Layton has to make a difficult decision in “The Train Demanded Blood”, and its repercussions will be felt all along a suddenly shorter train.
This recap of Snowpiercer season 1, episode 9, “The Train Demanded Blood”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The threat of some of Snowpiercer’s 1001 cars being decoupled has persisted all throughout this first season, and it had to happen eventually. In Snowpiercer episode 9, “The Train Demanded Blood”, it finally does – but the cars let loose aren’t the ones you were expecting.
The logistics of this are a bit complicated, involving the two remaining halves of the train coming back together after losing some middle carriages, which is enabled by some creative engineering work but doesn’t particularly matter since it has a much more obvious purpose involving Layton. We’ll get to that soon.
In the meantime, though, context: With the Tailies and the jackboots still in open war, and with the brutal all-out fighting having been used up in the previous episode, a more creative solution is necessary to heal the divide. That solution naturally involves releasing some of the middle cars and establishing a representative democracy fronted by Melanie, who begins as a prisoner but is eventually freed and makes her escape through the train’s ductwork, finally slipping free of the buttoned-up Hospitality attire; and Layton, who faces a couple of decently complicated quandaries in this penultimate episode that help to make his character a bit more complex, even if it is too little too late.
Opposing the “good guys”, which before the end of Snowpiercer episode 9 also comes to include Roche, are the moneyed Folgers and the rest of First Class, and Nolan Grey, who fancies a more hostile takeover with Ruth assuming Melanie’s position. Outside of Melanie, there’s no effort made to make any of this morally complex; Nolan has no qualms about just gassing people, and there’s a decent helping of unusually bad dialogue to help put the point across even further.
There’s a decent amount of complexity elsewhere in “The Train Demanded Blood”, though, most of it involving Layton, who is forced to choose between sacrificing himself to end the fighting or just continuing to throw the underequipped Tailies against the train’s security. Layton talks a big game but he’s thrown for a loop when Zarah reveals she’s pregnant with his child, justifying her betrayal of Josie. This isn’t the key decision that actually takes his character in an intriguing direction, though – that comes later, when he’s forced to decouple the middle carriages even though they contain Third Class and Tailie prisoners, which Melanie is appropriately smug about since she has been consistently vilified by Layton for making decisions very much like that.
Melanie continues to be a broader, richer character even despite this. Having been turned on by her own she smartly pitches in with the group most likely to emerge victorious – and not freeze her lungs when the fighting’s over – but one also gets the sense that she’s genuine about her desire to save humanity by any means necessary. We know she has gone too far more than once, and she takes an unusual amount of pleasure in Layton’s agonizing decision to sacrifice the prisoners, but is that because she has an ulterior motive or because she knows that, ultimately, for all Layton’s bluster, she’s the one who has the real stomach for leadership?
Either way, Snowpiercer season 1, episode 9 bows out with this interesting predicament still hovering over a train that is now, suddenly, quite a few cars shorter.
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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.