Wilford!”
When Layton is finished, Ruth tells him that by defending the Tail and bringing up Wilford’s name, he’s practically forcing people to pick sides. She’s not sure how that’s going to help calm the situation down. Layton mildly says that the Tail needs someone to defend them. Zarah says that he had to do something.
After Ruth leaves, Layton says, “She might be right you know. We both know this is just the beginning.”
Here’s the thing. Layton is smart enough to know the effect that speech would have. He meant to rile people up rather than calm them down. In season 1, he was adept at working crowds, individuals and particular groups of people. Though I said at the beginning of the recap that he’s spiraling, I actually think that’s only partially true. I also think he’s working on a plan. Part of his plan is giving the appearance of spiraling, so as a leader he seems to be letting his emotions get the better of him more than he normally would. Plans within plans, kids.
Over on Big Alice, Wilford pouts while Audrey reminds him that she stayed, just like he wanted. He tells her it’s not enough. He wants to feel like she’s really with him. He tells her that though his plans are working out the way he’d hoped, “I can’t do it alone.” She asks him to trust her, the way she’s trusting him, and to tell her what’s going on. She has the right to know.
He starts his honesty hour by showing her the screwdriver she brought from Snowpiercer to use to hijack the comms box. She immediately admits why she has it, but says she didn’t stay on Big Alice to complete that mission.
Audrey: “I stay because I feel a pull. Right here. [She puts her hand on his heart.] But after everything you’ve done to me, I don’t understand it. But I’m still here.”
She moves her hand up to Wilford’s cheek. He roughly grabs her hand, telling her he doesn’t believe her. He moves away from her and says to get dressed. He taking her to meet someone. Once she’s ready, he almost drags her to an isolation room where Sykes is standing guard. A man can be heard whimpering inside.
Wilford says Audrey will have to prove herself to him, like everyone else. It’s important to note that phrase “like everyone else”.
He puts everyone through some form of initiation hazing that binds them to him. And it wouldn’t have mattered what she did up until this moment. She was always going to go through her own Big Alice hazing ritual to prove that she will still do literally anything that he asks of her, no matter what it costs her personally.
Wilford gives virtually nothing in return but the sum of everyone else’s sacrifices. Certainly nothing of himself that matters comes through, if there’s actually anything human left inside that toxic shell. But you have to be in so deep that you can’t get out before you realize that.
Until then, he creates a facade that makes it appear as though the successes and sacrifices are his own. His flashy exterior remembers your name and enough of your personal history to make you feel seen, to make the emotionally vulnerable feel that he cares about them as people. He’s a master of the easy love bomb, used to draw people into cons and schemes, then rationed so that they’ll stay close, always hoping to win more.
As we saw in episode 6 in his scenes with Melanie, he doesn’t share credit for the successes, even though they aren’t his either. He’s not even a great manager or mentor- he’s simply a greedy vampire. Maybe he was more, early in his career, before he got corrupted, or maybe he inherited or stole some of the more spectacular parts of his empire. Maybe he started out with a talented partner who he eventually cut out of the business. That does seem to be his signature move.
But I digress.
Wilford explains that one of his crew members “has gone all to pieces.” He takes Audrey into the room and…
OMG IT’S HOSPITALITY KEVIN!!! HE’S ALIVE!
I’m absolutely thrilled for Ruth right now. (And for Kevin- traumatized is better than eaten.)
Kevin panics at the sight of Wilford, screaming “leave me alone” repeatedly and trying to escape, but he’s strapped to a chair. For his own protection, obviously.
When Audrey hesitates at the door, Sykes roughly shoves her inside. Once Audrey gets closer, her face is a study in hollowed out, fascinated horror. She knows what this is, remember, because Wilford put her through the same thing. Right now, inside her own mind, either Sane Audrey is leaving the building or she’s deciding that she won’t stop until Wilford is dead. I don’t think there’s any in between in this moment. And I think it will be a while before we can tell the difference, because Audrey is a consummate professional.
Wilford snaps at Audrey to fix Kevin, then closes them alone in the room together. She gets wild eyed, but still hasn’t said anything.
Back on Snowpiercer, Jakes is out in the aisles, building up an even bigger crowd, with the help of the remaining Janitors. He’s turning them against Layton, shouting that the train has always belonged to Wilford. LJ is thrilled with the chaos. Oz is not. Jakes decides it’s time to start lynching Tailies.
Layton finds Pike cocooning in a corner with a meal and loud music on his headphones. Pike tells Layton he’s fine. Things went pear shaped with Terence, but now Layton owes him. Layton tries to convince Pike to hide out in the Tail for a while, but he’s convinced that no one recognizes him, since he’s bald. After Pike stumbles away, Zarah shows up and Layton says he thinks he broke Pike. Zarah tries to reassure him that he can still turn this around.
Those were some interesting interactions to have in public.
Alex is waiting in the Big Alice engine when Wilford returns. Does anyone else want to scream at her to run for the border, NOW? Somehow, Wilford forcing Kevin to cut himself, but then saving him, is more creepy than letting him die. I hate the thought of Wilford alone with a child or teenager. How did young Melanie and Audrey even survive him?
Alex is upset that Wilford is shutting her out. She thinks it’s because he’s spending so much time with Audrey, who she blames for distracting him from his real goal of conquering Snowpiercer. She calls Audrey an unflattering name.
Wilford tells her to be very careful with her personal attacks. She says he used to tell her everything. He says she used to appreciate everything he’s done for her, but then she secretly took Melanie into her bunk and probably shared some lovely hugs. Alex doesn’t think she should have to choose between them, but he says that she does. He doesn’t want her to forget that he’s the one who saved her.
Wilford: “You should be thanking me everyday for rescuing you from the Cold. Every day you breathe on this Earth is a day I gave you. So if you want to be part of my plans, you’re gonna have to remind me why I brought you along.”
That was an implicit threat on her life. He chuckles as she silently goes to the helm.
So there it it is. I don’t think he’s said so clearly before that he subscribes to the old trope that if you save someone’s life, that life belongs to you. In other words, he owns everything on both trains, from the inanimate objects to the human beings, because he saved it all from the Freeze. As far as the official record states, Melanie had no part in creating Snowpiercer. It was all Wilford, so now what’s left of the world belongs to him, too.
If you were feeling especially paranoid, you could extrapolate a motive for him to create the Freeze from this level of megalomania. And a reason to keep everyone on the trains forever, where he will always own everything and everyone. The one thing you definitely should take from this episode is that Wilford is an extreme sadist who gets off on controlling life and death, both up close in individuals and on a population level. He expects everyone to be grateful to him for their lives. If they aren’t, they don’t deserve to live and there’s nothing he enjoys more than toying with their lives.
Kevin cries so hard that he’s drooling. When Audrey offers to help, he tells her he just keeps flashing back to Wilford in the bathtub. Audrey is taken aback. She takes a minute to compose herself, then explains to Kevin that Wilford’s bathtub ritual is actually a sign of his affection. She shows him her matching scar and tells him that they both made the same choice out of love for Wilford. Kevin says that Wilford broke him, but Audrey corrects him.
Audrey: “He saved you. You’re just afraid. No one’s ever loved you like him. No one else would. You want to be his again, don’t you? You were nothing until Wilford. He gave you everything.”
She’s trying to complete the brainwashing process that Wilford and his people have been perpetrating on Kevin, but he still resists. This session brings out her old trauma, too- when he continues to tell her no, she yells at him to shut up. Then she turns out the lights and says they’re going deeper and darker. She unbuckles the staps holding him to the chair.
Audrey: “This is what I do. I help people reconnect with what they’ve lost. I need you to let go. I need you to calm down. Just give in.”
Till, Layton and Roche surround Eugenia in the 1st class dining car so they can question her about the button and Cherry Sherry’s murder. She denies everything, but has a black eye. When they arrest her anyway, she says that the train needs a new shepherd and the revolution is starting right now.
Pastor Logan said something about the train needing a new shepherd when he and Till talked after they sparred in episode 5. He sounded like he was trying to recruit Till into a resistance movement.
Ruth and Zarah run into an armed, angry mob in a 2nd class corridor and take refuge in Dr Pelton’s office. Zarah calls Tristan for an escort, but no one calls Layton or the Brakemen to report the angry mobs. Winnie, Lights and some other Tailies are already there. When Winnie sees Ruth, she screams and rushes to Lights for protection. Ruth is surprised by this reaction- she doesn’t remember Winnie.
Lights explains that it hasn’t been long since Ruth threatened to freeze off Winnie’s arm for her part in one of the Tailie rebellions. Winnie’s mother, Suzanne, volunteered to take her place, then died after the de-arming. Her brother, Patterson, died in the revolution, so now Lights acts as her family.
Ruth is chastened by this confrontation with reality, including the realization that she belongs outside with the rabid mob. She was brainwashed by Wilford and his belief system, too, though in a different way from Audrey and Kevin. She believed that she stood for the finer things in life that needed to be preserved. The unwashed masses of the Tail were a threat to the preservation of civilization, their children not even human unless they were brought forward to be educated. She didn’t think this attitude through consciously, of course- it’s just the way it was. The preservation of law and order was equal to the preservation of civilization and culture.
Ruth’s romanticized image of Wilford was based on a brief acquaintance and Melanie’s interpretation of his rules. She was a reluctant member of Commander Grey’s counter rebellion, convinced to join by his romantic interest in her and Melanie’s mistakes. Even as she’s gotten to know some of the Tailies as people, she didn’t stop to rethink her worldview- she just saw them as exceptions to the rule.
Then she promised Melanie that she’d take care of Alex. Watching 1st class join with 3rd to murder innocent people from the Tail, including children, suddenly reshuffles the deck in her mind. She’s declared her loyalty to the train and humanity as a whole, not a particular leader. If that loyalty doesn’t make her a protector of the children and the vulnerable, it isn’t worth much. We’ve been watching this evolution all season, as Ruth sorted out whether she was loyal to Wilford or the train; became closer Zarah, a pregnant former Tailie; and worked out her feelings toward Melanie. This moment brings her to an epiphany of open mindedness.
Tristan arrives at Dr Pelton’s office, but without any Brakemen to serve as an escort. He tells them that the violence in the corridors is increasing. Ruth decides they should all stay put, but then she notices that Winnie has slipped out of the office. She leaves to look for the little girl, worried that anyone else in the room would be in more danger than she would.
Winnie runs into Pike in a corridor, who’s still high and enjoying the view from one of the windows. He tells her she slayton to go help the hould find a place to hide. The mob catches him and drags him away. Winnie escapes into the same closet/viewing dome where LJ brought Alex during the weather balloon watch party. She climbs up so she can see the sky through the dome. It’s probably the first time she’s been able to see the whole sky.
On the way to the Tea Room, Till tells Layton that Logan quoted the same line about the shepherd as Eugenia and that Eugenia was wearing one of the pastor’s St Christopher medals. They run into a group of Brakemen, who tell them that a Tailie has been taken hostage by one of the mobs. Till tells Layton to go help the Tailie. She can handle Logan alone.
Winnie is hiding and remembering Suzanne’s de-arming when Ruth finds her. Suzanne told her to be strong. Ruth tells her not to be afraid, that she won’t hurt her. Winnie continues crying.
Ruth: “I’m sorry about your mum. Do you know I lost my mum, too, when I was little? It was cruel what I did, taking her away from you. I thought that I was doing the right thing. I was following the rules. But that wasn’t right, was it? It was wrong. It was very, very wrong. I wish I could take it back, Winnie. I wish that I could.”
Winnie says that she’s hiding from the bad men. Ruth promises to keep her safe from them, if she’ll let her. Winnie comes out of her hiding place.
Kevin is also in a corner on the floor. Audrey continues her brainwashing.
Audrey: “Knowing you would do anything for him is the most wonderful feeling in the world. That loyalty. That loyalty, it’s relief. It’s a love very few people understand. He’s the only one who ever understood you. You were no one until Wilford. You owe him everything. I owe him everything.”
Kevin, with a truly insane smile: “I owe him everything.”
Audrey: “Thank you, Mr Wilford.”
Kevin: “Thank you, Mr Wilford.”
Audrey: “All right, Kevin. Stand up, now. [Snaps her fingers.] Come.”
Kevin stands up and follows her out. Everyone in the mess hall watches as he follows her into Wilford’s quarters. Wilford loks impressed with both of them, noting that Audrey seems “reinvigorated”. She tells Kevin to kneel in front of Wilford and lick his slipper. Kevin gives it a good, long lick. Wilford tells Audrey that
it’s good to be king it’s good to have her back.
Audrey might actually have a clicker, like you use to train a dog. She and Kevin both look insanely happy and relieved, like they’re home. Emphasis on INSANE. Either Wilford has broken both of them or she convinced Kevin to play along with her game to eventually assassinate Wilford in some excruciating, gruesome way.
Meanwhile, back on Snowpiercer, Jakes’ pro-Wilford mob drags Pike to a portal and prepares to de-arm him. Pike tries to negotiate a deal, but they don’t want anything from him except the equivalent of a lynching. They beat him to shut him up.
By the time Ruth and Winnie return to Pelton’s office, they’ve picked a squad of Brakemen as an escort. Layton is right behind them., still on his way to rescue the Tailie who’s been taken by the mob- he doesn’t know yet that it’s Pike. When Ruth hears they have a Tailie, she chases after Layton, pleading with him to let her help.
This is her Ebenezer Scrooge moment, when the reminders of the past have all worked together to teach her a lesson, the scales fall from her eyes and she becomes a new woman. It’s Christmas morning, Tiny
Tim Winnie is waiting, and she has to decide what’s in her heart and how she wants to affect the future.
This is also her chance to remind Layton that Hospitality is more than communiques and formal place settings. It’s the diplomatic corps, negotiating treaties and making sure everyone has what they need so that they don’t turn into an angry mob. Literally keeping the train hospitable for everyone. That’s why Melanie used Head of Hospitality as her cover role and she walked the entire length of the train every day. Unfortunately, all the Tail saw of Hospitality was when Ruth had to be the Enforcer. And all she saw of the Tail was a nameless mass of stowaways who broke out into rebellion occasionally, threatening the rest of the train.
The Tea Room is empty when Till arrives. She contemplates the chipped teacup for a minute, then hears Logan talking over music in the next room. She opens the door without warning. He’s alone in the room but says he was praying. She asks why he left Boki alone this morning. He says he gave the Breachman space to grieve.
Bess asks if he’s using the Tea Room and his role as Pastor as a front for his work as spy and recruiter for Wilford. He tells her he’s never lied to her- she just wasn’t ready to hear what he was really saying. He feels the same rage that she does. The deaths of 8 people are a small price to pay for eventual peace.
This is where you have to wonder if Wilford’s followers all go through some horrible hazing process that renders them braindead. Even if you accept the continued loss of life when so little life of any kind is left, killing the Breachmen is a particularly stupid move. It’s like killing all of your firemen during fire season or killing all of the doctors during a pandemic.
The thing that’s most likely to kill the inhabitants of Snowpiercer is a breach in the train’s outer shell that lets in freezing cold air. Without the Breachmen, they have no one to repair a crack in a window, for example. Killing the Breachmen is most likely meant to be a set up for a breach event or the threat of a breach event that essentially turns the entire train into hostages. It’s like Wilford’s henchmen don’t care if they die- maybe they don’t. We just saw Kevin prove his loyalty by proving he’d die on Wilford’s command. Maybe Logan puts his people through something similar, but less intense.
Layton reaches the de-arming room and tries to get through to Jakes by reminding him that they fought together. Jakes says that was a mistake. So Layton tells the mob that since he’s the one they’re really angry with, they should let Pike go and take his arm instead. While he’s speaking, he strips down to a tshirt so they can see his arm. The mob goes for it, removing the collar from Pike’s arm and placing it on Layton’s instead.
Ruth has flashbacks to Suzanne’s de-arming. Suddenly, she’s had enough. Just as they are about to put Layton’s arm through the portal, she shouts at the mob.
Ruth: “Stop it! Stop! This is barbaric! This man is your leader! You chose him! You want someone else in charge, then call for change. But don’t strip him down and mutilate him just because you can. It’s not right. Believe me, I know. I’ve done it. You’ll never be the same again once you have. This is not the way. Not anymore. Please.”
A woman runs in and says the Brakemen are coming, so they need to clear out. The crisis is over for now, but they all know it was a near miss.
Logan continues his attempt to indoctrinate Till into the Wilford Death Cult philosophy.
Logan: “We all crave stability. But Wilford brings order. We just have to suffer for a moment to get to our salvation.”
Till, trying to understand: “You can’t find relief without… hurting.”
Logan nods, relieved that she finally gets it. She gives him the pain he seeks by hitting him in the neck. They fight. He tells her to kill him, but she refuses. She needs him to tell everyone the truth. One of his followers slips into the room and garrotes Bess from behind.
While they struggle, Logan attempts to commit suicide by placing a plastic bag over his head, then attaching a hose from the outside to the bag to send frozen air in to freeze his head instantly. Bess sees what he’s doing and stops him, but a significant portion of his head is already frozen.
Another victim for the Headwoods.
At the end of the day, Snowpiercer enters the Corkscrew, a spiraling, multilevel bridge built in a round valley in the Himalayas that provides an elegant turnaround. Roche returns to his family’s 3rd class cabin just in time to enjoy the spectacle with his wife and daughter. It’s sunset and passengers all over the train are lighting Katya’s red lanterns.
It’ beautiful, but it also means a significant number are voting for Wilford to take back the train.
We’re shown four cabins, the ghosts of Snowpiercer past, present and future. As always, Roche is living in the past, still hoping fairness and decency will win out. He used to assume the world was fine as long as the political situation didn’t interfere with his own life, but I think he’s moved past that point. He still doesn’t understand the urgency of the threat. He’s always been the good man who would prefer to do nothing.
Katya and Elan should be ghosts from Wilford’s past, but they’ve risen up to reclaim the present for him. They seemed harmless, so no one noticed the invisible network they were building all along.
Wilford retrieves Alex from her bunk, telling her the people of Snowpiercer are choosing sides. When they get to Big Alice’s engine and Alex sees the lanterns lit throughout the other train, she asks what they mean.
They lanterns signal that most of Snowpiercer wants to try life under the brand name version of Wilford. They’ve had enough of the knock off version they had for seven years under Melanie and of Layton’s new fangled self-determination that leaves them with only themselves to blame when things go wrong.
Wilford stands with his arms around Alex and Audrey, looking proudly out over the corkscrew and the lanterns. It appears that he’s created the future he wanted to live in. He turns back to Sykes to tell her it’s time to prep Icy Bob for their big maneuver.
Zarah calls Layton to look out the window. What will become of them in Wilford’s future?
There is a striking similarity between these two “family” photos:
According to the HalluciWilford in Melanie’s head from episode 6, who said the information came from the station log books, Mrs Researcher shot Mr Researcher in the head when she and Extra Mr Researcher realized her husband was dying anyway and they needed his food for themselves- she killed him for the greater good. After 5 months, when she was the last one alive, Mrs Researcher took her own life, either because she was running out of food and didn’t want to resort to eating her coworkers or because she couldn’t stand the isolation anymore.
The researcher couple left their daughter behind when they came to station. Melanie said Mrs Researcher thought they’d be reunited, though it’s not clear if she meant in life or death. Those themes run through this episode as well. The train, as personified by Katya, wants to be reunited with Wilford, the man who gives them hope. But he also brings death with him and many of them don’t mind if it’s death that finds them instead of Wilford. They will accept either. This is what it means to “belong” to Wilford.
There might be some foreshadowing going on.
The third researcher lost a hand. So did Josie. But Wilford saved Josie from the rest of her frostbite injuries. He likely considers her “his” the way he considers others for whom he’s done special favors “his”, such as Audrey, Alex, Kevin, Melanie and Icy Bob. He saved all of them from death or something he considers a fate worse than death, such as poverty. Now they are expected to show an extreme form of loyalty to him, as if he is a God with the power of life and death over them. As if he can take back the life he once gave them.
Mr and Mrs Researcher’s family is an example of what happened to people who didn’t have Wilford to save them. No matter what we think of him, so far, that is a cold, hard truth on this show. Melanie’s design genius would have been useless without the use of his name and resources to get Snowpiercer built, then retrofitted. He’s a dictator who’s taking advantage of the privilege he held in the old world, but he is also the man who got them this far.
What we don’t really know is if there were other, better ways of surviving that he and men like him suppressed. We know for a fact that the Freeze was created by humans- by industrialists like Wilford. And the climate issues the CW-7 was meant to solve were created by industrialists like Wilford. Those industrialists have suppressed research and development in more sustainable industrial practices for decades.
So any gratitude toward Wilford has to be tempered with the knowledge that Wilford helped end the world. Wilford created an ark that was specifically limited to a chosen few and would run on a class system. And Wilford doesn’t want his pleasure cruise to the end of the world to end.
A few extra images. While we learned some new information about Wilford, most it is a rehash of information we basically already knew or could guess, just like this newspaper article. But we quietly learned a lot about Roche in this episode. Despite his attempts to sit on the apolitical fence in order to keep his family safe, he does have some strong opinions. He’s not sure about Layton as a leader yet, but he likes what Layton stands for. That mirror shot at the bottom makes me wonder how far the divisions within himself will take him. And the shots above, of his family obscured through the train windows and of Carly and Anne squeezed in the door frame, are also foreboding. Snowpiercer loves to use both of those types of shots, but usually I can get much clearer versions of both for a screencap of something like a family photo- look at the other family groupings in this recap. I could have added a clear shot of Lights with Winnie.
Images courtesy of TNT.
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