11:33 pm EDT, May 19, 2017

‘The 100’ season 4, episode 12 review: How we save our people

The penultimate episode of The 100 season 4 was also one of the season’s finest hours, bringing us long-awaited reunions and heartfelt character moments.

Well, gang. Here we are. After a season of failed plans and bad decisions, our heroes are scrambling towards some kind of salvation. Not everyone gets their happy ending — in fact, I’d wager a guess that hardly anyone on this show will — but one character in particular seems to be set up for an actual semi-peaceful resolution.

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I, A KNOWN JAHA STAN, am so very happy about how Jaha’s story seems to be concluding, and I am going to do my very best to get y’all aboard the Jaha Love Train (for what may be the last time??).

But hey, the episode wasn’t all about Jaha and his redemption/full circle moment, I guess. “The Chosen,” penned by executive producers Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre and directed by first-timer Alex Kalymnios (she’s brilliant, please keep her), was uncommonly tender in its handling of characters and relationships, culminating in a beautiful, cathartic moment of reunion for the delinquents that sets us up for the finale.

Of course all that was hard for me to see since I was busy CRYING ABOUT DAVID MILLER and all, but hey, fitting that the episode that seemingly wrote out the last standing Battlestar Galactica alum would include such a beautiful homage to one of the series’ most iconic moments.

Oh also, KABBY. <3 So much to talk about! Let's discuss The 100 season 4, episode 12.

‘I love you’

When I say I don’t have shipper preferences on this show I am LYING, because I’m Kabby AF, and I don’t care who knows it.

There hasn’t been much to celebrate with them this season, since they’ve been apart for very separate storylines, but I truly appreciate how they came together for the end — and how they’re still on separate journeys, even as insistent as Kane is that they soldier on together.

In this episode, Abby’s brain damage plot resurfaced, and she seems convinced that she’s dying. She also believes herself truly undeserving of a spot in the bunker, due to the things she’s done. Like mother like daughter, Abby is struggling with her own humanity, and even Kane’s sweet words — “You saved me, and I don’t just mean by opening the door” — won’t change her mind.

Kane pulling away from her is a bittersweet mirror of how he refused her kiss when he thought he was the one who was dying, as he faced his near-certain execution in season 3. It was his choice to stay behind in Arkadia, and it is Abby’s choice to die in Praimfaya. The difference is that Kane does not let her make this choice — an interesting moral dilemma, a whisper of the Arkadian death cult arc, and the dignity of letting someone die in the manner of their choosing.

Now, with Abby safe in the bunker, I don’t think she’s dying. Immediately after the episode I thought Kane choosing to adhere to Clarke’s list meant that he wouldn’t be saved, but re-watching the episode I’m pretty sure we’re meant to assume he’s considered ‘essential personnel’ (he is Chancellor after all).

It’s upsetting to see Abby so hopeless, so full of loathing for herself, that she’s willing to literally die for her sins. My hope is that Kane will be able to love her enough for both of them, until she can prove to herself that she can find her humanity again — and that she never truly lost it.

(Also. Kabby baby anyone?)

How he saves our people

At the heart of the bunker story was Kane and Jaha, two leaders who find themselves back in exactly the place they started, the same impossible dilemma before them.

There is no right solution. “There never is,” Clarke was right about that one. Skaikru has over 300 people, and they can only have 100, just like the other clans. We always seem to end up here.

When Octavia says that Skaikru are no different than anyone else, she’s right. For every extra Skaikru that stayed, someone from another clan would have to die, and that wouldn’t be fair, because Skaikru lives aren’t inherently more valuable than Grounders’. That said, Jaha and riot guy have a solid point, too (as did Clarke), in saying that Skaikru are more equipped to handle the running of the bunker.

But whatever is or is not fair, sending hundreds of people who trusted them, who believed they were safe, to their deaths — choosing who lives and dies like gods — is not something that can be justified. It might be necessary, but it isn’t right. The dilemma in this episode was beautifully drawn. Season 4 has been full of them, and every single time, it’s felt like an impossible choice. This is one of the main reasons why season 4 is shaping up to be my favorite.

As the lottery draw begins, Jaha leaves and Kane follows, leaving poor Jackson to read out the names. He gets one name out before Riot Guy lives up to his name (seriously, this fucking guy), and breaks the bowl, and Jackson just looks so sad and lost and it makes me hate the dude even more.

But in the end, it ends with a whimper, not a bang, all because Marcus Kane was finally, FINALLY able to get through to someone and make them change their mind.

From the ashes he will rise

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it even if no one wants to hear it: Thelonious Jaha is a tragic hero, so consumed with the desire to save his people, it has blinded him to humanity and compassion.

This season he came to represent the worst possible outcome for Clarke if she kept going down the lonely leader route, and I think his eventual breaking point (forced out of him by Marcus Kane, bringing their story beautifully full circle) is intentionally paralleling Clarke’s. It was Jaha, in the end, who needed to “find his humanity again,” and he did.

I think maybe one of the many lessons The 100 is quietly teaching us that there is no place so dark you can’t come back from it; that no matter how much bad you’ve done, you can still turn around and do better if you truly seek redemption.

In the words of Marcus Kane: “You turn the page and you don’t look back. You do better today than you did yesterday. Before you know it, we’ll deserve to survive.” And Kane should know, because he did, and he does.

The way I see it, this episode contained two major narrative game-changers in the way characters will interact with and learn from each other going forward. One was the exchange between Clarke and Abby (see below) and one was between Kane and Jaha.

On The 100, I feel like the vast majority of confrontations between characters with opposing points of view ultimately become an exercise in postulating philosophies, the active party ending up doing exactly what they were planning all along, the other left behind, their warning going unheeded (or sneaking around trying to get their way anyway). There’s conflict, but no one’s perspective changes.

Everyone on this show is stubborn in their convictions, and that’s not a bad thing — characters need to have values and stick to them — but when you can manage to make someone organically grow and change based on logic alone, it becomes truly masterful writing.

In my article reporting the news that Isaiah Washington will not return as a regular in season 5, I went off on a bit of a tangent about Jaha’s arc which you can read in full, but the tl;dr of it all is: Jaha has always done what he thought was best for his people. His fatal flaw was never his intentions or his drive, but his certainty (at least since landing on the ground in season 2) that he alone knew what was best, completely unable to listen to reason.

But in this episode, he grows. He changes. He learns to listen. Kane is able to get through to him with logic and compassion — “This is your moment,” Kane tells him, and it truly is.

Almost as a direct reward for growing as a person (or rediscovering the man he once was), Jaha gets the chance to start over: a new Ark, a new son, a new people.

Actively ignoring the fact that Jaha could legitimately have given up his spot for the kid’s actual dad (which would have been an equally poetic thing to do, since it would mirror his original decision to die with his people in the first culling), I think this is such a beautiful way to end his arc, if this is indeed the last we see of him. It’s very fully-circley, but it also speaks to the bigger theme of redemption — and is, of course, a rare example of a non-death character resolution on the show.

And yes, of all the characters The 100 chooses to write out with a happy ending rather than a violent death, I am fully aware of the hilarious irony in it being Thelonious Jaha. But I also love it, because if the closest thing the show has to a villain can find peace, then maybe there’s hope for the rest of them.

Better Ogeda

Meanwhile, Octavia is preparing to have her Bellamy moment — a massacre to secure her peace — even going as far as to steal his catchphrase, “My people, my responsibility.”

“I’ll be right beside you,” says Indra — pushing her, supporting her, whatever you want to call it. A combination of both.

Indra is clearly grooming Octavia for a certain style of command, her behavior here so very similar to how we saw her act with Lexa in season 2. But Octavia isn’t that kind of leader (indeed Lexa wasn’t that kind of leader either), very intentionally calling back to her heritage as the “girl under the floor.”

Just because she’s denouncing Skaikru doesn’t mean she’s Trikru, or even just Grounder in the way Indra might expect her to be. Octavia is Wonkru — the coming together of many clans to form one whole — and I think Octavia represents how a patchwork of all people can come together and create something brand new (see my lengthy write-up of her in 410).

In the spirit of breaking away from the past, Octavia confesses to Indra how she won the conclave, saying, “I didn’t do this on my own.” Gently (because Indra is not ruthless, not always), Indra tells her, “No leader ever does.”

This is, of course, where Jaha went wrong, and where Clarke almost went wrong. A season of emotional isolation — two seasons, even — for some of our main characters, and the conclusion the narrative has reached is that people need people. Took them long enough. ;)

And I really hope this carries over to season 5, this theme of togetherness that we’ve reached here at the very end of season 4. Especially for Clarke, whose emotional isolation feels like it’s been leading her to realize that she can’t and should not try to go it alone. Love may be weakness, but it can also be strength.

Fully prepared to accept the story for what it is, I also feel like, just because The 100 is best when the characters are united, it doesn’t mean that their unity is some elusive ideal that should only be reached a few times a year to keep fans wanting more. There’s plenty more more to want even beyond ‘yay they’re finally working together [again]’ a la “Nevermore” and this episode.

By Indra’s logic it is that emotional connection, whether it’s a mentor, a friend, a family member, or a lover, that makes a leader great. And isn’t it also what makes the show great? I know The 100 doesn’t need the crutch of delayed gratification to tell a good story. It’s got good stories all lined up to tell, and holding back emotion to delay development means (in my opinion) that you spend too much time with stagnant characters before crashing down with giant resolutions for them all in the final few hours of the season.

I’m glad that Octavia has finally reached some form of emotional clarity. As has Clarke, and Kane, and Bellamy. Their stories aren’t over. I’m excited to see what’s next. I think it’s pretty clear how much I believe in the power of the story being told here and I always try to avoid the ‘coulda woulda shoulda’ approach to reviews because I don’t know the story better than the writers. I’m along for the ride, wherever it takes me.

All I’m saying is that hopefully the character arcs will match the pace of the plot a bit more closely next season, because the seasons are short and we have a lot of amazing characters/dynamics who can carry powerful storylines if given the space and opportunity.

Protect Niylah at all costs

Realistically, Niylah might be the only character that The 100 can never ever kill off unless they want to take a very ill-advised stand for creator autonomy in the age of social media fandom (actually let’s include Mackson here, too, to be safe — and to make me happy), so I was never really worried about her.

I was nonetheless relieved to see Octavia so actively swoop in and save her, not only because it’s great continuity from their interactions in episodes 405 and 406, but because I genuinely love Niylah and hope this is a sign we’ll see more of her in season 5.

“I’ll never forget what you did for me,” Niylah tells Octavia, which sends my shippery heart aflutter just a little tiny bit, but more than that it just makes me happy that whatever else happens, Octavia will have a friend in the bunker.

Indra is her mentor, so is Kane (if he doesn’t feel totally alienated by her), but to everyone else she’s ‘the champion.’ To Niylah, she might just be Octavia.

Is Jessica Harmon back for season 5? Do we know? I’m crossing my fingers that the answer is yes!

RIP David Miller, and all who came before you

Uuuuughhhh. Not Papa Miller! ? But okay, this is The 100, and people die. Considering that this was The Culling 2.0, we weren’t gonna get off without a sad dad death — and we sure weren’t gonna be crying about the FIVE!! guy.

The 100 season 1 was remarkable for many reasons, and one of them was Tor Lemkin, who sacrificed himself for his daughter Reese, leading a procession of truly selfless Arkadians willing to give their lives for the greater good. (Hey, this explains why most of the ones who landed on the ground are xenophobic assholes — the good ones died in space!)

Somehow, The 100 managed to top that heart-wrenching moment, Papa Miller sacrificing himself to give his son a better chance — just like Tor did for Reese. And I don’t know whether to be angry or impressed by the show’s constant drive to out-tragedy itself. I am angressed. And also just sad.

David Miller’s death seems like a small price to pay, considering what other lives were at stake, but assuming this doesn’t lead into a huge arc for Nate in season 5 (which hey, it still could), it also just adds to the pile of love ’em and leave ’em deaths that this season has dealt out.

I’m not saying characters shouldn’t die, even en masse. I thought the Hunger Games episode was fantastic. I can’t believe they killed three people we loved at once. It was brutal. I loved it. And I’m not saying Miller’s dad’s death — if that is indeed what happens to him — isn’t narratively justified or earned, for all the reasons mentioned above.

But here we are, David Miller is likely dead, and… what? What’s the weight of that? Certainly it’s not for Nate’s story, because he hasn’t had one all season.

Not to say David’s death should turn into a whole big thing, but especially coming off Jasper’s death (narratively solid, but neither earned in build-up nor fallout, if Clarke’s non-reaction is anything to go by), I think it’s worth pointing out that the more deaths you have in a show like this, and the less impact these deaths have on the overall emotional framework, the harder it’s gonna be for the audience to get invested in them. What’s the point of us caring if the characters don’t?

It’s really more of a concern for the future than for right now (Miller Sr.’s death kind of just led me to articulate it here, as the season’s wrapping up). But my niggling worry for The 100 as it gets bigger and more ambitious and more frantic from season to season is that one day a main character will die — maybe Octavia, or Clarke, or Murphy, or Kane — and it just won’t matter to the story. The characters might be upset in the moment, but they’ll carry on, the storyline unaltered, and everything will just feel… numb. That’s what Jasper’s death feels like in the big picture, a little bit, even though it’d been built up for two seasons and his death scene itself was a masterpiece.

By contrast, Lexa and Lincoln’s deaths (upsetting as they both were outside the fictional realm of the show) really mattered. Clarke and Octavia were deeply impacted and changed by these deaths. Lexa’s death upended an entire society. And ultimately that’s all I really want, from any work of fiction: for it to feel like the characters actually matter to the story and to each other.

And that’s a good place to transition into the delinquents’ plot of the episode, because boy do they MATTER TO EACH OTHER, and isn’t it glorious?!

Good Guy Clarke Griffin

Clarke reached her lowest point last week; even just considering killing Bellamy took her to a darkness she probably never believed herself capable of. The good news is that there’s nowhere to go from here but up! To space! Look how that worked out.

Before leaving for the bunker with Bellamy (who was not too happy about her crashing his Raven rescue mission), Clarke had a beautiful moment with her mother, the pair saying goodbye for what may very well be the last time.

It’s great to see how much the pair have grown over the past few seasons, finding a more adult-to-adult relationship rather than parent-child (just like Bellamy and Octavia), but still retaining the mother-daughter dynamic of Abby providing some much-needed reassurance to Clarke when she needs it most.

Abby then says something which I think is actually pretty monumental for the show, breaking away from the ‘there are no good guys’ mantra to tell Clarke, “I told you there are no good guys but that’s not true. There are. You are.”

Abby isn’t only giving Clarke deathbed comfort here, but she’s also expressing a brave new idea for the series as a whole, a possibility of significant forward momentum as we head towards the unknown.

After four years of ‘there are no good guys,’ the show is now ready to risk upsetting the moral foundation of the story they’ve built by having the very character who coined that term going, ‘yeah, hmm, actually maybe there should be good guys.’ And that, to me, indicates a change and a growth the same way in which Jaha’s breakthrough does.

After all, ‘there no good guys’ is all well and good to draw up a morally ambiguous story, but it can also be a bleak, destructive way of looking at the world. Since the second season I think Clarke has taken a sort of grim comfort in believing that everyone is ‘allowed’ to do bad things in the service of a righteous cause: it’s what gave her the strength to kill the Mountain Men, and to destroy ALIE, and to make the list, and to almost sacrifice Emori. She did “what she had to.” There are no good guys anyway, so why should she be one?

Abby telling Clarke she is a good guy totally flips the script and challenges one of the core pillars of the show. If there are good guys, and if Clarke is one, then how does that change her moral responsibility? How does it change the way she looks at herself? And the world? Luna died believing that people weren’t worth saving, and I think even as Clarke has fought desperately to save humanity, individual people were beginning to lose value for her. ‘Good Guy Clarke,’ on the other hand, might just be more akin to what we saw in season 1 — the one who strove to do the right thing, not “what she had to do.”

I think we see that play out even within this episode, the combination of Abby’s words and the act of almost shooting Bellamy (a wake-up call if she ever had one) making her truly conscious of what she almost became. It does a lot to ‘justify’ Clarke’s arc this season, especially if it leads to genuine growth and change in season 5.

Road trip TO SPACE!

In the car with Bellamy and Clarke (and Memori! <3) another excellent exchange occurs that really helps frame Clarke's emotional state as she begins to realize what matters -- her friends -- and how extreme her actions had gotten. Their conversation is raw and honest, finally, Clarke allowing herself an uncharacteristically tender moment as she tells Bellamy, "I never meant to hurt you."

Bellamy isn’t quick to forgive, fairly pointing out that it’s still not cool to point a gun at someone you claim to care about, and Clarke agrees. “Nothing is okay,” she says. Her pointing that gun at him was inexcusable and she doesn’t try to justify it.

Perhaps the lack of her putting up a fight is what allows Bellamy to drop his guard, even making a little joke about it. Then, still busy staring at Clarke, he straight up runs over a dude (“our princess has that effect,” eh? Damn it Bellarke shippers you’re getting in my head).

Grounders attack, and the unlikeliest of heroes rides in on a chariot of fire to save the day. It’s ECHO! Yay! No, but, really, I was so excited to see her and not just cause of the badass horse she was riding on.

Echo saves Emori, and then Clarke saves Emori, a beautiful moment of Clarke committing to the decision she made in 408 to risk her life rather than sacrifice Emori’s. The Nightblood storyline coming full circle, with the parallel lines “We’re testing me” and “We’re testing it now” completing the circle, and cementing the connection that has been formed between the two characters.

Echo and Clarke also share a moment, bonding about the lengths they’ll go to to save their people. The parallel between their decisions in 410 (Ginsburg and McIntyre’s last episode) is weaved into the text here, reminding us that Echo’s actions are really only a few shades away from those of our heroes’ — she’s just willing to do ‘whatever it takes’ for a different people.

Murphy and Echo, too, are connected here, Murphy immediately ready to sacrifice Echo to save Emori, one cockroach to another. Really this is all about Echo you guys. ;)

Monty and Harper crash the party, bearing gifts in the form of Jasper’s would-be radiation suit. I won’t say more about the lack of reaction to Jasper except :(, but I mean, I do get the logic of it within the timeframe of the season. They literally have no time to react.

They also knew he was going to kill himself. They knew. It still sucks they didn’t react much, but I loved Monty’s little moment. HE has not forgotten Jasper. And neither has Clarke, she’s just about 9,000% over her capacity for grief right now.

Finally, the new core group of teenage-ish protagonists arrive at Becca’s lab to save Raven — poor Raven, who thought she had been left behind — uniting for a hero shot, the music swelling, the audience pumping their fists and yelling “FINALLY!” and yes, it is finally and yes, we’ve been waiting the whole season for this and no, I ain’t even mad because it’s so fucking great.

Also, I mean, hello:

There they stand, the Final Five Seven, towering above Raven like she was Laura Roslin in the opera house, the BSG homage striking whether or not it is intentional (I like to believe it is).

They rebelled. They evolved. There are many copies.

…….And they have a plan.

For your consideration

  • “What do I say? I say that death wave can kick my ass” is a truly spectacular line from a truly spectacular, kickass character. The 100 created Raven Reyes. Let’s just appreciate that for a moment.
  • Since Echo and Emori are Grounders, would they even be able to survive in space? The Arkadians’ bodies are much more attuned to it, right?
  • Consummate professional that I am, I’ll try not to spend too much time gushing over my new OTP, but you guys. Miller and Jackson are safe, together, and standing next to each other (which usually implies canon m/m romance on The CW *side-eyes*). I’ve already done a deep-dive into why I think this unexpected potential romance is delightful, and even if it remains a background thing — though I’m still hoping for bigger storylines for them both in season 5 — it just puts a smile on my face.
  • Murphy and Emori legitimate go along to save Raven at first, which is great, but it quickly turns bittersweet when Abby indicates that Emori won’t be in the lottery. When Emori looks at Murphy in this moment, her expression heartbroken and resigned, it totally breaks my heart. She knew Skaikru would reject her. But she wanted to believe. It’s devastating, and speaks much to how much more there is to Emori besides being a love interest. I really, really hope she sticks around for season 5.
  • Before they leave the bunker, Murphy gets a moment to tell Bellamy that “you killed us when you opened that door. We were safe and you screwed us,” adding, “we can’t all be essential personnel or have a sister who’s queen of the Grounders.” A nice commitment to the on-going Murphamy dynamic and a little reprise of the ‘she’s one of the privileged’ from season 1 — except, is Bellamy now one of the privileged? Hmmm.
  • Raven and Abby got to say goodbye! Wasn’t that great? Another core relationship I’m so incredibly invested in.
  • Clarke being so committed to saving Raven, her friend, was ALSO a highlight. So many highlights! I legitimately walked around smiling all of yesterday thinking about this episode. So good, you guys.

Next week: ‘The 100’ season 4 finale ‘Praimfaya’ airs at 9/8c on The CW

The season 4 finale, written by showrunner Jason Rothenberg, takes place over the course of the final few hours before the death wave envelops the planet.

Will our band of delinquent heroes make it to space? Will Octavia rule the bunker, Heda-style? Will we head into the eight-month long hiatus with SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT?

I mean, I have no idea ? but do not miss it. Seriously. Watch it live. And then come talk to me about it!

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