Season 2 gave Snowpiercer a strong villain in Sean Bean’s Joseph Wilford. He’s charismatic, methodical, and willing to take big risks in order to get what he wants. And now his ruthless tenacity has paid off for the engine is now his once more.
We’ve known this was coming since “Many Miles from Snowpiercer,” when the train blew past Melanie without slowing down 2 days late as a distraught Alex called out to her mother from Big Alice’s engine in the back. “The Eternal Engineer” doesn’t quite catch up to that moment in the timeline, but the pieces have now fallen into place.
Breakman Sam Roche has been a significant peripheral character since the beginning, but we now finally explore his world. We only saw a glimpse of the conflicting politics in the Roche family last week, but it comes more into focus here as Sam is more firmly on Team Layton while his wife, Anne, is leaning Team Wilford.
When Roche switched sides during last season’s revolution, we didn’t know enough about him to understand what was at stake for him if he chose the losing side. Beyond the larger stakes of a narcissistic sociopath controlling the destinies of the last of humanity, Wilford’s victory puts Roche’s family in immediate jeopardy.
But while Roche is replaceable under the Wilford regime, Breachman Boki Boscovic may not be. And that could just prove Wilford’s ultimate undoing. Last week, I wondered if Boscovic was the last surviving Breachman on the Snowpiercer side of the border, and that is confirmed this week.
On Big Alice, we haven’t seen any Breachworkers. They might only have Icy Bob, who’s been conditioned to handle the extreme temperatures without the need of a special environmental suit. But if his sabotage mission is truly Bob’s final mission, Boscovic could be the last man across all 1,034 cars sufficiently trained to make external repairs under the extreme weather conditions, especially if Melanie isn’t picked up.
And though Boscovic initially wasn’t ready to believe Wilford was responsible for the deaths of his fellow Breachworkers, Icy Bob’s sloppiness eliminated all other suspects. Boscovic will want revenge, so suffice to say, he will likely be uncooperative, and he has too much leverage now to be dispatched. Even with Josie, who now has the potential to become the new Icy Bob, her ability to withstand the bitter cold makes her a great candidate to be eventually trained as a Breachworker, but her conversation with Audrey suggests her allegiances haven’t changed. No one can hold power on Snowpiercer without a loyal staff of Breachworkers.
Of course, the more predictable cog in Wilford’s plans remains Alexandra Cavill. Ever since Audrey defected, Wilford foolishly put his ace card, Melanie’s daughter, at a distance, keeping her in the dark on major operations. The early scene of Wilford playing dumb about the breach caused when Bob left for his sabotage mission terrifically demonstrates Wilford’s failure to read the room, in no small part again to the deft physical performance by Rowan Blanchard. Allowing his engineer as much bonding time with her mother was always a terrible play, but now also alienating Alexandra by pushing her to the sidelines will only come back to bite him on the ass.
But the final nail I see in Wilford’s coffin remains Audrey. The writers are working really hard to sell us on the legitimacy of Audrey’s defection. And while the nature of the kind of implied abuse she suffered by him in the past may have driven her back into his arms if it were possible all those years ago, seven years is a long time.
Audrey is no longer the same person she once was and has lived too long now as an independent woman outside of an unhealthy codependent relationship. Not only do I think she’s free of his thrall, but I suspect she’s masking total contempt for Wilford and will delight when the opportunity finally comes to exact her cruel revenge on him.
“The Eternal Engineer” sets us up for a climactic — and on this show maybe also climatic — showdown between Melanie and Wilford. As with last week, I do think some of this section of the season feels rushed. Even Wilford’s big moment where he takes credit for saving the train from crisis seems insufficient in being the final triumphant moment that instantly installs him as the undisputed ruler of the train.
And as we approach the season’s end, it occurs to me how marginalized LJ Folger was in Season 2 when Annalise Basso’s performance was one of last season’s strongest highlights. That being said, both Sean Bean and Rowan Blanchard delivered brilliantly, and “Many Miles from Snowpiercer” in particular let Jennifer Connelly remind us why she’s an Oscar winner.
It’s in the smaller moments that flesh out the details of the world where this episode shines. The Breachmen funeral where the bodies are jettisoned from the train, instantly freeze, and then shatter on impact is distinctly Snowpiercer. The chaos initially created just by leaky faucets too wonderfully illustrates the serious threat the comes from even the smallest problems in this world. Even the simple moment shared between Osweiller and LJ leading to their kiss adds great texture to everything and a nice reprieve from the main plot that, like Snowpiercer itself, is always advancing forward.
New episodes of Snowpiercer air Mondays on TNT.
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