The first episode of season 2 of Snowpiercer had Snowpiercer and Big Alice slammed together. In the last episode of season 2, “Into the White,” a section of Snowpiercer is hijacked by Layton and his crew, creating a runaway pirate train.
Layton takes the main engine, 11 cars, and most of his rebels in a last, desperate attempt to return and retrieve Melanie and her irreplaceable data showing where the Earth is warming. But this desperate act leaves the bulk of the passengers to deal with Wilford on their own.
Season 2 has been a much different show from season 1, in some ways much better but in others, worse. Let’s talk about “The Show Must Go On” and “Into the White.”
1. The show badly fumbled Layton’s role until the end.
Andre Layton was front and center in season 1, crafting a terrific plan to take over the train from Wilford’s minions and free the Tailies to live in some semblance of normalcy instead of their crowded section where light hardly crept in.
But he’s been reduced to the background in most of season 2, giving orders here and there but rarely part of the action himself. His plan to win over Big Alice’s passengers by showing them how democracy is better stalled, Wilford was always one step ahead of him, and Layton seemed to become less ruthless and less pro-active. This is a man who survived for seven years in the darkness with patience and planning and inspired the passengers to install a democracy. That he never came up with a good counter to Wilford’s scheming is more a result of the writing, I believe, than the character. That the show focused so much on Wilford, allowing him to overshadow his opposition, is another fault in the writing.
In “The Show Must Go On” and “Into the White,” Layton is finally front and center, turning his imprisonment into a chance to take back the train. If only we’d seen more of this earlier.
2. Sean Bean lives.
While one star seems to be permanently gone from the series (see below), it appears it’s not yet time for Sean Bean to depart. The finale leaves Mr. Wilford off-balance with his train now severed in two, and he’s lost every engineer but himself. (Bennett, Melanie, Alex, and Javy are all with Layton or not otherwise available.)
Wilford does, however, have most of the resources of the train, and far too many people left to terrorize. At what point do the people turn on him? As I’ve said before, Wilford only knows how to break things: people, equipment, reason. But now in the middle of a crisis, he’s going to have to lead rather than indulge all his whims.
What Wilford wants is to live the rest of his life on the train, terrorize people in the process, and die having the most toys. It’s not a good plan for leadership. I’ve wondered all season why someone doesn’t just kill him (especially Layton), and while someone does try to kill him in “Into the White,” it doesn’t take. For now, Wilford has plot armor. I understand when you have Sean Bean, you need to use him, and he’s been wonderful in the role. But it’s made the season lopsided, with his end having all the weight.
3. Ruth, Josie, and Alex take control of their lives.
Ruth was my choice as the major snake who’d cozy up to Wilford this season. Instead, she’s been the character who changed the most. Not outwardly, as she still sees herself as ‘hospitality,’ but inwardly, as she realized her blind obedience to rules cost people their lives.
Her revelation: everyone on Snowpiercer needs hospitality’s protection. This revelation temporarily ends in her joining Layton in shoveling compost but eventually, she becomes a key part of the plot against Wilford. Unfortunately, she’s delayed at the end and lands on the wrong side of the train, with Wilford.
She’ll no doubt clash with Wilford, now that they’re stuck on the train together. Those confrontations should be interesting for season 3.Continued below
Josie is the ultimate survivor, having almost been killed by Melanie, been experimented on by the mad scientist doctors, and ordered about by Wilford as if she were his pawn. Why Wilford trusted Josie, of all people, to carry out his orders is mystifying but, then, he did just have his throat slit and wasn’t in the best frame of mind. Josie, naturally, does what she always does, and stands against oppressive authority. After a season with her as a patient and victim, her moment of triumph in destroying the aquarium car, thus creating the pirate train is one of the most satisfying notes in season 2.
As for Alex, it seemed she’d never turn on Wilford, who has groomed her from a young age. However, each horrible action by her father figure pushed her further away from him. Watching him commit an unspeakable crime was the final call to action. Alex slashes Wilford’s throat before managing to escape .
Too bad Alex didn’t kill Wilford. Alas, her attack on him was too late for Melanie.
4. There’s no mother-daughter reunion.
As much as I’ve complained that Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) sucked up all the air from the other characters, I expected her to be rescued at the conclusion of season 2. Instead, while she preserved the data that is humanity’s future, she’s most likely dead. Melanie left a diary for her daughter, saying she’d exhausted her rat food supply and walked off “into the white,” content in the knowledge that her daughter would someday have a world to live in.
While there wasn’t a body, Melanie appears to be very, very dead. I’m good with that, especially since so much of the train’s original treatment of the Tailies can be laid at her feet. She’s redeemed herself with her actions. Alex considers her mother redeemed too, for the supposed abandonment. Alex has lost the last of her family but she’s also regained the knowledge that her mother always loved her, and has a newfound family.
5. But there is hope for humanity.
Melanie’s data in documenting the hot spots of a warming Earth shows the path forward. Humanity can survive, if it can resist tearing itself apart on Snowpiercer, that is.
The data also means that Layton has a weapon to oppose Wilford next season. As Ruth points out in her opening narration of “The Show Must Go On,” Wilford rules by fear and hope is a counter to fear.
6. Some people never change.
Lilah, our murderer from season 1, seemed to be on a path to possibly see how vapid, selfish, and horrible she’d been in her life. She worked hard as a janitor. She started a romance with former Brakeman Oz.
But none of that matters when she gets a taste of the good life again. I hope more is done with Lilah next season to finish her character’s story, as she’s mostly been lurking in the background all season.
The most disappointing plot element this season has been the devolution of Audrey. Once Wilford’s lover, she recreated the Night Car as a place of solace for Snowpiercer’s passengers. But it only takes a few days with Wilford to turn her into his submissive lover again. I dislike this for a lot of reasons, mostly because it’s so hard for victims of abuse to watch. “Into the White” ends with Audrey stuck without Wilford on the pirate train. That’s good for her as I’d like to see her recover. But I doubt she will.
7. It sucks to be Kevin.
Kevin has had one of the worst times this season. He’s been enticed to suicide by Wilford, reprogrammed by Audrey, and became one of Wilford’s submissives. Kevin’s reward for all this? A literal slap upside the face and Wilford picking Ruth to head up hospitality, not him.
Having nothing left, Kevin attempts to kill Ruth when she returns for what is rightfully hers but ends up being tased by his own weapon. His story is emblematic of everyone who falls under Wilford’s sway: an empty shell.
8. Zarah again refuses to risk anything.Continued below
Layton’s ex-wife, Zarah, initially left the Tail to become a hostess in the Night Car. She wanted the illusion of safety and comfort there above staying with Layton. She gloomed onto Layton again in season 2 as the mother of his child, and almost killed her rival, Josie, in order to keep Layton for herself.
Zarah once again chooses what she sees as safety in refusing to join Layton on the pirate train. Wilford will take care of her, she tells Layton, because she’s pregnant. Right. This is a decision she’s going to regret.
I wonder why Layton didn’t force her to go with him to keep their child safe. But maybe he’s disgusted with her yet again.
9. It really sucks to be Javy.
At the end of season one, Engineer Javy allowed Big Alice to catch up to Snowpiercer, reasoning that perhaps they needed Wilford back to run the train. Terrible decision, Javy.
He pays the ultimate price for that error in judgment in the finale. He takes over Big Alice’s control room but only temporarily. When Wilford finally breaks in, he’s badly beaten. When Javy protests that Wilford can’t kill him because the train needs engineers, an enraged Wilford sics his attack dog on Javy. It’s a horrible death. (And, thank you, show, for not portraying it in full.)
Wilford is quite unhinged. What’s he going to do now that he’s the only engineer left to run the train?
10. What’s next?
The obvious focus for season 3, which is under production, is Layton’s pursuit of the main body of Snowpiercer and his final confrontation with Wilford. But there are a number of lingering plot elements left to explore.
Where is Pike? We’ve not seen him since he shaved his head. He’s a true wild card roaming around Snowpiercer. I hope he finds Ruth and they work together because that odd couple would be fun to watch.
There’s also the fate of the remaining Breachmen, Boki. We last saw him being taken by Wilford’s guards. If he’s on Snowpiercer, he’s likely imprisoned or dead. I hope he’s not dead. He steals every scene he’s in.
Will Roche and his family be revived now that Wilford needs someone to keep the peace? What horrors will Wilford commit before the train turns against him? How will the remaining residents of Snowpiercer, from the Tail to the second-and-third class passengers deal with each other now that their factions are essentially leaderless?
The show fell down this season on delving into these factions and instead focused on Wilford’s sadomasochism, but I would love to see these politics finally play out.