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Snowpiercer: Two Trains Extravaganza

In back to back episodes serving as the season finale, Snowpiercer took the audience for its most intense ride yet. Mr. Wilford’s heavy handed take over was just the tip of the avalanche and over the course of two hours he tightens that grip until there is no other choice but for Layton & friends to be separated, literally. With unexpected team ups, the reopening of a closed car, new alliances formed and a desperate attempt to do the impossible; Snowpiercer has set the ultimate standard for itself. How do you get the advantage over a man who’s only real concern is himself?

To start, in “The Show Must Go On”, Wilford attempts to restore his personal order to Snowpiercer. Which means picking off Layton and those loyal to him one by one. Without Melanie’s protection, everyone is vulnerable to Wilford and his erratic decisions. Layton is dealt with immediately and is sent to work in the compost car of Big Alice, he’s reduced to a shit scraper while Wilford gloats at him from a tiny window in a steel door. Ruth is offered a place at Wilford’s side because he knows that’s the one thing she’s been craving since the very beginning and Till is given the option of becoming his advisor because he needs someone to tell him right from wrong. But Wilford forgets that not everyone is simply going to fall at his feet because he says so, especially not with the freeing change they experienced under Layton’s rule. Both women turn Wilford’s job offerings down and pay for it in different ways.

Meanwhile Zarah is kept under tight lock and key while being supervised by Kevin, with a baby in her stomach she has turned into Wilford’s number one priority. She’s got a privilege no one else does. The man even goes as far as separating the only two engineers the trains have, pulling Javi to Big Alice’s engine room and sticking Skyes in Snowpiercer’s to keep an eye on Ben. The resistance cannot plan another revolution if they’re unable to be together, or at least that’s what Wilford thinks.

During a special dinner party, consisting of those most loyal to Layton plus Alex, LJ and Oseweiller; Wilford is met with push back from Alex after having spent all day joking about leaving Melanie out in the cold to die. Upset by her rebellion against him, Wilford sends her to the brig as punishment for even slightly wavering from his side. And then he unleashes his evilness on Ruth by sending her to join Andre in the compost car. Everyone he once thought loyal to him, is slowly starting to disappoint. Even Miss Audrey, who has turned into an intoxicated mess, isn’t as useful as he’d hoped her to be.

Though separated, it is Javi who starts fanning the flames of the next revolution; the take down Wilford revolution. After hearing Melanie’s voice on the radio, confirming she’s still alive, Javi is able to send a message to Layton by way of toilet paper stuffed in a lipstick tube. It’s time to make a break for it, and Layton is ready.

If there’s anything episode nine gets absolutely correct, it’s the portrayal of Wilford as the typical bigoted white man. He is every powerful man in charge ever. The charm he once showcased loudly and proudly has begun to fade into the background, much like the way politicians become sinister only after they’ve been elected into office. His disdain for anyone’s emotions other than his own only help convey the universally known concept of white men: they believe themselves to be the only important beings in the world. Their feelings, opinions and believes are the only ones that matter in the diverse and wide world. Wilford is the textbook definition of white privilege.

In the second half of the season finale, aka episode ten “Into The White”, the chaos aboard the conjoined trains reaches its boiling point. Layton, with the enormous help of Ruth, carries out a “foul and murderous plot” to get up train to Javi and then even farther uptrain to Snowpiercer’s engine. LJ begins her grooming lessons to take Alex’s place by Wilford’s side, Till’s loyalty is put under the ultimate test and Josie’s newfound freeze resistant body is given a mission to prove she’s the perfect experiment.

After besting their door guard, Layton and Ruth find Alex in the brig and she tells them about the secret entrance into Wilford’s bedroom which is directly connected to the engine room. Now Team Layton, Alex sets a plan in motion with them: they have to make it to the meet up spot and pick up Melanie. While she pretends to renounce her mother, Layton and everyone on Snowpiercer; Javi, Ruth and Andre send word to Ben that Melanie is alive and he’ll have to do something about Skyes so they can get ready to pick her up. With that plan in motion and communications going, Andre and Ruth keep moving.

But Wilford can only be kept in the dark for so long, when the trajectory of the trains changes just so slightly he is raises the alarms. And no one can stop him from sicking Jupiter on Javi, hitting Alex and all around losing his composer. After all, he is so close to the kind of order he craves he can taste it.

He makes one crucial error however, in his attempt to be more feared than respected; his sudden turn against a emotionally confused Alex. Instead of punishing Alex for her feelings about being reunited with her mother, Wilford should have helped her through them. Especially since he wanted to use Alex as his biggest pawn, however Wilford is an unchecked white man, everyone else’s feelings are unimportant to him. And his shunning of Alex is the slight tilt needed to finally push her over to Layton’s side.

As Wilford catches on to the coup taking place, Miss Audrey attempts to get Zarah to see reason. Unashamed of defecting, Audrey has no problem threatening Zarah with the idea that if she won’t be Team Wilford willingly then they have doctors that can remove her from the equation of being pregnant, the baby will be fine but Zarah won’t be so lucky. The meeting is interrupted by Till who delivers a much deserved knock out punch to Audrey’s face. With her as their captive, Team Layton now has some kind of leverage.

And they’re going to need it because the plan, thought up by Alex, is one of the craziest ideas any of them could have. If Wilford won’t stop the trains for Melanie, then those that want to rescue her will detach a few cars of their own, take Snowpiercer’s engine and go get her themselves. They have no other choice. It’s risky, but it’s doable and without Melanie they have no real hope of winning against Wilford; they have no hope of surviving.

In his rush to stop Layton & friends, Wilford demands that the Headwoods send Josie out on top of the train to get the drop and take the engine back from the enemy. Though the Headwoods claim she isn’t ready for that big of a mission, Wilford insists and without delay Josie is suited up and sent out into the cold. While he and Layton face off on opposite sides of the aquarium car, Josie makes it clear where her loyalties still lie. Using her newfound strength, Josie manages to crack the glass roof of the car which causes the entire thing to split down the middle. Now armed with a small crew and ten cars all to themselves, Layton & Friends race off to pick up Melanie. Only to find the station empty, her supplies and rations gone, and a note to Alex from Melanie saying that she’s walked off into the cold to die at peace. However Melanie did manage to save her data and leave it for them, proving that she was right and the earth is warming back up. Life off train is possible. With this newfound information and hope, Layton, Ben, Alex, Till and Josie prepare themselves to return to Big Alice and take back their whole train.

In terms of season finales, it doesn’t get much better than Snowpiercer. Season one ended on the cliffhanger of Wilford’s return, season two ends with the anxious thought of what Melanie’s perceived death means and how they’re going to survive long enough to take Wilford down. The stakes are much high now than they were before. But it’s not just the plot that Snowpiercer manages to get right, the depth in which they develop their characters also places the show high above the bar. Particularly it’s development of its women.

Whether you’re mad at Miss Audrey for defecting or not, her development in season two was top tier. She’s gone from mother of the Nightcar, temptress and psychologist to the ultimate survivor. No matter what you think of her, Audrey is a survivor. She accesses every situation and then acts accordingly to how it’ll benefit her best. It’s a trait that without a doubt was taught to her by Wilford but she’s turned it into a skill that should be envied by others. This is the post apocalyptic world, the concept of loyalty is almost nonexistent. Audrey’s switch to Team Wilford makes sense, especially after learning that he forced her to self harm but it’s not the change in her teams that makes her so fascinating. It’s the little trauma responses she has while being on his side. On the outside she may have defected but with every passing episode, Audrey begins to look worse and worse which means on the inside she’s fading away. We can only wonder what kind of person she’ll be by the time we get to season three.

Another character development worth noting is that of Josie. Unlike Audrey, Josie has never wavered on where she stands. She is with Layton until the end, she believes in life off train or at least equality for all onboard. However, personally, Josie has changed a lot. After her near death experience, Josie had lost her light. Which can’t be blamed on her because frostbite that severe would put a dimmer in anyone. Simply breathing hurt, Josie was in pain every second she was conscious. But the new body that was given to her by the Headwoods excites Josie, she wants to see what she can do with it and what it means for the fight she’s been in for the last seven years. She is the new advanced version of Icy Bob, but she won’t be as easily controlled as he was. On the flip side, Zarah has developed in an unexpected way this season as well. She’s probably still my least favorite character but season two Zarah is much more tolerable than season one Zarah was. Perhaps we can chalk it up to the pregnancy giving her some sense and making her more mature, either way this season showed that Zarah has some kind of depth to her. Often this season she was the voice of reason that Layton needed to hear, she even managed to overcome the jealous she felt for Josie and seems to have found peace in the relationship between her and Andre. It’s a nice change.

Characters aside, Snowpiercer also shocked me a bit by finally beginning to nibble on the subject of race. For the first time, it’s mentioned that Wilford is nothing but a bigoted white man. After an entire season of him being an undercover racist, Layton is finally able to sort of call him out to his face. The moment isn’t nearly long enough and it doesn’t really hold any weight in the grand scale of things but it’s a good starting point. My biggest hope for season three is more of the characters addressing racism. Not just Andre by himself but the others as well, because it’s there and continuing to overlook it will only hold Snowpiercer back as a series.

The best part of the two hour finale were the unexpected team ups, Layton and Ruth being the number one. They’ve been at such odds with each other the entire season, it was a delight to see them work together. The brief team up between Layton and Alex as they travel to the radio station for Melanie was also enjoyable. It will be interesting to see how being around others without any of Wilford’s influence at all is going to shape Alex. I also hope that we haven’t seen the last of Melanie. While not my favorite character, the show has been relying heavily upon her and to snatch her away like this seems like a disservice. Even if we only see her in flashbacks from now on, Snowpiercer needs Melanie Cavill.

I have a lot of hopes for season three, mainly I would like more Layton and Till scenes as their friendship is one of my favorite things about the show. I also hope for some sort of three way relationship between Layton, Josie and Zarah. It’s the post apocalypse, there’s no reason that if they wanted it badly enough, the three of them couldn’t work something out. Others dreams and hopes are pretty minuscule, I’m simply overjoyed that the series will be returning for a third season. I’m geeked to return to write about it.

-Danyi

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