In episode 9, it’s all fun and games until Wilford gets everything he’s ever wanted. Or as close to it as he can get on Snowpiercer, anyway. After outsmarting Layton and taking over the train in episode 8, it’s time for Wilford to remake Snowpiercer’s social order in his own image. He dealt with the top names on his hit list last episode, without unnecessary fuss. Now he takes his time, toying with targets culled from the list of Layton and Melanie’s closest friends and family.
Except Ben. Melanie’s closest confidante spends most of the episode in Snowpiercer’s engine. Out of sight, but not out of mind.
Wilford can’t bring himself to dispense with Layton, who he’s sentenced to work in Big Alice’s compost, the worst job on the trains. Wilford is troubled by the loyalty and even love many continue to show Layton. He needs to know the secret of his rival’s success. He’ll never truly be the winner if someone else on Snowpiercer has something he doesn’t.
Episode 9 is full of surprises, most planned by Wilford. Let the games begin and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Ruth takes another turn at the opening voice over:
“Hope is a powerful thing. Melanie used it to unite the people, first with a lie, but then with the promise of a life off of Snowpiercer. Andre Layton used hope to inspire his people to fight for their freedom, but look where that’s got him. And Mr Wilford is a different story. He’s turned hope into fear. He’s turned the train against itself and then offered security. The funny thing is, since he took control, everything appears to be running smoothly. Everyone is showing up for work. The supply lines are a picture of order. But we’ve been here before. My own hope, I keep hidden. Hidden in the few people who can rekindle it. Mr Wilford’s order comes at a very high price. And I just know that something awful is coming. On Snowpiercer, 1034 cars long.”
Ruth dresses for work as usual, making sure she’s neat and pressed from head to toe and that her assistant Tristan is the same. As she walks the train, janitors clean graffiti off the walls leftover from the riots and Ag-Sec delivers fresh produce. She crosses paths with Kevin, who has a matching checklist. On a more sinister note, Jackboots seize all of the patient files from Dr Pelton’s office.
Ruth stops in at Till’s new digs to tell her she doesn’t have any word on the location of Roche and his family yet. Zarah tells her that Andre has been posted in the Big Alice Compost, known as the Swamp. Wilford has sent for Bess. Ruth will try to find out what the meeting is about. He has her planning a special event for tonight.
Zarah suggests that Audrey informed on all of them to Wilford. Bess and Ruth are disgusted with Audrey for giving in to him. Ruth tells Bess that the way to survive Wilford is to be something that he needs. Though Ruth is full of anxiety, she tells Bess, “Keep your chin up.”
With so many of Snowpiercer’s authority figures disappearing, Ruth has stepped up over the last few episodes to prove she’s an effective leader.
There are a lot of Jackboots in the corridors. After 9 episodes without them, it’s jarring to see them, their weapons and their implicit threat return. As Ruth implied in the voice over, Wilford’s security and order are gained through fear and brute force, not through peace, prosperity and stability that extends to every citizen.
Wilford is having his outfit for this evening tailored in the 1st class dining room while he gives Ruth and Kevin instructions. Kevin is in charge of the guest list, which will be made up of “random winners”. Kevin is also in charge of a special surprise that Wilford wants Ruth to enjoy, too. Before that, Wilford wants Ruth and Kevin to work together on a census of the entire train. He doesn’t approve of the way the passengers are all mixed together. He wants to know who everyone is, what they can do and where they are, then he’ll put the class system back to rights.
As part of his reorganization, Wilford transfers Javi to Big Alice. Javi worries that he’ll be thrown in the Swamp, but Ben reassures him that they can’t afford to lose anymore engineers. He also reminds Javi that Wilford will be listening to everything they say between the engines and that Wilford doesn’t know they lost contact with Melanie.
They mention that it’s been a week since they lost contact with Melanie and it’s a week until they’re meant to pick her up. Right now, they’re running a day behind schedule. Ben emphasizes that their mission is to get Melanie back on the train safely. He hands Javi a couple of books to pack with his stuff. Javi packs the hula dancer that sits on the dashboard.
Kevin leads Ruth to the room where the patient files were taken. Dr Pelton and the Notary are waiting there. The Notary explains that Wilford wants the patient files divided into three age groups: children and adolescents; adults age 18-39; and everyone age 40 and up, who will be considered elderly.
Except Wilford- willing to bet that his file isn’t going into the elderly pile.
There’s also a questionnaire for each passenger to fill out which gives them the opportunity to inform on themselves and others, since Wilford wants to know who’s unticketed and who fought with the rebels. Kevin tells Ruth that the information is merely for the historical record and offers to inform on her. She declines the offer, but she balks at what the census implies for her passengers, people she considers her responsibility.
Kevin feels no such responsibility- anymore. We saw how Wilford and Audrey tortured and trained anything but blind obedience to the two of them out of him. This is the start of Wilford’s process of breaking the entire population of Snowpiercer. First, he’ll weed out the troublemakers who obviously can’t be broken, who are old and/or ugly and who are of no use to him. Then he’ll make those who are left suffer terribly, until they’re grateful for anything he gives them and don’t dare complain, for fear of what it might cost them.
Snowpiercer is about to become a concentration camp, just like her little sister Big Alice.
Wilford thinks they’re all soft and will be easy to break. Layton, Melanie and Audrey gave the rest of the train that gift by giving in to his wishes so easily. He doesn’t understand how hard life has been for so many of them and what a trained fighting force they are.
Javi and Alex introduce themselves when he’s brought into Big Alice’s engine, even though it’s obvious who they are. She tells him he’s been demoted from 3rd engineer to 5th engineer and not to touch anything. He notices that she’s upgraded one of the panels and adds the hula dancer to the dashboard, explaining that it originally came from Melanie, so he thought she might like it.
Alex isn’t interested in making nice. Javi is used to being low man in the pecking order and takes it in stride. When she puts her hand on the dash to feel the status of the train, Javi tells her that Melanie said she had the touch. She asks if he has the touch. He says, “Mas o menos. Not like your mom.” She tells him to keep the train on the tracks while she’s uptrain at Wilford’s party. To which he wasn’t invited. He’s still rolling his eyes when the barricade closes behind her.
Going to guess that he’s fine with being left out of this party.
There is some amazing chemistry between those two. I’ve just met my new OTP (One True Pairing).
Back on Snowpiercer, Wilford is redecorating when Sykes brings Bess to him. He’s just hung a hideous painting in the 1st class hallway and explains to her that it’s one of his favorites because you can’t tell whether the entwined figures are fighting or the opposite.
Obviously they are the same thing to Wilford. That painting looks like someone’s idea of He11 and he’s placing it where everyone will walk by it all day, including the children.
He asks Till what she thinks of the painting. She refuses to bite and asks her own question, in the name of the passengers. What happened to Layton and the Roche family? Wilford doesn’t respond to her question either- he tells her he’s not sure what to do with her. She says she could find the people who murdered the 8 dead Breachmen. He continues his own train of thought, explaining that he’s never needed a train detective. His train never had any crime. Only order.
Bess: “I don’t think you’re that naive.”
Wilford: “And I don’t think you’re that innocent. Very well. You can tell the passengers that Mr Roche is in a Drawer along with his family. When you all settle down, they can rejoin us.”
Bess tells him that the rest of the train won’t like seeing the Roches held hostage. Wilford says he knows. And she shouldn’t worry about Layton, either. Then he tells Sykes to take Bess down to Car 272 to cheer her up a bit.
Bess showed Wilford her bravery and loyalty in that conversation. He craves loyalty in his people, but bravery is a mixed bag, since it often travels hand in hand with principles and can lead to rebellion. That’s why she’s a tough call for him. He frequently asks people to risk ther lives for him with little to no reward, so he needs bravery and inner strength, but it’s tricky to break people, then bring them back if they start out against him or overly principled.
It’s better for Wilford if he can catch his most brave, strong and talented people when they’re very young, before they’re mature enough to understand what a terrible person he is, like he did with Boki and Melanie. Under normal circumstances he’d never have to push either of them farther than they were willing to go.
Layton is alone in Big Alice’s Compost, which is run like an assembly line, except the windowless room is dripping with filth. A slot opens in the door and an attendant slides a protein bar in. Layton’s conditions are worse than the Tail, since he’s isolated and wet. But he’s alive. He has ways to communicate back and forth with the outside world, probably more easily than he did in the Tail. An elite Firstie or dictator wouldn’t think to monitor the refuse for messages and hardly anyone else cares.
Josie confronts the Headwoods about their surprise alterations to her new skin and maybe her internal systems. She assumes they were just following Wilford’s orders, but I keep wondering how much they deviate from what he wants them to do, when they get the chance. The Headwoods tell Josie that she wasn’t supposed to find out yet. What else were they going to do to her before they told her? The skin on her face is its normal complexion and nearly unscarred, but has a synthetic look to it. Her face still looks a little swollen.
They pull up a “before” photo to remind her of how much their repairs have helped her. She thanks them for their help, but tells them that doesn’t excuse experimenting on her without her consent.
She must not have read the fine print on the non-existent waiver. Welcome to Big Alice.
Mrs Dr Headwood takes control of the conversation- she recognizes a fellow thrillseeker when she sees one. She asks Josie what it felt like when she exposed her hand to the extreme cold. It was exciting rather than painful, wasn’t it?
Did they enhance Josie’s nervous system as well?
Josie: “I didn’t sign up to be the next Icy Bob.”
Mr Dr Headwood (proudly): “You are orders of magnitude beyond Our Bob.”
Mrs Dr Headwood (said like she’s offering drugs to a kid on the street corner): “You want to know more? Let’s see what’s possible.”
The next big surprise is Kevin and Ruth’s- Kevin gets to be in charge of opening up Car 272, which Ruth says has been closed for years. Kevin sees Winnie run by in the corridor and decides a little kid is the perfect addition to his decor, so they bring her along. 272 is an amusement park called Willy’s World and it’s just as distorted and horrifying as you’d imagine.
Fandom’s Willy Wonka-Snowpiercer comparisons become more accurate all the time.
Melanie, LJ, Ben and Bess are already there. Kevin says that Wilford is on his way. This is a dress rehearsal- the grand opening is tonight. Winnie reaches for cotton candy, but Kevin shoos her away. Then he rushes to chase LJ and Melanie off one of the rides. While Kevin is distracted, the grown ups compare notes. Bess shares that the Roches are in the Drawers. Ben adds that Javi is on Big Alice and Layton is in the Swamp. Now they’re being subjected to this demented spectacle.
And on cue, Kevin says it’s time for rehearsal to start. Layton and Melanie’s nearest and dearest are coincidentally the audience. Wilford, dressed as a villainous circus ringmaster right down to the pencil thin fake mustache, makes his grand entrance. Then it’s time for the puppet show.
The show stars Puppet Wilford, Melanie and Alex. Puppet Wilford takes back Snowpiercer, then Puppet Melanie heads out to the research station, where she quickly dies. Puppet Alex acts like a spoiled baby. Puppet Wilford and his Engine Eternal are the heros. The show ends with the puppeteers chanting, “The Engine will provide.”
It gets a mixed reaction from the audience. Alex yells at Wilford for wasting time instead of hurrying to pick up Melanie. He announces that Ben has been lying- Snowpiercer lost contact with Melanie 10 days ago. Ben is forced to confirm that Wilford is telling the truth, but he reminds Alex that her mother is a survivor. Sykes directs him back to the engine.
Earlier in the episode it had only been a week since they lost contact with Melanie, but now it’s been ten days? I thought we were following a single day? More potential time distortions or else Wilford exaggerated the number to make it sound worse and Ben didn’t bother to correct him. Never trust Wilford’s numbers.
Wilford tells Ruth to bring everyone uptrain so they can get ready for his event this evening.
Bess: “With respect, you can go ahead and lock up Layton, but you’ll find a bit of his fight in all of us now.”
Wilford is taken aback by her words, both because she dared to say them out loud and because he knows they’re true. It’s been a long time since he’s been challenged like this and he’s alienated everyone on Big Alice. I don’t think there’s anyone he trusts with his life, the way Layton can trust these people.
Kevin hands out tickets for Wilford’s private evening event to Alex and LJ. LJ asks to bring her boyfriend, the head of Janitorial. Wilford offhandedly agrees. Then he personally gives Bess a ticket, telling her to dress in her best formal wear.
That evening, Ruth and her staff put the finishing touches on the tables in the 1st class dining room, where Wilford’s invitation-only dinner is about to be held. She hurries them along, since Wilford must be almost done at the carnival.
Zarah helps Winnie memorize a message she’s sending downtrain: “Tell our friends, get a message to Josie to find Layton in Compost. We’re not giving up on Melanie or our dream of getting off this train.” They’re interrupted by a knock on the door, so Winnie hides. It’s Kevin, who gives Zarah a spool of cotton candy, complements of the carnival. Zarah slams the door on his fingers, which is possibly the best part of the episode. But he wasn’t done yet- there’s also an invitation to Wilford’s private dinner, which Kevin slides under the door. Zarah gives the candy to Winnie and tells her to send the message that Josie should find Layton while Wilford is busy at the dinner tonight.
It’s time for Josie to test her new cold tolerance. The Headwoods provide her with a super cool, super tight synthetic suit to wear, then seal her in the cold lock and lower the temperature. The cold is clearly intense, but Josie laughs with exhilaration when she realizes that she isn’t affected by it. Her hand and head are exposed to the air. The chamber creaks and cracks with the stress of adjusting to the sudden cold. Mr Dr Headwood takes the temperature even lower than they expected to on the first test.
Down in the Swamp, the attendant tells Layton to stand against the wall while he wheels in a new bin of refuse. There are two Jackboots posted against an outer door. Layton puts the compost through a sieve to weed out non-compostable items. He finds a piece of broken mirror and hides it inside a vent along with other treasures he’s found.
Then Wilford pays him a visit. The attendant sits at his desk and listens to the entire conversation.
Wilford: “You come to me in my dreams, you know. Rather spooky.”
Layton: “Is that why you haven’t stuck my head out a port yet?”
Wilford laughs: “Honest question. Holding on to your ideals, being beloved by your people uptrain, do you think it makes the slightest difference in the end?”
Layton: “Yeah, it does.”
Wilford: “Well, for the life of me, I can’t see how. I suppose there must be something uniquely wrong with me.”
Layton: “You’re not unique, Wilford. You’re an old, white dictator with a train set. Fragile, powerful men like you froze the Earth in the first place.”
Wilford: “Yes, it’s a PR problem in that regard. I haven’t got any of your stuff left, have I? That musky smell of integrity.”
The Compost attendant is embroidering a “W” onto something. He reacts to Layton a few times. Layton continues working as they talk.
Layton: “When that washes off, it’s a wrap for you. You’ll always have your little followers, but the majority will never love you like you want them to.”
Wilford: “The will of the people. How can you stand it? Every little faction. The cold heart of political power is obedience.”
Layton: “That shizz right there is why we’ll always be enemies.”
Wilford: “Well, I feel better. I’m dining uptrain tonight with the last of your friends. Zarah has some decisions to make. So are you feeling loved now? Up to your elbows in their shizz?”
Layton throws his shovel at the door, but Wilford closes the window in time.
Wilford, laughing: “Your open heart, Mr Layton, it telegraphs your every move.”
After Wilford leaves, Layton throws the shovel across the room and screams in frustration. He can handle everything but having his family threatened. He still chooses messy free will over cold domination and control. Wilford’s specialty is finding the weak spots in good people and using them for torture and exploitation. It no longer satisfies him the way it used to.
When Wilford had an entire world to play with, he could pretend that people chose to be with him out of affection. Now that the world is so small and he controls it all, the one thing he can’t do anymore is fool himself.
Irony is beautiful.
The first lucky winners to arrive at Wilford’s dinner are LJ and Oz. LJ is relieved to be home in 1st class again. Bess and Zarah are right behind them, wondering nervously what the evening is really about. Ruth says tonight’s guests were supposedly chosen at random. Zarah tells them that Kevin kept her locked up all day, for her own comfort, before he brought her the invitation.
That explains why she slammed the door on his fingers.
Bess says she’ll shiv Wilford with her butter knife if he threatens the baby. Alex slipped in quietly at some point and is pounding down a drink. Ruth decides it’s time to officially begin the festivities. The rest of the train is still enjoying the carnival. Oz asks Bess why they’re here. She tells him she’s not sure, but he should keep his head on a swivel. LJ is still sure she’ll still be one of Wilford’s favorites, like she must have been when she was a child. She’s super excited for the party. Bess asks if Alex is super excited too. Alex thinks they’re all
gonna die screwed.
Too bad she couldn’t bring her new boyfriend Javi with her for banter and moral support.
Actually, we need to keep Javi as far from Wilford as possible. Wilford will eat him alive. If Javi dies, we riot.
Wilford makes another grand entrance, this time with Audrey in tow. They’re already drinking, Audrey straight from the bottle. They pretend they’re party hopping from one high society party to another again. Audrey decides they should sing a duet at the piano, a song from the 1940s, Cruising Down the River (On a Sunday Afternoon). While they’re singing, Kevin fusses with the table. Ruth exerts her authority over the dining room and sends him to wait in the next room.
A hunk of meat of indeterminate origin is served as the main course.
I can’t wait for Frankenfurter to pull away the tablecloth and reveal who it is. Ruth wants to remove an extra place setting, but Wilford won’t let her. This is an ominous faux pas in Ruth’s world. Wilford goes through the introductions, making everyone as uncomfortable as possible. Audrey joins in when he gets to Zarah, her ex-bestie. Zarah snipes right back. So does Bess. But Alex outdoes them both, “One train, under God and Audrey.”
Wilford tells the group that Alex didn’t like the puppet show. LJ says that she did. Both Oz and Ruth try to stop LJ, but she keeps antagonizing Alex about Melanie. When she brings up her murder trial, Wilford asks if she was actually guilty of cutting off penises. She doesn’t answer.
Notice he doesn’t care if she helped plan, commit and cover up murders. As a man, even in death, it’s that one body part that consumes him. If she’d cut the breasts off of women, they wouldn’t be having this conversation. But she forgot her place. Before we go any further, let me note again how much the tool she used to cut off penises looks like a straight razor, Wilford’s favorite tool for his abuse fetish, and that LJ has known Wilford since she was a child. I know which penis I’d use the razor on if I had the chance.
Oz sticks up for LJ, explaining, as her boss, that she’s been rehabilitated since her parents died and is now a productive citizen. Wilford has been waiting for this opening. He mischaracterizes both Oz and Till as overly quiet, then says Oz is more romantic than Till. Guess he missed the civil union entry in her file.
But the real reason Oz is a target is because Terence was one of Wilford’s hand-picked people, probably both as head of janitorial and to run the black market/drug trade. That explains Terence’s arrogance and the respect the train gave him for his position, especially after Wilford came back. He came into the job with a staff of enforcers and dealers already in place, rather than spending years fighting to establish himself as the head of the underground.
Wilford wants to know how Oz ended up in Terence’s spot. Ruth and Bess try to explain that lots of people died in the war, but Wilford knows that Terence would make sure he wasn’t one of them. He asks why he should let Oz keep Terence’s job. Oz wisely doesn’t answer any of Wilford’s questions, since he didn’t have anything to do with Terence’s death, but he doesn’t want to turn in Layton and Pike.
Wilford is just taking his bad mood out on nearby people right now anyway- nothing good will come out of this dinner, no matter how any of them answer his questions.
Oz asks if he can use the piano. He decides to give Wilford something extra, since this is a man who’s easily bored. He tells them that he hasn’t performed since before the Freeze, then plays and sings Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson’s Winter Song.
This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon,
It rolls in from the sea
My voice; a beacon in the night.
My words will be your light,
To carry you to me.
Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Everyone is touched. Oz (Sam Otto) has a beautiful singing voice. I’m not sure it was the right song choice to raise his value in Wilford’s eyes, but the rebel women all see that there’s another side to him. As he sings, Snowpiercer crosses over the Bering Strait bridge, back into North America.
Josie receives Zarah’s message and visits Layton. She has to wake him up- he’s asleep on the floor in the Compost chamber, just about the most hopeless way to sleep that you could think of. Once Layton’s awake the attendant, who must also sleep there, gives them one minute alone. Layton is happy that Josie looks so much better, but it’s also something else that Wilford can do that he can’t- another blow to his sense of worth. Josie isn’t so sure that Wilford has done her a favor, but Layton isn’t ready to hear that. She tells him how Zarah contacted her and that his people want to know what his plan is. They haven’t given up hope. She reminds him that now they’re fighting for a new life, off train, and that the last time they spoke through a door he passed her a chip that started the revolution.
This time, he tells her that they both need to wait for the right moment before they act. She agrees that she’s not ready to leave the lab yet, since she feels like she’s being reborn with her new abilities, plus Wilford is watching her closely. The attendant returns. Layton thanks him and says Josie should tell the others they’ll finish what they started.
Oz continues to play in the background while the others finish dinner. Wilford asks Ruth to join them at the table. Alex warns her to be careful, since Wilford can’t be trusted. As proof, she notes that he’s trying to avoid going back for her mother. Wilford apologizes about the puppets, but Alex still says that Melanie is waiting for them. Wilford bangs his hands on the table, telling her that he’s no longer willing to risk both trains on the dangerous Rocky Mountain Pass.
Alex turns to Ruth.
Alex: “Have you figured out what the census is for yet? Are you close? Why don’t you tell them what you did on Big Alice? [Wilford hits the table again and tells her to stop.] There were 200 of us at first, but then when he realized what a drain of resources we were, he culled half of us. Men, women, children, he took their lives!”
Wilford: “How dare you? On their souls, how dare you make me relive it. Take her to the brig.”
Alex: “Don’t worry, I’ve been there before. Ruth, he’s coming for you.”
Yes, it must be very difficult for him to remember the original Big Alice deaths amongst all of the other murders he’s committed before and since. I think we can safely say that life on Snowpiercer was vastly better under Melanie, who kept everyone alive and fed, even in the Tail.
Wilford’s parenting style apparently involved timeouts in the brig. At least Alex got her messages out before the Jackboots escorted her away. Wilford is looking pretty frazzled. But he is indeed coming for Ruth and she’s up. He tells her to sit down.
She reminds him that Hospitality doesn’t sit. Turns out
it was Ruth under the tablecloth the place setting is for Ruth. He says that today has been all about her- in other words, it’s been a test. He calls Kevin in and talks about how much Kevin has been through, then tells him to sit down, too. He has two Heads of Hospitality, but now he only needs one.
The job is Ruth’s, just like she’s always dreamed of, if she can pass one last test. She just has to announce to the train that they won’t be returning to pick up Melanie.
Let’s recall that his secondary motive here is to kill any hope for recolonization, so that they’re forced to stay on the train and he remains in control of everyone, forever, or at least until Snowpiercer breaks down permanently and they all die together.
Ruth refuses to sign Melanie’s death warrant and, by extension, doom humanity. Wilford is shocked that he misjudged her so badly- the Ruth he remembers put her career ambition above everything else. He makes her take off her teals, then the Jackboots escort her out. Kevin is so tone deaf that he gets excited because he gets the job after all.
Ruth is given a walk of shame through the length of the train, during which her shoe breaks and she ends up barefoot. Workers in 3rd class throw things at her in retaliation for how she treated them under Melanie.
Bess is Wilford’s final target. He takes her for a walk while explaining that he’s morally dyslexic- he can’t tell right from wrong. So he’s decided to give her a job as his moral adviser, to help him recognize when he’s crossing the line. Starting tonight.
He takes her into a car where the Breachmen’s killers are shackled to the walls, with the Lung of Ice masks already strapped to their faces. He tells her that none of them had any moral qualms about carrying out his order to kill. He admits that he gave the kill order, but doesn’t acknowledge that he deserves any punishment.
He’s ready to pull the lever and put them to death for murdering the Breachmen. Bess says it’s wrong to punish them with holding a trial first, especially since they were acting on Wilford’s orders. Wilford is confused, saying that everyone acts on his orders, as if that makes his input a neutral part of the system, more like a God or a force of nature than a human being. Which is indeed how he sees himself.
Hoping that she can get through to him if she plays along with his game, Bess advises him not to kill the prisoners. Wilford pretends to humbly accept her council, then kills the prisoners anyway.
Goodbye, Eugenia. You’ll be missed. Your death might also send a signal to the Firsties that they aren’t safe under Wilford’s rule, no matter how useful they’ve been to him in the past. Neither money nor power matter anymore. Not even loyalty, as Kevin could attest. Only Wilford’s momentary amusement.
All humans can do is react to the Will of Wilford. It’s coming for them, no matter what. Then after they’ve reacted, it will come for them again, to judge their reaction. And as with the Old Testament God, there is no use trying to predict or control Wilford’s fickle judgements.
The Compost attendant yells at Layton to back up against the wall because he’s got a new roommate- Ruth. Though Melanie wanted them to work together, I’m not sure this is what she had in mind.
The Big Alice engine has become a sex and drug club which is currently hosting an orgy. Wilford seems to be in a drugged stupor as he stumbles through the car. Javi is driving the engine, guarded by a Jackboot and trying to ignore what’s going on behind him.
Audrey is in the middle of all the sex, but she keeps an eye on Wilford and his mood. Whatever is going on inside her head, what we’ve seen on the outside since she boarded Big Alice has been a performance.
Alex is in the brig. The sound from the engine is broadcast into her cell so that she’s forced to listen to the sounds of the orgy rather than sleeping.
Is this a normal part of her timeouts in the brig?
Javi picks up enough of Melanie’s radio broadcast to know she’s alive and waiting before he turns it off to hide it from Wilford as he approaches.
Wilford: “You’re a fine engineer. Better than Ben for my money. But there’s no money anymore. There’s only one thing left to acquire. All we can depend upon is the train, Javier.”
Well that was creepy. What is Wilford’s post-Freeze currency? Seems to be extreme loyalty proven by voluntarily going through a near death experience and/or turning one’s morals inside out for him. As Miss Audrey said, now he wants to own souls, alive or dead.
He’s still obsessed with Ben, though. Is Ben the one who got away? For all his fetishes, we haven’t seen Wilford have sex with anyone. He likes to control or, rarely, be controlled, and to watch. Audrey may be his dominatrix, but I’m not sure she’s his lover. Or at least not his true love. Maybe we aren’t seeing Wilford have sex because when he does, it involves acts that are even more repulsive than coercing suicides? There could be another reveal coming.
Javi has problems of his own and doesn’t understand that Wilford’s ramblings mean he and Wilford are having a moment. He asks to go to the restroom, where he paces until he notices a tube of lipstick. He writes a note on a piece of toilet paper, then wraps it inside the lipstick. Then he flushes the lipstick down the toilet, cleverly sending it to the Compost department where it will stand out.
Down in Compost, Ruth is understandably feeling like she’s been left to die in a pile of shizz and all hope is lost. Layton is feeling better since Josie’s visit. It also helps to have a roommate who needs to be cheered up. He tells her that they still have friends in higher places who haven’t forgotten about them.
Ruth notices the lipstick as soon as it drops into the bin. She finds the note inside, which says, “Made radio contact. Melanie is alive. Javi”
When she shows it to Layton, he decides it’s time for them to make their move.
Under Wilford, the production design of Snowpiercer, the train, is caught somewhere between Steampunk, Cyberpunk and Mr Robot’s abandoned amusement park/Evil Corp/late stage capitalism dystopian nightmare. It’s raining money, but only on Wilford. Little Orphan Winnie has more pink sugar than she’s ever seen in her life, but it’s contraband. LJ meant it when she told Alex they were going to be enemies, because she intends to make Wilford HER new Daddy. Alex might have found her bio Daddy in Ben anyway. There are heavily armed Jackboots everywhere, but every day is good day for a party. Except Puppet Melanie is impaled on an iceberg, like the Titanic. Is Snowpiercer the Titanic?
*SPOILERS FOR THE FILM SNOWPIERCER*
I’ve been waiting for 2 seasons for someone to be Melanie or Wilford’s counterpart to Gilliam in the film Snowpiercer, the wise Tailie leader who was also a friend to Wilford, speaking to him secretly on the radio about philosophy and other heady matters. Layton was always an outside possibility for the role, but I doubted he was a spy for the train authorities.
Yet here we are- Wilford turned Layton into his muse by putting him in the most degrading form of isolation, where he thinks Layton can’t possibly have any influence or control. Wilford thinks it’s safe to confess his troubles to Layton because he assumes there’s no way Layton can affect his life.
In the film, Wilford was locked in the engine and Gilliam was locked in the Tail. In the series, Layton has gone from the Tail to the Compost. Wilford spent 7 years on Big Alice, mostly in the engine, the only person in 1st class. In this episode, we saw the cracks begin to show in his facade. He’s desperate for a relationship that feels real, for someone he can trust- a confidante.
But Wilford has created a world where he has complete control and will thus will never be able to trust anyone completely. The only person he might be able to trust is the lowest, most hopeless but also most honest of prisoners. Someone who he thinks can’t possibly touch him, but who also unexpectedly has some similar experiences- taking over a divided train, not knowing who to trust, trying to restore calm.
Though he couldn’t understand Melanie and Layton’s relationship, he unexpectedly finds himself in the same position they were in.
The official Tailies are still beneath Wilford’s notice. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that unticketed passengers could have skills from before the Freeze that might be of use to the train now. We don’t see Pike, Lights, Last Aussie, Z-Wreck or Strong Boy in this episode- you’d think at least Pike might have been worthy of some notice. We also don’t see Boki, so Wilford probably isn’t aware of the change in his loyalty, a rare miscalculation. My dream of Boki and the Tailie special ops squad teaming up lives on for one more episode.
They very prominently showed us that Ben helped both Melanie and Javi pack their bags. There may not be a connection, but Javi’s hula dancer matches the one that was used throughout Agents of SHIELD, a spy show. Could the hula dancer have a listening device in it, so Ben can finally hear everything that happens in Big Alice’s engine? We already know that Ben keeps secrets- he’s probably only outdone by Audrey and Melanie. Are Audrey and Ben finding ways to pass messages? Could there be an extra connection between them we don’t know about? Siblings?
Why did we have to wait all season for Javi and Alex to meet??? I need more. They are like the new Melanie and Ben, only so much more adorable, since they are the Hobbit version instead of the slightly remote Elf version. Please, nobody bring a Ring of Power near them. We must maintain their cuteness at all costs. Put them in the Big Alice engine room together right now, close that barricade and don’t open it until Wilford is defeated. Or until they’ve produced an entire brood of Hobbit engineers (Oompa Loompa engineers?) to help run the train the way it should be run- that would be acceptable as well. It would also be the ending to Back to the Future 3, when we learn Doc Brown has kids and the time travel train can fly. (Slight nod to the surprise twist in the books that I’m wondering if we might see eventually.)
The Headwoods fascinate me. Are they really completely amoral or are they excited that Josie is probably the engineered assassin who can kill Wilford? Or both. Wilford saved the Headwoods, but he’s also imprisoned them for 7 years. Who knows who he might have culled that was important to them? Headwoods aside, this experiment is another miscalculation for Wilford. He’s counting on Josie hating Melanie for ruining her body more than she loves her principles and her own people, so that she’ll switch to his side out of gratitude and a need for revenge.
I don’t think Josie hates Melanie as a person all that much. Not enough to risk the entire train for her ego. Josie isn’t a petty person and she’s not easily distracted from her goals. She was a scientist before the Freeze, though, and the Headwoods have given her the chance to be both experimenter and experiment. She’s Snowpiercer’s answer to the Fantastic Four. Once Wilford is dealt with, imagine the work she could do with the Breachmen or helping scout out the spot for, then building a new colony.
It’s interesting to note that Wilford wasn’t around for the Headwoods conversations or their experiment with Josie, almost like he doesn’t know that they turned her into a cold warrior. Or maybe they don’t want him to know how strong she is. Something about this situation is happening behind Wilford’s back.
I’m also wondering when Josie will get a replacement hand. It’s odd that the Headwoods can’t grow replacement limbs when their skin grafts are so advanced.
Wilford takes Bess’ statement about everyone having a little bit of Layton’s fighting spirit in them seriously because he’s only in charge of the train due to a second successful rebellion. Now people see overthrowing the train’s leaders as a normal way to deal with their unhappiness and he helped encourage that thinking. He’s caught in his own trap, having promised better conditions but only being capable of leading by imposing harsh conditions that are sure to bring on more rebellion.
He made the population on Big Alice so small that he could control every aspect of their lives through force. The train itself was small enough that there was nowhere to hide from him and his minions. It was also able to run with a skeleton crew.
Snowpiercer isn’t that train- it’s 1,000 cars long and its passengers know it inside and out, while Wilford’s minions don’t. It takes most of its 3,000 inhabitants to keep it running and a steady supply of replacement workers are needed. Using fear and informants is his only recourse to gaining control of the population, but even that will only work if the people of Snowpiercer give in to their fear of him. In every battle scenario, Wilford and his people are outnumbered and easily outmaneuvered. They may have more ammunition, but they don’t know the terrain as well and more weapons can be made.
Despite the need for a large crew, Wilford clearly plans another culling of a significant portion of the train’s population as a way to demonstrate his power over them and instill fear. Since we don’t see the evening version of the puppet show, chances are something terrible is planned for that. Games where the winners get the best 3rd class cabins and the losers die, for example. He’ll try to make everyone risk death to keep their lives, homes and jobs. Maybe some of the winners end up at the orgy.
Now that he owns the world, Wilford is bored and spiraling out of control. He doesn’t think anyone has the right or ability to say no to him. Without a global audience to impress or anyone new to dominate, he’s become unable to get excited about new challenges. Taking Snowpiercer was his final frontier.
He’s not even bothering to play subtle games anymore- he told Bess straight out that Roche is a hostage and the train as a whole needs to earn the Chief Brakeman’s freedom. That’s a sick set up to pit people against each other again, since he can blame any random person he chooses, at any time, for the Roches’ continued absence, in order to create new targets for mob justice.
Wilford isn’t just a force of nature on Snowpiercer. He’s a relentless, psychopathic evil which is difficult to fight, because it has so few weaknesses of it’s own- mostly it has to grow exhausted and burn itself out when it’s used up everyone and everything in its path. When that happens, either the psychopath makes a big mistake or they cross the wrong person and the system is finally willing to recognize how wrong they are. Until and unless you get to that point, you’ve got a strongman dictator or an untouchable CEO in power.
Wilford’s dinner guests were all meant to be women who he perceives as close to Melanie and Layton that he thought he could intimidate. Oz wasn’t supposed to be there. Wilford believes, rightly, that he’s lost Alex. Like Roche, until recently she’d forgotten what normalcy and goodness look like. He’s still her father figure and that counts for something, but Wilford won’t share. He’s either your one and only or you’re dead. He’s not sure about LJ’s loyalty, either, since she’s worked for Layton, been saved by Melanie and survived the assassination of her parents. This is mainly because she’s a survivor, but that’s not a motivation Wilford recognizes. He wants to know which powerful player she belongs to now.
I continue to strongly suspect that someone sexually abused LJ when she was a little girl, probably either her father or Wilford (“Willy”- think about it- almost as suggestive as “Woody”). The story that would make the most sense is that Wilford molested her and her parents not only didn’t believe her, they told her to never speak of it again. She got angry and stabbed her father with the fork. Maybe the abuse continued and that’s why they had a cushy spot on Snowpiercer, plus LJ had her own bodyguard. Wilford already has a known affinity for teenagers. It wouldn’t be that strange for someone as immoral and hedonistic as him to go even younger. But it could have been her father who molested her and that’s why she stabbed him with the fork. She could have gravitated toward Erik because at first he protected her from her parents’ abuses.
Audrey shows the cracks in her facade in this episode as well, both at the dinner and during the orgy. She’s watching Wilford closely, pushing him beyond his limits, and waiting for her moment. In the meantime, she quietly redirects Wilford or puts in a word to help the other passengers when she can. Imagine what he’d be like without her efforts to amuse and distract him. But she’s playing her part so well that she’s burned her bridges with her former allies.
Images courtesy of TNT.