Monday, February 1, 2021

REVIEW: 'Snowpiercer' - Layton's Message of Hope Clashes with Wilford's Ego and Need to Subjugate in 'Smolder to Life'

TNT's Snowpiercer - Episode 2.02 "Smolder to Life"

An exchange is made between the two trains, but a far greater revelation might be just over the horizon.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of TNT's Snowpiercer.

"Smolder to Life" was written by Aubrey Nealon and directed by Christoph Schrewe

Layton believes that offering the passengers of Snowpiercer hope for something greater can break the blind idolization they have for Mr. Wilford arriving as their savior. It's miraculous and game-changing when Melanie returns to the engine and reveals that the atmosphere is warming up once more. It means the planet could become hospitable within their lifetimes. Life aboard the train doesn't have to be the sole fate everyone has to resign themselves to embracing. Layton can use this information to further disarm Wilford. He can invite this powerful figure onto the train and then show how he is actually leading the way to the future. Layton and Wilford meet here. They are sizing each other up. They both believe they know how to deal with the other. And yet, this conflict is still simmering. The faith in Wilford aboard Snowpiercer runs much deeper than Layton realizes. Till makes that realization upon learning why Lights was disfigured the way she was. It's a horrifying visual. It also marks the growing support for Wilford. He is a symbol of greatness because people view him as their savior. He built the train. Until recently, they believed he was running things. Their faith was lost for a moment. And now, he emerges to help them find it once more. Layton hasn't had the time to actually establish a new form of society. Everyone is still managing expectations as they go along. It's easier to believe that Lights was assaulted because of hatred for anyone who comes from the Tail. The fight for freedom changed the status quo. Life on the train used to work for many though. This disruption was a result of people demanding more. Wilford believes that everyone needs to know their place in this world. When they step out of line, then it will carry severe consequences. He doesn't particularly care about retrieving Kevin through a hostage exchange. He just wants to meet Layton and see his leadership style. Melanie is still running things on Snowpiercer to a large extent though. She still positions herself as a savior too. She is the only person who can offer a path to prosperity. She is the one who noticed the changing environment. And now, she has mapped out a plan for how to further the research and provide definitive answers as to where this journey will take humanity next. She does all of this to save everyone. Meanwhile, she is concerned about her daughter. Alex believes that her mother keeps these secrets or sacrifices herself in order to protect her. It's not as simple as that. Alex is a frustrated teenager. The show plays off her behavior too much as her being a typical young person. She hurts herself the moment that Melanie disrupts her plans and fools her once more. It's an action not meant to end her life but to be big and dramatic against those who frustrate her. It's behavior she likely picked up from Wilford. Unfortunately, the show is making him too much of a mustache-twirling villain with no nuance whatsoever. That is blatantly obvious in Kevin's death scene. It affirms once more that Wilford is a sociopath who delights in the suffering of others. He makes people beg for his love and approval. The story already infers that Alex and LJ are jealous of the affection he gives to the other. That further showcases his predatory instincts. Every action around him further makes that case. As such, the show doesn't need to hit the audience over the head with the blatant and gruesome brutality. It's fetishization of the violence done in order to subjugate. It's painfully obvious. The show points out again and again that it's all about ego with Wilford. No matter what he gets what he wants. Layton makes him angry. That won't sit well. He'll have to retaliate. It's simply obvious storytelling with no purpose whatsoever. The same applies to Josie's sudden resurrection. Again, the show is playing with those themes of faith and what matters most in times of crisis. Layton runs to be with her upon receiving this news. And yet, it lessons the impact of her death in the previous season. And now, the show just happens to introduce a miracle cure that Mr. and Mrs. Headwood have created. That will be a precious commodity. Layton has a stake in this exchange now. The sides are drawn. It's a similar conflict. Nothing has changed. New players have simply been introduced. That makes all of this feel familiar and without any value. That's incredibly disappointing even in an hour that offers hope that the world is changing. That was always present. It's simply never allowed to fully be embraced because of the selfishness that lies at the heart of humanity. That's grim. But that's the worldview of this show and its characters as has been evidence in every single action so far.