This The 100 review contains spoilers.
The 100 Season 3 Episode 12
There was a time when The 100 delivered hour after hour of top-rate sci-fi drama. This was due in large part to a stable of incredibly strong, well-crafted characters who acted logically, even in illogical circumstances. Sure, the post-apocalypse is no place for subtle storytelling, and yet the show’s writers still managed to give viewers nuanced storylines and well-earned character beats.
Ever since the City of Light was placed front and center, this season has struggled mightily to regain its footing. Pike was a great example of the show delivering a complex character grappling with enemies both inside and outside of Arkadia’s walls. Like people on the show, viewers had to decide if they were Team Pike (anti-Grounder) or Team Kane (pro-Grounder). While most longtime viewers might side with Kane, the show still made a compelling argument for why Pike’s worldview was the more reasonable one.
Again, that all went out the window in favor of boogeyman episodes like “Demons” and low-rent torture porn like last week’s less-than-stellar “Nevermore.” Tonally, “Demons” played more like a misplaced Halloween episode. Initially I thought we were being introduced to a different kind of Grounder, or even a totally new kind of enemy. Instead, the mystery person wreaking havoc on the members of the resistance turns out to be … Emerson. The same Emerson from Mount Weather, and more recently from Polis, in this season’s “Bitter Harvest.” What’s notable about “Harvest” is not that Clarke let Emerson live when the choice was hers to kill him, it’s because this was the episode when the City of Light storyline really began to ramp up. In that review, I compared Jaha to The Matrix’s Morpheus—a comparison I now respectfully rescind in hindsight. But more on Jaha in a bit.
Emerson’s return to the show, yet again, is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, I never thought he was a compelling character to begin with. Someone like Cage Wallace, President Wallace’s son, would have been a much better returning villain. (Yes, I know he died in the second season, but stranger things have happened on this show.) Emerson just doesn’t carry the same emotional weight as Cage, or as Pike for that matter. So what we get in “Demons” is the aforementioned boogeyman episode that does nothing to drive the story forward. That being said, we do lose Sinclair, but there are plenty of other more meaningful ways he might have died. (And yes, I understand trying to save Raven is noble, but he pretty much died in vain since she ignored his desperate pleas to stay in the safety of the rover.)
Let’s remember the whole reason Clarke and company returned to Arkadia in the first place: to retrieve Lincoln’s sketchbook, which contains a map that will lead them to Luna. There are some interesting moments to be had here, most of them pertaining to Octavia and how she’s mourning for Lincoln. The way she clutches his jacket to inhale his lingering scent is heartbreaking and poignant. So is her reaction to seeing not only his spilled blood on the ground, but his dead body, too. But why would Pike keep the dead body of an enemy combatant? From a storytelling point of view I understand that by cremating Lincoln, Octavia finally finds closure. Again, though, I couldn’t get past the idea that his days-old corpse was still just sitting in the camp, wrapped in a sheet.
Now, as for Jaha, he suddenly turns up in Polis, spouting City of Light nonsense. So far Ontari has been portrayed as a strong, determined character who ruthlessly killed her way to the throne. So why would she suddenly trust a man she doesn’t know? Sure, Murphy’s treachery does push her into more immediately trusting Jaha, but I found her 180-degree turn to be disingenuous. Plus any elation at seeing Murphy reunited with Emori quickly went by the wayside because now she’s been chipped. What started out as a pretty novel idea has turned into a hacky plot device. The 100 is capable of much better storytelling than this, folks. Much better.
Some closing thoughts:
I like the possibility that a person’s consciousness might persist beyond their physical form once they enter the City of Light. It makes sense, given how the A.I. works among the Grounder commanders, allowing each subsequent leader to inherit the knowledge and personality traits of their predecessors. This affords Monty a glimmer of hope that he may still be able to save his mother. Though, if this is indeed possible, then what? Somehow her consciousness will be restored to her now-dead body? I hope for The 100’s sake this doesn’t happen. (Please, don’t let this happen.)
And speaking of Monty, he had one of the better (and more sensible) lines of the episode, when he tells Clarke, “Following creepy music is a bad idea.” Another bad idea? Making smart characters behave in ways that go against their very nature.