DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Snowpiercer episode “The First Blow” has spoilers. Prepare to brace and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, passengers of the Eternal Engine! Snowpiercer‘s third episode, “The First Blow,” is the best of the season thus far. There were a few genuinely unexpected moments: LJ stabbing Kevin to death, Strong Boy falling on his sword for the cause and Roche’s wife dying in the drawers.
That said, Layton’s victory, while thrilling, was expected. Of course, this doesn’t diminish the exhilaration I felt when Layton laid the smackdown on Wilford, but we knew this victory was on the horizon.
So far, since the beginning of Season 2, Snowpiercer seems to measure its plot based on Layton versus Wilford victories. Inevitably, Wilford will have to bite it so that the show can move on to the next Big Bad. Otherwise, we’ll remain enmeshed in a perpetual Wilford trip around the tracks. We might be approaching the time to derail him.
Ready to dig deep into “The First Blow”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Wilford (Sean Bean) assembling his Jackboots for the impending battle with Layton. Wilford orders Javi (Roberto Urbina) to gun it; chase down Layton and his crew as they speed away. Wilford surmises that Layton plans to infiltrate Snowpiercer from the side since connecting end-to-end will result in an ambush from Wilford’s Jackboots.
Wilford orders Kevin (Tom Lipinski) to wrangle Ruth’s followers and “take the gloves off,” not shy away from bringing the pain. Kevin also brings Zarah (Sheila Vand) into Big Alice’s engine to stand next to Wilford.
Meanwhile, Javi drives through what’s left of Wilford’s weapon on the tracks. Despite the train running low on power, Wilford orders him to press on — Big Alice will see them to the other side.
Alex (Rowan Blanchard), Layton (Daveed Diggs), Ben (Iddo Goldberg) and Josie (Katie McGuinness) strategize how to retake Snowpiercer. Wilford’s guess was correct; the plan is to have Josie enter the train from the outside.
Meanwhile, Z-Wreck (Kwasi Thomas) urges Pike (Steven Ogg) to stay under the radar since he’s a leader now. Strong Boy (Kurt Ostlund), Z-Wreck and the rest distract Wilford’s lackeys while Pike sneaks off to free Ruth.
Josie spies Wilford’s harpoon peaking out at her, throwing a wrench in Layton’s plan. After Josie retreats inside the pirate train, Wilford fires the spear, derailing Layton’s smaller vessel. Sykes (Chelsea Harris) flees to Asha’s (Archie Panjabi) room and relocates her to the first couple of train cars. Layton sets Asha up in Melanie’s old sleeping quarters. Once he departs, Asha puts on her helmet to help her breathe.
Ben unlinks the most damaged cars from the train courtesy of Wilford’s harpoon.
Later, Ben tells Layton that Wilford “went dark” — there’s no trace of Snowpiercer anywhere. We see Kevin wake LJ (Annalise Basso) and Osweiller (Sam Otto) to commandeer the Night Car for his torture party.
Next, Pike encounters Jackboot Whiggins (Kristian Bruun), guarding Ruth’s cell. Thankfully, Pike fabricates an excuse about being Ruth’s lawyer, even tossing in a bit of light threatening for good measure. Pike tries to free Ruth (Alison Wright), but the latter insists the war is more significant than they are now. She urges Pike to make contact with Layton by procuring something from Hospitality.
The pair talk about who they “sing for;” Audrey has Wilford, but who’s in Bess’s corner? Bess rattles off Layton, Zarah and Roche; however, one of those three lives in a drawer.
Suddenly, Bess catches a glimpse of a series of fireworks as they light up the night sky. That’s Pike’s signal! Now Layton knows where Wilford is. Meanwhile, Kevin tortures Strong Boy, much to Z-Wreck’s dismay. Kevin removes two of Strong Boy’s fingers, and he’s hellbent on freezing off more.
Osweiller voices his concerns regarding Kevin’s torture party in their Night Car. LJ reassures him that they’re simply providing a venue. I’m starting to favor Osweiller a bit more while what little I liked about LJ significantly diminished.
Unfortunately, Kevin decides to freeze Strong Boy’s tongue. The outlook for good ole SB’s looking pretty grim.
Layton orders Bess to bring Audrey to the engine while Josie embarks on another trip outside. Now, the plan is to meet Wilford, engine to engine, dangling Audrey in front of him in the process.
We see Layton’s pirate train pull up to face Snowpiercer. Layton and Wilford negotiate, with Zarah in view of Layton and Audrey on display for Wilford. Layton urges Wilford to surrender, and he’ll ensure that Audrey and her man get a luxurious car in first class so that they can live out the rest of their days in comfort.
But Wilford’s not a man of compromise, even after finally laying eyes on Audrey for the first time in six months.
Big Alice runs out of fuel, so Wilford utilizes that metaphorical carrot to get Layton to bend the knee. If they don’t reconnect, everyone on Snowpiercer will freeze.
Ben vows to reconnect the trains and rattles off a message in Spanish for Javi. We see the door open on Big Alice.
Wilford’s Jackboots assemble at the connecting point, ready to meet Layton with fists and blunt instruments. Alex reverses the pirate train and prepares for reconnection but doesn’t fully connect until Ben gives her the go-ahead.
Meanwhile, Josie jumps on Big Alice’s engine and smashes the window, convincing Wilford she’s about to break in. Wilford backs into Layton while the door shuts behind them, entrapping the insidious engineer. Layton beats the snot out of Wilford, and, folks, it’s glorious. Retribution is here!
After roughing Wilford up a bit, Layton demands the latter call off his Jackboots. Wilford does as he’s bid, but that’s not all. Layton orders Wilford to say, “Andre Layton, you have the train.”
We see passengers break into raucous cheering throughout the train. Kevin looks dejected because Daddy Wilford lost. LJ offers her orange to Z-Wreck before nonchalantly stabbing Kevin in the neck. Then, she declares her loyalty to the resistance. That sneaky, crafty gal, she goes where the wind blows.
On another note: Bye, Felicia (Kevin)!
Later, Ruth reunites with Layton, sharing Wilford’s hidden alcohol stash. Layton fills Ruth in on the Horn of Africa dream and finding Asha. Meanwhile, Bess observes while Dr. Pelton (Karin Konoval) releases Roche (Mike O’Malley) and his family from the drawers. Unfortunately, only Roche and his daughter survived; his wife perished.
Everyone in the Tail mourns the loss of Strong Boy, who died from Kevin freezing his tongue. RIP Strong Boy — you were a valuable asset to the resistance. You were strong and a boy (man).
Ben finds Javi sobbing in Big Alice’s engine, and he embraces his friend after six months apart. Admittedly, this scene made me break. I have a soft spot for Javi and Ben, and I adore their friendship.
Layton informs Ruth about his plan to have the passengers vote on their next move. Do they speed off to the Horn of Africa, or do they continue their perpetual path around the globe? Ruth urges him to brace himself for the worst outcome. Not everyone supports his rule.
Sykes throws Audrey’s things at her feet and tells her she’s confined to third class and barred from the Night Car. That’s what you get when you’re on the wrong side!
Meanwhile, Josie tends to Wilford’s injured hand after Layton stabs it. He remarks that he is Snowpiercer; he has too many supporters in his camp for Layton to have a peaceful rule. Wilford also refers to Josie as “Frankenstein’s Monster,” his creation.
Later, Layton enlists Asha’s aid in telling a fib to the passengers to push them in the direction of the Horn of Africa. Asha discloses to said passengers over the intercom that she hails from New Eden, where trees, plants and the grass grow freely.
Layton’s white lie is enough to sway the passengers toward freedom — they vote to make a break for the Horn of Africa. Ruth believes Snowpiercer requires a lie or two, here and there, to operate.
Asha sits in the library with her helmet on while Ruth informs the passengers about the voting results. It’s abundantly clear that her trauma runs deep.
Sean Bean, Archie Panjabi and Roberto Urbina delivered the goods for me in “The First Blow.” Bean showcasing Wilford’s vulnerability, notably when he sees Audrey, proves he’s not a one-note villain.
I believe I’m drawn to characters experiencing or grappling with trauma because it helps me reconcile with my own, and Asha and Javi’s stories resonate with me. Interestingly, both of them exhibit physical scars that complement their inner pain. I hope Snowpiercer gives these characters the space to grieve, explore and ultimately heal from their internal and external wounds.
With grace and tenderness, Panjabi and Urbina breathe life into their characters’ respective traumas.
“The First Blow” chugs the narrative forward significantly more than its predecessors, hopefully setting the stage for an exciting trek to New Eden. Here’s hoping they find a way off the tracks of repetition and lay new ground for innovation.
Snowpiercer airs new episodes Mondays at 9 pm on your TNT affiliate.
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