Monday, February 7, 2022

REVIEW: 'Snowpiercer' - The Two Trains Collide as Layton and Wilford Battle for Control Over Humanity in 'The First Blow'

TNT's Snowpiercer - Episode 3.03 "The First Blow"

It's a game of cat and mouse as both Layton and Wilford vie for the upper hand.

"The First Blow" was written by Tina de la Torre and directed by Erica Watson

Layton was never given the opportunity to rule Snowpiercer the way he wanted. As soon as the rebellion knocked Melanie out of power, Wilford showed up and took control. Layton continues to promise the power of democracy. The citizens of the train will have an equal say in the direction they move now. And yet, the leadership is still keeping secrets. Melanie was scorned and criticized for deceiving the passengers. She redeemed herself because she was willing to give her life in service to the ideals of the train. They all have to be fighting for something bigger than themselves. That's how they ultimately justify every action they take no matter how violent it ultimately becomes. It's all in the name of survival. Wilford created a kingdom for himself to rule as a tyrant. He is willing to risk everyone's lives just in order to defeat the opposition. Layton and his train have returned. They took Wilford by surprise. This move happens in a congested section of the tracks. It has many interlocking parts. Wilford would love to make his escape. The resistance still onboard denies him the ability to lurk in the shadows. Ruth and Pike want to be found. They want to welcome Layton back home as their leader. They believe in the mission. They support the idea that prosperity has been found for the future. Life doesn't have to be solely this existence on the train. The people can have hope that the world will thaw and life can start over anew. Layton brings that promise back with him. In reality, this episode is all about the conflict between Layton and Wilford. They clash and power shifts once more. The two trains merge as one again. Layton is back at the helm. It's rewarding to see all the glorious reunions as well. It's most effectively touching when Ben and Javi embrace while Till goes to revive Roche and his family from the drawers. Casualties still emerge from this battle. The most consequential is probably Kevin. He has been a loyal foot soldier for Wilford. He wanted permission to be as brutal with the members of the resistance as possible. He gets that approval even though it's not a useful action in the end for Wilford. He dies because LJ and Oz want to show their loyalty to the new leadership of the train. Everything happening in the Night Car continues to be tangential to the overall concerns of the narrative. The ideas that permeate in the overall story focus on the cost and demands of power. Meanwhile, several stories are just about characters killing in order to provide those visceral thrills to the audience. Shifting loyalties can be interesting as well. It's jarring with LJ but it's a tactical move. Sykes offers a similar stance though the lack of commentary makes it feel like an afterthought. The same was true with Audrey who now suffers the wrath of choosing the wrong side. Wilford is still alive. He remains a power player in this world. Layton's leadership has fallen before. The train isn't united under him. Only Wilford could achieve that. But now, Layton presents a lie meant to lead the train on a new mission. New Eden is this idea Layton and his allies have been chasing. And now, he presents Asha as coming from that paradise. She supports his propaganda because he saved her life. She is still traumatized by her years alone. But now, she serves as a symbol for the outside world being able to sustain live. It required very unique circumstances for her though. Layton omits that. That means he becomes the politician lying to the people he needs voting for him. It's a vicious circle he finds himself in. Are those who seek to deceive the only people who aspire for the power of politics? Or does the burden of representing the wills of others corrupt the motivations of those in charge? These are profound questions that many have grappled with over the years. Layton is now the person to carry that burden. Lines were drawn with Melanie and Wilford. Layton wants to present something new. He still offers some of the same though. That too many be a constant. Deception is part of the game. Layton simply welcomes it because he believes in the importance of this mission to head towards the horn of Africa. Treacherous terrain remains ahead. That's clear both on the tracks and within the train itself. At least Layton's moves to overpower Wilford are genuine and intense. That creates an episode full of thrills while setting up stories that could explode at a moment's notice.