The 100: We Are Grounders, Part 1, Review

The 100 shows that Grounders have problems of their own. Here's our review of part 1 of The 100 season finale.

Well, The 100 isn’t wasting any time tonight, so I won’t either. Spoilers ahead.

If last week’s episode was the calm, part one of the season finale is indeed the proverbial storm. The survivors aboard the Ark are faced with yet another harsh reality check: with the last drop ship destroyed, they have no way of leaving the station—and only have 51 hours of life support left.

Still, even in what seems like their darkest hour, the Ark’s survivors, including Jaha, Abby, and Kane, understand an important truth—even if they perish, their legacy will live on in the prisoners on the planet below. That being said, Kane cannot accept the idea that they are completely without options. In last week’s episode he did not abandon Jaha; he believes where there is a will, there is a way.

Abby, like her daughter, is more pragmatic than optimistic. The futility of trying to save a dying patient sums up her overwhelming helplessness.  When she’s gone, who will protect Clarke? Who will help her daughter cope with her unrequited resentment?

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As for Jaha, he chooses to revisit the past, to convene with his dead son by watching old home videos. So much potential, squandered now. But what seems like a maudlin trip down memory lane may actually hold the key to their survival.

These personal dilemmas beg a bigger question: when faced with your own mortality, how would you face your impending death? Would you accept it with grace, going gently into that good night? Or would you fight tooth and nail to wring every bit of life out of the short time you have left? It’s a truly breathtaking conundrum (no pun intended). When no choices are left, when your fate is all but decided for you, how do you find peace within your own troubled heart?

But it’s not just those onboard the Ark who are grappling with existential crises. The prisoners on the planet are bracing for a battle of a different kind, though this enemy, too, seems like one that they cannot win against.

I’ll stop here for a moment to point out that The 100 repeatedly deals with crucial calculations and inescapable countdowns. The clock is always ticking and rations are always scarce. But the greatest dwindling resource in this scenario is not a lack of gunpowder (or oxygen); it’s the survivors themselves, be they in orbit or on the ground.

So while the obvious threat to the camp would seem to be the Grounders, the more immediate danger is Murphy. He’s not so much concerned about the group’s survival as he is with his own vendetta. And why would he care, after the camp tried to lynch him before leaving him to his own devices in the woods? From a dramatic standpoint, it was a great idea to bring Murphy back into the picture. But as a viewer, I feel nothing but contempt for the character. This has nothing to do with Richard Harmon’s (great) performance and everything to do with what a morally reprehensible person Murphy really is.

But Murphy isn’t content to make Bellamy hang; he wants him to confront the reality that Clarke is the group’s real leader, that Bellamy is nothing more than a coward. It’s been clear throughout this season (especially in “Day Trip”) that Bellamy is painfully aware of his shortcomings and is constantly at odds with his own personal demons.

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As it turns out, the Grounders have problems of their own. Anya, specifically, suddenly finds her leadership usurped by a new Grounder, Tristan, who was sent by the commander. And here I thought Anya was the top of the Grounders’ food chain. Tristan will lead the attack at dawn. What I found interesting here was that he referred to the 100 as invaders. Which is true, in a way. Clarke, Bellamy and the rest may see their return to the surface as a homecoming, but to the now-indigenous Grounders, the old, ruined world was a home they never left behind.

And speaking of food chains, the Grounders have a much bigger threat to contend with, namely the Reapers. But more on them in a bit. The more interesting development here is not even Lincoln’s return, it’s the idea that he would risk his life for his former tormentors. Even Finn understands there’s more at stake for Lincoln than just Octavia’s love (though I’m sure that would be enough to motivate a lot of people, including Jasper). “What my people are doing to yours is wrong,” says Lincoln, shedding some light on his murky motives.

But even as he, Clarke and Finn escape underground to evade the advancing Grounders, the only light at the end of this tunnel turns out to be Reapers. And the Reapers, as it turns out, are cannibals. I have to say, this show is willing to go to some pretty dark places, and this episode is no exception. Not only do they tell us the Reapers are cannibals, they show us. I’m with Clarke when she says the more they learn about this place, the less they know about it.

Meanwhile, back in orbit, Jaha may have found a way for them to survive, even if it means the near-total destruction of the Ark. By Sinclair’s calculation, their odds of surviving reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere are only 5%. But when all hope is lost, 5% is something to live for.

One closing thought:

Tonight’s episode offered up a truly arresting, hypnotic image of Clarke and Lincoln astride a mutant steed galloping through the forest. I know I went on at great length last week about the discarded paper money, but something about seeing them riding the horse really struck an emotional chord for me; it not only romanticized Lincoln as a noble person, it underscored how truly alien Earth has become in so short a time. 

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4.5 out of 5