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Snowpiercer: When White People Are Incharge, Can There Ever Really Be Justice?

Last night Snowpiercer hit its halfway mark in the first season and episode five might be it’s most “normal” one yet. As LJ’s murder trial is held in first-class with some newly added changes, Josie scrambles to find Layton who is having the worst dreams while stuck in the Drawers and the class structure of the entire train crumbles almost to its breaking point. Episode five, titled “Justice Never Boarded” might be a tame one compared to its predecessors but the subtle violence it displays is loud and chaotic.

To start, Melanie Cavill is in over her head. That much has been clear to the audience since about the second episode but it’s only now becoming clear to her. With the wrongfully drawered Nikki dead, the third class is ready to shed blood. They know that the murder trial of LJ is mostly for show, she’s a first-class brat and will without a doubt be cleared of the charges against her. After sending a message to first, by way of cockroaches on a platter, Miss Audrey and Melanie come to an agreement; new names will be drawn to decide who sits on the jury and third-class will for the first time ever be allowed to have one of those three seats. This is, in a sense, betrayal to first-class because Melanie is supposed to be on their side. Mrs. Folgers particularly feels like Melanie is encouraging the rest of the train to have their uprising and take down those in their way. And she’s not going to stand for it.

Meanwhile, Josie who has gotten word that Layton is missing takes another chance and sneaks out of the tail and sanitations to find him. Her journey leads her to Terrance who is intrigued by the fact that Melanie drawered Layton instead of letting him return the tail. He also isn’t about to pass up the opportunity to go up train and steal some things. So he helps Josie get to The Drawers, and he leaves her there to figure out which of the 400 individual prisons is holding Layton. While she scrambles to find him, she discovers the horrors that some of the Drawers truly hold. But she doesn’t have time to digest the new information because the trial is nearly over. With some unexpected help from Till, Josie is able to rouse Layton and sneak him to third class. She leaves him in the care of Zarah and returns to sanitations just as the jury decides LJ’s fate.

The trial, which if everyone is being honest is more for show than anything, at first seems like for the first time ever true justice is going to be served. Until Melanie makes a rash decision and decides that Mr. Wilford is going to spare LJ because she’s so young and Erik obviously had influenced her to participate in the murders. It’s a bold move and is the first domino to fall in what promises be a very long chain and could result in the uprising actually happening. She gave third-class her word that this trial would be fair and different, then snatched the victory of it actually being fair away from them within seconds. In her desperation to hold order, Melanie has instead cracked it in two, and the fall out promises to be pretty great.

Once again Snowpiercer touches on a subject that other shows jump through hoops to avoid. It hasn’t escaped me that first, second and third glass is overwhelmingly white. Of course, there’s the occasional person of color here and there and a couple of Black people sprinkled about, but there are far more of them in the tail than anywhere else. And that isn’t by accident. The reason class structure goes so smoothly is because it’s the wealthy white people who are in charge of the train. Mr. Wilford keeps it running, sure, but after “Justice Never Boarded” it’s very clear who is actually in charge. And it’s not Melanie. When Mrs. Folgers felt even a slight hint of her daughter being threatened she started crafting a plot to overthrow Melanie because forget about fairness and everyone having the right to survive. To her, the only thing that matters is LJ getting away with murder. White women are always willing to do anything to protect their children, no matter how horrible their children are.

The episode also emphasizes the fact that Melanie may seem like she wants what’s best for the train but in reality, she’s just making it up as she goes along, much like everyone else. It’s through her that we are smacked in the face with the realization that much like recent events in the real world right now, those on top will cling to normalcy no matter how toxic and hurtful it is to others. Snowpiercer is the farthest thing from normal, but first, second and some of third are willing to do any and everything to hold on to practices from before the freeze. Even though creating a new kind of living, one where everyone was on the same level of class and treated equally would enhance the quality of life. The idea of not being above someone terrifies people who always have considered themselves superior.

Episode five frustrated me, thoroughly and for the entire sixty minutes, but it’s definitely another notch higher on the quality scale. There’s not much that makes my blood boil more than white woman tears, and LJ spent the whole episode using hers to her advantage. Behind closed doors, she’s the evil murderer that Layton, Melanie, and honestly her parents know her to be. But in front of everyone else, she uses the stereotype of the naive child to make sure that she gets away with everything she does. It’s upsetting but very realistic of how many white women today are. I’m also curious to see if Layton ends up addicted to Kronel since he’s been in the drawers and his gums seemed to already be turning black. If he does, I’d like to see Snowpiercer take a closer look at the fact that drugs are being forced on prisoners without their knowledge. Which happens far too often in the real world.

Much like last week, I am still extremely pleased with Snowpiercer and continue to look forward to its weekly episodes. I don’t see it losing steam any time soon and that makes me glad I decided to give it a chance.

Snowpiercer airs Sundays on TNT

-Danyi

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