This Snowpiercer review contains spoilers.
Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 10
For the fifth time in the history of the show, the titular train of Snowpiercer finds itself under new ownership. Wilford built the thing, and then Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) stole it. She ran it successfully for 7 years, until it was taken over by Layton (Daveed Diggs). Layton’s tenure was not nearly as successful, because a returning Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean) hooked up to the tail end of Snowpiercer and took the thing back over, sending Layton and Ruth (Alison Wright) to the compost heap for their troubles. Nevertheless, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the one thing you can say about Andre Layton is that he doesn’t give up very easily, and he is very willing to get his poop-covered hands even dirtier during violence. And much like last time, he has help up train, and more of it.
So, after a tip-off from Javi (Roberto Urbina) via the sewer system, Layton and Ruth have a new motivating factor. Get the train back, and go get Melanie and the precious climate research she’s been working on. (That is in addition to getting the opportunity to stop sifting through human waste all day, which is its own reward.) Wilford, already a dictator, has absolutely no reason to let that happen and will risk just about everything to maintain his precious control, but people like Layton and Ruth have nothing left to lose, and are willing to undertake a very bold plan to wrench control of the train from Wilford and his goons. With the help of all the other little people Wilford has been stepping on along the way, of course.
That’s the thing about Wilford. Throughout his journey back to the top, he’s done very little to engender support from the sort of people he’ll need to run his train, like Ben (Iddo Goldberg, who has a pretty great fight scene) and Javi, or the people he’ll need to keep the population of said train under control without excessive bloodshed, like Till and Ruth. When you make enemies with the people who keep the lights on and keep the people happy, it is much more difficult to lead effectively, if only because they know exactly how to take over your train and all the little secrets about keeping it going.
That’s one of the clever things about the set-up for Layton’s and company’s move in Graeme Manson and Aubrey Nealon’s script. Layton can’t do any of it himself. He needs Ruth to get him out of the compost heap and to help him take out the goons guarding Javi. Alex knows the secret way into Wilford’s bedroom because she knows the trains like the back of her hand and she will be a good distraction for Wilford. They need Javi to run Big Alice and to talk to Ben about their plan. They need Ben on Snowpiercer to actually drive the thing.
Till grabs Audrey to use as leverage to keep Wilford in line until they pull their plan off. Bogie fights off guards and helps disconnect the emergency breakaway point behind the aquarium car. Layton’s original take-over was mostly about violence, with most of the people who matter to the train staying out of the way. This time, everyone important to the train pulls together, making Layton’s second revolution attempt a much more democratic version. Even the Headwoods play their part in the game, albeit unwittingly, when they let Josie free as the new replacement for Icy Bob.
All the pieces fall together because Wilford is the real enemy of the one hope the people on the train have of returning to a normal life somewhere in the world. Everyone on the train not named Wilford wants that; the only problem is, Wilford is the guy who can deny it to the group. The script is terse, whispered exchanged as they plan in secret, and big explosive scenes of Wilford yelling and slapping people, but Sean Bean is great at playing the character, particularly the shock on his face when Alex does her razor blade trick and gives him a little bit of his own medicine. Roberto Urbina also does some great work this week, as Javi is put into position as an unlikely hero who knows he’s not going to like what happens when you defy Wilford. Yet, he does it anyway because of loyalty to Melanie and the desire to see humans have a post-Wilford future. I would also be terrified of being beaten by goons and attacked by a dog and possibly tortured by a maniac.
The episode moves very quickly. Things happen, scenes move, and it only slows down just enough to let everyone get on the same page before it’s off to the next sequence. Clare Kilner does a good job of creating and sustaining that tension. There’s no ticking clock, but there may as well be as you can watch the chess pieces being moved in real time with guards heading this way and our protagonists heading in that direction.
People will be caught in the crossfire, and people will undoubtedly suffer because of this, but the move being made is logical, and the fact that they have to make the move or else lose all of their hard work and sacrifices makes the actions carry more weight as they happen. It’s bold moves all the way around, but the payoff is too big not to risk everything for.
Layton might not like killing, but he’s a killer. For the moment, he is spared from sacrificing a comparative innocent to achieve a bigger goal, but Wilford is not going to forget, or forgive, Layton putting Audrey in danger. There might be two trains for the moment, but those two trains will have to come back together again at some point, and then the battle for the soul of what is left of humanity will really kick into high gear.