Many of the passengers of Snowpiercer greet Mr. Wilford’s return as a miraculous event, but this week’s episode reveals those onboard Big Alice are not the only survivors left for dead.
Somehow Josie survived her brawl with Melanie that ended with the latter trapping the former inside a rapidly freezing room. This raises a number of new complications, perhaps most of all for Zarah, who’s already been moved to what used to be first-class due to the threat of violence from Tailies who blame her for having ratted out Josie. And while Josie’s survival may mitigate some of the hostility towards Zarah and Melanie, Zarah is now left with uncertainty as to what role Andre will play in raising their child if Josie does make a significant recovery.
I imagine Josie’s alleged death and newly discovered alive-ness would all greatly impact Miles as well, but Miles — as is the case with Jinju — remains entirely missing in Season 2 so far. Miles was never told of his surrogate mother’s death during Season 1’s finale, and he’s weirdly no longer operating as an engineer with Bennett and Javi. Has young actor Jaylin Fletcher left the show? Or are the writers just waiting for the right time to bring him back into the story?
“Smolder To Life” starts answering some of our lingering questions. For instance, we now know just how big Big Alice is: 40 cars, bringing them from 994 cars at the season finale to now 1,034 cars. Big Alice houses roughly 100 people, who, as we may have suspected, have far more limited food supplies than the train with its own cattle cars. Also, as suspected, Kevin’s interrogation more or less confirmed the experimental goo used to treat Melanie’s frostbite last week is responsible for Icy Bob’s seeming immunity to extreme temperatures.
But the implications of Melanie’s snow sample was the biggest lingering question from “The Time of Two Engines.” Following the prisoner exchange — which actually goes smoother than expected — Snowpiercer launches a weather balloon. The lab on Big Alice already discovered ammonium sulfate in the snow sample. Now the weather balloon detecting lower temperatures in the upper atmosphere changes every climate model they have. This suggests the compound originally used to reflect the sun and reverse global warming, which ultimately caused their accelerated ice age, is breaking up and coming down.
This all means that instead of a thousand years, the survivors of Snowpiercer and Big Alice may see re-colonization in their lifetimes. But for that to be possible, it requires cooperation, which may prove too tall an order. The plan has two main phases. First, they must reboot a research station in the Rocky Mountains. And second, Snowpiercer must release a network of weather balloons at numerous spots around the world to provide data to that research station, which they’ll collect by returning to the station after a month.
It all sounds easy enough, but the devil is in the details. The line leading to the research station is not fit for Snowpiercer. Could it be fit for Big Alice? If so, that would require fixing the connecting mechanism Melanie blew up, the act that stalemated the two trains and made a truce even possible.
The plan also requires someone to stay behind to man the research station for a month while Snowpiercer is launching weather balloons, and only Melanie has the proper expertise to perform that function. And of course the obvious problem, Mr. Wilford appears to be a pathological narcissist who hates Melanie and is determined to control everything even perhaps if that means being a king who just rules over the ashes.
However, Mr. Wilford does appear at least rational enough to quickly call off his assassin — Melanie’s own daughter — upon learning all this game-changing news and having its legitimacy verified by his own scientists. So we know there’s at least some limitation to how far he’ll go to ruin everything. That being said, beyond his narcissism, he may also share another trait with a recent real-world American president as a cult made up of disillusioned passengers who view him as a messianic figure seems to be developing.
Despite this being his first time on Snowpiercer in over 7 years, a lot of people are already flashing his trademark three-fingered “W” salute. And having now watched Wilford command Kevin to commit suicide and compel Alexandra to become a would-be assassin, it’s easy to see him exert a Charles Manson or Keith Raniere-level influence on others. Further, the fact that the mysterious assailants removed precisely the other two digits from Lights’ hand all but confirms Bess Till’s fears that Wilford is already working behind the scenes on Snowpiercer.
Finally, it’s hard not to view Alexandra’s final parting act to mark the wall with her own blood — shed by the very box-cutter originally intended for assassination — as anything other than a threat of further violence despite Mr. Wilford’s promise to cease hostilities between the two engines.
While the season premiere served more as a continuation of the events of the finale, “Smolder To Life” acts as a truer setup for what’s to come this season, laying out a new mission, the steps our heroes will have to take to achieve that mission, and the obstacles they’ll face along the way.
I even suspect this episode may hold the key to almost every major turn we’ll see this season. Alexandra’s noticeable jealousy the moment Wilford embraces LJ. Zarah’s fears of losing Andre to Josie again. Audrey’s mysterious lurking in the background of the peace summit. Audrey ominously warned Layton last week that Wilford would take everything they fought for, and it’s clear the two have a personal history. Whatever that history is, it’s likely to threaten the already uneasy truce between these two engines, which may cost humanity its second chance at saving the Earth.
New episodes of Snowpiercer air Mondays on TNT.
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