In an elegant bit of juxtaposition, Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 5 is a huge turning point both literally and in terms of narrative development.
The train is physically approaching Lhasa, Tibet’s Forbidden City (how symbolic is that?), the furthest point of its journey, and preparing to return to Melanie.
Meanwhile, the veiled and anticipated threat of Wilford and his follower is suddenly very real as the hooded assailants who mutilated Lights’ hand execute a coordinated and deadly attack on the breachmen of Snowpiercer.
And then, of course, there’s Audrey’s last-minute choice to stay in the belly of the beast, as it were. Similar to Icy Bob’s thoughts on Josie, I hope she knows what she’s doing.
Josie sets the tone with her voiceover in the opening scenes. We witness the painful and grotesque procedures she must undergo if she is ever to recover from her injuries. But what keeps her going is hope for herself and the Tail.
It’s easy to fight when you’ve never been hurt before. Until it happens, you’re invincible. But with every fight, there’s a risk. And sometimes, you’re sidelined. The road to recovery is long, endless when it’s not clear if you can recover. Some days, I lose sight of who I am, but I can’t forget what my mission is…. I have to keep the hope alive that I can still make a difference. If not, then what was coming back from the dead for? I count the days and pray to be whole again, back with my people on Snowpiercer, one thousand and thirty-four cars long.
Josie has always been a soldier as much as she was a healer. The Tail sees her as their patron and true leader, as evidenced by their send-off on Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 4.
But now, alone and extremely vulnerable behind enemy lines, sending her messages blindly into the network she must trust will safely convey it to Layton, Josie’s mettle is tested like it’s never been before.
So it’s a surreal relief for Icy Bob to be the one to reach out to her.
I love that the scarred and scary giant is able and willing to talk her through a panic attack and keep her secrets.
Talk about turning the monster myth on its head.
The trick is to externalize the pain. Don’t internalize it, or it will paralyze you.
Specifically, his advice to Josie on how to control her pain and panic gives us insight into how he’s managed to retain his sanity over the last seven years.
I often wonder about the many characters of Snowpiercer and what their lives were like before The Freeze. We only ever get snippets here and there and usually only when it’s convenient to the story.
For example, what did Pike do in the Beforetimes? Was his name even Pike before he picked up his weapon of choice?
Learning that Layton vouched for him after the death cults were dealt with in The Tail fills in a little of their relationship dynamic.
Pike: There’s no scribe writing Pike’s story in the history of Snowpiercer.
Layton: Tailie’s stories live longer, brother.
That phrase, “better man,” is such a recurring theme between the two of them.
It’s not only Pike that strives to do better. It’s Layton too. And, for both of them, it’s constantly getting harder to be that better man.
Terence: You come here to kill me and you want it to be fair?
Pike: It’s a Tail thing.
I’m honestly surprised that they were able to take Terence down as easily as they did. Annie’s usually always close by, and she wouldn’t have been easily convinced to “take a walk.”
But it’s also on Terence that he expected loyalty out of Osweiller. I mean, seriously?
For a train as crowded as it usually seems, many people got singled out and killed in a single night.
As clockwork as Layton’s plan was to get Pike alone with Terence, the coordination of the hooded Wilford cult members is even more impressive.
You hurt a lot of people in your past. People hurt you. You don’t want to feel pain but it’s unavoidable. Suffering is a part of the human condition. You can’t get to joy, to relief, without hurting. Sometimes yourself. Sometimes others.
And it’s not like they were trying to be subtle about it. There was a lot of blood splatter left in the wake of the breachmen’s deaths.
It’s only because Layton and Roche were headed in to see Breachman Boscovic that our Boki wasn’t numbered among the victims too.
What intrigued me is why Wilford would “use the breachmen” at all, never mind early (as described by the Drs. Headwood).
The breachmen are the only guild trained to repair the train from the outside.
While Snow-Alice is still a going concern, killing them all off is like throwing out all the firefighters at a pyrotechnics competition. In a forest. Surrounded by gasoline barrels.
For sure, it’ll throw Snowpiercer into chaos. The Tailies will be the primary suspects, and Till’s going to her hands full trying to solve this while keeping the peace.
But Wilford’s done a good job at distancing himself, even as he pulls the puppet strings.
We know that someone on Snowpiercer is signaling when the timing is right. If Till can track that someone down, she may have a chance of solving this case.
What Wilford doesn’t distance himself from is Miss Audrey.
Wilford: Fitting for an intimate evening?
Alex: You look fine.
Wilford: Fine? A young woman should have a firm aesthetic opinion, if not an outright stance, shouldn’t she?
Alex: Your sexism is showing again, Dubs.
And as much as she is a vulnerability for him, it appears that he has just as much influence on her. Or is that an act on her part?
Her choice to stay with him on Big Alice could be for a multitude of reasons.
I’d like to hope that she really does have the situation in hand, that her staying is to provide Snowpiercer with an advantage.
But there’s a genuine possibility that Wilford is her addiction and that she’s backslid into his orbit.
Layton: We’re asking an awful lot of you. You good with this?
Miss Audrey: I understand. We need to protect ourselves.
Layton: Only if you can protect yourself.
Her attempt to access the coms box is already on Wilford’s radar. As we’ve seen with his treatment of Alex, any suspicion of disloyalty is a capital offense, so he’s bound to confront her with that soon.
I am surprised by how impressive Ruth is here.
Not only is she the epitome of calm assurance in the face of Melanie’s failure to uplink, but she also rolls with the plan to hide this from the passengers.
Layton: Melanie’s the one thing that’s been keeping us all together.
Roche: She did it for seven years. It still means something.
Ruth: So, then we lie.
Layton: A lie for hope.
It’s been a revelation to see her choose to stand with Snowpiercer, knowing her worshipful attitude to Wilford.
I think if Wilford had invited her over to Big Alice at the start of the season, she would’ve been across that border like a shot.
You know, I’m not naive, Zarah. Never was. Never will be. I know that people in power lie. Even I’ve done things in teal I’m ashamed of.
I think the hope of the Earth warming and Melanie’s sacrifice has given her a lot of pride in Snowpiercer and the life they’ve carved out, even if she has to credit Layton with some of that.
As I’ve said before, it’s a season for redemption and resurrection. If Pike can be redeemed from being a cannibal, Ruth could also prove herself better than her past actions.
When you watch Snowpiercer online, pay close attention to who is watching whom.
Josie watches those around her. Icy Bob watches her. Alex watches Wilford and Sykes, while Wilford watches Audrey.
And when Layton gives Pike his killing orders, the camera watches from behind a partially-obstructing screen or blind. Because that discussion isn’t one that is meant for open air. No one’s hands are clean.
What’s Layton’s next move? Wilford’s? Audrey’s? Comment below with your best guesses!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.