Brace yourself for a bumpy ride as Snowpiercer Episode 2 gave us cannibalism, more class warfare, desperate sex, and an extinction-level event.
I have to admit the idea of a crime mystery interlaced with the heavily socially conscious Snowpiercer gave me some pause. I thought it might be a joke. Mix in the long delays in rewriting and editing, and I was convinced this would be a disaster. Something long-anticipated and equally despised. Granted, we are just two episodes in, .but color me surprised. It is all working, and I am hooked. Snowpiercer Episode 2 showed just how precarious societal balance actually is.
You can only oppress people so long before they eventually rebel. In the opening minutes of Snowpiercer Episode 2, Hospitality acting on behalf of Mr. Wilford froze and shattered an arm of the mother of one of the rebellers and placed the three leaders in the drawer. She took her young daughter’s place. Any mother would. It only shows the brutality Hospitality is capable of. Overlaid over it all was powerful commentary from Josie, who promised that they would continue to fight back. All of the attempts by Wilford to contain the Tailies have just deepened their resolve. Instead of squashing the revolution, they have sharpened the Tailies’ rage. That’s the thing with fear; it only works so long. Justice, fairness, and equality are much better motivators.
For seven years, Melanie Cavill has been acting as head of Hospitality and Mr. Wilford. She has been the voice of the train and the de facto leader with very few knowing the many hats she wears. She is as icy as the frozen tundra the Earth has turned into. Jennifer Connelly has been perfectly stoic up to now. I am curious what it looks like when she loses control.
For all these years, she has made hard decisions about who lives and dies, all while indulging the whims of the uber-rich who probably financed the train. Those in the first class want to keep what they have at all costs. Whether that be comfort or opportunity, they need their privilege like the Tailies need food. That is why they need to keep the Tailies down. It isn’t enough to punish the Tailies they want them annihilated—their freedom to do whatever whenever supersedes other’s freedoms to have enough food and clean drinking water. Sound familiar Flint, Michigan?
Melanie has an agenda of her own, however, that hasn’t been revealed. What are the experiments she and Jinju have been working on? The two women were willing to let an innocent be “drawer” to protect it. Is the process of “drawering” itself what they are trying to protect or something even worse? Nikki Genet has been revived, but she is incoherent. Dr. Klimpt thinks she will eventually be fine, but his words are far more confident than his face. One thing is for sure, he does not want the program scrapped no matter how bad Nikki’s arm looks or how scrambled her brains are.
The rest of Snowpiercer Episode 2 was devoted to the investigation conducted by Layton and Bess Till. She is a good partner for Layton, as she’s smart and driven. Bess was involved in the inquiry into the first murder and knew there was a rush to judgment. She does not want a repeat of that injustice. She doesn’t rust Layton at the beginning, but by the end, she starts coming around, especially when she realizes she may have been an accidental cannibal.
A series of discoveries and encounters provide Layton with insight into why Mr. Wilford was so concerned with a third-class murder, to begin with. The victim, Sean, was a spy for Wilford. In exchange for information, he got certain perks like winning the baby lottery. Layton’s ex-wife Zara gave him that tidbit of news while undergoing a little sexual therapy in the Night Car. Miss Audrey runs the part nightclub part counseling service. Lena Hall(Audrey) is a magnetic presence who seems to have almost omniscient knowledge of what people need and want. She also knows Nikki was innocent and wants to use her talents to help. Miss Audrey is an unusual ally. She trades in secrets and comfort. Similar to Miss Scarlet in Clue, her currency is information, and she is filthy.
Next, they go to an autopsy conducted by an ex-navy medical corpsman who knows how to diagnoses PTSD but admits to having limited other skills that could help in this matter. That exchange gave them a new lead and an intriguing thought. I wonder if PTSD is making the rich even worse than they once were. Desperation and fear make people do terrible things. Just ask the guys who have way more toilet paper than they could ever need. Now multiple that on a catastrophic scale, and you have the land of Snowpiercer.
Before Bess and Layton even arrive in the cattle car, questions about cannibalism swirl. Bess is convinced they eat people in the upper train, but Layton says people are capable of horrible things, even those in the front. He explains that gangs in the beginning killed and ate people at will in the Tail until the decent people took over. Even then, though, they each ate a piece of the gang member’s heart to solidify that they were all culpable. This story was designed to frighten and shame her, but also remind her there is a lot she takes for granted as happening elsewhere that might be closer than she thinks. Her meat noodles she ate in front of him might not be of the bovine variety.
In the cattle car, they aren’t permitted access without in a notary. It is a heavily restricted area where animal handlers and butchers work side by side. An avalanche takes out the cattle car before they can get back with the notary, and all the cows freeze. In the freezer in the vent, they find the dead guys limbs. They are missing one, though. It appears Layton was right. Even though the butcher used the parts for food, he didn’t kill Sean. Someone tortured Sean. It isn’t that different than Hospitality’s arm removal punishment. They both utilize fear and pain. Layton believes the torture was for the information above all else.
Losing the entire stock is bad. Cattle are now extinct. The cows provided meat, methane, manure for crops, cultures for research, dairy, and a water reservoir was below them. With the water shortages, Melanie decides to ration the humans first. Second and Third class will only get 15 minutes of water each day, and the Tailies will be on their own. Making matters worse energy is needed to keep the train going during repairs, so rolling blackouts will begin in the Tail section and proceed as required.
The indignities the Tailies have to deal with aren’t just physical. It’s bad enough; they have little food, power, and water, but they lose their youngest and brightest to apprenticeships. Similar to communist nations who separate their best athletes to train for the Olympics and professional sports, the Tailies lose their best to prepare for societal maintenance. They leave their families with very little hope of ever returning. The group will eventually be controlled by culling the strong from the herd.
Lastly, Layton has one final trick up his ahem, sleeve. He has kept a pen and a piece of metal. Taking careful notes, he plans on escaping long enough to get the information to a fellow Tailie he saw earlier. Layton distracts the guards, but we don’t know if the other man received the information. It did provide him the opportunity to exchange barbs with Melanie, whose facade slipped just a little.
Daveed Diggs captures Layton simmering anger brilliantly. It is that much more effective in his scenes with Connelly. Layton tells Melanie he knows Someone killed Sean for his secrets. He also tells her there are killers among all the classes; his people just found equilibrium faster. She tells him Mr. Wilford thinks he’s valuable as the trained detective; otherwise, he would be gone. Her secrets are more valuable than the threat of any current rebellion.
Snowpiercer Episode 2 showed vulnerability more than anything. Those that think they are safe aren’t, and those who know they aren’t, are better prepared to handle reality. The train, the hierarchy, and the meticulously planned system are all susceptible. There are only two things guaranteed in life, according to Christopher Bullock in The Cobbler of Preston, “death and taxes.” It’s time to pay up. Keep up with all our coverage here.
- Who decided who would get a seat on the train? There does not appear to be any thought given to the number and type of doctors, scientists, or police officers, to name a few. It seems essential workers mean something totally different on Snowpiercer.
- Miss Audrey’s cover of Say it Ain’t So Joe originally by Murray Head is haunting and gorgeously sung by Hall, who won a Tony Award for her role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
- Why would you put all your cattle in one car? It only took one avalanche to destroy the careful ecosystem. It seems Mr. Wilford is a poor planner.
- Nice to know the drug trade continues to take advantage of the oppressed. I’m guessing Mr. Wilford didn’t count on the production of illegal drugs.
- How does track maintenance work? If the train can’t stop and people can’t stay outside for long periods, this can only work for so long.
- Cow parts are used for anything from gelatin to drugs. The Snowpiercer is in trouble without them.
- How bizarre that Notarys are super important in Snowpiercer.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.