It’s interesting to see the converts fall like dominoes when it comes to the CW post-apocalypse drama The 100, and I’m one of those people that came late to understand and enjoy the wonderful complexities of this show. It’s a series about survival that takes survival seriously, confronting its heroes with the hardest of hard decisions. How do you impose rules in a world with no rules? How can you forge peace and understanding with a people as different from you as an alien race? How do live with making a terrible choice, even if the alternative is just as terrible? But in the wake of all this, The 100’s third season started with something weird, hope.
Picking up three months after the events at Mount Weather, the former citizens of the Ark, now living in the renamed Arkadia, have enjoyed a tenuous peace with the Grounders. Life goes on. Abbie is burning the candle at both ends as chancellor and doctor, Lincoln is now teaching the Sky People how to brawl like Grounders, and Bellamy has been given a new position of authority as the leader of a scouting party, trying to find the remaining sections of the old station and survivors. But there’s a lot going on under the surface it seems, a tension that if not ready to snap is certainly making the citizens of Arkadia feel the pressure.
One of those pressures is Clarke, who’s been on her own for three months, apparently shirking all civilization except for the comely lass that runs the trading post she frequents where she exchanges panther meat for supplies. While there is perhaps some value in reminding us how resourceful, resilient, and yes, lonely Clarke has become, the episode almost does a deserve by lending her too much screentime. On the one hand, Abbie is in extreme denial about how much Clarke’s rogue status is pressing on her, but on the other hand, there’s the legend of Clarke that’s growing in the woods of future, post-apocalyptic planet Earth, “the Wanheda.”
As we learned from Bellamy and group’s ill-advised trip into the borders of the Ice Nation, the Grounders there are all atwitter about the Wanheda, the Commander of Death. AKA: Clarke. At the fascinating intersection of superstition and reputation, Clarke, having wiped out 300 Grounders and then the entire population of Mount Weather, is believed to have the ability to summon death and bring it down upon her enemies. In Grounder tradition, if someone were to kill Clarke, they could then take her power. Like the man said, “Every time I think I’m out…”
It may have been impractical, but that’s why it may have behooved us as an audience to be given Clarke’s absence for this episode, maybe a couple of episodes. Legends aren’t fed by fact, and if this world is going to treat Clarke as the Specter at the Banquet, then perhaps she should have more of a ghostly presence for the time being. Regardless, it seems like Bellamy and Co. skirmishing with a couple of Ice Nation scouts seems like the least of anyone’s concern, even though firing shots despite them being so clearly in the wrong seems like a rookie mistake. Lesson of the day, when someone is so depressed that they’re literally fall down drunk, don’t take them on a dangerous surveillance mission.
But here’s where The 100 does something better than The Walking Dead: thoroughly explore the moral and emotional implications of survival at any cost. One might easily say that Rick Grimes is also Wanheda; with the CDC, Hershel’s farm, the prison, Terminus, and Alexandria, Rick’s stacked up nearly as many bodies as the Titanic and Hurricane Katrina combined. Doesn’t seem to bother him much either, he’s just doing what he has to do to survive, right? Most of Rick’s group always seem equally unphased, which is why seeing Jasper break down over the loses at Mount Weather – well, one specific loss – is rather startling. He cares too much about what happened.
Another compelling scene is when Jasper loses it after walking into the common area where everyone is trading the spoils from Mount Weather. Obviously, in any post-apocalyptic setting, the rule is “waste not/want not,” but Jasper accuses the others of grave robbing, which, if you think about it, is a legit claim. In the end, it wasn’t like they just stumbled upon Mount Weather and all the riches inside, those people were massacred, and not all of them were bad. By all means, liberate the Van Goghs, but taking everything down to the jewelry makes you wonder about the lack of civility in death on the part of the Arkadians. Tactically it makes sense, but sometimes humanity is about more than tactics.
We’ll probably get more on the subject of tactics as we learn more about Alie, the artificial intelligence that may or may not have destroyed the world and has some possibly evil plans to remake said world. Three months hasn’t made Jaha seem less crazy, and three months locked up in a bunker didn’t make Murphy more receptive to hearing Jaha’s latest delusion (if that’s what it is). We spent the opening moments of the episode with Murphy as he engaged in the five stages of isolation: surprise, breaking things, tiredness, memorization, and suicide. Fortunately he’s released before he goes through with it, but what was Alie’s plan in keeping Murphy locked up to the brink of death?
That’s one of many questions left to consider going forward as Alie enters the game. According to Jaha, she didn’t want the nuke as a weapon, which would be obvious choice for her, but we can hardly trust that Alie has purely altruistic intentions, especially since it looks like she has mutant slaves, and has pressed Emori into her service somehow. (That is unless the raiders in the wasteland work for Alie.) What does Alie still need from Jaha? What exactly is the City of Light? Is it a Matrix kind of situation where your consciousness goes to an ideal place? And what’s the deal with the device that Jaha gives Murphy? Is that the way Alie stays connected to Jaha outside the house? With all these quandaries, it’s hard to choose what the compelling storyline for season three might be: Jaha’s or Clarke’s.
In summation, it’s a very strong start for The 100, and hopefully all the hype it’s received, plus being paired with Legends of Tomorrow, means that more people will check it out. We may not be able to check in on The 100 every week, but we will definitely be keeping tabs on it.