The human body is such a tender thing. We’re born soft and malleable, with skull bones still waiting to fuse into their Pangea and pudgy limbs that can fold up into unfathomable smallness. The bodies on Snowpiercer are particularly vulnerable: Locked inside a speeding canister to keep their flesh from freezing, they are subject to the whims of an ad-hoc system of (in)justice that chooses to highlight only the latter part of “law and order.” Packed in cheek to cheek in the Tail and third-class, implanted with mentoring devices that physically pen them into their assigned cars, threatened with the shutdown of their consciousness for any violent crime, the passengers on Snowpiercer are consistently aware of how they move in space, how their bodies are consistently violated whether they’re starved, attacked, implanted with a new chip, or even eaten by others.
In that vein (sure, pun intended), this episode contained one of the most “What the fuck just happened?” moments I’ve seen on TV. Awaiting her trial by tribunal, LJ sits in her parents’ Four Seasons on wheels, petulant as ever and somehow still playing what looks like a Nintendo Switch. Her rightfully concerned parents are pressing her to go over her testimony, to think through what sort of picture she’ll draw for the judges when she testifies. But LJ looks her dear daddy in the eyes and asks “Please? Can I?” and then reaches up and pops his damn glass eye out of his face and PUTS IT IN HER MOUTH. A minute later, after swiveling it around with her tongue like an orally fixated Mad Eye Moody, her father simply — BOOP! — slips it back into his socket, without cleaning the damn thing off, and they carry on talking.
There is no explanation immediately provided. None! No explanation! Instead, it’s brushed off like a completely normal way to pal around with a parent. Instead of tickling, Folgers apparently suck on glass eyes. The strangeness of the scenario only grows when Lilah Senior corners Melanie mid-tribunal and offers her a taste (ba dum dum) of the type of psychos she is dealing with. Apparently Robert Folger’s eye was the victim of a seven-year-old LJ’s temper. She jabbed it with a fork, Lila says, and “even as the jelly was running down his cheek, he held her.” Coddled to the extreme, and surely stricken with a most extreme case of affluenza, LJ has been raised without a single boundary, given free rein to act on her most violent tendencies. This is what money will buy you: the chance to maim and kill and be wrapped up in your parents’ caressing arms the whole time.
As much as the murder plotline was dragging down the rest of Snowpiercer, LJ’s trial and Josie’s search through the Drawers almost entirely recalibrate the series for the better. Here’s the class warfare we came for!
“Justice Never Boarded” (oh boy that title) finally leans back into the resentment stirring and civilian uprising that this whole adventure was supposed to chronicle. Admittedly, Miss Audrey’s little stunt — sending a bartender-cum-bellhop to first class with a gold-domed platter of roaches “compliments of the Night Car” — was awfully lame, like a high school senior prank gone dumb. But trouble truly is brewing. “The Night Car,” Melanie tells Audrey, “is supposed to be Switzerland. Why are you politicizing it?” Except, of course, it’s all political already. Audrey may have once vowed to give passengers “a place to work through our grief,” (counseling may have been appropriate, but what do I know about post-apocalyptic trauma?) but as a Thirdie she’s also a member of the subclass, the folks who, we learn from Till as she moves up from Third to Second, don’t get offers of dessert after every dinner.
In order to quell any disquiet in one section of the train, Melanie has to crank the bellows underneath the flames in another car. She adds a third-class passenger to the tribunal as an indicator of fairness, but then risks the ire of first-class, who, as they so readily point out, spent upwards of $400 million to build the damn train. They’re owed, they think, the right to stomp around Snowpiercer with impunity. But one thought that rattled around my brain repeatedly during this episode was that their money is essentially worthless now. It doesn’t seem like Snowpiercer has an entirely currency-based economy, and first-class has far fewer passengers than any other section. They can moan and whinge and meet in secret all they like, but there’s no reason to believe that the jackboots would favor them, and without police support they’re … kaput.
LJ’s trial is everything I hoped it would be. Stunned cravat-wearing rich folks gasping in their transformed dining car. An Iris Apfel lookalike from first on the tribunal, along with the sweetie pie teacher from second, and a wholesome paper maker from third. (Notably, when the three tribunal members meet for the first time they get on like a house on fire, contrary to the false disparities class exaggerates.) We learn that the severed dicks — a word these witnesses cannot get enough of — were found in LJ’s jewelry box like shriveled up charms for a gold bracelet. Audrey rouses the crowd with her laments that “seven days a week, three shifts a day, we keep the bearings greased and the cold at bay. We draw stars to have children and we die from preventable diseases.” LJ, donning a perfect little doll’s outfit, gives a hell of a performance as a little girl led astray, successfully tossing out the Molotov cocktail that is Sean Wise’s role as an informant. (Curiously, no one asks why the detective who solved the crime and heard LJ’s confession isn’t on the stand!) And then, a twisty verdict: The tribunal finds her “guilty on all counts,” but a message from “Mr. Wilford” pardons her as a result of her tender age.
Short story: Everyone is riled up and only the Folgers are satisfied now.
Meanwhile, a search party of one has emerged from the Tail to track down Layton’s whereabouts. Snowpiercer finally nails the pacing here, sending Josie panicking through the train with limited time to find him before she has to swap identities with Astrid. It’s no surprise that drug kingpin Terence only agrees to help her so he can swipe some kronole ingredients, but it is wild to watch those drawers slide open and find the children of the Tail inside them, the same children who were promised apprenticeships, children like Miles. While a first-class teenager is getting away with murder, these innocents are doped up and slid into boxes like corpses, all part of some vague experiment that Melanie and Jinju hint at — the “list.”
Ripping the IV out of Layton’s arm is one of Josie’s worse ideas. Surely, as a former veterinarian, she understands something about titration and the perils of simply yanking someone out of an induced coma. But her plan still goes remarkably well, due to the good fortune of being discovered by Till, who struck a rapport with Layton and has a creeping sense of the wild shit going down in Wilford management.
Dr. Klimpt will surely notice his absence as soon as he returns, and a search party will go out looking for him. But until then, Layton is safe in Zarah’s arms. Safe from everything, that is, but the memory of the rebellion he once had to quash, and of the taste of human heart that once filled his mouth.