Snowpiercer’s Jennifer Connelly aka Melanie Cavill let her flowing locks cascade down for the first time on “Access Is Power”. An episode spotlighting human depravity, regressive economic bartering, a rigid class system, and gladiatorial delights as distraction for the train’s semi-civilized, post-modern serfs.
This article contains spoilers for TNT’s Snowpiercer Episode 3 (“Access Is Power”).
Lithe, graceful, sophisticated caretaker of Wilford Industries’ hospitality by day, darwinistic demigod by night. Melanie Cavill’s prim & proper daylight demeanor allows her to maintain cover as Snowpiercer’s autocrat out in the open. Whether there ever was a real Mr. Wilford or not aboard Snowpiercer’s TV series alternate reality (and judging by a conversation between Layton & Roche tonight, there was), he lives only through Melanie Cavill now.
Cavill plays surrogate to an almost mythical, Zeus-like Mr. Wilford, introducing his elegant, refined pre-recorded messages as present day…. While letting her hair fall in relaxation over the charade, plunging the distance gravity will take it. Her Victorian updo as much of a mask and facade as the estate’s supposed noble lord. All part of the delicate balance of Snowpiercer’s ecosystem.
Mr. Wilford’s disguise allows her to personally asses the state of her dominion without revealing a visible royal crown. Thus, the train’s internalized caste system: elites, middle-class, lower-class, and the underclass of the tail are none the wiser to their true ruler.
Roman Coliseum as distraction from a species’ extinction
The elite investing family responsible for bringing Mr. Wilford’s vision to life made Ruth Wardell fully aware of their displeasure on tonight’s Snowpiercer. Unlike the ‘paupers’ that don’t look past a hit of Kronole, or those fully submerged in hedonistic delights aboard the train, Lilah Folger [Kerry O’Malley] knows an extinction event has occurred on Snowpiercer. While she couldn’t place the exact nature or species type, Mrs. Folger made it clear she knew Mr. Wilford’s Fight Night was a distraction. A modern Roman Coliseum to placate the masses while Rome itself burns, one train carriage at a time.
Fight Night saw Lilah Folger’s daughter LJ [Annalise Basso] not just take in the sights but relish complete societal breakdown. Anarchy broke out post-fight, as the elite watched from above in total safety, laughing in serene amusement. LJ even took the time to wave to Layton, seeing the train detective as just another pawn from the tail to be utilized and disposed. Sent back to the tail for all of time. In fact, Lilah made for than a few comments to Melina Cavill to simply get rid of the tail train carriage altogether. And not in jest. Rather, more as an insignificant burden making their caviar arrive late to the table each day.
Cavill shed her Pan-Am style blue uniform for a luxurious, chic sequined evening dress to commemorate Fight Night. Blending in with the elites that own the first class.
Kronole Origins Revealed
It turns out Dr. Henry Klimpt [Happy Anderson] is responsible for the street drug known as ‘Kronole’, though semi-indirectly. He’d been skimming the very chemicals used to suspend ‘unruly’ train riders in preparation for their stay in the drawers. Thus, a black market sprung along the third class in what would become Kronole. Essentially, those suspended in animation in the drawers become Kronole addicts as exemplified by accused train murderer Nikki Genêt [Madeleine Arthur].
Snowpiercer’s Dark Underbelly
Beneath the veneer exterior of the first class’ polished clientele lies decaying foundations built on the souls of the less fortunate. John Osweiller [Sam Otto] used his position to secretly trade Kronole, which can be used medicinally, to the tailies in exchange for sexual favors. One tailie was seen making such a trade last episode, his eyes looking vacant after the act…
The theme of tonight’s Snowpiercer showcased an economic system without rules or regulations, where every part of a human being is commoditized and sold to the highest bidder in exchange for one thing… Access. The thinnest opportunity for upward mobility available only by bartering anything and everything possible. A pre-determined free market rigged by winners. Those less fortunate destined to chase after the elite’s promised table scraps.
Be sure to read Better Call Saul’s Mark Margolis in big Snowpiercer Premiere scene, watch The Natural Aristocrat’s NYCC interview with Jennifer Connelly, and discover how to watch Snowpiercer online each Sunday.
Katie McGuinness spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Snowpiercer’s Tailie heroine, Josie Wellstead, and the show’s allegorical, Orwellian representation of class divide.
Josie Wellstead’s resilience in the face of certain demise is at the heart of Snowpiercer’s revolution. Her sacrifice acting as a powder keg to Layton moving forward with an uprising against a rigged system. One that had lost its humanity long ago, entrenching its population with zero social mobility or basic rights. Stripping away and commodifying even the fundamental human right to day light, the sun, exclusively to those with means.
Snowpiercer star Katie McGuinness discussed the experience of bringing Josie Wellstead to life on-screen, the final tussle between Josie & Melanie Cavill, and the resonating theme of class division on the series with The Natural Aristocrat®.
This interview contains spoilers for TNT’s Snowpiercer.
The Natural Aristocrat : How surprised were you when you received the script for your final scene on Snowpiercer? I mean, I’m sure there could be flashbacks with Josie but still. What was it like having that last showdown fight with Melanie Cavill?
Katie McGuinness: I was excited! I’m really glad that those two characters have that kind of face-off. It’s a really satisfying end to the series. It’s good to go out with a bang, right?
There’s a line Layton says in Episode 8, “We need to make the train work for all of us!” Do you feel what’s made Snowpiercer so topical and universally relatable for any time period is its Orwellian allegory to class division?
Yeah, when I first saw the film, I was really struck about it being an allegory for class division. It’s sort of what humans naturally create for themselves anyway, wherever they are. There’s always some kind of system we try to live by and put into place. Of course, it also brings up that feeling of “Look what can happen!” under a microscope.
It’s a distilled version of what lots of people can relate to feeling… But it also shows the capability of humans to survive and adapt. To find pockets of light and love and joy even in the most extreme of circumstances. And for me personally as well, I think it’s that nothing is clearcut or straightforward. You can see that with Melanie.
From Josie’s point of view, Melanie’s dangerous and threatens her people. But at the same time, from Melanie’s side of it, you can see the difficult decisions she has to make. Decisions, she doesn’t necessarily like making. So, I like that that it deals with the gray areas of humanity. No one is good or bad, no one is right or wrong, or perfect. Everyone holds all of that, and we’re all trying to sort of muddle along.
Jonathan Walker as Big John and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead on TNT’s Snowpiercer TV Series – Season 1 Episode 3 “Access Is Power” – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
If Josie & Layton had been offered the same kind of deal as Pike, with Miles’ wellbeing and even seeing him being further incentive… Is there any chance she would have accepted it and lived with the decision? Family over all, so-to-speak. Or is there no circumstance in which Josie betrays the Tail and the revolution?
I think with anything bigger in scale like a revolution, it always starts from a personal place. Josie’s able to really galvanize behind the idea of a revolution and change. Yes of course, partly because of her own fears, her own need to be useful, and to hang onto the people & the family that she’s made. She’s already lost everything else in the world and sacrificed so much. But Josie has such a strong, fiery sense of justice as well and doing right by people. She can’t bear the abuse of that.
So, there’s just no question in my mind, that if Josie had been put in the same position as Pike, she would have never have done it. She would definitely never believe that Layton would either. That’s the thing that really links them. It’s why they’re these great warrior leaders together. They both have that strong, ingrained, primal sense of justice.
When Tailies get a taste of real food as opposed to their fly-filled protein bars, it looks like instant euphoria on their faces. Especially Pike eating the chocolate cake. What did you personally imagine eating when you were first passed a meal in that ‘diner’ by a former Tailie?
Yeah, I didn’t imagine eating something like delicious or anything! I think it’s more kind of the weirdness of it. There’s a really strange sensation in your mouth like if you’ve ever been ailing and you’re just on liquids or something. It just feels odd. Like that x 1000! (laughs) Kind of like all your taste buds sort of exploded.
It was more like a feeling of, “I’m not sure I can keep this down” rather than “Oh my God! This is so delicious!” I think that probably comes a bit afterwards, once your body realizes it’s alright to eat solid, normal stuff again.
Do you generally utilize emotional recall or consider yourself a method actor in any way?
I mean, not specifically. I do. Of course, it’s helpful to put yourself in a situation where you remember feeling a certain way or some situation that you can relate to the scene… But also I try and use different ways of working because it can be tempting to find something that works and get stuck in it. And I’m interested in sort of stretching my muscles as much as I can in that way. So, I don’t think about it that much when I’m actually filming.
I feel like for me, I want to give myself the freedom because surprising things can happen. You can think that something is upsetting & sad and that you might you might feel upset by it… But actually in the moment, you could end up laughing because humans are idiosyncratic. You don’t always react to things that way you think you might.
I do pull in emotional recall sometimes and I try to do other stuff. I really like working physically, I quite often listen to music or distract myself with something else, completely not having to do with the scene before I go into it. There’s a lot of different ways in I think, and the interesting thing is to keep trying stuff out.
It’s interesting you mentioned music because my mind immediately went to the scene where Old Ivan requests to listen to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”… Then proceeds to hang himself. Josie’s facial expression right after really stands out. How do you reflect on that brutal scene?
Yeah, it was… It was brutal and just at the beginning as well. I was helped by the surroundings of course because the Tail’s carriage is quite small. We were shooting in the summer, it was really hot, and it’s easy to feel kind of crushed and oppressed in that environment. So, that kind of all added to it.
Snowpiercer Series Premiere – “First, the Weather Changed” – Pictured (from left to right) Mark Margolis as Old Ivan, Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton, and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead – Ep 101 – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
The building sense of that was around me… But at the same time also, I think that anyone who’s experienced loss in their life and especially if you’ve experienced anyone committing suicide then… That’s a really brutal thing to happen. I’ve had experience of that in my life with people I’ve known who’ve taken their life. So, it kind of wasn’t too far a stretch to embrace the despair of it.
Snowpiercer Series Premiere – Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead – Ep 101 – “First, the Weather Changed” – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
There’s a moment where Josie walks down a corridor, disguised as Third Class, and Miles is walking from the opposite side with his teacher. Josie’s pretty much frozen in silence, desperately wanting to say something but not allowing herself to. I was wondering what you drew on as inspiration to express the subtitles of that scene?
I think it’s partly that feeling when you’re on a mission to get something done, and you’re thinking about the practicalities of something. In that scene, I had to get to Astrid, I had to give her the information, I had to get back quickly. There’s a time pressure on it all.
You’re thinking in terms of those small steps of what practically do I need to do. I was focused in that way, so it felt like a massive splash of cold water. You know, when you catch someone out of the corner of your eye who you think already died. Suddenly you’re like, “Oh my God is that them?” And the world flips around for a second.
It’s one of those moments where I felt as Josie, I’d been really focused on the mission & the plan, and seeing Miles was like this stark reminder of what it was really all about. A bit of a free fall moment of, “Oh my God!” and remembering the loss of it.
Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead on TNT’s Snowpiercer TV Series – Season 1 Episode 7 “The Universe Is Indifferent” – BTS Photography (11/14/18) – Photo Credit: Jesse Giddings
Why do you feel Josie was so quick to trust Zarah Ferami after recovering Layton from the Drawers? You almost get the impression Josie knew something had reignited between Layton & Zarah but it doesn’t impact her decision. Is it just pure desperation?
I think there’s some hope in it. Of course, she’s backed into a corner and has to make a decision. But she also knows how much Zarah & Layton meant to each other. Perhaps, at that point, she suspects that they still do… Josie felt Zarah would stay true to her roots and where she came from. She just has to take the risk and believe that it will all be okay.
Maybe, knowing how much Zarah & Layton meant to each other, Josie sort of doesn’t want to give him up. But deep down, she knows that’s the only person that can help him.
Snowpiercer – Season 1 Episode 6 – “Trouble Comes Sideways” – Pictured from left to right: Karin Konoval as Dr. Pelton, Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton, and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead –
Ep 106 – 11/2/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
The Wilford Industries logo represents a post-modern Corporatocracy, a dictatorship-like autocrat, oppression and yet a lone symbol of survival all in one. After all, no one lives without the ‘eternal engine.’ What do you think Josie feels when seeing that symbolic ‘W’ everywhere? Is it a bittersweet relationship?
I think it’s really complicated. With anything like that, any system set up by humans often has really good intentions when they start. If you think about The Beach or Lord of the Flies or that documentary, Wild Wild Country. Which is about Osho, a guru that came from India to America. It started off with amazing intentions and it turned into this huge beast of a thing that you wouldn’t expect it to. So, I think It’s difficult because you’re reliant on Wilford’s train and you know there’s good in it… And also, you have no choice! (laughs) But at the same time it’s destructive as well.
I think that Wilford logo holds both those things at the same time. That’s why it implodes on itself because there’s such restriction in it. But you can’t fight too hard against it. It’s a bit of a mess. Josie does see it as dangerous, restrictive, unjust, and cruel, for sure. She’s lived in the back where she’s seen the worst of the worst, of the worst. It’s particularly difficult to be seeing that stuff but also knowing that you’re reliant on the system as well. I think that’s kind of where the tension lies.
Episode 3, “Access is Power”, has an intro that delves into the commodification of everything on Snowpiercer. How do you feel about the concept of sunlight itself becoming a commodity that only First Class passengers get to experience?
I feel like it’s not too many steps removed from stuff that’s going now. I know it’s an extreme example of it but the idea that a company today can own a tomato seed and only certain people can grow those crops, it’s just… Everything seems to be kind of going that way in the western world. It’s frightening! Of course, it is ridiculous to think that only certain people get to see the sun… But is it really miles away from what’s going on? (laughs)
Snowpiercer Series Premiere – Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead and Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton – Ep 101 – “First, the Weather Changed” – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
Do you think Snowpiercer fans might get a scene down the line where we learn more about Josie’s past and how she came to be Miles’ Tailie mother?
I don’t know but I would love that! That would be nice… (laughs) They did touch on their past really briefly in the first episode when it’s revealed that Miles’ mother died while getting on the train. And so, Josie & Layton took Miles on to become his surrogate parents.
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Katie McGuinness Headshot – Photo Credit: Pip
Did You Know?
– Katie McGuinness was nominated alongside her co-stars in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for a 2016 BTVA Video Game Voice Acting Award – ‘Best Vocal Ensemble in a Video Game’. Katie voiced the role of Keira.
Katie McGuinness Headshot – Photo Credit: Katie McGuinness
Be sure to Read/Watch:
Relive Josie Wellstead’s journey by purchasing Snowpiercer Season 1 on Amazon! Remember to watch Snowpiercer’s Season 1 Finale on TNT or via fuboTV live this Sunday, July 12th with a double-header (two episodes) starting at 9 pm EST.
Check out more Snowpiercer coverage on The Natural Aristocrat® over in the Snowpiercer articles section!
The ripple of war between rich & poor, divided by tickets and doors, is at the heart of TNT’s Snowpiercer.
This article contains spoilers for the Snowpiercer TV Series.
1) Smell Indicative of Social Standing
Her name is Josie Wellstead and providing adequate visual deception was not enough for Josie to fool Third Class’ inhabitants. The doe-eyed Tailie was caught not by sight or sound. Not a misplaced word for miles upon miles. Instead her work in Sanitation, known on Snowpiercer as a Tailie-only profession gave her away. Every sense needed to be accounted for to present as ‘Third Class’ and Josie did not foresee the ‘blunder’. A total devolution of humanity.
On Snowpiercer, attempting to ascend upwards in the social hierarchy without permission by Mr. Wilford is a mirage. An oasis in a desert, always in view but never reached. No matter how much one run towards it, arms stretched out.
2) ‘Punishment for thee not for me’
LJ Folger’s sham trial conviction was designed to imbue the lower classes with a sense of pride. Fill their imaginations with halcyon delights of equal share and justice under Wilford Industries’ law. But it was a ruse, a show not unlike Fight Night and every other circus on the train meant to placate the masses.
While the Tail loses fourteen arms in primitive brutality for the filmiest of cases, First Class walks in eternal impunity for murder. Judgement commuted seconds after the gavel is lifted.
3) Privacy : An unbridled Luxury
Old Ivan’s greatest wish was simply to be left alone for a while, to have room to breath among a sea of people. However, space & privacy is a luxury only afforded to the nobility of Snowpiercer, while the Tail is left to crowd around… Living on top of each other, no business not public, no endeavor not known. Privacy reduced to thoughts jailed exclusively in the mind.
In the end, Old Ivan used his brief leisure time to take his own life. Exiting a labyrinth containing no formal exit, trapped in a permeant caste system.
4) Lack of Sunlight & Vitamin D
LJ lightly delights at being the first to show Layton daylight once again, reveling in controlling ‘access’ to the sun. Layton expresses that Tailies haven’t seen the sun in a decade, indicating a potential lack of Vitamin D and a large susceptible population to illness.
Thus, the lower socioeconomic class of the Tail is hit twofold. Their very rights as humans are impeded on, living with no windows, shrouded in darkness… While weakening their immune systems.
5) Bug Filled Protein Bars
Tailies are forced to consume low-grade protein bars made out of bugs or not eat at all. In fact, there was a time when the Tail resorted to cannibalism when Wilford Industries provided no sustenance in an effort to cull the population of stowaways. Meanwhile, the elite dine on the finest sushi available and subtly complain of secret extinction events, believing damage is being done to their menu choices.
6) Kronole Underground Drug Market
Kronole, an off-shoot of the suspension drug utilized by Wilford Industries to keep criminality hidden away in drawers, has damaged the Tail. Though rampant usage is not exclusive to the Tail, the use of Kronole as a type of painkiller in opposition to a recreational party flavor mostly is. The Tail relies on Kronole to mitigate their pain, both physical and emotion, lest they end up like Old Ivan. Snowpiercer’s unregulated, underground market is in stark contrast to the careful balance Mr. Wilford/Melanie Cavill advocates for.
7) Powerful leverage Sexual Favors from Tailies
Officer John Osweiller exploited Tailie desperation to secure himself sexual favors from the residents. In one particular case shown on screen, a boy’s mother loses her arm in an exchange of ‘compensation’ to save his sister. The woman’s son heads to Osweiller and accepts a trade of a sexual favor for Kronole, Osweiller having a constant supply of the drug. The deed done all in a bid to help reduce the pain of his mother’s taken arm, taken unlawfully, without due process or a court of her peers.
A post-modern version of Hammurabi’s Law. Her humanity reduced to nothing the second she boarded Snowpiercer without a ticket. Civil Liberties left behind in the cold.
8) Experimental Drawers = Human Experiments
Wilford Industries and the eternal engine have impeccable trust to their brand, regardless of moral feelings to the logo. No one aboard Snowpiercer, Tail and First Class alike can deny Wilford’s ingenuity is keeping them alive. Thus, when the revelation is made that the Drawers are merely incubators for human experiments, and the suspension drug is not all that sophisticated… Josie Wellstead and the show’s audience itself is surprised by their own misconception.
The corporate label of excellence is instantly vaporized, Wilford Industries is not perfect and infallible, Mr. Wilford’s (or rather Melanie Cavill’s) words are not a new religious doctrine. In fact, the suspension drug is not that different than falling into a forced sleep cycle of Kronole addiction.
9) Lower classes used as coliseum entertainment for elite
Fight Night was a ploy to distract Snowpiercer’s inhabitants from it’s unexpected Cow Extinction Event. The end of an entire species swept under the rug while two of the lower peasantry fight to entertain the masses. A ruse that allows First Class to simultaneously remind themselves of their gifted status as they watch the serfs punch away at each other. Watching from a secure station, the balcony practically a castle upon a hill overlooking a village. The aristocratic class enjoying goblets of wine from the top of a post-apocalyptic rebooted Roman Coliseum.
Even Melanie Cavill let her hair down for the first time for the occasion, taking a sip of wine, as she played back a pre-recorded audio tape of Mr. Wilford. An intricate facade built upon the foundations built on the veneer of widespread ignorance.
10) “Second Class gets Desserts”
It might seem like superfluous minutiae to have an serving of ice cream after dinner but it isn’t. In the never confirmed but largely attributed words of Queen Marie Antoinette fueling the French Revolution, “Let them eat cake” or Let them eat brioches” as stipulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Confessions. Either way the meaning is the same, a complete disregard for the plight of the lower classes.
While Officer Bess Till enjoys the comforts of Second Class through marriage to Jinju Seong, her peers go without. Access to even a sugary hit of dopamine reserved only for those designated as elite.
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Snowpiercer’s first class sociopath, LJ Folger, played a Nintendo Switch on tonight’s episode. Coincidental product placement or console war omen?
This article contains spoilers for Snowpiercer Episode 5 (“Justice Never Boarded”).
Lilah ‘LJ’ Folger Jr. broke out a Nintendo Switch, complete with dual red Joy-Cons prior to her trial on tonight’s Snowpiercer. Was it post-modern TV product placement or subliminal messaging from the show’s writers about the console coming out on top? After all, anything aboard Snowpiercer is meant to be part of Mr. Wilford’s balanced, precise ecosystem. Did Wilford Industries deem Nintendo’s Switch the victor of the console wars due to its portable nature then?
It would seem probable in a haste to board Snowpiercer in worldwide chaos, the Switch’s portability allowed it to live by process of natural selection. Easily stowed away in a backpack. Nevertheless, the bright-eyed, ember haired LJ Folger was facing a murder conviction but chose the Switch as a welcome distraction. A Super Mario Odyssey themed Switch no-less judging by the dual red joy-cons and coin sound effects.
The tailies of course, have no such amenities. No consoles, no Joy-Cons. Forever the beggar looking outside the window of a candlelit, upscale, French bourgeoisie restaurant. No karma aboard Snowpiercer. LJ got off scot free ‘courtesy’ of Mr. Wilford’s emergency declaration tonight… The train’s shadow staff fearing what Sean Wise had said in his final moments about Melanie Cavill’s true identity.
Thus, a conviction by First, Second, and Third Class alike was instantly reversed. A commuting of the sentence by Mr. Wilford due to LJ’s age brought custody back to her parents. Thus, LJ is unlikely to learn from the experience as her noble-like status on Snowpiercer overcame even a murder charge. One which she admitted guilt to in front of a live jury, only blaming the influence of her lover Erik.
Thus, the reason LJ Folger was so nonchalantly playing a Nintendo Switch ahead of her own murder trial was perfectly stated. Just another game in the library to be enjoyed, semi-rigged entertainment. Easily reset after losing. When it seems LJ Folger has reached zero lives… There are no consequences.
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Check out more Snowpiercer TV series coverage in The Natural Aristocrat’s Snowpiercer articles section!