Warning: SPOILERS for Snowpiercer season 2, episode 4, “A Single Trade”.
In order to take the train Snowpiercer, Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean) needs to win over any – but preferably all – of these four key female passengers to his side. Now that Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) has left the train to go on a solo mission, the conflict for control of Snowpiercer fully focuses on Joseph Wilford aboard Big Alice and his counterpart aboard the Great Ark Train, Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs), who is holding onto his tenuous command over Snowpiercer and its 2,700 riders.
Wilford and Layton are both crafty and charismatic leaders, but it has become clear in Snowpiercer season 2 that the female characters are the most important and impactful on the show. Of course, Melanie was the main character (along with Layton) in Snowpiercer season 1; she was Head of Hospitality but the ingenious Cavill also secretly ran the entire train for seven years by pretending Mr. Wilford was sequestered in the Eternal Engine and speaking in his name. However, Melanie lost control of Snowpiercer and ceded authority of the train at the end of season 1 – right before Mr. Wilford appeared out of the cold aboard his 40-car supply train, Big Alice.
Mr. Wilford plotted for seven years to get revenge on Melanie and take his super train back, but he had to begin improvising when he learned that Layton now runs Snowpiercer, not Cavill. Wilford had to be satisfied by egging Melanie on to go on what he hoped was a suicide mission to the Breslauer Research Station in the Rocky Mountains, where Melanie hopes to prove her theory that the world is getting warmer. Although Wilford rescued and raised Alexandra (Rowan Blanchard), Melanie’s daughter who she was forced to leave behind when she stole Snowpiercer from Wilford, the billionaire Messiah is growing suspicious that Alex cares more for her mother than she’s admitting. Alex may be on the outs as Mr. Wilford adjusts his operation to take back Snowpiercer but there are others aboard the 1,034-cars-long train he needs to win over to his side.
Aboard Snowpiercer, Mr. Wilford is buoyed to learn that there are pockets of support and loyalists willing to enact violence in his name, like the train’s Breachers. But the most important people that Joseph needs to turn into his acolytes are some of the female passengers, who wield plenty of power and influence across all aspects of the train. Some, like Bess Till (Mickey Sumner) and Zarah (Shiela Vand), are loyal to Layton; Andre fought with Till in the Snowpiercer War and he made her Train Detective while Zarah is carrying Layton’s child. But if Mr. Wilford can win the loyalty and service of the following four key women, Snowpiercer is essentially his for the taking.
Mr. Wilford may take umbrage at Alexandra calling Miss Audrey (Lena Hall) his “paramour”, but it’s true, and the Nightcar’s chanteuse is an immensely influential figure on Snowpiercer. Episode 4, “A Simple Trade” revealed the sordid backstory between Wilford and Audrey: She was his exclusive all-girl since she was 18 and they revel in a complex and disturbing relationship of power games and abuse. Wilford even manipulated Audrey into slitting her wrist in his bathtub to give him sexual pleasure, similar to how he coaxed his Head of Hospitality, Kevin McMann (Tom Lipinsky), to slice his wrists open in episode 2, “Smolder to Life”. The games of seduction Audrey and Wilford engage in are certainly… unique.
After their private Nightcar encounter in “A Simple Trade”, Layton has reason to doubt Miss Audrey’s assurances that she is in control of her feelings toward Joseph and loyal to Snowpiercer. Mr. Wilford not only got his hooks in Audrey, they’ve really been there for the last seven years. But aside from love (if Mr. Wilford feels love) and lust, there are other major advantages for Joseph to want Miss Audrey back on his side: She is a nexus point for Snowpiercer’s morale and she has intimate knowledge of the major players aboard the super train. Like Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, on Snowpiercer, everyone comes to the Nightcar, and many enter Miss Audrey’s private room to alleviate themselves of their hidden trauma to her. Miss Audrey is a powerful force, and she’s a rare celebrity aboard Snowpiercer. If Mr. Wilford converts Miss Audrey to his side once again, he gets so much more than his paramour back.
Ruth Wardell (Alison Wright) is Snowpiercer’s new Head of Hospitality, replacing Melanie Cavill, and Ruth was one of the most excited people when Mr. Wilford unexpectedly came out of the cold alive and well. Season 1 revealed that Ruth was personally recruited by Wilford to come aboard Snowpiercer after he stayed at an inn she ran years ago, so Wardell owes the billionaire her very passage on the train when the world froze. Ruth unabashedly “admires” Mr. Wilford and a part of her years for the simplicity of his “perfect order.”
However, Ruth has also declared that her first and truest loyalty is to the train itself and she takes her responsibility as Head of Hospitality incredibly seriously, which is one of her virtues. Ruth also knows everyone aboard Snowpiercer – every secret about every passenger – which makes her invaluable since she’s also incredibly loyal unless she feels she’s been deceived and made a fool of. The fact that Layton keeps Ruth at arm’s length and shuts her out of his intimate circle of trust not only rankles Ruth but it’s also a massive miscalculation on the part of Andre. Whoever runs Snowpiercer should not only want but need Ruth on their side, and Mr. Wilford could be the one who gives Wardell the appreciation she craves. After all, the teal Ruth proudly wears is already the color of Wilford Industries.
L.J. Folger (Annalise Basso) is one of the most dangerous people on Snowpiercer and she is currently not being taken seriously enough by other passengers, which is actually even more of an advantage for her – and possibly for Mr. Wilford. The notorious L.J. was a First Class passenger who is despised for instigating a series of gruesome murders in Snowpiercer season 1. Lilah Jr. was orphaned when her parents were separated from the rest of Snowpiercer and left to freeze to death, along with 170 of their supporters, for attempting a coup of the train. Banished from First Class, L.J. was forced to fend for herself in Third, where she latched on to ex-Brakeman Jon Osweiller (Sam Otto).
However, the reimgful and sociopathic L.J. landed on her feet; she and Osweiller joined Janitorial and L.J. found she liked it, despite the manual labor. Being part of the Janitorial team gives L.J. unfettered access to every part of the train, and living in Third ingratiates her to the black market and criminal underworld of Snowpiercer. What’s more, L.J. openly professed her loyalty to Mr. Wilford when he was invited to First Class in episode 2. It’s actually a wonder Mr. Wilford hasn’t attempted to cultivate L.J. over to his side already, perhaps by using Alex, who L.J. hung out with when she accompanied Wilford to the Nightcar. L.J. is a deadly weapon just waiting for Mr. Wilford to claim as his own and unleash.
Josie Wellstead (Katie McGuinness) is not only miraculously alive but, by the end of Snowpiercer episode 4, she is already in Mr. Wilford’s clutches aboard Big Alice. But does the billionaire Messiah know who he has in Josie? Wellstead was part of the Tail and she became Layton’s love interest. More importantly, Josie became a revolutionary after Layton left the Tail to become Train Detective, and she served as a spy in Third Class and roused the Tail towards war against Snowpiercer. However, Melanie thought she killed Josie in Snowpiercer season 1, but Wellstead survived exposure to the outside air, although it left her extremely damaged by frostbite and missing her right hand.
Layton allowed Josie to be transferred to Big Alice so she could undergo the Headwoods’ experiments to heal her from her frostbite. Josie agreed to spy on Big Alice and report her findings back to Layton via the pipeline between the two trains. But what happens if Josie is healed by the Headwoods? Would being returned to her original state via the same process that gives Icy Bob (Andre Tricoteux) his cold immunity turn Josie’s loyalties to the man who made it all happen, Mr. Wilford? Even in her present state, Josie is extremely well-connected to Snowpiercer’s lower classes, plus she and Layton still have feelings for each other. If Mr. Wilford realizes who the woman wrapped in bandages in his medical lab really is, he would be wise to weaponize Josie to his cause of destroying Layton and retaking Snowpiercer, 1,034-cars-long.