“994 Cars Long” ends the first season of Snowpiercer with a surprising twist, as the name of Wilford continues to hold sway over humanity’s future.
This recap of Snowpiercer season 1, episode 10, “994 Cars Long”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Forget a perpetual engine – what has kept the Snowpiercer endlessly circumnavigating the frigid globe is the name of Mr. Wilford. It was behind that name that the train’s oppressive class hierarchy was built, and with its supposed authority that the petty grievances of its passengers were solved – or not, depending on who was asking. The person they were invariably asking, though, was not Mr. Wilford but Melanie, who had left him for dead six years ago and expertly impersonated him ever since. It’s no coincidence that, when you flip the Wilford logo on its head, it simply reads, “M”.
But even though Wilford’s successes were really Melanie’s, when Layton discovered and exposed her deception, nobody thanked her for it. In fact, they tried to execute her, and the knock-on effects caused an uprising that extended all the way from the Tail to First Class. Wilford’s rule has finally ended. And now that it has, he might be back.
Snowpiercer episode 10, the season finale, doesn’t go into much detail about how this might be. It doesn’t explain how Wilford survived the cold, or how he presumably commandeered a second train, a supply locomotive dubbed “Big Alice”, which has been pursuing the Snowpiercer all around the globe. It doesn’t explain how that train caught up, how it can remotely control Snowpiercer, or why any of this is only just coming up now. And yet it doesn’t really matter. As the Snowpiercer reaches Chicago for the beginning of another revolution, right as the longstanding Cult of Wilford has been dismantled, Wilford himself has returned. “994 Cars Long” asks what this might mean.
The key word there is “asks” since it doesn’t give many answers. Some, especially Ruth, have predictable reactions; she still believes in the idea of an all-knowing, all-seeing savior, a “great man”, as she mutters under her breath in response to Layton imploring those in the Tail to remember that Wilford was only ever a man. Those in First Class who have been aggrieved by roaming looters and feel their position is threatened by democracy are equally susceptible to the idea. This, of course, puts Layton and Melanie in a vulnerable position, having only just thrown off the yoke of oppression through sheer sacrifice and blood. If Wilford boards Snowpiercer now, many passengers will be drawn to the order and ideology that they’ve come to associate with his name.
Melanie, of course, can’t let that happen. She continues to be driven by a desire to keep humanity moving, but also, as we’re reminded of throughout “994 Cars Long”, by the guilt of having lost a daughter who she should have been able to protect. This leads her to another excursion on the train’s exterior, this one even more ridiculous than the last if physics are something that we take even remotely seriously, in order to sever Big Alice’s connection to Snowpiercer. In the attempt, she’s thrown from the roof and left to freeze in the icy wastes outside – ironically the exact same fate she bestowed upon Wilford himself. In another little irony, her determined efforts to keep the train moving are thwarted because it does the one thing that nobody expects it to do – it stops.
This is how Layton, Ruth, and various other passengers find themselves in the train’s Tail, waiting to be boarded by someone they presume is Mr. Wilford. Only, it isn’t Wilford who emerges with an ultimatum, but a young woman named Alexandra Cavill. And she’d like to know where her mother is.
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