In season 2 episode 2 of Snowpiercer, we discover that when Melanie explained why she left Wilford on the side of the tracks 7 years ago, she underplayed how terrible life under his rule would be. In fact, I have a feeling we’ve only begun to learn how much worse life on Big Alice has been than life on Snowpiercer. Wilford appears to be a combination of a bloodthirsty cult leader like Charles Manson and a ruthless tech billionaire who only values competition and his own desires.
Smolder to Life brings us a hostage exchange, a promotion, a summit meeting, a death, a resurrection and a maiming. Ruth finally comes face to face with Wilford and LJ learns the value of work as a commodity.
Pay attention the characters’ hands in this episode. There is a strong motif focusing on hands as the symbols of the person and the body. Individual passengers, cars and mechanical parts make up the train as a whole and losing even one can make the crucial difference to the survival of the train as a whole. In the same way, hands are a crucial extension of each human mind and body. Losing all or part of a hand makes a huge difference in an individual’s life and potentially in the life of the entire train. Taking away the thumb of the wrong passenger could someday mean the difference between the life and death of everyone on the train, when they aren’t available to provide their expertise.
This is also a bloody episode. Following the trail of blood gives insights into character motivations and blind spots. Early on, Mel speaks about fire while there’s also blood in the room. The two are often symbolically linked, since both are red and blood contains the spark of life.