“Justice Never Boarded” proves timely, as rebellion against abuses of power threatens to derail the train.
This recap of Snowpiercer season 1, episode 5, “Justice Never Boarded”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Last week, Snowpiercer made some bold choices. It closed its longstanding murder-mystery plot virtually out of nowhere, presumably to focus instead on the rebellion bubbling up from the train’s tail, and it ended on a pretty legitimate cliffhanger with Layton being confined to the Drawers. Snowpiercer episode 5, fittingly titled “Justice Never Boarded”, deals with the fallout of these revelations as class tensions threaten to boil over.
In the middle of all this is Melanie, who immediately flouts due process by allowing LJ to return home rather than be kept in a cage; interesting optics as the real world is currently gripped by protest against unlawful abuses of power. The impending tribunal stokes up resentment among the second and third class, who believe they should have representatives present, first class, who believe the lower classes shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near, and Melanie, who agrees to fairer representation and faces the whispers of usurpation for doing so.
Justice, though, whether it boarded or not, must at least be seen to be done, as an impassioned speech by Audrey indicates the lower classes won’t be satisfied without it. LJ, continuing to embrace a clichéd and rather ridiculous archetype, plays the tearful victim herself, blaming everything on Erik, a convenient patsy. But she also reveals that Sean Wise was an informant for Mr. Wilford.
This is all important, but it’s particularly important in how it highlights just how tenuous Melanie’s control over the train is. In previous episodes, we’ve seen her defer to “Mr. Wilford” and essentially bluff in order to get away with whatever decision she personally feels is the right one to make, but Snowpiercer episode 5 finds her and the train itself in such a push and pull between conflicting forces that her ability to make the right decision – or, indeed, for any single decision to be the right one in the first place – can’t be relied upon. It isn’t just the obvious prejudices of the moneyed upper-class and the desire for equal treatment among the oppressed, but the balance between keeping as many passengers happy as possible without alienating those who actually keep those passengers fed, organized and catered to.
Because this makes for the underlying theme of “Justice Never Boarded”, it feels like a bit of a mistake that the writers weren’t content to allow LJ to just be a pure embodiment of upper-crust entitlement; that she gradually becomes more of a cartoonishly evil serial killer undermines the point somewhat. The trial is a circus, of course, and justice isn’t properly carried out, denying Third Class a seat at the table but also aggravating First Class with just how close the whole thing veered towards fairness. Nobody, then, is a winner, and the repercussions of the tribunal will certainly be felt up and down the train and allegiances and values shift, and the growing rebellion extends beyond the tail – it’s no accident that Layton, who is off-screen for most of the episode, is taken to a now-sympathetic Third Class in order to recuperate. The train is coming off the track in more ways than one.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.