Snowpiercer is a difficult watch in our current political climate. It's always had a poignance to it, considering that classism is alive and well in America, and global warming is what sparked the dystopia and forced everyone onto the train. But the riots in the tail hit even harder when we witness riots on our streets. The show is meant to be a work of fiction, but fiction's job has long been to highlight the darkness of reality. The parallels are undeniable, and they're as emotionally taxing — as they should be.
This week's voiceover is from Dr. Klimpt (Happy Anderson), Snowpiercer's physician. In it, he speaks of access, and how it's the hottest-traded commodity on the train. As he does, we see him pull a small pill-looking object from Nikki's (Madeleine Arthur) — the woman who was pulled out of suspended animation and wrongfully accused of murder — arm. The episode doesn't actually outline what that little pill is. But, given the fact that it's the focus of attention while the good doctor is talking about access, it feels safe to assume that the little pill, tracker, device … thing … is what grants you access from class to class, rather than something as basic as fingerprints or biometrics.
Then again, it could also be krono — the drug that made its rounds in the Tail and has been causing a whole lot of trouble for the upper-class cars. We have seen the drug before (last week after the young boy blew the cop to get "medicine" for his mother — more on that later), but never close-up. Really what I'm trying to say here is that we're not yet one-hundred percent sure what the hell it is, but imagine they'll explain more in future episodes.
If you recall, Andre (Daveed Diggs) got in a bit of a scuffle last week. Thankfully, Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) and her crew still very much need his help. Roche (Mike O'Malley) and Melanie do give him a bit of the third degree, but Andre's smart enough to know that they've got nothing and will continue to let him roam "free". Roche even shares a bit of his lunch with him midway through the episode.
Meanwhile, Bess (Mickey Sumner) gets a little action! It appears that she and Jinju (Susan Park) are a thing, though the level of seriousness remains in question. After their tryst, Bess mentions that they still need to interrogate Nikki. Jinju, who does genuinely appear to care, warns her not to cross Melanie and lets slip that the patient is a little out of it at the moment. Unfortunately, that tidbit reveals that Nikki's awake and that Bess and company have been lied to. Off the stalwart lady cop goes to find her partner and get to the bottom of this whole murder situation!
And of Jinju goes to warn Melanie that her lover's about to question someone she doesn't want her questioning. Yikes, Jinju.
Whether she wants them to or not, Andre and Bess still get some critical information from Nikki before Melanie can intervene. Remember that drug that we talked about in the beginning? Turns out it's a bastardized version of the chemicals they use to put people in the deep sleep. The partners make their way around the train to ask a few questions, but things don't really heat up until fight night.
What's fight night? It's basically a Thunderdome between two third class passengers for the enjoyment of those in second and first. Whoever wins said Thunderdome gets promoted from third class to second class. First class eats it up – they're classy like that. While all the excitement goes down, Andre manages to score a meeting with Terance (Shaun Toub). Terance leads the Janitors, and appears to be the primary dealer of kronos on Snowpiercer. This meeting directly results in a lead in the case and the leverage Andre needs to get a message (and a very important package) to Josie (Katie McGuinness).
While the theme of "Access is Power" is exactly what the episode outlines, it feels important to acknowledge the chess match that's being played out. As much as we see access playing an important role, there's also a whole lot of leverage coming into play. Andre remains alive because he's needed, and is able to get privileged information in order to go see Josie. Jinju cares about Bess, but sells her out in order to remain in Melanie's good graces. Meanwhile Melanie finds herself losing control and leverages old recordings of Mr. Wilford to calm the unhappy residents of Snowpiercer.
Everyone is playing a game, but not everyone realizes what chess piece they are in that game. Though she's currently occupying the role of a pawn, Bess Till might be the most interesting secondary character at this given moment. She maintains her disdain for Andre and the Tailies, but defended her partner when he was attacked and sprung to action when she got new information. Though she's got a serious amount of prejudice programmed into her, she genuinely wants to be a good cop.
Some interesting key narratives start to form in "Access is Power". Young LJ Folger (Annalise Basso) appears to have had some sort of relationship to Nikki, and her creepy bodyguard comes awful close to matching the suspect's description. What's going on with the most powerful family on the Snowpiercer? Guess we're going to have to find out next week!
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