Snowpiercer S01E02 Review: “Prepare to Brace”
The second episode of the TV series Snowpiercer picks up where the last episode left off: with the sentencing of the Tailies involved in the revolt. We see “Mr. Wilford” did, in fact, approve the “indefinite suspension in the drawers” punishment, as opposed to execution. However, an arm also needed to be taken from someone in the Tail to “make an example.” Ruth first selects a child for the amputation. The child’s mother steps in and volunteers to have her arm is covered in water and put through a hole to meet the 117-degrees-below-zero air outside the train to spare her child. After her arm has become completely frozen, they brutally shatter it with a large mallet. The Tailies are now more resolved than ever to rise up against their oppressors. The Tailies are given very few opportunities for hope, or to better their lives. One of the only examples of humane treatment of the Tailies shows up at the end of the episode: Ruth returns to select three children for “apprenticeships” and a chance for those children to move up-train and “receive an education.”
Meanwhile, our main character, Andre Layton spends most of the episode investigating the murder he promised to solve in exchange for the clemency granted to the Tailies who revolted. He and Bess venture into the Night Car, a night club rampant with drugs and booze where third class passengers can listen to sad songs and escape from their trauma. We meet Ms. Audrey, a singer with jewel tears who can provide eye-witness testimony related to the train’s first alleged murderer, Nikki Genet. Nikki was wrongfully convicted and suspended in the drawers. However, since the latest murder is similar to the one Nikki was accused of, Layton and Bess want to prove her innocence. Ms. Audrey believes Nikki would have been too high to have committed the murder. While Layton and Bess are investigating, Nikki herself is in the process of being awakened from her suspension. After being in the morgue drawers for three years, Nikki is experiencing atrophied muscles, hibernation sickness, and an infected-looking arm. Who knows what, if any, information can be recovered from someone that has been suspended in a coma in a morgue drawer for three years.
Back in the Night Car, Layton is granted 20 minutes with his ex, Zara, who takes him to a room in third class that passengers use to drug-trip and meditate. He is trying to prevent Zara from being accused of the murder, and she can offer him information about the victim. During their stay in this room, they meditate on their past together prior to boarding Snowpiercer, in which it’s revealed that Layton had proposed to her. The memories and the setting cause Zara and Layton to become unable to resist one another and they hook up, which they probably don’t get to do too much of in this environment. However, in the afterglow, Zara provides some valuable information that the victim of the crime was given certain perks which are difficult to come by, which meant he probably “had a friend up-train,” and might have been an informant of some kind.
Layton and Bess attend the autopsy of the victim, and discover that certain butchering tools might have been used to dismember him, so naturally, they venture to the cattle car. They are not allowed access. Fortunately for them, but not for the cattle car employees, an avalanche plummets down the side of the mountain and as the speakers call out the episode’s title, “Prepare to Brace.” One of the cattle car employees hits the window of the car with a tool that causes the glass to shatter. The employees and the cattle freeze almost instantly. Melanie knew about the avalanches and with a mentality similar to the leadership of the Titanic, failed to act to prevent them. This allows Layton and Bess to access the car, in which they find a bloody vent with a screw loose. They open the vent and find the amputated parts of the murder victim. Layton makes several references to cannibalism, both in the Tail, and in the other classes on the train.
Due to Layton’s adventures moving through the train cars, he is able to replicate a map of the train on a piece of his shirt, which he tears off and tries to leave for the sanitation crew, who live in the Tail. We do not yet know if anyone picked up the map, or if Melanie knows Layton attempted to leave it. However, Melanie does discuss with Layton their differing philosophies on what the train represents. Layton, and the viewer, see Snowpiercer as a “fortress to class,” whereas Melanie reminds him the train holds the last surviving members of humanity, and in order for the human race to survive, it’s up to her/Mr. Wilford to “maintain order.”
The way in which officers talk about the “Engine Eternal” and Mr. Wilford as if he’s a god goes beyond propaganda and ventures into a kind of cult-mentality. While episode one set the tone for the series, this episode moves the plot of season one forward, setting up what we all hope will be the rebellion that finally allows the Tailies to “Eat the rich of Snowpiercer.”