DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Snowpiercer episode “Setting Itself Right” has spoilers. Prepare to brace and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, passengers of the Eternal Engine! This series starts each season at a crawl and then works itself up to a sprint by the halfway mark. It can be tiresome, but when this show is good, it’s great. “Setting Itself Right” brings us one episode closer to the season finale, and Snowpiercer finally hits its stride.
Archie Panjabi delivers a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching farewell performance as Asha sacrifices herself to save the train. That said, the show underutilized her enormous talents this season. Sure, Asha’s brave act serves as “penance” for her guilt and self-resentment, but if anyone deserved to see New Eden, it was her. Plus, Snowpiercer robbed us of inevitably brilliant Jennifer Connelly and Archie Panjabi scenes!
Ready to dig deep into “Setting Itself Right”? Let’s get to it.
We open with narration from Asha (Panjabi) while she tends to the vegetation in AG-SEC. She has a green thumb, our Asha. However, Ruth (Alison Wright) chastises her for stealing from AG-SEC. These are Asha’s survivalist instincts, her hyper-vigilance, kicking into high gear, but Ruth reminds her that she’s safe now.
Asha tells us about something her grandmother used to say, about when everything goes wrong, maybe it’s setting itself right. That particularly resonates with me at the moment.
Later, Layton (Daveed Diggs) meets with Asha to discuss his New Eden lie. He shows her a photo of the tree he envisioned, and Asha confirms it’s an image from the calendar in the reactor. Technically, New Eden was predicated on a “lie,” but Asha believes they must forge ahead, undeterred. Everyone could use hope.
Next, Alex (Rowan Blanchard) and Ben (Iddo Goldberg) call Layton, Bess (Mickey Sumner) and Ruth to the engine for a chat. Based on Wilford’s discovery, they believe Melanie might be alive. There’s a small sidecar that switches from track to track, which can persist for years, and they pinpointed it near the Rocky Mountain Test Track. There’s the possibility that Melanie currently maneuvers this car.
The group fears that Wilford might be messing with them. Why would he want Melanie back on Snowpiercer? Layton ventures to the Eternal Engineer’s quarters to find out for himself. Wilford (Sean Bean) proclaims his innocence, citing that he believes another engineer on board is “better for us all.” He thinks New Eden is an awful idea, but Melanie’s presence increases their survival odds.
Meanwhile, we see Asha practicing breathing exercises in her room when a device emits a signal in her suit. That could spell trouble for the gang.
Zarah (Sheila Vand) and Layton discuss their relationship while spending time with Liana. Zarah believes co-parenting is the best course of action. The romance thing doesn’t suit them. Hear, hear!
Asha informs the group that her atmospheric CCA device gauges significantly increasing sulfur dioxide. While Asha, Ben and Alex work out the scientific specifics, Layton spots what lies ahead on the track — an orangeish cloud of unadulterated deadliness. Now, the crew believes Wilford purposely put them on this course.
Next, Osweiller (Sam Otto) parties it up in the Night Car while pickling cucumbers. LJ (Annalise Basso) doesn’t buy the whole New Eden thing. Not only that, but Melanie’s her sworn enemy. However, Osweiller wants off the train, so it appears our lovebirds linger at a crossroads.
Layton brings Wilford to the engine to answer for his mischievousness. But asserts his innocence! Wilford finally meets Asha, but Asha’s not a fan of the great engineer, so Ruth escorts Asha to her quarters.
Ben announces to the train that everyone deemed “nonessential” must hunker down in their rooms until the environmental threat passes. Bess and Audrey (Lena Hall), who are on a “date” of sorts, decide to stay in the former’s quarters.
Meanwhile, LJ badgers Mrs. Headwood (Sakina Jaffrey) for information regarding Wilford’s devotees. Are folks still rallying for his inevitable return to power? Initially, Headwood refuses to grant LJ access to her lab. However, she finds a use for LJ, removing a sizeable chunk of flesh from her thigh as part of the “initiation process.”
Then, Sykes (Chelsea Harris) helps Javi (Roberto Urbina) overcome his fear of Jupiter by approaching the canine’s cage. Sykes reassures Javi, telling him he has total control over the dog. But Javi’s anxiety overwhelms him, and he flees.
While Bess and Audrey drink together, Ruth and Asha also toast in the Hospitality quarters. Asha describes her time in the reactor and how she ran away from her mother. Ruth reminds her she’s here now — Asha didn’t break. That’s what’s important.
Roche (Mike O’Malley) urges Carly (Esther Ming Li) to stay put, and Carly expresses her fears regarding the sulfur dioxide cloud. She also imagines her mother outside with Melanie. Roche explains how he manages his grief. When he wakes up, he pretends Anne is in the closet. So, he ventures to the closet to dress. I employed this tactic recently when I lost a loved one, and it helps. It’s not an act of denial but something to ease the sting of loss.
Roche blasts some music and dances with his daughter, and it’s a beautiful, joyous sight. This scene is my favorite so far.
Meanwhile, Audrey gently confronts Bess regarding her excessive drinking and performs her Night Car magic. Initially, Bess resists, but she surrenders to the catharsis.
Zarah visits Wilford in the library and allows him to hold her baby. He inquires whether Zarah’s tested Liana’s cold resistance abilities yet. Zarah reveals she knows why Wilford wants Melanie back on the train.
Later, Javi and Sykes venture into AG-SEC to examine the scrubbers, filtering out the poisonous air. Unfortunately, the scrubbers aren’t working, and they can’t fix the intake without doing it manually. Sykes passes out amid the influx of sulfur dioxide, and Javi pulls her out of AG-SEC just in time. He revives her, and the pair share a moment. Methinks Snowpiercer‘s setting these two up to be an item.
Layton and Asha don suits and forge ahead into the deadly fray. After realizing they can’t squeeze into a tiny space with their suits on to fix the intake manually, Asha knocks Layton unconscious and removes her suit. She crawls into the said space herself, fully exposed to the toxic elements, much to Layton, Ben and Alex’s dismay. Ben guides Asha while she’s down there, and she successfully remedies the situation.
We see the sulfur dioxide in AG-SEC clear before it spreads to the other cars as the scrubbers begin functioning again. Unfortunately, Asha doesn’t have the strength to climb out of the crawlspace. She collapses, on the brink of passing. Asha urges Layton to describe New Eden to her, even though it’s not real. She passes while he tearfully paints a picture of paradise.
After LJ departs, Headwood tends to a mysterious patient, bringing LJ’s flesh sample. Who could that possibly be? Ruth finds a somber Layton after Asha’s brave sacrifice, and he feels reinvigorated, more determined than ever to find New Eden.
Ben informs the passengers that everyone can leave their quarters now as the danger no longer exists. Bess and Audrey face each other in the former’s bed, unwilling to leave. It’s abundantly clear that sparks fly between them.
Alex and Ben locate the speeding sidecar on a map that might house Melanie, and, sure enough, we see it zooming down the track as the final shot.
Snowpiercer‘s unabashed hope is what the doctor (not Headwood) ordered, and it keeps it afloat even amid its worst episodes. “Setting Itself Right” catalyzes the final act of this season, and it appears we’ll see Melanie sooner rather than later.
Do you think we lost Asha too soon? Do you think Melanie will turn up in next week’s episode? Will she side with Wilford regarding New Eden? Join me next time while I recap Snowpiercer here on Geek Girl Authority.
Snowpiercer airs Mondays at 9 pm on your TNT affiliate.
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