“The Universe is Indifferent” was a joyously bonkers episode with real consequences, as Melanie’s position aboard Snowpiercer becomes more tenuous, and the lengths she’ll go to in order to preserve it surprise even her.
This recap of Snowpiercer season 1, episode 7, “The Universe is Indifferent”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Since abandoning its murder-mystery plot and doubling down on a pending eruption of class hostility, Snowpiercer has become a lot better – so much so, in fact, that it’s almost a different show entirely. It’s one I much prefer and one that makes a fitting title out of “The Universe Is Indifferent”, since it’s hard to feel indifference when a promised revolution is suddenly becoming real, and the maligned revolutionaries are paying for it with their bodies and blood.
Snowpiercer episode 7 does prove one thing, though, which is that all Layton’s detecting up and down train allowed us to pick up a colorful menagerie of supporting characters who all have a role to play in the uprising, whether they know it or not. Seeing Layton sit down with figures in third class and elsewhere in order to hash out a proper usurpation scheme is almost the payoff to all the incidental scenes we’ve had with these secondary characters – Miss Audrey, Terence, etc. – that you always wanted just a bit more time with. And understanding the geography of the Snowpiercer better helps us to feel the right things when Josie is able to contact Miles by poisoning an orange so that he’s carted off for medical attention, and when he’s subsequently promoted to engineering, the very heart of the 1001 cars. (Given current happenings, the rampant germaphobia when Miles starts puking plays as a knowing, funny joke.)
“The Universe Is Indifferent” also further solidifies Melanie as a villain – albeit a desperate and in some sense conflicted one – where early episodes looked to be setting her up as a partner to Layton against the moneyed elites of first class. Here she has two stand-out moments of villainy: In the first, she threatens Zarah’s unborn child in exchange for turning over Layton, which builds to a really well-executed bait-and-switch in which she points out Josie to the Jackboots; and in the second, with Josie captured, she freezes her fingers and hammers them into splinters in the hope that Josie will fess up – which of course she won’t.
I loved all this stuff for lots of reasons. For one thing, it proves that Snowpiercer episode 7 knows what it’s doing. It’s clever in teeing up Zarah’s betrayal and contrasting it with Josie’s steadfastness. It allows for painful-looking but otherwise fairly bloodless body horror. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it set up a great moment in which Josie chose to sacrifice the rest of her hand just to get at Melanie. That’s obviously a cool moment in itself, but it also highlights the sheer desperation and anger that the Tail is supposed to represent, and that it was Melanie who made it out of this, not Josie, proves that being on the right side of a revolution doesn’t necessarily make you safe.
It’s important to note, though, that Melanie thinks she’s on the right side of that revolution too, which is why she’s willing to get her hands dirty to the extent that she has to puke up at the first chance she gets. Even though she for all intents and purposes is Mr. Wilford, a fact that is becoming more and more well-known throughout the train, she isn’t a front-line soldier. She’s a sneaky string-puller whose buttoned-up façade is sloughing away, and everyone from the dissenters in first class to Ruth, who tried to warn Melanie of the pending usurpation and was brushed off, are beginning to see her not as the problem-solver she has presented herself as, but as a problem needing to be solved.
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