This The 100 review contains spoilers.
The 100: Season 3, Episode 16
We need to be really honest about what happened in The 100’s season three finale. It wasn’t very good. In fact, it was actually quite terrible. It’s easy to lay blame for this at the feet of the City of Light storyline, which as of this episode is finally, finally wrapped up. But Alie and her chipped minions aren’t completely at fault. No, a lot of the fault for The 100’s fall from grace in the latter half of this season is due to Lincoln’s sudden departure from the show. I don’t want to comment or speculate what producers did or didn’t say to actor Ricky Whittle after he signed on for American Gods that drove him from The 100. But clearly Lincoln’s absence created a void in the storyline that could not be overcome by the show’s writers.
The whole excursion to find Luna is a good example of how his character was the connective tissue that would have turned this odd detour to her oil rig into a more fully realized moment not only for Clarke, but for the series itself. If you remove Luna’s appearance from this season, the outcome would remain the same. Luna herself says that Lincoln would never have brought Clarke to meet her. And if you recall, the purpose of that meeting was to convince Luna to undergo an Ascension ceremony. In the end, Clarke undergoes the ceremony herself. Once the Flame takes hold in her body, Clarke takes a chip to enter the City of Light. This kicks off a series of events that are almost too ludicrous to be believed. But more on that in a bit.
In this latter half of “Perverse Instantiation,” battles are being waged on three fronts: the throne room in Polis, back at Arkadia, and in the City of Light itself. Of course, all three battles all boil down to one common goal: find Alie’s kill switch and use it to take down the malignant A.I. Not much happens in Arkadia, though. Raven and Monty spend some time staring at scrolling code on some monitors as Jasper menaces them through a locked door. At some point, Monty manages to shoot Jasper in the leg. Beyond that, Raven is able to create a literal escape hatch for Clarke to crawl through—but not before emblazoning said hatch with the sign of a raven that reminded me an awful lot of Katniss’s Mockingjay symbol from the Hunger Games films.
This escape hatch is but one of a few unlikely deus ex machina moments in the episode. The most egregious of these is Lexa showing up to assist Clarke against Alie’s angry mob. Sure, it makes sense that Lexa would be lurking around in the code somewhere, but their reunion isn’t joyous, or romantic. It’s odd at best, with Lexa alternating between barely speaking and spouting useful exposition about what Alie is capable of doing to Clarke now that the A.I. knows she’s been chipped.
My issues with the City of Light go beyond the inherent hokeyness of delving too far into ill-constructed virtual reality scenarios. The first Matrix film handled this kind of world-building masterfully. The two Matrix sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, not so much. The more we learned of the Matrix in those sequels, the less it held up to scrutiny. The same is true of The 100’s City of Light, which leans heavily not only on the Matrix sequels for inspiration, but on Inception as well. Yet instead of being inspired by these films, Clarke’s foray into the City of Light comes off as forced and silly. Jasper happily (and obliviously) eating an ice cream cone doesn’t help much either.
As for Lexa, while it might be nice for viewers to see Alycia Debnam-Carey again, her time back on the show is squandered. In the end, she valiantly sacrifices herself to the angry mob so that Clarke can escape through the aforementioned hatch provided by Raven. Before Clarke activates Alie’s kill switch—which is portrayed as an actual switch—her physical body runs into some problems back in the real world. And it’s here in the throne room that the episode truly takes a turn for the worse.
In part one of the finale, Pike and company destroyed any means of gaining access to the throne room. But as we find out, this doesn’t stop Kane and the other chipped people from climbing the outside of the tower. And if that isn’t enough, in order for Clarke’s Ascension ceremony to work, she must receive a transfusion of Nightblood. Fine, I’m willing to accept the convenience of Ontari being on hand for this, even though her character, who burst onto the show with such ferocity, is reduced to being a blood bag. But the writers aren’t content to leave things there. No, as it turns out, the transfusion begins to fail, which puts Clarke at serious risk for having her brain melted by the Flame. So Abby does what anyone else would do in that situation—she spreads Ontari’s ribcage so she can begin massaging her heart to pump blood into her daughter.
At this point, I have to think that The 100 has reached rock bottom. Which means one of two things can happen. One, The 100 comes back stronger than ever in season four to overcome the damage done by the City of Light storyline. Or two, the show has officially jumped the shark. While it may seem like I enjoy criticizing this show, I’m truly hoping for option one. I’d love to see The 100 return to its former glory. Knowing that the world’s nuclear reactors are collectively on the verge of catastrophic meltdown is intriguing, but will it be enough to bring viewers back to the fold next season? Time will tell.
One closing thought:
Octavia finally has her revenge by killing Pike. It’s a quick moment, but it was also the most cathartic. Lincoln’s life mattered—to Octavia, and to the show itself.