(Lincoln’s face is my face)
Another week another spin on the carousel of emotional massacre that is The 100. I ended last week’s recap with a hope that the show would get back on its feet this week. Did it? It honestly seemed like it was before abruptly falling on its face and rolling around in the mud. So. No, not really.
Don’t get me wrong, there was some really good stuff (epic fight between Lexa and Roan! Monty FINALLY getting some shit off his chest! Continued total lack of Jaha!), but there was also a lot of breakneck plot pacing that resulted in some shakily depicted character arcs, specifically Bellamy’s (also, WHERE THE FUCK WAS RAVEN IN ALL THIS? I do not believe for a second she wouldn’t attend the memorial and later talk Bellamy down).
Let’s discuss, shall we? Spoilers and speculation below.
I’m going to just get this out of the way because it was a mostly non-event subplot notable to me only for Monty and the brief reappearance of the dropship. Jasper is once again failing to deal with himself, this time by going on unsanctioned nighttime field trips and talking to his jar of collected pieces of his dead friends. Look, I get that what Jasper’s going through is a very real depiction of a person completely past their limit and torn apart by grief. If it were happening to a character that I hadn’t been entirely fed up with since the early episodes of season two I’d probably have a lot of emotions about it. But it’s Jasper, so I don’t. I did very much love that Jasper and Monty went back to the dropship. I know that a lot of people like to shit on season one and I fully agree that the first few eps were rough as fuck but camp delinquent was my fucking jam and it was awesome and tragic in equal parts go back there. I also love love love that Monty finally snapped. Chris Larkin was absolutely fantastic and if you didn’t get at least slightly choked up when he freaked out I am comfortable saying that you’re possibly a monster.
The episode opened with Clarke wearing her ambassador pants and attending her first coalition meeting. She’s got on what I like to call her brave little toaster face (aka the I have shit to accomplish and I do not care if I’m in over my head or the odds are against me I will accomplish it come hell or high water) and I am so happy to see it. Clarke’s back, guys! Dead-eyed Clarke of the forest has been set aside because Clarke’s people need her and if there’s one skill she has honed above all others, it is boxing up her emotions and taking care of her people. I’ve missed Clarke, you guys, I’ve missed her so much. I’m so glad to see her back in action, scheming and making deals. She’s been out of the game for awhile so I forgive her for being a little rusty (seriously what was that whole poisoning thing? Amateur hour) but I’m glad she’s back.
So, first coalition meeting. Queen Nia is brought in in chains looking supremely unconcerned. Why? Well, because Brenda Strong is awesome and also because she’s got the coalition in her pocket and they’re staging a coupe! Wheeeee! Politics are fun. Maybe you shouldn’t go around kicking protected ambassadors out of windows, Lexa? I said previously that I think Lexa is a really good leader for the grounders but this week and last week have shown her making some impulsive (though badass af) moves that make me a little more understanding of how an entire council is ready to turn on the leader we’ve been repeatedly told is a revolutionary level of enlightened and brought them into a golden age of peace. Lexa seems to have been thinking more and more with her heart over her head recently and I continue to be very, very nervous that this will be her downfall. I maintain that it’s possible to depict embracing your feelings and continuing to be a good leader (*stares pointedly at the Lumatere Chronicles*) but it doesn’t look like that’s where this is going. Still hoping I’m wrong.
Can we take a second really quick to talk about Roan? I feel like Roan spent most of his screentime this episode with a hilariously adolescent GAWD MOM YOU ARE THE WORST look on his face and it keeps making me giggle (though, tbf, she’s a horrible mother). I love Zach McGowan you guys, I love what he’s bringing to the show, I love that he’s teaming up with Clarke (the ‘is that death I hear stalking me?’ line was one of my absolute favorite parts of the episode). I’m totally into Roan being a thing and really hope he makes it most of the way through the season because he brings me great joy.
Other fun things of note, Titus is so jealous of Clarke and it’s adorable/hilarious. I also loved Clarke’s epic side eye when Lexa presented her with Aden like ‘this 11 year old will be the new commander if I die, don’t worry he’s got your back.’ I get that grounder culture means children grow up fast as all hell (they are born into this world of plot after all) but I would also have reservations about a child holding the fate of my people in their hands and also, you know, being in charge of a nation. No one should go through puberty with absolute power. Bad idea.
Speaking of Aden, nightbloods! They’re candidates for commandership and they bleed black! Totally creepy cool visual. What does it all mean? While this show does have a questionable approach to science from time to time, I have a feeling we’ll get some kind of an explanation down the way. Does anyone think we’ve seen the last of Ontari? Yeah, me neither.
And how about that fight, though? That shit was epic. Jason Rothenberg’s Game of Thrones boner was on full display and I think it fit better in this episode than last week’s. I’m kind of disappointed that 75% of it was released in a preview clip because when it came up I felt like I’d already seen it. Sure there was a twist at the end but I’d seen a lot of speculation that twist was coming and based on the clip and the spear throwing scene in the season 3 trailer, it was pretty telegraphed by the promotion so the whole thing felt a little underwhelming which, CW, get your marketing act together. I am very curious to see how this plays out among the other clan leaders. I know the common people are currently building a shrine to Lexa but I can’t see the other leaders feeling very safe and comforted right now. I doubt Lexa’s throne is as secure as that crowd-chanting scene maybe wants us to believe.
If anyone had any doubts that Clarke x Lexa was going to be a major thing in at least the first half of this season, I’m assuming this episode laid those to rest. Lexa more or less walked around with actual heart eyes the entire episode and Clarke’s looking more and more like she’s coming around. I do think that this storyline has been another casualty of the season’s underlying theme (aka The Plot Is Your Master Now) and could’ve done with a little more time to show Clarke getting to this point, but I also recognize that TV is a tricky medium and the writers were hemmed in by Alycia’s schedule.
On the more unfortunate side of things (I’m sorry Lexa fans, look away for this paragraph), every episode convinces me more and more that Lexa’s not going to make it out of this season alive. Now that Clarke’s been inducted into Polis politics and what’s going down over at Arkadia is in motion, her two main story functions are as a love interest for Clarke and a protective wall between the skaiku and the rest of the grounders. Characters whose main function is love interest for Clarke have had a consistently tragic history on this show and removing the protective barrier between Arkadia and the grounders opens up more conflict. Not to mention the fact that her death opens the door to a look into the Commander reincarnation process that’s been foreshadowed as far back as the gorilla ep in season 2 (I have a theory that ALIE is involved and the black blood/reincarnation/conclave stuff has a lot to do with the City of Light that I’ll totally go into if you ask but am not going to waste post space on because it’s probably crack). Anyway, the point is, I think that at this time, ship entirely aside, her death would add more to the story than her life (this point is entirely contingent around the understanding that this show is above all telling the story of the sky people which, to my knowledge, is accurate). Please do not come after me with pitchforks, I’m just calling it how I see it.
Random sidebar, do you think Clarke took a break to go shopping in Polis or did Lexa hook her up with a new wardrobe like Clarke’s her own personal ambassador Barbie? Do you think she specifically selected that teal robe like ‘oh this is really going to highlight Clarke’s eyes’? Because I do.
Things are very not good back in Arkadia. 49 people were in Mt Weather when it exploded (though hey! not Miller’s boyfriend or Monty’s mom)(granted I am not exactly Monty’s mom’s biggest fan right now after the way she shittalked Lincoln, my precious teddy bear, but moving on) and morale is very low. I’m not sure when exactly Pike was given a seat on the council, but he’s in the meeting chomping at the bit for retaliation. Part of what makes Pike so scary is he definitely has some legit points, the grounders are a brutal society that respond to dramatic shows of strength and baddassery. Unfortunately, he has yet (and, lbr is unlikely to ever) make a distinction between the clans and the promo for next week has already spelled out how poorly that’s going to go.
The other part of what makes Pike so scary is, man, that guy is an operator. It is possible I’m reading into this too much but it seems to me he’s the kind of guy who will whip a crowd into a frenzy, let it boil over into violence for just a second to make a point and give them a taste of it before reeling them back in like ‘whoa guys, not what I meant buuuuuuut now that we’ve had this bonding brawl, let’s turn our anger in the right direction.’ I also see it in the way he more or less pounced on Bellamy after the memorial. We’ve had several prominent shots in the previous two eps of him observing Bellamy in a time of emotional crisis. At the time I put it down to concern from an old teacher but now I’m leaning more towards calculated filing away of a potential asset’s sore spots (though allow that it is likely a combination of both). He knew exactly what to say to get Bellamy on his side and he pushed those buttons with zero hesitation.
Before I get into Bellamy, I want to talk about Lincoln. I don’t know when exactly it happened but Lincoln has become incredibly precious to me and I am deeply terrified for him right now. He is trying so hard to stand up and hold things together and watching everyone turn against him broke my heart (I outright sobbed when he chanted ‘get knocked down, get up again’ to himself). He’s also on my list of characters unlikely to make it much further in the season and I’m really upset about it (I honestly thought that head wound was going to lead to internal bleeding that killed him and I was ready to flip a fucking table and light it on fire).
One other note, there was a regime change in Arkadia that seemed, um, I don’t know, anticlimatic as all hell? Kane vs Pike was this big thing they built up to and then they just….had an election off screen? Sure. Okay. Whatever. None of this surprises me anymore.
Alright, so, I’ve been thinking about this all night and all morning because I have completely normal life priorities and I think I’ve gotten to a point where I can mostly wrap my head around what’s going on with Bellamy. I still maintain that this turnabout was rushed passed an acceptable point for the sake of getting the Arkadia characters to the point where a massacre can take place in episode 5, but I’m still hoping that once they get there, some of the character stuff will even out now that the key events for the season 3 plot are in place (it is possible I am very naive but whatever).
Look, it’s really easy to say this arc is OOC for Bellamy (for the most part) but I honestly don’t think it is. He’s always been impulsive and emotionally driven. He’s always been more focused on what’s right in front of him and protecting the people he cares about. One of the things that makes his partnership with Clarke work so well is that she sees the bigger picture, he looks after the people. Thousands of words of meta have been written about this dynamic and it makes sense that without her to check him, he’s lost and adrift and susceptible to this person he fondly remembers from the Ark who’s here to confirm everything he thinks about himself (specifically, that this is his fault). I absolutely subscribe to the interpretation of Bellamy having a very low sense of self worth, you could always see him struggle to wrap his head around Clarke telling him he has value, and it makes sense that in a traumatized and vulnerable state without her influence to balance him out, Pike could lead him in the direction he has.
I’d hoped that facing off with Lincoln at the end would be a stop and think moment for him but once you accept that the writers have forgone actually depicting character development in favor of quickly telling us about it so we can move on with the plot and consider that Bellamy’s actually had a hell of a lot less interaction with the grounders than the audience and other characters have, I will grudgingly accept him being caught up in what he believes to be a righteous mission to protect his people and turning his back on Lincoln. I mean sure, he literally threw himself into a brawl to protect Lincoln earlier in the episode, but remember, all characters are servants of the plot now, we need to reason out their motivation and arcs behind the scenes because it sure as hell seems like the writers have decided actually showing them is for the weak. Yes, I am bitter af about this. No, I do not think this is a good approach to writing.
This show has always been about grey morality and good characters making terrible choices and I do think that while it appears on the surface that we’re undoing a season and a half of character development, that’s a side effect of the hyper-fast pacing and not where this is actually going. I predict that Bellamy is going to be swept up in the movement up until something absolutely catastrophic happens and I mean catastrophic on a Bellamy level which means personal, which means Octavia. While it would be nice to hope next week’s massacre knocks some sense into him, I don’t think we’re going to see Bellamy come back to himself until this all snowballs into something terrible happening to Lincoln (sobs forever) and Octavia knocks some sense into him (literally if that fight in the trailer is anything to go by). I think that’s going to be Bellamy’s rock bottom and I think it’s going to hurt like fucking hell to watch all of this go down.
On the brighter side (if you’re into Bellamy and Clarke, otp or brotp), I think that this arc is going to put Bellamy and Clarke back on a more level playing field. I think that for as much as Bellamy supported her both in the mountain and when she left, he did so because he trusts Clarke to do the right thing and less so because he completely understood where she was coming from (he doesn’t have TonDC and sending his friends/loved ones into highly dangerous situations on his shoulders after all). I think that this arc is going to bring him low and then build him back up to her level and I’m hoping as hard as I can that we’re ultimately going to see them in the future working as a team, bruised, bloody and tarnished but with a new understanding and appreciation of the balance they bring to each other and the things they’ve gone through to get there.
I’m biased. Fight me.
For more thoughts and concerns on Bellamy’s arc, please see Mo Ryan’s review and interview with Jason Rothernberg on Variety. She says everything I could possibly say about this episode infinitely more eloquently than I ever could and then proceeds to straight up grill Jason on his storytelling. It’s kind of the best. Also, please check out Natalie Crown’s thoughts on both the episode and Bellamy specifically because she’s brilliant, as per usual. And finally, please see this excellent breakdown of character-driven vs plot-driven media if you’re confused by my continual harping on the plot driving this bus off a cliff (or if you’re interested in story structure and motivation).
So. That’s all folks. Still very disappointed in the writers and the way they’ve decided to approach storytelling this season but I’m willing to wait it out and see what happens. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to proclaim that the show has lost its way when we can’t see how this all fits into the whole of the season yet, but I’m very nervous. Maybe I’m being naively optimistic or maybe I have an incredibly high tolerance for bullshit but godammit I love this show, I need to believe it’ll even itself out or I’ll have to curl up in the corner and cry for possibly ever.
This week I will leave you with my personal episode MVPs, MONTY AND THE DROPSHIP! HI DROPSHIP! MISSED YOU! *politely ignores Jasper passed out in a drunken stupor*