This The 100 review contains spoilers.
The 100 Season 5 Episode 4
After three episodes of much-awaited preamble, tonight’s episode sets in motion this season’s paradigm. Pandora’s Box gets a boost of energy from showing Wankru, Spacekru, and Clarke all in the same episode, for the first time this season. The mechanics are out of the way: most everyone is back on earth and out of the bunker. Clarke is reunited with her people. The prison ship people have some mysterious other motives, and they’ve shown that, like the 100 before them, they’re more than willing to rachet up the violence to get whatever they feel entitled to. Welcome to Season 5.
Don’t take that to mean that the previous episodes were unnecessary or overly long. On the contrary, so many time jumps are bungled by an unwillingness to both show what we’ve missed and take real risks with character changes. Instead, the time jump has rejuvenated The 100 with a chance to show off the daring gauntlets, strong visuals, and character-driven mayhem that it did best, once upon a time. The first few episodes have been some of the best of the series thus far. It’s clear that this season has a character-driven trajectory and some tight plotting it needs to get to on a schedule.
This episode is reminiscent of Kill Box and some of the other great strategic, tension-building episodes. Lots of chess pieces on the board, but just like in chess, every piece is hampered by restrictions. Octavia must rule her people, Charmaine needs to take what she can to help her people survive, Clarke cares for her daughter and mother above all else, and Bellamy still thinks he’s in charge. But every move sets countermoves in order, and before long everyone has a gun to their head. Mutually assured destruction for the last remaining humans on earth.
I can’t wait to learn more about Charmaine – she swaggered into this season with a space ship full of charisma, and I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to her Navy SEAL-turned-terrorist backstory. And where is home for her and her people now?
Some of the best moments in this episode cement the new world order, like how no one moves a muscle until Octavia gives the slightest nod of her head, and then it’s as though she has screamed her orders. Or when Bellamy tries to speak for his sister, the one he spent years protecting so hard he robbed her of her autonomy, only to learn that things are different now. Octavia’s ascension is almost a religious experience, and it’s something Bellamy was not prepared for.
Other strengths of this episode were callbacks to the show’s history, like the way Kane brought up his own violent, tyrannical rule, and the toll it took on Octavia. When a show has a long enough history like this one, it’s a strength to play into it realistically. Kane must know that as close as he and O get, he will always be the man who murdered her mother – and The 100 is a strong television show when it remembers that.
There are many reunions this episode, but two of my favorites didn’t even happen in person. Seeing Raven overcome and Murphy genuinely happy to learn Clarke is alive was a good moment, and a nice way to feel connected to the two remaining members of SpaceKru. Of course this episode made good on the promise of the last one, by showing Bellamy and Clarke getting closer than 20 feet apart.
When all of the niceties are out of the way, though, how long will it take for everyone to realize how cavalier Clarke has become with murder? And what impact will the existence of Wanheda have on Bloodrayna’s rule? There was more than just a ripple when she appeared in the bunker.
As much as this is a good episode, it feels like necessary connective tissue between stronger ones. It fills in the details of circumstances that we’ve known were coming since the first sizzle reel hit. Unfortunately, Pandora’s Box is about opening the box, not seeing what’s inside – we still have to wait to see how Clarke will learn of her mother’s addiction, and how the Blake siblings will handle their very different styles of leadership.
The dynamics between Octavia and her two mentors, Indra and Kane, are sowing some interesting seeds, but lack real impact. When Kane says she has lost her way, it’s hard for us to have an opinion since there’s clearly more to this story and to the “dark year.” Indra has always been someone to find her own code of honor amidst the chaos, and she and Kane have always had a special fealty to one another, a respect. It’s not surprising she would help him, especially if she agrees that Octavia has gone astray – but again, without seeing any real evidence of that, beyond her skull throne and the existence of Grounder Fight Club, it’s hard to feel invested in their changing relationship and whatever conflict may be at its center.
As much as I loved Bellamy’s amazing entrance to the bunker and as happy as I am to see Bellamy reunite with the two most important women in his life, he’s got another thing coming if he thinks either of them will answer to him. Watching him talk over his sister, the queen, is a reminder of not only her hard-won status, but how egocentric the 100 are. They so often assume that all life on earth revolves around them. They may not be that far off, if only due to numbers, but Octavia has a role to play in Grounder culture now. She has obligations to her people that go beyond anything Bellamy or even Clarke may be bound by. Bellamy needs to learn that keeping strategic information from the queen is not an option, even if it is his sister.
Will they be able to rescue everyone else from the bunker? Is Murphy kinda falling in love with Raven? What’s going to happen to Abby and Kane as the earth descends into all-out war?