Oh what a contentious season of The 100 this has been. There have been deaths as big as they have been controversial, there have been rushed storylines, and sudden betrayals by beloved characters, but it all comes down to this final hour and the effort to save the world from A.L.I.E., the bad artificial intelligence with good intentions. As these things go – 100 finales that is – everyone is on the brink of death and defeat waiting for Clarke to pull a last minute rabbit out of her hat, and this one sees the Commander of Death go into the Matrix to look the enemy in her face and perhaps accept a fate worse potential, and immediate, death.
After dechipping Abbie with the funky looking steampunk device Raven cobbled together, Clarke boldly decides that the only way to beat A.L.I.E. is to become her. Well, not exactly. But Clarke does decide to take the Flame herself by transfusing the Night blood from the brain dead Ontari into Clarke. I guess Night Blood’s are universal donors, because it works, and the continuous supply of blood allows Clarke to accept the Flame. All Clarke then has to do is take one of the chips so that she can go to the City of Light and find the kill switch herself.
It was hard not to think of of The Matrix as Clarke went in search of the kill switch. There were hidden clues, glitches in the Machine, and all the citizens in the City of Light, when they swarmed, had the unrelenting impression of agents protecting the system. On top of that Raven, Monty and Harper were back at Arkadia watching it all unfold as computer code on their screens, and though they couldn’t communicate, Raven still was able to be a ghost in the machine and lend a hand just when Clark needed it the most.
Of course the big news about Clarke’s trip into the machine was her reunion with Lexa, which proved that a piece of the last commander was preserved in the Flame after all. A lot of people were upset not just with the fact that Lexa was killed, but also the way she was killed, and the subtext of this script seems deigned as a nod to that disgruntlement. Some of you may have known about Lexa’s big comeback, owing to the rare 100 shoot that takes place in downtown Vancouver, but you have to confess that you still cheered when Lexa landed to save Clarke with swords blazing.
Adding to the subtextual reading of the episode as a mea culpa to Clexa fans was the fact that despite the time restrictions, and so much plot to get through, Clarke and Lexa were given breathing room to enjoy their reunion and demonstrate again just what a potent team they were. Getting to live vicariously through the power couple of post-apocalyptic Earth again, no matter how short a time, was it’s own reward, and in the end Lexa gets a heroic send-off, letting Clarke get away to find the kill switch while she fights off all those in pursuit. If this be Lexa’s send-off, then it was at least a grand send-off.
As for Clarke, she was forced into an Ingmar Bergman like chess match between A.L.I.E. and Becca. Becca wants Clarke to pull the kill switch and end A.L.I.E. once and for all as the older A.I. has gone too far with “perverse instantiation”, the idea that she’s so obsessed with the goal she disregards the methods by which she accomplishes it. A.L.I.E. has a counter proposal of her own though, 12 nuclear power plants around the world are near the end of their life after 100 years of neglect. In six months, they’re going to meltdown and 96 per cent of the Earth will become uninhabitable. The only way humanity can survive is in the City of Light. Was A.L.I.E. bluffing? She’s seemed very specific in outlying the threat.
In the end Clarke certainly believes it, even though she also boldly flips the kill switch and ends A.L.I.E. and the City of Light. It’s a rare moment of hopefulness in a series that doesn’t allow for it often, Clarke tells A.L.I.E. that you “don’t ease pain, you overcome it,” and despite A.L.I.E.’s warning about the coming nuclear apocalypse, humans “will find a way, we always do.” The thing that stuck out to me about A.L.I.E.’s warning is that it reminded me of an episode of Life After People. I think one of the not-so-rosy scenarios painted there was the breakdown of nuclear power plants without humans to maintain them. I wonder if Jason Rothenberg is a fan.
The potential for radiation-filled death is one of the dangling threads left for season four. Presumably others will involve how Skaikru and the Grounders might work together to confront the threat, not to mention restore some sort of peace between them. On top of that a new commander will have to be named, and new Night bloods will have to be found. All the former citizens of the City of Light are going to have to come to terms either with the things they did while possessed or the things they’ve lost. Kane is particular distraught coming too while choking the life out of Bellamy, while Murphy and Emori shared a tearful hug. Monty and Jasper also made peace, and even though he was happy in the City of Light, Jasper seems willing to give this life another try.
As for Pike, well, he went out like he came in. The inner struggle of Octavia was an interesting secondary story as she was waiting for the right moment to finally get payback. I chuckled when the camera lingered on her starring at Pike as they looked over the side of the balcony as A.L.I.E.’s chipped army came up the side of the building like Wildlings at the wall. She then cut him and watched as the army tried to kill him, and despite Bellamy telling her that he doesn’t want to see her to become single-mindedly obsessed with vengeance, the hour, and the season, ends with Octavia running Pike through with her sword. And after he saved her life too. Maybe the Grounders don’t have to go far to find their new Commander…
So that’s the end of The 100 season three! It didn’t have the unity and clarity of purpose of season two, in fact I read one person online say that the show’s sophomore slump skipped a season, but this still proved itself a series full of big, bold ideas that it isn’t afraid to put its characters in difficult, if not downright impossible, positions to test them to their limits. In a world full of TV offerings, The 100 remained solidly compelling even if it was at times challenging this year. It’s going to be a long wait until season four.