This The 100 review contains spoilers.
The 100 Season 5 Episode 9
This episode covers a ton of ground, and while some of these arcs feel like they could have used more breathing room, a lot of the choices – like Indra overreaching for power and not counting on Miller, or Clarke coming after Octavia with a gun as a way to stop Gaia – only make sense if you don’t think about them too much. Murphy still feels criminally underutilized, but that might still be the case even if the show was called John Murphy and the 100. I also want more from Indra and Gaia, even though this season has given us more of both than we’ve had so far. They embody so much about grounder culture, they’re a lifeline to Octavia, and their complicated mother/daughter bond is a small but powerful antidote to such an extreme focus on fathers and sons in all of western art and literature.
Time jumps are tricky things, and it can be hard to keep characters from resetting right back to where they were or feeling like they changed too much. Emori’s growth is spot on, and Raven feels like she continued to grow into her own natural leadership. This episode was a missed opportunity for the SpaceKru to show off their dysfunctional family vibe – instead, I keep feeling the old fissions, with Echo’s old personality on full display and her ensuing tension with Raven feeling more recent than lived in.
Finally, what we have long known and feared has come to pass: Clarke and Bellamy are each choosing their own families, and realizing that doesn’t include each other. It’s a bit delusional that Bellamy tells himself that O will choose peace when she sees it, considering she’s constitutionally incapable of it. It’s equally ridiculous that Clarke blindly thinks that she can keep Madi a secret and that Bellamy is the same person he was six years ago, still her second in command. Echo, Raven, Murphy and Emori are Bellamy’s family, even more than Octavia or Clarke. It looks like he’s about to come very close to paying for that with his life, though I don’t for a second believe that Clarke – or the writers – will actually let him die. And if they touch a hair on Indra’s head, so help me…
Miller and Nyla both took steps to differentiate themselves as characters in this episode. Up until now, Nyla was essentially a tagalong to Skaikru, someone to listen while Clarke and then Octavia aired their feelings, or what passed for them. Miller showed some amount of agency during Pike’s dictatorship, but he has largely been an affable foot soldier, a memorable member of the 100, but not a core member or one with a defining motive by any means. Season five aims to put both characters to better use, rather than letting them fade into the background, and that’s for the better. Miller is the only other former member of Skaikru who fights at Octavia’s side, making him valuable to this story. Nyla similarly lives between cultures, which has always been the best hope for the people on what was once known as earth.
I’m still hoping for Clarke, Bellamy, and other heroes to be called to account more pointedly, especially considering the contrast between their behavior and what they deem acceptable (or not) from others. It’s hard to blame Echo – how is she supposed to keep track of when it’s okay to murder someone in cold blood or not, when Clarke can barely be bothered to justify doing so in front of her daughter?
At the very end of the episode, Octavia was finally allowed a real moment of humanity. Facing down a war that she knows is a no-win situation even if she nominally wins, about to send three of the people she loves the most to a fight to the death, and perhaps considering for the first time how they all betrayed her, she privately cries. One of the weaknesses of this season is how little we’ve seen of Octavia’s perspective, her humanity, the context in which she makes her decisions. Characters tell us that she’s making what she thinks is a good decision, but it’s not often shown. When it is, it’s rarely from O’s perspective. We shift between Indra, Clarke, Bellamy, Raven, Murphy, Kane, Abby, Diyoza and others, and more time focused on Indra has certainly strengthened the show.
A particularly effective scene in this episode put Indra and O front and center, allowing a revived Octavia to question Indra about her betrayal. While near-instantaneous collapse was effective for last week’s gut punch to end the episode, it’s less interesting in the long term than letting our character stew in the muck of their actions. I’m concerned that the mystique of what, exactly, happened during “the dark year” can’t possibly live up to all the buildup, and won’t outweigh the downside of The 100 asking us to rather unilaterally view Octavia as the enemy without knowing why. Sure, she’s marching toward war and destruction, but Clarke has committed at least two genocides and we still like her.
The show is currently setting the audience up for a more complicated relationship with Diyoza, our original baddie, and Vincen, the creepy serial killer, than with Octavia. What gives? While her current actions don’t feel like the complete about-face of Season 3 Bellamy, the extent to which we’re placed in opposition to her with so little to go on feels oddly reminiscent of that colossal misstep.
On a different note, Madi’s preternatural knowledge of the grounder’s past brings back a fun bit of the show’s mythos: is the commander chip real? Are all the commanders really preserved, thereby proving that the grounder religion is real? And of course, for all the shippers and fans of female power out there, does that mean some part of Lexa lives on? That seems to be the case, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that will affect Madi and Clarke’s relationship as they go on the run. It could get a bit Oedipal if they’re not careful, and I’m wondering what – if anything – Clarke may have left from her time with the chip.