The 100 has never been a show about easy answers, so did you really think they’d come back with a plan to save the planet after one episode? Hardly. But this week’s episode seemed less concerned with solutions than it did in exploring how the weight of making those decisions affects the decision makers. Once again, confronting the hard choices and bitter truths about pure and unadulterated survival, The 100 says outright this week that coming through the other side of the pending radiation bath is not going to be as easy as even the most conservative of hopes. I just hope that the writers aren’t painting themselves into a corner.
The central dilemma seemed straightforward, and by 100 standards the mission went smooth as silk. Bellamy leads a group into the heart of the Ice Nation to the downed farm station to retrieve the hydro-generator, a hydrogen device that creates water. Although the station is guarded by the particularly brutal faction of Ice Nation that wiped out many of Pike’s people, the insignia of the king gets Bellamy and the others access despite the skepticism of the Grounders that the exiled Roan is now king. Even despite the sight of slaves taken from skaikru, Bellamy stays the course; the priority is the machine.
It showed that Bellamy has grown a lot over these four seasons, or maybe it speaks to just how serious he comprehends the current predicament. Regardless of the stakes, I think the old Bellamy still would have rushed in where angels fear to tread, but there’s no denying that Bellamy did the Vulcan thing, he put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few. That is until it’s revealed that the two dozen or so slaves were to be moved the next day, making a return rescue mission impractical. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the team democratically decided to damn the hydro-generator and blow up the Grounders.
It might be apparent that the show is rubbing our faces in Bellamy’s redemption arc, as he tries to overcome all the bad he did last year by latching on to whatever good he can do now, but I did appreciate how they made us wait for it. For a couple of seconds there, we thought Bellamy was being straight up pragmatic, but it was inevitable that the elder Blake would pull a jail break. The more surprising development was Monty, who looked like he was about to get revenge on the Grounder that killed his dad, but he instead broke the chains of the slaves and let them get a pound of flesh. It’s a subtle kind of frontier justice, but one that Monty still had a problem with.
Back at Arkadia, Clarke was having no easier time dealing with the idea of no good choices. It’s reassuring that despite all they’ve been through that Clarke and Raven can still come to loggerheads about a course of action, and while Clarke wanted to wait until there was a plan before sharing the bad news, Raven wanted to “crowd source” a solution. Raven correctly pointed out that the people of the Ark tend to rise to the occasion when confronted with an impossible decision or task, but Clarke feels like she has to walk a fine line, she can’t trust that the community won’t start tearing itself apart. Some uncomfortable comparisons are made between that line of thinking and the line of thinking of the council when the Ark was in orbit.
In this, Jaha becomes an unusual consigliere for Clarke. The former chancellor knows from experience when he’s not getting the whole story, and his only advice is basically “hope that there’s a forgiving God.” In other words, there are no bad decisions, only bad choices. It will be interesting to see what Jaha’s role will be in the story this year. His storyline for the last three seasons has been a folly of well-meaning disasters: how many people followed him on the journey to the City of Light? How many people were ruined or killed by that discovery? Is he going to be a help to Clarke, or a hindrance?
Speaking of people ruined by A.L.I.E., we meet a young Grounder named Ilan this week who literally killed his whole family while under the influence, and was released from A.L.I.E.’s control just in time to see his mother die. “Avenge me,” are her last words. Ilan attached himself to a Grounder ambassador that planned to challenge Roan for the leadership of the clans, and once Roan was dead, Ilan would get his promised revenge on skaikru, but there’s one thing neither or them planned for, young Octavia Blake.
Again, the show plays subtle here because we’re not seeing this wild and crazed Octavia acting out after a parade of bad experiences and betrayals, it’s a slow burn. Long simmering anger punctuated by odd moments of insatiable violence. When Octavia sneaks in and stabs the ambassador in the ear without leaving a trace, it’s a moment of shocking brutality even though the warning signs are all there. What’s more disturbing is that later, in council, Octavia puts a hand on Ilan’s shoulder and expresses her condolences for the loss of his family. That’s some straight up sociopathic tendencies stuff, and Ilan knows what Octavia’s capable of. The question now is what is he going to do about it?
Of course the question of what to do about Octavia is a blinking red light just off in the distance, but one that’s getting closer. From appearances, it seems that Kane suspects the real fate of the ambassador, as does Echo. Who’s going to see Octavia as someone to be moulded, and who’s going to see her as a problem that needs solved? It seems clear that Octavia’s rationally irrational behaviour is going to dig her in deeper trouble, and it seems likely that this route is going to lead her back to Luna, who coincidentally is the only known living Night Blood.
Back at Arkadia things seem more uncertain. Clarke splits the difference in the end, and tells the people the truth about the problem while lying about the solution. Without the hydro-generator, there will only be enough water for 100 people on a repaired Ark, which can’t be a coincidence. The 100 has shown no qualms in the past about killing large numbers of people in a single explosive act, so would the show be so nihilistic that it would erase four-fifths of the skaikru in an ugly and highly radioactive death? Who can say? But I wouldn’t put anything past this show.