Welcome to Snowpiercer Explained, the next in a long line of explainer columns about our favorite shows. With TNT dropping a new show into the Snowpiercer universe, we’re riding along to help you keep up with the mythology and filmmaking of this post-apocalyptic freight train.
Just like the train in which the show takes place, Snowpiercer continues to move full steam ahead with each passing episode. There’s no interest in filler here. The only long-term storylines in this series are the inevitable Tailie revolution and Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) going out of her way to keep her secrets about Mr. Wilford close to the vest. This urgency is especially apparent in the episode “Without Their Maker,” which brings an end to the serial killer’s reign of terror.
That said, with each closing chapter in Snowpiercer, a new one begins. In this episode, Erik (Matt Murray) is assassinated by the train’s security after he goes on the run. He’s unable to return to First Class because the carriage has been closed off for the night, and his absence essentially confirms his guilt.
The Folgers, meanwhile, don’t even bother trying to protect their bodyguard, even though only LJ (Annalise Basso) knows the truth about him. Erik was taking orders from her. But when this revelation comes to light, she’s subsequently locked up for being his co-conspirator. However, she still has a big part to play in the story moving forward.
It’s no secret that Melanie wanted the killer caught because his victims were linked to her. This means that they likely spilled the beans on her secrets while they were being tortured. LJ probably knows the truth about who’s really running the show on the train, and it’s only a matter of time before she uses the knowledge to manipulate Melanie.
But what could LJ want besides her freedom? She’s too selfish and driven to stop at that. My guess is that she craves power and control. This episode portrays her as a bored rich girl who wants to instill fear in First Class and castrate men for fun. All of her traits and actions are emblematic of authoritarian tendencies. It will be interesting to see what her motivations are now that she probably has Melanie trapped in an awkward position.
Given that LJ was arrested in front of people, it’s not as simple as locking her in the Drawer and forgetting that she exists. Her parents are wealthy and they’ll talk to the other First Class passengers. The last thing Melanie needs is a bunch of rich people kicking up a fuss and disrupting the train’s natural order. Keeping LJ quiet will require her to be more calculated and creative than that.
In this episode, Melanie also realizes that Layton (Daveed Diggs) is close to discovering the truth about her being Wilford. That’s if he doesn’t know it already. After luring him to a bar with the promise of a casual drink and casual conversation, Melanie has him sent to the Drawers. He knows too much, and that information can’t get back to the Tailies. Little does she know that the Tailies know he’s missing and are getting ready to strike.
If this episode confirms anything, it’s that the First Class passengers would be defenseless during an uprising. Some of their bodyguards do have weapons, but they’d be laid to waste in the heat of battle. They also don’t contribute anything to the train, while the denizens of the lower carriages all seem to share a hunger for equality that could ultimately bring all of the non-elites together. The show has dropped enough hints to suggest that even those in Third Class want to put an end to the inequality on board the engine.
The Third Class passengers are workers whose purpose is also to serve a chain of command that’s only interested in maintaining a status quo that only benefits the train’s rich and lazy passengers. Snowpiecer‘s sociopolitical subtext about class divisions isn’t exactly subtle either, but that’s what makes it such a fun and topical show.
There’s an interesting shot of the Johannes Vermeer painting Girl with the Pearl Earring in “Without a Maker.” The painting symbolizes the shallowness of wealth and privilege, which is a message that’s really hammered home in this installment of the series.
The painting also inspired some literary treatments about a maid who feels uncomfortable wearing the jewelry because it doesn’t represent her real social status. The art’s purpose in the show appears to be a statement about how the First Class passengers’ power is an illusion without any real substance, and it’s only a matter of time before they learn that for themselves — the hard way.
Snowpiercer has been consistent with its message and themes in every episode thus far. But the story continues to go off the rails in the best way possible, and there’s really no telling what each new installment will have in store. It’s clear that violent class warfare is on the horizon, but the twists and turns that lead to the big showdown will offer plenty of surprises. I can’t recommend this series enough.