Snowpiercer: 1.07 The Universe Is Indifferent
It’s the lull before the storm onboard the train, as the revolution at the tail gathers steam. Like all revolutions, it is a violent and painful birth and central to the carnage is Melanie Cavill. The head of the train is taking no prisoners as she searches for Layton, determined to silence him forever before he can reveal her secret. To make matters worse the Folgers are also plotting a first class coup against Melanie as they look to replace her with Ruth. Life is about to change completely for the last vestiges of humanity aboard the one thousand and one carriages of the Snowpiercer.
I said in my review of the last episode that Jennifer Connelly had really stepped up to the plate and was undoubtedly the best thing about Snowpiercer. In The Universe Is Indifferent she absolutely shines as she displays Melanie Cavill’s ruthlessness and makes her into the complete villain that the series has been missing. Not content with threatening Zarah until she reveals that it was Josie who helped Layton escape the drawers, she then moves on to torturing Josie in a quite horrendous fashion. Imagine the previously seen punishment of smashing someones frozen arm with a sledgehammer but more localised to a finger. It is to Josie’s credit that even after this excruciating procedure she will not talk. She then doubles down further on the hardcore behaviour with her escape plan.
While Melanie is otherwise occupied she has Till, who has seemingly chose her side in the revolution, freeze her entire arm. This allows her to break it off completely and launch an attack when Melanie returns. I loved this scene and thought it was a very inventive idea, an almost unthinkable means of escaping as a last resort. The whole scene where Josie and Melanie fight is also well executed with the upper hand changing continually. Just when you think Josie is finally going to escape things take a turn for the worse and Melanie flees, leaving Josie to freeze to death. As the camera pulls away from the rapidly freezing window in the door it is with delicious irony that you see the whole torture and murder scenes have taken place in a room labelled “hospitality”.
As well as taking time out to torture and maim people, Melanie is also advancing her plans for Miles. After having him taken from the tail and enrolled as an apprentice, she suddenly fast tracks him into becoming an engineer, an opening having arisen after the death caused by the derailment incident in the previous episode. Her intentions for him are not immediately obvious at this point. Doubtlessly she has nefarious plans for him, possibly inline with the fate of the children in the original Snowpiercer movie. Whatever her plans, she has unwittingly given the leaders of the revolution eyes within the most vital and critical systems of the train.
Unfortunately for Melanie her problems do not begin and end with Layton and his attempts to get third class to join the tailies in revolution. She has issues far closer to home as Roche and the Folgers work on turning Ruth towards their cause. They want nothing less than to replace Melanie with Ruth as the head of the train. It’s unclear if Roche is romancing Ruth purely for this purpose, or if he has real feelings towards her. He does seem genuinely interested in her as they have a lunch date but his real intentions are shown when the Folger’s arrive and spell out their plans for sedition.
Things might have gone no further and the potential coup avoided, but when Ruth goes to tell Melanie of the plot she is angrily dismissed out of hand. Melanie’s temper has guaranteed a whole lot of trouble will be headed her way. Ruth is a character that has been playing second fiddle to Melanie until now, having her step out of the shadow and becoming a major player seems like a potentially good idea. A coup happening in first class simultaneously with a train wide revolution has all the ingredients for some absolute carnage. Hopefully the final few episodes of the season can deliver on this. I also hope they follow through with Melanie being positioned as the overall villain of the show. Her actions, threatening a pregnant woman and then torturing and killing another, would suggest this is how she is being positioned. She is shown however to have vulnerabilities, she is physically sick after killing Josie, and one could argue that everything she does is for the god of the train and its passengers.
Personally I hope that Melanie becomes a full blown ass-kicking bad guy. Jennifer Connelly certainly has the acting chops for this and Snowpiercer has been lacking a bit in the heroes and villains department. There is a general sense that you should be rooting for the tailies but it could easily be argued that the first class passengers haven’t really done anything wrong. Layton hasn’t really grown into the mantle of revolutionary leader yet; the death of his lover Josie will obviously intensify and focus his drive. Hopefully next episode there will be a rallying cry and factions will split into distinct groups. Drawing some definite lines and having some black and white divisions would improve the show as it builds up steam and heads towards it’s inevitable violent and bloody climax.
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