What to Watch Verdict
The third season is already burning through the plot, but intriguing developments and questions are raised.
Archie Panjabi is a brilliant new addition
The audacious party
Loyalty is a strong theme
Alison Wright delivers another outstanding performance
Another high-stakes moment dodged
The fast pacing of the plotting pulls away from a potentially interesting story
Faith covers an array of beliefs that go beyond religion, and in a post-apocalyptic world with very few options for survival, it can take on a more practical form. In Snowpiercer, Wilford (Sean Bean) wants to be seen as a living savior and preaches loyalty as a means to wield control. It is a cult of personality, but even his most ardent acolytes have been known to change their minds. “The Last to Go” demonstrates his ability to dish out prizes to those he deems worthy and how even in dire conditions Wilford can still throw a fancy bash in a bid to further his cause.
Meanwhile, the newest passenger on the “pirate” train is getting used to being around people again, while also being thrust into this battle of wills between Layton (Daveed Diggs) and Wilford.
Wilford has transformed Snowpiercer into a place of worship, with L.J. and Oz's wedding highlighting this further. It wasn’t so long ago L.J. (Annalise Basso) was on trial for murder, but even in this environment the rich can get away with anything. L.J.’s manipulation skills are more obvious than Wilford’s, but in hitching her wagon to the great engineer she has secured a place near the top. Oz (Sam Otto) is wise to both their games but is ultimately happy to play along because he is no longer doing work he thinks is beneath him. His proposal is genuine, as is his discontent when Wilford turns the ceremony into a self-serving spectacle. However, a mixture of flattery toward the “opportunistic boy in blue” and Wilford urging him to flex his “previous vicious streak” sweeten the deal.
“The Loyalty Wedding” goes ahead with both bride and groom leaning into the decadent ceremony. For L.J., this secures their position as a “power couple” and Wilford gets to double down on the “unbreakable pact with the train” rhetoric. Wilford is both playing daddy (he gives L.J. away) and minister in his role presiding over the service. Instead of God, he speechifies about the train and anyone would think the couple is marrying Snowpiercer and not each other.
With morale low, Wilford utilizes this union to dish out extra hot food and alcohol to the passengers knowing they will remember this “gift” whenever Layton dares show his face. This is going to be sooner rather than later, as the “pirate” train isn’t the only thing speeding along. I was surprised that both the rebels have made their return and Ruth (Alison Wright) gave herself up so quickly.
The pacey plotting is a fascinating choice at this early stage in the third season; it is impossible to say how this will pay off. Although, the dynamic on the “pirate” train is so rich with so many competing motivations at play it would benefit the series to spend more time with this smaller group. Hopefully, this isn’t a missed opportunity.
On the "pirate" train, Asha’s (Archie Panjabi) arrival after being discovered in episode 1 offers an opportunity to depict someone who didn’t have the luxury of being on Snowpiercer. Her story is unsurprisingly harrowing — not only did she have to watch everyone around her die (including her nephew), but she has spent the last four years alone in the nuclear reactor. Asha clings to her radiation suit like it is a security blanket, which is a smart choice to show how little she has. Layton can’t expect her to follow his lead, even though he did rescue her, as we don’t know how she will respond to Wilford — especially as Asha is aware of the “great engineer.”
Challenges beyond Wilford impact their choices as satellites are degrading, making navigation harder. One plan is to travel to one more potential warm spot for further tests as Ben (Iddo Goldberg) thinks this could hold the key to their ongoing survival. The issue is that his theories and reality don’t match up, and patience (and food supplies) is beginning to dwindle. Whereas he has faith that Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) is still alive and that science will prove his hypothesis, everyone else is taking a more pragmatic approach.
“Another day, another near-death experience,” is the reaction Bess (Mickey Sumner) gives Layton when he confides in her about his Dragon’s Blood tree vision. She puts this specific image flashing before his starved oxygen and heat starved eyes as a mere coincidence rather than a sign that Ben is right. You see, this tree happens to only grow in the Gulf of Aden, which is the same location that Ben wants to travel to. No, Layton isn’t a tree expert, but it does help that the 10-car train contains the library and enough reference material to solve the species riddle. Layton also clears up the kiss moment with Josie (Katie McGuinness); turns out that awkwardness did result from the spontaneity. Layton mentions his delicate relationship situation but there is clearly unresolved tension even after this chat. We would benefit from more time on the “pirate” train.
Love can spring up in the coldest of environments, and it is Ruth’s rebellion that leads to some of the episode's best moments. She tries to get through to Javi (Roberto Urbina), but Wilford’s control over him is going to be hard to break. To help save Layton’s train she comes out of her freezing hiding hole.
Wilford’s tactics don’t work on Ruth, whether he is reflecting on the savage punishments she dished out or giving her a taste of this medicine. He dangles her inability to stay loyal to him in front of her face but her strength comes from elsewhere. “You can’t ignore love. You can’t predict it either,” is her warning to him in the scene before he is about to stick her arm out of the port. However, she is saved by the arrival of the rebel faction.
This is another case of pulling back before consequences occur and is another near-death (or in this case near-amputation) moment Snowpiercer dishes out. Wright is exceptional in this scene, and while I don’t want to see this character lose her arm, this series does keep dodging high-stakes consequences.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.