The 100 5×04 “Pandora’s Box” offers hope, even as it confronts the demon of addiction.
It’s fitting that an episode driven by addiction should be called “Pandora’s Box.”
Pandora’s box, as the myth goes, was the vessel from which meanness and cruelty and ugliness were released into the world.
And while it’s not named specifically in the myth itself, there’s very little doubt in my mind that one of the cruelest bits of evil released from that vessel was the demon of addiction.
Because addiction is a demon — in every possible sense of the word. It inhabits the body and takes over every thought and action and word. It warps people into a twisted, funhouse-mirror version of themselves — a version that lies and cheats and steals, a version that can’t be trusted, a version that reveals all the ugliest parts of a person. It wrecks their body and mind, robs them of their autonomy, guts the people around them.
This is the reality of addiction.
And despite sticking Marcus and Abby in an extreme and violent situation, the emotions and realities of living with and loving someone with an addiction rang painfully true.
A world without sunlight
In our world, if you love someone who has an addiction and that person decides to work on recovery, then you do what you can to support them. You help them check into a detox center or a rehab. You visit them often if you’re allowed, write them letters daily if you aren’t.
You drive them to meetings, you beam with pride when they get their 24 hour chip, their 1 month, their 1 year. You don’t order that glass of wine when you’re out to dinner with them; in fact, you stop keeping wine in your house at all.
And if that person relapses — and they might, because addiction is a demon — then you hold them when they come back to themselves. You wrap your arms around them as they yell and cry, as they apologize over and over again. You shush them when they say they hate themselves and you deserve better, you tell them again and again and again that you love them.
And you do. You love them, deeply and honestly and desperately — even as you hate their addiction.
You remind them that you’re not going anywhere and you’ll be there every step of the way as they work on themselves and work against their addiction.
But the world of The 100 is not our world. And life in the bunker is the worst possible permutation of that world. So there are no rehabs to check into, no meetings to attend. And for Abby, there is no feasible good end to her very real, very present pain.
So if you’re Marcus, what do you do? In absence of detoxes that don’t exist and support groups that aren’t there, you do what you can in that oppressive, concrete gloom: You enter a ring armed with a sword and your fists, and you pretend the person on the other side of them is that demon of addiction that’s taken hold of the person you love.
A promise with shaky conviction
Of course, there’s agony in Marcus’ voice and in his face as he kills the others in the ring. Because even as he wins his freedom, he knows that none of these deaths have freed either him or Abby from the consequences of addiction.
And of course, no one in our world has had to fight to the death in order to cover for their loved ones addiction.
But this is what The 100 has always done — stuck people in the most extreme versions of real-life situations and forced us to reconcile our own choices and experiences in them.
Because maybe no one in our world has ever fought to the death to cover up for an addicted loved one, but they’ve done other things to cover up for them.
They’ve lied about why their loved one couldn’t come to a special event, or why they exhibited such poor behavior even if they did. They’ve said that they were sick or a busy or working when they knew none of those things were true; bailed them out of bad situations, bad relationships — maybe even bailed them out of jail.
And at the end of all this, what Marcus realizes — what anyone who has ever loved an addict realizes — is that he cannot fight Abby’s addiction for her. That it is not within his power to grab hold of that demon of addiction and slay it himself.
He cannot live her life for her.
But he can reclaim his own life, he can take hold of what is right for him. He can die in order to birth something greater than himself.
And in doing so, he can turn the responsibility back onto Abby, turn this sacrifice into a catalyst for change and transformation.
It’s a more extreme version of one of the principles of Al-Anon, which is a support group for those with alcoholic loved ones. There it’s considered ‘detaching with love’ rather than ‘dying in an act of civil disobedience,’ but the idea is the same — choosing, rather than reacting; allowing the addict to be responsible for themselves, rather than shielding them from the consequences of their actions.
Of course, it’s not an exact, easy solution. Nothing about confronting addiction can be. In our own world, detaching with love is a slow-moving process, one that is reaffirmed every single day.
In the world of The 100, it’s a final severance of ties.
There is a goodbye, a hug, a shaky I love you.
And there is Marcus, desperately asking Abby to promise that she stop taking the pills.
A promise met with a pause, then an affirmation.
But in that pause you can see it — the addiction pushing up against her own will, the anguish in her eyes because she wants so badly for her promise to be true.
This, more than anything, is the nature of addiction, the demon of addiction: Abby hating herself for feeling like she might have lied, Marcus hating himself for not knowing if he can believe her.
Hope and the possibility of recovery
To end the story there would not be unrealistic.
It would, unfortunately, be all too realistic — in the world of The 100 and in our own fallen world.
But just as the end of the myth of Pandora’s Box doesn’t end with evil being released into the world, neither does this story end in that pause before Abby’s shaky promise.
Instead, Abby and Marcus get a second chance. They break free of the gloom of that bunker, they escape from the confines of those blood stained walls.
I’ve always been pretty terrible at making predictions when it comes to this show, partially because it always moves in such unexpected ways and partially because I’m content to just let the story go where it will.
But for this storyline in particular, I am willing to make a couple of predictions (and have a few wishful thoughts).
If their weapons are any indication, my prediction is that Eligius has the equipment to handle whatever the physical ailments are that Abby is dealing with.
Of course, that just deals with that one facet of her addiction — the root cause of it. But addiction is also the physical, chemical and emotional dependency to the pills.
Here, again, being out of the bunker combined with Eligius’ equipment and access to advanced medical care can help wean her chemically off her dependency.
Likewise, Marcus will no longer be alone in helping Abby, he’ll also have Clarke there with him to strengthen his resolve and offer her own support and love for Abby.
Finally, I’d love to see Murphy — the child of an addicted mother, who found her dead in a pool of her own vomit — be instrumental in helping Abby through withdrawal and in her journey of recovery. This would give the two the parental relationship I’ve always wanted, as well as providing a sense of utility for Murphy himself.
Of course, it won’t be easy. The journey from addiction to recovery, as well as the struggle to remain in recovery, never is. There are difficult times ahead. There will likely be relapse — at least one, if we’re lucky, more than that if we’re being realistic. There will be plenty of times where we’ll find Abby hard to bear, even hard to like.
But there will also be access to advanced medical care aboard Eligius. There will be Marcus’ support and love and commitment. There will be Clarke, the daughter who was lost and is now found again. There will be a promise of a life outside the darkness of the bunker, beyond the choices they made to survive.
And of course, there will be Abby, with the strength, resilience and courage that made so many of us fall in love with her in the first place.
Most of all, there is that very thing which remains in Pandora’s Box once all the evil and ugliness and cruelty fly away —