This Snowpiercer review contains spoilers.
Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 2
When situations change on Snowpiercer, there’s not much chance for the characters to absorb the effects of that change before having to act on them. It wasn’t all that long ago that Oz (Sam Otto) and LJ (Annelise Basso) were banished to sanitation, working as janitors for their various abuses of power and crimes. Now, thanks to a little Wilford (Sean Bean) magic, they’re having the Snowpiercer equivalent of the Royal Wedding, the Loyal Wedding. Pomp, circumstance, free drinks, a day off of work, and a chance to get everyone looking away from the super-weapon Dr. Headwood (Sakina Jaffrey) is building to take care of the Layton situation once and for all. Except for Ruth, that is. Trapped in her evidence dungeon under First Class though she may be, it’s hard to keep secrets from Ruth, the heart and brain of Snowpiercer’s resistance movement.
It’s fitting that Ruth (Alison Wright), who always served the train to the best of her ability, continues to do that from the underground. She’s attuned to hearing without listening, to being in the background, to disappear until she’s needed, and all those organizational and planning skills that made her great as the head of hospitality on Wilford’s train make her a real thorn in the side of Wilford himself, and a huge loss for his train. Ruth might have not been able to keep people warm or increase the food supply, but she was good at keeping people working and happy, in a way Kevin (tom Lipinski) lacks. Kevin’s like Wilford’s attack dog, he’s not subtle about what he does, and he’s got no need to try. Sure, he can be friendly when needed, but those teeth are always on display.
Teeth are useful in an attack dog, and they’re even more useful in a charm offensive like the one Wilford launches off the back of the Folger-Osweiler wedding. Sean Bean is at his absolute best in these scenes, because he delivers a great monolog, he’s a captivating presence, and most importantly, he’s got a weirdly dangerous energy when needed. His scenes with fellow monster LJ are surprisingly sweet and kind, because she gets her place and knows what she signed up for, but his ball-squeezing contest with Oz is decidedly unsettling.
For me, the part where Bean fondles Sam Otto’s hands is more disturbing, because a lifetime of horror movies had me expecting the snap of a digit at any moment, and that it didn’t come now only makes it more likely in the future. Bean has a very casual sort of menace, and he’s able to use Wilford’s power as part of his performance by emphasizing his complete control in really unexpected ways. The show makes great hay with that, and Christop Schrewe’s direction really emphasizes just how odd Wilford can be, and how Wilford projects his control in unusual ways, like making Dr. Headwood and Kevin watch him in the bathtub when he’s not giving Oz a cup check right before his wedding night.
At least the possibility of a train versus train war seems to bring his true nature to the front. Wilford is able to pretend to be many things, but what he can’t hide is the happy gleam in his eye when it’s time to put someone else in their rightful place below him, be the center of the train’s attention, or try out his latest invention.
Most of the focus of the episode is on Wilford’s train, and the wedding, and it’s a good opportunity to dig into Wilford’s psyche and see once again how he controls the people around him even when they’re not interested in doing his bidding. It’s certainly a big shift from the way Layton does things, especially now that Layton is obsessed with finding the dragon’s blood tree in Yemen, where the last of the hot spots are on the map retrieved prior to the degradation of the orbital satellites. Marisha Mukerjee’s script does a solid job of providing issues for Layton and company to overcome, but the focus is rightly on Wilford’s Loyal Wedding and the secret EMP generator tests Wilford is conducting at the far end of the train.
Wilford’s scenes, particularly with Oz and LJ, are menacing and funny all at once, while Pike, Lights, and Ruth’s attempts to disable the EMP are as tense as anything gets on the show, thanks to the way the scene is edited and composed. Christoph Schrewe does a solid job with the actors, and has a nose for crafting tension, even in smaller moments like Ruth’s peeking in on Kevin at the beginning of the episode. The environment is so claustrophobic, and the show does such an effective job at creating an atmosphere of paranoia for everyone even remotely connected to the scheming and plotting.
I’m surprised that the two trains seem to be coming back together, but the one thing Snowpiercer doesn’t do is drag feet when it’s time to execute a big storyline, and no doubt there will be plenty of other things for the train to struggle with once all the pieces are back together, assuming the war between Big Alice and Snowpiercer resolves itself that neatly. Nothing seems to resolve neatly on Snowpiercer.