This Snowpiercer review contains spoilers.
Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 7
The first season of Snowpiercer was at its best when it focused not on the climate dystopia or the science fiction elements, but the detective story. Andre Layton, at least in the first season, is a classic film noir detective. Pulled from the grimy underbelly of the train known as the Tail and thrust into the heights of power to investigate a murder for a powerful, mysterious woman who may or may not be hiding a big secret. Daveed Diggs is a great actor for this sort of setting, and it was strong enough to carry the show through the beginning and into the struggle for power and survival against Wilford’s dictatorship.
Now, Layton is struggling for survival against his own body, and falls into an appropriately film noir situation within his own mind. He wakes up, slowly, and finds himself in the familiar confines of Snowpiercer, but a different Snowpiercer. The Wilford W has been replaced by a skull, and two guys sneak up on him, throw a bag over his head, and prepare to give him a shot of some sort before that process is interrupted by none other than Wilford (Sean Bean) in a Panama hat and ice cream suit, who kicks the door in, greets the goons with a cheerful hello, and then guns the two down with help from a long-haired Javi (Roberto Urbina) and a braided action hero version of Ruth (Alison Wright).
Snowpiercer is much less survival sci-fi and much more Casablanca, with cold, whiteness, and frost replaced with sepia and earth tones, a forest of potted plants, and sweat. Thankfully, while he struggles through The Maltese Falcon, he’s got a lot of familiar friends around as guides, even if they’re not exactly as he remembers them. For example, Till (Mickey Sumner) isn’t the train detective; she’s a librarian. Zarah (Sheila Vand) is a cartographer, who gives Layton the key to getting back to the tail. Everyone is playing a different role, except for LJ (Annalise Basso), who is a terrible person in both realities (which Layton quips about). It’s an interesting side-effect of Layton’s concussion, and a fun break from the Snowpiercer format to plunge Layton into a dream sequence while everyone back in the real world is sweating over whether or not Layton will come out of his coma.
In a very real sense, Layton is struggling with the events of taking Ivan’s way with Pike (Steven Ogg), who shows up as a priest to take Layton’s confession during his fantasy sequence. The script from Renee St. Cyr and Tina de la Torre doesn’t belabor that point; Pike shows up, Layton sweats over it, and then he’s off to the next thing he’s sweating over. The focus is on the mystery element, complete with multiple MacGuffins being exchanged, fake passports being purchased, and favors being taken in exchange for passage. It’s an interesting parallel for life on Snowpiercer in meat space; nothing seems to get done without someone owing someone else something, and most people don’t want to know how the sausage is made.
It’s also a strong parallel to Layton’s guilt. He’s built an entire house of cards around the promise of New Eden, and Pike had to die to protect the lie he’s built with the others. A lie that, if discovered, will mean everyone he knows and loves will turn against him, or suffer because of his actions, or probably both. It’s a gamble, and as Layton travels through his mind-scape, he uncovers the source behind his visions: a calendar Asha (Archie Panjabi) had in a calendar he saw in her underground bunker. A reality he can only face after facing the death of his daughter, the Tail Boss, from one of Pike’s bombs carried by him. The biggest fear of every parent, and Layton has to square off with it before he can finish getting the rug pulled out from under his dream.
That Wilford may have found some good news after all is secondary, but no less important. Till and Audrey find a way to work together to save Layton. Zarah and Josie (Katie McGuinness) come to an understanding where Andre is concerned. Everyone seems to be improving their situation, ironing out old disagreements, or stopping problems before they can come to a head and cause more problems on the train. Everyone gets that chance to recover, except for Layton himself. He’s stuck facing a problem of his own making, yet again, and he’s got to hope that somehow, he can be right despite himself if he wants to continue to lead the train and not put his family at risk.
St. Cyr and de la Torre’s script makes it perfectly clear. If this falls flat, everyone on the train could die. That’s the scenario that plays out literally in front of Layton’s mind, as LJ and her goons get involved in a gunfight with the entirety of the train. Director Christoph Schrewe doesn’t skimp on the visual chaos, as everyone falls around Layton, except for Layton himself. That would seem to be his curse; everyone else suffers for his behavior, but he has to live with the consequences. He’s already got a lot of blood on his hands from previous revolutions and counter-revolutions; now he’s got Pike’s actual blood on his hands, having killed him to keep a lie under wraps.
A lie that very well could destroy the train from within. A lie that could very well destroy Andre Layton himself. He was able to come out of his coma with Audrey’s help, but now he might need to reach out to Wilford and his loyalists to keep Snowpiercer from crashing down around him.