We made it, everyone! We’re finally at the two-part season one finale of Snowpiercer, which combines episode 9, “The Train Demanded Blood,” and episode 10, “994 Cars Long,” into one super-sized television event that will wrap up several of the first season’s storylines and move things forward for the upcoming season two (which had already been greenlit even before season one aired a single episode). So, let’s not waste any more time and get right into all the nitty gritty, because there’s a lot to go over and analyze from these final two hours from the first season.
For “Old Ways, Old Wars” (which had previously been titled “The Train Demanded Blood,” but I’m not sure why it changed), we start off with Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) in shackles alongside other prisoners in a waiting room, as they’re due to be executed for their crimes committed against Snowpiercer. We watch as Walter the Papermaker (Gary Hetherington) is brought into the holding area rather hastily and then whisked right into the execution room after being found guilty of treason. He’s condemned to die by “Lung of Ice,” which is a breathing apparatus that freezes people from the inside, connected to the outside air. It’s a quick and effective means of killing someone, and it is quite chilling to behold (pun intended).
For the moment, the First Class passengers, led by Commander Grey (Timothy Murphy) are looking to keep the rebels in their place, and everyone is at a standstill for the time being. The First Class folks want Grey to seal off train cars and hit them with a deadly gas, which seems like something he’s way too eager to do, but the potential for the gas spreading to other parts of the train gives some folks pause, including Javier (Roberto Urbina), who decides to spring into action in a very surprising way (especially since he was so quick to surrender himself to First Class last week).
Back in the dredges of the train, Melanie is brought into the chamber to be executed by “Lung of Ice” (I just like writing that—it’s so weird and twisted), but after she’s already strapped in, with tears streaming down her face, an incognito Javier breaks her out, and as she escapes to the lower parts of the train, we find out that Jinju (Susan Park) is behind her newfound freedom, and as Melanie realizes what needs to happen now, she makes her way down the train to find Layton (Daveed Diggs).
We also catch up again with Pike (the always entertaining Steven Ogg), who is back in the fold with the rebellion, but it turns out that last week’s tease of him being a double agent after all isn’t exactly what it seems. He tells Layton that First Class is willing to make a bargain for peace: his life instead of everyone else’s. At the moment, though, Layton has his own issues to deal with, as he comes face-to-face with Zarah (Sheila Vand) after she betrayed and cost Josie (Katie McGuinness) her life.
Initially, Layton wants nothing to do with her, but then Zarah informs him that she is pregnant with his child, and made the choice she had to in order to protect their baby, which prompts Layton to decide to surrender to First Class as a means to secure the futures for all those who may be too young to fight for themselves. But before he takes such drastic measures, Melanie makes her way to Layton and his fellow compatriots and tells them that she can get him the train. Melanie tells the rebellion that her goal has always been to save humanity; her way didn’t work, so maybe Layton’s will? And she’s got a plan to rid Snowpiercer of the threat of those in First Class who are looking to rule with an iron fist.
Melanie’s plan comes with a hefty price tag attached, though, as Layton is left with a huge choice: disconnect part of the train, removing The Folgers (Kerry O’Malley, Vincent Gale) and Commander Grey and other dangerous passengers, but doing so will also ensure certain death for many of his fellow Tailies who are trapped in the same section of the train. He tries everything he can to get them out of harm’s way, but with mere seconds left on the clock, Layton has to make a heartbreaking decision to let his people go, and the pain and despair written all over his face tell us everything we need to know about how Layton feels about having to make such a gut-wrenching decision.
The weight of Layton’s decision spills over into the final hour of Snowpiercer season one, the episode titled “994 Cars Long,” as he realizes that while changes were necessary aboard the titular train, there are no easy decisions when it comes to determining what’s best for those aboard. Melanie, who has spent the last seven years living with her choices, knows that pain all too well, and she’s ready to move forward with a greater awareness of the choices that she makes. During a speech, she makes the statement, “We are one train, and today, that train chooses change.” Little does she know of the monumental changes that are headed their way, though.
The one person who isn’t happy about all the change aboard the Snowpiercer is Ruth (Alison Wright). She is settling into her new role as the Head of Hospitality, but she’s doing it through gritted teeth, displeased with how the have-nots have begun to run rampant all over the train, which is disrupting the order that she so clearly craves. At one point, Melanie and Ruth have it out, where the former Head of Hospitality informs Ruth that the most important thing is love, and it’s something she wishes she had recognized sooner. But with Ruth’s love interest, Commander Grey, condemned to die on the dislocated part of the train, Wright’s character isn’t interested in ruling over Snowpiercer with any sort of warm and fuzzy approach.
Another person who finds herself in the middle of chaos due to the new order of things on Snowpiercer is LJ Folger (Annalise Basso), who finds Pike and a bunch of his “friends” crashing in her carriage, indulging themselves in all sorts of debauchery and deviant behaviors. Left with no one in the world to look out for her, LJ takes off in a frenzy, panicked over what this uncertain future without any sort of protections will hold for her now.
As LJ ponders her future, Melanie takes a moment to reckon with her past, as she makes a visit to the special room in the back of the Nightcar, where certain truths are set to be revealed. During an emotional breakdown, Melanie sees her daughter Alexandra that she had to leave behind in The Freeze, and like many other parents, comes to the realization that she spent way too much time focused on work instead of her family. This is just one of many breakthrough moments for Connelly’s character in “994 Cars Long,” and I love that we're setting up Melanie to have a completely different dynamic for Snowpiercer season two.
We also see how other relationships are faring now that the Snowpiercer is headed towards democracy. Layton and Zarah have made their peace with the latter’s actions, as they start planning for their new family member, and Till and Junji have officially broken up after Till’s decision to side with the rebellion, which meant she had to lie to her lady love. I really enjoyed their relationship throughout season one, so I’m hoping for a reconciliation come season two for these two crazy kids, because I love them together.
The biggest reveal in “994 Cars Long” came via a signal that was transmitting through an old-school radio system, playing classical music, much to the surprise of Bennett (Iddo Goldberg), Javier, and Melanie, opening up the possibility of other survivors out there in the world. The Snowpiercer is set to hit Mile Zero in Chicago, marking another revolution for the train, which makes the discovery all the more eerie: did they leave people behind in Chicago seven years ago? Is it even possible for anyone to have survived this long in such extreme conditions (at the start of the episode, the temperature is negative 121.9 degrees Celsius)?
The bigger surprise than potential survivors ends up being another train that’s out there and hot on Snowpiercer’s heels. As it turns out, the other train (which is known as “Big Alice”) is a supply train that Wilford had built, but Melanie and the other engineers had no idea was even in rotation. Does this mean that Mr. Wilford, who Melanie had originally left to die, is still alive then? They try to outrun “Big Alice,” but the secondary train is able to latch onto the Snowpiercer, and uplinks into the main train’s system.
Melanie, realizing the danger that everyone is in if Wilford is able to board and take over the Snowpiercer, sets out to cut the uplink herself by traveling on top of the speeding train. When the two trains finally connect, it causes Snowpiercer to completely halt for the first time in seven years, which not only throws Melanie into the snow, but also gives everyone aboard the train about 10 minutes to live before the cold takes over.
Realizing that her beloved Mr. Wilford is probably aboard the new train, Ruth sets out to greet him in the Tail Section, like any proper Head of Hospitality would. But as the hatch opens, and everyone waits with bated breath to see what’s going to happen next, it’s a young girl that steps out, and reveals that her name is Alexandra Cavill and she’s looking for her mother, Melanie. And that’s exactly where the season ends. Wowsers.
For as much as this first season of Snowpiercer felt extremely light on the action it promised through its extensive marketing, as an episodic drama, I really enjoyed what we got out of these first 10 episodes. Nothing truly revolutionary in regards to storytelling, but there were some great moments for all its players to shine in, and I’m very intrigued to see what happens next season now that we’ve introduced a secondary train, the possibility of Mr. Wilford actually being alive, and Melanie’s daughter into the mix. I’m also really hoping we see Ruth get to become more of a villain in Snowpiercer season two as well; I feel like we were just on the cusp for big things for Wright’s character, and I’d like to see her become a complete tyrant when the series comes back.
But at one point in “994 Cars Long,” Melanie declares, “It’s a brand new revolution,” and that definitely seems to be the mantra moving forward, because nothing will ever be the same again for those aboard the Snowpiercer, or for those of us watching along at home.
[Photo Credit: Above photos courtesy of Justina Mintz / TNT.]