With only two episodes left, Snowpiercer uses its eighth episode to lay the foundation for the battle of the season to finally come to a head. Layton’s broken promises to his people and unwillingness to fold under Wilford puts him in a tight spot while the passengers of Snowpiercer continue to divide themselves down the line. It’s either team Layton or team Wilford, there is no in between anymore and those that have been walking the line have no choice but to pick it a side.
For starters, everything is rapidly falling apart on Snowpiercer. The civil unrest among the passengers is peaking, Boki (the trains last Breachmen) has to wrestle with the fact Wilford is not the all mighty man he thought him to be, cars in second class are flooding, the division begins to affect Roche personally, and for every problem Layton finds a solution for; two more pop up to take its place. Not to mention the ever looming threat of Wilford is pressing down on those against him harder than before. It’s not looking good for anyone who isn’t ready to raise three fingers in dedication.
Mr. Wilford is the kind of man that makes the perfect villain. He’s handsome, charming and smart; but he is also cunning, sneaky and holds several narcissistic traits very close to himself. He’s dangerous, because he’s willing to do whatever to get what he wants. Wilford is willing to use, abuse and lose whoever if it means at the end of the day he’ll come out on top. This much has been proved with his treatment of Kevin, Audrey and Alex especially. The only person that matters to him, is himself. Which is why his self sabotage of Snowpiercer’s engine isn’t surprising. Without Melanie aboard to match him mentally, Wilford is ahead of everyone whether they know it or not. Only she can fix technical, engine problems that are sourced back to him, only Melanie can undo any kind of physical damage he does to the train. And she’s not there, so who else can Layton, Ben and Javi call upon for help? Wilford is literally the only option. But that means letting him in to the one place they’ve been so desperately trying to keep him out of. Approving Wilford to come all the way to the front of the train, to the engine, is the biggest risk Layton has taken yet. And since about the four episode of this season, every risk Andre has taken has pretty much blown up in his face.
As Layton deals with Wilford, others on the train find themselves trying to soothe the rising tensions. Or at least they start deciding whose side their on. This is incredibly tough for Roche and his family. For seven long years Roche has been the head of security, his family has been comfortable under Melanie’s pretend to be Wilford reign. Now, he fully supports Layton and the push for equality throughout the entire train. But his support is costing his family their peace. When Roche sends their daughter up train for safety, it’s not long after that their car is visited by Wilford’s people demanding to know where their loyalties lie. Anne, Roche’s wife, worries that if they don’t pick a side soon, when the time comes it’ll be too late. If Roche supports Layton a little too much, Wilford might not overlook it later.
Meanwhile, over on Big Alice things are the polar opposite of its sister train. The eerie calmness of the atmosphere, as they wait for Wilford to reclaim what he believes to be his, is only ever ruffled by Audrey. She’s defected, fully returned to Wilford’s side and is glad to see him take back Snowpiercer so easily. Which is why she pays Josie a visit after the woman wakes up to find her face nearly fully restored to the way it was before the severe frost bite. Josie is still loyal to Snowpiercer and Andre; but the reconstruction of her face and Audrey’s betrayal start her wondering why exactly she was offered treatment on Big Alice. After all, Wilford is constantly playing games, there’s no reason to not think Josie isn’t a player in one now too. Especially after she discovers her new skin can with stand the cold the same way Icy Bob does. Wilford’s always got a plan for everything, he’s got one for Josie too. He’s got places for everyone.
Turns out, Anne was correct. Taking too long to show where your loyalties lie was a mistake. The moment Wilford is able to fix the engine and keep everyone from dying, the tides shift for good. Wilford has won, he’s beaten Layton in the race for who leads the train. The game is over and punishments must be dealt out. Starting with Layton being taken prisoner on Big Alice and the entire Roche family being slipped into drawers. The time of change is done, things will be going back to the way they were. And if anyone doesn’t like it, the real Wilford is there for them to take it up with. Not that any of them would now.
The best thing about “The Eternal Engineer” is the masterclass of acting that the men of the show give. Between Layton, Boki, Ben, and Roche, we were given a range of emotions that perfectly emphasized the stress of what’s happening aboard these connected trains. Boki’s grief, not only for his fellow Breachmen but also his shattered image of Wilford, is gut wrenching. It’s not often someone as strong and solid as Boki has to grapple with the fact they are the last of their kind. Piling on top of that Boki’s blinders have been snatched completely off and he now knows that Wilford doesn’t care about him. It’s a tough episode for him, there’s a lot he’s has to come to terms with in a place that doesn’t really allow time for self reflection. In a more silent approach, Ben’s downward spiral isn’t as noticeable in the chaos of everything around him. But it’s there in facial expressions and jerky anxiety filled movements which is why by the time Wilford takes the engine, Ben’s defeat is palpable.
However it’s Layton and Roche that have the best performances of the episode, to me. Roche’s indecisiveness very much represents the audience. Many want to believe in Layton, want him to lead the train and make real change but it also can’t be denied that under Wilford everything ran smoother. It might not have been great for everyone, mostly the Tail, but it was comfortable for over half of the train. And if there’s one thing most people aren’t willing to give up or compromise on, it’s their comfort. Roche never really loss his comfort, he was too high up for Layton’s revolution to have any negative affects on his life. So his support of the man was easy. Now though, his support has landed him and his family in drawers. Which asks the question of was backing Andre the right choice to make? And Andre, well everything went to shit for him a long time ago. But it’s in episode seven that he can no longer hold onto to the leadership role that was slipping from his grasp anyway. In the last five minutes of the episode, Andre’s entire world comes crashing down. Wilford taking the engine means jail for Layton, it means being separated from Zarah and possibly never getting to see their child being born, it means the Tail will lose the little bit of protection they had. It means Andre has failed and his breakdown is imminent. If he’s even allowed to have one.
Everything that’s transpired in season two has been leading up to the moments we’ve begun to witness. Wilford’s plan has always been to take back Snowpiercer, and now he has. He’s also left Melanie out in the cold to die, he’s killed two birds with one stone in less than two hours. He’s won. So the two hour season finale has already promised to be the most wild experience of the show yet, it has no choice but to be. Snowpiercer has come a long way since season one, the set ups and pay offs have been worth it so far. There’s a lot to wrap up in the last two episodes, and even more ground work to be laid out for season three but all the evidence points towards Snowpiercer showing up and showing out. I’m confident it won’t disappoint.
Snowpiercer airs Monday nights on TNT
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