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Television

‘Snowpiercer’ season 3 episode 6 review: ‘Born To Bleed”

Tonight’s Snowpiercer is the Pike-centric episode we’ve been waiting for.

“Each of us still living stands on a mountain of the dead; it’s something Layton conveniently forgets.” This is the best explanation we’re going to get as to why Pike tried to kill Andre Layton and why he feels in his heart that Andre is the wrong person to lead the survivors of Snowpiercer, 1,029 cars long. These two men are oil and water, and the irreconcilable differences between them finally arrived at a conclusion in “Born To Bleed,” an hour that determined which of them won’t reach New Eden alive.

This was the Pike-centric episode I’ve wanted to see for a long time, and it was a doozy. Though we never delved into who the man was in his former life before The Freeze, we have a much richer picture of who he’s become, what he cares about, and why his time on Snowpiercer was perhaps always going to lead to tragedy. Layton could never live up to Pike’s expectations because Layton is a pragmatist, whereas Pike prioritizes duty above all else. Duty to the Tail. Duty to the democratic values he and Andre fought to establish. Duty to honest governance.

Pike and Andre were always frenemies but a series of decisions Layton made Pike could never accept.  After the Tailie Revolution of Season 1, Andre took charge and never established the promised democracy. Pike was also never able to forgive Andre for having Pike do his dirty work for him by assassinating Terence. But still, while under the boot of the even worse Wilford for six months, Pike preferred the lesser of two evils.

Had this been it, it’s possible Pike and Layton could have settled their differences peacefully in that final sit-down. The final straw was Pike receiving confirmation of what he seemed to already suspect, that New Eden was a lie and that Layton conspired with others — including, of all people, Ruth — to undermine the integrity of the democratic vote with more lies. To Pike, that makes Andre no better than their original adversaries.

But while Pike could never forgive Layton, the most surprising turn came when the recovering Wilford told Audrey the war for him is over, that he’s not a young man anymore, that the science of Melanie’s warm spots has merit, and he’s ready to accept Layton’s reign. Audrey did not take that news well and fled from the library/prison car in disgust.

Wilford now has that car to himself as Sam Roche was released after his daughter, Carly, convinced him to take whatever steps were necessary to secure his release for the sake of the family. Alex made this reunion possible after bonding with Carly over her father and Alex’s shared history of almost killing Wilford.

Though this manages to still be a more normal exchange than the last time Alex hung out with someone closer to her age. That time on Snowpiercer, she smoked a joint under one of the train’s skylights with Lilah Jr., who infamously once poked out her own father’s eye and had a habit of playing with the glass replacement in her mouth. And as this episode proves, old habits die hard. Can someone please just introduce this kid to Miles already? Especially now that he’s finally back! Boy, that kid’s grown since the last time the writers acknowledged his existence!

A highlight of the episode is the cinematic direction in the early scene when Ruth visits Roche in his cell. The sequence is made up of mostly tight close-ups that linger for extended periods to emphasize how trapped Roche is both literally and emotionally. Even the blocking of the scene demonstrates this as actor Mike O’Malley never leaves the corner he’s curled up in. The reverse shots of Ruth too are tight close-ups but instead of shooting Alison Wright from below as if from Roche’s point of view, the camera hovers just over Ruth’s head, creating an uneasy sense of dislocation.

These camera and editing choices as well as O’Malley’s performance in this scene even do extra work in overcoming one of the episode’s few writing issues. Carly persuades her dad to take the steps necessary to secure his release by basically saying the same things Ruth says in this scene. This cold, alienating effect that feels more like an interrogation scene where Ruth comes off like an agent of an authoritarian system sells the idea that Roche isn’t ready to listen. The Carly scene later, in contrast, is less dislocated. It looks down on Sam from Carly’s standing point of view and up at Carly from Sam’s point of view because they’re really connecting.

“Born To Bleed” is one of the strongest installments of season three of Snowpiercer because it gives us that long-overdue deep dive into Pike’s psychology. This is also a well-balanced episode. My issue with “The First Blow” was it was all action with not enough focus on developing character. Then with last week’s “A New Life,” it lacked stakes because the suspense was neither built around a clear enough threat to Layton or his family nor a potential macro threat to the safety of the entire train. Here, writer Tiffany Ezuma deftly tells a human story while also convincing us that, in his desperation and with the amount of explosive material he has, Pike presents a real threat.

snowpiercer 3.6.1
Snowpiercer S 3 E 6: "Born To Bleed"
"Born To Bleed" is one of the strongest installments of Season 3 because it gives us that long-overdue deep dive into Pike's psychology. This is also a well-balanced episode. Here, writer Tiffany Ezuma deftly tells a human story while also convincing us that, in his desperation and with the amount of explosive material he has, Pike presents a real threat.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Strong performances from Steven Ogg and Mike O'Malley
Annalise Basso bringing back the creepy side of LJ
Miles is back!
Excellent directing in the Mike O'Malley scenes
Carly's pitch to convince her father was underwritten
8
Good

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