The Season 5 opener serves as a loving and contemplative reflection on the 100’s time on earth so far, and really on their whole journey. Focusing almost entirely on Clarke’s path during the time jump, her relationship with Madi and the arrival of Con Air in Space, it also offers our first glimpse at SpaceKru, the small subset of the 100 that went back up to space without Clarke.
The new theme, the most obvious changes to the opener so far, is not playing around. There’s no water or Polis, but plenty of tan and red earth, dead trees, and Praimfaya. The bunker and the prison transport have been added, perhaps hinting at how long into the season they will remain factors.
Clarke’s salvage mission and riding around in the rover provide some of the clearest callbacks to season 1. She finds Maya’s ipod, Jasper’s note to Monty and goggles, the latter of which protect her as she wanders the desert. Maya’s iPod provided the soundtrack to her exploratory mission looking for food or water. It called to mind the great opener last season with the gang in the rover listening to Gone daddy gone, while O rides alongside on her horse. Back when Jasper was still alive.
Since so much of the episode is spent on Clarke solo, her emotional state is the core of the episode. So much of that makes this episode successful, but there are a few missteps. Clarke almost killing herself but instead seeing a bird which she follows to Eden, thanks, kills, and eats is perhaps the single most The 100 sequence ever committed to screen. Still, I don’t buy for a second that if the bird hadn’t shown up that Clarke Griffin gives up.
For the first time, Clarke has the space to contemplate what it means for her fight to be over, and “Eden” allows us to watch her do so. The episode’s thematic use of the Trigedasleng phrase, “your fight is over” is a fascinating way to turn that phrase on its head. Grounder culture imagines all life as a fight, so to them, the fight being over means death. Here, there’s no one left to fight. It gives Clarke a new life, unlike any she’s known before, even in the Ark before she learned the secret that got her father killed. I had imagined that this experience, surviving for so long completely alone, would harden her. It had never occurred to me that it could soften her.
But seeing Clarke swimming in that river, alone and smiling, she is free. For perhaps the first time on this show, she is free. The only thing that comes close is moments when she’s with people she loves and forgets everything else, like with Lexa or her mother. This sense of freedom is reinforced by the way her swim is shot – no voyeuristic male gaze, just relaxation, and a nice reminder of season 1’s two-headed deer and the spear by the river.
Right away, Madi brought out a side of Clarke we hadn’t seen in a while. She draws and tells her adopted daughter stories of all the people she loves. Clarke admonishing Madi to only speak in English, however, was a major misstep from a show that’s usually far more aware of the politics of indigenous people and colonizers, and the obvious parallels to the country where they film and the country where the show airs. Forcing indigenous children to forget their own language has a long history in North American and Australia, but it’s also very much a part of the present, and perpetuating that without comment is dangerous and insulting.
Aside from that, it seems Madi is generally a smart kid, and one who has helped Clarke survive just as much as Clarke helped her. She seemed to know Clarke already, calling her the flaimkeepa, but respecting her again when she revealed that she’s a night blood. Could there be other night bloods around who hid? Madi’s bunker is reminiscent of Clarke and Finn’s love bunker, and the time Lincoln spent in the tunnels early on. I’d love to know more about Madi’s decision to hide from the flame keepers – did her parents decide that, or did she? Did her village know, and did they support it? Just like seeing the colorful Shallow Valley clan’s dream catchers and maypoles, this makes me wonder what other aspects of Grounder culture we’ve missed out on while assuming they’re all just like Trikru and Azgeda.
Meanwhile, the prison ship that SpaceKru was eying heads to earth, and it’s the scarier, adult-violent-offender version of the original 100. It takes a few more episodes to get us there, but like all good reality tv stars, they didn’t come to earth to make friends.
As much as it seemed Clarke softened during her and Madi’s six years of relative tranquility, that all went out the window as soon as her family was threatened. Does Clarke worry about what she teaches her daughter when she shoots people in the head first, asks questions never? Will her loyalty to Madi threaten her loyalty to her people in the bunker, or up in space? Does the 40 or so delinquents, whatever remains of the original 100 even exist as a faction or a family anymore?
Up in space, things have progressed in a fairly predictable way. Bellamy is the leader and dating Eko, Monty the peacekeeper and provider. Murphy, of course, has isolated himself so he has no rules and no one to disappoint. I get it – a fully evolved Murphy loses so much of what made that character satisfying in the last couple of seasons. But I was hoping for more surprises in space. The one pleasant surprise is how well emori fits in, and how she has taken to 0G. That said, it’s a bit odd to hear Raven talk about spacewalking without her or anyone else referring to her old spacewalker (and essentially her only family), Finn.
Is this land truly empty? If so, who built all those cairns? Has anyone else heard her many messages to Bellamy? More importantly, why didn’t the folks in the bunker answer Clarke, and can they even get out of the bunker now that Polis has collapsed on top of them? Stay tuned for some answers and a lot more questions during next week’s excellent bunker-centric episode.