10:02 pm EST, February 8, 2017

‘The 100’ season 4, episode 2 review: Ch-ch-ch-choices

The 100 season 4 continues strong with “Heavy Lies the Crown,” a deep-dive into the fundamental, ideological differences that divide our heroes.

In my opinion, this was a near-perfect episode of The 100. It had flashbacks, humor, unambiguously adorable romance, impossible moral dilemmas, Jaha being not-awful, and glow-in-the-dark butterflies. What’s not to like?!

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Related: The 100 star Bob Morley previews Bellamy’s journey to leadership in season 4… and beyond?

At its core, “Heavy Lies the Crown” presents a multitude of crossroads, with almost all the main characters having to decide in a big or small way what kind of person they want to be.

The episode also brilliantly criss-crosses moral dilemmas and challenges several key relationships, including the unity of the delinquents. I cannot commend Justine Juel Gillmer and the rest of the writers enough for the finesse at which this is all handled, and how the show continues to stay true to the emotional core of every single one of its characters.

Heavy lies

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Clarke Bellamy

Not only does the crown lie heavy, but the crown also lies. At the heart of this week’s interweaving web of stories is Clarke’s quest to figure out a way to save everyone – which is nearly 6,000 people, apparently – despite Raven and her own logical self telling her that it can’t be done.

As Clarke struggles with this decision, both she and the audience slowly come to an uncomfortable conclusion: Clarke is repeating her people’s history, from the Ark blasting the 13th station out of the sky, to Abby wanting Jake’s discovery kept secret, and again to Jaha ultimately siding with Kane and going ahead with the culling.

It was easy for us and the characters to judge these horrific events from afar. It’s always easy to judge others for their actions, based on their perceived motivations. Raven, especially, has a lot of opinions about how the people around her choose to lead — and in a lot of ways, she’s right — but it’ll be interesting to see the show challenge her moral high ground when she’s the one who has to make the tough calls.

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Clarke

But at the end of the day, as the show repeatedly tells us, these characters are not philanthropic, traditional ‘good guys.’ They’re a bunch of brave, scared humans trying to make the best decisions based on the information they have.

And what better way to illustrate that Clarke, for all her brilliance, is just another lost soul trying to do the best she can than by drawing the connection to the pillar of her morality, Jake Griffin, and having her actively abandon what used to be her and her father’s shared quest for truth, which so defined her character in the early days of the show?

I think, despite everything she’s already had to do, Clarke has always clung to the notion that, as long as she did what she believed Jake would have done, she could remain good. But, like Abby taking off the ring, Clarke finally has to let go the part of Jake she was still holding on to. I half-expected her to take off Jake’s watch, too, but then… she doesn’t even seem to still be wearing it, does she?

And not only does Clarke conceal the truth; she outright lies, going so far as to swear that every single one of the Arkadians will survive the apocalypse. Does she believe what she’s saying, in that moment? I don’t think so, but I think she’s trying very hard to convince herself that she does, clinging onto the hope of a perfect solution because it is the one justification she has for her actions.

It is the lies we tell ourselves, after all, that make up the difference between who we really are and who we wish we could be.

Bravenlarke: A leadership three-way

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Bravenlarke

Clarke isn’t the only leader who makes big choices this week. Bellamy also finds himself at a major crossroads, which cements his stance as a compassionate leader who will do whatever it takes for each individual life one day at a time. It’s an important counterweight to Clarke’s big-picture perspective, and it’s very telling that while his choice ultimately clashes with her plan, they still remain side by side come episode’s end. They need and trust each other, and have been through too much together to let disagreements tear them apart now.

But this episode adds a third point to the Bellarke leadership model: Raven is rising through the ranks, challenging both Clarke and Bellamy’s decisions.

We emerge with three overlapping perspectives that rely on a combination of hope, facts and feelings (a more accurate representation of the ‘heart’ and ‘brain’ dichotomy, perhaps), and can be crudely summed up as follows:

  • Clarke wants to find a way to save everyone, driven by the hope that there is such a way, despite lack of evidence.
  • Raven wants to figure out a way to save as many people as possible, ready to accept that not everyone will be saved.
  • Bellamy wants to save whomever can be saved today, willing to go along with big picture plans only as long as no innocent lives are sacrificed in the process.

For most of the episode this puts Clarke and Raven on the same side, because fortifying the Ark doesn’t stop them also coming up with a universal solution. But once Bellamy returns without the water purifier thingy, Raven is more upset than Clarke because Clarke has not only been in Bellamy’s situation and understands the pressure, but is still looking ahead to a better solution whereas Raven’s scientific mind knows that this was the most realistic shot they had at saving 500 people.

Importantly, the show doesn’t presume to suggest that any of these perspectives is better than the other, although the characters certainly aren’t shy about picking sides. (And I think it’s hard to argue that anyone who wasn’t present at Farm Station has any right to judge Bellamy on his decision to save the slaves.)

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Raven

I would argue that Raven’s position is objectively the ‘best’ one, especially when it comes to the belief that everyone deserves to know the truth. Despite being the smartest person in the room, she isn’t arrogant enough to believe that she alone can come up with the solution, and wants to “crowdsource” the answer, which as she rightly points out is what Clarke’s father would have done.

But Raven can also say that this is the right choice because she isn’t the one who ultimately has to make it; her frustration at both Clarke’s decision to lie and Bellamy’s decision to save 25 people at the cost of 400 may be warranted, but Raven says herself that she’s not a leader — yet — and the closest she ever came to looking anyone in the eye and deciding to sacrifice them for the greater good was when she tried to swap Murphy out for Finn in season 2. There’s no saying what Raven would have actually done, had she been in Bellamy’s shoes in Farm Station, or had she been through everything Clarke had been through.

It’s always easy to morally align yourself with the person who has all the facts but none of the responsibility, but The 100 has always been very good at making its characters face the reality of a perspective they’ve formerly scorned (see Clarke and Jaha/Abby/Lexa/Bellamy at various points over the course of the series). I appreciate Raven presenting a more objective perspective, almost speaking for the viewers in this situation, but I expect she won’t be able to cling on to the safety of ‘If it were me, I would…’ for much longer.

Long live the 100

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Raven

Who else let out a weird combination of a laugh, a gasp and an ‘oh duh’ when Raven said “No more than a hundred?” YOU GUYS. I told you the show would be reinventing its premise this year. Of course it comes down to a hundred.

While I fully expect Clarke to continue feverishly trying to prove that she’s not like Jaha save everyone, the knowledge that right now they can save only 100 people will weigh heavy on those in the know for the foreseeable future. After all, 100 is better than none, right? But how the hell do you narrow it down? Draw straws? Pick the most ‘necessary’ people? Or those most likely to reproduce? Arrange a Hunger Games and just see who’s left standing?

There’s actually a really under-appreciated movie called After the Dark starring James D’Arcy, Sophie Lowe and Bonnie Wright in which a group of students have to debate which of them ‘deserve’ to be saved from a nuclear apocalypse, and it’s super apropos and relevant to this storyline, so… that’s your homework for next week. THAT’S RIGHT, there’s homework now.

There’s finally a Team Minty and I can’t even be on it?!

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Miller 2

Obviously the most important part of this episode was the reveal that Miller and Monty are morally compatible. It’s canon, my ship is sailing, Minty forever, TO THE SEA!

Except… I actually found myself aligning with Team Bryan-Harper-Bellamy on this issue. After all, it’s one thing for Raven and Clarke to compare numbers at home, and quite another to look into the eyes of friends and children and deem that their lives have less value than everyone else’s.

While everyone gets to pick a side (and I really appreciated all their reasonings, especially Harper’s) the moral compass of course ends up pointing at Bellamy, and while I don’t think there was a right choice in this impossible Catch-22, saving the slaves is the choice that feels right for his character; the one that cements his noble, if shortsighted, position of not wanting to sacrifice any more innocent lives.

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Bellamy

While Bellamy’s choice put a wrench in Raven and Clarke’s plans, his and Clarke’s perspectives somewhat realign at the end of the episode, when he uses the reasoning for his own choice to help Clarke justify her decision to lie to her people.

“We save who we can save today,” he tells her, insinuating that whatever she needed to do to get people to help fortify the Ark while keeping them calm was worth doing; she did what she had to do today, just like he did, and tomorrow brings another chance to figure out a way to save everyone, together.

Omg we get it, his name is Riley

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Riley Bellamy

You know that episode of Friends where Carol is giving birth and Ross and Susan say the name “Ben” a million times so that, when they name the baby, we’re all like ‘aaaawwww it’s BEN’? Well, that was how I felt during this episode, after what felt like the 57th uttering of the name “Riley.”

Really, guys, his name is Riley. Not that he’s gonna be important down the line or anything. R-I-L-E-Y.

But anyway, several things about total rando, nothing-to-see-here Riley, played by actor Ben Sullivan who according to IMDb will appear in a whooping number of six episodes this season:

The 100 season 4 episode 2 Riley

  1. Clarke knows him! Were they friends on the Ark? Classmates? Lovers? Between Riley and all the culling/Jake mentions, I’m like 85% sure we’ll get another Ark flashback this season.
  2. Who else thinks Bellamy sacrificing the 500 lives to save 25 people Riley will be cosmically rewarded when, at some point down the line, Riley comes up with a brilliant solution to solve all their problems?
  3. And finally, I am convinced that the introduction of Riley means the end of Briller and their romantic hugging. Riley and Bryan are 100% gonna be a thing and/or were already a thing during the Farm Station Wars. Between Bryan’s feverish relief at seeing Riley! alive, and him pulling away from Miller at the end of the episode, this is totally how they’ll write out Jonathan Whitesell (since he’s got a starring role on Beyond now) without killing him off.
  4. The 100 season 4 episode 2 Briller hug

    And you know what, I’m gonna be controversial here and say that, personal shipping preferences aside, I’d welcome this development. Discontent has been brewing between Bryan and Miller ever since they were reunited in season 3, and while Bryan abandoning Pike to save Miller could have been a sweet ‘love conquers all’ solution to their problems, I’m glad it wasn’t.

    Discounting Raven/Finn, this is the only example of an Ark couple having to negotiate their relationship based on who they used to be versus who they ‘need to be to survive’ on the ground, and Bryan is clearly struggling with the knowledge that Miller isn’t the same person he fell in love with. Even in season 3, it was never actually about Pike, but about a fundamental clash of values that Miller is willing to accept but Bryan doesn’t seem able to.

    And maybe I’m wrong, maybe they’ll end up working this out and being stronger for it. Either way, I’m really happy it’s not just destiny and chicken for them from here on out. They don’t need to stay together just because they’re an established same-sex couple; like anyone else on this show, they’re being treated with the dignity of being individual characters, not a symbolic unit. So let the dice fall where it may — though preferably without either of them dying, cause there’s been enough of that.

    Octilian rises

    The 100 season 4 episode 2 Ilian

    Maybe I’m jumping five steps ahead here but I mean, look at them. Plus, Octavia following the butterflies in season 1 > the butterfly leading us to Ilian in season 4 is just the kind of convoluted foreshadowing I like to pretend I didn’t just make up because I overthink things, so bring on the symmetry!

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that Ilian, played by Chai Romruen, is one of my favorite new additions to the show. The flashback that revealed his tragic backstory (and brought back Erica Cerra for a welcome cameo!) immediately invoked sympathy, and even though he initially sides with the Trishanakru ambassador who decides to challenge Roan, Ilian seems more blinded by grief than ignorance. I’m excited to see what comes next for him.

    The 100 season 4 episode 2 Octavia

    Meanwhile, I love Octavia’s new trajectory as Kane’s bodyguard/Roan’s angel of death. Marie Avgeropoulos almost vibrates with quiet intensity; it’s the calm before the storm, because she can only stay emotionally numb for so long, and she’s already crossed a moral line that Kane and Roan (and Echo? I couldn’t tell if she looked suspicious or impressed) clearly take issue with.

    Unlike (seemingly) most fans, I have no problem with Octavia’s dark turn. I think it’s a necessary extreme on the spectrum of morality and psychological damage that the show explores, and based on how messed up her life has been up until this point, it makes sense for her character. I fully trust the writers to do something incredible with her this season. She’s on the edge of an abyss, and I’m scared and intrigued by the possibilities.

    She took off the ring!

    The 100 season 4 episode 2 Kabby

    “Wait, that’s it?!” — Me, several times during this episode.

    But isn’t it just wonderful to see Kane and Abby finally together? Even more than ~the sex~, I really appreciated the emotional weight of their scenes here.

    First Kane insists that Abby should hold on to her wedding ring, which is almost too pure to handle. And then, Abby decides to actually take off the ring necklace, and I just, you guys, it was everything I hoped it would be ?

    Of course I’m also hugely disappointed that they’re already splitting up now. I’m greedy, I want more! But I like how the writers clearly tried to trick us into accepting this development, slipping in that little reveal right before Kane’s astonished joy at Abby having taken off her ring. “Quick, distract them with cuteness!” they schemed. And IT WORKED.

    The 100 season 4 episode 2 Kabby again

    Objectively it makes total sense for Abby to get back to Clarke while Kane stays in Polis, because it would be selfish of her to stay — and of him to ask her to stay — and that’s not who they are. So we close this chapter of their story with the knowledge that they are now fully committed to each other, and the anticipation of an eventual reunion (fingers crossed).

    Not that I don’t think they could have left us with a little more fodder for the fanvids, but hey, who are we to complain? SHE TOOK OFF THE RING!! *dissolves into happy crying*

    For your consideration

    The 100 season 4 episode 2 happy Monty

    • Give it up for Monty Green, The 100‘s consistent MVP who not only figured out the initial solution to turning the Ark into a fallout shelter, but who was confronted with the man who killed his father and chose to give his revenge-kill to the people who needed it more. Justice was served, and Monty didn’t need to get more blood on his hands. It was kind of beautiful.
    • Somehow, I’m shocked and a little put off that slavery is now a thing that exists on this show. I should have expected it, yet I always kind of imagined the Grounders as valuing freedom above all else – freedom to live, love and most importantly die in the manner of their choosing. Of course Azgeda is very decidedly not like Trikru, and this certainly highlights the fragility and importance of Lexa’s coalition. But this is like a Mount Weather level of villainy, and almost tips Azgeda into the ‘pure evil’ territory that The 100 otherwise so skilfully avoids. (Still, it’s worth noting that Roan at least doesn’t seem to be anything like the rest of Azgeda, to the point where Dakiva didn’t even acknowledge him as her king.)
    • The 100 season 4 episode 2 Roan

    • Roan’s crown also lay heavy this week, with him having to decide which kind of leader he wanted to be and ultimately acknowledging that he can’t just pick up where Lexa left off. He’s still a relatively passive player (partly because of his injury), and I’m looking forward to seeing his story unfold.
    • It looks like Echo is heading to Arkadia soon, after learning the truth about Roan and Clarke’s agreement and pointing out — fairly — that they have no proof Clarke is telling the truth. I get Echo’s perspective, even more so after seeing the true horrors of the clan she grew up with. Her first instinct is to believe people are full of shit; no wonder the ‘trust’ she thought she and Bellamy had was so important to her.
    • Remember in season 1 when Finn said “How about we just take it easy” and Clarke replied “I have no idea how to do that?” She’s clearly still on brand, getting very annoyed when Jasper’s hootenanny interrupts her brooding. I love Clarke so much.
    • The 100 season 4 episode 2 Princess Mechanic

    • Although they ended the episode at odds, I really appreciated all the Clarke-Raven scenes. They balance each other out in a different way than Bellamy and Clarke do; in an ideal world, the three of them would be making the decisions together. I particularly enjoyed the exchange, “Who the hell am I giving them orders? I’m not the chief.” “And I’m not the chancellor. But here we are. For what it’s worth, there’s nobody I trust more to do this than you.” Princess Mechanic forever <3
    • I will NEVER forgive Sinclair’s death, but at least now I understand why it was narratively necessary. Raven has no choice but to step up and take on the leadership mantle now, because there’s nobody left who outranks her.
    • The 100 season 4 episode 2 clans

    • A closer look at the list Clarke is mulling over. Initially I thought it gave the name of the 12 clans, but it appears to list 18 territories including ‘Woodstock,’ ‘Xandria’ and ‘Bowie’ (cute). It might give us an indication of just how far the Grounder territory spans (and how many humans on the planet are included in Clarke’s ‘everyone’).
    • The juxtaposition of Bellamy’s decision essentially being a democratic vote while Clarke was left to ponder the fate of her people alone seemed very poignant. Add to that Jaha’s line, “No leader starts out wanting to lie or imprison or execute their people. The decisions you face just whittle you down piece by piece,” and I’m officially Scared For Clarke™. Because ultimately it wasn’t the decisions themselves that corrupted the show’s past leaders — it was having to make those decisions alone. At least this episode establishes that Clarke and Bellamy will always stand by each other, but Bellamy can’t always be there with her, and that worries me.
    • The 100 season 4 episode 2 Jaha

    • JAHA APPRECIATION TIME: Not only do we learn that he was an engineer before he was Chancellor – which gives him a valuable, concrete way to help – but he and Clarke’s heart-to-hearts harked back to the Jaha from the Ark, the one who didn’t hallucinate babies or wander blindly into deserts in search of a promised land. This is the Jaha who knows the limitations of man, and has accepted that the burden of leadership is no longer his to bear. Even if it’s only temporary, it’s nice to see him touch base with reality.
    • So… you think Monty found his and Jasper’s Farm Station weed stash?

    ‘The 100’ season 4, episode 3 ‘The Four Horsemen’ airs next Wednesday at 9/8c on The CW

    “Heavy Lies the Crown” might be one of my favorite episodes of the show to date just because of its moral complexity, and I’m happy to say that season 4, episode 3 “The Four Horsemen” builds directly on some of the issues raised, immediately offering new potential solutions and even bigger problems.

    Expect Raven to be directly confronted with some of those life-or-death decisions she didn’t have to make this week, while Bellamy, Clarke and Jaha become the dream-team you didn’t know you needed. Abby returns to Arkadia at just the right time, and we touch back with Murphy and Emori’s story. Finally, at Polis, prepare to learn more about Tati Gabrielle’s mysterious character introduced in the premiere.

    What did you think about this week’s episode of ‘The 100‘?

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