So, in a lot of ways, this episode kept us exactly where we were. Which I don’t mean as a complaint, exactly. Things did move forward. But the dangling threads from last episode mostly resolve themselves without making a lot of waves: everyone in the pit survives, Madi still has the flame in her, and Wonkru is still marching to battle. Which is admittedly a change, in that they actively started marching, but it’s been coming for so long it doesn’t really feel like a surprise.
One thing my group chat was discussing recently is how much this season feels like the show trying to do a lot of the things they tried to do in seasons three and four, and to do them better. This episode feels like the part of season four where they kept coming up with solutions for the impending apocalypse and then having them fall apart, which was honestly most of season four. But a problem I had in season four was that it felt very inorganic. They had a certain period of time to fill and offered things that weren’t going to work until that time was up, at which point they found the thing that would work.
It’s been a lot of episodes that we’ve spent waiting for Wonkru to march to war, and that hasn’t always worked. Admittedly, most of this is just that The 100 always wants everyone to be dramatically going somewhere, so Octavia was in a perpetual state of being like, we’re leaving NOW, and then they didn’t.
Case in point: we ended last episode with Bellamy, Indra, and Gaia in the pit, ready to face their fates, with Octavia shedding a single tear. It’s was a great final scene, but when we immediately cut back from there to Octavia consulting with her advisers about what to do and Bellamy, Indra, and Gaia in separate jail cells with uncertain fates, it’s kinda like, okay, I guess we’re not in the pit yet, wonder when we go back.
On the other hand, we get some phenomenal scenes out of this, so at least there’s that. Octavia wants to get out of having her family kill each other, and while I feel this because, like, who wants that, it’s also hard because we know she has options. You don’t have to go this hard, Octavia, and I’m not really very sympathetic to you wanting to have your dictator cake and eat it too.
Going back to waiting for Wonkru to go to war, this has worked for me because we see people actually working against it, and working hard, instead of just them getting held up by the weather or something. Similarly, there have been times on the show when people go, “This is our only choice!” and I’m like, is it, though? But I feel like the show doesn’t want me asking that question.
With Octavia, the show does want that, and the fact that she has other options and doesn’t take them is shown to be bad. This is an episode where Octavia spends most of her time trying to come up with ways to get out of a bad situation while ignoring everyone who tries to actually help her out of the situation.
So, first up is the ghost of Christmas present, Indra. Octavia goes to Indra as her adviser and mentor, asking for a way out of having two of her favorite people (and Gaia) fight to the death. Indra’s like, have you considered surrendering or stepping down, and Octavia’s like, I have not and how dare you. So Indra’s like, cool, I’m going to kill you brother.
Which is fair, and I love her.
Next up is the ghost of Christmas future, because Octavia is doing this all out of order. She wants Monty (yay Monty!) to go and tell Bellamy how to kill Indra for her. Monty, though, is the best, and tells her he won’t. He’s also bringing back the hydrofarm at its best capacity ever and has a plan to terraform the desert! Is it really terraforming if we’re already on Earth? Whatever, Monty is the best. He can make the bunker survivable, and no one has to murder anyone else.
And Octavia’s like, hard pass, do my plan, and Monty still says no.
Which is also fair, and I love him too.
So that brings us to Christmas past. Bellamy doesn’t show up until the halfway mark of this episode, at the exact point I was remarking to my group chat that Bellamy hadn’t shown up yet, so good timing there.
Octavia leads with a standard cute/horrifying Blake family story, about Bellamy playing a game that he hated with her and always letting her win, and also cutting his own arm open to disguise her blood as his own. It’s a nice mirror of his trying to remind Octavia of their childhood as a last resort before he poisoned her, and hers is about as effective as his was. Bellamy’s pretty zen here, and I assume he’s been prepared for this ever since the poisoning. He’s committed like fifty kinds of treason; he was going to die for it eventually.
Octavia tells him how to beat Indra, and he basically tells her he’ll die in there. Again, these scenes are all stellar, Bob Morley and Marie Avgeropoulos always knock Blake sibling scenes out of the park and this is no exception, and Octavia’s second breakdown is great. But I can’t help feeling it might have been better if it was the first breakdown. All the material is good, but taking half the episode to get us back to the point where the last episode ended is always going to be a little dicey.
Anyway! That brings us to the kill ring, where Bellamy, Indra, and Gaia are going to duke it out, which they do, despite Bellamy’s “I’m not fighting thing.” He does stare at his sister for a while before he starts, so partial credit.
Gaia is kind of the “and Peggy!” of this situation, but she has a plan of her own: kill Octavia. But Bellamy figures it out and throws himself at her, so the spear misses, and Octavia’s got it.
I did think she was going to kill Gaia here, but the worst is yet to come! Because after she returns the spear and restarts the fight, Monty has to burst in with a third option: open rebellion. If Octavia isn’t going to tell her people they can live without fighting, he is, and her people are on board. Between people loyal to Madi as commander and people who just maybe don’t want to march across a desert and fight a pointless war, Octavia has a lot of dissent in her ranks, which is what the fight was supposed to fix.
Now, here’s another place where logic falls apart a little for me, and we’ll see how it plays out. Octavia takes advantage of the chaos to go and burn Monty’s farm, which is–yikes. I’m not convinced I was supposed to come out of the episode feeling as if she’s completely irredeemable, but that’s where I am now. And I really don’t get why “burning down the only food supply” resulted in her people stopping rioting and following her into battle instead. Like, they were already revolting, just keep going.
Some number of commander true believers, including Gaia and Indra, are defecting, at least, and Octavia seems to have decided they can go. Monty still has some algae, so he can maybe continue to be a farm wizard, but he needs time to get it going again. So at last, Octavia is getting her war, because everyone else is out of tricks to stop her.
Meanwhile, in the valley, Abby is also doing some things. I still don’t like her storyline, but it keeps happening, so here we are. This week, she refuses to help McCreary, so he confiscates her drugs. She’s in withdrawal, but she’s allowed to see her pet psycho, Vinson, to monitor his healing, and she gives him a list of things she needs, which I assume is just DRUGS underlined like four times. He tries to talk her out of this and convince her to just cure McCreary, but she’s determined, so he kills and eats some dudes while she ODs.
Like, that happened, right? I don’t even know. It was so over-the-top I was just kind of agape. They sure did go there. That’s where we’re at with Abby’s story.
Anyway, Clarke finds her at the end of the episode, so let’s check in with Clarke.
I am mixed on Clarke this week. She starts the episode restraining Madi from trying to run fifty miles back to “her people,” and trying to remove the flame (which I was calling the chip last week because small pieces of mind-control plastic kinda blend together for me) from Madi while Madi’s like NO MOM. She also find the worm eggs in the back and just throws them onto the desert. Given that we got a significant closeup on them, I assume Wonkru is going to walk directly into them, so get pumped for that.
Anyway, Madi starts having extreme flashbacks to the greatest hits of previous commanders, starting with Becca Pramheda being burned at the stake. Unclear how the flame went from this to starting a weird cult religion, but I’m on the record as finding commander worldbuilding bad, and this was at least cool and exciting, and my friend Erin is very into that backstory, so I’m down.
Here’s where we get to the part of the episode I really struggle with: Clarke gives up on getting the flame out of Madi because Madi says that if Clarke takes it out, she’ll have to destroy it, or Madi will just take it again. And Clarke says she can’t destroy it.
As I said last week, I’ll always struggle with bias, and Clarke’s feelings for the flame as an extension of Lexa have always been something I have trouble taking seriously, because it is, again, a little piece of mind-control plastic, and it’s never worked as a symbol of Clarke’s love for Lexa, at least not for me. Clarke saying that she’s afraid for Madi as commander because of what happened to Lexa? Fine, cool, I’m down. That works for me.
Clarke’s hard line being destroying the flame? Not so much. She doesn’t say “it’s Lexa” like she did when Jasper nearly destroyed it in S3, but there isn’t really any other reason she’d hesitate to destroy it. And that just hasn’t felt like a part of the storyline up until this point. And, like, Clarke has done a lot to keep that thing out of Madi, including killing a bunch of people, and leaving friends to die. Maybe it’s that she’s supposed to have cooled down and be thinking more rationally now, but her issue being “I can’t destroy the flame therefore you can keep it” just did not land as a way to keep the thing in Madi. It felt more like they needed to keep the thing in Madi and had to reverse engineer a reason for Clarke to get over it.
Okay, I’ve ranted a lot about that. Sorry! It really bothered me, especially when Clarke could have just said “I realized you get to make your own decisions and if we take the flame out, we should decide together.” You can still have her confessing her fears about what happens to the commander and asking if Madi sees Lexa, but it’s not quite as jarring in terms of, okay, you’ll do all this to protect your daughter, but you draw the line at crushing a USB drive?
Anyway, Clarke wants to talk with Diyoza. They’ll tell her that her eye is down, and they’ll tell Octavia that she knows the eye is down, and then let the chips fall where they may. It’s not the best plan, but it’s also not the worst plan, although that’s partly because that’s such a hotly contested position on the show.
Of course, Diyoza’s not in charge anymore, and is, in fact, MIA this whole episode. So what Clarke and Madi actually find is McCreary killing Madi’s people, which Madi is not down with. He leaves one of his own guys behind to dig graves, though, and he fills Clarke in just enough that she knows where her mom is. Also, Madi slashes his throat and Clarke seems pretty unnerved, which is legit, but also this is like the fifth guy she’s killed at this point, it’s not even new.
I’m not sure where any of McCreary’s people are, but Clarke and Madi get to Abby with no problems, only to find her unconscious and alone in the gas station. As he promised, Vinson has cleaned up his victims’ bodies, but it feels like someone’s going to have to notice Abby’s guards are dead at some point.
Whatever, that’s a problem for future Vinson! I’m sure he’ll figure something out. Meanwhile, Clarke has some detox to do and apparently some backstory to hear about, judging from the preview and the fact that the next episode is literally called “The Dark Year.” Onward and upward!
- Seriously, Marie Avgeropoulos is killing it this season, but I really am done with Octavia. How can you burn down Monty’s garden? That’s too much.
- Bellamy’s progress of becoming Indra’s new favorite Blake over the course of this episode was great.
- Speaking of Indra, congratulations to Adina Porter for her Emmy nomination! I haven’t seen American Horror Story, but I assume she’s just as good on there.
- Madi’s repeated reminders about Clarke leaving Bellamy to die (after he saved her) were some good bratty teenager content, but also well deserved.
- Like other things, character separation feels a lot more organic this season than it did previously, but it’s been ten episodes and Clarke and Raven still haven’t seen each other and I’m tired of it. It’s not really this season’s fault, because they’re doing much better justifying it, but it’s been so long since the main cast were just all in the same place and felt like a group of characters who all knew each other, and with only three episodes to go, I don’t think we’re getting much if any of that until season six. When we probably still won’t get it.
- Henry Ian Cusick, who plays Kane, directed this episode! He did some neat camera angles.
- For some reason, they’re showing episode 511 tonight at Comic Con? I’m not really sure why, but I’m looking forward to an exciting week of trying to piece together which spoilers are real and which are fake. Personally, I’m hoping we get some good Miller backstory, because I’m very much side-eyeing him right now.
- How long do we think Octavia had to practice smearing blood on her face before she got good at it?