'Snowpiercer' Episode 7: Brakeman Beth Till’s evolution as a character restores hope in humanity
Every one on Snowpiercer acts exactly as you expect them too, as per their assigned roles. Everyone except Brakeman Beth Till. She is the only one who has evolved since the series began
Spoilers for 'Snowpiercer' Season 1 Episode 7 'The Universe is Indifferent'
Up till now, all the characters of 'Snowpiercer' have acted as expected, shaped by their experiences on the train ark and the roles they play on it. Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), who designed the train, "inherited the creation" after Wilfred. So she plays the secret empress and savior of the train, and if that means she has to be the bad guy, so be it. Even if that means puking in the toilet after doing something unusually cruel. For her, keeping the order on the train is a sacred duty that requires personal sacrifices, somewhat like the kings of the old who believed they were the Divine's representatives on earth.
Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs), the police detective and a Tailie, also stays true to his loyalties to his fellow-Tallies and his profession. Audrey (Lena Hall), the artist, who looks for things like justice, beauty and art around her stays the impractical dreamer who will inspire but has no idea how to lead a real revolution.
Terrence (Shaun Toub), the part-time janitor and full-time grifter, doesn't turn revolutionary or rat. He stays neutral and looks out for himself like he always has. Zarah (Sheila Vand), the traitor, stays the traitor, giving up Josie when her safety is threatened.
Josie (Katie McGuinness), the revolutionary and Layton's female counterpart, spends her last moments trying to make Melanie see the error of her ways and failing that, tries to take her out.
Every one of them acts exactly as you expect them too. Everyone except Brakeman Beth Till (Mickey Sumner). She is the only one who has evolved since the series began. At the start, she is contemptuous of Layton, who has been asked to do the job they have failed to do. But unlike Brakeman Oz (Sam Otto), who remains obnoxious, she starts respecting Layton for his intelligence and his skills as an investigator.
When Beth realizes he has been Drawered despite solving the case, she is moved to action, helping Josie to rescue him. At this point, she has everything to lose. She has just been promoted to the second class, and as a Brakeman, her loyalties are to the train's elites. She is part of the police force that guards the borders between classes and keeps the inhabitants in line.
And yet, in that moment, when she sees Layton, she reacts as a human being rather than the role she has been assigned. Beth risks her job and life a second time when she enters Josie's interrogation room when Melanie retreats for a while. She is visibly concerned about Josie. Though Beth is also concerned about whether Josie spilled the beans on her involvement in Layton's escape, her first instinct is to help Josie escape when she sees Josie with her mutilated hand.
Beth would be caught and tortured if Josie escaped and, yet this thought never enters her head. She only sees a woman in pain and wants to help. Her compassion is a stark contrast to how she treated Layton when she first met him when she saw all Tailies as less than human. As Beth tells Josie in Episode 7, what was done to Layton "wasn't right" and she had to help. This act of hers, makes her "one of them", the anti-establishment revolutionaries, according to Josie. Beth also becomes the messenger for the Revolution to come, transmitting Josie's messages to Layton.
There is also a huge shift in her attitude towards Melanie and her lover, Jinju. At the start, she is both in fear and in awe of Melanie. She also has no secrets from Jinju. But now, she suspects Jinju and tells her nothing about Layton. Beth is also secretly derisive of Melanie after realizing what she did to Layton. Their gazes clash as Beth realizes that Melanie is again going to break protocol and interrogate Josie alone.
The only sticking point in this episode is when she helps Josie freeze off her hand so that she can mount a surprise attack on Melanie when she returns. While as a character arc, it is a good one to have, the execution suffers. She is the only person who enters the room in which Josie is being held besides Melanie. The guards witness her going into the room.
After Melanie comes back, she notices Josie's frozen hand. When she asks her about it, Josie takes the opportunity to shatter her own hands to free herself from the shackles and then attacks Melanie. After Melanie escapes Josie's desperate bid to take her out, why doesn't she wonder about how Josie managed to freeze her hand despite being shackled? She is too sharp a cookie not to. And yet she doesn't. Is she too rattled with her near brush with death to think about it? We never understand why she never asks the guards who else went into the room when she was gone.
For now, it is a niggling little plot hole but it doesn't take away from the evolution of Brakeman Beth Till.
'Snowpiercer' airs on Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT on TNT.