This Snowpiercer review contains spoilers.
Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 4
Two of the more curious aspects of Snowpiercer is the fact that there’s a cabaret/bar/talk therapy center called the Night Car and that the tea room has become the de-facto church for anyone on board the train who still has faith in some sort of higher power. The need for religious services and entertainment is a known factor, but the fact that both the Night Car and the Tea Room serve more as locations for counseling than their original locations is interesting, to say the least. Like everything else on Snowpiercer, adaptations have been made during the time the train’s been rolling across the frozen world, and the Snowpiercer that Mr. Wilford enters into for the celebration of science is much different than the one he’d envisioned.
The biggest thing that Snowpiercer did with the introduction of Mr. Wilford as a living, breathing character is shake up the core belief system of the train to a great extent. Wilford was alive, guiding them all with his benevolence, then he was actually dead, only for him to reappear in living form once more with a second super train to attempt a hostile takeover of Snowpiercer. It’s psychological whiplash, particularly for those with loyalty to Wilford from before. He’s alive but not; he’s dead but not; he’s back to save us all but maybe not. No wonder everyone is fighting with each other and every faction on the train is scrambling for relevance. Breechmen might be working for Wilford directly. Tailies have taken over the black market. The janitors are trying desperately to hang onto what they have acquired. No one has a new place in this world quite yet, and everyone seems to be feeling the strain.
Snowpiercer has been probing some touchy territory lately, what with the many references to wrist cutting and the role that has in Wilford’s peculiar psychosexual relationship with his underlings. First Kevin, now Audrey from the Night Car has her own sad story about Wilford climbing into the tub with her and handing her an open razorblade. It’s not detailed, but enough of the clues are provided to allow the audience to put it together. (Credit to them for putting a chyron at the end of the episode with support numbers for people triggered by the images of self-harm.) Audrey was a high-priced escort in Chicago. More than that, she was the object of Wilford’s devotion/obsession, and that returns during Wilford’s trip into the Night Car.
It is a stunning sequence. There is a limit to what can be shown on basic cable and Snowpiercer manages to make the interplay between Wilford and Audrey all the more disgusting and terrible for what director David Frazee doesn’t show, rather than what is shown. Lena Hall and Sean Bean have a palpable chemistry, and the scenes with the two of them are, at times, hard to watch, even before Audrey starts feeding Wilford like a dog at her feet.
Hall makes great use of her dancing background in the bookend segments of the episode, and her singing remains a positive attribute. When she’s given the opportunity to do something outside of her usual routine of hanging around the Night Car and standing up for Third Class, she’s able to make a strong impression solely with the pain and distance in her eyes. There’s Audrey on stage, reaching out to the audience with a gripping performance of Portishead’s “Glory Box” and smiling for the public.
There’s Audrey, charming Wilford on his way back into the private booth for Snowpiercer-style psychoanalysis. And then there’s Audrey, dead-eyed and numb with a plastic smile on her face as she gives up a piece of her soul up in exchange for some measure of control over Wilford. Sean Bean does his part, as expected, both charming and dangerous by turn, but it is his aggressively needy begging in the Night Car’s private area that really pushes forward just how broken Wilford truly is.
Wilford is not the only broken person. Everyone on Snowpiercer has lost someone, either recently or in the past. The world is full of dead people; every revolution is a walk through a frozen graveyard, and that’s before the violent clashes between passenger classes and attempted violent invasion of Big Alice. Kiersten Van Horne’s script makes it clear; the pressure is building.
There hasn’t been much time for anyone to decompress, and everyone seems to be feeling the pressure, in particular Till (Mickey Sumner, putting in solid work), who both cries during a visit to the Tea Room and gets drunk and makes out with a woman during the celebratory party in the Night Car. LJ and Alex, The Last Australian (Aaron Glenane) and Emelia the tailor (Georgina Haig) from Big Alice, even Layton and Zarah… everyone seems to be looking for someone to lean on during what might be the first steps towards a new world outside the train.
That’s certainly something to celebrate, but it is also something that is going to make an already unbalanced environment on Snowpiercer (and to a lesser extent Big Alice) all the more unbalanced. Wilford has gotten a taste of what he was supposed to be enjoying on Snowpiercer; Audrey might have some degree of sway, but there is no way someone like Wilford would be blinded enough by love or lust or control to lose sight of the bigger picture. If everyone is waiting breathlessly for the next update from Melanie and her weather balloons, no one is going to be paying attention to Wilford’s machinations.
Except for, perhaps, Andre Layton. Even at a party, the two are playing a game of public relations chess, with Wilford opting for opulence and Layton striving to be the everyman. As Audrey says in the cold opening, it’s all about trading. What you give up versus what you get. It’s nothing to give up a little honesty in exchange for a lot of control.