The 100 season 6, episode 2 takes us into the heads of our heroes and reveals the nightmares within. Also, flashbacks!
Full disclosure: When members of the press received the first two episodes of the The 100 season 6, I watched them both in quick succession. And I have to admit that “Red Sun Rising” totally eclipsed (thank you thank you hold your applause) the premiere for me.
Don’t get me wrong, the premiere was very good. But this episode? THIS EPISODE? If the rest of The 100 season 6 is anywhere near as good as “Red Sun Rising,” it’ll be one of the best seasons of television ever.
From opening the episode with a flashback to people we’ve never met and instantly making us care about them, to letting parallel stories of self-loathing and blame-casting play out on the ground and the mothership, to watching all the storylines collide at the end, this episode flowed seamlessly from start to finish. The pacing, the tension, the surprises, the claustrophobic close-ups. It was all brilliant.
But the thing that really worked for me is that it was all driven by character. The 100 never does anything by the book — this wasn’t your average mysterious-sickness-forces-uncomfortable-confessions episode of television — but we still got incredible insight into everyone’s state of mind and repressed feelings about themselves and each other.
“Red Sun Rising” delivers on what the cast and crew have been promising about The 100 season 6: that everything our heroes experience on the new planet will be viewed through the lens of their own personal and interpersonal stories. And also, that everything they experience on the new planet is gonna be WILD.
Let’s discuss The 100 6×02 “Red Sun Rising”!
What happens when the demon is you?
This episode is all about perception. Who we are vs. how others see us; what versions of ourselves we cast in our own stories.
Nowhere does that theme come across as strongly as with Octavia on the Eligius ship: Octavia is a character who has always been defined by other people’s labels, vulnerable to being boxed in by others’ perceptions of her because she was never given space to develop an independent identity.
(Case in point: when she tried to escape the delinquents and her ‘Girl under the floor’ label by joining the Grounders in season 2, it was only to be redefined as the ‘Sky Girl’ by the people she thought would offer her independence.)
Octavia is not innocent of course, and it would do a disservice to the complexity of the character to try to brush over her many sins. But on a show like The 100 where almost everyone is in some way guilty, blame and responsibility are flexible concepts. History is, as they say, defined by those who live to tell it.
Right now, Abby and Octavia are locked in a revisionist battle: Abby believes that Octavia is a monster. She also believes that she herself is a monster, but the big difference, to her, is that she can now claim the high ground by virtue of regretting her actions and choices.
Octavia also believes that they are both monsters, but she also firmly believes that she was forced to transform into this monster by other people and circumstances outside her control. (You might say it was her only choice.)
If they had reached the promised land, Octavia knows that Blodreina would have been remembered as a hero that was willing to do whatever it took to save her people. And maybe she’s right. But without that end to justify her means, Octavia is desperately holding onto the idea that it was not her fault that she couldn’t finish her hero’s journey and instead got stuck in the innermost cave.
If she begins to regret her actions, that illusion will be shattered.
When Abby stands by and lets Wonkru almost kill Octavia (much like Octavia stood by and let Kane choke last week), I wonder if she might be driven by a similar temptation to twist reality to make her own trauma and guilt easier to deal with: to let Octavia be the singular evil thing that drove them all to extreme action.
After all, if Octavia was martyred for everyone’s sins, Abby and everyone else who suffered and brought suffering onto others in the name of Wonkru and Blodreina could transfer this huge, impossible weight of guilt and responsibility onto one disposable person and rid themselves of it forever. It’s the same logic that drove imaginary Abby to tell Clarke to cut herself out of her loved ones’ lives, like a sickness in an otherwise healthy body.
Of course, this is not an actual solution. (And if it was, it would still be horrible.) And the real Abby, even if it might be tempting to stand back and let reality warp around her, would never actually follow through on it.
But she does waver. It’s only human. No character is above humanity. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about this episode: how it allows its characters to be several conflicting things at once, and reveal their ugly impulses even if they don’t act on it. (“It is our choices, Harry…”)
Abby has good and bad sides like everyone else. What makes her admirable is that her good side usually wins. Even here: a lesser person would let the mob bring Octavia down and wash their hands of it, but Abby is the one who steps in and acts like the adult she is.
Although I might argue that Abby wasn’t torn between saving Octavia or letting her die, but rather, she was torn between giving Octavia the brutal death Octavia wanted and letting her continue to live with her almost unbearable pain. Perhaps in the moment, it wasn’t totally clear what the more merciful option would be.
’Everything would have made sense. Now nothing does.’
Octavia doesn’t need the eclipse psychosis to lose her mind.
Octavia seeks punishment from everyone around her so she doesn’t have to face her inner demons. It’s much easier for her to deal with physical pain, which you can touch and feel and which distracts from the nightmare inside her head.
Going all the way from her childhood, her mother being executed, losing Lincoln and everything in between, Octavia’s soul is frayed to the point of only her physical strength keeps her upright. Pain is probably the only thing that makes her feel alive, and gives her a tangible, manageable emotion to hold on to.
Just watch what happens the moment Abby expresses any form of sympathy towards her. Octavia doesn’t want sympathy. She doesn’t want humanity. She constantly seeks to escape the roar of her own mind through action and violence. She wants the hero’s death; she would rather die clinging onto her belief that she was right rather than live with the growing, nagging feeling that maybe she wasn’t.
Abby is right: the absolute worst form of punishment for her is letting her live with what she’s done. But, as Abby also knows from bitter experence, it is only by letting herself acknowledge and feel it that she can have any chance of healing.
By the end of the episode, Octavia has invited herself aboard the second dropship to the ground — she’s ~back bitches~ — and hopefully escaped her string of steel prisons for good. As I said in my season 6 preview article, it’s hard to imagine Clarke and Octavia ever finding (or wanting to find) a place as equals among their former peers, and I think if there is any hope for Octavia to find peace, self-acceptance and, most importantly, a reckoning with her own guilt, it can’t come from people who knew her as Blodreina.
This girl, who has always fought so hard to defy labels, has always been trapped by them. Maybe this planet will offer her a chance to become someone who isn’t defined, and doesn’t define herself, by a title.
Between the girl under the floor, Sky Girl, Osleya, Skairipa and Blodreina — and now, savior or monster, with nothing in between — the only thing Octavia Blake has never had a chance to be is Octavia Blake, and at this point, I think she’s terrified of finding out who that is. But I’d like to see her try.
♫ Spider-Madi, Spider-Madi, does whatever a Spider-Madi can ♫
If Octavia was the girl under the floor, does that make Madi the girl in the ceiling?!
What made Madi’s hero moment so effective, and I mean this in the best possible way, is that I had totally forgotten she was there! With all the excitement about Raven and Diyoza teaming up, I didn’t have time to consider that they might have woken up other people.
Her surprise rescue definitely made for the season’s most iconic entrance! I love her.
I also love how they appear to be setting up Madi’s arc this season. Making her the Commander at the end of season 5 added a whole new dimension to her character, but it never meant that she was omnipotent or the natural leader of the Earth survivors. And the writing in this episode is very nuanced in its depiction of the limited extent of her power/authority.
Does Madi having the Flame in her head give her an advantage? Of course. But it’s all relative; she only has as much power as other people give her. As they say on Game of Thrones, “Power is a trick, a shadow on the wall. It resides where (wo)men believe it resides.” That’s true for the Commander as much as it was for Blodreina, and the Chancellor, and anyone else.
Right now, Madi is one leader in a group of five natural (all female, but who’s counting?) leaders. Abby, Raven, Octavia, Diyoza and Madi ALL hold or have held some kind of power; they all have natural authority, and none of them are ready to blindly conform to anyone else’s rules.
For every person on Eligius who believes in the authority of the child queen, there are maybe three who don’t. What does that mean for Madi? Having the Flame in her head might prompt a story for her that is about a lot more than Grounder leadership traditions, and I’m super excited to see what it is.
By the way, Raven and Diyoza teaming up was so awesome. I LOVE them. And I love the possibilities this opens up for Raven, because it would be so easy to break her again, after the loss of Shaw. But we’ve seen that before. Twice. Giving her new human connections like Diyoza and Madi and giving her purpose makes her journey more interesting.
Total eclipse of the…
On the ground, our heroes are dealing with altered perception in a much more concrete way, the psychosis bringing their most intense destructive, hateful emotions to the surface.
Although their symptoms are all different, the common denominator is a repressed impulse to go after the person they, in their heart of hearts, hold responsible for causing the most damage to themselves and the people they love.
Clarke, Echo and Miller turn their anger inwards: they are the ones who hate and blame themselves the most, and so their repressed self-hate and regret is what comes to the surface.
Meanwhile Emori, Bellamy and Jackson act on the emotions they are trying to repress: the anger and betrayal they feel towards the people they love most.
We got some foreshadowing for how the psychosis would affect Jackson and Miller in last week’s episode, when Miller was sick with guilt and Jackson tried to tell him that they were both guilty.
Miller countered, “I did things. You didn’t stop things. There’s a difference.” And not only does the psychosis manifest Miller’s self-loathing (and guilt about Obika), it also forces Jackson to reveal that, however much he wishes it was otherwise, some part of him agrees with Miller. His innermost anger isn’t directed at himself, because he doesn’t blame himself the way Miller does.
Similarly, the psychosis turns Emori against Murphy because, despite how she has clearly tried very hard to sweep their fraught history under the rug and focus on the love she has for him, she still feels all of that anger and abandonment he put her through on the ring. She attacks Murphy and calls him a danger to her and others because those are the feelings that dance at the edge of her consciousness and which she has probably spent a lot of energy trying to repress.
Finally there is Bellamy, who has been conspicuously accepting and understanding of Clarke for leaving him to die in Polis, even while almost everyone else continue to judge her for it. A few words from Madi, and all was forgiven? Of course we know there is very little Bellamy couldn’t forgive Clarke for, but it would be disingenuous if he could brush off everything that went down between them last season that easily.
To be clear, I don’t think his forgiveness of Clarke wasn’t genuine, or that he doesn’t understand why she did what she did (last episode, they made a point to show that Bellamy compares what she did for Madi to what he’s done for Octavia).
But that doesn’t erase the hurt or betrayal he felt and still feels. Emotions are complicated. Bellamy can choose to express only one part of his internal life, but that doesn’t erase the nuance of his feelings about what Clarke did, as this episode affirms.
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I don’t need you anymore,” Bellamy tells her, betraying another aspect of his conflicting emotions about Clarke: that he is still, after all this time, hurt that she left him behind to lead their people alone.
And it might even go beyond her leaving him in season 3. Deep, deep down, Bellamy might blame her for ‘dying’ on him in “Praimfaya,” too, because — even if he’d be ashamed of admitting that he ever felt that way — in a way, that wasn’t just Bellamy leaving her behind. It was her leaving him alone, too.
In the season 4 finale, Bellamy was so sure that he’d have Clarke to be the head to his heart. He was so adamant that nothing would happen to her. And yet it did, and on the Ring, he had to become someone who didn’t need Clarke, who had to be both ‘head and heart’ in her absence.
When Raven asked him, “You think we can do this without her?” she was asking Bellamy to do something he never thought he’d have to, and something he never thought he’d be able to. But he knew he had to, or her sacrifice would have been in vain, and so he did it. Imagine the pain that comes with that.
It’s easy to be mad at dead people for leaving you, even though you know they didn’t do it on purpose. But what happens when they come back? What do you do with all those emotions?
Because after all that grief, after moving on, and having to learn to lead his people alone, Bellamy now has to deal with the fact that Clarke wasn’t even dead. Not only was he suddenly confronted with the reality that he didn’t leave her to die, but to survive alone; he has to accept that she lived a whole life and got a new family that didn’t include him, just as he got one that didn’t include her.
We know this hurt Clarke, but it must have hurt Bellamy just as much, and make him feel just as conflicted, especially considering the effort he is making now to forgive her for choosing Madi over him (while most of his new family continue to punish her for it).
What must also hurt is that, from the very beginning, Bellamy has tried so hard to create a family from a group of people that, at various points, have tried to kill each other.
Whether it’s Echo, Clarke or Murphy (even though maybe it’s time we consider that Murphy has fully committed to feeding the good wolf?), Bellamy always carries a lingering fear that the call could be coming from inside the house; that at any point, he might have to choose which members of his family to protect from the rest.
There is so much to how all of the characters react and who they target their anger at, and so little explanation given in the episode itself. I really hope that we get some kind of fallout from this episode, particularly with regard to Bellamy and Emori. I’d love for the psychosis to force them to verbalize some of the repressed feelings they were expressing through violence.
The problem and the solution
Clarke, Echo and Miller turn the blame inward because, as much as they might try to repress or ignore it, deep down they believe that they are their own biggest demon. You can change and grow and repent and justify your impossible choices as much as you want, but you can’t lie to your own heart.
Clarke’s heart is full of self-loathing. She might say she didn’t have a choice, but she also bears the weight of all her choices ‘so others don’t have to.’ We know this. We knew it in season 2 when she told her mother, “I’m trying all the time,” and we know it in this episode when she sits back and lets Murphy throw every accusation for all the bad things that have ever happened in her face (why does this like a reprise of Jasper’s speech to her in “Demons”?).
Interestingly, we are often confronted with Clarke’s guilt and self-perception through her interactions with Murphy, which makes it all the more poignant that the big Hunger Games showdown on the ground narrows down to Clarke, Murphy and Bellamy — the three people out of that group with the most polarizing, contentious and affectionate history — for the final showdown.
Murphy and Clarke have so much in common, and the line between them is, again, based on perception. How other people see them and how they see themselves; the positions they occupy and the way they frame their own actions. In interviews, we’ve been told we’ll get much more Clarke/Murphy content this season, and I’m super stoked to see what kind of journey they go on together (and how it might force them to confront each other and different parts of themselves).
A lot of Clarke’s identity crises also come to light whenever she has a rare moment alone with her mother. Abby and Clarke spend a lot of their shared screen time talking about forgiveness and whether or not there are ‘good guys,’ with Abby usually finding a way to twist the definition to make Clarke feel a little bit better about her actions.
So it makes sense that Clarke’s breakdown comes through imagining that even Abby, the one person who will always try to frame Clarke as the best guy she can possibly be, has come to see her as a villain.
Clarke’s worst fear is that she is the problem she has worked so hard and sacrificed so much to fix. That there are good guys, but that she isn’t one.
“If you’re gone, [Madi] can’t die trying to save you,” fake Abby needles. And, with the looming certainty that she can still save one person she loves from the poison of herself, suddenly a terrifying option presents itself: to take herself out of the equation.
Clarke and Octavia’s journeys thus continue their eerily parallel trajectory, but whereas Octavia wants to escape her own guilt, Clarke wants to save other people from herself.
Thankfully, Clarke manages to snap herself out of it (much like Echo does), with Murphy’s help. Murphy might blame Clarke for a lot of things, but he doesn’t actually hate her. He certainly doesn’t want her to die. Again, super hyped for the Clarke and Murphy show.
Ghosts of the past
The Echo who surfaces in this episode is the same Echo who almost put a knife through her own stomach in the season 4 finale. And I have to say, I’ve missed that Echo. As interesting as it was to see how much the years on the Ring changed her, I definitely felt short-changed on her development last season — not because I didn’t buy that she’d changed, but because we’ve always had to infer the how and why of her character as opposed to being shown and told on screen.
Echo has always been an interesting character with a lot of depth just waiting to be explored. Through her, we could have great conversations about loyalty, ‘us vs them’ bias and the merits of unconditional forgiveness. But we’ve never really been able to have those conversations, because the show has never devoted much time to explaining why she is the way she is (or even exactly who she is).
Echo emerged on our screens fully-formed in season 2, and we haven’t really learned anything concrete about her since. Season 4 certainly devoted more time to showing her internal conflict about who she was versus who she wanted to be than it usually gets credit for, but it wasn’t nearly enough. (And, in the audience’s defense, we were also very distracted by the Riley of it all.)
So when the Echo-slate was wiped clean again in season 5, we had to just roll with a brand version of the character who was suddenly ride-or-die SpaceKru the way she’d been ride-or-die Azgeda. And that’s great. But I’m always more interested in the why than the what. Why did this ragtag family unit win her support? How much of her loyalty to Bellamy is because she loves him? What, exactly, did she do to earn everyone’s trust and respect on the Ring?
It seems The 100 season 6 will finally give us some of the insight we’ve been waiting for, and which will tell us who Echo is as opposed to what she is (or tries to be) to other people. And, in lieu of Ring flashbacks, hopefully learning who she used to be and why she became the version of herself we met in season 2 will also give us some insight into her off-screen development.
One of the most interesting aspects of her character to me, which was hinted at a bit last season, is the idea that Echo hasn’t changed as much as she has simply changed sides, and that she’s now doing everything she was willing to do for Azgeda for ‘our’ people, making her actions more palatable to us. Again, it’s all about perspective, right?
So I was thrilled in this episode when Emori began to pull on the thread that, by joining SpaceKru and following Bellamy’s orders, Echo has essentially traded one ‘master’ for another. First it was Nia, then Roan, and now Bellamy. And this time, she is also in a romantic relationship with the person whose orders she follows. There are issues lurking just under the surface here, and man, I hope The 100 has the balls to explore them.
But for everything else that she is, Echo is also strong, and she knows her own limits. It was massively impressive that she found the strength to knock herself out as she realized what effect the psychosis had on her. I’m stoked to get more into her head this season and understand what’s made her who she is (and if she truly struggles with the idea of herself as an obedient soldier, and how she might seek to break herself free of that).
And then there’s Murphy. Murphy, the sole voice of reason in the midst of chaos. This really is a whole new world.
There seem to be two possible reasons why Murphy seemed unaffected by the psychosis. One is that he has some kind of genetic disposition — an ‘anomaly’, the word that appears by Richard Harmon’s name in the credits — that makes him immune.
And then there is the more interesting option: that Murphy doesn’t feel the effect of the psychosis because he is already infected with an almost irrepressible urge to act on his worst impulses and destroy himself and those he loves.
Surely, the psychosis would have no effect on someone who already feels this way all the time, and who is used to coping with his own violent, destructive (and self-destructive) tendencies.
In fact, if the psychosis had any effect on him, it was probably to make him break into song. Perhaps the Murphy Show last week was a sign of the psychosis taking effect: while Emori was getting irritated, Murphy felt an unusual freedom to run with his emotions — which in this case was unfiltered joy — and only once everyone else started to get infected did he become conscious of his own heightened senses, after which he quickly reined himself in.
He’s used to keeping himself on a short leash, and it seemed he found a way to fuel the psychosis effect into (violently) protecting Clarke and Bellamy from each other.
This episode saw everyone else going ‘full Murphy,’ really, which should tell us something about just how hard it is for Murphy to function on a day-to-day basis (and how hard he works to keep himself in check).
The episode opens with a rare and therefore extremely exciting flashback sequence. One thing is to open a season with just one main character (Murphy in season 3, Clarke in season 5), but it’s pretty bold to spend 10 minutes with a bunch of characters we’ve never met and have no relation to.
(Do we think it was ever discussed to open the season with this sequence? I’m glad they didn’t, but also, that would have been quite the power move.)
We meet Josephine, aka. Alpha Clarke, aka. there’s no way their uncanny resemblance is a coincidence, right? Especially with Robin Hood looking so much like Jake…?
The Nightblood Lightbournes are hopefully not distant cousins of the Griffins though, because a) I’m sorry, but Lightbourne is a very silly YA fantasy name, and b) it would be such a damn cliché.
Anyway, a bunch of interesting things are revealed in this sequence while Josephine’s father goes mad with eclipse sickness and apparently kills everyone in the camp.
First of all, there’s background chatter of embryos. Clearly, the goal of this mission was human colonization, and most likely, the embryos are just that — future baby humans to kickstart a new branch of humanity.
Ooooorrrrr could it be clones, as we’ve been speculating?
There’s definitely something about the children we see at the end of the episode, too. A reason, maybe, why Rose looks an awful lot like Josephine.
Perhaps people on Alpha can’t have children, and every generation is a new batch of the same people. That would be SO INTERESTING. And, certainly, we know there is more than one Josephine.
However, I’m putting a pin in the physical clone theory for now, seeing as ‘Josephine IV’ is played by a different actress. The most likely explanation is that those original Lightbourne names are just passed down to future generations, like how Earth humans keep naming their babies after saints and royalty.
Oooooorrrrrr… You know how the woman they took prisoner on Eligius was talking about her family’s bodies, how they’re “not safe” on the dropship, and Diyoza was all like “you know they’re already dead right?” Yet it seemed super important to the woman that something specific be done with these bodies?
What if the people of Sanctum, or at least the original Lightbourne family, had some form of Flames in their heads that transfer their consciousnesses into new bodies?! What if the four people that went aboard the ship, two men and two women, were Josephine, Gabriel, Russell and Russell’s wife?
That would explain the repeated names, it would let those characters we met in the flashback interact with our heroes, AND it would tie the Grounder and Sanctum mythologies together.
Of course Becca only developed ALIE 2.0 after the world ended, so it wouldn’t be the exact same thing. But wouldn’t it be cool* if Josephine and Russell were still ‘living’ in new bodies after all this time?!
I guess we’ll just have to see what direction the story goes, but there are definitely exciting possibilities!
(*It would be cool, but I have to say, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Sara Thompson and Sean Maguire in these roles, they were BRILLIANT!)
Another question raised is whether Josephine actually died in that flashback. Unless she does have a clone or a way to transfer her consciousness, I can’t imagine they’d spend so much time setting up her personality if we don’t see her again and/or if she didn’t have a hand in shaping the new society (beyond her godlike status as a worshiped Prime).
A Josephine Ada Lightbourne did author the children’s book about the eclipse sickness, but as there are more Josephines around (who may or may not be reincarnations of the original), that doesn’t definitively prove anything.
Her Shawn Mendes-looking boyfriend Gabriel definitely survived though, but where did he go? Seeing as next week’s episode is called “Children of Gabriel,” will we see his descendants — and are they Russell’s people or did they escape into the forest and form another faction?
For your consideration
- In the book Lightbourne Sr. studies in the beginning of the episode, there is a reproduction of the mandala-field-formation around the castle. Does that mean it was there when they arrived, or are they preparing to construct it (and for what purpose)?
- ’Lightbourne’ cannot possibly be this family’s real last name. It’s too fake-sounding and WAY too convenient. Born of light? RE-born of light? Surely it has to be a cult name. Like, they are Level 13 Second Dawn cult members FOR SURE, right?
- This planet isn’t all bad. There is a berry that tastes like cotton candy!
- You know what? Sure, Josephine looks like Clarke, but she also looks (and talks!) an awful lot like Becca.
- Did the massacre happen in the place now called the ‘Offering Grove’?
- This is NOT A COMPLAINT, but Murphy’s plot armor is even more hilariously unrealistic than Octavia’s now. That boy has been shot and stabbed and drowned within the span of three episodes. One of these days he is going to die from an infected papercut, and none of us will see it coming.
- The invaders on the ship see Octavia’s red blood, and of course it might just be surprising to them because they’re all Nightbloods, but maybe they have some use of the red blood. For a ‘peaceful people,’ those four definitely came with the intention of taking the ship by force.
- Even as broken as she is, Octavia is still clinging onto the one purpose she feels she has left: saving her brother.
- When Diyoza said “unless you can shrink yourself down to the size of a small child” I have to admit did not think about Madi. I was like “how are they gonna get the baby up there”?? lmao.
- Octavia calling Monty a coward? Wow, uncalled for.
- Clarke calling back to Bellamy saying “People die when you’re in charge” in season 3 was really refreshing. Not only because it’s different from the show’s usual go-to callbacks, but also because it shows that both Clarke and Bellamy remember their own history.
- I’m so glad Madi woke up Gaia!!
- I’m also glad Jordan is on the ground now, because he’s such an exciting character, and I’d like them to do something more with him than serving people algae.
- …Like, kid’s never breathed real air before and we didn’t get ONE reaction shot? Come on.
- Since we might not see the Eligius IV ship for a while, I just want to say a) this better not mean we won’t see Indra this season, and b) I really liked the lighting and color scheme up there.
- First the musical episode, now Bellamy, Clarke and Murphy sleeping together. This season is SERVING UP, am I right?
- But ohhh, Bellamy’s face when he realised what he almost did to Clarke. Heartbreaking.
- In Echo’s psychosis episode, someone keeps saying “bring me her head.” DO WE THINK ECHO KILLED COSTIA???
- Uh-oh, what are those dark veins on Murphy’s body?
- What does the girl Rose mean when she says “Are you here to take us home?” Does she mean the giant planet the moon orbits? Earth? Some other place? Aaaahhhh the joy of not knowing a thing.
What did you think about “Red Sun Rising?” Are you team clones or team Flame consciousnesses?? Tell us in the comments!
‘The 100’ season 6 continues Tuesday at 9/8c on The CW
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