This Snowpiercer review contains spoilers.
Snowpiercer Episode 8
The only thing keeping Snowpiercer in any sort of working order, aside from hard work and Third Class laborers, is belief. The belief that Mr. Wilford is up in the front of the train, guiding the eternal engine, making sure everyone has enough food, and space, and frolic to keep them all from going mad. Mr. Wilford, the benevolent genius behind the life-saving train, and the man single-handedly keeping the human race from extinction. For people like Ruth (Alison Wright), Wilford is next to God in their eyes. For people like the Folgers, Wilford is the only person on the train with more money than them, and clout enough to get them thrown out of the train or worse should he wish it. Thus, he’s a useful fiction to have, until he’s no longer available. Now there are no higher powers around who can keep Melanie Cavill protected from the angry mob literally beating on her door.
When it comes to the time to put on the red armband and prepare for war, there are no people on the sidelines. When you’re Third Class or a Tailie, you’re either throwing in with the cause or getting out of the way. Everyone, from the tail to the brakemen, has to pick a side this week, as the quest for equality among the classes on Snowpiercer hits the armed revolution phase of the proceedings. Words happened, words helped, but the inequality between classes is too much for Third and Tail to bear any longer, and with a rallying cry of “One train!” echoing throughout the corridors, the march towards the engine begins.
Of course, one of the things that helps the revolution take place is the revolution taking place in First Class at the same time. Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) is on the hot seat, with Ruth, the Folgers, and Gray (Timothy V. Murphy, an imposing specimen indeed) turning on her to install a new regime after Miles (Jaylin Fletcher, who does a great job of showing Miles’ conflict) allows LJ (Annalise Basso, going full psychopath) into the front of the train to reveal Melanie’s biggest secret, the secret that she’s been killing people to keep. There is no Wilford, only Melanie, Bennett, and Avi keeping Snowpiercer’s “eternal engine” running with duct tape, rubber bands, and lots of elbow grease.
As there is no magic to the functioning of the train, there is no magic to the act of taking over the train. Two sides square off and whoever sheds the least amount of their own blood, and has the most resolve, wins. That resolve, that willingness to do whatever it takes to get ahead, might be what keeps Layton and his people from finishing the task they started. Those with nothing left to lose versus those who work for those who have everything to lose; the question is which side will break first, and how many people will have to die before one side or the other gives up?
“These Are His Revolutions” is one of the bloodiest episodes of television in quite some time, with some brutal close quarters battles using improvised weaponry that are medieval in their execution. Everardo Gout does a brilliant job showing the chaos of a scrum, when two shield walls smash together in an enclosed place, with every stab, thrust, and slash hitting home, particularly as Till (Mickey Sumner) dedicates herself to the cause and finds herself fully blooded in, literally, as part of the way going forward. Layton (Daveed Diggs) is also an excellent fighter, given his background in law enforcement, but it’s Gray that’s a machine. He slices and dices and roars with every massive blow he delivers, and he’s more formidable as a soldier than he is as a tactician. He takes a team of jackboots up to the top of the train to try and flank the people in the tunnels, and his only advice to the ones he leaves behind is to keep walking into the killing zone of the revolution’s spear launcher. Gray must be from the Zapp Brannigan school of combat, where you throw wave after wave of your own men at the problem until it goes away.
While the battles are cool (Layton’s rallying speeches are really well done courtesy of Tina De La Torre and Hiram Martinez), equally impressive is the way Gout shows the world crumbling in around Melanie. The trap is slow, but springs hard, and immediate, and it’s fun to watch Jennifer Connelly’s slow realization that she’s walked into a trap she’s not going to be able to fake a phone call to get out of. The multiple hard close-ups on Melanie’s eyes are particularly impressive as visuals, because it really pushes forward the narrative by showing that, behind her mask, she’s having a full-fledged meltdown, even if she never seems to break a sweat in front of the First Class committee (except for when LJ shows off the stolen picture of her deceased daughter).
The train’s God, Wilford, is dead. True believers, like Ruth, are stricken. Jackboots are taking to the hallways in force. Sedition has broken out, and those that make the train go, Third Class, have banded together with those with nothing to lose but their chains in pursuit of a better system, and a real place at the table of power. The Folgers, still pariahs among their first class brethren, are looking to take the power that they feel rightly belongs to them by usurping Melanie’s authority and putting themselves in charge. The only person who seems not worried by all this is, unsurprisingly, LJ Folger. She’s protected on both sides—she’s helping the revolt and helping her parents take over for Melanie—and, as a tried-and-true sociopath, is probably looking forward to getting out among the people with her dick-severing knife to do some indiscriminate damage.
Layton has nothing left to lose, Melanie will lose everything, and LJ literally can’t lose. Even if Third Class take the train, she’s on their side. If Third Class fails, she’ll be protected by her parents’ revolution. Even if both revolutions fail, well… she’s just a kid, right? And the next generation of Snowpiercer needs to be protected, even if they happen to be psychotic. The rest of the train knows the gravity of the situation they’re in; LJ is just thankful that, for once, something is happening.