By your steady hand, we will ride out this hardship and outlive the ice, bound by our cause and our need.
— Melanie in Access Is Power

Melanie Cavill is the deuteragonist in TNT's Snowpiercer. She is portrayed by Jennifer Connelly.

She is the Voice of the Train, who makes the PA system's daily announcements. Though many of her peers are dismissive of the lower class passengers, Melanie is curiously fascinated by them. In secret, Melanie is in fact the pretending to be the mysterious Mr. Wilford, who although mentioned has not been seen yet. She is one of the engineers that designed and created Snowpiercer in the first place[1] and is the true mastermind behind the train's design. She abandoned the real Wilford to die when the journey began, believing that Snowpiercer wouldn't survive with him in charge.[2]

After escaping execution, Melanie aids Layton in taking control of the train,[3] returning to her former job as an Engineer before the arrival of Big Alice brought back the real Mr. Wilford and Melanie's daughter Alexandra, whom she had believed to be dead.[4] Melanie now serves as the Head Engineer of Snowpiercer and works with Layton on keeping the train safe from Wilford.

History

Background

According to Melanie, she grew up on a dirt farm in eastern Pennsylvania and came from nothing. As a result, she has sympathy for the lower classes and their struggles. At some point, she secretly took on the identity of Mr. Wilford, the head of Wilford Industries who came up with Snowpiercer when the Freeze came. Melanie lost her daughter Alex when the Freeze came. Allie was with Melanie's parents, who were supposed to board the train together, but they never made it aboard.

When Snowpiercer began its journey, Melanie, believing that Mr. Wilford's selfish desires would doom humanity, "took the train" and abandoned him to die in Chicago. Melanie subsequently posed as the real Mr. Wilford to maintain order.[2]

Throughout The Series

Hiring Layton

Melanie is the voice of the train aboard Snowpiercer, and also the head of hospitality. She receives numerous complaints from passengers that they have heard of uprisings on the train. Melanie sends Ruth Wardell to remove Andre Layton from the Tail in a bid to help with the investigations into the murder that has caused the widespread panic; it is revealed that Layton was a homicide detective before Snowpiercer departed.

Layton enters numerous negotiations with Melanie, outlining his terms for working the murder case — third-class immigration and rations for the Tailies. Melanie refuses each of his demands, however, remarking that it would do him well to help catch the murderer; she gives him a chance to escape the Tail of the train. Layton is told that if he can clear Nikki's name and solve the case they will make him Train Detective and move him to Third Class, he refuses, however, citing that he wants his demands met.

After the revolt of the Tailies, Melanie enlists Layton to calm them. When he is successful, Ruth reveals that Wilford will demand six of the Tailies lives in exchange for the security guards lost. Layton pleads with Melanie, agreeing to work for her and solve the murder if she spares the lives of his friends; she reluctantly agrees. She later returns to the front of the train where she takes over as driver, and it is revealed that she is in fact the mysterious Mr. Wilford.[1]

The following day, Melanie is surprised to see Layton has been beaten up after causing a scene with the guards. She becomes increasingly angry and remarks that he is only in his position because "Mr. Wilford" needs him to solve the murder. She is impressed, however, when Layton figures out that Sean — the recent murder victim — was an informant for Wilford, hence why "he" wants the case solved to figure out what secrets were spilled.[5]

Difficult decisions and choices

Melanie is faced with a difficult decision when Javi reveals that they are unlikely to pass through the upcoming glacial collapse without damage. Javi recommends that they scale back the power by 12%, however, Melanie cites that they cannot afford any blackouts — especially with the current concerns of the passengers — and that they should push ahead.

Later, Melanie realizes that this was the wrong decision when the cliff collapses and one of the Ag-Sec carriages is damaged, freezing everything inside. Melanie agrees to scale back 12% whilst the damage is fixed. Later, amidst concerns by Jinju and Bennett, Melanie decides that water and other essentials will be rationed per class; Bennett remarks that this is killing the passengers from the tail up.[5]

Melanie is faced with a further difficult decision when Layton begins to find out details surrounding Sean's death. Layton refuses to reveal any of the information unless he is allowed to visit Josie Wellstead in the Tail. Eventually, Melanie reluctantly agrees but is oblivious to the fact that Layton is exchanging details about the Train's security with Josie.[6]

After Niiki is murdered, Melanie faces anger and suspicion as she helps Layton look into the first-class passengers. Though Layton suspects first class will prevent any of their own from facing justice and expresses outrage at the luxuries they enjoy, Melanie assures him that she is on his side, revealing her own humble origins. Melanie orders Layton to be first-class' "worst nightmare from the Tail" while she will help clear the way for him. As they work together, Layton notices Melanie's level of power and becomes suspicious of her true identity.

After Erik is identified as the killer, Melanie, acting as Layton's partner due to Bess Till being busy chasing Erik, interrogates the Folger parents as Layton interrogates LJ Folger. After Erik is killed by the Jackboots, Layton signals to Melanie that LJ is responsible and she has Jackboots brought in who arrest LJ after a struggle when Layton announces her guilt. Melanie makes a train-wide announcement that the killer is dead and that the second suspect has been arrested before bringing Layton for a drink. By now, Melanie has realized that Layton knows who she really is which he confirms, stating that "a myth is a powerful thing." Melanie is revealed to have drugged Layton, apologizing to him and stating that she hopes that he never knows the weight that comes with being a myth. Melanie has Layton secretly put into the Drawers, keeping it off-the-books so that no one else knows about it. However, Melanie, not wanting Layton to get hurt, orders that Layton is not to be damaged.[7]

Identity Crisis

Following the revelation that LJ Folger is partly responsible for Sean Wise's murder (and the first murder), Melanie convenes a tribunal to decide her fate. Things become difficult, however, when Third — specifically Miss Audrey and the Nightcar — begins causing trouble due to lack of representation on the tribunal. When Melanie confronts Audrey, the latter threatens Melanie, remarking that Third touches most of the train and will be heard one way or another.

Melanie heeds the warning and reselects the tribunal with one representative from each class — the Tail is not represented as they are not considered passengers. This move is not popular in First and Second and, when she LJ is found guilty — and reveals that Sean Wise was a Wilford Informant — she commutes her sentence as she fears LJ may be aware of her identity as the mysterious Mr. Wilford. Before reuniting LJ with her parents, she talks with her, and LJ promises to keep "Mr. Wilford's" secret as a thank you for commuting her sentence.[8]

Layton holds Melanie at knifepoint

Melanie's situation is later amplified when Andre Layton is rescued from the Drawers by his girlfriend, Josie Wellstead, and comes after Melanie. He holds her at knifepoint whilst she is trying to fix the hydraulic system on Snowpiercer and tells her that he knows the drawers are experimental and not working properly. Melanie tells him that he has it wrong and that the drawers are a lifeboat, containing the very best part of humanity in an effort to save them from the freeze. Melanie warns Layton that the social order on Snowpiercer relies on the myth of Mr. Wilford, and that the society would collapse should her secret be revealed; Layton reluctantly allows her to leave to fix the hydraulics with the train in danger of derailment. With seconds to spare, Melanie saves the train. She later gifts Miles a caliper given to Melanie by Mr. Wilford himself and tells the boy that Mr. Wilford needs something from him.[9]

Search for Layton

Melanie desperately searches for Layton, threatening Zarah Ferami and torturing Josie Wellstead for information. Melanie admits to Josie that she took on Mr. Wilford's identity and claims that if it had been up to her, things on the train would've been done very differently. Melanie personally tortures Josie by freezing her pinkie finger off using outside air but becomes sick at her actions. When Melanie returns, she finds Josie's whole hand frozen, done by Bess Till at Josie's request and Josie breaks free. The two women fight, resulting in outside air filling Hospitality. Melanie manages to escape while Josie freezes to death. During this time, Ruth Wardell tries to warn Melanie that the Folgers are planning their own revolution, but Melanie rudely brushes her off.

Melanie, showing signs of guilt over her actions, later promotes Miles to the engine and reassures herself that as engineers they must do whatever it takes to ensure humanity's survival.[10]

Revolution

At Layton's request, Miles reveals to LJ Folger the truth about Melanie. Melanie later coaches Miles by driving the train himself and the two discuss their lost families. When Miles brings up still having his Tail mom Josie, Melanie shows a moment of guilt before they are interrupted by First demanding answers after LJ reveals to her parents what she has learned. Melanie is arrested and imprisoned in Hospitality but manages to trip an alarm warning Bennett to lock down the engine room. Javi abandons the engine while Bennett locks himself inside and tells Commander Grey, his men and Ruth that the real Mr. Wilford has been dead since boarding and that Melanie "took the train."

Ruth later visits her imprisoned friend in Hospitality for answers and Melanie admits that she abandoned the real Mr. Wilford to die in Chicago at departure. Melanie explains that she is the true visionary behind Snowpiercer while the real Mr. Wilford "sold tickets" and didn't believe in the survival of the human race, instead of desiring to spend the rest of his life surrounded by opulence. Believing that the train wouldn't survive one revolution with him in charge, Melanie abandoned Mr. Wilford to die and took his place and identity to ensure the survival of humanity. Upset, Ruth announces that Melanie will be executed for her crimes the next day before leaving Melanie alone.[1]

Melanie is subsequently imprisoned with captured revolutionaries awaiting their executions. However, she is rescued by Javi and Jinju and makes her way down train where Melanie is captured by Layton's people. Donning more casual clothes for once, Melanie offers a solution to the problem: disconnect several cars containing the Jackboot army and the Folgers. Having only ever intended to keep the last of humanity safe, Melanie knows that her way didn't work and wants to try Layton's way with him in charge. With little other choice and Miss Audrey believing her, Layton agrees to Melanie's plan.

Melanie gives Layton her access implant and contacts Bennett in the Engine to fill him in on the plan. Melanie explains to Layton that they must disconnect safety switches on either side of the planned disconnection, requiring Layton to infiltrate the forward section. When the time comes, Melanie pulls her switch down train and watches as the forward part of the train pulls ahead. Layton eventually pulls the other switch, allowing Bennett and Miles to disconnect seven cars containing the Folgers, aside from LJ, Grey, the Jackboot army, and the prisoners. After the train is reconnected, Layton confronts Melanie, realizing that she knew he'd have to cut the prisoners loose. Melanie confirms it, stating that she knew he'd have to make the choice and that these are the decisions that they have to live with every day. Melanie then declares that Snowpiercer is Layton's.[3]

A surprising return

Melanie running to the Docking Car.

Returning to Hospitality, Melanie broadcasts a message officially handing control of the train to Layton. Consumed with guilt over leaving her daughter behind to die, Melanie visits Miss Audrey to get some solace.

After a confrontation with Ruth, Melanie returns to work as an Engineer investigating a strange signal that proves to come from Big Alice, a Wilford supply train with a prototype of the Eternal Engine. As Big Alice clamps onto Snowpiercer and begins taking control, Melanie, worried that the other train contains the real Mr. Wilford, chooses to climb outside and cut the uplink. After angrily realizing that Bennett covered up the approach of Big Alice, Melanie heads outside alone, cutting Bennett's air supply so that he can't follow her. However, Big Alice brings Snowpiercer to a stop in the middle of Chicago, throwing Melanie from the train. Surviving the fall, Melanie begins making way along the stopped trains, unaware that her daughter had just boarded Snowpiercer from Big Alice as Wilford's diplomatic envoy.[4]

Reuniting with Wilford

Following Big Alice's connection with Snowpiercer, Melanie ventures outside to evaluate the situation. She finds the uplink between Snowpiercer and Big Alice and begins hacking away at the link. Eventually, she is able to sever the link between the two, allowing Javi and Bennett to take back control of Snowpiercer's immediate life support systems; furthermore, she attaches a sticky charge to the linking mechanism keeping the two trains together.

After her suit begins failing, she is forced to board Big Alice, where she is met by a familiar face, Kevin, and numerous new members of hospitality. She is taken to Mr. Wilford's office, where the reunion between the two is hostile and unfamiliar. Mr. Wilford explains how he lay in wait until seeing his opportunity to take back control of Snowpiercer, but is surprised when Melanie explains that Snowpiercer is no longer hers to surrender — it belongs to the Tail.

With this, Melanie is held in a holding cell but is later forced to watch as Wilford orders her daughter, Alex, to detach from Snowpiercer and leave her behind. Despite numerous attempts at pleading with Alex, she is unable to convince her not to cut the link, and when she does, Melanie sarcastically remarks that she made a big mistake and watches as the linking mechanism is destroyed by the charge, forever linking Big Alice and Snowpiercer.[11]

Connection with Alex

Melanie is surprised when she finds out that her daughter, Alex, is alive and Wilford's closest ally and engineer — a position which she previously held. Melanie finds it difficult connecting with Alex after all the years they spent apart, given Alex is resentful of Melanie for leaving her and their family behind.

Melanie eventually gets a chance to talk with Alex and explains about life outside of Snowpiercer and Big Alice. Melanie tells Alex that she sent a search party out for her and their grandparents, to which Alex informs her that they wanted to die at home. Tensions rise between the two when Alex asks Melanie about the snow sample she collected, with Alex not believing Melanie when she explains that she was just curious.[11]

A Chance at Recolonization

Melanie is later traded by Wilford for Kevin, but Alex smashes her snow sample. After reuniting and reminiscing with Layton, Melanie heads to the Engine where she reveals her discovery to Javi and Bennett. Melanie then explains the shocking reason that she believes that it was snowing: CW-7 is breaking up in the atmosphere and falling to Earth. As a result, the planet is warming again. As Javi rushes off to make preparations, Melanie and Bennett embrace and Melanie is pleased by the chance to share the good news with the train.

Later, the three and Layton launch a probe into the upper atmosphere which confirms that the planet is warming again. Melanie tells Layton that they will need to figure out the details, but the Earth is coming back alive. However, Melanie needs access to Wilford's supplies and he will never willingly sign up for anything that he's not in charge of. Layton suggests that as their mission is hope and Wilford wants to fight that, they make him do it out in the open. Although Melanie is reluctant, she agrees and tells Layton that he needs Ruth on his side.

Layton and Melanie subsequently hold a scientific summit with Wilford in First Class dining, surprising Wilford to see them together give their history with each other. Melanie lays out her discovery for the people of both trains which Wilford's scientists agree could in fact be possible. Melanie informs the gathered crowd that they must first boot up the research station in the Rocky Mountains, but one of Big Alice's crew warns her that that route is not fit for Snowpiercer. Ignoring her, Melanie states that they next need to release sounding balloons as far east as the Himalayan terminus that will send data to the research station and Snowpiercer will return in a month's time to collect it at which point they will hope to have found what they're looking for: an X on the map, a place warm enough for life to begin again. Wilford points out that the research station will have to be manned and the only person capable of doing it is Melanie herself and tauntingly states that Melanie's projects always seem to involve leaving someone behind. Wilford only agrees to help if Melanie goes herself and in turn, she demands that all hostilities cease and the trains work together which Wilford claims is what he wants. Melanie states that she will send an inventory of everything that she needs and to cheers announces that "the future is outside."

As Wilford leaves, Melanie tells Layton that Wilford is right and that it should be her. Layton states that Melanie should've told him and asks him to come back to get her. Melanie leads Wilford back to the Tail where Alex confronts her mother and demands that Melanie does not state that it's for Alex. Melanie insists that it's for everyone and that "it's hope." Alex leaves without a word, smearing her blood on the side of the door as she goes.[12]

Departure from the train

Melanie later accepts that she will be the one to lead the data collection mission at the observatory. After formulating a plan, however, Melanie alerts Big Alice's engine that Snowpiercer does not have enough reserves to make it through the Rocky Mountains but, with aid from Big Alice's boosters and cutting power to First and Second class, Snowpiercer will make it through the mountains.

Mr. Wilford agrees to the plan, and Melanie is forced to sit in Snowpiercer's Engine and listen to Alex's terror whilst she drives the trains over the mountains. Melanie assures Alex that she is an engineer and will be successful if she puts her mind to it and 'feels the train'. Alex is successfully able to navigate the Rocky Mountains without much difficulty following Melanie's advice.

With Snowpiercer and Big Alice over the mountain, Melanie prepares to depart. She tells Layton that they must not measure the success of the mission with her return, but rather with the data she collects; the two exchange a bittersweet goodbye shortly after. As Melanie crosses the border between Big Alice and Snowpiercer, she is bid farewell by those aboard, with Ruth wishing her luck and remarking that they will see her again.

Aboard Big Alice, Melanie talks with Alex one final time before departure. Alex is saddened by the fact that Melanie is leaving her once again, but Melanie assures her that they must do what is right for everyone and not each other. With this, Melanie says goodbye to Alex and jumps from Big Alice into the snow.[13]

A few days later, Snowpiercer launches their first weather balloon. After a tense moment, Melanie makes contact with it, proving that she had survived her trip to the research station.[14] However, they eventually lose contact with Melanie, creating fear that she has perished.[15]

Work at the Research Station

Melanie is able to reach the research station, but loses most of her supplies in an avalanche. However, Melanie finds a geothermal vent that opened up and rats that she is able to eat. Over time at the station, Melanie uncovers the fate of some climate scientists that had settled there and hallucinates Layton, Wilford and Alex talking to her while flashing back on her theft of Snowpiercer. After her antenna falls during a storm, Melanie loses contact with Snowpiercer, but manages to get all of her data. The train returns late and when Melanie rushes to the tracks, she sees sparks flying from beneath Big Alice while Alex yells for her mother from the window. The trains race past, leaving Melanie alone in the snow at the side of the tracks.[16]

Going Back for Melanie

Forced to work in Big Alice's Engine after Wilford takes control of Snowpiercer, Javi receives a radio message from Melanie, but he hides it from Wilford who refuses to go back to her. Javi manages to send a note to Layton and Ruth informing them of his discovery.[17]

Escaping from Big Alice's Compost, Layton and Ruth kill two Jackboots in the Engine and help Javi coordinate in secret with Bennett to rendezvous with Melanie while Layton and Bojan Boscovic prepare to bring her onboard. However, Wilford realizes what they are up to, seeing through Alex's attempted deception with the help of LJ Folger. Wilford and his Jackboots break into the Engine and Wilford has Jupiter maul Javi to death. Wilford battles with Bennett for control of the trains as they speed past Melanie, ultimately leaving her behind.[18][16]

Escaping to Snowpiercer, Alex proposes creating a ten car pirate train in order to go back for Melanie and her data separately and to be able to resist Wilford outside of his control. After Josie Wellstead breaches the Aquarium Car, Layton succeeds in creating a separate train and turns back to find Melanie.[18]

Death

After stopping the train near the research station, Layton and Alex trek together to the station to find Melanie. Upon arrival, they discover the temperature inside to be -97 degrees and no sign of Melanie. Searching further, they find one of Melanie's batteries still with some power connected to her drives and a heartbroken Alex realizes that her mother is gone. Upset as well over Melanie's loss, Layton realizes that Melanie saved the drives and the important data that they contained and leads Alex back to Snowpiercer. Alex finds a letter that Melanie left for her at the research station revealing that Melanie had used up all of her resources and ate her rats to extinction. Knowing that her batteries could only keep her alive for a few more hours but keep the drives safe for months on a trickle charge, Melanie chose to sacrifice herself to ensure humanity's future, knowing that Alex would come back and continue her work. After writing her letter, Melanie donned her suit and walked into the Freeze to die.

Back on Snowpiercer, Layton's crew discovers that Melanie had succeeded in finding parts of the planet that are warmer, ensuring that humanity has a future outside of the trains.[18]

Personality

She is cunning and if anything brings her down she always finds a loophole to get around it. Aboard the train, she takes the position of Head of Hospitality which gains her a great reputation aboard the train as well as making new or keeping friends.

Relationships

Andre Layton

At first, Melanie maintained a purely professional relationship with Layton, locking him up when he wasn't working and being reluctant to trust him. In turn, Layton figured out Melanie's secret on his own simply by observing her actions and behavior. As time went on, their relationship slightly improved after Melanie used her position to clear the way for Layton with the Folgers, revealing in the process to Layton her own humble origins and sympathies for the lower class passengers. However, Layton's discovery of the truth caused Melanie to put him in the Drawers, acknowledging that he was correct and that she hoped that he never had to understand the burden that she had to bear. Despite the danger that Layton's knowledge presented, Melanie took pains to ensure that he remained unharmed.

Following Layton's escape, he nearly killed Melanie before she explained the true purpose of the Drawers and that she was the only one who could save Snowpiercer. Melanie subsequently became enemies with Layton, particularly after she apparently killed Josie Wellstead while trying to find him. After First Class revolted, Melanie turned to Layton and offered him her help and to his surprise, stated that she intended to give control of the train to Layton after they won. Melanie admitted that she had done many terrible things in the name of saving humanity, but knew that her way didn't work. As a result, she thought that giving Layton's way a chance might be a better option. Layton made it clear to Melanie that there personal feud was not over, however. After being forced to sacrifice the prisoners in order to defeat the Folgers and the Jackboots, Layton realized that Melanie knew that he would have to do it which she confirmed. Melanie sympathetically told Layton that such decisions were what they have to live with every day.

After the rebellion, Melanie kept her word and officially gave Layton control of Snowpiercer. Following this, their relationship appeared to improve greatly, working together to keep the passengers alive. After the discovery of Big Alice, Melanie went so far as to consult Layton as their new leader rather than just acting on her own. When Melanie was captured, Layton endeavored to get her back and once he had her, showed genuine concern for Melanie's well-being and asked after her recently-discovered alive daughter. The two continued to work together after the discovery of CW-7 breaking up in the atmosphere, bouncing ideas off of it each other and facing Wilford as a united front. Wilford expressed surprise at this given that they had tried to kill each other in the past. Before departing, Melanie calls Layton by his first name for the first time as they say goodbye.

After discovering Melanie's death, Layton is visibly saddened but like everyone else, happy with the data that Melanie got for them and sacrificed her life for.

Appearances

Season One
Season Two

Memorable Quotes

Layton, I was born on a dirt farm in eastern Pennsylvania. I came from nothing. I know a thing or two about class. That anger that you feel when you look at all of this? It's justified. Let's use it. Whoever the killer is, First is going to protect their own, so you be their worst nightmare from the Tail. I'll do the rest.
— Melanie to Layton[7]
Melanie: "You figured it out, Layton. I know you did."
Layton: "A myth's a powerful thing."
Melanie: "Pray you never know the weight of it. I'm sorry, Layton."
―  Melanie and Layton discuss her true identity[7]
I had nothing here to return to. I'm only human, so of course I used up my resources. Ate my rats to extinction, and the cold crept in. There isn't enough power to keep me alive more than a few hours but on a trickle charge, the drives could last months for you. I knew when the train blew past in sparks and flame, Snowpiercer breaking and Big Alice pushing, that Wilford was sabotaging it all somehow. But you were there in the window, Alex. I knew you'd come back. I can feel your reading this as I write, so now I can put on my helmet and walk into the white at peace. You are my hope, Alex. Learn to love the people that got us this far, and together, one day, you will build a better world.
— Melanie's goodbye letter to Alex[18]

Trivia

  • Melanie attended — and presumably graduated from — MIT. She also wears a Yale Engineering hat suggesting a connection to that university as well.
  • Only a limited number of people are aware that Melanie is the mysterious "Mr. Wilford". These are: Bennett Knox, Javier De La Torre, Jinju Seong, Miles, Andre Layton, Josie Wellstead and LJ Folger.
  • She grew up in a rural home from East Pennsylvania.
  • She designed Snowpiercer and The Engine and according to Melanie herself, is the true visionary behind the train, not Mr. Wilford.
  • She was discovered and recognized by Mr. Wilford, giving her a career opportunity. At least so Mr. Wilford claims in The Time of Two Engines.
  • Mr. Wilford remarks that Melanie is one of the best drivers he has ever seen.[13]

Gallery

References

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