There was a lot going on during this week’s episode of TNT’s Snowpiercer. But the central drama of the episode was a crisis that could have literally derailed everything else… because they’re on a train.
I try to avoid comparing Snowpiercer the show to the movie since the show established right from the start that it is its own thing. But in the movie the train already existed before the environmental crisis as a luxury toy for rich people to ride on that was adapted to be a lifeboat for humanity. On the show, when the environmental crisis happened, someone (ostensibly Wilford, but more on that later) considered the options and decided “let’s build a train.” I won’t rehash the problems with that premise and why it strains suspension of disbelief.
“Trouble Comes Sideways” follows up on that gunshot to the train from a couple of episodes ago. Eric’s final “fuck you” before he went down started a chain of events that leads to the dangerous situation that threatens to derail the train. This is the second time this season that the train faced catastrophe. In-show, only a few days have passed between the first episode and this one, the sixth episode. Granted, this was probably an atypical period of time but it still seems like a miracle that the train is still running and mostly intact after seven years of operation.
Melanie Cavill (and the show) addresses the inherent problem with the train when she talks to Layton about the drawers. I have to point out that Melanie was at knifepoint so she may have just been spinning a story to keep Layton from killing her but for now I’ll take what she said at face value. Melanie said the drawers are meant as a lifeboat for 400 people to ride out a major crisis in stasis (if and when the drawers can be made safe for long term use). She admits that the train is always one bit of bad luck away from disaster and is trying to create a back-up in case that happens. I need to hear some more details but my hot take is that humanity is still royally screwed.
The selection of the 400 is yet another task on Melanie’s hands. This episode she also must deal with a potential work strike by the third class. That challenge is temporarily sidelined by the wave of euphoria following the successful resolution of the derailment crisis. And Melanie still has to maintain the deception that Wilford is running things.
“I designed it, I can fix it,” declares Melanie at one point. This combined with her MIT sweatshirt and Yale Engineering cap is the show’s oh so subtle way of revealing that Melanie Cavill is the engineering genius behind the Snowpiercer train. I still think there’s a Wilford, even if he’s not the one who designed the train. (Layton also believes there’s a Wilford since he tells Josie that Wilford isn’t aboard the train, not that there is no Wilford.) To be honest, a large part of my belief is because, due to playing a lot of Civilization VI, I easily recognized Sean Bean as the voice of Wilford during the fight night speech. Bean is also confirmed for the show’s second season so I expect we’ll see Wilford later. So the key questions are what was Wilford’s role in the Snowpiercer project, what happened to him, and why is Melanie the train’s head stewardess instead of chief engineer. If Melanie was the engineering genius then was Wilford simply the frontman to get investors? One-percenter types like the Folgers would be much more likely to give money to Ned Stark than a relatively young woman however brilliant she may be (assuming Melanie is around Jennifer Connelly’s age then she would have been in her early forties when the train was built seven years ago).
- Bess Till Is dealing with problems on two fronts this week. First, her asshole partner tries to blackmail her about her part in Layton’s escape from the drawers. But like many bullies, Osweiller backs down when faced with real resistance (he already knows she’ll use her baton on him). Meanwhile, Till’s search for Osweiller caused her to miss her first night with Jinju as a second class passenger. Jinju knows Till is keeping something to herself and their relationship is a bit strained right now.
- Won’t it be awkward for Till being a second class passenger with a third class job? Her coworkers will be varying shades of jealous and resentful while the other second class passengers will look down on her.
- Despite claiming the train isn’t run as an authoritarian state, Melanie was prepared to come down hard on third class if they held their strike by sending ten random third class passengers to the tail and replacing them with Tailies. She’s awfully committed to stoking class warfare as a method of control.
- What does Melanie have in mind for Miles? Is she looking to raise him to be a new train engineer or is there more going on? Also, since she knows Layton is out of his drawer, will she use Miles as a bargaining chip against Layton?
- Thrill killer LJ Folger is chilling while everyone else is panicking. That girl is just not right.
- We won’t discuss the body horror in the sex scene at the end of the episode. What has been seen can not be unseen.