Showcasing Alex leads to satisfying moments even if the return of a star isn't as effective as it could be.
- - The imagined conversations with Alex work well
- - Rowan Blanchard's emotional and nuanced performance
- - A potential spark between Till and Asha
- - Thorny leadership issues
- - The imagined conversations with Wilford are unnecessary
- - Amid the surprises are more predictable outcomes
Passengers aboard Snowpiercer have gone through several leadership changes since the series began. From Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) pretending Wilford (Sean Bean) was on board to the eventual return of the great engineer last season to Layton (Daveed Diggs) taking over in last week's episode. The plan to wrestle control back from the megalomaniac may not have been a bloodbath, but the casualties of his regime do not go unnoticed or forgotten.
Personal grievances aren’t the only bump in the road — or rather, track — as the path to the Horn of Africa throws up painful memories for Alex (Rowan Blanchard), while the return of a familiar face is both welcome and a distraction.
Snowpiercer has been full steam ahead in season 3, which hasn’t left much time to spend peeling back the effects of trauma. The six-month time jump between seasons was beneficial in terms of overall plotting, yet it also means we haven’t seen elements like Alex’s integration into the team after she ditched Wilford for her mother’s cause.
Alex’s role in the first three episodes was to depict an element of uncertainty both in herself and the mission at hand, but being back on Snowpiercer stirs up old feelings. This, coupled with the long-ago discarded Big Alice cars blocking the track, gives the teenager space to address losses both recent and past.
Last season when Melanie was on her solo expedition she conversed with Wilford, or at least a hallucinated version of her former mentor that filled in some of the storyline gaps. Now it is Melanie’s turn to be utilized as a companion for both her daughter and Wilford, as he sits in a cage.
It is wonderful to see Connelly again, even if there is still no word on a permanent return. Unfortunately, the impact is significantly reduced because of the time spent with Wilford. Yes, there is a connection and it taps into last season’s “Many Miles From Snowpiercer,” but this should have been for Alex’s benefit alone.
“Bound by One Track” opens with Alex reading Melanie’s journals while wishing death on Wilford — hey, a girl can multitask. Even though she blames him for her mother’s death, Alex admits later on that misses her father figure. “He murdered you and I miss him. What is wrong with me?” is quite the gut punch; Blanchard's performance deftly conveys this conflict amid sobs.
It isn’t only Melanie’s blood on Wilford's hands, as the cull on Big Alice previously mentioned shifts into focus when it is revealed that these carriages were dumped to cut population. Melanie isn’t the only person Alex confides in, as Ben (Iddo Goldberg) is part of the two-person team sent to disconnect the carriages blocking their path and she is compelled to share the dead body details before he sees the icy tomb for himself. “It’s my story. I just have to see it for myself,” is her response when Ben voices his concern about her mental state.
She explains that Wilford devised a ranking system and deemed the people worth saving as “the essentials.” Alex was chosen but her best friend was left to perish in the cold, which is a memory she had pushed away until now. Joyful flashbacks of kids being kids are woven together with the dark cold space, which is an effective way of highlighting Alex’s trauma. The presence of Melanie (while Ben is elsewhere) deepens the impact of this loss while also showing why she is attached to Wilford in spite of everything he has done. This conversation with her mother also leads to the solution they are looking for, which is a rather predictable but satisfactory conclusion nevertheless.
Back on Snowpiercer, several characters are trying to adjust to recent changes with varying results. Javi (Roberto Urbina) is still haunted by the dog that is no longer there and this nightmare is going to be hard to shake. Meanwhile, Roche (Mike O’Malley) struggles to deal with life outside of the drawers, while the death of his wife leads to a drastic plan.
At first, it seemed Roche was looking to die. Instead, it is Wilford he wants to permanently put to sleep. “Why did you do that?” Wilford asks after Roche injects him in the heart and it is satisfying seeing him scared and confused — the way Bean delivers this line with such surprise is excellent. Layton arrives before it is too late and Wilford gets to live another day.
Another person experiencing an array of emotions is Asha (Archie Panjabi), who doesn’t mind being part of the “New Eden” lie but is struggling to deal with the horrors she experienced. Flashes of the past reveal violence (including her recent scuffle with Layton), so boozy shots and the flashing lights of the Night Car are a bad combination. Luckily, Bess Till (Mickey Sumner) is on hand to step in when the light-up hula hoops become too much. There may be a romantic spark here, which is a promising development.
One couple that does take the next step is Ruth (Alison Wright) and Pike (Steven Ogg). Ruth is rejoining hospitality and on the night before her return to work she goes on a date with Pike. Pike has been hostile to Layton regarding his leadership, thinking Ruth would be a better candidate, and he cannot be convinced to take a position to reflect his involvement in the resistance. Power dynamics are fraught no matter who is at the top and Layton has several conflicts to address this week.
Zarah’s (Sheila Vand) medical procedure wasn’t as nefarious as the first episode made out and the gene therapy (similar to Josie’s) is something she consented to. It is an unexpected twist and one that causes the couple to revert to the issues that existed before they broke up the first time. Layton does come around to Zarah’s point by the end, but the vision of a happy family as he described the tree in his vision to her bump is short-lived.
"Bound by One Track" is a reminder that the past cannot be completely forgotten even with the hope of a future outdoors.
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.
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