Before Bong Joon-ho made the Oscar-winning film Parasite (2020), he gave audiences the cult classic Snowpiercer (2013). People who saw it knew he was on to something. In the film, the earth is frozen. The survivors, rigidly divided according to class, circumnavigate the desolate world in a massive train that never stops. A thoughtful and fun movie, it was under-appreciated. The Snowpiercer series, which was recently released on Netflix, is a new story set in the film’s post-apocalyptic world. It retains the setting and themes from the movie, but fills the train with new characters and swaps the bloody rebellion by the train’s oppressed tail-folk for a whodunit.
A double betrayal
Snowpiercer episode seven, entitled ‘The Universe is Indifferent’ gets darker and shows cracks in Melanie Cavill’s armour (Melanie is the train’s tough-as-nails hospitality manager, played by Jennifer Connelly). With Layton (Daveed Diggs) out of the drawers, his whereabouts are hidden from the train authorities until he is betrayed by his former lover, Zarah. She had nursed him back to health when he came out of the drawer, but when confronted by Melanie who threatened her unborn child, she turned on him quickly and turns Josie (Layton’s rebellion comrade and now lover) over to the authorities.
Melanie fast-tracks Miles (the adopted son of Josie) into the engineer apprentice program, seemingly to use as leverage against Layton. He and Josie hatch a plan to get Miles taken to the infirmary. Josie, infiltrates the infirmary, posing as a nurse and tells her son, who is in the grip of the administration, that the rebellion is beginning. He says that he is ready.
Meanwhile, a conspiracy is brewing between the train’s upper crust and administration. The Folgers (the parents of LJ Folger, the teenage serial killer) and Commander Grey are planning to stage a coup against Melanie. They try to recruit Ruth, Melanie’s second in command, to replace her. Ruth is taken aback as she was lured by Grey and given the impression that he was interested in her and initially refuses. However, she later changes her mind and agrees to side with them when she is mistreated by Melanie.
The intriguing part about this clandestine meeting was learning how Ruth started her position on Snowpiercer. Before the world became a popsicle, a strange man approached her at the bed and breakfast she ran and was so impressed with her, he recruited her to the Snowpiercer hospitality team. The implication is that this mystery man is Mr Wilford, the head of the train, but since we know that there is no Wilford and Melanie has been impersonating him, how this will play out is unclear.
Melanie’s true colours
After Zarah’s betrayl, Josie is captured and interrogated by Melanie. Josie says that Melanie must have had reasons for her actions, but still deep down she must know that what she’s doing is wrong. Melanie responds saying that Snowpiercer is Mr Wilford’s brainchild, that he set the rules. She only inherited it. If she created the train’s system, it would be a more just world.
When Josie refuses to give up any information, Melanie freezes her finger. Disturbed by her own act of brutality, Melanie runs to bathroom to vomit, confirming Josie’s assessment of her. She’s clearly uncomfortable with certain aspects of her duties on the train. She regains momentum pretty quickly because when she returns from the bathroom, she threatens to harm Miles if Josie didn’t give Layton up. This starts a fight between the two that ends with Josie being frozen to death.
At the end of the episode, we see Layton distraught over Josie’s death. Eager for payback, he approaches LJ Folger. He knows that the psychotic first class girl delights in secrets, so he makes her an offer she can’t refuse, “How would you like to know the dirtiest little secret on the whole damn train?” If Layton tells the murderous teen about Melanie impersonating Mr Wilford, things are about to get very messy aboard Snowpiercer.
Creator: Graeme Manson, Josh Friedman
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs
Seasons: 1 (2020)
Streaming on: Netflix
For previous recaps of the show, see here.