The 100 S5E09: “Sic Semper Tyrannis” Review

Hoo boy.

So, Shallow Valley! That was pretty straightforward, albeit not in a bad way. Last week, McCreary showed up looking like he wanted to fight Diyoza, and this week, he does. The highlight of this plotline is really Murphy, who is cutting through all of the politics and scheming and ducking out of every conversation he’s in to just go and start fights. His time has come at last, and he’s here to just stir all the shit.

And, to be fair, they don’t need a lot of help with this. This episode feels like a lot of simmering resentments coming to a head, but with the Eligius side all I could think of was that scene in Avatar: The Last Airbender when they need to start a riot and the dude yells, “Hey, riot!” I respect Murphy’s hustle here and the boy does good work, but they’re all pretty ready to go at the drop of a hat.

So, developments? We’ve got Eligius fractured, with McCreary’s crew currently holding what was Clarke and Madi’s home. Spacekru is taking off with Shaw and possibly Diyoza, except Murphy is staying with Kane to get Abby back from McCreary, who is stuck with only a creepy psychopath who could turn on her at any moment for an ally. I’m not 100% sure on this, I’ll admit; the lighting wasn’t great and I was having trouble telling people apart and seeing where they were going. But Kane and Murphy are definitely going after Abby, and everyone else has an escape plan.

I feel like more happened here, but it really didn’t feel like new stuff. Not in a bad way! There was action, and good action, with some typically amazing Diyoza scenes, and it brought us a welcome shift in who’s going where. McCreary knows he’s going to be a dad, I guess? Kane is in on spacekru’s escape plan, that was kind of an awkward reveal. Diyoza might have been too? I was slightly drunk for this episode and I’m sorry.

And, obviously, I was having a lot of feelings about the bunker side of things.

When I say that I try not to be too much of a shipper in these reviews, what it mostly means is that I’m trying not to let my bias run away with me and focus fairly on everyone. But that was a real struggle for me here, because my faves were going through a lot, and in conflict with each other, and making fairly questionable decisions. It’s exciting, but it’s also going to be pretty much all I can think about, so welcome to the overthinking corner. I hope you like text.

If you follow the show on social media, you usually see the first couple scenes of an episode before the episode airs. So I had already seen the part where Clarke and Madi reunite, and Bellamy has his idyllic vision of everything working out, which was obviously never going to happen but especially wasn’t going to happen this early in the episode. So it was just a matter of how it went wrong.

And, credit where credit is due, I think this season has been doing a phenomenal job with coherent, character-based conflict, and this episode is no exception. Miller is a bit of an outlier in that sense, in that it’s hard to be like, yeah, good culting there, even if being in a cult is generally a decent excuse for things. So his turning against Indra is at least coherent, even if it’s not what I’d want and he doesn’t really get a lot of character shading. I was holding out hope for some double-agent Miller antics, but instead he’s ruining Bellamy and Indra’s plan to make peace and telling everyone that going to war is what Octavia would want. Which is not wrong! But it means that the good guys need a new plan, and they end up with an old one: making Madi commander.

In the spirit of owning my biases, I’ve been over the commander stuff for a while. Once the show made it into a big, mythological thing, I think they got in over their heads, and I can go for days nitpicking it on a world-building level. I’d been hoping that someone would destroy the chip before it went in Madi, but now that it’s actually in her, I can recognize how foolish that was. It’s been Chekov’s AI this whole season, and I should have recognized it had to go off sometime.

And as a point of conflict for Clarke and Bellamy, it actually works pretty well. The last time Bellamy saw Clarke, she was pro-flame, as far as he knew. He and Clarke don’t seem to have discussed Madi’s history, and he has talked to Gaia and Indra about this, and to Gaia and Indra, a child of Madi’s age taking the flame is perfectly normal and safe. The danger comes from Octavia and what she’d do to Madi as a threat to her power, and Bellamy, Indra, and Gaia all have convinced themselves that they’ll be able to keep that situation from becoming fatal. Bellamy doesn’t think of this as on-par with killing Octavia; he gets that Clarke doesn’t want it, but it’s her feelings getting in the way of what has to be done, which is exactly what she cautioned him against six years ago.

That being said, any time you’re leaving your friend chained up and screaming so they can’t stop you from doing things they are vehemently opposed to to their child, I’m comfortable saying you’re wrong. But Clarke did something very similar to Bellamy last season when she left him chained up to try to keep him from opening up the bunker (down to possibly being the same room/set, if twitter is correct), so it’s not like there isn’t precedent. And while that confrontation really did not have the time it needed to to land, we have a lot more episodes left this season and I’m hoping the fallout here will be better handled.

The conversation with Madi, Bellamy, and Gaia is also a complicated one to unpack, and it’s here that we run into a perennial problem The 100 has where I can’t tell how aware the writers are of what the stakes they’re setting up are. I’ve been reading, despite my better instincts, some of the fandom controversy that already exists about this scene, and the one I’m most stuck on is how much Bellamy is supposed to be leveraging the connection he has with Madi, and how aware the show is that two adults telling one child to do something is inherently imbalanced, especially when factoring in the Clarke-in-chains thing. I’m cool with this being a real moral low-point for Bellamy, but this is yet another case where I’m not sure how bad the fiction considers it to be. Judging from how the scene is written–Bellamy is as honest with Madi as he can be, Madi brings up that Clarke will never forgive him–this strikes me as something that’s meant more as a relationship beat for Bellamy and Clarke than it’s meant to be a real moral reckoning for Bellamy.

But it’s still rough.

Also rough is Octavia and Indra. I said last week that Indra was my season MVP, and I’ll stand by that (even with Murphy’s amazing riot skills) even if I’m pretty worried she’s dying next episode. She’s there when Octavia starts waking up, and obviously Octavia’s first act is to be like, goddamnit Bellamy. Jackson (hi Jackson!) is ready to have him arrested, but Indra steps in, kills a guard, knocks out Jackson, and tries to give Octavia a come-to-Jesus talk, but Octavia is Octavia, so it’s not going well. Also I’m not real clear on the timeline here? Which, you know, The 100, but the ascension bells start ringing, we cut to Niylah visiting Clarke , who immediately spills the beans on Bellamy and Indra’s whole plot and begs Niylah to get her out because they’re both on team no commander, which she does after a brief fakeout.

Niylah’s a badass here, btw. Good to see her again.

There are plenty of true believers left, psyched to have a commander rising, and Niylah worries they won’t make it in time to stop the ceremony. Clarke reaches the same conclusion, but instead of trying to find another way in, she goes to Octavia, who I guess has just been chilling with Indra this whole time? In weird, awkward silence? While Jackson is unconscious on the floor? Whatever, I know it probably wasn’t that long, but I enjoy imagining this downtime. Indra twiddles her thumbs while Octavia tries to find the strength to murder her.

What’s interesting to me in this scene is that you see how much Clarke was bound by her old loyalties, and really just to Bellamy, at least in this episode, because Monty and Harper aren’t around and she doesn’t like anyone left in the bunker. Clarke is, at this point, in full mama bear mode, and all she cares about is Madi. If not for Bellamy and his love for his sister, she would have started murdering her way out of here a long time ago. And now she’s ready to get to it, starting with Octavia.

Except that Octavia is willing to make a deal. Octavia points out that she and Clarke are actually on the same side, and neither of them wants Madi to seize power. If Clarke wants to take Madi and leave, Octavia will let her go, and Clarke’s finally been pushed to her breaking point with that.

But Madi has already gotten the chip by the time they get to her. On the “Bellamy really didn’t think this was that dangerous” front, we get two nicely done confirmations of that, first with his panic when Madi doesn’t wake up right away, and then with the reminder that he was there when Clarke took the flame in season three and it was fine for her.

Clarke still slaps him in the face, which feels like kind of a weird moment in retrospect? Not the violence so much as I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Clarke slap anyone before and it doesn’t really strike me as her thing. But it was pretty efficient, as ways to register her anger without missing a step go, and obviously her priority is getting to Madi, so I’ll let it slide. Octavia has a guard escort them to the rover while she deals with everyone else, and Clarke leaving basically everyone she knows to die is a big deal here, but I think the way Bellamy betrayed her went a long way to selling it. Madi’s pretty worried, though, even with her brand new commander memories and creepy new commander demeanor, and Clarke is presumably heading back to Shallow Valley, which isn’t any safer and is full of people who will be pissed at her for leaving Bellamy (and, by extension, Monty and Harper) to Octavia’s whims, so it seems likely she’ll be rethinking this whole “never forgiving him” thing at some point.

And speaking of rethinking this whole “never forgiving him” thing, Octavia has finally decided she can’t suffer traitors to live. To be fair, Bellamy and Indra in particular have backed her pretty hard into a corner–they were participating in open rebellion, and if she doesn’t do anything, she loses all credibility–but that final shot of her crying as Bellamy watches her still makes me hope that we get through this without any of these three characters having to kill each other.

Where there’s life there’s hope, right?

Stray observations

  • During one of the interviews Jason Rothenberg did with Meta Station, he said he didn’t think hope was a theme of the show, and I’ve never gotten over this statement. It haunts me.
  • I know this was long and joke-light, and I’m sorry. Here’s hoping next week I’ll be back to just making fun of everyone!
  • While I do think Bellamy is largely in the wrong here (at least from a moral perspective), I really appreciated that his reminding Clarke that Echo, Raven, Emori, and Murphy are his family now. Clarke’s been taking for granted that Bellamy will do whatever he can to protect Madi, but there hasn’t been a lot of reciprocity in terms of her caring about his people.
  • And speaking of people, I really liked the beat where, as soon as Octavia was out of the picture, everyone started falling back into their old clans. It was a nice reminder that, even though they’re supposed to have forgotten that stuff, they were in their clans for a lot longer than they were in Wonkru.
  • I continue to like Raven and Shaw but I’m glad Shaw was also like, you know we haven’t really gotten to have a lot of casual conversations.
  • Raven’s styling has been not great this season (space has a lot of makeup but Raven’s application leaves something to be desired), but its impossible to ruin that smile.
  • For our own peace of mind, my friends and I have decided that the chip has some kind of safe search function to protect Madi from the memory of having sex with her own mother.
  • We started watching The Outpost, but as it turns out when you are heavily involved in a fandom and having a lot of feelings about it is not the best time to try out a new show, and also my wife was fairly drunk. Still, it looked like a fun mess and we’re excited to try it out later, and I’m glad they decided that the best way to draw in their The 100 audience was by also making black blood a plot point.