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The 100 3×11: We Survive Together

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.

Continue reading The 100 3×11: We Survive Together

The 100 Episode Discussion: Ye Who Enter Here

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.

Continue reading The 100 Episode Discussion: Ye Who Enter Here

The 100 Episode Discussion: Wanheda, Parts One and Two

Welcome to a new season of The 100! The format of these posts will likely change as the season demands but I am excited to have a space to discuss this show with other fans. 

Where We Left Off: Everything was terrible. Lexa broke the Grounder’s alliance with the Sky People. Clarke, Bellamy, and Monty murdered all of the Mountain Men. Raven was hurt, again. Clarke couldn’t live with what she had done and left Camp Jaha.

Where We Came Back: Things are a little better. The Sky People and Grounders have come to a tenuous truce and Lincoln is working with Abby and Kane in an attempt to bring about a more lasting peace. Bellamy and Monty have developed a good partnership and look like they are becoming integral members of Arkadia (the new name for Camp Jaha). Monty was reunited with his mom. Both Nyko and Indra seem to be on friendly terms with the Sky People. On the bad side of things, the Ice Nation Queen wants to kill Clarke (though she’s now reasonably safe under Lexa’s protection). Jasper is struggling to deal with losing Maya at Mount Weather. Abby is having a hard time balancing her multiple, often conflicting, responsibilities. Octavia doesn’t like being with the Sky People or Lincoln’s increased role in their society. Pike, a newly-found member of Farm Station, hates all Grounders and is largely unwilling to budge on that issue. Finally, in a plot nearly entirely to himself, Jaha has undertaken ALIE’s plan to save everyone by bringing them to the City of Light and Murphy is having no part of it.

Where We’re Going: There are three major conflicts that look like they are going to define this season. For the Sky People, Pike and his refusal to cooperate with the Grounders doesn’t mesh with the peace that has formed. To him, they are all evil killers and nothing seems likely to change his mind. That sort of rigid thinking may have worked on the Ark but as we’ve seen time and time again, it doesn’t work on the ground. In order for the remaining people on the ground, both Sky Person and Grounder, to find some sort of lasting peace and cooperation, each side has to put aside their preconceived notions of the other group as a whole and begin treating them as individuals. It’s a lot easier to demonize groups of people when they are an abstract concept and Pike seems content to do just that. If he can gain a following, just keeping their own people in line will be an uphill battle for Abby and Kane.

For the Grounders, a war is brewing between the 11 tribes under Lexa’s command and Azgeda (Ice Nation), who refuse to bow to her. In order to do that, the Azgeda queen is searching for Wanheda (the Commander of Death) to kill for her power. That is clearly opposed to Lexa’s goals. Politically, she needs the unification of the tribes to maintain her power. If one opposes her, how long will it before others follow suit? As Heda, she’s performed something unheard of by bringing all of the tribes under her leadership and in doing so, has created a relative peace between them that she is now desperately trying to hold on to.

To complicate issues, she genuinely cares for Clarke and doesn’t want to lose someone else to her enemies. For as much as I may personally disagree with the statement, Lexa wasn’t wrong when she told Clarke that love was a weakness. Love gives your enemies a place to strike. It makes you vulnerable. And while personally, that is a good thing and allows that love to change you and enrich your life, it’s a dangerous position for a leader to be in. Love makes you make bad strategic decisions because your priorities are split between making the safest decision for the people you command and the safest decision for the person you love. As Heda, Lexa simply can’t afford that. She needs Clarke to be both a person and a symbol and the conflict between those two needs is going to be fascinating to watch this season.

Then there is Jaha and the City of Light. This is not a hugely popular storyline. It’s currently occupying a very different space than the other two stories and it looks and feels like it’s coming out of an entirely different show. Jaha’s vision of the City of Light makes me feel like I’m standing in Gaius Baltar’s house waiting for the destruction of everything. Now, I love Battlestar Galactica and I’m more than a little intrigued by the similarities between Jaha’s visions and the AI world Daniel Greystone created in Caprica. But at the moment, this feels like the weakest storyline. I’m holding off judgement until we see how it will eventually interest with the other two stories but after two episodes, I’m more interested in uncovering ALIE’s goal and why she’s manipulating Jaha and the others and less interested in more of Jaha’s savior complex.

Continue reading The 100 Episode Discussion: Wanheda, Parts One and Two

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day One

There is joy in talking about the things we love deeply, as I found when I did my Month of Love in July 2014. The ladies at MGcircles wanted to do something similar so they started 100 Days of Fan Favorites as a challenge to bloggers, artists, and anyone in fandom who would like to participate to celebrate the things we love instead of focusing on the things we don’t. This will be an ongoing project for me with things posted sporadically but I am thrilled to be taking part.

I didn’t see Clarke and Bellamy coming. I knew people loved the idea of them together and so was primed for it but I was so invested in the non-romantic aspects of the show that it wasn’t something I thought a lot about. Then this scene happened and I was done.

Clarke and Bellamy started the series as opponents, each advocating for a fundamentally different approach to leading. At the beginning of the series, Bellamy thought of Clarke as a spoiled princess. As one of the two members of the Ark’s ruling class on the ground, Clarke represented everything about the Ark that Bellamy hated. She was the rule that led to his mother’s death. The rule that led to Octavia’s imprisonment. And the rule that led to him attempting to kill a man for the chance to look out for his sister again. Bellamy was the person making Clarke’s life incredibly difficult. He was the one standing in the way of every decision she was trying to make to keep The 100 alive when they were more interested in partying than finding food. He was the one encouraging the “whatever the hell we want” philosophy that would lead to the death of everyone on the Ark. Neither thought much of the other. Neither was willing to back down.

Then Atom was caught in the acid fog and Bellamy had to make some hard realizations about both himself and Clarke. She was able to do what he couldn’t and in doing so, forced him to see her as more than the spoiled princess he wanted to believe she was. While he still doesn’t like her, he begins to respect her. This moment also marks the first time that Clarke realizes that Bellamy’s attitude is nothing more than a facade. It may be an irritating facade but Clarke sees that there is a good person (or at least someone not quite as comfortable with violence as he led people to believe) underneath. In this moment, things change. That change starts as subtle but by the end of the next episode, they are the official co-leaders of the camp. They still don’t really like each other but there is a respect and an understanding present between them that wasn’t there before.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day One

Best of 2015: Characters

Now that I’ve discussed the shows I didn’t get to see, it’s time to start talking about all the things I’ve loved about television this year. I watch TV for the emotional engagement more than any other element of a show and that’s what this list and the other four I will be releasing represent. They represent the characters, relationships, moments, episodes, and shows I have been drawn to the most over the course of this year. Each list has gone through several iterations until I landed on one that felt the most right and authentic to my engagement over the year and I would like to think that in years to come, I will be able to look back on this list and see who I was in 2015 and how that related to the media I connected with. That, even more than recommending new shows to people, is why I enjoy these lists. They are a record for me of what I loved and how I loved them, as I believe they are for everyone else who makes similar lists.

There were a lot of characters that caught my attention this year. Some for their personality, some for the struggles they went though, and some for what they represent and their importance to the larger pop culture landscape. These are the ten that resonated with me the most.

Mariana Foster (The Fosters) This year, Mariana coded a routine for her dance team’s competition and lost her virginity to her sister’s ex-boyfriend. She did amazing things and she made huge mistakes. While that level of complexity from a teenage girl (who isn’t even the main character on her show) shouldn’t be remarkable, it still is in today’s TV environment. She has wholeheartedly embraced the power of “and” by refusing to fit into a convenient mold. She loves both dance and STEM, looking pretty and being valued for her intelligence. She wants it all because she’s been taught she can be both and she will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. And that is a remarkable thing in any character, let alone one who is only 15. But despite that, she’s not perfect. She’s not immune from society’s messaging. She slept with Wyatt because she was hurt and because she felt like everyone else was having sex so she should be able to as well. She messed up and did something she regretted and caused herself and people around her pain but it never made her less of character. There were consequences but she wasn’t demonized for her choice even though she knew it was the wrong one.

Ilana Wexler (Broad City) This was a fabulous year for messy, flawed women in comedy and Ilana Wexler is their queen. As Lindsay Jillian (You’re the Worst) would say, Ilana “wears her stains on the outside” except Ilana doesn’t even think of them as stains, just another aspect of herself that makes her fabulous. She’s self-absorbed and a terrible employee and is kind of awful to most people she interacts with but you still can’t help admiring her confidence in herself. Ilana has no front, she is exactly who she is at all times. She is entirely controlled by her impulses and makes messes that Abbi ends up cleaning up, but at the end of the day, Abbi doesn’t care because she knows Ilana would do anything for her. Ilana loves Abbi so entirely and it grounds her character. She’s always going to be someone most of us envy at least a little for her ability to do whatever she wants with seemingly few severe consequences but it’s in her love for Abbi that she becomes a full person and not just a chaotic, impulse-driven plot device.

Clarke Griffin (The 100) If anyone needs a hug on TV right now, it’s Clarke. She went through more in 7 episodes than many characters do in an entire season. She has been in so many situations where there is no clear answer and she’s done her best to make the right choice but the weight, pressure, and consequences of those choices have been their toll. Clarke is a good leader because of her love for her people. It’s what drives her to keep them safe and risk everything to get them back. But she knows that alone won’t save them. She needs to be smart and strategic as well. She needs to be pragmatic. She believes herself to be a good person (and I think she’s right about that) but when that belief, her love for her people and her strategy and pragmatism come into competition, how is anyone supposed to hold on to who they are? Especially in the face of a strong leader who is telling her that the love that partly defines her is weakness. The choices she has made have been strategic and worked toward her goal of rescuing her people. But they weren’t without a heavy cost. She was responsible for a lot of pain and death this year and now that the battles have been won, she must learn to face herself and the person she’s become.

Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful) Where season one Vanessa was haunted and more reserved, season two gave us a new side to Vanessa. She’s still haunted, as one could expect of someone being courted by the devil, but she’s no longer alone. She has gathered a group of people around her who care for her and wish to protect her, not out of obligation or to use her for their own ends, but because of who she is. Her rift with Malcolm repaired, her friendships with Ethan and Victor strengthened, and the loyalty of Sembene affirmed, Vanessa is free to experience moments of happiness and something akin to peace. And in those moments, we see the kind soul she possesses underneath the evil power she is capable of wielding. Vanessa can be both the person who saw and loved the poet in a monster and the person who essentially told the devil to go to hell in his own language. She longs for a normal life but knows that as long as she still suffers, it’s not a life she can allow herself to have. She longs for a lasting peace, one in which her thoughts, dreams, and prayers are safe. And as we see her goodness and the care she shows to those who are otherwise outsiders (not a pleasant place to be in Victorian England), we want her to find that peace. We want the struggle to be over so she can live the life in her dream. She couldn’t grasp that vision this season, but you can bet I’ll be tuned into the next one to see her continue to battle her demons.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Characters

Why You Should Start Watching The 100

It would be fair to say at this point in time that The 100 is my favorite TV show on the air right now. Since I started it back in February (and even more so since I watched episode 2×05 in May), it has excited me and reignited all of my crazy fan tendencies in a big way. It’s a long wait until season three and I would love for more people to catch up during the wait, so if post-apocalyptic sci-fi is in any way your thing or if you just love great TV, regardless of genre, here are some reasons to start The 100 (first season available on Netflix)

The first reason to watch is the existence of Clarke Griffin as a character. From the very beginning, she was a leader. Not because she needed to be in charge, but because she felt the responsibility of taking care of the other kids. It made her the boring stick-in-the-mud compared to Bellamy’s leading style of “whatever the hell we want” but it also caught the attention of some like Monty who would have followed her to the end of the earth after only knowing her for a day. She draws people to her because they recognize her desire to help them survive and her ability to get things done. She’s the kind of character that other characters and viewers alike can be inspired by and the further into the series you get, the more you feel for her as she grows and adapts and is forced to make impossible decisions.

Even if you don’t love Clarke as much as I do, it’s not a problem because there are so many other fantastic characters. My own list of favorite characters is six people deep and I’d be hard-pressed to choose between them to pick an actual favorite. If you love character growth, this is a show for you. These characters grow and change in ways that are sometimes very dramatic and sudden but always consistent with what we know about them and what they’ve been through. Their opinions and actions change because that’s what a fight for survival calls for. It’s amazing to watch and occasionally heartbreaking and continues to enhance the journey we are taking with these characters.

Continue reading Why You Should Start Watching The 100