Snowpiercer pumps the brakes in “A Great Odyssey” to hone in on character and emotion as Melanie prepares to venture out on a suicide mission that just might save everyone.
This Snowpiercer season 2, episode 3 recap for the episode titled “A Great Odyssey” contains spoilers.
One thing I love about Snowpiercer that I almost never mention is how they change the intro every week. The one in “A Great Odyssey” is narrated by Mr. Wilford himself, and largely takes the form of an ode to Icy Bob and his many varied sacrifices, not least among them aesthetic, which is fitting since he ends up making more by episode’s end. It’s a tease for later, though. We see Bob being put under and fiddled with, genetically-speaking, by Wilford’s boffins, who have the mandate to make him able to withstand even harsher temperatures for a longer period of time. Exactly why is anyone’s guess, though if I were to take a punt — it’s my job to do so, after all — I’d wager that Wilford wants to toss him off the train and send him to hunt down Melanie as she tries to last a month in the far-flung research station she spends the entire episode preparing to leave for.
Like everything these days, getting Melanie there will require cooperation between Snowpiercer and Big Alice. Simply getting Snowpiercer up the hill will require a push, but there are also supplies to be exchanged, hotlines to be set up at “the border”, and sneaky drug routes that Pike can manage in order to have something to do. Everyone from Ruth to Alex thinks that Melanie’s mission will result in her death, but how long can they reasonably watch Wilford smugly sit on a throne and pretend everything is a-ok. (As a side note, Sean Bean is wonderful in “A Great Odyssey” as perhaps the smarmiest man who ever lived.)
Snowpiercer season 2, episode 3 gives all this plenty of time to simmer, and punctuates it with plenty of serious, sometimes moving conversations between different character pairings, especially Melanie and Alex. The latter takes the former through Big Alice’s 27 supply cars, and to her bunk, which she has decorated with string visualizing the train’s route and uncanny portraits of Melanie so that she didn’t forget what she looked like. They go over a map together, reiterate the plan, and Melanie assures her that she’s only leaving for this second time to ensure that there’s still a world for her to live in. Alex might be the typically difficult teenager, but she sees the point.
Then there’s Layton and the now awake and lucid Josie. As it turns out, she’s less annoyed with Layton for knocking up Zara than she is with him for cosying up to Melanie, who you’ll recall left her in this state. And it’s a matter of some significance since, as Josie herself puts it, “Revolutionaries make terrible politicians.” Layton will never be able to retain the support of the Tail without her, especially since Wilford’s adherents are loose among them, lopping off fingers. There’s a bit more of that subplot here in “A Great Odyssey”, with Till and Layton visiting Lights, and Till and Roche interrogating the Breachmen about it, but since they’ll apparently be sitting out the “democratic experiment” and waiting for Wilford’s inevitable return, it doesn’t really go anywhere in Snowpiercer season 2, episode 3.
Now seems as good a time as any to ponder what about Wilford inspires such devotion, since as good as Sean Bean is at playing him, he’s playing him pretty explicitly as a manipulative slimeball whose facade of control is only, like, one car away from complete ruination. He swans around in posh loungewear and sits on a throne while the rest of his people are starving to death — yet Big Alice doesn’t seem to have the kind of internal rebellions that Snowpiercer does? I’m not sure it necessarily tracks that people would be so drawn to him. He has basically raised Alex and even she sees that he’s a creep, especially when, during the climactic drop-off sequence, he tries to persuade her to build up enough speed to plunge a detached and derailed Snowpiercer into a wintry abyss, or, failing that, to hit the brakes and ensure Melanie can’t be left behind to potentially save the entire human race. He isn’t exactly subtle, is he?
Luckily, Alex ensures her mother can disembark, dropping a single, solitary tear in victory. “That’s the last tear I’ll allow,” says Wilford. “It’s the last one you’ll get,” replies Alex, who later, for the first time I’m aware of, calls Melanie “Mom”. It’s the last of several tearful goodbyes that Melanie shares with Ruth and Layton before finally jumping off Snowpiercer into the great and frozen beyond. Let’s hope it works out.