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.
Time is running out. The revolution is brewing. The stakes are high. The seventh episode of Snowpiercer, titled “The Universe Is Indifferent,” sees Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) spearhead a manhunt for Layton (Daveed Diggs), who’s on the loose and plotting her downfall. The previous episode hinted at the pair possibly coming to some understanding in the name of the greater good. In this episode, though, it’s clear that they are ideologically opposed.
Layton is a revolutionary who represents socialist ideas about fairness and equality. Melanie can sympathize with that mindset to an extent, but she also believes that in order to keep the train under control, powerful people must be catered to. The suffering of others is just a natural byproduct of that. There are hints of a good person in there somewhere, but that side of her doesn’t control Melanie’s actions. Her propensity for murder and torture in this episode is proof of that.
The phrase “the universe is indifferent” pertains to emotions and morality. Those are prominent themes in this episode. The universe doesn’t care about people’s feelings, no matter how justified they may be. The universe has survived for gazillions of years because the emotions, wants, and desires of human beings are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Melanie — at least for now — is the Snowpiercer universe, and she must be unsympathetic to maintain her rule of law.
Layton’s morality and emotions are his weakness. He has emotional ties to his family and the Tailies. Melanie will use those emotions against him to keep the revolution at bay, and she’s already doing so by sweetening up Miles (Jaylin Fletcher). She’s keeping Layton’s son as an ace up her sleeve, but the child might be her downfall in the end.
Miles is an engineer now. He has access to the train’s control room. He’s going to open doors to all of the carriages so the revolution can take place. But Melanie isn’t dumb, and she’s undoubtedly anticipating the child to betray her. She always has an ace up her sleeve. What is she planning by giving the kid a taste of power?
Melanie is hoping that the child is impressionable and will be taken with the wonders of the sights he’s about to witness. He is blown away after receiving an orange to eat in this episode. Imagine how overcome with joy he’ll be when he sees what the outside world looks like. And if he listened to Melanie’s advice, he’ll feel bound by his newfound responsibilities to the train. That’s one possibility.
In this episode, Miles learns that the privileged life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Eating the orange makes him physically sick. This moment is symbolic of his loyalty to the Tailies. He’s been raised to believe that equality is the only way forward, and now that he’s tasted the sweet life, he realizes that privilege is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Creating a better world for everyone is more important than his own special treatment.
Miles’ brief exchange with Josie (Katie McGuinness) in this episode shows that he’s still dedicated to the cause. When he learns that Melanie killed his foster mom, any temptation he has to become part of the elite will completely disappear. Melanie is risking a lot by giving the child so much preferential treatment, but she does need him to gain the upper hand on Layton, who is out to take her down.
Melanie is still human, however, and she’s not exempt from the universe’s merciless streak. She’s an emotional being too, and that might prove to be her undoing. There’s a revolution brewing in First Class as well, and some of her own colleagues are in on the action. When Ruth (Alison Wright) comes forward to tell Melanie all about it, she gets cut off before she can reveal the truth. That’s when Ruth realizes that Melanie sees her as her inferior, and decides that she’s going to keep quiet and let the rebellion happen.
“The Universe Is Indifferent” marks the point of no return for Melanie. She killed Josie and now the revolution is inevitable. But will her ability to govern the train without remorse for other people restore balance in the end? That’s the big question moving forward.