The 100: Essential Episodes to Watch

In anticipation of The 100 season 6, we picked nine essential episodes from the post-apocalyptic's drama run so far.

Warning: This The 100 article contains MAJOR spoilers for the show so far.

The 100 is not only about to launch Season 6, the post-apocalyptic drama just passed the fifth anniversary of its premiere. Before we turn our attention to the upcoming season and beyond, let’s take a moment to talk about all that this show has accomplished so far…

The 100 debuted on The CW on March 19th, 2014, forever changing our associations with Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive,” and heralding in a fresh, new frontrunner in millennial-targetted programming. While some like to characterize The 100 first season as a slow-burn, a story that eventually got grittier or more serious as it went on, the truth is this was a show that knew what it was from the very beginning. Some of its best episodes came in that first run of episodes, immediately setting the tone for a series that would rarely pull its punches and wasn’t afraid to make its teenaged main characters into anti-heroes.

We’ve put together a list of nine episodes that define what The 100 has meant to the #PeakTV era.

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The 100 Season 1, Episode 3: “Earth Kills”

aka: The one where Charlotte kills Wells

While The 100 pilot is a scene-setter by definition, it is far from the best this first season has to offer—while enjoyable and has a killer cliffhanger ending, it is bogged down by many of the common pitfalls of TV pilots. (Though it is fun to see these characters so clean—they will never be this clean, either literally or figuratively, again.)

For our money, “Earth Kills,” the third episode in the first season, is when shit started to get real. While the pilot may end with one of its main character getting unceremoniously stabbed through the chest with a flying spear, “Earth Kills” see the show’s youngest character murdering someone who seemed to be a main character (Wells, who was, unfortunately, also the only young, black character in the cast).

read more: The 100 Season 5 Episode Guide & Reviews

In true The 100 fashion, we even understand why Charlotte (played by a young Izabela Vidovic, who continues to pop up in notable guest roles across The CW) does it. Wells’ dad killed her parents, and she is haunted by nightmares of their deaths at his hand. She interprets Bellamy’s advice to “slay her demons” very literally, using the examples that have been set for her in this cutthroat world filled with trauma. Though Clarke and the show holds Charlotte accountable for her actions, those actions are also put into context in a way that most shock-value shows tend to forget about.

– Kayti Burt

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Read our full review of “Earth Kills.”

The 100 Season 1, Episode 5: “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”

aka: The one with The Culling

The 100 has been part of larger trends in young adult entertainment in particular, a field that has become more apocalyptic, more political, and more inclusive in the last decade. “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” which saw 320 people on the Ark choosing to sacrifice themselves to give their loved ones more oxygen in a dying space station, is the perfect example of this kind of The Personal is Political and Vice Versa storytelling that The 100 has, when at its very best, exemplified.

read more: What to Expect For Bellamy & Clarke in The 100 Season 6

Like Battlestar Galactica before it and The Expanse after itThe 100‘s choice to avoid the nihilistic “everyone panick and leadership must play the bad guy” trope and instead give the populace the space to be heroic and civic-minded was both tragic and unexpectedly optimistic for what is such a depressing show—demonstrating that, just because people often make terrible, selfish choices, doesn’t mean they never make heroic ones.

– Kayti Burt

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Read our full review for “Twilight’s Last Gleaming.”

The 100 Season 2, Episode 3: “Reapercussions”

aka: The one where Clarke and Anya team up

This episode is a sign of things to come in so many ways—the inherent deceit of Mount Weather, Octavia’s emergence as a warrior, her and Lincoln’s truly ride-or-die partnership—but the Anya-Clarke pairing is a highlight.

At the time of the episode’s airing, the reluctant alliance between Clarke and Anya is completely surprising and felt unlike any other story on the show thus far. Part of the season-long journey toward seeing the Grounders as real people rather than “savages” or bogeymen, the Princess and the Grounder Princess working together was truly a sign of things to come: the alliance they would forge, and that rock to the head at the end of the episode as a hint of Lexa’s betrayal of that very same alliance. 

read more: The 100 Season 6 Trailer Breakdown & Analysis

The full gut-punch of this episode doesn’t come until the end of the following episode, “Many Happy Returns” when the overzealous Adult Guard kills Anya immediately after she says she’ll get Clarke an audience with the Commander.

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– Delia Harrington

Read our full review for “Reapercussions.”

The 100 Season 2, Episode 8: “Spacewalker”

aka: The one where they Fridge Finn

After Clarke and company find a way to heal Reapers, the Grounders offer peace at a very specific price: Finn’s life, ended with grueling torture. Everyone races to find a way out, but The 100 cements what will become its winning formula: a devastating, no-win setup in which it doesn’t bail itself out. If ever there was an episode that made it clear to the Adults and Grounders alike that it’s the Sky Teens (and Clarke specifically) who are really in charge, it’s this one. 

read more: The 100 Season 7 — What We Know

It’s so rare to see a male love interest killed off so that a young woman’s story can progress. Frankly, I can’t imagine how Clarke’s growth would have continued without the human baggage that is Finn. The phrase “blood must have blood” had been tossed around a couple of times, but this is the first time The 100 made us feel it. And even though it’s the title of another one, it’s synonymous with this episode. Judging by the looks on the Grounder’s faces, Clarke mercy-killing a guy she loves is astounding even to them.

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Raven’s gutteral scream still gets me. 

– Delia Harrington

Read our full review for “Spacewalker.”

The 100 Season 2, Episode 14: “Bodyguard of Lies”

aka: The one where Lexa and Clarke first kiss

Heavy lies the head that wears the crown. Clarke feels the push and pull between Lexa’s leadership style and what she had already established as her own, as Octavia figures out what happened in TonDC and Lexa lectures her on leadership. Alycia Debnam-Carey gives an excellent performance here as well, showing her own crumbling resolve exclusively on her face as her feelings for Clarke open her up to seeing another way of thinking. 

read more: Alycia Debnam-Carey Talks Fear the Walking Dead 

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Throughout Season 1, Clarke and Bellamy debated leadership (with a few others like Murphy, Raven and Finn) occasionally jumping in. The beginning of season 2 saw the adults foolishly assuming they were in charge, but once it became obvious Clarke held power, the geography and the plot made her more isolated than before.

This episode serves as an excellent meditation on what it means to lead and serve your people, what sacrifices are worth making, and who is worthy of an exception, all ideas that will be put to the test when Clarke pulls the lever in the season finale and goes on Wanheda walkabout. 

– Delia Harrington

Read our full review for “Bodyguard of Lies.”

The 100 Season 3, Episode 3: “Ye Who Enter Here”

aka: The one where SkaiKru becomes the 13th Grounder clan

Lexa and Clarke’s complicated dynamic is on full display here, as Clarke tries to remain defiant while processing Lexa’s betrayal, and Lexa cracks and shows how much it hurts that she is responsible for turning Clarke into a self-hating killer.

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There’s a lot to love about this episode, and so much of it comes from the gorgoues Grounder imagery in Polis. The Trigadeslang singer while Wanheda enters in formal wear (eye makeup to match the Commander, of course) is a moving and impressive sight. But nothing compares to seeing Lexa privately pledge her fealty to Clarke.

read more: What TV Networks Still Don’t Understand About Fandom

There’s also a great bait and switch with a classic no-win scenario as Azgeda manages to take out Mount Weather while baiting Lexa into a war and making her look foolish for bringing in SkiKru as the newest clan. Notably, this is before Season 3 goes off the rails and Bellamy inexplicably becomes a character the audience doesn’t recognize. He’s certainly quicker to kill and more angry at Clarke than expected here, but at least it makes sense from a character perspective in context. 

– Delia Harrington

Read our full review for “Ye Who Enter Here.”

The 100 Season 3, Episode 11: “Nevermore”

aka: The one where Raven steals the show… again

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For those who made the decision to stay with the show following Lexa’s death, “Nevermore” was the first post-Lexa episode that perhaps made it worth it. The Allie plot was uneven and the third season had plenty of problems, but this episode was a winner by all accounts. Lauded by critics, it was practically a bottle episode, focusing back on the original group while they rushed to save Raven from Allie, the enemy inside her head. 

read more: How Ricky Whittle Transitioned From The 100 to American Gods

Lindsey Morgan gives another tour de force performance as a Raven Reyes ruled by Allie. She had Raven’s memories and some of her mannerisms, but also a steely edge and a psychopath’s willingness to use any and all of her friend’s secrets to manipulate them into getting her way. And did I mention that Morgan gives this impressive (and surprisingly physical) performance while strapped to a bed for an entire episode?

Beyond being impressive to watch, “Nevermore” offered the audience a stomach-churning walk down memory lane as Allie reminded the group of all of their worst sins, every way they had hurt one another and every pain she was offering to “erase.”

– Delia Harrington

Read our full review of “Nevermore” here.

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The 100 Season 4, Episode 10: “Die All, Die Merrily”

aka: The one where Octavia wins the Conclave for the bunker

In a sign of things to come, The 100 kills off three named characters with varying amonts of narrative gas left in their respective tanks: Roan, Ilian, and Luna. Fighting and winning the conclave feels like the cumination of Octavia’s destiny. The girl born a crime, who grew up feeling like she belonged nowhere, was the only person who could truly unite the clans to make in through Praimfaya. Throw in some Gaia-Indra-Octavia feels, Blake family bonding, and a key steppingstone in the Bellamy/Echo journey, and this is one helluva episode.

read more: The 100 Season 5 Interview — What’s Next for Bellamy & Octavia?

“Die All, Die Merrily” also serves as an excellent reminder that the world of The 100 has never been squeamish about men and women fighting one another, unlike so many other TV shows and movies. In fact, there’s never even been a question as to whether women like Indra, Anya, Lexa, Octavia or countless others could take on men. In Octavia’s case, she had to overcome her “soft” Arker upbringing (Indra’s words, not ours) and train, but there was never any hand-wringing about whether she or any other woman could hold their own in brutal combat.

– Delia Harrington

Read our full review of “Die All, Die Merrily” here.

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The 100 Season 5, Episode 2: “Red Queen”

aka: The one where The Girl Under the Floor rules as the Red-blooded Queen of the Bunker

“Red Queen” is a thrilling watch, but it’s also a master class in economy. There’s world-building for WonKru and life in the bunker, dividends on the history of the Ark, the Grounders, and Octavia as a character, and decent amount of mystery for the rest of the season to unpack.

read more: Major Character Death in “Red Queen” Explained

While the unpacking was bungled and things certainly went off the rails for Blodreina as the season progressed (both in-world and from a story perspective, as weak writing kept us from seeing Octavia’s motivations or internal struggles—if any—with her iron rule and what she had begun) Season 5 started off incredibly strong, in large part due to our Red Queen.

The imagery here is amazing. More than just cool, it reinforces Octavia’s character arc and plays into her role within both Grounder and Arker mythology, whether she’s emerging from the shadows to stand tall or proudly smearing her red blood across her forehead, natblidas be damned. And who can complain about watching her fight? Battles on The 100 are often a highlight, and O’s fight choreo is among the best. 

– Delia Harrington

Read our full review of “Red Queen.”

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What do you think are The 100‘s most essential, definitive episodes over the last five seasons? Let us know in the comments below…

The 100 Season 6 premieres on Tuesday, April 30 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. Read more about Season 6 here, and stay tuned for details from our set visit.