It’s hard to quantify this episode of The 100. On the one hand it feels like a place holder moving pieces around for the finale, and on the other a few highly consequential things happen. On the one hand it feels like a bottle episode with a large portion of it taking place in flashback on the Ark, and on the other a primary location gets a pretty radical makeover. “Join or Die” refocuses on the bigger picture as A.L.I.E.’s conquest of Polis seems total, and the fate of those residing there are now in the hands of a known liar, and the guy that every Grounder once wanted dead.
We catch up with Kane, Pike and the Grounders that took the chancellor into custody a few weeks back as they arrive in Polis and you wouldn’t recognize the place. First of all, there are Grounders with guns on duty, so you know there’s something wrong. It seems that A.L.I.E. has given Polis the Passion of the Christ makeover with crucified people along the boulevard and blood in the streets. It didn’t even look like Polis, and I wondered for a minute if these Grounders were maybe a more violent faction looking to do horrible things to Pike themselves, but then you see Ontari and Jaha welcome them to the Capitol building with computer chips for everyone, except Pike and Kane who refuse.
The episode tries to do some ninth inning humanization of Kane by flashing back to the weeks before the launch of the 100 to Earth. Jaha, Abbie and Kane bring Pike to them for the purpose of having him teach Earth Skills to the prisoners about to be sent to the ground so they can put them to practical use. It was weird to see the severe Kane, the submissive Abbie, and the arrogant Jaha again, but while those character have gone through an incredible journey of transformation since they’ve reached the ground, the episode suggested that a couple of others had already begun their turning in space.
Pike, unable to get through to the kids about the importance of knowing how to survive, and unable to tell them under penalty of floating, decides that the best way to activate the 100’s survival instinct is to beat the tar out of one of them. Naturally, the one is Murphy, who seems fated to be a punching bag since he was already getting worked over on the Ark. It suggests that Pike’s survival instinct has always been tied to one of violence; to survive is to fight and to fight is to survive. Of course that wouldn’t be the last time that Murphy’s smart mouth got him into trouble, but this time, back in the present, he actually used it to inspire and stop Indra, who was also captured, from cutting Pike to death. It’s strange now to think that the two best hopes for resistance again in A.L.I.E. in Polis are now Murphy and Pike, but strange times make for strange bedfellows, I guess.
Speaking of strange turns, did it seem like A.L.I.E. was losing patience with those that aren’t delivering on her demands. Getting Abbie to get the location of Clarke and the others out of Kane be seducing him was a good idea, but come on, was it one that was going to get instant results. Flash-forward then to Kane becoming one of the crucified and Jaha threatening to kill Abbie if Kane doesn’t take the chip and become a good puppet. I still wonder just how effective A.L.I.E.’s influence is if one is forced to take the chip. So much of Jaha’s quest is about persuasive conversion, not forcible, so is the way that the camera lingered on Kane a sign that maybe he has some control left? Either way, good thing “the resistance” has moved on from where Kane left them.
The episode also followed the quartet of Clarke, Bellamy, Jasper and Octavia as they head to the sea to meet Luna, but it seemed like a journey that had come for not. They found no camp, only a bunch of what looked like Inukshuks, stone statues meant to look like humans built by Native Americans. Either that or tombstones. Their exact nature is never implied because the four realize that using a special shrub in the fire turns the flames green, like something out of Harry Potter. Smart, but how long would it take to get a response? Just long to do some reconciliation.
Bellamy tries to make peace with Octavia, but she’s not having it. It’s going through the motions because Bellamy and Octavia are brother and sister, and no matter what, siblings forgive. It’s clear that Octavia’s fairly raw and primal in her feelings, even though she has the Earth skills down, she still lacks the ability to deal emotionally. What will she do once the current crisis has past? Meanwhile, Bellamy does get to reconcile with Clarke. They hug again acknowledging that they both have to forgive themselves for what they’ve done. Despite how much he’s acted like an ass this year, it’s nice that Bellamy got one happy ending.
Of course, this is The 100, and one happy ending is all you get. So even though Clarke and company found Luna (thanks to what looked like some Grounder Navy Seals) she isn’t exactly eager to accept the Flame and become Commander despite the simple, but still very emotional sales pitch from Clarke. Luna didn’t get so much screentime to really get a handle on her, or why she would refuse the Flame despite being the last Night Blood standing, but we did slay one mystery: the oil rig. That oil rig that’s been popping up at the end of the opening titles is Luna’s hideout, a kind of mini-Polis in the middle of the ocean. I can’t tell you the joy it gives me to finally button-up the meaning behind those few seconds at the beginning of every episode.
At the end of the episode, there’s a definite feeling that the hall’s been rented, the band has begun to play, and the punch has been set out. The dance is about to begin in other words, and there’s just three episodes left to enjoy it. It seems fairly certain that Luna is going to come around to the idea of becoming Commander, the question is how Clarke and the others will convince her. Pike and Murphy will surely become a nuisance in Polis, but will it be enough to redeem Pike in even a small way, and is he going to make it out of the season alive? If there’s one thing “Join or Die” leaves you with it’s a growing sense of anticipation…