There is no stopping this train!
- 🚄Momentum on the series still going strong. There is no fat on this episode what-so-ever.
- 🚄We see a true display of how far Wilford's worshippers are willing to go for him.
- 🚄Andre gets to play more of a role this week, though Melanie is still given more to do.
- 🚄The soap opera arc with Zarah and [redacted] weakens the overall narrative.
Loads of huge surprises came into play in “Smolder to Life.” It’s an unusual move for a second episode of a season, but it’s certainly not one I’m mad at! Given the tempo of these first two episodes, it’s clear that this year’s chapter of the TNT drama won’t be holding anything back. In this episode alone we see everything from human mutilation to some soap-y back-from-the dead drama before we can even take the fact that the world might be coming back to life into consideration.
For those who feared that Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) was going to be trapped in Wilford’s grasp for a prolonged period—fret not! She gets back on her train much sooner than later in an exchange for Wilford’s (Sean Bean) favorite hospitality specialist, Kevin (Tom Lipinski). Much to Big Alice’s hospitality specialist’s chagrin, she has a much more pleasant time when she arrives home than he does.
When Kevin was in Snowpiercer’s care, they gave him buffalo wings as an exchange for information. Given Big Alice’s food situation, this is the first time he’s seen his favorite food staple from his hometown since the world ended. While gobbling them down, Kevin shares the following information: The big brute has special skin grafted onto him so he’s not as affected by the cold, and Big Alice has around 100 occupants. All largely harmless information—but he doesn’t need to share those two factors with Wilford when he gets back home. Wilford’s not angry at the intel. He’s angry that Kevin’s shown them that they’re hungry.
What unfolds in a response is the perfect illustration of how far Joseph Wilford is willing to go, as well as the worship his devotees have for him. Kevin feels completely safe when he returns. He strips down in plain sight of Wilford, and happily crawls into the waiting bath that’s offered to him after his long day. Discomfort starts to show when his boss strips down and joins him in the tub, but still he chitters along. Upon gently explaining what his subordinate has done, Wilford hands him a straight razor and waits.
Kevin slits his wrist in the bathtub with no protest but to ask who will run hospitality when he’s gone.
The display here is one of absolute power. Wilford doesn’t just run Big Alice, he’s revered by his disciples. They worship to him to the point of suicide. Melanie knows this, and relays as much to Andre (Daveed Diggs)—but that doesn’t stop him from making a decision that could ultimately cost both of them (and all those in their charge) the train.
Upon realizing that CW7 is doing what they had ultimately hoped it would in a much tighter window, the two decide they must use Wilford and the resources he’s built on Big Alice in order to ensure the survival of humanity. (Maybe even one that exists off of Snowpiercer.) So, the two invite Wilford to hold a summit before the populace of both trains so Melanie can share her findings and they can hopefully get the train to see that Wilford stands against any kind of hope or unity.
While the Wilford play will end up being more of a long one, they are able to convince both sides of the population that Melanie’s theory is correct: there could very much be a world in the near future where they can deboard their respective trains and re-start life on Earth due to the changes they’re seeing in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, one complicated caveat includes the fact that Melanie will have to leave the train to boot up a research center. It’s a risky move for a million reasons, but everyone’s too excited at the chance of a new life to see them.
Everyone except for Mr. Wilford, that is. Having Melanie off-train does nothing but benefit this season’s villain. No one knows him better, and it seems likely that Andre will become hasty without her council. Then again, Wilford didn’t expect Andre to be a problem past the summit. He expected to have control of both trains before the night fell, but young Alex couldn’t go through with her assignment to kill Andre.
What, then, is to come of young Alexandra (Rowan Blanchard)? She’s currently Wilford’s strongest chess piece against Melanie, and she seems to be the only member of Big Alice who’s less under his spell and more just thankful he “saved” her. But will Wilford lash out? Will it be a sign of mercy to further his manipulation of Melanie’s daughter? Honestly, the quiet stress of what could happen there is infinitely more interesting than this weird “twist” that Josie (Katie McGuinness) survived Melanie’s torture.
There’s something so very soap-y about not only bringing the character back from the dead, but having Zarah (Sheila Vand) be the one to find her. Andre’s baby momma might not have ever had a redemption to begin with, but we certainly get a reminder that the Tail is right to despise her. What kind of sociopath tries to murder a comatose patient and then return to threaten them after they lose their nerve? Girl’s a mess and a half and her drama adds nothing to an already intense and interesting series.
And that’s the gist of “Smolder to Life.” You could nearly write a whole verse of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to this episode, and that’s before we touch on the minor plot points like LJ’s (Annalise Basso) plot to charm Mr. Wilford, or the tidbits that are too underdeveloped to explore yet like Lights’ (Miranda Edwards) assault from a likely Wilford worshipper. There are a ton of threads happening right now, and damn near all of them are compelling.
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