The 100 Recap: 3×04 “Watch the Thrones”

Previously on The 100: Ice Nation blew up Mount Weather, killing Gina and most of the Farm Station Arkers who didn’t have names. We finally met the Ice Queen, and she looked like Elsa from hell. Kane and Abby decided to give their people more power of representation by holding an election, and then decided to join the Grounders as the 13th clan without so much as checking with their people, because that makes sense.

Lexa is holding a summit with delegates from each of the 13 clans, with Clarke representing Skaikru. She tries to rally them to gang up on the Ice Queen, who is brought in to answer for her crimes at Mount Weather. The Ice Queen looks much more normal and human in this scenealthough still intimidatingso her frightening appearance in last week’s episode must have largely been the lighting. Clarke demands justice for her people, and Queen Nia is sentenced to death. Unfortunately, Nia has the backing of all of the other ambassadors, and they stage a coup to oust Lexa from the Commander position. “Today is judgment day,” says the Ice Queen. “I call for a vote of no confidence.”

It takes a unanimous vote to oust Lexa, which is prevented by Clarke’s “nay” vote. (Side note: have we seen any indication that ALL of the clans are unhappy with Lexa’s leadership? I can see Nia getting a few of the other ambassadors on her side, but this nearly unanimous coup seems to come out of left field.) Nia starts to claim that she doesn’t want war, but Lexa interjects, “We both know what you want.” Nia challenges Lexa to a fight to the death, and Lexa accepts.

This scene crackles with a fraught and layered history; Costia’s name is never mentioned for the entire episode, but she is the subtext underneath their every interaction. Nia chooses Roan as her champion (jeez, this kid can’t catch a break, can he?), while Lexa spits, “I am the Commander. No one fights for me.” Love her. Clarke looks stricken, but there’s nothing she can do.

Back at Camp Jaha, Pike wants to retaliate for the attack on Mount Weather, as he lost half of his remaining people in the explosion. Abby assures him that Ice Nation was responsible, not the Grounders who follow Lexa, but he’s out for blood. “In my experience, Grounders understand one thing: strength. We need to hit them now, and we need to hit them hard.” Kane points out that this isn’t their fight, that they were just collateral damage in the Ice Nation’s attack on Lexa. Pike is apoplectic and wants to attack the Grounders before the Grounders “take everything we have,” and Abby icily dismisses him: “We’ll take it under advisement.” In other words, “Go to hell, Pike.”

Sidebar: I wrote in my recap of Wanheda pt 2 that the writers are broadly drawing parallels between Ice Nation and Islamic terrorists, which makes Pike analogous to Americans who discriminate against all Muslims based on the actions of a fringe group. In this episode, he also becomes a stand-in for American political leaders who knee-jerk after an act of terrorism and feel the need to demonstrate “strength” by punishing people who weren’t responsible. No wonder I like him so much.

Abby tells Kane, “After the election tomorrow, he’s your problem.” Wait, they’ve already set up an election for Chancellor? Didn’t Mount Weather just get blown up, like, yesterday? Don’t they need time to recover and/or campaign? Bellamy comes in and tries to resign out of guilt over leaving his post before Mount Weather was attacked. Kane tells him to place the blame where it belongs, but Bellamy says with tears in his eyes, “Ice Nation didn’t tell Gina to stay. That was me.” Kane assures Bellamy that he did the right thing based on the information he had at the time. I mean, he probably shouldn’t have been so quick to believe Echo, but his heart was definitely in the right place, so we’ll go with that.

Emo Jasper is back, and I am not happy to see him. Octavia breaks up a fight between him and Monty because Jasper won’t attend the Farm Station mass funeral. “It’s a little late for a Mount Weather memorial, don’t you think?” Ugh, SHUT UP Jasper. 39 people died, this isn’t about you. Octavia is distracted by Nyko getting harassed by Farm Station grunts while he’s bringing in sick Grounders for medical care, and Jasper sneaks away. Monty finds him opening a hole in the fence, and Jasper belligerently tells him to go to the memorial and leave him alone. Monty is sick of him, as are we all, but still feels compelled to follow him out of camp and make sure he stays out of trouble. Aw. What a good friend.

Octavia defends Nyko, and one of the grunts says, “You’re one of THEM, why don’t you take them in?” Marie Avgeropoulos’ face perfectly conveys, “I know you’re trying to insult me, so I’m sort of miffed, but you’re also an idiot if you think I would actually take that as an insult.” (It’s exactly how I feel when someone calls me a “Social Justice Warrior.” I mean, come on, if you’re coming up with a pejorative, it’s kind of counterproductive to make it that awesome-sounding.)

Clarke walks in on Lexa teaching little Commanders-in-training that leaders need to have both strength and compassion. Titus hasn’t been able to talk Lexa out of fighting Roan, and Clarke doesn’t understand why she would fight in the first place, especially since Queen Nia is using a stand-in. Titus exposits that Nia’s strength isn’t in question, but Lexa’s is. “Thanks to you,” he says, passive-aggressively. All right, Titus, simmer down. Lexa actively betrayed Clarke at Mount Weather and indirectly forced her to commit genocide. At most, this would mean they could call it even.

We learn that the “Nightbloods” teased last episode are children who have black blooda physical marker of their potential to be chosen as the next Commander. (So the “potentials” from Buffy, essentially.) The adorable little Aden is the most promising Nightblood, and would likely be chosen as the next Commander if she were to die in the fight against Roan. (So, does that disprove everyone’s theories that Octavia would be chosen as the next Commander? I hope not, I would love to see Octavia in a position of power.)

Clarke looks downright alarmed at the thought of Aden becoming the leader of the 13th clan, which makes sense, considering that he looks like Doogie Howser-Goes-to-Westeros, and Lexa tells him to reassure her. He pledges his loyalty to the Skaikru, and she widens her eyes like, “Your fidelity wasn’t exactly the issue!” Funnily enough, Clarke’s concerns seem perfectly valid until she says the words, “I’m sorry if I’m worried the fate of my people lies in the hands of a child.” Um, have you been paying attention for the last three seasons, Clarke? Children, you and Lexa included, have been responsible for literally everything.

Clarke tries to convince Lexa that she doesn’t stand a chance against Roan. Lexa points out that we’ve never seen her fight, which gets me super excited to finally see it. Clarke tells her that Roan is a brute who flattened three men single-handedly, but Lexa says that if she loses, “today is the day my spirit will choose a successor, and you need to accept that.” “Like hell I do,” Clarke fires back. Clexa shippers: 1, Bellarke shippers: 0.

Meanwhile, Nia is trying to give Roan fighting tips, but he’s not having any of it. She asks if he’s upset that she chose him, and he’s like, “No, really, you think?” but in his own, taciturn way. She tells him that once he kills Lexa, his banishment will be lifted, but he’s not buying that her motives are at all altruistic. (Nor should he, since that would presumably be true no matter who killed her.) Nia admits that she’s not doing this for him: “Everything I do is for Azgeda. But what’s good for Azgeda is good for you.” If he beats Lexa, Ice Nation will be more powerful than ever before. “If you can’t fight for your mother, or your Queen, fight for your clan.”

After Nia leaves, Roan senses a hooded figure coming up behind him, and puts his sword to her throat. “Is that Death I hear stalking me?” Clarke takes off her hood, and he says, “Just the Commander of Death.” These lines are so hokey, or at least they should be, but he says them just mockingly enough to make them work. Clarke tells him she knows he had nothing to do with Mount Weather, which is why she didn’t tell Lexa he gave her the knife. This line doesn’t make very much sense, because it wouldn’t benefit Clarke in any way to tell Lexa that, but it serves to subtly remind the viewer that these two already have a bond forged in a wary trust. (Am I becoming a Clarke/Roan shipper? This show is too good at setting up pairings, I’m getting overwhelmed.)

He asks what she wants, and Clarke goes full-on Lady Macbeth: “I want you to become king.” She reminds him that his mother was willing to let him die, and that even if he wins, it will only be a matter of time before the Ice Queen finds another reason to banish him. Wait a minute, I thought Lexa banished him? Wasn’t that the whole twist at the end of the premiere? Anyway, the point is well-taken that he can’t trust his mother, and that if what he wants is to go home, “no one can cast a king out of his kingdom.” He says he can’t do it, because his people would never take him back, but he can help her do it.

The Mount Weather memorial is underway, and we finally see Monty’s mother among the mourners, so I guess she’s not dead. Bellamy gets up to speak when Gina’s name is called. He’s holding the book she gave him, The Iliad, which is helpful, since that’s literally the only specific detail we know about her (and it’s a present she gave to him, which just says it all, doesn’t it?). His eulogy is short and sweet, and would be affecting if we had known Gina well, but as it stands, it just seems like even Bellamy couldn’t come up with anything more specific than, “Gina was real. She always saw the light.”

Pike’s goons interrupt the painfully perfunctory mourning by coming in as loudly as possible, setting Lincoln on edge. Pike whisper-yells at Abby and Kane that there’s a Grounder army near the camp, but they already know. It’s the “peacekeeping force” sent by Lexa to protect them against further attacks from Ice Nation. Pike blusters that Kane and Abby are being naive, and Abby tells the room that they’re all grieving, but they can’t let anger drive policy. (Word. I love when people are worried about a female commander-in-chief being too “emotional,” as if “anger” and “fear” aren’t emotions and haven’t motivated the vast majority of wars declared by men in recent memory.) “Anger IS our policy,” says Pike, who isn’t too keen on logic. This line is a little hamfisted for my taste, but it drives home the show’s implicit critique of toxic masculinity, so I’ll allow it.

Pike starts to get the crowd riled up, and a man who lost his son in Mount Weather incites a group to attack Lincoln. A full-on brawl starts to break out, but Pike stops it and reminds them that “the enemy is not in this camp.” Poor Lincoln is bleeding pretty heavily from the head, but eschews medical attention to quietly slip out. He stumbles outside and punches the building in anger, and then utters my favorite Trigedasleng idiom ever: “Get knocked down, get back up again.” Chumbawamba! I love that in this version of the future, this song has been bastardized over the years until it was mistaken for a proverb; it’s like the linguistics version of Chauncey Gardiner.

Sidebar: Hilarious music references aside, it’s fascinating to see the intricacy of the Grounder language and the thoughtful ways in which it derives from English and American culture. Another recent pop culture reference, for example, was the use of the word “hashta” as a translation of “regarding,” deriving from the word “hashtag.” The 100 Wiki has a fairly comprehensive cheat sheet of the language thus far, and there’s also an interesting Reddit thread that explains some of the history behind the development of the language.

In Medical, Abby sews up a stalwart Lincoln, and says that his attacker should face the consequences of his actions. Pike points out that the man just lost his son, and Lincoln insists that no charges be brought on his behalf. What a perfect human. Pike seems genuinely grateful to Lincoln, to his (small) credit, but then gives Nyko the stink eye on his way out.

Back to Emo Jasper and Awesome Monty, the two boys end up at the old dropship. When Monty says Jasper has had enough of the Fun Flask, Jasper drunkenly insists, “You have no idea,” but not in a funny “You have no idea how plastered I am” kind of way, in an annoying “You have no idea what I’m going through” kind of way. Actually, I think Monty does have some idea what you’re going through, Jasper, considering that his FATHER JUST DIED and everything. Ugh. Jasper goes to pee on the dropship and promptly passes out, while Monty finds Finn’s ashes in his backpack.

All right, back to the plotlines that actually matter. Pike has a heart-to-heart with Bellamy, telling him that he shouldn’t blame himself for the deaths at Mount Weather. This happened, Pike says, because they all trusted a Grounder. He tells Bellamy that Kane is a good man, but an inadequate leader, because Kane doesn’t believe that they’re fighting a war. Pike is threatened by the peacekeeping force right outside their walls, and wants to “hit them before they hit us.” The army has 300 soldiers but no guns, so “10 highly motivated men with automatic rifles is all it would take.” (Note that he uses the word “men” while Monty’s mother is sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. Asshole.) Bellamy points out that giving Pike the guns would amount to treason, but Pike (kind of brilliantly) plays on Bellamy’s fears and aspirations to nobility: “The Grounders out there will attack this camp. We wait, we die. I’m willing to suffer the consequences of treason to save our people. Are you?” Well, this should go swimmingly.

Clarke visits the Ice Queen, and sets a honey trap by pretending she wants to change her vote to overthrow Lexa. Nia accepts this very quickly without much suspicion, but then again, she doesn’t know Clarke very well, and Clarke’s method of poisoning her is pretty clever. She cuts her own hand open in order to perform a blood oath, and then wipes the knife on her venom-soaked jacket sleeve before Nia uses it to cut her own hand. Unfortunately, Nia’s right-hand woman, Ontari, somehow figures out Clarke’s ploy, which might have something to do with the fact that Ontari is a “Natblida,” or Nightblood. Nia spills Ontari’s black blood all over Clarke’s face as a message to Lexa: if Lexa dies in the duel, her successor may very well be from Azgeda.

When Titus and Lexa find out about Ontari, they act like it’s a foregone conclusion that she’ll be the next Commander upon Lexa’s death, and conclude that Nia was purposely baiting Lexa into a duel so she could unleash her secret Nightblood weapon. (I’m confused, do we know for a fact that Ontari would be chosen? I thought that Lexa’s spirit chose a worthy successor, or is it just the oldest child out of the Nightbloods?) Clarke says she can’t just let Roan kill Lexa, but Lexa accepts that it might be her time to die, and tells Clarke she can’t fix everything for everyone.

The duel is about to begin, and Titus announces to the Gladiator crowd: “There is only one rule. SOMEONE must die today.” (I see what you did there.) It seemed like Clarke might not show up, but of course she does. She and Lexa have a moment, and the fight begins. Lexa gets in the first slash, placing Roan right in front of Clarke, and he and Clarke have a little bit of a moment, too. Like the viewer, Clarke doesn’t really want either party to win this fight.

This was hands-down one of the best fights I’ve ever seen on television. First, both the actual and emotional stakes are very high. Lexa and Roan are both secondary characters, and either could conceivably be killed off. Although the ending could be interpreted as a little bit of a cop-out, you don’t necessarily see it coming from a mile away, because you wouldn’t put it past The 100 to kill off either character. And the fight choreography itself is flawless and exhilarating; Jason Rothenberg compared the duel to Oberyn vs The Mountain, and while it’s ambitious for a network show to try to compete with Game of Thrones, the comparison is well-deserved.

They each start off fighting with one sword, and it becomes abundantly clear that they’re well-matched based on raw skills alone, but that Lexa doesn’t approach Roan’s physical strength. In the most painful moment of the fight, Roan and Lexa cross swords, and he starts to push her to the ground, until she steadies herself by grabbing onto the sharp end of his sword and holding it until her hand splits open and gushes blood. Ow.

Lexa briefly loses her sword, but then gets the best of Roan and takes his sword away from him so she has two, and the tides turn a little. We see that her fighting skills are probably superior, and she could easily prevail as a result of her ingenuity and higher level of natural viciousness, which, from what I’ve heard, matters much more in a real fight than one might think:

lexa20roan

After a minute, things aren’t looking very good for Lexa, and she ends up on the ground without any weapons. Roan is about to kill her, but doesn’t seem too happy about it, and his momentary hesitation allows Lexa to have a Becoming Pt 2 moment, dodge his sword, and fight him for about thirty seconds without any weapons at all before taking his staff away from him, because she’s a bad-ass:

9CqSzpE - Imgur

Lexa knocks Roan out, and is about to stab him in the throat (as they love to do on The 100, for some reason). He isn’t unconscious, and from what we know about him, he could probably still fight back at this point. But he just lies there, defeated. His heart isn’t in it. His mother screams at him that if he dies now, he doesn’t die a prince, but a coward, and he gruffly whispers to Lexa to “get it over with.” Lexa is more ruthless than Roan, but she hasn’t really been taking pleasure in this either, so she punts in the best way possible. She says, “Blood must have blood,” and throws Roan’s spear into the Ice Queen’s chest, killing her instantly. “The Queen is dead,” Lexa vociferates. “Long live the King!”

Here’s the full scene:

Sidebar: I’m not going to lie, the Ice Queen’s death was incredibly satisfying, especially the subtle call-back to Costia. And it wouldn’t really have made narrative sense to kill off either Lexa or Roan at this point; whether you’re a Clexa shipper or not, their story clearly isn’t over yet, and Roan has too much potential, both as a love interest for Clarke and as an overall character, to be killed off this quickly. But I’m a little disappointed that Nia’s character didn’t last longer. It have been refreshing to see a female villain as the main antagonist of a genre show, and the tortured history between Lexa and Nia wasn’t really milked to its full potential. Then again, if The 100 is aiming to be the next Game of Thrones (just look at that episode title), then constant shifts of allegiances and surprise deaths are probably the way to go.

There’s another shift of loyalties happening back at Arkadia, where Bellamy is leading the charge alongside Pike to attack the peacekeeping force. Lincoln, Harper, and Monroe are ready to stop them from leaving camp, but he convinces Harper and Monroe to stand down by reminding them that he’s always done what’s best for their people. Harper, at least, looks guilty and apologizes to Lincoln. Pike tells Lincoln that he’ll step aside if he wants to prove he’s “one of them.” When Lincoln won’t move, one of the grunts attacks him, and Lincoln easily fends him off and holds the man hostage with a knife. “So much for the good Grounder,” says Monty’s mother, who is apparently also the worst. Lincoln says he can’t let them start a war, but Pike insists that they’re already at war.

Abby, Kane, and the cavalry arrive in the nick of time, and Abby orders Pike, Bellamy, and the rest of them to be put in lock-up. Pike starts blustering to the gathering crowd that Kane should show his arm to the people who are about to vote for him. Kane reveals the brand he got from Lexa, and declares that it makes them the 13th clan. “No,” Pike says, “it’s what farmers used to do to their livestock.” He actually has a point there, although I don’t really think it really speaks to how the Grounders feel about Skaikru, since all of the clan leaders have the brand. Random people from the mob start yelling out “Pike for chancellor!” and then suddenly it’s a serious suggestion. Did that come out of left field or what?

And now back to Jasper and Monty, but the less said about this storyline, the better. Basically, Jasper stole Finn’s ashes forsome reason, having to do with the fact that he doesn’t care who he hurts anymore. He explains that he’s madder at Monty for Mount Weather because Maya was his friend, which elucidates his hostility towards Monty a little, but I still don’t really care. Jasper yells at Monty that he wiped out an entire civilization, and yet Jasper is the one who can’t sleep at night. “How can you just be fine?” Monty yells, almost tearfully, “I’m not fine!” and I feel worse for him than I ever feel for Jasper. “Just because I’m not drinking myself into a stupor every night doesn’t mean I’m not screwed up!” WORD. Monty drops some truth bombs, and tells Jasper that enough is enough, and he’s done being Jasper’s punching bag. I love this. Monty breaks my heart by finishing with, “I miss my best friend.” And then Jasper goes all Kylo Ren and responds, “He died that day, too.” SHUT UP JASPER I DO NOT CARE. Monty agrees with me, and leaves without another word. Jasper drunkenly spills the ashes by accident. Whatever.

Clarke is in her lavish bedroom decorated with approximately a zillion lit candles, wearing a fabulous emerald green robe. She answers the door to find Lexa wearing what looks like a lacy spaghetti strap shirt with her hair prettily draped to the side. This scene looks like a classy, feminist porno, and that’s before they sit down on the bed so Clarke can change Lexa’s bandage. Clarke asks what will happen to Ontari, and Lexa says she won’t be back until the conclave after Lexa’s death. “Do you ever talk about anything but your death?” Clarke asks, and Lexa smirks. Aw. It’s nice to see another side of Lexa. Clarke asks how Lexa will ever move past her ambassadors trying to oust her, and she answers calmly that they were only doing what they thought was best for their people. (Side note: that’s all very well and good for the themes of the show and the subtext of Clarke and Lexa’s relationship, but are there really not going to be any consequences? Lexa has enough of a chip on her shoulder about solidifying her power that you would think heads would roll right about now.) They say goodnight, calling each other “Commander” and “Ambassador,” and that was probably one of the sexiest scenes I’ve ever seen that did not end with the characters making out. They’re really playing the long game with these two.

Kane visits Pike, Bellamy, and co. in their holding cell, opens it, and says “Congratulations, Mr. Chancellor.” WHAT?! (We’ll get to that in a minute, trust me.) He tells Pike that the vote wasn’t close (I’m sorry, WHAT?!) and that their people are now his responsibility. Pike takes the opportunity to pardon himself and the others, and officially rejects the brand of the 13th clan. They all leave to massacre the Grounders outside their camp. Bellamy looks the most troubled of all of them, but when Kane tells him it’s “not too late to choose the right side,” he answers, “I already have.”

Whew. All right, there’s a lot to unpack here. First, there’s Bellamy’s extremely quick turnaround from generally decent guy (loving brother of Octavia, friend of Lincoln, etc.) to one of Pike’s racist reactionaries. On the one hand, the foundation has been laid for Bellamy to be vulnerable to Pike’s play on engrained prejudices, if only because Bellamy was essentially an adolescent version of Pike in season one. In fact, this character choice makes his overall arc more believable, as it would have been unrealistic if he had just redeemed himself completely without ever being tempted by his old ways.

On the other hand, one could argue that this 180-degree shift in his thinking effectively ignores all of the character development of the last two seasons, especially since it was so clunkily telegraphed. Gina’s death, aside from being a fairly egregious instance of fridging, wasn’t impactful for the audience because we barely saw her interact with Bellamy (or anyone else, for that matter) before she died, so that justification doesn’t resonate. And one could argue that other psychological factors, such as his friendship with Lincoln, his thinly developed relationship with Pike, and his knowledge that Lexa denounced the actions of Ice Nation, render his decision completely illogical.

At first, I thought this development was a huge flaw in the writing this season, similar to Finn’s random metamorphosis into a mass murderer last season. But after more consideration, I think Bellamy’s seemingly sudden character change fits within the spectrum of human behavior, even if the execution wasn’t exactly perfect. I would have liked to see Bellamy’s relationship with Pike develop over several episodes, and I would believe Pike more as an influencer if he had more opportunities to be charismatic rather than just obnoxious (more on that later). And Gina’s death is, and will remain, completely problematic and clumsily written.

But regarding the other arguments, these types of character changes are often sudden and never logical. They are borne out of fear, anger, and an “us versus them” mentality, which Bellamy has always had. Even after he became more selfless and caring towards others, he always had a sense of which people were “his people.” He would never turn against Octavia for being a Grounder, because she’s his beloved sister, and Lincoln is “his people” too, by extension and through friendship. But just like Pike and Hannah, Bellamy essentially sees Lincoln as the “model minority,” the exception to the rule. He’s never been pro-Grounder, and it wouldn’t take much for Pike to push him in the wrong direction.

Jason Rothenberg has (in violation of the network’s orders) explicitly stated that the Mount Weather attack is the Arkers’ 9/11. And as we all know, it is socially acceptable for people to go batshit crazy after an event like that. It’s fifteen years later, and many people still use 9/11 as a rationalization for blind hatred and bigotry.

“I knew liberals after 9/11 that became conservatives overnight, and it didn’t make any sense to me and I didn’t agree with them,” Rothenberg told Variety. “But it was a phenomenon that I found fascinating, and in a small way, I’m trying to do that with Bellamy.”

So although it makes me sad, I can get on board with Bellamy becoming a part of Pike’s crew. This election nonsense, on the other hand? No fucking way. There is no way Pike could come in and be elected chancellor after a few weeks (at most?) without any time to campaign. Yes, they all knew each other on the Ark, but things have changed. Everyone in Arkadia is used to Abby and Kane in leadership roles; even if they’re unhappy with Abby and Kane’s decisions (and honestly, sometimes they should be), it would be a hell of an uphill battle for Pike to win a full-blown campaign, let alone swoop in out of nowhere and win by way of write-in votes without making any effort to curry people’s favor or be ingratiating in any way.

This plotline could have worked, if only there had been one or two episodes about a presidential campaign, Battlestar Galactica-style. If there’s anything Trump has taught us, it’s that fear-mongering and tapping into people’s deep-seated anger and bigotry will take you very, very far, even if you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. But no matter how topsy-turvy the world is getting, even Trump couldn’t have beat an incumbent president without a long and bloody campaign.

See you next week!

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