2:50 am EDT, July 19, 2018

‘The 100’ 5×10 ‘The Warriors Will’ review: Through the fire and Flame

The 100 5×10, “The Warriors Will,” was a huge episode for Octavia, Clarke and Abby, all of whom were faced with massive moral quandaries and all of whom… kind of failed upwards?

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”

– Robert Frost

The Flame. Burning Becca. A face, covered in deep red blood. Setting fire to the crops. The visceral imagery of fire in this episode is sharply contrasted to the cold and blue of the shattered mirror in which Octavia’s equally shattered self is reflected.

The 100 5×10 was written by Shawna Benson and Julie Benson, an incredible writing pair who are unfortunately departing the series after this season. But what an episode to end on!

The episode was directed by Henry Ian Cusick, who of course plays Kane. This is his second directing credit for The 100, with the devastating “The Other Side” (also written by the Bensons) being his first.

While Jasper and Monty’s final scene together will probably always stand out as my favorite visual of the entire series, “The Warriors Will” proves definitively that Cusick not only is a competent director but has an incredible eye for evocative, visceral imagery that brings these characters and the story to life and conveys so much more than the words they speak.

Octavia, in particular, relies on these slow, lingering visuals to bring out her inner turmoil, so much of which we are still in the dark about. The mirror scene, obviously, is incredibly effective.

But the one in which she is framed by dead branches with the one flower pulling focus is perhaps even more so: not only is that flower such a stark callback to the pilot, in which Finn (!) put a flower in her hair, but it is also the only tiny life sign in a barren world – perfectly reflecting Octavia herself. She kills that flower, but a hundred more bloom in its place. Nothing is ever truly dead. Not even her.

In Eden, too, the fisheye-y point of view-shots of Abby and Vinson also do so much to make us feel the world as they do, the fuzzy edges and the distortion of reality that serving to help us understand what a strong hold their addictions have on them.

“The Warriors Will” is one of The 100’s strongest and most visually interesting episodes to date, and I’m truly glad that the series is giving Cusick a vehicle through which to explore this field. Hopefully it is far from the last thing he directs.

Let’s discuss The 100 5×10 “The Warriors Will!”

I guess that’s why they call it the ‘Flame’

In only a few seconds, we learned more about Becca and Cadogan and the origin of ‘The Flame’ than we ever have before. Specifically, how it (probably) got its name, being literally burned out of poor Becca Pramheda by Bill Cadogan and his followers.

Madi’s flashback, a memory granted to her by the Commanders (probably the first of many, though whether we will get more visual backstory that way remains to be seen), forces her to viscerally live what appear to be the last moments of Becca’s life: when she is burned at the stake like a witch by the technology-fearing Cadogan and his Second Dawn cult.

While we always knew there was more to the story of Becca and Cadogan in the bunker, after she landed on Earth bearing the Nightblood vials in the “Thirteen” flashbacks, I’m not sure anyone really could have predicted this.

Since Madi sees Becca’s death, from Becca’s perspective, we have to assume the Flame was in her head at this time – and that it survived the burning, even if Becca didn’t.

What happened afterwards? Did Cadogan take possession of the Flame? He might have wanted whatever powers it possessed – but it seems unlikely; being a piece of advanced technology, it seems more likely that he was trying to destroy it. Did the cult of the Commander spring up under his nose by a subsection of Second Dawn followers? Who actually did end up getting the Nightblood injections – random bunker inhabitants, or those who chose to follow Becca?

And why did Cadogan feel so threatened by Becca that he had her burned at the stake (the original ‘you are Wonkru or the enemy of Wonkru’ fear tactic)? Was it simply that she urged his people to use technology, while he was trying to eliminate it? Was she threatening his rulership? Did he find out that her tech ended the world?

Still, as many questions as we still have, these few seconds of content really effectively (and viscerally) conveyed so much new information about the Grounders’ origin, and the origin of the Commanders. Clearly, the people who believed in the Flame won control, eventually, but Cadogan’s hatred of technology also endured in them, turning the Commander ‘tech’ into something mystical and religious.

I hope this isn’t the final piece of the puzzle – but even if it is, I am thrilled that we got this little flashback in there. And I am even more thrilled that this scene, and Erica Cerra’s reappearance, was a complete secret! It’s always nice when fandom is genuinely surprised by something.

‘Cast it into the fire!’

For most of this episode, Clarke is desperate to get the Flame out of Madi’s head. She’ll force it if she had to; she’s seen firsthand how it shapes a person’s life and destiny, and how it paints a target on the back of whomever carries it.

Clarke’s desperation and fear isn’t only because of how much she loves Madi. Clearly, the trauma of losing Lexa is still very raw (as the trauma of losing Lincoln is raw for Octavia), even after all her time in Eden. She will not let another person she loves die as a result of being Commander.

Which probably also explains her sharp turnaround at the end of the episode, where Madi informs Clarke that the only way to stop her from having the Flame in her head is to throw it into Mount Doom destroy it. That is the one price Clarke cannot pay (yet), because destroying the Flame would kill Lexa all over again.

So she backs off; she lets Madi endure the painful nightmares; she grudgingly lets Madi have a ‘choice’ about whether or not to stay chipped only because destroying the Flame is another unacceptable loss to herself.

Does she actually choose the fragment of Lexa over Madi here? Is her acceptance of Madi having the Flame in her head in any way an acceptance that Madi has autonomy over her own body, or is it as selfishly motivated as most of Clarke’s other actions this season? I’m not sure.

All I know is that Clarke is not thinking rationally about anything. She is acting purely on (contradictory) instinct, closing the figurative bunker door in the face of anyone who isn’t Madi.

I don’t know if I totally buy that being a ‘mama bear’ equals being so irrational and unthinking. But I also don’t think that her ‘being a mom now’ is what is actually motivating her to behave this way.

I think it is very obvious, especially from the way Clarke reacted to the possibility of destroying the Flame (and her panic when she saw Abby unconscious), that Clarke is still just as emotionally scarred by the horrific losses she’s endured as she was before the time jump.

Much like Octavia, Clarke has not healed from the horrific traumas she endured pre-time jump. She might have thrived during those six years in Eden, but being plunged back into the fight takes all of that away (much like it initially did for Monty).

Clarke has lost almost every single person she’s ever loved, and the fact that she has now thrown all of her love (and healing) into one single person only made her ‘better’ while that one person was safe. Clarke cannot survive Madi being hurt, just like Octavia – in her own way – was desperately fighting for Bellamy’s life because she knows that is the one death she won’t survive.

And much like Octavia, Clarke is barreling towards a cliff where she’ll either have to stop short or plunge over. Because The 100 doesn’t deal in linear character arcs, I really don’t know if they’re planning to loop Clarke’s story back around to leadership and relative rationality, but I hope so!

Meanwhile, Madi is evolving (!), her already pure heart now fused with a brain that contains dozens of lifetimes’ worth of leadership experience. She might look like a child, but her ‘old soul’ understands so much more about this current crisis than Clarke possibly could (or at least is willing to).

I understand the desperation Clarke feels, not just to keep Madi safe but to keep her a child. In so many ways, she is a parent who is seeing her child struggle with a burden she should never have had to bear, growing up too fast and losing her right to choose her own path in life.

And she’s right. We may never know if Madi would ever have chosen to take the Flame if Clarke’s life hadn’t been at stake, and we don’t know if it is indeed Madi who now doesn’t want the Flame removed, or if it is the Flame coercing her to feel this way (much like Abby’s pills, and Octavia’s Blodreina, Madi now feels like she needs the Flame).

It all depends on whether you see the Flame as an enhancer or as a parasite (or a combination of both). We’ve heard it said that it doesn’t change who you are, rather enhances what is already there, and makes you a better leader. And that may well be true, from one point of view.

But it is still an invasive element, and it is changing who Madi is. It is clear from this episode that the Flame certainly has an agenda: it is showing Madi what it determines she needs to see, and in doing so, is shaping her into the leader it wants her to be. She feels like she has a people now, and she kills the enemies of that people. It’s even changing her voice! Of course Clarke wants it out of her.

I’m not sure we can make any concrete judgements about what the Flame does and does not do to a person’s mind, and whether or not Madi ‘should’ have it. But we can certainly empathise with Clarke’s panic and sense of helplessness over what is happening to her child, at the same time as acknowledge that Madi herself should have a say in what is happening to her own body.

’You can’t save someone who is already dead’

It is clear now that Octavia is still living in the Dark Year. Whatever she did there ‘killed’ the person she used to be, and she will now do anything to justify the choices she made then.

“I am what is best for my people,” she tells Indra, and you know she believes it. She has to believe it. Which is also why she believes that she has to stay in charge, at whatever cost.

Indra understands this, even if she no longer agrees with it. But Indra is also done coddling Octavia, even if it means her own end. Octavia goes to her former mentor, desperate for another way out than the one she knows will work – put her family in the arena to scare her people into following her to war – but Indra isn’t going to make it that easy.

She knows, as well as Octavia knows, there is only one path to the place she feels she needs to go. The only ‘choice’ Octavia has is to change directions, and Indra already knows that they’re beyond such a concept.

Indra sharply distinguishes between Octavia and Blodreina here, saying that it was Octavia she trained to be her second, but Blodreina that she betrayed. Of course this isn’t actually a Jekyll/Hyde situation, but it is definitely true that what Octavia did as Blodreina shaped an identity very different from her own, which she is now clinging on to.

Blodreina is the most extreme example of “who we are versus who we have to be to survive” that the show has ever given us. Blodreina is the persona she needed at the time and which she is now unwilling to let go of, because it keeps her from feeling all that guilt and pain and heartbreak she is so desperately suppressing. The Flame might not be, but Blodreina certainly is a parasite, and Octavia is willingly letting it suck the life out of her.

The old story about the two wolves inside of you, and your choice about which one you feed, really comes to mind here. Octavia stopped feeding her good wolf years ago, and though it is not in fact completely dead, it is nowhere near strong enough to fight back.

All things considered, it’s worth noting that Octavia was not actually going to put Indra, Bellamy and Gaia in the ring. After ignoring their transgressions for so long, she had to actually arrest them for open treason, but there were no plans to execute them until new!Cooper suggested it. But once her choice was between that and surrendering, it felt like no choice at all.

Because the thing that ultimately drives Blodreina is that she has to win that valley for her people. If she doesn’t, it was all for nothing, and that is unacceptable. As I said last week, ‘The end justifies the means’ only applies if that end is achieved.

This is the debt that she still feels she owes her people, and the reward she still feels she deserves, for whatever happened in the Dark Year. Getting to Eden will make everything okay, somehow (funnily enough, Bellamy thought the exact same thing about poisoning Octavia).

And as much as I loathe to agree with Octavia in any way, I do think she has a valid point (however terribly she expresses it) that it’s not fair to just give up on the valley and survive on Monty’s algae farm.

Why should Diyoza just be allowed to keep the valley for herself? Why should she get to set the terms for whether or not Wonkru can also live there? And why should Octavia surrender in order for her people to be ‘allowed’ to share it? The land doesn’t belong to Eligius. It doesn’t belong to Wonkru either, but that doesn’t give Diyoza the right to claim it.

But of course none of this justifies anything Octavia does this week. Not putting her family in the fighting pit; not burning the farm; not even refusing to surrender when the alternative means dooming some of her own people to death.

I really, really thought that Octavia would break when Gaia threw that spear at her, and Bellamy saved her. I really thought that would be the moment. But of course it wasn’t, because this is The 100, and they knew that we would all be expecting it.

Instead of snapping out of it, instead of reaching her limit, she barreled right past the point of no return for one reason: she already feels like she passed that point a long time ago. The only reason we don’t feel that is because we, like Bellamy, didn’t see her pass it (yet).

“You turned this place into a story from your childhood” – Bellamy

Killing her family, burning down any viable solution that isn’t the ending to her story she had in mind, is acceptable. It is all acceptable now, to reach ‘The End’ of this twisted fairy tale she has spun around herself in that bunker.

Like I said last week, there was a brief moment of time after Octavia created Wonkru that she might have ascended from the dark place she was already in, and poured all of her grief and love for Lincoln and her own terrible upbringing into creating a better world.

But that did not happen. Instead she sunk deeper into the dark, and she let it consume her. What we got in season 4, when Octavia became Skairippa and tried to step into the acid rain, was only a preview of what she would become as Blodreina.

And yet I still maintain (maybe stubbornly at this point) that pain and grief is better than the numbness she is trying to force onto herself. Octavia is not dead, Octavia is suffering greatly, and that suffering isn’t going to magically go away — no matter how hard she tries to numb herself to it.

Octavia is trying to suppress her emotions because she has so many of them, and they are overwhelming, and all-consuming, and she cannot escape from them and she feels like it is killing her. But she is not dead.

Maybe if Bellamy had actually died, that would have been the end of Octavia too, and she would have achieved that blissful numbness she has striven towards since Lincoln died. But she didn’t.

She also didn’t save him, but by divine (ie the writers’) intervention, he also didn’t die – none of them did – and while she then went and burned down the farm, she still saved that spark of love and life that she has tried so hard to extinguish. That matters. I don’t know how, but I know that it matters.

However, while Octavia did not reach her turning point this week, her people did. Starting this episode, she (and possibly Miller) is the only one who is still mentally trapped under the floor, with her people finally semi-revolting, following ‘Blodreina’ only insofar as she might lead them to their true leader Madi.

And Octavia probably knows this, too. Still she lets them march, and still she didn’t kill Indra, Gaia and Bellamy once Monty’s interruption happened. It doesn’t matter as long as they march on the Valley, and she’s made sure they have no other choice but to do so. But what happens if/when they get there?

’First one who touches the ground loses’

(I’m not saying I want Octavia to lose, but I do really hope this is foreshadowing, because how cool would that be??)

After appealing first to Indra, and then to Monty, Octavia finally goes to see her brother. Because Blodreina may feel like she doesn’t have a choice in forcing a traitor to fight, but Octavia still wants her brother to win. Needs him to.

As her flashbacks indicate, Bellamy is the one tie she still has to some kind of happiness, the only person alive who she not only loves, but who isn’t linked to her darkness.

At the risk of being too dramatic, Bellamy is in many ways her lifeline; her blood, as she points out herself, the same blood she later smears on her face.

She almost ends her own life before ending his, and I think the only reason she doesn’t is because of her lingering belief that she isn’t finished yet, that she started something with Wonkru that she has to see through to the ultimate victory – which is not the algae farm.

But Bellamy won’t play her games. He won’t be a character in her story. He wants Octavia to live in reality — and he still believes that she can. He still thinks she can be saved. Even in the arena, he fights to save her. She condemned him to death, and he would have died if not for Monty’s heroic act of planting flowers.

And I mean, that is definitely in the top 5 list of horrible things the Blake siblings have done to each other… and yet whenever Blodreina feels like she is finished, I have a feeling Bellamy will still be there, waiting for Octavia to let him save her. If she can.

The agricultural revolution

MONTY WILL SAVE THE WORLD.

Or, well, he ALMOST saved the world. But he still can!

Although it ultimately fell apart, I LOVE that hope is coming through Monty and Harper, the ‘Adam and Eve’ (foreshadowing?) of their own manufactured Eden, growing apple trees and actively choosing not to participate in the war du jour.

Not wanting to fight does not, however, mean not caring about their friends. I have to admit I was a little skeptical after them actively choosing to ignore the commotion a few episodes back, but Monty and Harper are in fact still willing to step into the lion’s den to save Bellamy. Not by fighting, but by bringing people hope. It is a very, very good plan. Too bad Octavia is beyond hope, and beyond reason.

Still, Monty’s interruption does a lot of good. It saves Bellamy, Indra and Gaia. It shows Wonkru that there is an alternative to Blodreina, and to the life she’s forced them into. It reminds them that such a thing as ‘choice’ exists, even if Octavia isn’t giving them one.

I also really appreciate the commitment to Monty and Octavia’s old friendship, such as it is what with the Blodreina parasite taking over control of Octavia’s brain. Under the circumstances, it is at least nice that their shared history is addressed. (I also just love Monty as this cave-dwelling Yoda figure who people come to for some sage advice.)

“I always really liked you, Monty,” she tells him – a gross understatement, considering everything they went through and everything he’s done for her – but the fact that she trusts him to help her save Bellamy, and indeed does not lump him in with the ‘traitors’ despite of all the traitorous things he is doing, maybe convey more than her words can.

While I would love to see Harper more actively participate than always just standing by Monty, it seems like a small nitpick compared to how powerful Monty’s story truly is.

In the middle of all this war and destruction is one person not only talking about wanting a better world, but actively making it a reality. I only hope that Octavia didn’t crush his spirit like she’s crushed her own, because despite her words to the contrary, the farmers can and will (and have) shaped the world.

Addicts unite

I suppose the basis for Vinson and Abby’s friendship makes a little more sense now that we’ve seen both of their addictions work in tandem.

In this episode, Abby proves that there is one thing she will not do for those pills: save McCreary. However much she does or does not believe in Diyoza, her understanding of McCreary and the darkness he’ll wring is enough to stop her from saving him, even if it costs her her own life.

But drawing a line doesn’t mean she is fixed, or that she even believes she can be fixed. Accurate or not, Abby clearly believes that she will die from withdrawal, and will still do anything but save McCreary to feed her addiction.

Feed? Get it? Anyway.

Vinson is her unlikely savior: she ‘buzzes him in’ and he agrees to help her – and she, in turn, lets him give into his own addiction. CANNIBALISM! Yay! (Yes, welcome to The 100 fandom, where we get very excited about cannibalism.)

Abby gets her fix, and she also doesn’t (yet) save McCreary so, from her perspective, it’s a win-win.

But how will all that change when Clarke and Madi are in the mix? We know they find her unconscious, and we know from the promo for next week’s episode that she tells them about the Dark Year. But what happens when McCreary comes back? What happens if the choice becomes Clarke or the pills?

I’ve previously speculated that Clarke will ultimately be the one to break Abby out of her addiction, but I’ve been wrong before (Bellamy was not in fact the one who broke Octavia out of hers), so I suppose anything could happen.

For your consideration

  • Considering that the season 5 finale is called “Damocles,” it is veerrryy interesting indeed that the story of Damocles’ sword was what Diyoza tried to convey in the speech she was writing to the world she thought she was going home to.
  • Did they do something to Madi’s voice? I feel like there’s a reverb or something on it that reminds me of what they sometimes did to Lexa’s voice, so it’s probably a Commander effect.
  • “I can see why she wouldn’t brag about it” lol. I feel like Abby Griffin’s dry humor isn’t appreciated enough.
  • Octavia painting using her own blood as war paint, when previously it was the blood of her enemies, is such a perfect visual to express that she has transformed into her own worst enemy.
  • I also loved how the final shot faded to black right on Octavia’s heart.
  • I don’t want Octavia to die. But Gaia wanting to use her final moments to kill her in order to make Madi safe (and probably make peace in the process), rather than fighting Bellamy and her mother to the death, was probably the smartest choice under the circumstances.
  • “I LOVE MONTY GREEN!” – Me, on New Caprica, shouting to the moons.

‘The 100’ 5×11 ‘The Dark Year’ airs Tuesday at 8/7c on The CW

The next episode of The 100 screened for audiences at San Diego Comic-Con this week, so beware of fandom spaces for the next week if you’re trying to stay spoiler-free!

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