When it began, The 100 had all the ingredients for an aggressively mediocre CW show. Ludicrously attractive actors, down to the lowly extras? Check! Contrived post-apocalyptic scenario in which all of the main characters are necessarily (and conveniently) under 18 years old? Check! Dead-eyed, mind-numbingly generic male lead whom all the coolest women on the show love for no reason? Check! (For a time at least, RIP Finn and everything.)
Sidebar: How much was Finn the Nate? He was totally the Nate.
But somewhere between a 13-year-old girl hurling herself off of a cliff as penance for a cold-blooded murder and Clarke mercy-stabbing her ex-True Love (who was sinfully boring, but still managed to gun down an entire village), The 100 became one of the most effectively brutal, socially conscious, and morally ambiguous shows on television right now. It’s a truly remarkable teen soap opera that can portray the lead character’s decision to irradiate hundreds of innocent men, women, and children as both horrifying and inevitable, unforgivable and yet somewhat justifiable. And after a strong premiere, I’m looking forward to an equally exhilarating third season.
Now let’s get on with the recap:
Bellamy narrates the “previously”s (a slightly random, but welcome choice) and tells us that some of them “have been broken” by their fight to survive while featuring clips of Jasper and Raven. He reminds us that the Arkers formed a tenuous peace with the Grounders, that Clarke left Camp Jaha after the Mount Weather massacre, and that Jaha and Murphy were last seen in the AI-populated City of Light.
We open the third season with Murphy, picking up right after hapless A.L.I.E. enabler Chris shot himself on camera while sitting in the very same chair in which Murphy sits now. The containment doors suddenly seal, while on the video screen, two guys find Chris, and exasperatedly lament that he must have been the one who let A.L.I.E. out (“I knew it wasn’t China!”). In earlier footage, we find out that the original creator of A.L.I.E. was Chris’ girlfriend, Becca, who is not amused when her AI’s hologram looks exactly like her. She thinks one of her friends is playing a prank on her, but A.L.I.E. chose the avatar herself. “I didn’t think I needed an avatar, but you did,” A.L.I.E. tells her creator. It would be fascinating if A.L.I.E.’s thought processes and personality were somewhat based on Becca as well, like the dynamic between Cameron and Allison on Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. I hope The 100 goes down the same road and introduces Becca as a character so that idea can be further explored.
A.L.I.E. reveals that her “core command” is to “make life better,” which she interprets as wiping out most of humanity. Well, with an ethical imperative as vague as “make life better,” a few misunderstandings are to be expected.
Murphy watches the world end on a loop while we watch him become increasingly unhinged. After 86 days, he’s finished all of the food and is ready to make his own suicide video. He gives Jaha one last (and well-deserved) “SCREW YOU” while Richard Harmon lets out some impressive angry tears.
He chickens out at the last second, as we all knew he would, and the containment doors mysteriously open. (Is that you, all-knowing A.L.I.E.? Where were you two minutes ago when he was about to blow his brains out?) He follows a passing drone, because that worked out so well for him the last time, and finds Jaha in A.L.I.E.’s mansion. Jaha effuses that “he found it” (an eerie callback to Finn’s “I found you” last season) and “the City of Light is real,” holding his arms open for a hug or possibly a pulpit, and poor starving Murphy tries to attack him, but passes out from the first swing. Has Jaha drunk the Kool-Aid or what?
And after that unsettling cold open, it’s time for some blatant fan service: Bellamy and Lincoln having a shirtless, sweaty fight. (It’s depressing that male objectification is so comparatively rare that I can enjoy this without much guilt, but hey, we need to take our meager advantages where we can.) Bellamy ceremonially gives Lincoln a uniform from the Council in front of a group of Arkers who are taking combat lessons, and while Lincoln is a little wary of turning his back on his culture, he’s swayed by a typically rousing Bellamy speech about unity and fighting for the home their friends have died for. “My sister will understand that eventually,” Bellamy asides to Lincoln, which means she clearly won’t.
They have an exposition-heavy little exchange that tells us a little about Ice Nation, the new threat brewing this season. Azgeda, as the Grounders call it, is part of the coalition under Lexa, but they’re incorrigible and don’t necessarily respect the cease-fire. Lincoln wants to accompany Bellamy on a mission that takes him right to Ice Nation’s border, but Bellamy helpfully tells us that there’s still a kill order out on Lincoln, so he’s “more trouble than he’s worth.” Um, ouch?
Bellamy checks in with Kane before his mission, and Kane tells him that the non-lethal response rule still applies. He tells Bellamy, for no apparent reason, that there hasn’t been an attack since Mount Weather. “That’s three months.” Is he seriously reminding Bellamy the time that’s elapsed since Bellamy sort of participated in a genocide? I think he knows. “Our people think this is real peace. Try not to screw that up.” I’m so confused by this exchange. Bellamy hasn’t been a loose cannon for a long time, why would he screw it up? If anyone’s going to disturb the peace, as we see later in the episode, it’s Jasper, maybe with a little bit of help from Octavia.
Abby, who’s been sleeping on the couch, echoes what I’m thinking: “He’s come a long way.” She and Kane have a sweet, intimate moment when she confesses that she was dreaming of being with her daughter on the Ark. Kane offers to send out another search party, Abby tells him that Clarke won’t be found until she’s ready, and their meaningful stares are interrupted by Miller reporting a new signal from a mysterious “she” who wants to meet with Kane (Lexa, I’m assuming?). These two are totally going to hook up this season, and not just because Thelonius has become a crazy person and it was given away in the trailer:
Bellamy finds Monty ready to go for their mission, while Jasper has drunken himself under a table, sporting a newly shaved head (the male version of Bangs of Depression). Bellamy wants to leave this obviously intoxicated person behind for the delicate mission, which seems like a reasonable enough plan to me. I think Monty is agreeing with me at first, as he spouts off some alcoholism PSA platitudes like “He’s not getting better” and melodramatically states that “Maya’s death broke him.” (Okay, simmer down, they knew each other for like, two minutes.) But actually, he’s using this as a reason Jasper should be brought on the mission, because “he needs this.” And then Bellamy actually relents, even though Kane just laid out the foreshadowing not five minutes ago. I mean, seriously? You’re going to bring a belligerent drunk to deal with potentially violent Grounders, when a single conflict could cause civil war to break out, because Jasper needs a salve for his feelings of impotence? This is why Clarke should still be in charge.
Bellamy and Monty literally drag Jasper by the arms and CARRY HIM into their Jeep (when did they get a Jeep??) to go on their dangerous mission. Monty throws cold water on Jasper, and he proceeds to flip out and attack Monty, throwing him against the car. Bellamy proclaims that Jasper probably shouldn’t get a gun until he’s sober, which–sure, that’s a start. Their newfound dumbness is annoying, but really, I guess this is how 17-year-olds would handle complex intercultural conflict.
Bellamy takes a detour to kiss his nameless new girlfriend (Gina, according to promotional materials). She gives him a copy of The Iliad, because she knows his mother used to read it to him and Octavia when they were little (that explains a lot, huh?). These two are cute enough, and as a Bellarke shipper, I’m glad he’s with a new character and not Raven, who would be genuine competition. Plus, no TV couple has ever ended up together when the viewers didn’t get a chance to see their origin story. Except for Sawyer and Juliet on Lost, I guess, but that was stupid.
Raven good-naturedly jabs that Gina is too good for Bellamy, and he seems to agree, while Jasper grunts that he should be careful, or “Monty will melt her.” Ugh, whatever, I’m already done with Emo Jasper. Plus, has everyone just forgotten that Bellamy was a huge part of the decision to irradiate Mount Weather? He physically pulled the lever that killed Maya along with Clarke, but Monty’s the one who “melted her,” just because he was in the room?
They leave for the mission and find Octavia sprinting ahead of them on a horse. I don’t know how practical that would be, but it looks bad-ass and symbolizes Octavia’s woman-of-no-nation status, so I’m not complaining. In the best scene of the episode, Jasper briefly comes out of his funk when Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” comes on, and gets all the Jeep kids to start an impromptu karaoke session.
The party is cut short when they receive a tracking beacon from the Ark, specifically the farming station, from inside Ice Nation. Protocol states that they check in with the chancellor, but Bellamy says “Screw protocol!” (no, seriously, he says that) because Monty’s family and Miller’s boyfriend are all from farming station. I’m not sure who died and made Bellamy a rogue cop in a police procedural, but yay for more LGBTQ representation!
Murphy wakes up in the mansion and finds Jaha meditating, unresponsive to Murphy’s bile-filled calls. A.L.I.E. tells Murphy that Thelonius “isn’t here,” because he’s in the City of Light. Wait, so this place isn’t the City of Light? The City of Light is some spiritual plane that you can reach by meditating? I call bullshit. There’s no way this place exists, unless it’s some sort of Brave New World-esque drug. Murphy, bless him, throws an apple right through her. She deadpans, “It’s refreshing to be around people who understand technology again.” Heh.
Jaha awakens, and Murphy gets on his case about leaving him to languish in a bunker for 86 days, understandably. Jaha tells him, “The outside world doesn’t matter. In the City of Light, we are all kings.” Murphy says what we’re all thinking: “And I thought I was the one losing my mind.” Murphy points out that Jaha’s new friend ended the world, but Thelonius serenely responds, “She saved it.”
Back in Sector 8, the group runs into several Grounders on horses wearing white war paint, which Octavia confirms is characteristic of Ice Nation. In yet another sign that she still has one foot in Grounder culture, she takes point and converses with them in Trigedasleng, translating into English for her friends. They are looking for Wanheda, she says, but she doesn’t know what “Wanheda” is.
Monty sees that one of them is holding the transmitter that brought them to Ice Nation, which means that farm station is nowhere to be found. Jasper drunkenly stumbles towards them, his friends somehow fail at stopping him, and he tries to take the transmitter back. One of the Grounders puts a knife to his throat, and the Arkers raise their guns while Octavia pleads for them to observe the commander’s truce. Jasper terrifyingly starts to laugh, and his friends look up from their scopes, completely rattled. He doesn’t stop laughing, even when the Grounder starts slitting his throat.
His friends start shooting, killing several of the Grounders. I guess they’ll need to erase their “Days Without an Accident” board. Octavia tells Jasper to get down, because he’s useless, and kills the last Grounder by throwing a sword.
Sidebar: This was a tense and well-done scene, and Jasper laughing while a Grounder cut his throat was sufficiently disturbing. However, it would have had much more impact if it hadn’t been so obvious that Jasper was going to fuck everything up. If he had just been a little moody, rather than drunk off his ass and attacking people, this would have been an effective climax. But as it was, the greatness of this stand-off is undercut considerably by the predictability of the proceedings.
Plus, I can’t get on board with this Jasper spiral in general. His relationship with Maya was not nearly well-developed enough to justify this kind of meltdown, at least not in the first episode. Watching hundreds of people melt from the inside out is probably a good reason to experience some psychological unraveling, but again, a slower burn was needed to earn it.
Monty makes the understatement of the century and admits to Bellamy that he made a mistake bringing Jasper. “I could have said no,” says Bellamy, which is mature of him, but like, YES, YOU COULD HAVE. They run into Kane who, as it turns out, is meeting with Indra rather than Lexa, probably because Alycia Debnam-Carey was busy with Fear the Walking Dead. Indra tells them that Clarke is being hunted by “everyone.” Since the massacre at Mount Weather, she has been marked as Wanheda, which translates to “Commander of Death.” Since the Grounders believe that by killing a person, you gain their powers, they believe that killing Clarke will allow them to control death.
“Everyone” may be hunting Clarke, but no one wants her more than Ice Nation. Azgeda has a bounty out on her, because the Ice Queen (the same one who kidnapped and killed Lexa’s first love) wants Clarke’s power. Clarke’s actions at Mount Weather weakened Lexa, presumably because Lexa made a deal with the enemy while Clarke just slaughtered them, and now Ice Nation is ready to break away from the coalition and start a war. “I can’t let that happen,” Indra says, sort of ominously. Is Indra going to try to kill Clarke?
Speaking of Clarke, we finally catch up with our fearless protagonist halfway through the episode as she quickly and brutally kills a panther, saving an adorable bunny in the process. That’s the Clarke we know and love, even with her Red Hair of Irreversible Personality Change. She gives the panther to a pretty Grounder at a trading post, Niylah, who gives her the meat from last week’s kill as part of a standing arrangement. She asks Clarke to stay for a drink while she waits for the rest of her meat (not a euphemism), and Clarke looks after her curiously.
A few big, hulking guys walk in–including new Grounder character, Roan–and intimidate Niylah to identify Clarke from a drawing. She tells them that it’s “not a very good likeness,” but that Clarke was there a couple of days ago, stopping on her way to Azgeda. Clarke is still in the room, but turns her back on them, and if that had actually worked, they would have been the worst bounty hunters ever. They leave, although Roan is kind of obviously not fooled.
Niylah tells Clarke that she’s known Clarke’s identity from the start, and offers her a drink again, this time to wait out the hunters. Clarke asks why Niylah helped her, and she answers that Clarke ended the Reaping, which killed her mother. I’m glad that the show is still exploring the effect of the Reaping on the Grounders, as it was slightly glossed over last season. If all of the characters are going to fully process the Mount Weather massacre, then every ethical consideration needs to be teased out, including the fact that the Mountain Men were essentially committing their own genocide long before the 100 got there.
The Sector 7 team arrives back at Camp Jaha, where Abby is waiting to take Jasper to medical. Octavia derisively tells Lincoln, “Nice jacket,” so that talk is coming. Raven, meanwhile, has been struggling with her bum leg for the whole episode, wincing when she got into the Jeep and lying badly when Bellamy expressed concern for her. She tells Octavia that she’ll take the horses in, and Abby surmises that she can’t get down from her horse by herself. She helps Raven in a very motherly way, which is interesting and sad, considering that Raven became her surrogate daughter in Clarke’s absence once before.
In medical, Abby summons Lincoln for advice about retrieving medical supplies from Mount Weather. He tells her that they should wait, as the truce will break if it looks like they’re colonizing the mountain. That’s a mighty fragile truce, isn’t it? A harangued staff member tells Abby that they have patients waiting, “including four contraceptive implant removals.” Yikes. Pregnancy is scary enough on its own, but the idea of being pregnant in the world of The 100 is downright horrifying. This is the only hint in this episode, but Jason Rothenberg said birth control and pregnancy would be further explored this season. It only makes sense that everyone had IUDs for population control when they were running out of oxygen on the Ark, and I’m excited for this bit of worldbuilding.
Abby can’t deal with the IUDs right now, though, because she’s too busy confronting Raven about hiding her chronic pain, which Raven admits started right after the explosion in the season finale. She tries to insist that she’s fine, but Abby lectures her about lying to her friends and her doctor, as well as “pushing Wick away because he was trying to help” (we’ll get to that in a minute). Raven doesn’t want to be helped, and brats that Abby should “fix herself,” because she’s taking on too much as both chancellor and doctor to deal with her own pain about Clarke. This doesn’t seem quite fair, but I think there’s an undercurrent of resentment on Raven’s side at being turned into Abby’s replacement daughter, especially since she’s presumably still grieving her own parents.
All right, let’s talk about Wick, because this sticks out like a sore thumb. That line seems to imply a definitive, if anticlimactic, end for the character, and Jason Rothenberg recently confirmed that Steven Talley is not returning. Under any other circumstances, I would call this a huge narrative gaffe, as the writers had just managed to get us invested in this relationship. However, all-but-confirmed gossip tells me that Talley was fired because his Twitter was full of horribly racist sentiments, including (possibly joking, but it doesn’t really matter) tweets about being in the KKK. The account wasn’t verified, but writers and actors from The 100 had tweeted to it. So… their hands were kind of tied.
At the trading post, Niylah cleans the wounds on Clarke’s back with a washcloth. This got sexy very fast. She observes that there are no kill marks, and Clarke responds, “My back’s not big enough.” Ow, that hits where it hurts. After Mount Weather and the explosion that killed 300 Grounders, Clarke’s kill count must be upwards of 600 by now. Niylah purrs, “Tell me about the mountain,” partially out of compassion, but also for her own vicarious thrills. Clarke gruffly demurs that she did what she had to do, and when Niylah tries to express her gratitude, Clarke asks if she would mind not talking. Niylah thinks this is a rebuke, but it’s actually a pick-up line, and they start full-on making out. Niylah goes down on Clarke, and it’s awesome, if only because I can’t remember the last time I saw cunnilingus on television. I’m sort of surprised The CW allowed it to get this far, but I’m glad, because we need to see this more often.
I can’t really tell whether Niylah will be a serious love interest. On the one hand, she seems intelligent, industrious, and potentially interesting, but on the other hand, Clarke probably has enough serious love interests to contend with. Jason Rothenberg called this extracurricular activity an “escape” for Clarke, which seems to indicate that it’s casual. (Plus, their shipper name wouldn’t be nearly as catchy as Clexa, or even Bellarke.) It’s too early to tell, but I would guess that she will be a much less perfunctory character than Gina, but not nearly as legitimate a love interest as Lexa or Bellamy.
At Camp Jaha, Octavia is still throwing passive-aggressive barbs at Lincoln about abandoning his culture. She tells him in Trigedasleng, “You can wear the jacket, but you’ll never be one of them.” He answers–in English, of course–that there can’t be an “us” and “them” if they want to survive. He’s right, but he’s also being naive, and Octavia tells him so. He’s a good person who doesn’t judge others based on their background, just like Octavia, which made their relationship possible in the first place, but most people aren’t like them. He insists that Abby and Kane are good people as well, but Octavia harshly tells him he’s being used. “Look at that nice Grounder in his uniform.” She has a point, and this is a very sensitive, nuanced analogy for xenophobia in real life; Abby and Kane can be perfectly nice, well-intentioned people and still see Grounders as inherently savage, or at least more savage than they are. They accept Lincoln, but under the premise that he’s a “good” Grounder, a “model minority.”
Octavia doesn’t want to live in Arkadia anymore. She wants them to run away and live with Luna’s clan, which was known for its open-arms policy back in season one, but Lincoln tells her Luna’s gone into hiding. (Incidentally, are we ever going to meet this person?) Octavia begins to despair and cry, and Lincoln comforts her, switching between Grounder language and English in a slightly heavy-handed, but beautiful bit of symbolism. “Trikru is in here. Not out there. And nothing can take that away from us.”
Octavia is not really having any of it, and says, “That uniform does” before walking away. Her behavior is a little bratty, but the writers manage to make it sympathetic, because she’s clearly terrified of being left entirely alone. Right now, if she doesn’t belong with either Skaikru or Trikru, she belongs with Lincoln, because he doesn’t belong anywhere either. If he “sells out” (as she sees it) and becomes the poster child for Grounder-Arker unity, he will belong, and she will truly be a woman of no nation.
Speaking of which, I’m calling it right now: Lincoln is toast. Ricky Whittle was just cast as the protagonist in the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and although Alycia Debnam-Carey made it work with FTWD, I still think Lincoln’s fight is almost over. He’s now officially serving as a bridge between the Grounders and the Skaikru, so his death would be the ultimate symbol that these two peoples can’t coexist peacefully, and would be a prime opportunity to ignite a civil war. And, we know from the trailers that Octavia is going to turn against Bellamy for some reason; after everything Bellamy has done for her, I can’t imagine that she would say, “You’re dead to me,” for anything less than the death of a loved one.
Plus, Lincoln is just a little too perfect; his idealism and nobility make him seem more like a sacrificial lamb than a permanent fixture. Characters like Clarke and Bellamy are idealistic to an extent, but they are also ruthless and willing to get their hands dirty. Lincoln can fight, and even kill, but I can’t imagine him making the decision to kill the Mountain Men, while I think Octavia would have made the same decision as her brother.
Back at not-City of Light, Jaha is leaving, and wants Murphy to come with him. When Murphy is still in a bit of a huff about that whole traumatic abandonment thing, Jaha gives a great non-apology that basically amounts to: “I’m sorry. Is that what you want to hear? I knew you were safe.” Shut up, Thelonius. He tells Murphy he needs him, and Murphy gets in a well-deserved jab: “Right. More food for the sea-monster, right?”
Actually, Jaha and A.L.I.E. were able to convert that nuclear warhead into a power source, and she “finished the work she started with her creator a hundred years ago,” which involves taking away human emotion. (So wait, Becca wanted this dystopian, The Giver-type future to happen? We have to meet this woman somehow, I don’t care that it was a century ago.) Jaha starts in again with the cultist stuff, “you have no idea what she can do,” “she’s the savior of humanity,” blah, blah, blah. “How is it possible you sound even crazier than before?” Murphy asks. Such a good question. Even better question: how is it possible that the most detestable character of the first season is now the official spokesperson for the audience? This fucking show.
And then the kicker: Jaha tells Murphy that he won’t understand the City of Light until he experiences it, and holds out a blue pill. Called it! Murphy gets an amazing smirk on his face: “And that’s supposed to take me there?” The City of Light, according to Jaha, has “no pain, no hate, no envy,” just like your average coma. Murphy agrees with me and delivers the best line of the night: “Those are the ABCs of me.” (Hee!) “Take those away, and there’s nothing left.”
Murphy hit the nail right on the head there, and illustrated why he was the perfect foil for Jaha’s mission. Not only is he too cynical to fall for A.L.I.E.’s rhetoric, but he’s the embodiment of human foible, for better and for worse. We all hated him in the beginning because he was intolerably selfish and self-involved, and now we all love him because once those flaws are tempered a bit, he has a strong sense of self. I hope he isn’t seduced to the cult of Light without a fight, and I don’t really think he will be. But then again, he leaves with Jaha and A.L.I.E. not two minutes later because a pretty girl (Emori, the duplicitous tour guide from last season) is on their boat, so it might actually be pretty easy to turn him.
Sidebar: I’ve enjoyed the scenes involving Thelonius and Murphy immensely, in spite of the fact that they seem like they belong on an entirely different show. (This is likely intentional, as Jason Rothenberg stated that the City of Light will function as a slow-burn B-plot until the mid-season finale, and then will become the A-plot.) It probably feels so out-of-place because it’s by far the hardest sci-fi we’ve ever seen, and so a little bit more vulnerable to cliches. The ethical quagmire of playing God, the dystopian elimination of emotions, the argument that the annihilation of humanity would make the world a better place, none of these tropes are particularly new to the sci-fi genre, but I trust the writers to handle them with grace and originality. As much as I’ve been making fun of Jaha, and will continue to do so, because he’s being far too impressionable, there is legitimate dialogue to be had about the value (or lack thereof) of human emotion and the existence of humanity in general, and I’m looking forward to some genuine engagement with these difficult existential questions.
A weird little scene at Camp Jaha awkwardly introduces Shawn Mendes as a character, and within five lines sets up a contrived scenario that gets him to play piano and sing (where did they even get that piano??). I didn’t know this before the obvious plug, but Mendes is a Vine star, because apparently we have those now (I’m such a geezer!). This entire situation annoys me, but then he starts singing that Violent Femmes song, and his voice is so beautiful that I don’t mind. Plus, if clunky youth-oriented cameos are what it takes to get higher ratings and keep this show on the air, it’s a small price to pay.
A lot of things happen in this final montage. Raven and Abby make up over some hard alcohol: Abby admits to being spread too thin, Raven is determined not to get another operation, Abby isn’t there as a chancellor, or a doctor, but as her friend. Raven’s answer? “Shut up and drink, then.” (A true test of friendship if there ever was one.) Lincoln finds Octavia sleeping outside, because she doesn’t even feel at home enough to sleep in Arkadia, and cuddles with her. Is he a perfect specimen, or what? (This is why he’s toast, by the way.) Jasper starts attacking people and yelling “Grave robbers!” because they stole supplies, clothes, and a piano from Mount Weather (so, I guess that answers that question). The Jeep containing Bellamy, Monty, Kane, and Indra is nearly crushed by partially sawed-off trees, a booby trap set by–Ice Nation, I guess? And finally, Clarke wakes up with morning after-itis, and tries to slip out for a Walk of Shame, only to be kidnapped by Roan.
Whew, sorry for the length, there was so much to say! (I’d promise more brevity in the future, but I would probably be lying.)
See you next week!