Jennifer Connelly’s absence over the past 2 weeks has allowed room for several characters to step into the spotlight, but this week is all about Melanie. We step away from the war between Layton and Wilford, following Melanie’s desperate survival story in the frozen wilderness outside. Unfortunately, the audience discovers with Melanie in the episode’s closing moments the war for Snowpiercer might be over, and her side may have already lost.
Melanie arrives at the Breslauer Weather Station. She’s able to recharge the life support in her suit in the nick of time, and it’s not long before she’s able to get the systems back online. Melanie’s greatest challenge in “Many Miles from Snowpiercer” proves not to be the technological operations required in collecting the readings from Snowpiercer’s weather balloons, but rather just figuring out how to survive the 30 days alone.
Melanie’s journey provides the writers a great opportunity to take us back to the final days that led to her decision to abandon Alexandra and Wilford. The flashbacks allow us a window into who Melanie is, but they also provide us with a glimpse at Wilford. We see the two-faced side of him Bennett described episodes ago as he tells Melanie that Snowpiercer is as much hers as his only to undermine her authority when it came to the big decisions.
Melanie wanted to prioritize geneticists who could help humanity’s long-term survival and to maximize the number of passengers. Wilford, instead, prioritized his own security forces along with the bread and circuses of the Night Car to keep the passengers happy and docile. “Nothing’s more important than order,” Wilford said before declaring himself Snowpiercer’s one true engineer.
The night of Snowpiercer’s departure 7 years ago, Wilford refused to wait for Melanie’s geneticists and issues a kill order to quell the mob of desperate people at the gates trying to get aboard. As Wilford radioed of his brief stepping off the train to communicate with Commander Grey, Melanie only had a 6-minute window to make the call. As she too wanted to leave the train looking for her family, Bennett implored her to make the call to depart early: “We can’t let that monster be in charge of what’s left of humanity!” Her final tearful words to herself as the train began to depart asked for Alexandra to forgive her.
Melanie also imagines conversations with key people in her life. Imaginary Andre taunts her about now getting a taste of what it was like being a Tailie. Imaginary Wilford gives voice to her fears and sense of hopelessness. Imaginary Alexandra forgives Melanie in her moment of despair as she comes to realize two days after Snowpiercer was supposed to make contact that it’s not coming.
This is the biggest emotional moment in the episode, and Connelly really goes for it here as we watch Melanie break down. This is her most moving scene in the series so far, and it’s further aided by Bobby Krlic’s beautiful score that carries echoes of Hans Zimmer’s from the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar.
It’s a bit surprising that we don’t get an Imaginary Bennett too given the role he occupies in her life now. I don’t know if that was due to the episode running long, if their relationship not being all that serious to Melanie, or if the writers just aren’t particularly interested in that relationship. Aside from the rare scene of the two talking business while starting their day, the show’s never really explored what these two really mean to each other.
But “Many Miles from Snowpiercer” is one of the stronger entries in the series. It gives Jennifer Connelly the opportunity to show off her range while giving the show itself new terrain to explore outside the train. It provides great context for Melanie’s history with Wilford as well as the circumstances that drove her to make the biggest decision of her life and perhaps of everyone else’s as well.
And the episode’s ominous ending — Alexandra calling out to Melanie from Snowpiercer’s new tail as the train blows past her 2 days behind schedule — sells a bleak picture of the outcome of the violent attack that ended last week’s episode. Perhaps Melanie could save humanity again if only she hadn’t missed the train.
New episodes of Snowpiercer air Mondays on TNT.
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