I don’t know about the rest of you, but The 100 is really starting to stress me out. Tonight’s episode, “Unity Day,” was especially intense. It was also one of the best episodes yet, second only to “Contents Under Pressure”—and that’s really saying something. It’s as if “Pressure” opened a Pandora’s Box of moral dilemmas, and the survivors on the ground and aboard the Ark have been paying the price ever since for their naïveté. That being said, tonight was a pivotal episode, which means spoilers abound.
There are a lot of themes at play here in a universe where mankind has been drastically reduced to only a few thousand people. Truth be told, humanity’s remnants don’t seem to be getting along so well, and therein is the friction that’s driving the second half of this season. (And the second half has so far proven to be much stronger than the first half.)
One important theme is hope—or the lack thereof. How does one thrive in an environment when the future is not only bleak, but also a seemingly unattainable, abstract idea? How can one think of the future when surviving in the moment is so daunting? In tonight’s episode, Finn became a firm believer in the power of optimism. Yes, he may have been stabbed by a Grounder’s poisoned blade, but something about Unity Day has allowed him to see that the only way forward is by making peace with their enemies. The upside to this more enlightened viewpoint is that Finn is able to set up a meeting between Clarke and the Grounders’ leader.
Which leads me to my next point—the all-important theme of survival. Clarke, who was once an unshakeable optimist herself, does not want to reason with the Grounders. “We can’t live in peace with people who’ve done nothing but kill us,” she tells Finn.
She’s starting to think more like Bellamy; they share the same worldview that permeated their lives aboard the Ark: survival at any cost. And as Jaha has learned as the current chancellor, survival often comes at the cost of one’s morality. In other words, in this stark new world order, one must sacrifice human decency in the name of mankind. Which for Clarke means diplomacy is all well and good, but violence seems to bring about more immediate results.
This is true for Diana as well, who views Jaha’s continued lack of complete honesty as a dangerous liability. For anyone paying attention, Diana has never come across as someone to be trusted. Not only was she behind the failed attempt on Jaha’s life, she’s behind a coup that sets off a bomb during the Unity Day pageant. Jaha survives, but innocents are killed, including Kane’s mother. His mother was the Ark’s spiritual leader. To me, her death symbolizes the demise of faith—and with it, hope.
But this coup is not just about shifting the balance of power. Diana plans on taking her loyal followers in the drop ship, essentially dooming everyone remaining aboard the Ark to perish. But, really, is this any different from what Jaha was willing to do? After all, there are 2,237 people on board the Ark, and only room enough for 700 passengers. Does it even matter who’s in power, when faced with such bleak odds?
After an intense standoff with Jaha, Diana and her followers finally break free from the Ark in a scene that had me on the edge of my seat. As the drop ship separates from the Ark, we see the power failing across the twelve stations. A few minutes later, the drop ship crashes to Earth as a horrified Clarke looks on. (Kudos here to the visual FX, which really helped to sell the drama of these two moments).
I was on the edge of my seat for the episode’s other tense standoff—this one between Clarke and the Grounders’ mysterious young leader. It seems as if peace is within reach, with Clarke promising to do her best to honor a possible truce. This tenuous diplomacy gives way to violence though, as shots (and arrows) are fired.
One important takeaway from this failed summit is learning the Grounders aren’t the only hostiles—just the most visible. This demonstrates the prisoners’ woeful lack of camouflaging skills. This is not a knock against the show—it’s a pointed observation that the prisoners, for all their bravado and firepower, really have no idea what they’re up against.
As for us, the viewers, I know what we’re up against: some incredibly compelling sci-fi. The TV gods agree: The 100 has been renewed for a second season.
Some closing thoughts:
I like Raven—she’s nobody’s fool. But she’s also willing to put personal differences aside in the name of the all-important Greater Good. For now, when it comes to dealing with the Grounders, she’s Team Bellamy, even going so far as to tell Finn, “violence is the only thing [the Grounders] understand.”
Finn’s compassion does seem a bit sudden, but it definitely suits him more than simply being part of a love triangle. He also has one of tonight’s better lines, when he tells Clarke, “You didn’t have to trust the Grounders. You just had to trust me.”
Octavia and Lincoln? Sure, they had chemistry (and a stolen kiss) in the previous two episodes, but clearly they’ve been spending a lot of quality time together. Are they destined to be star-crossed lovers like poor Romeo and Juliet?