Episode 2 brings a grand Snowpiercer wedding along with the introduction of Wilford’s latest scheme to stop Layton. In order to protect the resistance from Wilford and Kevin, Ruth makes a surprising decision. Layton researches his vision of New Eden and gets to know the newcomer after she wakes up. The pirate train must choose between returning to Alice-piercer and visiting the final research site.
It’s a happy, happy day for the train cakemaker, but I’m starting to wonder if everyone has been forced to do shifts in compost.
Ruth (Alison Wright), still hiding out in First Class at -12°, gives the opening voice over this week:
“When the cold comes for you, the blood stops running to your limbs. It pulls up inside to keep your organs warm. My first love taught me that. An off-shore roughnecker, he was. Tall and lean and tough as wet leather. He’d say, ‘Ruthie, your smile keeps me warm, so be sure to wear it till I’m home.’ Next the cold comes for your mind. And after that, your will. And yet, still, the heart fights on… He left me too soon, my roughneck love. His rig went down, with every man aboard. I know my smile kept him warm as he floated, all alone. Just as I know our hearts will be the last thing to go on Wilford’s train, 1,023 cars long.”
😭 😭 How dare you invoke Ruth’s first love. She’s thinking about how cold and alone he was when he died and comparing it to how cold and alone she is now.
OMG, Ruthie Has a Type!!
First things first- in order to have the correct ambiance, you must always imagine “Ruthie” said in Nolan Grey’s accent.
Next, RIP Ruthie’s roughneck first love. Wonder if that doomed offshore rig belonged to Mr Wilford (Sean Bean) and if it went down due to climate change or corporate mismanagement. It was jarring to hear Ruth refer to the train as Mr Wilford’s train, rather than Snowpiercer. She gave Wilford her heart and he let her down in a big way. Now she’s at war with him. This time, it’s personal. And Snowpiercer has become the train led by her people.
Canonically, Ruth has gone for her roughneck, Nolan Grey, Wilford and Pike (Steven Ogg). Three out of the four were/are tall, lean, tough, gruff working class men who appreciated her strong heart for it’s fierceness, loyalty and cheerful endurance.
Wilford pretends to be that type and to appreciate women like Ruth, but he is actually honey trap who delights in breaking strong people once he’s gained their loyalty. He seems to put special effort into breaking the quietly headstrong types like Ruth, Roche (Mike O’Malley) and Javi (Roberto Urbina), who form their own opinions and stick with them, but don’t think of themselves as rebellious.
Though she’s reaching the end of her rope, Ruth remind’s herself that she knows what’s important in life and she’s lost everything before. She’s a survivor who’s not going down without a fight. She’ll do what’s necessary to keep her people afloat until their rescue arrives.
Ruthie begins her voice over in her current isolated hideout behind the First Class Dining Room, where power is at a trickle and it’s nearly as cold as it is outside. This is a much worse set up than her previous spot, where she had frequent visitors and a warmer climate. She’s already developed a cough.
Javi, Kevin (Tom Lipinski), and some other guys pass through the dining room on their way to the very end of the train, where they turn on a huge supersonic weapon. Ruth tiptoes after them, then back to her hide out to send a messenger rat through a tiny tunnel all the way to Third Class, where Strong Boy (Kurt Ostlund) and Pike retrieve the rat and the message.
No matter what else happens, Ruthie’s Roughneck First Love and the messenger rat running the 10 mile tunnel of love have made this episode worth the price of admission. (Ruthie’s Roughneck First Love is meant to be sung to the tune of Captain and Tennille’s Muskrat Love- “Roughneck Ruthie and Roughneck Sam”. Try it- it works, and it plays into my fantasy OTP of Ruthie and Roche.)
But also, that rat tunnel sheds a whole new light on the rats the Tailies were breeding and giving over 5% of their rations to in S1Ep1. Though rats as a change of pace in their diets was a nice idea, as a nutritional trade off, it didn’t really make sense for starving people. But it would make sense if the rats were also part of their train-wide spy network and rebellion strategy.
Also- I am so relieved to see Javi up and moving about normally after he looked paralyzed last week.
Over in Big Alice, Wilford lounges in the bath and sings along with Tom Jones on Ain’t No Sunshine, which is just wrong. It should be Bill Withers– and I say this as someone who just posted a link to Muskrat Love. Mrs Dr Headwood (Sakina Jaffrey) and Kevin are forced to stand next to the tub and wait. Thanks to Audrey (Lena Hall), Kevin is beyond caring about anything and just tries not to look, but Dr Headwood has better things to do with her life and barely hides her annoyance.
Wilford announces that it’s a big day and Dr Headwood agrees that the test will be a big deal, but everything is ready.
Wilford: “Dear, poor Dr Headwood, how are you doing without our dear, poor Dr Headwood?”
Dr Headwood: “I feel he is still with us, sir.”
She’s clutching his shoes tightly in her arms. Let’s hope his feet aren’t still attached.
Wilford: “Are you confident here, in his shoes, as it were?”
Dr Headwood: “100%.”
Kevin asks if the suit he’s holding is acceptable for Wilford to wear to perform today’s duties, suggesting it’s “very Manhattan Project.” Wilford says he thinks it’s fine, then stands up, naked, and asks for his towel. The Widow Dr Headwood scrambles for the exit while Kevin scrambles for the towel.
For those who’ve forgotten, the Manhattan Project created the atomic bomb. There’s a screen cap below of Wilford poking his head up into the train’s lookout bubble. It looks like he’s inside a nuclear explosion.
Layton (Daveed Diggs) wakes up from dreaming of his vision of New Eden and that unique tree to find Josie (Katie McGuinness) finishing up an examination of Asha (Archie Panjabi). She tells him the newcomer is “dehydrated, malnourished, her blood pressure’s low. She’s probably got radiation poisoning.”
Layton wants to talk about their kiss (when he kissed Josie last episode). Before she can respond, he tells her that he has a pregnant wife that he’s made promises to, so he’s unavailable to her. Josie says she understands that and didn’t need to talk about it anyway. Layton quickly agrees that he’s on the same page. Josie suggests they go see what Ben’s (Iddo Goldberg) found in the data.
He must be crushed that she’s making it so difficult for him to continue to toy with her emotions. Layton views his marriage as an on and off thing he can invoke only when it suits him, but Josie never forgets it.
Layton turns to look at Asha, who’s still sleeping. Another season, another potential love interest.
Up in the Engine Eternal, Bess says she doesn’t understand how anyone survived outside the train for 8 years. Ben tells her Asha used a brilliant strategy- once she was frozen inside the facility and the reactor was shut down, she lived off the residual power it emitted as it cooled.
After Layton joins them, Ben says that the data from this location is the same as all the others. It’s warming, but it will take about a century before it’s habitable again. They have one location left to check, the horn of Africa, southwest of Saudi Arabia. It’s the most promising location, but the pirate train is running low on food and now they have an additional person to feed.
They realize they’ll need to link back up with Snowpiercer before they can visit the last site. Bess (Mickey Sumner) and Alex (Rowan Blanchard) worry they’ll have to fight another war when they get back, since they aren’t bringing Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) or proof of New Eden with them, but Layton assures them that they aren’t returning empty handed.
Layton, Bess and Josie go back to Melanie’s cabin to wake Asha up. Once Asha is done panicking, Bess and Josie leave. Layton introduces himself and tells her she’s on Snowpiercer. Asha recognizes the name of the train and is shocked it survived. Layton takes her on a tour. Bess stands guard on Audrey as they pass through the library. She refuses to tell Audrey who the newcomer is.
Asha asks where Mr Wilford, the Great Engineer, is. Layton tells her they aren’t sure, because there are two trains. She points out that seeing Audrey in a cage makes it hard to trust him. He explains that soon they’ll need to tell each other the long, complicated stories of how they’ve survived so far, but for now, she can look out the window and see the rest of the train.
Wilford surveys the surrounding terrain from a lookout bubble, then tells Kevin and the Widow Dr Headwood that 10% feels like the right level for today’s test- nonlethal, but with a kick. The Widow Dr Headwood agrees and sets the levels on her equipment, adding that the First Class cars will serve as a buffer zone to protect the rest of the train from the EMP pulse. Wilford has Kevin relay the order to the weapon, where Javi enters the command into the device and sets the timer for two minutes, then clears out.
At the same time, Pike brings Ruthie her messenger rat and stays to chat. Ruth tells him him that she’s certain the device she saw is a weapon and it’s placed right where the trains will reconnect. Then she coughs and Pike grows concerned for her health. She insists she’s just cold and he tells her to stay close to her heater. They don’t want to lose her. She doesn’t think she’s doing much good just sitting in her hideout.
Kevin counts down until the EMP wave blasts through the train. Ruth is knocked off her feet and into Pike’s lap. He says he felt like an electrical wave went through him. (From the device or having Ruth in his lap? 😉) She tells him it was the weapon. All of First Class rattles. The wave lasts for several seconds and when it’s done, Wilford, Keven and the Widow Dr Headwood cheer their success.
LJ (Annalise Basso) carries a crate of bottles to the backroom of the Night Car, then follows a trail of red lanterns back to the bedroom she shares with Oz (Sam Otto), where he’s waiting for her. She asks him what’s going on, but he says he needs a minute because he wants to remember this moment. Then he gets down on one knee. LJ understands what this means and gets emotional.
Oz: “LJ, it’s a mean old world, but with you in it, it finally makes sense. Lilah Junior, will you marry me?”
He holds out a ring.
LJ has been trying not to cry, but now she’s excited: “Holy sh*t! That rock is huge!”
Oz: “I know. It’s actually crazy. It’s probably the biggest diamond left in the world and all it cost me was a pair of heavy socks.”
LJ: “Put it on me!”
Oz: “You’ve got to say yes first.”
LJ: “Yes! Yes! I didn’t think anyone would love me after my parents died.”
They hug and kiss, but then she realizes that Wilford is the only other family she has left besides Oz and they have to tell him right away, out of respect. Oz isn’t thrilled with this. He wanted their engagement to be about just the two of them for a little while.
Zarah (Sheila Vand) announces that LJ and Oz have arrived to see Wilford and they’re shown right in. Oz tries to build up to their news slowly, but LJ can’t wait and sticks her ring finger in Wilford’s face. Wilford is happy for them and impressed with the size of the diamond, complementing Oz’s choice.
Wilford decides their wedding will be the perfect occasion to show the train that “loyalty is rewarded,” while also giving everyone a break during the celebration. Acting as LJ’s surrogate father, he sets the date as the next day and has Zarah get started on the preparations. Everyone but essential personnel will get a shift off and the Night Car will be done up in style. The cakemaker is to be brought up from compost immediately and given whatever he needs.
Wilford: “We’re getting married!”
Oz is taken aback by the speed this is all happening at, but Wilford doesn’t want to hear about cold feet where his little girl is concerned. He refers to LJ as Mrs Osweiller and she says she was thinking about Folger-Osweiller. Wilford agrees that it rolls off the tongue. Oz looks put out.
Zarah is put out as well, though the cakemaker (Eric Pollins) can’t thank her enough as he’s dragged to the showers. While Kevin hangs posters announcing the “Loyal Wedding” (it’s not an accident that it rhymes with royal), Zarah spots Pike lurking in the shadows. He tells her about the weapon Ruth saw Javi working on and that Ruth wants Zarah to help her make contact with the engineer. Zarah reminds him that Javi doesn’t speak to her since he was punished with an attack by Jupiter. Pike tells her to figure something out.
After Alex whacks one of the glitchy monitors in the engine, Ben reminds her that it won’t improve the satellites’ failing geosynchronous orbit. She acknowledges that truth, but notes that acting out her frustration in small ways helps her cope with the fact that the satellites are falling out of orbit.
Or maybe they’re not all falling, as in reentering Earth’s atmosphere– some are just running out of power, ending their useful lives and potentially drifting out of their intended orbits.
Ben doesn’t think they’ll need the satellites to find Wilford, anyway, because he’s sure Big Alice is following them and will reappear not long after they rejoin the main track. Satellite coverage is better in that area, so Wilford should spot them.
Ben tells Alex that Melanie would have been proud of how she took care of the crisis with the train while he was unavailable yesterday. Alex doesn’t think that she lived up to her mother’s expectations, but she appreciates Ben’s praise. He tells her that finding one survivor should give them hope that Melanie could still be alive, too, but Alex isn’t in the business of hoping for miracles.
From Ben’s perspective, between Big Alice and Asha, survivors have shown up twice in the last year. He knows Melanie better than Alex does and knows if anyone found a way to survive, it’s her. And he’s right that with her engineering students, Javi and Miles, Melanie was a patient, kind teacher who had reasonable expectations for their progress and abilities. Ben has the same approach. Alex is thinking of the way Wilford enjoys propping people’s confidence up, then setting them up for failure. The only way to survive him is to become numb, expecting and wanting nothing.
The tree in Layton’s vision has become more detailed, adding insects and birds. He searches Snowpiercer’s library for clues while Audrey tries to get information out of him about Asha and he ignores her. He finds a picture in a book that matches his vision and the sketch he drew from it.
Josie takes Asha to the steward’s cabin she been assigned to. Asha carries her suit and helmet with her, still commenting on how warm it is on the train. She hasn’t been around people or spoken out loud for years and it’s strange for her. Josie assures her that she’ll get used to it again, but once Asha is alone she’s agitated and pulls a small plant out of a planter.
Bess finds Layton reviewing the information in the book he found. He tells her about the vision he had when he almost froze to death. He could feel the sun and see the grass. The tree is a Dragon’s Blood Tree, which only grows in the Gulf of Aden, right in the middle of the last warm spot on their list, in the horn of Africa. “I’d never even heard of a Dragon’s Blood Tree before.”
Bess doesn’t believe in visions. Layton says he’s just telling her what happened, not saying it was a prophetic vision. She tries to talk him down, saying the tree could have been something he heard about in the distant past that popped up in his memory when he had his near death experience.
As Wilford checks in on the decorating, he asks Kevin if there’s too much red. They both agree that there can never be enough red.
Meanwhile, Oz has cold feet in the backroom, complaining to LJ that she hyphenated her name and invited Wilford to use their wedding for his own purposes. LJ sees this as a chance to be king and queen of the train for a day and to let Wilford invest in them. Oz wanted a small, private wedding, but LJ wants to become a power couple. She figures with so many people dying, they could easily take charge of the train some day soon. Oz asks if she ever stops scheming. She tells him scheming is good. He yells at her to keep scheming then, because he can’t change anything about the wedding now or Wilford will kill him. Then he storms out. LJ yells that he shouldn’t walk away from her.
Well, that was an epic meltdown. This is a classic case of the boyfriend competing with the father for supremacy in the daughter’s life and in this case, realizing she’s always going to be Daddy’s little girl. Besides the fact that Wilford will indeed kill him if he hurts LJ, Oz is torn about rising up in the world at the cost of becoming one of Wilford’s tools, vs maintaining some independence as a small time operator who no one much cares about. In reality, that ship sailed when he went to Wilford’s dinner party at the end of season 2, but he could still pretend as long as he and LJ were mostly left alone to run the bar.
The one part I don’t understand is why he’s so upset about her hyphenating her name. It’s not like she added Wilford instead of Osweiller. He’s acting a little possessive himself.
While Wilford is busy with the wedding, Zarah sneaks into the engine and tries to get Javi to talk to her. He still ignores her, so she tells him that Wilford ordered him to go to First. Javi argues that he’s not supposed to leave his station when he’s on shift. On behalf of Wilford (only not) Zarah orders him to put the engine on autopilot and get going. Javi adjusts his IV connection, gathers up his bag and heads out.
I’m not clear what the bag is about- is he still hooked up to medical equipment, maybe including dialysis, (he might have switched the IV connection rather than disconnecting) or is he carrying equipment related to the EMP device?
Ms Gillies (Fiona Vroom) helps LJ put the finishing touches on her hair, until the bride gets angry and snaps at her to leave it alone. Wilford interrupts, which gives Ms Gillies the chance to escape. He heard about Oz and LJ’s fight and wants to know what happened. LJ does a pretty good Oz impression as she tells Wilford that her fiance disapproves of her conniving side. She adds that he thinks she’s selfish and cruel, which other people have said about her, but I don’t recall Oz saying. In defense of her self-serving behavior, she asks Wilford, “I have to be sometimes, don’t I?”
Wilford tells her that those qualities are what made her an ideal choice to run the Night Car.
Wilford: “You’re a realist. You understand someone always gets hurt.”
LJ: “Yes, yes, it’s like, I don’t say it out loud, but c’est la vie.”
Wilford: “He also probably thinks I’m taking over the whole ceremony. But you understand why your wedding is important to me.”
LJ: “Helps keep everyone in line.”
Wilford: “Yes. They see there’s only one way. The way I do things. You see, on the train, the old laws and morality, they don’t matter as much as… What?”
LJ, without hesitation: “Loyalty.”
Wilford: “That’s right! Loyalty to the train!”
LJ is a born mob princess and future dictator. By loyalty to the train Wilford obviously means to himself, the god of the train.
Now that he’s cheered LJ up, he’s off to wrestle her groom into shape. Oz is in their bedroom and the first thing Wilford does is complement their bed. Then he invites the groom to sit right next to him, like the spider and the fly. He puts his arm around Oz’s shoulder and talks in a friendly voice about young, tumultuous love, putting the younger man at ease.
But LJ is unhappy, so Wilford read over Roche’s file on Oz. He discovered that as a brakeman, Oz was an opportunistic entrepreneur with a vicious streak. Oz admits to running a few side hustles. Wilford takes Oz’s hands and talks about Oz’s other calling as a piano man in a club, which he finally gets to do as co-manager of the Night Car with LJ. Wilford says that LJ and Oz are his team and Oz replies that they understand that.
Wilford suddenly grabs Oz’s balls in a vice grip, reminding Oz that he used to do this to people he was harassing when he was a brakeman. He tells Oz to grab his balls too. Hard… harder, so Oz does. The lesson is that Oz’s hands are for crushing balls in the service of Mr Wilford and for caressing his wife to keep her happy, because that also makes Mr Wilford happy. “When that’s done, by all means, tickle the ivories. Because you’re very talented. I mean that.” Wilford makes his exit. Oz wonders if he can still have children.
Ruth stops Javi when he gets to the First Class Dining Room and explains that she’s been on this train the whole time. She wants to know what the device is that he’s working on, but all he’ll tell her is that it’s meant to “stop Layton dead” when the pirate train returns. Then Javi says he has to get back to the dog and hurries away.
It’s time for the wedding! Wilford walks LJ down the aisle to a Swingin’ Big Band Wedding March, then turns around and officiates the ceremony. In his opening words, he mentions that the passengers have paid for the recent cold miles “in frostbite and loved ones lost to influenza.”
The Widow Dr Headwood clutches Mr Dr Headwood’s shoes a little tighter at these words. It’s nice she could still bring him to the wedding with her. You have to wonder who she blames for her husband’s death. As the resident mad scientist, she holds untapped power to sway the outcome of conflicts. It could be Mr Dr Headwood actually died as punishment for Josie’s betrayal, since she was their handiwork.
Anyway, Wilford announces that it’s time for the train to have a win, in the form of the marriage of two people they loathe! Huzzah!! In exchange for attending Wilford’s party, the passengers get extra alcohol and food and time off. They don’t care why. But Wilford does. As far as he’s concerned, they’re all renewing their vows to him.
Wilford: “Raise a glass up and down our train for Lilah and John. Come on! Cheers! Everyone now, to our unbreakable pact with the train. To loyalty and your contract with me. To survive.”
Melanie used similar language in her edited message from Wilford before the prize fight in S1. She unwittingly trained the passengers to accept his rhetoric without examining the underlying differences between their messages.
Lights (Miranda Edwards) and Z-Wreck (Kwasi Thomas) stand with Winnie (Emma Oliver). Pike comes to get Lights while Wilford is speaking, to bring her to Ruth and the EMP weapon. They’re hoping she can figure out how to disarm it. She determines what it is from the description Pike gives her on the way, but she’s never seen one in real life.
Kevin spots Javi still walking the 10 miles back to the other end of the train, slowed down by the wedding crowds. Javi points to the case he’s carrying and says he was doing final data collection, then asks if he can go back to the dog. Kevin lets him leave, but then heads toward the back of the train, collecting several jackboots as he walks. He’s realized that the wedding would be a good time for the rebels to strike against Wilford.
Next Wilford guides the happy couple through a unique part of the ceremony, the four steps which represent the path humanity took to arrive on Snowpiercer. “From grass to ice, From ice to steel. And from steel to the light of the Eternal Engine.”
While Lights determines how to disarm the weapon, Strong Boy arrives to warn them that Kevin and the jackboots are on their way. Pike and Lights get ready to run, but Ruth stops them. She’ll create a distraction for Kevin so he’ll cut short his search of First Class, buying time for Lights to figure out the device. They can’t let it be used on the pirate train. She appoints Pike the new leader of the resistance.
In a brilliant move, Ruth seats herself at the head of the table in the First Class Dining Room, the place where Wilford humiliated both her and Kevin while stripping her of her rank as Head of Hospitality and promoting Kevin. When Kevin and his squad of jackboots arrive she’s waiting, telling him she’s cold and hungry and ready to turn herself in. She correctly gambles that the combination of memories from the night of Wilford’s dinner party (S2Ep9) and the chance to earn Wilford’s favor by bringing her in will distract Kevin from searching the rest of First Class. The jackboots lock her in a cold cell.
On the pirate train, Asha tells Layton her story: “There were 34 of us to start, eking it out on the plant’s residual power. Korean scientists, foreign nuclear technicians like me, some of our families, too. Marauders killed about half of us before they died out and then… the cold and radiation poisoning took the rest of us. My nephew, he was 15 years old. He was the last to go. He had thyroid cancer. By the end, he was begging me to kill him. That was about four years ago. After that, yeah, I- I lost time. Stopped hoping, stopped thinking. It’s like someone other than me lived down there. Then I turned my eyes on you.”
Layton: “I hate to tell you this, but human kind hasn’t exactly evolved in your absence.”
Asha stares intently into his eyes. She’s had a rough time and done and seen terrible things. Everyone she’s met for the last eight years has tried to kill her- until Layton. “You pushed past what was safe, even sane, to rescue me. Why?”
Layton holds her gaze: “I’m just glad I did.”
Layton was surprised to hear about the marauders. Though Asha assumes they died out, they could have become nomadic tribes who moved on to new hunting grounds. If the same thing happened in North America, Melanie could be with one of those groups.
When Layton returns to the Engine Eternal, Ben tells him the satellites in the area have continued to degrade so they’re still blind to Alice-piercer’s whereabouts. Their options are to rejoin the main track, where they’ll be able to tell from track conditions if Wilford is in front of them or they’ll know that Wilford is behind them. Or they can take the track that’s parallel to the main line and wait to see if the satellite feed improves enough for them to spot Wilford’s position.
Without further discussion, Layton chooses the parallel track. Bess follows him to the beverage station and asks if he made his choice based on another vision. He tells her he figures there will be more options available on the parallel track.
I feel compelled to point out here that Josie says the satellite was working fine the last time they came through this area. And Ben has lied and omitted facts before, most notably at the end of S1, when he saw signs that Big Alice was chasing them and made it look like a satellite was broken in order to hide the evidence. He let Wilford catch up to them because Snowpiercer needed the replacement parts on Big Alice and he felt that basic engineering argument outweighed any other concerns. Because of the chaos caused by Wilford’s arrival, Ben’s actions were never really acknowledged or dealt with, other than briefly by Melanie. It’s a good idea to remember that when it comes to the train itself, Ben doesn’t believe in democracy.
Oz and LJ have their first dance to Apocalypse by Cigarettes After Sex. They’re good dancers and it’s the romantic moment LJ’s probably dreamed of. Wonder if Wilford pulled a dance instructor from compost to give them a few lessons. While they dance, Kevin signals to Wilford that there’s a new development.
Back at the EMP device, Lights determines that the weapon is programmed by hooking it up to a laptop, which means they can’t get to the software. She pulls off a panel, hoping to disrupt the power supply. Strong Boy takes a look at it while Pike urges them on, not wanting Ruth’s sacrifice to be in vain. In desperation, Strong Boy pulls the whole panel off the device, which activates it.
Wilford visits Ruth in her cell. He tells her he knew the resistance leader had to be someone who understood train logistics, but he’s surprised she was willing to debase herself this much.
Lol. 😂 Wilford made this possible by sending Ruth to the compost first. He strengthened her resolve and taught her she can survive the worst situations imaginable. And put her in with her sworn enemy, the Tailie leader, teaching her that the Tailies aren’t any different from the passengers. Her time as resistance leader has been a step up from what Wilford did to her.
Then Wilford has the nerve to suggest she should have stayed loyal to him.
Ruth: “I am loyal. To something bigger than you. You’ve got it all wrong, Mr Wilford.’
Wilford: “I hear that all the time, and then I win.”
Ruth: “Winning isn’t leading. And loyalty isn’t enough on it’s own. It has to come with love. And not the kind that you feed off. Unconditional love, sacrifice, for each and every passenger. You can’t ignore love. You can’t predict it either.” ❤️ 😭
Wilford hates everything she’s saying. It relates back to that special Layton jelly that he can’t bottle or buy. Ruth is talking about making that feeling a movement. She’s willing to become a martyr for the passengers. In many ways, she already is. She gave up comfort, status, power and her beloved teals to work for the safety and freedom of everyone.
Wilford tells Ruth he’s taking her arm and to be especially vindictive, he’s told the jackboots to put the cuff so high that she won’t be able to wear a prosthetic. She proudly replies that she wouldn’t have worn one anyway.
With the device halfway through its 2 minute countdown, Pike, Lights and Strong Boy give up on shutting it down and decide to push it out of the train. Pike recalls that the Tailies have broken the hinges on train doors before. Strong Boy moves the device into place while Pike bangs on the housing that controls the door opener. With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Lights hotwires the door and Strong Boy shoves the device toward the back of the train. The three Tailies run for cover while the device slides out onto the ground.
Wilford tells Ruth that he built the ports as an idle threat but didn’t plan to use them. Yet she and Melanie used them 13 times. Ruth tells him she’ll pay her penance.
I wouldn’t get too caught up in Wilford’s story that he wasn’t going to use the ports. He coerced Icy Bob and Pastor Logan into frozen deaths. He used the lung of ice on the people who killed the breachmen. He culled at least 100 people from Big Alice just because he could. He’s a liar and a mass murderer. There is no getting around that.
The EMP goes off, sending the pulse through both trains, shutting down operations on Alice-piercer. Other than flickering lights, Snowpiercer isn’t affected, but they’re able to use the pulse to pinpoint Alice-piercer’s location. It’s 520 kilometers west on the main line. Since they figured it out from the pulse rather than the satellites, they know where Wilford is, but he doesn’t know where they are. They head for the other train.
Wilford blames Ruth for the loss of the device and orders the jackboots to take her arm now. She’s led out to a port, where a crowd has been brought in to watch, Pike among them. The Widow Dr Headwood prepares the arm while Wilford stands on a stool and rants that he built a weapon which would have allowed them to sneak up on the pirate train and avoid a war, but thanks to Ruth, who he calls a rat in the pipes, they’ll have to fight hand to hand when the other train returns. Wilford motions for the jackboots to move the metal cuff higher on Ruth’s arm. Dr Headwood tells him the arm is ready. Ruth bravely says, “Let’s get it bloody off, then.”
They open the port. And the pirate train enters the fight, it’s lights blinding Javi in the engine and it’s speed shaking Alice-piercer as it races by. Ruth’s arm is forgotten as word of Snowpiercer’s return sweeps through the train.
Wilford waves his cane in the air and yells, “Battle stations! Battle stations, you dogs!”
Sean Bean was born to play this role. I can’t wait to see what battle stations means to everyone and if it means the same thing as it means to Wilford.
Merry and Pippin got married! Under pseudo Nazi banners, which was weird, scary and not at all accidental.
Ben and Ruth are both in rough physical shape and now Ruth’s a prisoner. This is not okay. Wilford loves to play with his food and watch it die slowly, but death is still the end result. He’s already allowed hundreds to die on Snowpiercer from a flu that could have been avoided or more contained if he’d practiced better biosecurity. I’m sure that fewer would have been lost to the flu if they’d been better nourished, clothed, kept warm, allowed more rest and had decent medical care. But he gets to say that the deaths were unavoidable due to Layton’s actions and use those losses to turn people against the pirates.
The influenza was a culling to feed Wilford’s need for domination and death just as surely as the mass culling in the early years on Big Alice was. What could make a killer psychopath feel more like a god than controlling the lives and deaths of entire nations and peoples as if they were puppets or chattel? Controlling the fate of the entire species, of course. Wilford is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Plague, Disaster) rolled into one, or the quote from the Bhagavad-Gita that Oppenheimer used to describe the Trinity Test: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
I’m worried that Ben is more seriously injured than anyone realizes. Look at how he’s hunched over in the photo at the top of the post and listen to how raw his voice sounds. This show normally has people bounce back from injuries with superhuman speed unless there’s a plot reason for keeping them injured. Ben is having a hard time and it’s showing, even though his instinct is typically to mask whatever’s going on with him- he’s even shown standing next to Alex, with his face partially hidden behind writing, a line across his mouth like a gag and an arrow through his heart. Either he’s a Wilford spy or he’s hiding something else, such as how bad his injuries are. Josie is probably the only one who would pay attention to his symptoms and make him take care of himself, but she’ll probably be involved in fighting Wilford next episode.
What I don’t like about Ruth’s voiceover is that it may be a prophecy of more deaths to come, including Pike and the rest of the resistance in the subtrain who’ve kept her alive. Her men have a history of dying in cold mass events- the roughneck when the whole rig went down and Nolan Grey when Layton and Melanie disconnected several cars at the end of S1 to stop his military coup and the Folgers’ political aspirations. They took out most of the original jackboots and a car full of Third Class and Tailie prisoners at the same time. Wilford was believed to have died with most of the life on Earth in the Freeze when he was left behind, but he’s proven hard to kill.
Once Layton and the pirate train return, all bets are off and Wilford will be free to kill whoever he wants. I’m expecting those red banners also foreshadow another blood bath by the end of the season. There’s been a lot of red and blue in the color palette of the first two episodes, especially in the lighting, with red often signifying danger and evil and blue signifying cold and good. It’s too early to tell how meaningful the trend is, but it is worth noting that, among others, Pike and Zarah were bathed in blue light in this episode.
Layton is building a strong case for investigating his vision in real life, which appears to be growing more detailed as time goes on.
This season is heavy with symbolism, particularly around Wilford, Layton and Ruth. Wilford is a nuclear bomb that’s caused devastation before and could go off again at any moment. Ruth represents the heart of the people, left out in the cold but still working and fighting to survive. LJ is what’s left of the aristocracy, those who want more than their fair share and will cheat to make sure they get it. Oz is someplace in between- the portion of the lower classes who turn to crime to get what they can’t get any other way. Sometimes that’s necessities and sometimes it’s the luxuries flaunted by the aristocracy.
Layton is the prophetic visionary who sees the endgame that’s the way out of Wilford’s hellscape, but so far he hasn’t seen a clear path on how to get there. Snowpiercer is waiting for someone to lead them to the Promised Land, whether it’s better conditions on the train or a colony outside the train. So far no one has figured out how to do that. If Wilford hadn’t come back at the end of S1, Layton, Jinju, Melanie and others might have been able to work out a system together, but that doesn’t matter now. The important thing is, if Layton is going to succeed, he needs to realize that he’s good at analyzing situations and seeing the big picture. He has a humanity that none of the other leaders on Snowpiercer have and he brings that out in others, such as Melanie, Ruth and Roche, which ultimately makes them better leaders.
But the logistics of problem solving for big systems aren’t his strength. If his leadership is going to succeed, he needs a committee of lieutenants/department heads who take care of practical issues for him while he coordinates overall direction and goals. The pirate train seems to have settled somewhat into that sort of system, but he was still arguing with Josie about roles in episode 1, so they haven’t settled completely.
I wondered why, of all things, the Widow Dr Headwood chose to carry her husband’s shoes with her. Unasked, Google helpfully presented me with an article that included a reference to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she describes being unable to get rid of her husband’s shoes after he died. She wasn’t ready to let go of the possibility of his return and he’d need his shoes when he came back.
While most of our lost loved ones only live on in our hearts and as ghosts/nightmares, depending on the relationship, the Widow Dr Headwood is a mad scientist- her husband’s shoes may hold mysteries beyond the ordinary. Maybe they have a secret compartment with scientific knowledge that will eventually save humanity or kill Wilford. Or maybe his DNA is cached inside in the form of toe nails and she plans to clone him someday.
Whether something more comes of the shoes or not, I find them to be a poetic and quietly moving symbol of true devotion on a show that spends so much of its time cultivating false devotion. The items in question are similar to Van Gogh’s shoes, adding to their air of tragedy. This is a lovely, brief meditation called On Shoes and Grief by Sophia Stewart that was published in 2019 but fits our current zeitgeist and the episode.
Images courtesy of TNT.
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