It takes an introspective piece like Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 4 to remind us that survivors never survive alone.
They live with the ghosts of those they’ve lost, the memory of the trauma they endured, the guilt of what they had to do to survive.
Melanie’s “return” might not be the resurrection some were hoping for, but her presence in the minds of Alex and Wilford is an impactful one, made more meaningful by her continued absence in real life.
Of course, if we’re going to discuss survivors, we should start with the Last Survivor, Asha of the Nuclear Nest.
Layton’s ability to convince the train to vote for New Eden depended on her selling them on the vision. It’s a fragile lie, considering how many are privy to the truth and made even more so by Asha’s tenuously braced sanity.
Asha: How I got here. I don’t think I was worth saving.
Till: We all feel that guilt.
Asha: I might implode.
We don’t have a clear idea of what sorts of ghosts dog Asha’s mind.
There was already blood on the wall before she and Layton fought each other. Her flashbacks are violent and disjointed. She’s made some cryptic comments about what can affect one’s judgment.
If you are doing this for a child, you will do things that you will regret.
She was out there for eight years, alone at the end of it. What did she have to do to become the Last Survivor? To what unforgettable horrors did she bear witness?
My main question about Asha remains what drove her to survive once everyone was gone.
If she genuinely believed that she was the last human left alive on earth, how did she keep from giving in to despair?
It’s been a long time since I’ve tried to be an inspiration.
While Asha’s ghosts are faceless and indistinct, Alex and Wilford have a familiar and comforting specter in the form of Melanie.
To Alex, she is still mother and mentor, and icon. To Wilford, Melanie shared his dream for so long it’s unsurprising that she lives rent-free in his brain.
Alex’s other ghosts are the product of Wilford’s actions but live on in Alex’s guilt.
When Alex revealed Wilford’s Cull to the dinner party guests on Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 9, it didn’t come as much of a surprise or shock to anyone, really. It was utterly in keeping with Wilford’s problem-solving ethos.
But it felt like there should’ve been some fall-out or follow-up on that revelation.
And here it is. Alex’s ghost friend, Shiloh, dead in the very bunk Alex was led away from by Wilford himself. The flashback memory of Shiloh awake as the train cars were cut loose to freeze.
It’s no wonder that Alex is so conflicted about every single emotion.
Threaded through all the trauma caused by The Freeze and Wilford, she is still a young person trained and favored by one of the greatest engineers alive.
Wilford said the weakest are those who suffer from memories. The strongest carry the past like fuel to ignite a path forward. He wasn’t wrong.
In the absence of her mother, the child Alex found a father in Wilford, but now that she sees him clearly, she cannot reconcile the part that cares for him with the atrocities he’s committed.
It’s okay to miss him. And to hate him. You know what? It’s even okay to love him. I ran from him. And I became him. Face him. Face all the things that haunt you. It’ll set you free.
Her ghost-Melanie gives her permission to feel affection for the man he was while acknowledging the evils he’s done. While he’s in his suspension drug coma, she can safely reciprocate the care he gave her when she was a child.
Speaking of Wilford’s comeuppance, it’s a fact that — even in the depths of debilitating loss and grief — Roche is a freakin’ HERO.
Maybe not a hero in the sense of shining armor and lofty ideals, but our man Roche does what needs doing. If no one — not Layton, not Josie, not even Ben — is willing to throw him from the train, Roche can at least take an eye for an eye.
Roche and Carly have always had their ghosts. He and Anne never stopped mourning the two children they couldn’t save from the Freeze. Carly’s always carried the knowledge she survived when her siblings did not.
Roche will blame himself for Anne’s death. His defiance of Wilford brought the punishment of the Drawers down on all of them, something I’m sure surly, hurting teenage Carly is throwing in his face at every opportunity.
It’ll be interesting to see how Layton will deal with Roche in the aftermath. If anyone is justified in sticking it to Wilford, it’s Roche, but it’s a dangerous precedent to leave out there on a train full of people who have suffered under Wilford’s rule. Or Layton’s, for that matter.
Of all the stories of damage and pain told here, the hardest to watch is Javi’s.
Despite the return of his friends and Layton’s leadership, Javi’s constant terror is palpable. Jupiter may be locked up somewhere with the jackboots, but she’s living in technicolor in Javi’s mind, always guarding him and threatening him with her every breath.
Reality isn’t necessarily kinder than our imaginations.
We see a number of people in imminent crisis in this selection of personal ghost/demon scenarios. Javi’s not anywhere near a place of healing. Asha’s only comfort is in her helmet. Roche might never come back.
We are not a nuclear family. We’re just trying to hold off the end of the world.
Meanwhile, Layton’s confronted with the choice Zarah made for their child, complicit with Wilford and Mrs. Dr. Headwood’s experimental cold treatment, irrevocably changing their daughter into something unknown.
Some, like Pike, are haunted by their past, both on the train and before.
His fealty to Ruth is incredibly sweet, yet he still holds back from her.
Pike: It’s my curse, Ruth. I can’t rah-rah. Can’t kumbayah.
Ruth: Ooooh. But you can Last Hurrah.
Pike: For you, anything.
I truly believe he sees his redemption in Ruth. He cannot abide Layton because Layton knows his past, knows the things he’s done and the things that have driven him.
In Ruth’s eyes, he can reinvent himself and become her Bananas Foster paladin.
Their time together is deeply touching but tinged with foreboding. Pike, left to his own devices, never does well. For anyone.
As you watch Snowpiercer online, consider the other ghosts the survivors still hold in their hearts. Mama Grande, the Last Australians, Mr. Dr. Headwood. All of them dead of the flu in a six-month period.
Winnie’s seen the corpses of her mother, her brother, and Strong Boy laid out in the past two years. Who does she talk to in her head for comfort and advice?
I’ve been here before. Where memories turn on you. Even the good ones.
And now that we’ve seen what abandoned train cars look like, maybe we need to take a moment to consider the cars Layton had to cut loose on Snowpiercer Season 1 Episode 9.
There may come a day when Layton will face the Tailies and other innocents who died so that democracy could live on Snowpiercer, one thousand twenty-nine cars long.
Do you believe in New Eden? What will happen if it proves another broken promise and Layton’s lies come out? Hit our comments with your theories and predictions!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.