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Blindspotting: The Degrees of Discipline

Kids are tough. They’re small people that are more often than not misunderstood. Adults simplify children because it makes taking care of them easier, for the grown ups. In Blindspotting’s third episode “The Rule of Three”, Sean starts spiraling out of control because his father isn’t there to be the disciplinary. So it falls upon Ashley to take him in hand, only she finds herself deeply conflicted on how to do it the right way. Meanwhile it’s Trish’s turn for her day to put its foot on her neck and not ease up, and the more she fights back the worse it gets.

Anyone who cares for children for an extended period of time knows that when things suddenly and drastically change they can start to act out. Sean’s entire world has been flipped upside, so it was only a matter of time before his behavior became less than stellar. Especially since his dad isn’t there to physically snatch him up and he knows his mom isn’t going to. After ruining Ashley and Trish’s morning with swift kicks to the legs, Sean’s put in time at Nancy’s while Ashley tries to figure out what to do about him.

Of course everyone has advice for her, Rainey insists that if she plans it correctly she’ll only ever have to discipline Sean physically three times as he’s growing up. But Ashley hesitates at the physical part. Miles pretty much agrees with his mom, she needs to karate chop Sean back multiple times in different ways. And he even points out that Ashley has her own standing with violence, she used to beat bitches up. Yorkie and Rob offer a bit more toned down solution. A slap or two to the face, which Yorkie quickly explains can be considered a spanking of the face depending on how you look at it. Even Scotty, Ashley’s manager at the hotel, suggests simple pops to the back of Sean’s hand could be enough. But Ashley balks at them all, she doesn’t want to get physical with her baby. She doesn’t want to contribute to the possibility of him growing up to be violent, which she eloquently explains to us in the episodes spoken word break of the fourth wall. It puts her between a rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, Trish’s day spirals in a different way. Determined to run her own strip club, she makes an appointment with the bank to apply for a loan. But the meeting doesn’t go the way she wants and Trish ends up losing her temper and getting kicked out. It doesn’t phase her until she heads to work where she’s surprised to find that the girls don’t take her side in the situation. They try to explain to Trish that most the time she’s on a level ten when she should be a on five, but she won’t hear it. The night turns worse when Trish is forced to go out on stage and dance despite the agreement she thought she had arranged with the owner. It’s a sobering moment for Trish, but she deals with it my throwing back alcohol; no one wants to be sober when life is shit.

Everything comes to a head when Ashley returns home that night to find that Trish took her work shoes without asking. Drunk and still seething about not getting the loan Trish pokes and prods at Ashley until the older woman snaps. Though she’s not the one who gets to Trish first, Rainey does and it just so happens that Sean is dropped off right as Grandma Rainey spanks Tia Trish’s face. And it strikes a bit of fear into him in the right way, which Ashley uses to her advantage to position herself as the parent Sean been a to listen to. At least while his dad is away.

As someone who cares for kids as a job, this episode was particularly interesting. How to discipline kids is always a heavily debated topic, because no two parents do it the same. And as society tries to constantly move forward in progressive ways, the act of hitting or spanking children is something that firmly divides people. And it’s divided on several different layers. Episode three attempts to unravel a few of those layers and mold itself a solution that works for the scenario. Sean isn’t bad kid, so what works for him might not work for other kids. Or could even just be a temporary fix. There’s the possibility that he could become a bad kid, once he learns that Ashley has been hiding the truth about Miles from him. But that bridge hasn’t been crossed yet.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode isn’t the tensions of what to do about Sean, it’s the little details of the other characters that reveal bigger plot points or deeper development of their character. For instance, we learned that Ashley comes from an abusive household, which is what makes her so firmly against physically disciplining Sean. She doesn’t want to repeat the cycle in anyway. We also saw another side of Trish, it was brief and nearly buried by her outburst at Ashley but earlier in the night it was there. After being shouted down by the owner of the strip club Trish had to get ready to go on stage and as she puts her makeup on we witness her break a little. There’s more to Trish than just the wildness and ratchet ways. Though it’s hard to feel sorry for her when it’s obvious she knows what she’s doing when she’s being a bitch. Which is super evident when after Rainey slaps her, Trish whines out the excuse that she’s drunk. As if that somehow makes her treatment of Ashley okay.

With each episode Blindspotting challenges what it means to be thought provoking television. It gives its characters different layers of personality instead of just sprinkling pieces and hoping something sticks. This is no more clearer than when it comes to Ashley and Trish. The show makes space for them both to exist and although they seem pitted against each other on a surface, it’s seems likely that could change soon. Especially since Ashley tried to apologize for her judgement of Trish’s clothes and attitude before the fight. She tried even though it got her nowhere. Which says a lot.

With each episode of Blindspotting I find myself loving it more and more. I was obsessed with the movie when it came out and now I find myself obsessing with the show. It’s an amazing when a show makes you feel like you can be as creative as you want and that’s what Blindspotting is doing. Giving us permission to present creations differently. Hopefully more TV shows will take after it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: The Roughest Day Ever

With its glowing running start, Blindspotting aced the pilot episode and starts digging in deep right away in the second. As we find out that Miles is sentenced to five years in the opening scene, the events of Ashley’s day following give us an up close look at the particular way women have to be strong no matter what. While it is often thought that the prison system only really affects those incarcerated, in “Smashley Rose” the perspective of those closest is brought into the spotlight. From Rainey’s sidewalk breakdown to Ashley’s hotel meltdown and Trish’s enhanced meanness; we learn learn a little more about these characters and the real life struggles they’re dealing with.

To start, while everyone around her crumbles Ashley forces herself to stay strong. She can’t break down about her life partners sentencing when she has to go work and pretend to be fine. She has to keep her head on straight for Sean. However there is no solace behind the desk of one of the most expensive hotels where the rich flaunt their egos and after unwanted advances plus verbal racial abuse Ashley has her moment. It’s beautiful and poignant to watch as she laments about the unfairness of the way the rich get richer and the poor suffer for it while she destroys the hotel room of the racist guest. It’s a something she honestly deserves. But it’s probably not enough.

Meanwhile Rainey has her own version of a breakdown. Miles is her son after all, and he’s being taken from her for five years. It’s a lot. And Rainey’s solution, after a round of embarrassing vocalization meditation, seems to be turning attention to Sean and how to tell him. Something Ashley is firmly against, but Rainey won’t be deterred and makes a trip to the library to find books that will help. She’s trying her best to be supportive but so far comes off a little tone deaf and overwhelming. Between Ashley’s unwillingness to tell Sean where his dad is and Rainey’s unsure-ness when it comes to where race should be included in which topic, the day is mostly a bust for them both. “It was a rough day,” to quote Mama Rainey.

Despite not seeing much of her in this episode, Trish’s presence is still just as big as it was in the first one. She’s very upset about Miles’s sentencing and though she has comforting hugs for her mom, icy words and deathly glares are all she spares Ashley. Not only has her brother been taken away but now the possibility of Ashley staying with them for five years is very much the elephant in the room. And Trish is not happy about it at all. Though as Janelle points out at the end of the episode, she and Ashley used to be hella mean too.

A bright spot in the drama heavy episode was that of Earl, the neighbor renting the spare room in Nancy’s house. Earl is obviously the comedic relief of the show but there’s something deeper to him as well. He’s nice, polite and friendly even though Janelle mostly snips and snaps at him for being too silent. He’s even got a cheerful attitude as he explains why he’s got foot up foot of extension cords wrapped around one shoulder; to keep the battery on his monitor up when he’s out. He’s fairly chipper about the whole situation so far.

With only thirty minutes, there’s not room for anything that’s not important plot wise and so far every second of Blindspotting has been an improvement to the story and absolutely worth it. Especially things like the deep inner looks at how Ashley’s mind is dealing with Miles’s sentence, by creating an imaginary Miles to be at her side which I hope is handled carefully seeing as how this could easily become the Miles show without meaning too, and the subtle way Janelle is avoiding talking about why she’s back in town suddenly, always changing the subject and brushing it off. Plot details like that mixed together with the seamless dance choreography and breakage of the fourth wall have produced an outcome that is something completely unique. Every detail is breathing life into the bigger picture of this perspective of Oakland life. And telling a captivating story while doing it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on STARZ

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: Welcome To The Best New Show On TV

Disclaimer: I am not from Oakland, so most references and homages to the Bay will go over my head. That’s entirely my bad. Now, let’s get into it.

In 2018 one of the most stunning movies in the last decade, Blindspotting showed us what’s it’s like to witness police brutality and the mental ramifications it can have. But it was also a love letter to a place like no other, Oakland California aka The Bay Area. Using spoken verse the film connected its audience to a culture most of us will never be able to see in person and it gave insight into the complicated world of male friendship. It was a masterpiece and there will probably never be another film like it. Which is why the chance it’s been given to expand the Blindspotting universe in the form of television couldn’t have been given to more deserving content.

In the film, life was shown to us through Collin’s eyes and it was his story he shared with his best friend Miles. We only caught glimpses of Ashley, Mile’s life partner, her story wasn’t fulfilling as it could have been. Now the show has come to rectify that. Here, this is Ashley’s world and she’s telling the story. And from her perspective, life is much more complicated than it seems. With the love of her life behind bars, the newly established security of a better life is ripped from under Ashley’s feet; leaving her to pick up the pieces. She’s thrown from a middle class lifestyle back into her Bay Area hood roots and no matter how much she wants to escape it, it’s the place where her support system resides. So she has no choice but to deal.

Despite being only a half hour, Blindspotting comes out the gate swinging. It throws the only character the audience really knew behind bars and shifts focus towards the side characters and the ones mentioned only by name in the movie. With Miles locked up, Ashley is forced to take their son, move in with his mother and half sister, and figure out how she’s going to survive. She and Miles were on their way out of the hood, now Ashley is back to square one and not everyone is happy about her return to the neighborhood. Hell, Ashley herself isn’t too pleased about the entire situation. She depended on Miles, she doesn’t even know their online banking password. Not to mention Trish, his half sister, has zero love for Ashley and loudly makes it known whenever she can. The dislike is mutual though and Ashley has no problem voicing how much she disapproves of Trish’s sex work lifestyle. But as much as Trish can’t stand Ashley, she and Miles’s mother Rainey seems to love her daughter in law very much. At least enough to allow her and Sean to move into her home on a whim’s notice. However Rainey’s house is a place of controlled chaos. Trish’s latest dream of running a female owned strip club has set up base in her mother’s living room. All day long girls walk around with little to no clothes on and constantly pose for sexy pictures. It’s not exactly the best place for a little boy. But again, what choice does she have?

There is solace in the chaos of returning home though. For Ashley it comes in the form of Janelle, her best friend and Collin’s little sister. Janelle has been away traveling world for five years and now that she’s back, Ashley’s got someone completely in her corner. Which is what she needs. And even though her daughter is practically disgusted with the new living arrangements, Rainey is also in Ashley’s corner. Proven when, after Ashley discovers an engagement ring in Miles’s old room, Rainey tries to comfort her by getting on one knee and pretending to be her son. It’s weird and awkward but it’s the thought that counts. Life has been turned upside down for Ashley, she’s gonna need all the help she can get to keep afloat and not lose her sanity in the process.

While the film was entirely male centric and through the male gaze, the show completely diverts from that and centers itself around the women. This is Ashley’s show, it’s her world, her perspective and her journey. And it’s being told by mostly women as well. Taking the criticisms of the film seriously it’s creators Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have established a very woman heavy crew behind the scenes, especially in the writers room. Which is probably what makes Blindspotting feel so refreshing and new even though it’s a world we have been to before.

Having only seen the first episode there isn’t much to be reviewed as pilots are always the set up and establish episode. But the show is beautiful both visually and as modern content. There is no other place like The Bay, it’s a little world of its own and I’ve never seen a place presented to the audience the way Blindspotting shows us Oakland. Every inch of the neighborhood Ashley has returned to is full of life and anytime is a great time to turn up. Like the sideshow she and Sean attend in the middle of the afternoon.

The cast is brilliant and stacked with major talent. Jasmine Cephas-Jones has been a star in the making for a while and now her time to shine is here. She’s given life to Ashley in both new and old ways, the fierce protective mother we saw in the film is still present but in the show it seems she’s going to be allowed to be more than just Miles’s baby mama; and rightfully so. Right behind Cephas-Jones is Jaylen Barron who steals every scene she’s in as Trish. Outrageous and loud, Trish is like her brother but times ten and though she may be abrasive she made several points from the moment she appeared on screen. With the demeanor of Miles and Trish, it’s intriguing that they have such a hippie like mother as Rainey but it’s not often that a legend such as Helen Hunt agrees to be in the first season of an experimental tv show and it’s delightful to see her play off the likes of Cephas-Jones and Barron. Rounding out the impressive cast of women is Candace Nicholas-Lippman who, though we haven’t seen much of, lit up the entire screen with her bright and gorgeous smile. It’s a smile much like Daveed Diggs’s, meaning the casting department made the right decision in giving her the part of Collin’s little sister. Hopefully we’ll get to insight into what their relationship is like and what it’s like to return home by choice for her. Finally we have Earl, Janelle’s new roommate who is renting out the spare room in her mother’s home. Played by Benjamin Earl Turner, the most we know about Earl at the moment is that he spends a lot of time yelling across the street for someone to get him a burrito from the taco truck since he’s on house arrest and the truck is just beyond his monitor’s permitted perimeter. It’ll be exciting to see what he’ll bring to the show in later episodes.

I am excited for the plot points that had seeds planted in the first episode. At the top of my list is the dynamic between Ashley and Trish, if it’s not a highlight of the series then it will be an opportunity missed. Trish and Ashley are two sides of the same coin, they come from the same background but live their lives very differently and endlessly judge the other for the choices they have made. Which is a very real thing for a lot of women. It will be interesting to see where this sister-in-hate relationship goes, especially with the jarring way Ashley snips and snarks about Trish’s line of work. I sincerely hope the inner workings, internalized fear and the societal pressure that weigh down and project onto these two is addressed and explored.

It will also be interesting to see the way Blindspotting develops and grows its side characters. In the movie, there wasn’t enough time to tell Collin’s story, a bit of Miles’s and give Ashley the growth she deserved. With television, growth is the only way to keep a show interesting. So I hope to see in depth development to the likes of Janelle, Earl, Trish, Sean and Rainey. But I’m especially interested in Janelle and Earl, both of them have potential to make great characters. And since they both are the darkest of the main cast, I really hope that they’re given more substance than just being the comedic relief.

I’m very hopeful for the story Blindspotting is about to tell us. I still frequently watch the movie so now that it’s having its universe extended, I couldn’t be happier. I’m geeked for this Oakland takeover we’re about to witness.

Blindspotting is available on Starz, new episodes premiere Sunday nights.

-Danyi

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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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black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Snowpiercer: You Have The Engine

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

-Danyi

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