This Snowpiercer review contains spoilers.
Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 6
One of the core tenets of Snowpiercer has been that the whole system hangs together mostly because of human efforts to make it go. If one part fails, the whole thing is on the course of failure, and that’s why leaders like Melanie Cavill and John Wilford wielded near-dictatorial (or actually dictatorial) power over the people on board. There was a need for strong leadership, for someone to keep everyone else in line, and for disputes to be handled in a way that didn’t put the whole system at risk. The Tail, which never had much in the way of resources but a lot of community spirit, had a way to solve problems, to clear out the muck from festering emotional wounds before the rot set in and the whole person was lost, and a way to make sure people didn’t deviate from the decided course.
Dubbed Ivan’s way, it’s pretty simple. The two belligerent parties sit down in private and talk things out. Once they reach a solution, it’s told to the rest of the Tail and the community enforces it. And if that fails, the two parties can call for the knives and hash things out the old fashioned way, with bloody violence. Given the love-hate relationship between Layton and Pike, it’s not a surprise that they’d need to sit down and figure out the reason why Pike attempted to kill him. Given that this is Snowpiercer, it’s not a surprise that things eventually devolve to the truth only cold steel can unearth.
Throughout the episode “Born to Bleed,” Tiffany Ezuma’s script makes great use of dramatic irony. We know what Pike’s been up to, even before his confessional cold opening, and at every point, he seems to be coming across people who can out him, with the bulk of the episode spent in Layton’s company aboard Big Alice. It’s the most secure point of the train aside from the main engine, but it’s not exactly secure if the person who kept trying to kill you is hanging out there with you, making tea and cuddling your newborn daughter. Throughout the episode, Ezuma’s keeps offering Pike potential chances at redemption, only for the character to refuse to take them due to his inability to let go of the past. As he so succinctly says, he picks, provokes, and festers. Not even Ruth can pull him out of his self-destructive spiral once it starts.
Leslie Hope’s direction emphasizes that haunted, hunted nature of Pike strongly. He’s shot from novel angles to make him look extra unsettled, and he’s often shown in deep focus in a scene, or by himself in a crowd to highlight his paranoia. At no point is Pike allowed to seem comfortable or around allies, even when the only person he’s around is Ruth. Pike is alone in his mission, and he’s cut himself off from the last friends he still had who might be able to talk on his behalf. Instead, he’s determined to end things his way, no matter what.
Full credit to Steven Ogg. Since showing up as Trevor in Grand Theft Auto V, he’s blown up as an in-demand character actor, bolstered by incredible turns on The Walking Dead and Westworld among other things. He’s been no less stellar as Pike, showing off both ample charm and skill as a performer. His scenes with Ruth, Till, and Layton all have crackled with energy, and Ogg’s final confrontation with Daveed Diggs in Ivan’s way show off Ogg’s full range as a performer while giving Diggs a lot to work with in response. It’s stellar stuff, and centering the episode around the character of Pike, while sprinkling in other characters around him, makes for a fitting possible finale for the character. Though, as we’ve seen, just because someone is no longer on the mortal plane, that doesn’t mean they’re off the show entirely.
Given Layton’s concussions and his waking dream sequences, perhaps Pike might be back again one day soon. Layton depended on Pike to do his dirty work, and while Layton was off on Snowpiercer racing around, Pike (and Ruth) were the people who kept fighting Wilford at every turn. Fighting Layton’s fight, getting his hands bloody when Layton couldn’t or wouldn’t, Pike was a necessary weapon in Layton’s arsenal, and a key member of Layton’s team several times over, but Pike just couldn’t let go of his past.
Other people with similar or worse trauma, like Roche and Wilford, seem to be able to move on, but Pike never could, which is probably why he remained such a useful person within the resistance movement, and why he was such a loose cannon outside of it. Pike seemingly could neither forgive nor forget, and he was a little too smart to fall for Layton’s attempts at reconciliation. The others could let go, grieve, but not Pike. Pike had a dogged determination matched only by Wilford’s literal attack dog.
That’s a useful trait, but a dangerous one. Governments need someone to enforce will, like a Ruth or a Kevin or even a Pike. Though, truthfully, Pike lacked the loyalty to Layton to have the job long-term. Zarah was confident that Layton could figure out a way to manipulate Pike one more time, to bring him around to their side through bribery. He couldn’t; Pike, at the end of the day, was his own man, and his ability to labor for Layton was permanently knocked off-line by the lie of New Eden.
Perhaps if things were handled differently, Pike and Layton could have made amends. But Layton is Layton, playing politics and keeping secrets, and Pike was Pike. Layton dreams of a future beyond the train, a clean break from the old world and a chance at something new. Pike only had his baggage, and the knowledge that the new world would hold no place for someone like him no matter what anyone said. He wouldn’t allow it.