Spoilers for ‘Snowpiercer’ Episode 8
We see the most human side of Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connely) in Episode 8. She is caught out in her lie, thanks to LJ Folder’s (Annalise Basso) surreptitious visit to the “engine eternal”, facilitated by Miles (Jaylin Fletcher), the boy-genius. The cat is truly out of the bag now. The disruption caused in first-class by the revelation is exactly the distraction Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) needs to start his revolution in the train, uniting the Tailies and the working class in Third.
Both Melanie and Layton are leaders in their own right. Melanie is cold, precise, and calculating. In her own way, she is putting humanity before herself. When Ruth (Alison Wright) and she have their confrontation, Melanie chained to the exact spot Josie (Katie McGuinness) was in the previous episode, tells her the truth about Wilfred.”We wouldn’t have lasted one revolution with him,” she spits out, admitting she left him trackside for the future of the train and humanity. She tells Ruth that Wildred didn’t build the train, she did, and afterward, he sold tickets and became the face of the train.
Once aboard the train, he spent more time boozing and with “his whores” in the Night Car. So if we believe Melanie (which Ruth doesn’t), she has been running the train for a long time, even when Wilfred was alive. We also understand belatedly why she hasn’t changed the order laid down by Wilfred because it could jeopardize the secret that he was dead. She had to play the cards she was dealt with.
Of course, there were workarounds where she could have changed how things were run on the train. But for Melanie, the first order of business as a leader has always been to maintain order and peace aboard the train. Violence is too chaotic a factor for her to willingly allow it. Thus, she morphs into Cruella de Ville while she leads the train, engine to tail, secretly. In short, she is “cruel to be kind”, in the words of that immortal pop song.
She has the necessary stomach to execute short term violence, usually through her military “jackboots” and the Brakemen to maintain the overall peace. She isn’t really concerned about human justice and fairness — all she cares is trying to keep as many people alive for as long as possible by keeping the train running without human or mechanical disruptions. She might puke in the toilet after torturing someone like Josie, but she will still do what needs to be done.
On the other hand, Andre Layton is “an idealist” and a “good cop”, as the traitor Tailie prisoner, Pike (Steven Ogg), reveals to Ruth, Commander Grey (Timothy V. Murphy), leader of the “jackboots” and the rest of the first class. He is a leader but he doesn’t have the stomach for violence that Melanie has.
After the disastrous fight with Commander Grey and his men, he is hit with the deaths of people he holds dear. After each body falls or he hears of another comrade perishing, Layton looks like a zombie. He takes responsibility for each death personally, even though he himself tells Brakeman Bess Till (Mickey Sumner) that there will be blood before the fighting begins.
Every revolution is bloody as centuries of human history have shown us. Yet, Layton’s reaction to the mourning cries and the corpses after they have to retreat from the Night Car is telling. He is nowhere as cold-blooded as Melanie. But his humanity and his need to get justice for those who have suffered without harming them could be his Achilles heel.
In his fight to reach the engine, his enemy is no longer the captive Melanie, who can still be reasoned with. His enemy is now Commander Grey and the classist Ruth, who have no shred of sympathy for the Tailies or the Third Class. Commander Grey is also not distraught over losing his men in the way Layton is.
When it comes down to it, Layton might not be cruel and calculating enough to lead the revolution to its successful culmination. If he backs down when enough losses pile up, the situation will be much worse under Ruth and Commander Grey, after they execute Melanie.
The question is will Layton be able to show the same cold calculation to keep the revolution alive? The same cold calculation that Melanie has shown for so many years to keep the train on the track? In short, will he be as good a leader as Melanie has been?
‘Snowpiercer’ airs on Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT on TNT.