Honor, duty, sacrifice—these are all noble ideals, especially when weighed against the absence of civilized society. At the end of the world, it’s up to individuals of strong moral character to rise above humanity’s worst instincts. The 100 often explores other important virtues that go hand in hand with rebuilding a brave new world—that of trust and forgiveness. Without them, there’s no redemption, and without that, all that’s left is to wallow in the mire of our own worst qualities. Kindness goes a long way after the apocalypse; it’s an emotional currency that buys back the humanity lost in the wake of city-annihilating mistakes.
That being said, let’s delve into tonight’s episode, “Many Happy Returns.” Spoilers ahead.
The 100 packed a lot of important character and story moments into only one hour. This can be a good thing when it works, and not so great when it doesn’t. Tonight, a lot of character beats got lost in a sea of plot points. Raven had some nice moments tonight, as did Murphy, but it’s a shame they didn’t happen in less frenetic episodes. In Raven’s case, she’s assigned to work on a radio tower. One could argue it’s her beacon of hope in that the work gives her a sense of purpose, especially after her surgery and the loss of feeling in her left leg. Anyone who’s watched the show from the beginning understands how brash and cocky Raven is, but this is all bluster, to cover up her fear of appearing weak (as opposed to being weak—there’s a difference). She won’t accept help from her friend Wick, even if it means improving the quality of her life. Wick understands Raven, though, and sees the bravado for what it is. It’s through his sheer persistence that Raven finally understands that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a monumental act of faith in one’s friends.
As for Murphy, his character undergoes an interesting transformation that is only made possible by a subplot that bogged down an otherwise good episode. Finn, Bellamy, and Murphy (among others) are hell-bent on rescuing Clarke (again, among others). Of course, their rescue is predicated on sketchy intel from a questionable source, but they have to believe their friends are still alive. And yet, when they stumble across an Ark station crash site, they discover one survivor among the rubble and fly-ridden carnage. Suddenly, Finn and Bellamy find themselves in a moral quandary. Finn wants to press ahead, but Bellamy wants to help the girl, Mel, who is literally hanging on for dear life. The decision is made to rescue her (and, on paper, it is the right thing to do), but saving one person comes at a great loss. In the end, after rescuing Mel, Finn goes off on his own to find Clarke—which he could have (and should have) done from the very beginning.
But now back to Murphy. The upside to this subplot is we see Murphy redeem himself by essentially saving Bellamy’s life. Redemption is a powerful thing, and it pairs well with Murphy’s desperate need for a second chance.
Another great thing to come out of this storyline is Bellamy and Octavia’s unexpected reunion. It’s great to see these two back together, even if they don’t quite see eye to eye on everything. Plus, it’s great opportunity for Octavia to show she’s got some serious survival chops.
As for Jaha, he not only introduces viewers to a new locale, he also introduces us to desert scavengers with their own beliefs and moral codes. Whereas Mel’s rescue seemed to drag on a bit, Jaha’s rehabilitation by Zoran and his mother Sienna seemed a bit rushed. Before we know it, this family has betrayed poor Theolonius. In between his being discovered and betrayed, we briefly learn that people disfigured by radiation are viewed as pariahs destined to die alone. That is the way of Sienna’s people, but she would not allow such a fate to befall her son. Jaha’s sacrifice of his own son for the greater good stands in stark contrast to Sienna’s courage.
In general, on The 100, customs/cultures seem to evolve so quickly, over the span of only a few generations? Perhaps this accelerated timeline is due to what could be called an “apocalypse effect.” (The same seems to be true of The Walking Dead‘s various enclaves; the simultaneous evolution/de-evolution of social mores in the face of catastrophic conditions seems rather commonplace—at least in Georgia.)
Some closing thoughts:
Why does anyone ever mess with Clarke? Not only did she clean Anya’s clock, she actually brokered an unlikely truce. But that’s all for naught now, though. I did find it interesting that, in the end, they were barely indistinguishable from one another.