Monday, March 28, 2022

REVIEW: 'Snowpiercer' - Melanie and Layton Struggle to Find Peace as a Crucial Deadline Looms in 'The Original Sinners'

TNT's Snowpiercer - Episode 3.10 "The Original Sinners"

It all comes to a head as old adversaries clash, with New Eden hanging in the balance.

"The Original Sinners" was written by Graeme Manson & Aubrey Nealon and directed by Christoph Schrewe

The prior two season finales ended with the length of the train changing. As such, a reasonably astute viewer could assume the same pattern happening here. Now, consistency is nice for a number of reasons. However, it can also grow tiring. Nothing happens in the first two thirds of this finale that is dramatically new. It's the same story playing out in the same familiar way yet again. Melanie, Layton and Wilford are vying for control of Snowpiercer. Melanie crafts an alliance with Wilford in order to keep the train safe from Layton's risky plan. She doesn't see the potential payoff. She notes she is the villain. She is comfortable operating as such. Plenty have seen her like that in the past. It allows the tribal lines to break down in the way they were defined at the start of the series. This season wanted to suggested true development and revolution. The train was finally united. Layton accomplished that. He did so by lying. He did the precise thing Melanie was punished for. She delivers some narrative vengeance onto him. She can no longer live as this ideal image people have about her. She is the best engineer on the train. It was devastating when she was lost. It's a miracle she was saved. And now, everything repeats. Life on the train has always been cyclical. That has been noted in many reviews to date. That provides some irony the audience can be aware of. The viewer is trusted with that perspective when the characters can't always see clearly. Of course, the creative team has to be careful with this construct. It still needs to provide new themes and elements when telling a familiar story yet again. This finale does so while battling expectations. Given the pattern of the past, it always seemed inevitable the train would break into two once more. That provided a diplomatic solution where everyone could be informed with their choices. It allows the society to be a true democracy for the first time instead of the fantasy Melanie and Layton offered. They simply have to get Wilford out of the picture. He is the most disruptive agent. He is sent off to endure months on the track alone in the same train car that kept Melanie alive. Meanwhile, LJ chokes on her father's glass eye. It's the show providing karmic conclusions to the characters who have made life so difficult. Wilford and LJ are hardly the only ones who can be defined that way. Choices have to be made. And yet, it's all too apparent the trains separate their resources equally so each has at least the chance to prosper. That seems wise even though the show never analyzes the personal costs of such actions.

The dramatic stakes come from each person deciding whether they can back Melanie's stability or follow Layton's risk. Neither can be a guarantee for survival. It's simply a show of respect for the ways in which humanity wants to live. They are informed about the choices. They grieve over those who decide differently. Everyone has to weigh just how meaningful these personal relationships are. If they have a difference of opinion in this debate, they have to reckon with possibly losing the other. That's gripping. Again, it takes awhile to actually get to that effective point. It almost presents as the entire narrative stakes of the season was building to this decision. Big Alice makes the turn while Snowpiercer continues on reliable stretches of track. Some characters are given solid explanations for which side they support. Layton, Josie, Alex and Ruth have been all in on New Eden. Zarah would similarly take that risk in order for her family to prosper. Others are comforted by the desire to get off the train. The outside world will be frigid but survivable. Their lives can start over anew in a stationary place. Meanwhile, the science doesn't outweigh the risk for Melanie. She needs more to support the certainty of paradise. The train can survive as is for decades. Ben stays because he wishes to strengthen his relationship with Melanie once more. Audrey is eager to return to the place where she did the most good. Till chooses love. The show hasn't exactly earned that relationship. It has developed suddenly. But it also does a good enough job explaining the division of characters. And then, Javi and Dr. Headwood are on Big Alice. Those decisions don't feel motivated by character. It's simply a desire for each side to have two engineers and one doctor. That's it. It's simple without offering more examination of the humanity involved. The season ultimately closes with confirmation of humanity surviving outside the train. The world is becoming habitable once more. Big Alice is probably all the track could sustain getting to this new world. The division needed to happen even if the two sides can't communicate with each other. Layton and his crew can't deliver their good news. Meanwhile, Melanie is greeted with a dire warning of a missile being launched into the sky. It's the show once again suggesting some game-changing twist that reveals more to this world than was previously known. But it's also twists at the expense of character which is never a good instinct for a show to settle into.