This The 100 review contains spoilers.
The 100 Season 5 Episode 2
Faster paced than the season opener, “Red Queen” is a great vehicle for Octavia as well as showing how she sets the new world order. This is its own form of world-building: making a new Kru, new rules, a new home. It also pays huge dividends on O’s history and the history of the people of the ark. This is why they had the harsh laws. This is why the grounders rely on harsh violence. After her bloodlust and killing spree, Octavia resisted both. But as Bloodraina, the Red Queen, she respects death now, and must neither hide from it nor thirst for it.
‘Red Queen’ covered a ton of ground, without ever feeling rushed. The episode is so much more than just catching up with the bunker Kru. It’s a culmination of the previous four seasons’ worth of character work for Octavia as she resists and then enforces harsh, Ark-like laws that killed her mother and condemned her to the floorboards, prison, and eventually, the earth.
Octavia’s fighting has always been a high point of the show, but this episode reminds us it’s even greater than we remembered. Regardless of the story implications, there is nothing quite like watching Octavia rip people to shreds. There’s an elegance and a grittiness to her fighting style, which mixes dance-like moves and spins with the unflinching brutality that has characterized The 100 since the very beginning. She uses realistic fighting techniques for her slight stature, sliding on her knees, spinning, and using her legs, which is typically where women draw the majority of our physical power. Octavia spins, slashes, slides, and stabs her way toward loyalty and unification.
The 100 is at its best when it sets up an impossible paradigm and follows through. Unlike so many other shows, it does not flinch. It does not bail its heroes out at the eleventh hour, and it doesn’t make Grounders suddenly a peaceable people. Octavia quickly learns a lesson that Jaha is all too eager to teach: warriors need war. She has to work harder than a commander to unite her people, because she ascended through what some see as artificial means.
So Octavia makes a choice, one that would not be her preference but also makes complete sense. Everyone must be Wankru, or an enemy of Wankru, and O is the enforcer. It’s terrible but, with the food shortages and overcrowding, every person she kills buys them a little more time in the bunker. At least at first. As excellent as this episode is – and it’s one of the best of the entire series – I hope we’ll one day see the true horror that Kane, Indra, and Octavia only allude to in this episode. Sometime after the slaughter and before Kane entered the ring, something very dark happened, even by Grounder/bunker standards. That’s going to be a tall order, so I hope The 100 isn’t writing itself into a corner. Perhaps Jaha’s story about the Ark was foreshadowing some light cannibalism.
I won’t miss Jaha – more than an annoying character, he was too often a drag on the narrative. His sacrificial death in space was beautiful, and I’m still not convinced that bringing him back was worth weakening that narrative punch. That said, the guy gets another lovely death here, talking about Wells and the low-key abusive book The Giving Tree. After Jaha’s death, Octavia takes responsibility for the boy he was caring for, Ethan. In reality that means Jaha spent only a matter of weeks in charge of the boy, whereas Octavia had him for years, turning him into a Wankru novitiate, with Gaia looking after him as the flamekeeper used to do with night bloods. What a difference between how Clarke cares for a child and how Octavia does.
To the delight of ‘shippers everywhere, Miller and Jackson are, in fact, together. Nyla and Octavia seem to have quite a vibe, too. I’m interested to see if Wankru has improved her status at all compared to being seen as a betraying other Grounders. By the looks of it, while Nate is in Octavia’s inner circle, he joins Indra and Kane on the list of people concerned with Bloodraina’s rule.
I’m not sold on The 100’s ability to do their own version of an opioid storyline, but if they’re going to, Abby is a good candidate. Raven would be the other, since she has chronic pain due to a long-term injury, but she’s got enough on her plate. It stands to reason that there would be consequences to Abby’s mind melting, as well as to the survivor’s guilt of living when she had chosen to die, particularly not knowing what happened to her daughter.
It will be interesting to see how long Kane can protect Abby, especially when he and Indra are pulled toward steering Octavia out of the darkness. Even more interesting: where will Clarke’s loyalty lie, with her mother or her child? Addiction, which many see as self-inflicted and a drain on resources, may well break that tie.
Finally, Gaia showed up in a number of unexpected places throughout, and with cool – if impractical – hair. Somehow Indra is on the outs, with her biological and surrogate daughters drawn closer together by Octavia’s rule. Indra is right to be concerned and again, this is a recipe for disastrous choices, when Indra will inevitably have to choose between the two. We’ve heard talk that Gaia could have been a great warrior, and seeing this not-so-pacifist side of her, I’m inclined to believe it.
“‘Red Queen” is everything that makes The 100 great: epic fights, secrets to unciver, and moral grey areas left right and center. Even better is all the imagery of Octavia in charge, whether she’s speechifying form the darkness, drenched in the blood of her enemies, or sitting atop a throne of human skulls, bright red blood smeared across her forehead, in complete defiance of the night blood tradition. Buckle up, Wankru, Bloodraina is not messing around.