The 100 5×02 “Red Queen” reveals what happened in the first dark days of Octavia’s reign in the bunker. Here’s our review of the episode.

The second episode of The 100 season 5, titled “Mackson Kissed” — I mean, “My Hero Jaha Is Dead, I’m Devastated” — just aired. How are you all feeling?! I for one am exhausted. This episode is A LOT.

Anyone who’s been following my coverage of The 100 knows how much I genuinely love(d) the character of Jaha, and how delighted I was by the unexpected Miller/Jackson development last season, so “Red Queen” was basically the best and worst possible thing to ever happen to me, personally, in my life.

Related: There’s no way to prepare for The 100 season 5: Sachin Sahel teases Jackson, Mackson and time jump surprises

It is a relief to finally be able to share a) my sorrow with all five other Jaha stans in the fandom who are now in mourning with me, and b) my joy with all the millions of Mackson fans who I’m sure popped into existence now that it’s finally confirmed canon (just kidding, it’s been canon for a year. “May or may not” didn’t fool us for a second, Sachin).

…And some other stuff happened in this episode as well, I guess. In all seriousness, “Red Queen” was an absolutely spectacular episode, which effectively conveyed just how bad things got in the bunker, and (however briefly) fully got the audience on Octavia’s side before her fateful transformation into Blodreina.

And, more impressively than anything else, I bet this episode got a whole lot of people to care about Jaha, which (while it was never an issue for me) is a feat in and of itself.

Let’s discuss the highly emotionally compromising second episode of The 100 season 5, “Red Queen,” in which a total of zero people got eaten. SURPRISE!

His last word was WELLS ;-(

RIP Thelonious Jaha, who died saving his people one last time.

To commemorate Jaha’s passing, I will be releasing an article dedicated to his character (because YES, I cared, damnit #TeamJahaForever), and we’ve also got an exclusive interview with showrunner Jason Rothenberg about the choices that went into the way in which he was killed off.

So let’s save all the talk about how great Jaha was and how everything he ever did was an attempt to save his people for that article, and instead focus on how Jaha’s last actions impacted Octavia.

Because in many ways, even though he didn’t get to be a part of it himself, Jaha ended up significantly impacting what life in the bunker would be like, for better and for worse, by showing Octavia a (dubious) way to lead and forcing her to abandon her hate for Skaikru and truly accept them into Wonkru.

When Octavia originally declared that the survivors of Praimfaya would be ‘one clan,’ her reasoning was magnanimous: no group of people had more right to live than anyone else, and therefore, each clan would receive 100 spots, to ensure all clans’ survival as part of a newly united people.

But in practice, Octavia’s decree saved 1,100 Grounders and killed 300 members of Skaikru. We can (and did) debate endlessly whether Skaikru members’ skills made them more ‘worthy’ or useful, but the fact was that Octavia entered the conclave as Skaikru’s champion and emerged as the champion of humanity, at the cost of Skaikru lives. Was it fair? Yes. Was it fair to Skaikru? No.

Regardless of Clarke and Jaha’s actions, and five!guy’s subsequent revolt, Skaikru were right to feel cheated when Octavia made her demand — just as Octavia was right to state that she owed them no loyalty because they were never her people.

By their own laws, she was never even allowed to be born to them, and since she didn’t get to have her trial, she was never a legal citizen of the Ark. She was a crime, then she was a criminal, and then she landed on the ground.

So as selfless as creating Wonkru ostensibly was, I can’t help but think that Octavia was at least partially motivated by a desire to specifically save the Grounders, and to de-elevate Skaikru from the pedestal she felt like they’d put themselves on.

But what Jaha accomplished — in lieu of saving all of his people — was to make them a true part of Wonkru, no more or less worthy than anyone else. His final act was to apologize to Octavia for the way she was treated, and make her realize that by creating ‘one clan’ and insisting there were no divisions, those 100 members of Skaikru that she did choose to save were now just as much her people as the other 1,100.

When Jaha died, surrounded by everyone who cared about him — and by ‘everyone’ I mostly mean Abby and Kane — he died knowing he had saved his people one last time. And Kane, certainly, recognized that and honored him for it.

But Octavia inherited more from Jaha than the responsibility for the last 100 Sky People. The speech that saved his people also instilled in her the same conviction that must have fueled those early rulers on the Ark who wrote the merciless Exodus Charter.

‘Death is the enemy’

I did say in my preview article that Octavia makes a powerful new enemy this week. That enemy is death — and whoever brings her people closer to it.

It is Jaha of all people who manages to frame leadership in a way she can understand and relate to, saying:

“On the Ark, we made death the enemy. That’s how we survived. And anyone who did anything to push us closer to death was eliminated. You hate me because I floated your mother, but when she broke the law, she pushed us closer to death. So she made herself the enemy. Now you know what it takes to lead.”

To Octavia, Jaha’s speech is like a leadership cheat-sheet, at a time when she desperately needs one. Jaha, obviously, didn’t imagine fighting pits — that part is all Niylah’s fault, with all her Gina-style book flirting (the best kind of flirting).

Where Gina gave Bellamy The Iliad, Niylah gives Octavia a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which speaks exactly of the kind of transformation and chaos at the heart of the show as a whole, and Octavia’s character especially.

(Ovid, incidentally, lived during the time of Augustus. And as we know, Augustus had a sister named Octavia…)

Metamorphoses has a lot of relevance to the events in the bunker, with Stephen M. Wheeler identifying its core themes as mutability, love, violence, artistry, and power (all of which are present in “Red Queen”).

The epic also chronicles the deification of Julius Caesar, which ultimately inspires Octavia’s method for keeping order in the bunker: Gladiator games, where all the enemies of Wonkru are made to fight in an arena, and the victor has their crimes forgiven.

But whether by floating or Gladiator reenactments, the end result is the same: when humanity is the only surplus resource, killing them for the slightest disobedience is the most efficient way to make them obey your rules, if you’re ruthless enough to do it, and/or if you believe strongly enough that your rules will keep ‘your people’ as a mass entity alive. The Ark chancellors did it; Wonkru does it. Time is a flat circle.

Ironically, Octavia implementing Ark law by Grounder means is the opposite of the hopeful new society that seemed genuinely within reach for the briefest of moments after she won the Conclave.

And whatever Octavia has become now — however she has become it — seems the furthest removed from what she once had the potential to be: the Prometheus figure that Bellamy imagined, stealing fire (progress, autonomy) from the gods and giving it back to the human race. Instead, she herself has become deified, another incarnation of ‘death from above.’

Chaos was her name: The metamorphosis of Octavia Blake

The funny thing about this episode (okay, ‘funny’ might be an overstatement) is that, for a large chunk of the fandom, it is less surprising that Octavia ends up as the dark and terrifying ‘blood reigner,’ and more surprising that she doesn’t immediately take a paintbrush to her forehead and cannonball onto that iron throne the moment the bunker doors are sealed.

It’s no secret that Octavia is a polarizing figure in The 100 fandom, beloved by some for her uncompromising grit and perseverance and hated by others for her treatment of other characters and seeming lack of ability to accept that her actions have consequences.

And however you feel about her, we’ve known for a long time that Octavia can be ruthless, and bloodthirsty, and that she considers violence and death to be legitimate solutions to her problems. After six years in hell, I daresay Skairipa > Oslaya > Blodreina almost seems like logical character progression without any further explanation.

For all of this, however, Octavia was never a psychopath. (Emphasis on ‘was.’) She was a sheltered child with strong black-and-white ideas about right and wrong, in desperate need of a people that would accept her for who she was.


Credit: Pinterest

Personally, I’ve always found Octavia extremely interesting exactly because she is so many conflicting things that don’t add up, and because she has been allowed to be all these things — messed up and sympathetic, hero and villain, broken yet persevering, full of love but also hate — without ever being boxed in by any one of the labels assigned to her.

The deep-seeded trauma of Octavia’s upbringing has messed her up in ways I’m not sure even she truly realizes. From Lincoln’s death onwards, the show truly dug into the self-destructiveness than grief can wring, amplified by the extreme circumstances of both her upbringing and life on the ground.

And no, Octavia’s arc doesn’t fully make sense, because it can’t — unlike all other The 100 characters, “who we are” versus “who we need to be to survive” never applied to her, because she never got to be anything resembling normal. For the first 16 years of her life, Octavia was stuck in a state of waiting for a ‘real life’ that both she and her family knew would probably never come.

Since landing on the ground, she has neither been moving further away from or closer towards what she used to be, because she never got to settle on one permanent form before she arrived there; instead she has been drifting towards some unknown shape, unmoored, pulled in a dozen different directions. A shapeshifter with no original shape.

And while violence may have been her go-to coping mechanism, “Red Queen” reminds us that she is so much more than violence. Up until Lincoln’s death, Octavia strongly believed in fairness, and her sympathies almost always lay with the underdog. We’ve seen it countless times: when she took Lincoln’s side against the delinquents in season 1; when she stood up for Jasper; when she tried to protect both her own people and the Grounder village in season 3; when she protected Niylah from Skaikru in season 4.

And she never wanted to be a leader, wisely recognizing that her strength lies in fighting, not ruling. Bellamy’s little speech in “Praimfaya” didn’t magically make her change her mind (in fact, impassioned speeches on The 100 rarely actually have that effect): all that matters to Octavia at the beginning of this episode is that she just saved 1,200 lives, and she now values every one of those lives.

At the top of “Red Queen,” she considers Wonkru her people only insofar as they are her responsibility: she physically protected them from their enemy, Praimfaya, and now she is physically protecting them from each other. Someone stole blankets? So what. The Grounders retaliate against Skaikru? They’re scared. A boy is beaten by an angry mob? He must be saved. These are the people she chose to fight for, and she is still fighting for them, refusing to consider population reduction of any kind.

It is only after she is once again forced to reckon with that pesky Farm Station (seriously, what was in the water up there? It’s a miracle Monty turned out as well as he did), and Jaha makes her look at leadership as a war in which she can be a warrior fighting against death itself, that she finds a way to frame herself as a leader. And it is the logistical problem that there are too many people in the bunker that makes her turn to tried and tested methods for (what she considers) the fairest solution.

What happens next — how cynical justice becomes bloody fighting pits and self-imposed cult-like apotheosis — is still a mystery. Whatever made Octavia look down on Kane with cold hatred in her eyes is clearly something new. All I know is that they sure talked a lot about starvation and cannibalism for an episode that featured neither starvation nor cannibalism, and I am Highly Suspicious™ that this is the last we’ll hear about that.

The only thing that is absolutely clear is that Octavia is in constant transformation, as indeed she has been ever since emerging from the ‘cocoon’ under the floor.

Those butterflies in season 1 were probably not originally intended to be such a clear metaphor for her transformation to come, and yet here we are: from the girl under the floor to Bellamy’s sister, to one of the 100, to Lincoln’s lover, to Indra’s second, to Skairipa, to ‘nothing’ and again to Champion, Octavia’s latest shape is Blodreina.

The question remains if this is her final form, or if Octavia is capable of further transformation.

Obligatory Mackson flailing portion of this review <3

MY HEART.

I have already waxed poetic about how unexpected and amazing the Miller/Jackson development was in season 4, and I’m just so thrilled the writers chose to lean into the relationship in The 100 season 5.

Even though their brief moments in season 4 read very clearly like a promise of more, I wasn’t expecting much — if The 100 has taught us anything it is to keep our expectations for Miller’s love life low — so it was a delightful surprise to see them not only get a kiss and an I love you (!), but for their relationship to feature so heavily in the narrative, even being used to parallel Kane and Abby’s story.

On a show like The 100, any glimmer of happiness, and all moments of no-strings-attached love, are treasured by the viewers exactly because they are so few and far between.

Miller’s love story with Bryan could have been epic, but it never really got to live up to its full potential due to various unforeseen circumstances. And it would have been really easy just to drop that part of Miller’s story after that, but instead, the writers used this opportunity to give Jackson a storyline too, the surprising romance with Miller unlocking a new part of his personality that we might never otherwise have seen.

Just as I hoped, the Miller/Jackson relationship has allowed for Jackson’s character to expand (and hopefully we’ll see the same for Miller in future episodes), adding a new dimension to his story beyond his relationship with Abby.

One of the most delightful things about season 5 so far has been seeing the writers ‘reward’ secondary characters and their fans with independent story autonomy, and this big Jackson moment felt like a reward for four seasons of Sachin Sahel stealing every scene he’s in.

He wants to grab the gun. He wants to revolt, to make a stand, because for one of the first times in his life, he is in a position to fight for someone he loves. But of course he can’t do it; he wouldn’t be Jackson if he could.

The desperate desire to be braver than he is is written on his face, and it is heartbreaking. But it is also completely consistent with his character. He’s a healer, not a fighter (?), and I love that the world of The 100 still has room for people like Jackson.

Clearly this is not The Miller and Jackson Show, and that’s fine (okay, it’s like 95% fine), but I love that it is a part of the story at all. I don’t know how much more Jackson content we’ll get this season, but I’m pretty sure Miller is set for a bigger storyline (which is long overdue), and I can’t imagine his relationship with Jackson won’t in some ways inform his actions.

Even if there won’t be much more time devoted to their relationship on screen, the fact that we now know they both have something to fight for, and someone to worry about, only adds depth and interest to their individual stories. It enriches the world of the show, and makes both characters feel more real and layered. A+ OTP goals.

In terms of this episode, which was dark and dreary in so many ways, every bit of Mackson interaction was just purely delightful, and a necessary antidote to the general misery. You need love to counter hate, just as you need art and music to counter violence and war. I bet Ovid would agree.

Love in the time of monsters

And speaking of OTPs… if “Red Queen” sets the tone for Kane and Abby’s storyline(s) this season, I guess it’s time for the Kabby patty patch to batten down the hatches. (Get it? Hatches? I’m hilarious.)

Abby is, completely understandably, pissed off about Kane not respecting her wishes (and explicit instructions) to die with her people, saving her against her will. Kane is, completely understandably, not sorry at all for saving a) the love of his life and b) 50% of the bunker’s doctors. What is so great about this conflict is that truly, both perspectives make sense and viewers should find it difficult to pick a ‘side.’

It takes a Farm Station revolt to make them admit their feelings to each other — hey! I sense a theme! — and they finally clear the air.

“I couldn’t bear to lose you,” Kane confesses. “I’d just gotten you back. The world was ending before our very eyes. And I thought I could weather any storm as long as you were by my side.” Honestly, some of the dialogue in this episode reads like poetry.

To the dulcet tones of the episode’s director playing the guitar, Kane is able to communicate to Abby that his choice to save her was done out of love, and that she indeed has made similar choices to save him in the past. All good right? lol no.

First of all, Abby. Pills. What? Apparently, after they performed the ALIE-wiping brain reset (off-screen), she needed pills to combat headaches, and never stopped taking them. Perhaps partially because of losing Clarke, and perhaps partially because she still feels like she isn’t worthy of life. Whatever combination of factors led to her taking these pills, she appears to now be in withdrawal when she doesn’t get them. So that’s a thing.

Second of all, Kane. Fighting pits. What? What the hell happened there?! Clearly, when Octavia submitted to the influence of Jaha and Gaia, whatever tentative truce between her and Kane became even more fragile. But exactly how it went from that to Kane being a literal enemy of the state is a mystery the show has yet to solve.

Whatever has happened between Kane and Octavia in the intervening years, and wherever the hell Abby is in that final scene, it’s safe to say that the kids are not alright — even though for a moment there, it was good to be a Kabby shipper. (And so much for our Kabby baby theories, huh? They didn’t even get to adopt a kid even though there was one right there!)

I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities to talk about these developments in the future. Right now, we’re left to wonder if we’ll ever get more of an explanation for Abby’s apparent new addiction, and what made Octavia look at Kane with not just indifference, but clear anger and disgust in that final scene.

One thing is certain: this is only the beginning of what promises to be a heart-wrenching and impactful storyline for Kane and Abby in The 100 season 5.

The Red Queen’s court

As we flash forward to present day, a number of characters now surround Blodreina Octavia, appearing to be particularly closely aligned with her for one reason or another. (Notably, there is no sign of Niylah. Who else is worried?)

Of course Indra is there, ever loyal to her second-turned-champion. Indra claimed Octavia as her chosen leader from the beginning, and although her methods are harsh, she was one of the first people to fully accept the dissolution of the clans and the creation of Wonkru.

Indra continues to be one of The 100’s best characters, with Adina Porter conveying all the conflicting emotions with perfect clarity. Because it is very clear that although Indra will stand by Octavia no matter what, she is not altogether thrilled by the direction into which her daughter pushes her protegé. Gaia and Indra have never been morally aligned before, and it doesn’t look like they are morally aligned now.

Gaia, who initially refuses to accept a non-Nightblood leader, ultimately comes to see Octavia as another kind of chosen one, and immediately appoints herself the head of Octavia’s PR team, coordinating tactics and outfits and essentially helping Octavia put on the Blodreina act that eventually becomes reality.

And like her mother, Gaia is another fantastically complex character, whom it would be a mistake to underestimate. Gaia is a fervent believer, and in this episode, she doesn’t so much realize that Octavia could be a great leader as how to manipulate the situation to her advantage. I would be very curious to find out just how much influence Gaia has had over what Octavia has become, and just what her ultimate endgame is.

As for Miller, we see him training with Octavia at the beginning of the episode (she even smiles! What magic is this?), and by the end of those six years, he stands at her side, devoted to her cause for whatever reason that may or may not be explained in future episodes.

Finally, newcomer Kara Cooper (Kyra Zagorsky) also throws in her lot with Blodreina, but only after her own symbolic death and rebirth as the first victor of the death games.

At first glance, Kara seems no different than any other member of the angry Skaikru mob. She picks up right where five!guy left off, feeling entitled to the bunker, viewing Grounders as the enemy, and ruthlessly staging a coup to save whatever members of Skaikru happen to be in the immediate vicinity without any thought for the rest of humanity.

She has suffered personal losses at the hands of Arkadian leaders, twice, and yet appears to still be fiercely loyal to her people. She acts selfishly on behalf of these people, more antagonistic and actively violent than most of the other would-be usurpers.

But Kara Cooper is also a survivor, and a pragmatist, ready to cut down her own allies for a chance to save her own skin. It’s perhaps not surprising that she and Octavia gravitated towards each other after she accepts her place in Wonkru… although, to be honest, this is not someone I’d want watching my back if I were Octavia.

Based on what we’ve seen of her so far, I wonder how truly loyal Cooper is to her Blodreina now, and how quickly she might turn against Octavia if her own life was on the line.

For your consideration

  1. Not only did we lose Jaha in this episode, but with him, our final tie to Wells has been severed. It’s like he died all over again! At least we got one final bit of information about Wells, specifically that his favorite book growing up was The Giving Tree. And doesn’t that just make total, heartbreaking sense?
  2. A surefire way to get the audience to care about a character is to give them an innocent life to cherish. Let’s call it a ‘feed the cat’ moment. But as someone who already cared about Jaha as a character, I really appreciated seeing that softer side of him with Ethan: we knew Jaha cared about Wells, but we never really got to see him be a father. This episode hammered home that whatever else he was, he was a good parent. Ignoring that he could have sacrificed himself to save Ethan’s father and chose not to (hey, nobody’s perfect), I think this brief little family dynamic was really beautiful.
  3. Ethan called him UNCLE THEO! I cry.
  4. …And, uh, Ethan may or may not just have become the most interesting character on the show for me. Raised by the community of Octavia, Indra, Gaia and Miller, the absolute cutest child in the world somehow turned into a bloodthirsty ‘Wonkru initiate’ cheering on death and violence? Actually, yeah, that checks out. I really hope they didn’t just use Ethan as a way to mark the passing of time, but that we’ll actually be seeing more of him in future episodes.
  5. Niylah/Octavia seems so impossible, and I refuse to get my hopes up about it. Like, this is definitely season 5’s Sea Mechanic, right? AND YET. There was enough indication that something could potentially happen there — if Octavia is ever in any kind of a mindspace to act on it, that is. Though again, Niylah was not part of Octavia’s court in the flash forward, so we have to wonder what happened to her in those six years.
  6. I guess we still don’t know who will “break the wheel,” Daenerys Targaryen-style, on The 100. But Thelonious Jaha was the one who could have fixed it.
  7. Although there was no cannibalism in this episode, the horror story about ‘the Blight’ in the early days of the Ark (plus the explanation for why they started floating their dead, which I never imagined would be so satisfying) seems like clear foreshadowing that there might be more to the story of the bunker than what we’ve seen so far… so stay strong, kanibalkru.
  8. They still haven’t answered the question of what happened if someone got pregnant in the bunker. Think we’ll ever find out?
  9. Abby is a total Mackson shipper you guys. And like, SAME GIRL.
  10. To counter-balance (or emphasize) the darkness, “Red Queen” made use of storytelling and music in remarkable ways. The importance of art is really becoming a key theme of the season (for more in-depth discussion on this, listen to the Meta Station podcast).
  11. Having diegetic music when Skaikru are holed up inside the mess hall was a particularly inspired choice, and a beautiful scene. And, fun fact: that was episode director P.J. Pesce on the guitar!

Next week: ‘The 100’ 5×03 ‘Sleeping Giants

Now that we’ve got the bunker backstory (sort of) sorted, it’s time to check back in with Clarke and SpaceKru, both of whom have exciting and exhilarating storylines in The 100 5×03 “Sleeping Giants.”

You’re in for a fast-paced episode that’ll make your heart race. So strap in, everybody.

Make sure to check out ‘The 100’ 5×02 ‘Red Queen’?

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