Skip to main content

'Snowpiercer’ season 3 episode 3 review: 'The First Blow'

It is Layton versus Wilford in a fast-paced outing from the TNT post-apocalyptic drama.

Snowpiercer
(Image: © David Bukach/TNT)

Our Verdict

An exhilarating outing that delivers action and emotionally satisfying moments.

For

  • - Tense and well-plotted
  • - The Javi/Ben reunion
  • - Ruth's leadership role
  • - It is always fun to see Wilford bested
  • - How they have set up the next stage of the story

Against

  • - Yes there were deaths, but these high-stakes moments are reserved for recurring characters
  • - Will the abuse Miss Audrey suffered be revisited or is she now relegated to an antagonist role?

This post contains spoilers for Snowpiercer season 3 episode 3. Read our Snowpiercer season 3 episode 2 review here.  

Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) isn’t messing around in his bid to take back control from Wilford (Sean Bean) and Snowpiercer isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. With another face off between the two men, there is a worry that it could become repetitive, but for now it is the viewer and the revolution that comes out on top.

Last week I noted my disappointment that the various dynamics and motivations on the “pirate” train had been left relatively unexplored. While this quibble still stands, the manner in which Layton bested Wilford here is satisfying. Not to mention the lie he told to gain support for his grand exploration plan is a can of worms that is going to explode when the truth comes out — and the truth always comes out. 

Beating Wilford is far from easy. A second scheme is devised when Josie’s (Katie McGuinness) initial leap is blocked by a harpoon, which almost leads to a derailment. Quick thinking is required and Ben (Iddo Goldberg) ditches two of their carriages to ensure they stay on the tracks. Any advantage has quickly disappeared and Wilford is still a formidable opponent. He is also using the pregnant Zarah (Sheila Vand) as a shield because he thinks Layton will refrain from striking if he thinks his unborn baby is at risk. 

Snowpiercer

(Image credit: David Bukach/TNT)

There are many other factors at play, which include how effective the resistance is no matter the odds stacked against them. Ruth (Alison Wright) might be locked up, but she still leads from this restricted position. It helps that former Firsties like Stu Whiggins (Kristian Bruun) are susceptible to threats and the loyalty Wilford thinks he secured is as strong as a chocolate fireguard. Pike (Steven Ogg) wants to break Ruth out, but as always, the former head of hospitality takes the pragmatic approach to help the mission succeed. Ruth’s expertise ensures she knows exactly how to tell Layton their position now that Wilford has switched all the lights off, and everyone gets to experience a pretty fireworks show in the process.

An unshakable belief in his power is one reason why Wilford managed to snatch back control from Layton last season, but it's this arrogance that ultimately leads to his downfall. He preaches loyalty but everyone who stands by his side is there because he tortured them into submission. Though playing a villain now, let’s not forget what he did to Miss Audrey (Lena Hall) in order to reach this point of unwavering support. 

It is somewhat satisfying seeing Audrey tossed into working in third and banned from her beloved Night Car, and yet she shouldn’t be considered a lost cause even if she is an antagonist — hopefully, Snowpiercer won’t forget this either. She pokes at Bess (Mickey Sumner) when she points out that her jailer has no one, but romantic love is not all there is and Bess’ reaction to pulling Sam Roche (Mike O’Malley) out of the drawers speaks volumes.

Lena Hall and Mickey Sumner in Snowpiercer

(Image credit: David Bukach/TNT)

Kevin (Tom Lipinski) is another victim of Wilford’s terrifying methods, becoming a monster as a result. He eagerly accepts his torturing assignment when he is instructed to round up the key coconspirators. Strong Boy (Kurt Ostlund) has been fighting for the Tailies since the pilot and a lot has changed since he held Bess hostage. Unlike those on Wilford’s side, Strong Boy’s loyalty doesn’t have strings or terror attached. Kevin destroys his fingers and even the threat of freezing his tongue cannot force him to give up the goods. Tragically it isn’t only his tongue he loses. His death is an upsetting conclusion for a character who has been a force since day one, however, it also speaks to Snowpiercer’s tendency to kill recurring players rather than the main cast. 

Taking back the train without shedding any blood is Layton’s goal, which he thinks he has achieved (well, other than the injuries inflicted on Wilford). Unfortunately, the Night Car is the scene of not one but two deaths. This is one stab wound Kevin isn’t coming back from when L.J. (Annalise Basso) switches sides after it becomes clear that Layton’s plan has worked. She was thrilled to be the face of the Loyalty Wedding but she is an opportunist and self-preservation triumphs, which is why she is so dangerous. “Long live the resistance!” is L.J.’s response — someone is itching to stay in charge of the Night Car. 

Iddo Goldberg in Snowpiercer

(Image credit: David Bukach/TNT)

One person who is still an unknown entity is Asha (Archie Panjabi), who has been thrust into this battle after years in isolation. It is no wonder she retreats into her helmet when she feels threatened; her new celebrity status as a survivor from “New Eden” is likely going to spike Asha’s anxiety levels. She is now part of the lie Layton has spun to ensure the passengers vote for his plan to take them on a dangerous journey to the Horn of Africa. This stretch of track is the most dangerous (of course), but he is convinced this will pave the way for life off Snowpiercer. Ruth thinks the train “demands a lie” in order to run smoothly, but it is worrying that the already fragile ecosystem is being tested like this. 

The mood is mostly celebratory even if Wilford tries to get a rise out of Josie by calling her his monster before emphatically saying, “I am the train” from his new caged abode. You can’t count Wilford out, and now that Layton has been reunited with Zarah it gives the Great Engineer a wound to poke. His power has been stripped but it is going to take people like Javi (Roberto Urbina) time to break free of the mental bounds. To see him reunited with Ben is one of the most satisfying moments in an episode that successfully delivers action and hits emotional beats.  

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.