It’s the third episode of the season, and already the status quo has been upended in more ways than one. In an action-packed yet thoughtful episode, Clarke tries to kill Lexa, which somehow leads to the Sky People becoming Grounders, we finally meet the Ice Queen, and everyone sort of gets blown up, as tends to happen on this show.
And then they had to ruin it all by egregiously fridging a certain one-dimensional female character, but believe me, we’ll get to that.
Previously on The 100: Ice Nation wiped out the majority of the Farm Station survivors when the Ark fell, earning Pike’s ire. Roan kidnapped Clarke and turned out to be the Ice Queen’s son, but he’s hot so he’s inevitably going to be more antihero than villain. He brought Clarke to Lexa as part of a deal to lift his banishment, but Lexa knows no loyalty other than to her own people, so she imprisoned him instead. Clarke has not forgotten Lexa’s betrayal, and sort of wants to murder her (fine line, right, Clexa shippers?).
Lexa visits Clarke in the Grounder Capitol tower, but Clarke still doesn’t want to see her. Lexa tells her that she’s returning Clarke to the Skaikru at a summit that day, and Clarke scoffs that Lexa went to all that trouble just to let her go. “I went to all that trouble to save you,” Lexa answers evenly. (And to stop the Ice Queen from gaining Wanheda’s powers and starting a civil war, but whatever, Lexa’s complicated.) Clarke fires back that she could have used saving at Mount Weather, while Lexa notes that Clarke clearly didn’t need her help. “Clearly,” Clarke says bitterly. Whether you’re a Clexa person or not, this scene is wonderfully tense, and the actresses, each very talented on their own, play off of each other perfectly.
Lexa tells Clarke that she’s taking her own guilt out on Lexa, that it’s easier to hate Lexa than to hate herself. She has a point, but Clarke only says, “I can do both.” Then Lexa goes for the kill: “What would you have done?” She contends that if Clarke had had the same choice at Mount Weather, she would have saved her people at the expense of the Grounders. I think ultimately Clarke wouldn’t have, but it would have been tempting enough that the thought has Clarke rattled. “I don’t betray my friends,” she insists, sort of lamely. And Lexa calls her out on her bullshit: “But you did. You had friends in Mount Weather.” Clarke essentially has no answer to this, and so goes back to being angry at Lexa for her perfidy: “The difference is, you had no honor, and I had no choice.”
This well-played argument aptly illustrates the murky ethical territory Clarke entered when she decided to irradiate Mount Weather. She murdered innocent people (granted, people who were going to die anyway unless they continued to commit genocide against the Grounders). But that wasn’t her reasoning when she pulled that lever; she was trying to save her own people, which means she sacrificed hundreds of innocent lives for the sake of forty-seven. Of course, numbers never tell the whole story in these situations, and one could argue that she had a moral obligation to save her own people considering that she took on the responsibility to protect them above all others when she accepted her role as leader. But then again, Lexa did the same for the Grounders. So the difference isn’t really that Lexa “had no honor,” or that Clarke didn’t have a choice (although she certainly didn’t have any good ones), it’s that Clarke had come to see Lexa as “her people,” while Lexa didn’t feel the same.
Luckily, that’s about to become a moot point, because Lexa drops this bombshell: she wants Skaikru to become Grounders, as in the 13th clan. She frames it as a means for the Skaikru to benefit from the protection of the coalition, but Clarke knows better. Lexa wants Clarke to “bow down to [her]” before the 12 clans because Clarke made her look weak at Mount Weather, and the opportunistic Ice Queen is exploiting that show of weakness. (For all that Lexa’s motives are understandable, there’s no denying that she’s overall a more calculating, guileful person than Clarke is.) Clarke finishes off with a sci-fi jargon expletive that conveniently gets past the CW censors: “Go float yourself, because I will never bow to you.” It’s not nearly as good as “frak,” but at least it’s better than “ruttin‘,” am I right?
Here’s the full scene in all its glory:
Delegates from the 12 clans meet for a summit, but Azgeda’s delegate refuses to bow down to Lexa because she “made a treaty with the enemy.” I think he’s talking about Mount Weather, but when she speaks English, he accuses her of preferring the “enemy’s language,” so I guess he’s talking about this whole 13th clan idea? Word travels quickly in this world without cell phones or internet. The delegate continues to berate Lexa, asking if Wanheda is still alive as a result of her “weakness,” while Indra and Titus get all puffed up about Azgeda marching their army against the Commander. Lexa acts conciliatory and asks the delegate to join her, but he really should have smelled a rat when she said she “had a message” for the Ice Queen. Come on, man, haven’t you ever seen a gangster movie? (Oh… maybe not.) It’s pretty obviously telegraphed, but still startling, to see her viciously throw him out the window to fall many stories to his death. Lexa has always been ruthless, but we’ve hardly ever seen her perpetrate hands-on violence. She clearly has something to prove after the whole Mount Weather fiasco.
“Would anyone else care to question my decisions?”
On the way to the summit, Kane gets on Abby’s case for opening up Mount Weather, and exposits that they not only used the medical facilities, but moved people from Farm Station into the facility as a temporary housing situation. That… doesn’t seem smart. Opening a hospital was probably necessary, and Abby is right that they couldn’t let Nyko die, but I’m with Kane that moving people in is a step too far. Kane points out that this will distract from everything else they need to negotiate with the Grounders, including Clarke’s release. Abby’s reaction chastens him, and he immediately apologizes for implying that Clarke is a bargaining chip. “We won’t leave without your daughter, I promise.” Aw. These two are so nice to each other.
On the way to Mount Weather, Bellamy is stressed out that his leg injury is preventing him from attending the Grounder summit. Gina assures him that they’ll be fine, and flirts that if he were there, he wouldn’t be with her. This relationship is woefully underdeveloped, but I sort of buy her as a grounding influence for Bellamy. Raven tells a story about Sinclair promoting her after she went rogue on a spacewalk to save him, because he “thinks she can do no wrong.” As far as I can tell, this anecdote has no purpose, but maybe it will later?
Mount Weather is bustling with dozens of Farm Station Arkers, who look very much at home. Bellamy is unperturbed, while Raven is uneasy and Octavia starts frothing at the mouth. “The Grounders are going to think we moved in.” Pike is obnoxiously jovial, telling her “there was no room at the inn,” and then when she leaves, asides to Bellamy that she’s “spirited,” like a horse. Shut UP, Pike.
At the Capitol, Roan finds Clarke to have a chat (wait, wasn’t he imprisoned at the end of last episode? What happened to that?), and tells her he wants to make a deal so they can both go home. She retorts that she’s already going home, but he knows that that would mean she’s not getting what she really wants. “What would you know about what I want?” Clarke says feistily. Oh yeah, these two are definitely going to hook up. “I saw your face when I took that hood off. You want revenge,” he says. He would kill Lexa himself, but Clarke is the one who can get close to her. I love that the writers have already established Roan as a savvy and perceptive enough character that I don’t even question he would have gleaned all of this from the one Clexa interaction he witnessed. If she kills Lexa, Roan continues, the Ice Queen will take control of the coalition, and will be a “strong and grateful ally.” Clarke doesn’t trust the Ice Queen, because she hears she’s worse than Lexa. “That’s because you’ve been talking to Lexa,” Roan points out. I think we’ve seen enough aggression from Azgeda that this doesn’t quite plant the seed of doubt, but it’s still an interesting companion to the perspectivist morality explored in the scenes between Lexa and Clarke. The Ice Queen still seems like a villain, but the best villains are the ones who genuinely believe they are doing the right thing, much like the protagonists.
Bellamy finds Octavia sitting on the roof of Mount Weather, once again symbolizing her feelings of estrangement from her people. She insists that it’s a mistake to colonize Mount Weather, while he’s confident that their people can work it out with the Grounders. She admits that once Lincoln’s kill order is lifted, she wants to leave, and tells him she’s sorry, but she doesn’t fit in here. He looks sad, but tells her he understands. “You’ll always fit in with me.” As we know from the trailers, this closeness won’t last too much longer, but what a nice sibling bonding moment.
They hear a commotion, and see that Echo, the Grounder who was in the cage next to Bellamy last season, is being dragged and bloodied by two Farm Station grunts. Bellamy says she’s Ice Nation, which he apparently knows from their interactions last season? I don’t remember the words “Ice Nation” being uttered until this year, so I think this is just retconning. The grunts say she was threatening the summit, but she insists she was trying to help. Octavia cuts her restraints over the grunts’ protests–“But… she’s a Grounder!”–and Echo tells Bellamy that an assassin is already waiting at the summit. “At sundown, your people will die.”
We’re led to believe that she’s telling the truth, judging from the creepy, red-tinted shots of an Ice Nation soldier sitting by himself with his weapons and a stopwatch. But Pike isn’t having any of it, because she’s “one of them.” She earnestly tells them that she’s trying to make amends for the decision to leave Skaikru at Mount Weather, and Bellamy tells Pike that she saved his life, and they can trust her.
Pike is really broken up about his friends being in danger, and says they’re probably dead already, so Farm Station should get ready to respond rather than try to save them. What a charmer. He wants to use the missiles in Mount Weather against the Grounders, but Sinclair points out that they don’t have the launch codes. “You have me,” says Raven. Sinclair, wearily: “And you called engineers arrogant?” Heh. Gina and Bellamy kiss goodbye as he goes off to the summit and she stays to help obtain the launch codes. “Don’t do anything stupidly heroic,” she says like a good supportive girlfriend. “Garden-variety heroic. Got it.” Bellamy is cute, and I know this is supposed to foreshadow Gina’s heroics later in the episode, but still, gross.
At the Grounder Capitol, Abby and Kane walk through a lively food bazaar, and Abby is visibly uncomfortable when a Grounder woman offers her a free sample in a language she doesn’t understand. Kane genially speaks to the woman in Trigedasleng, accepts the sample, and then gives her the Ark patch on his jacket “as a symbol of our home.” Abby notes that he is suited to diplomacy, and offers him the chancellor position back, which seems silly. Yes, diplomacy is important for the position, but it’s certainly not all that’s required, and Abby seems perfectly qualified. Plus, the ability to be charming and kiss babies is much more important for running for political office than holding it. Anyway, Kane rightly says they should just hold an election, which is a sentiment we can all get behind. They’re just lucky things haven’t slowed down enough for anyone to revolt.
Lexa is sparring with an adorable young boy named Aiden, and he’s kind of a bad-ass. She says he’s even better than she was before her first “conclave,” and Titus tells the “Nightbloods” to pair up and continue training. I assume that the conclave has something to do with the tournament shown in the trailer, in which Lexa and Roan have an amazing swordfight that Jason Rothenberg compared to Oberyn vs. The Mountain in Game of Thrones. But what are Nightbloods?? Some kind of league of knights perhaps? I’m so excited for this aspect of Grounder culture to be explored. After all, who doesn’t love a good swordfight?
Titus tries to convince Lexa not to invite Skaikru into the coalition. Skaikru wants a peace treaty, but they’ve given no indication that they’re interested in becoming the 13th clan, and none of the other clans will accept it. “They will accept it when Wanheda bows before me.” Titus asks her why she continues to elevate Clarke, and she answers, “Clarke elevates herself. She’s special,” making Clexa shippers very, very happy. Titus responds that Lexa is special, and that after serving under three other commanders, he’s never seen anyone rule the way she has.
So I suppose this scene is supposed to inform us that inviting the Skaikru is not necessarily advantageous for the Grounders on the whole, but is more of a means for Lexa to solidify her standing as leader. If this is her primary motivation, then that’s another difference between Lexa and Clarke; Clarke would never act against the interest of her people for the sake of a power grab, especially since she went so far as to abdicate her power. But then again, Lexa’s motivations are not purely selfish, because all she would have to do is kill Wanheda in order to eliminate challenges to her authority, as Titus correctly points out. But no one believes for a second that Lexa is really considering that option.
She goes to see Clarke, and Clarke immediately puts Roan’s knife to Lexa’s throat. But as we all know, Clarke can’t kill Lexa, either. Clarke breathes heavily in anger and frustration, and the sexual tension is sort of out of control. Lexa keeps her cool and gives Clarke a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry,” she says, and Clarke starts to angry cry and drops the knife. “I never meant to turn you into this.” She assumes that Clarke wants to scrap the 13th clan idea and be returned to her mother, but Clarke “has a better idea.”
Clarke finds Abby and Kane waiting for the summit to begin. Abby is overjoyed to see her daughter and hugs her, while Clarke is uncomfortable with the affection, presumably because they “don’t have much time,” but likely also because she doesn’t want to face up to the whole abandonment issue. Clarke tells them that the summit’s terms have changed to turning Skaikru into the 13th clan in order to prevent Ice Nation from starting a war, and Abby thinks it would be absurd to follow or help Lexa. “This is our Unity Day, Mom,” Clarke says. Kane agrees that Lexa’s downfall would mean the end of any chance at peace, and that the Arkers’ meager numbers don’t stand a chance against Ice Nation’s army. I tend to agree with Kane and Clarke’s logic, as it can only help to have strength in numbers in this world, but I can’t believe they would make this kind of decision on the fly without even discussing it with their people. If the Arkers vehemently resist being Grounders (which we already know many will), then this treaty could stoke the fires of the conflict rather than resolve it.
There’s a dramatic shot of Clarke walking into the summit with Grounder markings on her face as that pretty “Grounder anthem” from the trailer is sung in the background. The song continues as Bellamy, Octavia, Pike, and Echo sneak into the Capitol through the tunnels, and see that there are two guards obstructing their way to the elevator shaft. We cut to the assassin whispering that he’s doing this for his family, his kin (which, as we know now, isn’t referring to feelings of nationalism towards Azgeda, but more poignantly referencing his actual family’s deaths at the hands of the Mountain Men). Bellamy, already negatively influenced by Pike, joins him in swiftly killing the guards. “What is wrong with you? You didn’t have to kill them!” Octavia says, shocked. Bellamy just says, “Yeah, I did.” Come on, Bellamy, don’t Break Bad on me now.
Wanheda bows down to Lexa, and interestingly, Roan is first to follow suit. Lexa begins the ceremony, and her line, “We welcome Skaikru to our halls in a spirit of peace and harmony” plays over Bellamy, Pike, and Octavia sneaking in to storm the place. Heh. Lexa says the “leader of Skaikru” should bear their mark, and Abby defers to Kane. I’m kind of annoyed with this half-baked assertion that Kane would definitely make a better leader than Abby, but then again, maybe she just doesn’t want to be painfully branded. Just as they’re finishing the ceremony and branding Kane, Bellamy and Pike storm the place.
Bellamy tells them the summit is a trap, which makes Clarke lash out at Lexa, but then Bellamy clarifies that it was set by Ice Nation, which makes Kane glare at Roan. Lexa asks where they got their information, and suddenly Echo is nowhere to be found. They probably shouldn’t have trusted her so readily, but when the only distrusting voice is Pike’s, it’s understandable that mistakes would be made. Somewhat predictably, there is no trap at the summit; Echo was feeding them lies in order to make Skaikru attack the Capitol and expose the fault lines between the two peoples. Less predictably, the assassin is still lying in wait, but at Mount Weather rather than the Capitol.
At Mount Weather, Raven and Sinclair aren’t having any luck coming up with the code, so Gina offers to search the President’s office in case he wrote it down. Raven gets frustrated, especially since her leg is bothering her, and laments that it’s already dark, so they’re too late. Sinclair sweetly tells her that the Raven Reyes he knows doesn’t give up, and she answers, defeated, “She does now.” He tells her that she’s not fooling anyone, and she should just get the surgery already (seriously). Raven’s stubbornness on this point has been a little annoying, but Sinclair makes it much more sympathetic when he psychoanalyzes that she thinks she deserves this pain, that it’s her “cross to bear” because of what happened to her mother, Finn, and everyone else. I thought her intransigence was primarily about her distaste for vulnerability, but I like this better. Lindsey Morgan cries like a champ, and says, “What if she can’t [fix me]? What if I’m just broken?” Sinclair says he took a chance on a mechanic with a heart defect, and she should too. Aw. I sort of wish Wick were here to have this conversation with her, but this is cute too. Gina comes onto the walkie-talkie, and Raven answers with a renewed sense of purpose.
In the President’s office, Gina tells Raven that she had no luck finding the launch codes, while the assassin stands in the shadows behind her. He suddenly covers her mouth and stabs her in the stomach approximately seven times in the span of two seconds, and it’s BRUTAL. The assassin sets off a self-destruct sequence while poor, still-conscious Gina coughs up blood, the Universal Sign of Impending Death. She must know that she’s going to die, but she gamely drags herself to the walkie-talkie and tells Raven that the code to disable the self-destruct sequence is written on the assassin’s arm. Sinclair races outside to catch him, and is nearly stabbed in an ensuing fight, and after those sentimental moments with Raven, I’m worried that Sinclair is a goner, too. But Raven saves him, and they tell Gina the launch codes with seconds to spare. Unfortunately, Gina is lying on the control board, her arm stretched out to put in the codes, already dead from her wounds. We see that there are still dozens of Arkers in the dining hall (but presumably not Monty’s mother?), the clock counts down to zero in the reflection of Gina’s wide-open eyes, and everything is blown to hell.
Sidebar: This was a great death for Gina, a heroic yet unsentimental demise that would have gone down in the books as one of the best The 100 has ever done. But the emotional impact is severely undercut by the fact that we didn’t know Gina all that well, and as a result, she feels much more like a plot point than an actual character. Jason Rothenberg essentially admitted in interviews that Gina was introduced for the sole purpose of killing her off, which would, in turn, spur Bellamy’s character development:
“I wanted Bellamy to have some skin in the game,” he told TV Line. “I wanted him, when Mount Weather was destroyed, to lose someone significant so that his turn to the anti-Grounder side has even more reason behind it. He already has no affection for that culture, unlike Octavia, but I wanted there to be that one thing that would justify him really taking up the mantle of ‘all Grounders are bad.’ That, coupled with Pike’s influence, is what pushes him in that direction.”
This character arc is interesting and makes sense for Bellamy, who had a very abrasive “us vs. them” mentality in season one, and has since rehabilitated himself to an almost unlikely degree. But writing a cipher of a character who suffers a violent death in service of a male character’s arc is not only surprisingly sexist, considering that The 100 is usually one of the most feminist shows on television, but is just plain lazy and unoriginal writing. [kht: It’s also usually pretty ineffective, since the audience generally needs to care about the character who dies for such a redemption arc to resonate, and usually by the time the actual death rolls around, the main emotion is boredom with how much screentime and emotional work is going into a character the screenwriters haven’t bothered to develop.] Do better, The 100.
At the summit, Bellamy and Octavia are realizing that they’ve been betrayed, and Raven comes on Bellamy’s walkie-talkie to tell him about the attack on Mount Weather. “It’s gone. Sinclair and I are the only ones left,” she says, crying. “I’m so sorry.” Her sobs echo through the room, and Bob Morley says volumes about Bellamy’s grief with his always-expressive eyes. The Ice Nation delegate immediately and proudly admits that Azgeda was responsible, which seems unrealistic (and Bond villain-ish). Wouldn’t Ice Nation want to breed mistrust between the Arkers and Grounders by making the Skaikru wonder if Lexa was complicit? But instead, he just gives away the farm. “We did what we had to do, what Lexa was too WEAK to do.” He knows how to hit Lexa where it hurts, and she orders his arrest, and Roan’s, for good measure. Poor Roan gives her a look like, “Hey, just standing here!” Lexa promises the Skaikru that this is an act of war on the part of Azgeda, and that they’ll avenge the attack together.
Kane and Abby leave to marshal their forces, and Indra tells Octavia that she “hope[s] [she’s] kept up her training.” I hope this means Indra’s forgiven Octavia, I loved this mentorship last season. Bellamy tries to convince Clarke to come with them, but Lexa says they need a delegate from the 13th clan, and that Clarke will be safe under her protection. Abby has trouble accepting this, but Clarke tells her she has to make sure that Lexa keeps her word. Bellamy looks hurt and betrayed, telling Clarke, “She left our people to die on that mountain. She will always put her people first. You should go home to yours.” She tells him she’s sorry, and she looks it.
In private, Lexa thanks Clarke for staying, but Clarke gruffly responds that she’s only trying to do right by her people. “Our people,” Lexa corrects, and assures Clarke that she won’t betray her again. She kneels before Clarke and pledges her fealty, to her and to the Sky People. This is a great image, as it shows that Lexa’s desire for Clarke to bow down to her was purely to project strength to the outside world, while in private she views them as equals. And for Clexa shippers, the wording of the pledge sounds suspiciously like a marriage vow: “I vow to treat your needs as my own, and your people as my people.” Clarke takes her hand to help her up, reaffirming that they are on even ground, and making it look even more like a marriage ceremony. These two might have too many trust issues to ever make a real relationship work, but their dynamic is wonderfully complex and fun to watch.
Echo returns to Ice Nation, where we discover that Azgeda is receiving all of their intel (including the fact that Mount Weather had a self-destruct sequence) from Emerson, the last remaining survivor of the Mountain Men. She tells the Ice Queen that Clarke is by the Commander’s side, “as predicted,” and that her son is a prisoner. “Not for long,” says Queen Nia. “Soon he will be free, and Lexa will be dead.” She shows us her face for the first time, and she is scary as all get-out:
See you next week!