“There goes 5 episodes of my plot development” – Clarke, probably
What what what whaaaaaaat? What even was that episode you guys? Bananas, that’s what.
I don’t know if you’re new here or if you’ve known all along but for all of its grim, life or death shenanigans, The 100 is, at its heart, a completely nonsense show in the best way a show can be nonsense. Where else are you going to find politically bent morality musings juxtaposed with a gigantic mutant gorilla rampage and people being hung upside down and juiced like oranges right before all of our hearts are ripped out through our noses? Nowhere (well, maybe somewhere but nowhere I’m watching). It’s fucking great.
This episode was light on the gorillas and people juicing but it did feature secret underground rockets and extremely sketchy neuroscience. Oh, The 100.
The Tinder Box, the debut of new to the show writer/executive producer Morgan Grendel (of Star Trek renown), leaned hard into all of the things that makes this show amazing and also the things that make it terrible and while I maybe laughed a touch too hard over the wrong parts and have some major questions about the thought process behind some of the choices that were made by the writers, overall I very much enjoyed myself in a way I very much did not last week so yay for that!
The episode opens with Abby and Jackson tucked away in Becca’s secret underground Apple store having a handy exposition-shaped conversation about why Becca created the nightblood (to protect space miners from radiation and survive hypersleep on their way to space Australia, stick a pin in that for future eps, $20 says it’ll be back). This isn’t actually the focus of this scene though, that would be Raven who suddenly starts floating and spinning through the air. I hope Lindsey Morgan had fun with the wire work, her full wattage smile certainly makes it seem like she did. I grinned along with her right up until it was revealed to all be a hallucination (the floating, presumably not the nightblood backstory) and Raven was actually having a major seizure in the corner of the lab.
*record screech* Say what?
Yeah, so, remember back in s3 when Alie warned that frying the chip with an EMP could cause brain damage? Turns out she wasn’t lying. It also apparently juiced the chip to the next level and allows Raven to tap into all sorts of Becca’s memories. She quickly figures out the problem Team Science is having recreating the nightblood is gravity, nightblood can only be created in a zero g environment i.e. space. Sounds like a pretty major road block, right? Wrong. Turns out Becca’s stashed away a mini rocket. I forgive all of the contrived convenience and questionable science at play here because the reveal sequence was so cool and Raven was so happy. Remember I’m shallow guys, it makes a lot more of my opinions make sense.
“This is the best birthday ever.” – Raven, probably
Things aren’t all sunshine and light, Raven may be adorably hyped on brain juice but this seizure stuff is serious. Raven’s brain is basically melting and it’s probably going to kill her. There’s a touching and terrible scene where Abby tries to get her to chill out so she can live and Raven tells her she can’t just sit back and survive long enough for everyone else to die. I have goosebumps through my tears. There’s one more bomb to drop, Raven wasn’t the only one who got her chip sucked out via EMP. By the end of the episode Abby’s also hallucinating this time with less Peter Pan, more Clarke covered in radiation burns.
“Do you think there’s a cream for this?”
War! What Is It Good For? Literally Nothing On This Show. Seriously, It’s An Entirely Pointless Threat
The Arkadia scene starts off with a very important character returning to grace our screens and eyeballs with her glorious self: NIYLAH! Hi Niylah! I love Niylah so so much you guys. I don’t even entirely know why? I mean she’s very cool and nice and provides a necessary external control group counterpoint to the adventure squad that gives us a frame of reference for how bananas they are (sort of like Luna minus the whole “get the hell out of my clubhouse I hate you” attitude). Also she is super hot and, like I said, I am super shallow so I’m happy.
ANYWAY, back to the plot at hand, Ilian comes running in carrying an unconscious and bleeding Octavia. He found her in the woods and she just stopped breathing, yikes! Clarke performs CPR while everyone else watches and freaks out. Chill out guys, Octavia’s a major character and it’s the first 10 min of the ep, she’ll be fine. Sure enough, she wakes up (I would too if Clarke were stroking my hair) and tells Clarke Azgeda and its synonym war are on their way. All of this serves as a highly emotional distraction while Ilian, you know, the guy that’s made it his life’s mission to destroy tech, looks around at all the tech and acts squirrely.
Roan’s army marches on Arkadia only to be run into a Clarke in full grumpy cat face shaped road block. There’s a tense standoff where Roan’s archers take aim at Clarke and she responds by having her hidden riflemen sight on Roan, he then drops a hostage bomb with a casual “your move wanheda” and Clarke and Bellamy make dramatic eye contact for so long even the camera man forgets Kane is there. Roan and Clarke then stalk off to parlay because even though Roan had the upper hand, Clarke said please very nicely and that’s the magic word.
There’s a nice little sidebar where Bellamy has a visible lightbulb moment and figures out that Octavia was probably the one to warn Arkadia that Azgeda was coming. On the one hand, it mildly irritates me that this happened SO QUICKLY after last week. What a wasted opportunity for some major Bellamy character restructuring. I’m not entirely sure what the point of that twist ended up being, apparently nothing, maybe an Echo thing, idk. On the other hand, I love that Bellamy put the pieces together like that. The show (and audience for that matter, ask me how much I hate the fandom version of the head and the heart) often fails to highlight how smart the character is so I’m digging that aspect.
BUT BACK TO THE OTHER HAND this actually just makes me even more mad at 404 (idk why I’m holding this entirely against 404 and not 405 but here we are). The biggest thing it had going for it for me was the set up for future eps and, well, lmao. I was already deeply frustrated with the priorities of the jail cell scene and by having Bellamy immediately figure out the O situation, it makes it even more apparent that scene wasn’t really about Bellamy at all and that sucks. The Blake relationship is inextricably woven into the character guts of this show and if they’re going to mess with that, IT SHOULD BE FOR THE SAKE OF THE BLAKE’S DEVELOPMENT AND STORIES NOT IN SERVICE TO A NON-BLAKE CHARACTER AND A NOOB NO LESS. Stick a pin in that, I’m almost there.
As Clarke and Roan parlay in a cave, I’m entirely distracted by the gorgeous scenery, dramatic lighting and Roan pacing around like a caged tiger (also it was pretty great how he totally called Clarke’s bluff about being willing to sacrifice Kane and Bellamy). They’re basically catching each other up on what they missed in each other’s storylines and, spoilers, all of it’s going to become entirely moot by the end of the episode so whatever.
Do you think the DP got a boner when they came up with the whole symbolic light of a middle ground compromise? I do.
Meanwhile, whoever was supposed to babysit Riley fell asleep on the job and he’s run off to assassinate Roan, typical Riley. Monty goes to warn the army, gets taken hostage and Echo and Bellamy set off to track him down.
So let’s talk about the becho thing. It’s been made increasingly clear since the end of 401 that Echo’s being teed up for some kind of major character arc where she ultimately becomes team sky people. I am less than pleased the show seems to be using Bellamy’s character beats to do it. You know how it’s super annoying when movies and tv blatantly use ladies to develop male characters? Turns out it’s just as weak when the genders are flipped. The two of them hike through the woods and bond, discovering they maybe have more in common than they thought. I also have major side eye for Bellamy being all cool with Echo now that he knows she didn’t actually kill Octavia (she still stabbed her in the stomach and knocked her off a cliff like, come on, the fact that Octavia survived is purely magic of Hollywood stuff and in no way effects the Echo side of the equation so I’m not entirely buying Bellamy’s abrupt no harm, no foul turnabout).
I get that the writers are leaning hard into making up for Bellamy’s s3 detour into xenophobia but it feels artificial right now and it’s not landing for me. I already believed Bellamy had Major Regrets and had learned from his mistake/wants to do better (and super prefer when that’s being explored in scenes that are actually about him and his character development like 403) so the heavy hand they’re driving it home with here seems over the top and more about bringing Echo into the fold. That said, I am intrigued by the two of them connecting over a shared exhaustion with war and I think there’s some interesting stuff to be mined there but I don’t love how the show is going about it as of right now.
Make It Go Boom
Remember how Ilian was looking squirrely? Yeah, that wasn’t an accident. After using Octavia to get into Arkadia he wanders about collecting all of the fuel he could find before holing up in the server room and building a bonfire. Octavia and Niylah find him before he lights it up and Octavia gives him her best Blake Motivational Speech™. I like how it brings her a step closer to understanding her own trauma (“this won’t bring your family back”) but tragically she doesn’t have Bellamy’s practice and it fails to land. If only she’d clued him in to the radiation. Remember when open communication was a thing?
Arkadia goes boom in a truly magnificent display of special effects. Ilian pulls Octavia and Niylah out of the wreckage like the gentleman he can be as the Adventure Squad returns to survey the extent of the damage. Boy howdy is it extensive. Clarke and Bellamy search the wreckage for Octavia and lit by the glow of the burning ring sky person and grounder alike watch their salvation collapse. This sequence was stunning, so stunning I’m not even bothered by the fact it entirely undermines all of the conflict of the previous episodes. Who doesn’t love a ⅓ season reset? Well, probably a lot of people but I’m not one.
So far this season has been one desperate plan failing one after another and it really drives home the fact that the world is ending and drags the audience into the stress, frustration and desperation the characters are feeling. On a weekly episode viewing, the frustration perhaps outweighs the rest of it but I think this is probably a great example of how a lot of this show is geared more towards binge viewing (which makes sense seeing as the Netflix audience seems to be its bread and butter). We have a week off before 406 so I’m down to take one for the team and test this hypothesis. Whether an episodic-ly airing show should prioritize binging is a fascinating essay into the changing landscape of tv in the binge era for another day.
The Riley Issue
Just shoot him put us all out of our misery.
I have a bone to pick with you show and its name is Riley. Let me be clear, I have no problems with newcomer Ben Sullivan who is giving this his all but its not working and I want to know why they’re trying so hard to force it.
We’ve all caught on to the fact that this is clearly supposed to be Bryan’s big arc, yes? This isn’t the first time the show has rearranged itself around actor availability (believe it or not I’m not talking about Lexa here, I think that was a different but related issue, I’m thinking of the clumsily handled Gina/Sinclair bandaid over a Wick shaped hole), and after the fairly unified wtf reaction in s3, you’d think the writers would’ve learned one character is not the same as another but alas, it appears not.
I don’t have an issue with the show introducing new characters. I’ve found Ilian’s introduction to be quite well done so it’s clear they’re capable of bringing in a noob and organically building them up which, if anything, makes the Riley factor all the more frustrating. I know you can be better show, so be better.
He’s being handed major story beats clearly meant for someone the audience has some emotional attachment to and previous knowledge of but without that emotional attachment and previous knowledge, it makes everything surrounding said beats hollow. It doesn’t matter if Bellamy knows Riley, we don’t know Riley. The characters seem to think he’s a smarter, better person than a rogue assassin but for all we know this is just a typical Wednesday for him. He can break down and cry all he wants in the face of a Blake Motivational Speech™ but for the audience (or at least me) it just feels like wasted screen time.
I also don’t believe the writers aren’t fully aware of what they’re doing. Two separate characters explicitly state he shouldn’t even be here (to one of which Monty responds “that seems to be the consensus” which, bitter lol). Are they going for some sort of metatextual in joke? I appreciate that kind of self aware commentary under the right circumstances but when they’re hanging major development around a rando anyway it has the opposite effect and infuriates me. If you know what you’re doing is weak, WHY ARE YOU DOING IT?
On the other hand, since Finn died I’ve been bereft of a character I can comfortably hate for breathing so that’s kind of a relief, I guess.
- “Any word from Jaha? Did they find Bellamy’s unit?” “Yeah. They’re back and we forgot to tell you.” So Monty is still mad at Clarke then.
- This is the second episode we’ve opened Clarke’s story with her wigging out about Bellamy being gone. Just sayin.
- I see Jaha found a new way to be relevant. I still don’t trust it.
- “What if it’s a trap?” “It is a trap, we’re already in it.” Roan’s “why is everyone around me completely incompetent” faces continue to be my fav
- SERIOUSLY WHAT WAS THE POINT OF OCTAVIA’S ~DEATH????? I AM SOMEHOW EVEN MORE ANNOYED BY THE JAIL CELL SCENE LAST WEEK
- “We’re taking your ship.” What up Charles Vane
- “Your life was saved for a reason” re: Riley, literally what reason? To drive me up the wall? If so, A+ job it’s working
- Remember how I said my fav part of 404 was the set up for future eps? Lol, joke’s mostly on me (the science stuff stands)
What did you guys think? My social circles are sharply divided over this episode. Personally, while I recognize its weaknesses and understand the frustrations, I had a lot more fun with it than last week so I’m willing to be lenient. What about you?