Snowpiercer: 1.04 Without Their Maker
Without Their Maker delivers up the best episode of Snowpiercer so far. One could be uncharitable and suggest that isn’t a particularly difficult task. Snowpiercer isn’t necessarily a bad show; it’s more just an average and easily forgotten one. It would appear though that with its fourth instalment some new and unexpected plot developments might be in the offing.
The episode starts, much like its predecessors, with Layton continuing his investigation into the murders aboard the giant locomotive that keeps the last remnants of humanity both safe but also effectively imprisoned at the same time. Alas, poor Nikki who had been wrongfully imprisoned for the murders, is soon unceremoniously murdered herself before we even really got a chance to get to know her in any meaningful way. It’s hard to feel any real emotion or sympathy for a character who was literally asleep in a drawer for the majority of their appearance.
The murder however does serve an important purpose. It enables our sleuths to deduct that the murderer must be a first class passenger and also that they must still be stuck somewhere in third class. The small riot that followed the fight night has meant that they couldn’t have returned. This sets into motion a chase that can only really end one way seeing as it’s taking place on a train with no way of getting off, and with the temperature outside below lethal levels, we’re not even going to be treated to the usual train chase sequences of people clambering about on the carriage roofs. By the shocking climax of the episode, the killer will have been identified, caught and taken care of but it is the secrets revealed along the way and the promise of interesting things to follow, that imply it may be too early to write Snowpiercer off just yet.
There is a relatively fair amount going on in this episode. As well as bringing the murder investigation effectively to a close, there is also the continuing subplot of the tailies rebellion bubbling under the surface. Using an access implant that Layton has supplied to them, Josie joins a sanitation crew and makes her way up to third class to rendezvous with a tail informant. This gives a glimpse into the way that tailies are used as manual labour aboard the train, which was something not really shown and has led me to wonder why you would keep them around anyway when resources are scarce. This does of course lead to further questions like who was meant to be doing these menial chores if the tailies hadn’t decided to force their way on board in the first place? Maybe I’m nitpicking but in my defence Snowpiercer does open itself up to a lot of questions. I’m sure much of this is the result of stretching a thin two-hour premise out into a 10-episode television series.
There is also more character development in Without Their Maker than there is in the three previous episodes combined. Before the chase of the murder suspect kicks off, we get to see brakeman Till with her girlfriend Jinju. By a naturally developed conversation, we are given the impression that Till is embarrassed to be seen in public with Jinju. This is a reversal of what you would expect, as Jinju is second class and above Till’s third class station. Till however knows that she will get grief from her fellow third class workers if they know she is seeing someone from “up class”. These scenes also come into play when Jinju is taken hostage by the murderer as it forms an emotional core we can relate to when Till is in pursuit. For once the show has given us some characters we care about and are invested in.
We also get to know some of the first class passengers a lot better as Melanie goes against the grain and brings Layton up to the head of the train so he can question potential witnesses. This causes a tense scene where Mrs Folger demands to speak to Mr Wilford about this intrusion. In a game of bluff, Melanie pretends to talk to the mysterious Mr Wilford on the phone and offers it to Mrs Folger. Melanie has judged the power of Mr Wilford’s myth to perfection and Mrs Folger backs down when faced with conversing with the train's creator himself. The younger Folger unfortunately doesn’t fare so well when Layton correctly accuses her of being in league with the murder suspect, the Folger families bodyguard, whom she has been engaged in a twisted relationship. Previously shown to be a general spoilt brat, we now get a lot more information on LJ Folger and her psychological problems. Annalise Basso puts in a creepy and effective performance and plays a game of seduction with Layton, promising him all kinds of rewards if he keeps her part in the murders a secret. Of course Layton being our stoic hero isn’t swayed by her promises and drops her well and truly in it, making her reveal her true violent nature to everyone.
With the investigation seemingly wrapped up, it looked like the remainder of the series was going to focus on the rebellion brewing in the lower classes and that were going to get a stretched out version of the movie. Instead the episode takes an unexpected turn which opens up a lot of questions about the future storyline. Whilst enjoying a celebratory drink with Melanie, things suddenly go south for Layton. Melanie says those words you never really want someone in a position of power to say, “you’ve seen too much” and the drugs she slipped into the sake start to take hold. Knowing that Layton has guessed that she is the train's true leader Melanie just can’t let him return to the tail. Instead our hero is abruptly put into one of the suspended animation drawers, leaving the viewer with a sense of shock and genuine interest into what may be coming next. Well played Snowpiercer, well played.
Dir: Christophe Schrewe, Clare Kilner, David Frazee, Everardo Gout, Frederick E.O. Toye, Graeme Manson, Helen Shaver, James Hawes, Leslie Hope, Rebecca Rodriguez, Sam Miller, Scott Derrickson | Cast: Alison Wright, Annalise Basso, Benjamin Haigh, Daveed Diggs, Iddo Goldberg, Jennifer Connelly, Katie McGuinness, Lena Hall, Mickey Sumner, Roberto Urbina, Sam Otto, Sasha Frolova, Sheila Vand, Susan Park | Writer: Graeme Manson