In the immortal words of Octavia Blake, we’re back, bitches! This episode marks the first time the 100 has been together on-screen since the season one finale. Yes, off-screen, they shared the walk back to Camp Jaha from Mount Weather but I don’t think any of them were up for much talking at that time. After a half-season that tested my love for this show with it’s poor writing and increased violence, this episode gave me back the hope that I once found in this series.
Things are still terrible. Abby is now in the City of Light, a pawn in ALIE’s game. Octavia is grieving over the loss of Lincoln. Clarke is grieving over the loss of Lexa. Jasper hasn’t healed from the loss of Maya. Monty killed his mom, shortly before learning that people who have taken the City of Light chip can be saved. Bellamy finally realizes that he made the wrong decision and now can be more full of guilt and self-loathing. But they are no longer suffering alone. They are a family once more and they’ll get through their challenges, both internal and external, together.
Before I talk about what made this episode work so well for me, I have to single out Lindsay Morgan for her exceptional performance. Everyone did a wonderful job this week but Morgan stood out by throwing everything she had into her portrayal of Raven. The physicality and emotion she put into her reactions and taunts this week was some of her best work on the series.
While not the underlying problem with the season, the separation of this core team has made it a difficult season to watch. Not only has Clarke been physically separated from them and her mother, but the rest of them have been separated by their own mental and emotional struggles. Friendships and bonds that once provided strength and comfort have been tested and broken. The result has been the isolation of these characters, with only small moments of overlap. It’s left each of them with little support system at a time when they could all use it. Yet despite their own problems and the tension between many of them, when one of their own needed help, they all risked everything to help.
These characters function naturally as a team. It was a skill learned out of necessity but it created a bond between them that can be shaken but not broken. In the months before the Ark came down, they were all each other had. They formed their own “kru” to put it in Grounder terms. Yes, by birth they are a part of Skaikru and many of them have other ties to the people on the Ark. But their primary affiliation became the one they shared with each other. In this episode, it was this tie that anchored Octavia during a time she felt adrift. It was this tie that caused Monty to kill his mom because Octavia’s life was at risk. It was this one that kept them fighting so hard to free Raven from ALIE’s grasp.
This episode also excelled because it focused on the characters, not the plot. There was plot movement (they know how to defeat ALIE now) but it wasn’t the focus. The characters were allowed to take center stage. And what we saw was how desperately hurt each of them are and that none of them know how to handle it. Each of them is carrying around so much pain that, for the most part, they’ve kept bottled up and allowed to fester. The Ark was a place that emphasized the law and the importance of the group over that of the individual. It’s rigid punishments ensured survival but the culture that was created as a result has left everyone there largely void of coping strategies. Earth was no better. In order to ensure physical survival, mental and emotional pain had to come second. But that’s not sustainable and each of these characters has slowly been cracking under the weight of it all.
Seeing Raven deliver ALIE’s harsh words to Clarke, Jasper, and Bellamy hurt but I loved every second of it. She vocalized every negative thought these characters have about themselves and in doing so, let the viewer into the internal struggle waging within each of them, something that has been lacking in this season. It is these voices that drive every action these characters do. Especially in isolation, they don’t have anyone to offer a counterpoint to the negative things they believe about themselves and it robs them of the ability to find hope and move forward. In order to become stronger, they have to admit where they are weak and ask for help to overcome their pain.
Clarke tried to run away from those voices and she was able to, for a while. Lexa gave her back some strength, in a controlled environment, and had their relationship continued, in both a personal and political capacity, she may have been able to combat some of the guilt and responsibility she carries around with her for every life she has taken and hurt.
Jasper turned to alcohol, which only further fueled his self-loathing. ALIE was right, everyone has lost someone and been hurt. But he was the one who fell apart. He was the one that couldn’t cope, at least not the way it seemed like other people were. Monty could seem fine because he had to be, but Jasper couldn’t. The events at Mount Weather and losing Maya left behind deep scars that he simply couldn’t ignore. He tried to numb the pain but he couldn’t. And with every moment that he was falling apart, he was hating himself for not being stronger. Jasper annoyed a lot of fans this season because his lack of coping was so visible and in such sharp contrast to the others. But in that moment, we see just how much he was beating himself up for the same thing.
Finally, it was Bellamy’s turn. The boy who intentionally shared Clarke’s burden in Mount Weather but often got lost in the blame and praise. The boy who also carries around the guilt and responsibility of every bit of hurt he has caused. In many of those cases, he made the wrong decision and it resulted in a lot of deaths. And it’s clear that each of those wrong decisions weighs on him. It makes him doubt his abilities as a leader and his worth. Until he confronts all of his demons and seeks to actively deal with them, he will always see himself as less than others. The knight to Clarke’s queen. The person who follows orders and inspires others, but who isn’t fit to lead. He has to say that everything he’s done has been for some greater good because the alternative is that he is in fact the monster he secretly believes himself to be.
But in the midst of Bellamy and Clarke’s pain, there was also understanding. The two of them have some things they need to talk through. They’ll need time to mend their relationship as friends, not just as leaders. Despite their history and tension, however, what they offer the other is the understanding and absolution they are unwilling to give themselves. Though the circumstances surrounding their guilt differ, they each instinctively know the burden the other places on themself because it is something they have always shared and wish to alleviate that burden. Even back before their friendship started in season one, Clarke knew that Bellamy regretted throwing away Raven’s radio and defended him, even if Bellamy would never have admitted that. She has always seen through the facade he puts up. And in doing so, has given him the safety to realize his fault and complicity in the terrible decisions he’s been a part of. By the end of the episode, Bellamy can no longer continue to lie to himself and pretend that Pike’s ideas were good. He sees them for the monstrous acts they were and asks for help on how to deal with those feelings. It will be a long journey to redemption, at least in his own mind, even if the show takes some shortcuts for the sake of the plot (which I hope they don’t).
All of these characters needs time to heal. It is unrealistic to expect that their situation will give them much time to do so but it is my hope that now that they are together again, they can begin to not only survive together but truly live and heal. It doesn’t need to be the main focus, but more character-driven moments like this episode provided would do a lot to bring back one of the original strengths of the show.