“These Are His Revolutions” sees violence erupt throughout Snowpiercer, but what will its bloody battle amount to?
This recap of Snowpiercer season 1, episode 8, “These Are His Revolutions”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Throughout Snowpiercer, this version much more than the feature film, there has been a sense of crushing inevitability. There has never been a moment in which it looked like the show’s class conflicts would be ironed out and everyone would learn to live in harmony; on the contrary, the show has treated its impending revolution as something to be looked forward to, as each week more of the Tailies have managed to ingratiate themselves further and further up-train. The upper-classes have been exclusively portrayed as psychopaths. Melanie’s control of the train has gradually loosened. Everything we’ve seen thus far has led to Snowpiercer episode 8, “These Are His Revolutions”, in which the Tail finally rises up and begins making its bloody, treacherous way through all 1001 cars of Snowpiercer.
The point is, I think, catharsis. The show’s having so much fun that it’s easy to get swept along in it, delighting in little moments like Till emerging alongside Layton, mostly stripped of her Brakeman uniform and sporting the red sash of revolution, or Osweiller being a little coward, as usual. “These Are His Revolutions” is bloodier than almost all the episodes before it combined, and not by accident. It’s also the rifest with references – most of them obvious – to other films and TV shows famous for their own bloody rebellions. You’re supposed to be having fun.
And it is fun in that facile exciting telly sort of way, and in getting to see how the seeds of revolution sown by Layton have sprouted up and down Snowpiercer, especially in first class, where LJ has outed Melanie for posing as Mr. Wilford for the last six years. The chaos is vital to the Tailies’ progression, and when it comes to it, all the battle scenes are shot for maximum confusion and disarray as well. The blood is the constant, spraying out from every ax wound and every opened neck, some of which are harder to look at than others. I don’t know if this was the best way to do it, but it was certainly a striking one. The violence ends without ceremony, as everyone involved has simply had a little too much. It’s a mundane stop-gap that surely precipitates further carnage.
As ever, though, all the most interesting stuff in Snowpiercer episode 8 was found in the margins. In particular, Melanie’s confession to Ruth that she was the one who built Snowpiercer, while Mr. Wilford was just a ticket-selling stuffed-shirt whose only desire was the continuation of his own good living, rang really true given what we’ve seen of Melanie and how far she’s willing to go, from slinging herself underneath the speeding train to smashing up a rebel’s fingers. Despite her deception, she has kept these people alive for six long years, but in so doing she has also fostered a rigid hierarchy that has consistently brutalized those at the bottom. The fact that Ruth’s problem with all this is that there wasn’t really an omnipotent figurehead to personally reward her devoted service just speaks to how detached from morality she really is.
This contouring of Melanie’s character also makes for an intriguing contrast to the sanding down of Layton’s, who in “These Are His Revolutions” was reduced to another face-painted rebel leader (remember when him being a detective was vital to the show?). I don’t think this is intentional, by the way, just a consequence of Snowpiercer being so busy in its plotting – the big battle is surrounded on all sides by supporting characters carrying out minor tasks, all integral – that it reduced Layton to a more utilitarian role.
But there’s pleasure and potential in those minor tasks all the same, even if they muddy the battle by chopping it up. Then again, what’s the end goal of the fighting anyway? The beginnings of the uprising were so meticulously thought out that it’s almost as if there wasn’t enough time to figure out what the rest of the plan is. The Tailies and the Jackboots can keep fighting to stalemates until none of either said is left, but where, beyond vaguely “up-train”, do the Tailies think they’re going? And what do they plan to do when they get there?
Of course, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, which is a fitting enough quote given Daveed Diggs plays Jefferson in Hamilton, which dropped on Disney+ a couple of days ago. Perhaps the Tailies don’t have an endgame beyond simply escaping the yoke of classist oppression, which would be fair enough. But I suspect Snowpiercer is cleverer than that, given what we’ve seen, and it’ll be interesting to see what else the 1001 cars have in store as this train hurtles towards the end of its journey.
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