“The Show Must Go On” lays the groundwork for a rip-roaring finale as Ruth’s on-going arc reaches its logical conclusion.
This recap of Snowpiercer season 2, episode 9, “The Show Must Go On”, contains spoilers.
In the first half of Snowpiercer‘s two-part finale, Ruth narrates the opening. It’s only fitting, since “The Show Must Go On” traces her season-long arc to its logical conclusion, which is only one satisfying moment of many as the groundwork for a rip-roaring finale is admirably laid. In that opening narration, Ruth talks about hope, and how Wilford has turned it into fear. That fear allows for control, and control keeps everything running smoothly. But there is always chaos somewhere, just beneath the surface, in pockets of resistance like the one she shares with Zara and Till. When she predicts that something awful is coming, it’s not entirely clear who is going to be on the receiving end of it.
The ticking clock of Snowpiercer season 2, episode 9 is that the train is only a week away from picking Melanie up, and Wilford doesn’t know that they have lost contact with her. In the meantime, he’s busying himself with requisitioning medical files for a census and preparing a “big surprise”, which turns out to be a ridiculous carnival in the previously closed Car 272, named “Willy’s World”. There’s to be a grand opening that night, and in the dress rehearsal, Wilford emerges from a swirling, psychedelic tunnel in a top hat with a drawn-on pencil moustache, like a demented PT Barnum. He orders a puppet show which ridicules Melanie’s supposed death and extolls his own virtues, which only he, the sycophantic Kevin, and the psychopathic LJ seem to enjoy. Everyone else is appalled, including Till, who tells Wilford, “With respect, you can go ahead and lock up Layton, but you’ll find a bit of his fight in all of us now.”
Layton, after last week’s developments, is being kept in the literal bowels of the train, on composting duty, but he’s stashing odds and ends that he recovers from the debris, including a hefty shard of glass. Wilford periodically visits to torment him, but Layton remains stoic, at least until Zara is brought up. What neither knows is that Zara has sent a message through Minnie to Josie, who is being groomed as Wilford’s upgrade to Icy Bob by the Headwoods. They invite her to see what she can do and she seems totally immune to the cold. Wilford evidently has plans for her new abilities, but her mind is as it was before, so the idea of her playing along with him seems unlikely.
The centerpiece of “The Show Must Go On” is a terrifically awkward private dinner enjoyed by Wilford and the recipients of golden invitations — with Ruth and Kevin working hospitality, the guests include Alex, Zara, Till, LJ, and Osweiller, none of whom are particularly happy to see Audrey, who arrives with Wilford. The whole thing’s a nightmare, with Audrey getting a particularly hard time, but Wilford eventually rounds on LJ and Osweiller. He makes no secret of knowing all about LJ’s crimes, or Osweiller’s former career as a disgraced Brakeman. To settle things down, Osweiller, of all people, takes to the piano and sings, bringing virtually everyone to tears. It’s a bizarre moment of pathos coming from a very unlikely source, but it somehow works.
Elsewhere in Snowpiercer season 2, episode 9, Josie, having received the message, goes to see Layton and tells him there’s still hope. He still plans to finish what they started, and as the dinner continues to break down, it seems he’ll have plenty of help. Alex turns on Wilford because she knows he’s trying to avoid picking Melanie up and reveals to everyone else that the census is so he can replicate what he did aboard Big Alice by having half of the passengers culled. She warns Ruth, who Wilford invites to sit, saying that the evening has really been all about her. With Kevin seated opposite her, Wilford explains how there’s only room for one head of department in Hospitality, and he’d like her to take the position — by his side, just like she always wanted. All she has to do is address the train and tell them they’re not returning for Melanie. With a tear rolling down her face, Ruth refuses. Her arc is complete. She’s stripped of her teal and taken away, but as she passes through the Tail, she removes her heels, embracing her fate. She’s taken to composting with Layton.
Still desperate for more allies, Wilford attempts to recruit Till as his advisor, taking her to the Breachmen killers, who are all strung up ready to receive the lung of ice. Till advises him not to kill them without trial, since that isn’t justice, but he ignores her advice and kills them anyway. Clearly pleased with himself, he enjoys an orgy in his private quarters, but while he’s busying himself with that, Javi, in Big Alice’s engine, receives a message from Melanie. She’s still alive. In the bathroom, he writes a message saying so and hides it in a tube of lipstick, flushing it straight down to composting, where Ruth discovers it. Snowpiercer season 2, episode 9 ends with Layton saying it’s time to start talking about getting out of there. I couldn’t agree more.