Alright, so, by now you've seen the Snowpiercer season one finale, and read our corresponding review. If you've been following along with us for the whole season, you may have even read all of them. But those all posted before the episodes aired, which meant they were inherently spoiler free.
The finale posted a particularly daunting challenge because it was a two hour episode that wasn't intended to be one ending when it was created, which meant we couldn't discuss about 50% of what went down. It also (obviously) doesn't have an episode that follows, which is where we would usually discuss the previous week's spoiler-y information that was relevant to the overall narrative.
Well, now the gloves are off! (This is your spoiler warning!)
The New Dynamic
Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) knew she couldn't turn First Class. There's no reasoning with someone whose sole imperative is to ensure that they remain at the top. The Tail and Third Class, on the other hand, understand exactly what it takes to keep Snowpiercer running. More importantly, they understand that it doesn't run at all without its seemingly cold hearted engineer.
By trying to appeal to the lower-class members of Snowpiercer, Melanie directly results in the most interesting story points in the season finale.
Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) agrees to work with her for literally the survival of humanity. What he doesn't know at the time is that he will immediately be faced with the same kind of choices that Melanie had to deal with every day. After Snowpiercer's former leader literally cuts her access out of her own hand to transfer it to Andre, the leader of the resistance is faced with the most difficult choice of his life.
The plan was "simple": Andre and Melanie would decouple the train at different junctions, the section they decoupled would break off at the fork in the tracks, and the team in engineering would slow down the train so the parts of Snowpiercer could come back together. The risk? If they didn't manage to successfully recouple, the front of the train starves and the back of the train freezes.
After being held up by the jackboots, Andre makes it to his junction with only two minutes to spare. As he's ready to release the section, he realizes that it contains the holding car for the Tail and Third Class prisoners who are marked for death. Desperately, Andre fights his way into the car and tries to save his soldiers. But he quickly realizes that saving them in the time left is impossible.
In this moment, Andre is faced with the decision of killing all of humanity or letting fifty or so of his soldiers die. Andre Layton is a noble man, with noble causes, and he's forced to let a part of him die as he looks the prisoners in the eye and decouples their section and sends them all to death. He has to actively turn away from his people begging him to save them and and let them go. That is painting your hero into an interesting choice.
The Humanity of Melanie Cavill
“What do you want me to say? I’m mean? I’m ruthless? I’m a monster? Yeah. Sure. My way didn’t work. Maybe yours will.”
Everything Melanie Cavill did was for the survival of humanity. She sacrificed everything, even left her own daughter in the hands of her parents, in order to ensure that her species lived on. She lied and she tortured and she murdered, and then she put on her uniform and painted on a smile for the members of First Class. She let her genius be swept away under the name of Mr. Wilford, Snowpiercer's false god.
And throughout it all she only struggled with one thing in any meaningful way. The loss of Alexandra, her daughter, has haunted her every day for the last six years. She could get past murdering Tailies and freezing limbs off those who wronged the upper cars. Her analytical mind could justify all that. But nothing could ever logic away the fact that her daughter didn't make it on the train with her.
Though, in the end Snowpiercer's icy overlord ended up being its most interesting character not because she missed her daughter, or because she actually still had shreds of humanity left in her. It was because when she said that everything she had done since stepping on the train was for the survival of humanity, she meant it.
With the realization that her way had failed, Melanie immediately hands power over to Layton. She knows that she is the only person who can keep Snowpiercer running, but she's also fully aware that she is no longer the person who can keep order in her cars.
The Rise of Bess Till
Bess Till (Mickey Sumner) undoubtedly had the most predictable arc in the series, but that didn't make the ride any less fun. Watching her go from annoyed "beat cop" to an angry rebel was one of the many gifts that Snowpiercer's first season brought us.
You could see her struggling to find where she belonged between two worlds. Then, the moment Josie (Katie McGuinness) told her she was one of them in her dying moments, Till simply was. There was no longer any question of which side of this war she fell on, the love of her life be damned.
Before the credits roll on the season's final episode, Bess is given several solid moments. The obvious is when Layton is going to hand himself over to First Class and she calls him out on how stupid that is (every noble leader needs a second to tell them when they're being an absolute dimwit). The best is her impassioned speech to Roche (Mike O'Malley) when he wasn't sure which side of the war he fell on. And finally, there was the most overdue: her talk with Jinju (Susan Park).
It was nice to see a lesbian arc in the series. While it would have been nice if it weren't always doomed to fail, the women are given a nice (albeit vaguely hostile) final moment together. The simple fact is that they both see Snowpiercer as a priority, they just have different ways of devoting themselves to her.
The Next Revolution
A lot goes down in the last twenty minutes of the finale. While Andre struggles to keep order on between the rebels and First Class, a mysterious signal is picked up by Snowpiercer's CV radio. The reveal that it's a prototype train very likely piloted by Wilford himself results in the following:
- Bennett Knox (Iddo Goldberg) and Melanie are very much not speaking currently.
- Ruth Wardell (Alison Wright) completely losing her mind is confirmed.
- We learn that Wilford is, indeed, aboard this other train.
- Alexandra Cavill (Rowan Blanchard) is very much alive.
- Everyone on both trains has approximately thirteen minutes to survive. If they don't start moving in that time frame, they will all freeze to death.
- Melanie is currently stuck on the outside of both trains, because the sudden halt threw her as she attempted to decouple.
That's a lot to deal with in the first episode of the next season! Some of it will be handled over time (like the Melanie and Bennett drama, and Wardell's Wilford worship), but the majority of it will get touched on rather quickly.
Does Alexandra hate her mother? Will Melanie punch Wilford (who is confirmed to be played by Sean Bean) in the face, or forgive the series' own Wizard of Oz because he rescued her daughter? Will these two trains attempt to coexist, or will we see another war handled quickly in the season two premiere?
No one knows! But at least the train's resident sociopath, young LJ Folger (Annalise Basso) knows how to peel an egg now.
We'll see you next season!
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