This The 100 review contains spoilers.
The 100 Season 5 Episode 9
This episode of The 100 came the closest this season has in a long while to showing what we’ve needed to see all along: Octavia struggling with these tough choices, the secret tears, the heartbreak and hesitation that no one else sees. This episode still didn’t go quite far enough when it comes to getting inside her head – I’m still not all that sold on why Octavia is doing some of these more drastic things, other than that the plot requires her to.
Everything in this episode is about layers. Indra’s only weakness is the old wound Pike inflicted on her back when Bellamy was being The Worst. Madi sees what looks like the Mountain Men in her commander vision. Octavia reminisces about when Indra asked her to be her second. Even O’s challenge to Monty that he should be cooking up a scheme to break Bellamy out of prison, feels like something from a simpler time.
Bellamy still sees things in turn of lifting the burden from Octavia, calling her rule silly and storybook, infantilizing her, rather than understanding where she’s coming from and respecting her choices, the way he has with Clarke, Kane and others. It’s hard to hear, “there’s no coming back from this,” from the guy who forgave kane for spacing his mom. Or the guy who took Pike’s side, helping with a massacre and allowing Lincoln’s execution to happen.
Bellamy and Indra’s relationship continues to be one of the most interesting, further cementing Indra’s position at the center of the show. They both love Octavia very much and are willing to die for her, but are also more or less willing to kill her to protect her if necessary. They’ve forgiven themselves and each other of so much, making them the kind of people who can head into the arena knowing they must fight and still somehow shake hands after wards, no harm, no foul.
Often on The 100, it feels like characters are trapped on a collision course with a terrible fate. When done well, it’s like there’s a tractor beam pulling them in, and every decision they make leads them closer to an inevitability. When it’s bungled, characters ignore obvious ways around danger to keep the stakes artificially high. Tonight’s episode did a great job of repeatedly raising the stakes and then allowing characters to find creative ways out, only to be foiled and brought back onto that treacherous path again and again. Gaia did it when she threw the spear at Octavia, and Monty did it twice with his plants, trying to use the truth to prevent war. These moves were refreshing, especially in contrast to some of Octavia’s more confuse actions that don’t feel very character-driven at all.
This episode also featured Clarke and Madi’s mother/daughter dynamic at its best, even as the ground starts to move beneath their feet in the form of the old commanders finding their place in Madi’s mind. Their arguments felt authentically teenaged, even if the subject matter is decidedly apocalyptic. The flame being inside Madi gives us a close-up view of the flame and the reality of the commanders for the first time, one that I’m eager to see more of. Becca Pramheda’s death was eerily reminiscent of burning a witch at the stake, and Madi seems to flex back and forth between petulant teen and preternatural commander.
I’m looking forward to the next episode and the aftermath of Abby’s story this week. Certainly Clarke will learn the truth, even if it’s Madi who has to make her see it. Eventually Abby will have to face up to what she allowed Vinson to do in her name: brutally murder several people in her presence, when she could have stopped him. Here the thing about addiction: it makes you vulnerable. Anyone who has the pills Abby needs can effectively control her. In this case, Vinson wasn’t even trying to control her – Abby could have had the pills and stopped the bloodshed, but the pull was too strong.
Aside from Vinson’s plug for the virtues of detox and sobriety, Abby is also a case in favor of medication assisted therapy (MAT). Or, in plain language, staving off withdrawal in low doses without getting high, which is what Abby appeared to be doing beforehand. Even so, she’s acting as her own doctor so her judgment can be compromised, and her access can still be controlled, thus controlling her.
One advantage to McCreary taking charge is that it sets up an opportunity for Clarke, Bellamy, Diyoza – and who knows, maybe even Octavia – to all meet in the woods and conspire to take McCreary down. That allows showrunner Jason Rothenberg to stick to his guns about a war over Eden, while still retaining some of our newer characters, and allowing for some personal growth among those looking to turn toward peace and compromise. They won’t be able to find that with McCreary, which would provide the obligatory war, but they may be able to find it with each other, which would make for a major step forward on the show.