After the fiasco of last week’s farce of a murder trial, Melanie needed to score a big win. And “Trouble Comes Sideways” gave it to her.
While holding Jinju captive in “Without Their Maker,” Erik shot part of the train. Now we learn the damage he caused before his death might have doomed everyone on board when an electrical failure is discovered. And that’s not even Melanie’s only problem this week. After commuting LJ’s sentence, it was inevitable that Audrey would follow through on her previous threat. Now the workers of the third class are striking to force Melanie’s hand. Plus, a freshly awoken Layton is gunning for her after discovering she’s making a list of passengers for possible experimentation.
It’s no surprise the true purpose of the drawers is Melanie’s contingency plan in case Snowpiercer ever goes sideways, figuratively and/or literally. That secret was predictable, but it was nice to learn a little more about that plan. We now know Snowpiercer has eleven cars with drawers and that at least some serious thought went into the selection process to determine who gets preserved to rebuild civilization as the last resort. I do hope the series delves deeper into that discussion later on what constitutes a valuable skill can be highly subjective.
While the bulk of the episode centers around preventing Snowpiercer’s derailing, perhaps the key revelation of “Trouble Comes Sideways” is learning Melanie has taken an interest in Miles. He’s even doing special school work for her involving parabolic equations. It may all just be about his relationship with Layton. After all, she does provide Miles with a gift by episode’s end in exchange for a mysterious favor. Or perhaps she knows there’s something special about Miles specifically. If so, why not pull him out of the tail sooner? But, if her interest in Miles is purely to use him as a pawn to manipulate Layton, why does it appear she is maintaining this relationship after sentencing Layton to a drawer?
The episode was a mixed bag in terms of its use of the supporting cast. It was nice to see Ruth strike a different tone, albeit briefly, this week, but it’s shocking we’ve spent so little time with her this far into the season. Osweiller also gets a bit of development as he bonds with Bess. Unfortunately, LJ and the Folgers were little more than extras here except for that wonderful moment of LJ performing her own tiny act of controlled chaos to seemingly assert some sense of power in the midst of wild destruction. Great economical character work there.
“Trouble Comes Sideways” took Melanie from her lowest point when just about everyone was turning against her, and gave her a big win. She saved the train. And even though Audrey seems more determined than ever to bring her down, Audrey can’t deny this was a massive setback for her strike plans. As much as people may take issue with Melanie’s or “Mr. Wilford’s” leadership, Melanie’s final words to Audrey (“Read the room; we’re alive.”) demonstrates Melanie’s power and value. Melanie’s banking on the existential threat from outside to keep the people in line, and at the moment, it appears she may be right.