I’m always a little amazed at the amount of plot The 100 packs into each episode while also maintaining a strong focus on the characters affected by that plot. This week was no exception, with the addition of Skaikru to Lexa’s coalition of Grounders, the destruction of Mount Weather, and what looked to the breaking of that same coalition. All while giving us a better look at Polis, a glimpse into Raven’s vulnerabilities, and a promise between Lexa and Clarke.
Before I get to the many things I enjoyed about the episode, there is one storyline that I’m having problems with that I would like to address. I don’t like that Gina was killed in Mount Weather. One of the most frequent ways in which I praise this show is its commitment to its characters and their growth and development. Killing Gina went against all of that. Her character could have been so much more than she was able to be. We saw a few brief moments between her and Bellamy though we missed any sort of development there that would have gotten us truly invested in her as a character. We saw that she and Raven clearly had a history together that could have deepened each of their backstories. But ultimately, she existed to be killed. She was killed for shock value and to propel the stories of other characters forward. Yes, other love interests in the show have been killed. But we were given the opportunity to care about Maya and understand Finn’s journey. Their deaths meant something to us as viewers, not just to the characters onscreen. Gina’s death means relatively little to viewers, other than the loss of potential storylines and relationships. It was an lazy, contrived plot choice and I have come to expect better from this show.
This next paragraphs are going to be slightly spoilery, so feel free to skip them if you’d like to remain in the dark about upcoming information.
According to Jason Rothenberg, Gina’s death existed to give Bellamy a reason to follow Pike’s anti-Grounder movement because he wanted him “to have some skin in the game”. To me, that is a blatant lack of understanding of who Bellamy is as a character and his arc. I can agree that Bellamy doesn’t have the connection to the Grounders that Octavia does. But Gina’s death isn’t the only way he has been affected by them. Echo’s betrayal (that led to Gina’s death) could have done that. They may not know each other well but each helped the other in Mount Weather. He freed her and then she left he and his friends to fend for themselves. It wasn’t as deep a betrayal as Clarke and Lexa’s. Echo was only following her Commander and Bellamy understood that. That was why he was so willing to believe and listen to her. But she took advantage of that trust and it led to the death of some of his people.
To go for a deeper motivation, if Lexa hadn’t betrayed Clarke at the door to Mount Weather, he would never have had to pull that lever with Clarke. Bellamy is a lot more capable of justifying the things that he’s done in the name of survival than Clarke has been but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t had to grapple with the emotional consequences of Mount Weather. While I think that ensuring Octavia’s survival will always come first for him and was a prominent factor in his decision to share the burden with Clarke, that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision. He pulled that lever knowing there were friends and allies he was killing, knowing that their were innocent children who would be lost with their actions. That action also took away one of his closest friends and his co-leader when Clarke chose to leave Camp Jaha. And it did again in this episode, when Clarke stayed in Polis. While she’s allowed to exist in both worlds, Bellamy has lost a piece of Octavia to the Grounders. He used to be all she had, but now she feels most comfortable in a world he’s not a part of. Echo’s betrayal is the only time a Grounder has deliberately taken advantage of him and led to the loss of someone important to him, but intentional or not, the Grounders have taken away people from him. He already had skin in the game because hurt isn’t rational and it would have been easy to see how he could blame the Grounders and hate what they’ve done to him. Even if Sky People had to be killed, he didn’t need to be given a girlfriend only to have her taken away and motivate him toward hatred.
We missed out on the strong and subtle character work that Bob Morley has already proven he could handle. Gina’s death wasn’t necessary to bring him into this story. It wasn’t far to her and it’s not far to him either. His arc has been one of the most fulfilling to watch and while I’m OK with a little bit of a devolution in order to eventually move forward, I don’t think this was the way to do it. And Jason, it has nothing to do with needing Bellamy to be perfect. We’ve already seen that he isn’t. But we’ve also seen that you’re capable of doing more with him and can carefully craft a story for him that allows him to grow without sacrificing another character for the sake of plot.
The spoiler-talk and ranting is done. Now back to the episode!
Despite my complaints, there really was a lot to appreciate in this episode. The one bright spot in the Mount Weather side of the plot was increased focus on Raven. Lindsay Morgan did an incredible job showing Raven’s intelligence and pride in her abilities as well the vulnerabilities that lie underneath that tough, always-in-control facade. Raven is undeniably strong, both as an individual and as a mechanic. I appreciate and love that about her. But she’s also allowed to be vulnerable and scared and while she may not like that about herself, I love her all the more for it. I have little doubt that Raven is genuinely confident in her abilities. She has had a lifetime of positive affirmation that she is in fact awesome. Over the years, her ability to fix things has become an important part of her self-image. But she can’t fix her injury. It leaves her powerless and that’s not a position she is very comfortable in.
As she said to Sinclair, she feels broken. Not only was this a hard admission on her part, it says volumes about the relationship these two must have had on the arc. She is comfortable enough with him to be vulnerable to him. She was comfortable enough to listen when he told her she deserved more. Her response to his support was to confess her fears to him when previously she’d been doing everything in her power to pretend those fears didn’t exist.
It’s in sharp contrast to an earlier vulnerable moment, where Raven confessed to Clarke that she was struggling with the idea of not being the one who was chosen. Like the scene in 3×03, Raven admitted to those insecurities but the first time it happened, Raven put her walls up again. Clarke told Raven that she’d pick her first, a remarkable statement coming from the girl on the other side of the love triangle, and Raven responded with a joke. It was an openness she wasn’t ready for at the time but now it’s something she has found or been allowed to have again with Sinclair. Raven’s lost a lot since coming down to Earth and she needs someone who can support her when she isn’t feeling strong or confident. As usual, this show is never content to do nice things for Raven, so the medical center she had been counting on no longer exists and she lost another friend, but while it lasted, it was a needed moment of emotional release for her.
Back in Polis, I was busy falling in love with Marcus Kane. While his development has been building for quite a while, this is really the episode where you see just how far Marcus has come as a character and how his relationship with Abby has progressed from where we see them in the pilot. When we met him, Marcus saw everything in black-and-white. He is a product of the Ark, where all crimes are indistinguishable and punishable by death. Everything was simple and there wasn’t any room for context or nuance. Since landing on Earth, he’s come to see the failings of that system. He recognizes the need to reach out and be flexible when dealing with others. He sees the beauty in Grounder cultures and what Skaikru can learn from them. He sees an alliance with Lexa not just beneficial for their physical survival but for their evolution as a society. He didn’t land on the Earth he expected to, but more than any other adult, he’s adapted and thrived in the one they found. His friendship with Indra has been one of the highlights of the season so far, as we see these two characters who are very different, but each deeply committed to their people, come together and find joy and understanding in the other.
Gone are the days of him and Abby fighting over the title of Chancellor. Now, regardless of who holds the title, they lead together. They are not always going to agree. Like Clarke and Bellamy in seasons past, they have different styles and opinions about what is best for their people. But they will make the most of the decisions each have made and work as one to build a home for their people. It’s no longer a power struggle, it’s a partnership. In the days ahead, it seems as though that will be more important than ever.
Finally, in the strongest piece of the episode, we have Clarke and Lexa and the complicated relationship they share. Forgiveness doesn’t come easily to Clarke. She holds a grudge very well and while she is willing to work with someone she dislikes for a greater cause, the return of her affections doesn’t come easily. We saw it with Wells, we’re still seeing it with Abby, and now we get to see how that impacts her relationship with Lexa.
Clarke hasn’t forgotten what happened at Mount Weather. She recognizes that she is the one who pulled that lever (btw Clarke, it’d be great if you acknowledged that it wasn’t solely your doing) but she was only in the position to make that choice because Lexa betrayed their alliance. The deaths of those in Mount Weather weigh heavily on her conscience and in her mind, there is plenty of blame and guilt to share with Lexa. She may be mad at Lexa for putting her in that position, but she hates herself more for being the one to ultimately make the decision. As much as she says she didn’t have a choice, you can tell she never fully believes that. It is a decision that she will always question and Eliza Taylor did a phenomenal job conveying the exhaustion, anger, and self-loathing that Clarke is keeping bottled up.
On the other side of the coin, there is Lexa. As Clarke astutely pointed out, Lexa’s decision to treaty with the Mountain Men made her look weak as a Commander. Not only did Clarke go on to destroy the Grounder’s greatest enemy, but Lexa betrayed the Grounder principle of “blood must have blood”. It’s the principle that led to Finn’s death and would have rallied the Grounders against Mount Weather but Lexa chose to walk away. It was a bold move. She’s determined to do things differently as Heda which is admirable but dangerous. Had there been Mountain Men left, the newfound alliance with them would have made Lexa a hero. She would have been the one to have eliminated that threat against her people. She couldn’t be the Commander of Death but she could have ushered in a new way of life for her people, based on the option of mutual cooperation instead of destruction. Instead, it was Clarke who emerged that day as a symbol of strength and power.
Politically, Lexa needs to harness the symbolic power of Wanheda. She needs to make it clear to the rest of her people, particularly the tribe leaders, that the Commander of Death swears loyalty to her alone. She can’t have her fall into Azgeda hands, where she would be killed and her symbolic power transferred to Queen Nia. It would be the end of her reign as Commander and she knows it.
Personally, Lexa can’t lose another woman she loves to Ice Nation. In public, she is the same strong Heda her people demand, as we see when she kicks the Ice Nation ambassador out of the window then dares anyone else to defy her. But in private, she adopts a softer, gentler demeanor with Clarke. This season is really highlighting the affection and understanding that Lexa found with Clarke. Love may be weakness politically, but it doesn’t stop her from desiring it for herself. She wants someone to understand the burden of leadership while asking her to be more than her title. She’s found that recognition in Clarke and I don’t believe she’d let that go easily, Wanheda or not. So she offers Skaikru protection as part of her coalition. She gets the power of Wanheda but Clarke gets to assure the safety of her people, something she couldn’t guarantee on her own, especially if she is still hesitant to go back to them.
These two women recognize the separation of the political and the personal in way that few others do on this show. It is why Clarke recognizes the necessity in looking like a Grounder for Skaikru’s initiation and why she agrees to bow to the woman who betrayed her. Whatever her own feelings toward Lexa, she put her people first. The coalition is shattering and without Lexa, Skaikru would be left friendless on the ground, with an army who is not strong enough to fight against Azgeda. An alliance with a struggling Commander may not provide much safety but it’s their best shot. While an alliance between these two people didn’t work out the first time around, this time, it’s much more formal. It is official now, Skaikru is the 13th tribe. A Commander who betrayed an ally is bad enough. A Commander who betrays one of her tribes would lose all credibility. To turn against Skaikru now would mean certain death for Lexa. Her fate is tied with theirs. Unfortunately for us as fans, that fate isn’t looking so promising for the Commander at the moment, with many of the other tribes allying with Queen Nia in the upcoming battle.
Wanheda may have bowed to her new Heda, with all of the political ramifications that come with that, but it was Lexa who pledged fealty to Clarke. It was a promise never to betray her again. It was a promise to consider Clarke’s interests as important as her own. This is a huge moment for Lexa, and unfortunately, the one I think that will lead to her downfall. There is an overt vulnerability to this scene as Lexa bows. She’s placing herself in a subservient position before the woman she loves, trusting the gesture will be accepted. It is a beautiful scene between these two characters and the intimacy between Alycia Debnam-Carey and Taylor is palpable. The only trouble is, once again, Ice Nation knows Lexa’s weakness and I have to imagine they’ll exploit that once again.
- I’m loving the Caprica and Battlestar Galactica vibes I’m getting from this season. First with the nod to Daniel Greystone/Gauis Baltar’s house in the first two episodes and now with the Grounder anthem that was very reminiscent of Bear McCreary’s stunning score for BSG.
- Indra smiling at Kane was everything I never knew I needed. was the last time you remember Indra smiling that openly at someone? It was a rare and beautiful occurrence.
- I must be a sucker for angst because I can’t wait to see an upcoming confrontation between Bellamy and Clarke. He’s not happy about Clarke’s choices and for the first time, walked away from her, which I don’t think Clarke expected.
- It was great to see Indra bring Octavia back into the fight. Let’s hope this also means Lincoln’s kill order was lifted.