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Snowpiercer: One Woman Show

While the passengers of both Snowpiercer and Big Alice fight themselves and each other to stay alive, thousands of miles away from the trains Melanie fights her own battle of survival. And in comparison, she might be having a tougher time than the lowest of the low tail resident. Between the always ready to kill cold, wild hallucinations, the constantly fight to not lose body heat and the pressure of proving her theories correct, Melanie has her work cut out for her. And she also has some answers to the many questions that circle around her and Mr. Wilford. Out in the freeze, there’s nothing to stop her mind from going over every little detail of the relationship between them. Whether she likes it or not.

If there’s anything to admire about Melanie as a character, it’s her resilience. When she puts her mind to something, there is nothing other than death that will stop her. She ran Snowpiercer as Wilford for seven years with next to no problems, she started the seed in Andre’s mind that leading the train would mean making hard decisions, she’s literally risking losing everything she worked for in the small hope that life can restart off the train, and she’s standing up the most feared man of the apocalypse. Wilford himself said it, Melanie is the glue that holds everything together. He’s ready to un-stick her now though, she’s done her job a little too well for Wilford and gotten the best of him one too many times. If he has to take her out through a taunts, jabs and jousting by hallucinations; he’s all the more for it.

While struggling to survive, both physically and mentally, Melanie relives the moments that got her to where she is now. Including the many conversations she had with Wilford in the time leading up to when she stole Snowpiercer from him. Before he returned, it was thought that Wilford and Melanie were of the same mind, cut from the same cloth. Both geniuses who simply wanted to make sure humanity didn’t end. Now we know that to be not quite true, Melanie has always been for the cause of preserving life. Whereas Wilford was more about making sure of his own survival and his own comfort, everything else came secondary. This much is clear when, he cuts the passenger list of scientists down to make room for more personal security. And he doesn’t even bat an eye when he threatens to take Melanie’s family off the list as well after she confronts him. Snowpiercer is his train, his creation, what he says goes. Or at least it did back then, in the days before the freeze.

Between her hallucinations, hunger pains, and dreams, Melanie’s month at the station is the personification of hell having frozen over. While the cold bears down and her memories stroll through the past, the unsettling presence of the dead scientists around her haunts her present. She’s starving, and her hallucination version of Andre isn’t going to judge her for taking a small bite of another human. They had to do it in the tail all the time. Melanie’s not quite there yet though, and decides to try her luck at building a mouse trap. If there’s anything that would have survived, it’s rats.

And whether it’s by chance, fate or just pure dumb luck, Melanie’s trap does catch a mouse. And that mouse leads her to the inside of one of the walls of the station, where a geothermal vent has created the perfect living conditions for the rodents to live, procreate and survive. Now Melanie has food with actual substance, things for a moment are looking up.

Of course though, this is Snowpiercer and even though Melanie isn’t on the train, nothing can ever go right for very long. It is the post apocalypse after all. So the very next day, after having finally gotten to really eat, the tower Melanie’s been using to make contact with Ben’s balloons comes falling down. Which in turn causes Melanie to lose the data she’s been collecting, her digital map and her way of letting the passengers of Snowpiercer know she’s still alive. It all happens in about five minutes and the frustration that has been building in Melanie’s core finally bubbles over. And we’re able to relive the night that Snowpiercer launched, the night Melanie chose humanity over herself and over her own daughter.

As I said in the beginning, Melanie is resilient. She’s a fighter and after a whole month of hell, she’s finally reached the day that Snowpiercer is supposed to pick her up. Only when she radios to them, she gets no reply. Either Snowpiercer isn’t coming back or something terrible has happened aboard and no one on her side is able to respond to her. Both options are the worst case scenario. But when Melanie suddenly feels the floor of the station rumble, she darts outside ready to jump back on board. The train has indeed returned, though at the speed it’s going the return seems to be just a mockery one. They have no intention of slowing down and as Melanie fights the deep snow to try to keep up, she’s met with the sight of Alex screaming for her and trying to call out to her from the back of Big Alice. Something has definitely gone wrong on board, but it doesn’t matter because the train continues on and Melanie is left behind to freeze.

This Melanie centered, off train episode is one of the best Snowpiercer has put out since its first season. While this show is set in the future, because we spend so much time on the train itself, it’s hard to remember what the world outside looks like. Life is still going on Snowpiercer, it’s still happening. So to be outside with Melanie, where everything has died and gone still, is a bit jarring. In the back of our minds we know, outside of Snowpiercer is an ice age, but it doesn’t really register until watching Melanie spend a month in a radio station. Which is important to reground and re-stabilize the narrative on the train. It is hell on Snowpiercer but it’s a better hell than the one that’s waiting for everyone outside. And that makes the fight over who is going to lead the train all the more important.

My favorite thing about “Many Miles From Snowpiercer” are the hallucinations that join Melanie. I found it very interesting that out of all the people Melanie’s brain could produce to keep her company, it picked Wilford, Alex and Layton. The first two aren’t very surprising but Layton is. I expected her to think of Ruth, or even Miss Audrey. Having Layton to the one to appear, the one to give her the idea of catching rats, is a development I’d like to see go further. I’m a big fan of whatever the relationship between Andre and Melanie is, whatever it could grow to be. They could easily run Snowpiercer together and be beyond powerful as a unit while they do it, but they also have the potential to become bitter enemies. To me, Layton and Melanie are better fitted for the term “different sides of the same coin” than she and Wilford are. He has always been cruel, he just hid it behind handsome smiles and dazzlingly charm. Melanie may be a lot of things, but she’s never been cruel just for the sake of. She did have her moments in the first season but nothing compared to half of what Wilford has done in the first half of this second one. Whereas Layton mirrors Melanie’s need for the survival of the human race. He might have a tunnel focus on making sure it’s the tail that survives but the core value is still the same. Melanie and Andre want others to live and have lives, which is why I hope that they’re able to build something closer to a partnership than a rivalry.

Now that Snowpiercer has crossed the halfway checkpoint, the last few episodes of the second season are expected to turn even wilder. Melanie has to get back on the train, or die trying. Layton and Wilford have danced around each other long enough and the inevitable collision is rapidly approaching. And fingers crossed that, after seeing her mother get left behind, Alex is radicalized into taking action against the man that “saved” her. Snowpiercer just had a revolution, but with the way things are going it seems like the next one is closer than anyone realizes.

Snowpiercer airs Monday nights on TNT

-Danyi

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