10:00 pm EDT, March 29, 2017

‘The 100’ season 4, episode 8 review: The girl who would be king

The 100 season 4, episode 8 injected a much-needed dose of hope into the veins of the viewers. And also, WHAT THE FUUUU

So. I love Clarke Griffin.

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No but really. We’re talking an Apollo-standing-on-New-Caprica-shouting-to-the-stars kind of love.

And you know what? I haven’t wanted to shout anything about my love for Clarke in a long time, so HEAR ME ROAR.

[Selina used ROAR] [nothing happened]

In my opinion, The 100 season 4 has been solidly excellent, but “God Complex,” written by Lauren Muir and directed by Omar Madha, immediately stands out to me as one of the strongest episodes so far. This is in part because of its excellent writing (callbacks! Suspense! Reveals!), but also because the story advancements elevate the entire first half of the season, alleviating some of my half-formed concerns and justifying a few head-scratching developments that I figured, but wasn’t sure, would pay off eventually.

The fabled ‘hope’ we heard so much about before the season premiered finally began to manifest, not just because the episode ended on an actual win (Jaha found the bunker, finally there’s a potentially tangible solution, even if there’s a rapidly escalating civil war standing between them and it!), but because both Clarke and Bellamy, in very different ways, began to find their way out of their respective darknesses; Jasper got real, without it ending in tragedy; my Memori shipper heart is brimming, and even the sad parts are kind of exciting.

Unlike any other episode this season, “God Complex” actually left me smiling (I know! I’m shocked too), and genuinely excited about everything that is to come rather than angsting about all the horrible things that are probably about to happen to my faves. It’s a good time for a hiatus, because we can look up rather than down (plot twist: we’re the ones who are rising). And I for one am going to enjoy this newfound hopefulness for as long as they’ll let me, since it’s probably all going to hell again in 409. ?

BUT FIRST – let’s review.

Talking about the Mount Weather

The island storyline opens with not-Bayliss (Fauxliss? Any Fringe fans in the house?) dying horribly from a radiation overdose, which means that Clarke and Abby — already struggling with sacrificing a man they believed to be a sadistic murderer — have to pick another test subject. Due to the convenient inclement weather that prevents them from going out to hunt more Grounders (!?!!?!?!?), their pickings are slim until, surprise! another morally objectionable candidate conveniently presents herself.

But it stops being convenient the minute Murphy starts screaming and Emori looks like a terrified lamb on a chopping block, because as much as they want to save the world (and as sound as Abby’s “if we do nothing we die” argument is), nothing about this situation can be re-framed as being in any way okay.

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Emori Murphy

On a pure story level, making Emori the potential sacrifice is so interesting. She isn’t exactly a friend to Clarke, so it’s immediately not as deplorable as if she’d suggested Raven or Jackson for the reaping, yet she’s close enough that she doesn’t feel like a stranger, and she’s someone who Murphy, of all people, loves. She’s guilty, but not of a crime that warrants death by radiation. The situation could not possibly get more sticky than this.

The Mount Weather parallel is obvious without Raven needing to vocalize it (though of course they needed to vocalize it in order to contextualize Clarke’s reprise of “I bear it so they don’t have to” later). If we didn’t already pick up on the Dante Wallace/Clarke Griffin parallel in season 2, they’re spelling it out for us now; basically, all leaders made terrible choices to save their own people, and Clarke is the one person who might just rise above it all. We’ve seen her rising in increments, but this episode is her ultimate test — and she passes. Her dubious reward is to become a Nightblood.

But before we get to the big Clarke moment, I just want to touch on some of the individual characters’ reactions to what was happening, because it taught us a lot about them and might come into play down the line.

For the love of Memori

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Emori

Murphy and Emori are terrified, framed in this episode like innocent victims held captive by a ruthless enemy. And whatever else they are, in this they are victims — and unlike the Grounders in Mount Weather, their captors aren’t faceless demons. Murphy, especially, has had a complicated relationship with these people, but they’re all he has in this world, and his reaction to Clarke and the others turning against him and the girl he loves is devastating to watch.

The scenes with Murphy and Emori simultaneously broke and warmed my heart, because as tragic as it all is, the situation strips away their pretenses and reveals their pure, unadulterated love for each other: here are these two supposedly selfish, back-stabbing characters, yet they might share the purest dedication that we’ve seen from any relationship yet.

Once trapped, Emori is resigned to her fate, but still wants Murphy to survive; Murphy, in turn, is raging and crying and begging with his almost-friends to spare Emori.

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Murphy

It makes Clarke and the others look like monsters, the enemy; however you fall in this moral debate, Murphy is indubitably the sympathetic party in this situation, against the heroes, and that in itself is a mighty feat when you think about where this character started. Bravo, writers and actors and directors and editors and Tree Adams and everyone else who made this all come together. This moment has been four years in the making, and it satisfied on every level.

Murphy’s disbelief that Raven, of all people, would let this happen to the girl he loved also struck a particular chord with me (it was a good time to write that Raven/Murphy relationship analysis, huh?). Aside from Luna, Raven is the person most opposed to crossing this moral line, and although she ultimately isn’t the one to prevent it, her heart is clearly torn. She’s come a long way from “Heavy Lies the Crown.”

Luna, injured as she is, does try to stop it. This woman, who has clung on to free will all her life, whose entire identity is founded on the strength she found to say no, is (almost) forced to help kill another person against her will. The violation against her makes the entire situation a million times worse than it already is, and even though they don’t actually go through with it, this all makes me wonder if she’ll ever be able to see eye to eye with the treacherous Sky People again. I wouldn’t.

Is that… a… new ship I see on the horizon? [Insert Black Sails reference here]

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Roan

It’s a packed episode, but I do want to talk about Roan, the one most actively fighting to for Team Many vs Few. His actions may seem heartless, but he is resigned rather than cruel, and there is an interesting (perhaps unintentional) parallel drawn between Roan and Indra in this episode that I think says a lot about his state of mind:

Indra, on Kane’s request, instructs a number of guards to keep Azgeda from entering the temple, knowing full well that they won’t be able to hold it for long (aka. they’ll all die). These are warriors, and as their leader, Indra is within her right to sacrifice them in order to win the battle she is currently fighting. And to Roan, as to Indra, this is all one big war.

Emori might not be a warrior but she is just one human soul against the thousands her death could save. As a warrior raised to be king, Roan has to be able to think of people as chess pieces. Sentimentality is a luxury he can’t afford. One might say that is one of the multiple things he has in common with a certain dearly missed former Commander.

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Ice Princess yaaas

And as much as I, a Hufflepuff, might be inclined to argue for the opposite choice, I’m don’t disagree that from a certain perspective, the choice is between killing one person today or watching everyone, including Emori, die in 10 days isn’t really a choice at all. (There is a choice, of course: It’s the Farm Station slave debate all over again, only this time, there isn’t six months standing between them and mass extinction.)

It’s important that someone like Roan is there to argue that point, standing with Clarke above their subjects, offering reassurances and trying to persuade her to think like a ‘king’ and sacrifice the pawn to win the board.

I love the line she shoots back at him, “I’m no king” (nice touch not defaulting to ‘queen’). I love this entire scene, really, and how loaded it is; Roan might play it cool (because ice) most of the time, but here, he finally lets Clarke know how genuinely awed he is by her leadership abilities.

Comparing himself to Lexa in terms of how he sees Clarke is also the first time I’ve ever sort-of-maybe wondered if they might actually be going there with Roan and Clarke, and while I’m not convinced they are (let’s be real, everyone’s in love with Clarke, that’s just a fact of this show), it adds a whole other layer to their dynamic as leaders-in-crime.

To my regret, their exchange does not end with Roan saying, “You may not be a king, but I can make you a queen.” ? I… may or may not just have accidentally become a Roarke shipper? (Although, hold the phone, unless the ship is called ICE PRINCESS what is even the point?)

‘I bear it so they don’t have to’

It should be clear to everyone who reads my reviews that I’ve really enjoyed season 4 so far, and am ready to roll with almost anything the show throws at me. But an issue I’ve struggled to articulate until now is the way in which the show has seemed so focused on cannibalizing past storylines.

I obviously assumed that The 100 was building up to some brilliant point with all of this rehashing, which is why I haven’t made a big point of it, but because I’m inherently skeptical that things are as good as I think they are, there was always that niggling worry that season 4 is ultimately just a really dark season that forces our characters to face every single moral dilemma they’ve considered themselves to be ‘above’ in the past just to really hammer home that “there are no good guys” mantra (which has morphed into “first we survive, then we find” etc).

This episode has done a lot to alleviate those vague fears, because for once, Clarke is repeating history not in order to make the same mistakes as her predecessors, but to learn from those mistakes.

In the first half of the season, we saw Clarke fall into the traps of leadership, we heard Jaha tell her that her decisions will whittle her down and we saw it happen, to the point where, in this episode, I genuinely believed that Clarke Griffin might actually have become the kind of person who could sacrifice a (comparatively) innocent person she knows for a cause she isn’t willing to die for herself.

When Emori was on that table, I honestly didn’t know what Clarke was going to do. I knew what I wanted her to do; I knew what my Clarke would do, but I was terrified that I might be wrong, that the writers might disagree, that Clarke might really have developed into a character I could no longer love as fiercely. And that’s exactly how they wanted me to feel, those wily and incredible writers, setting me up and knocking me down by calling back to another season 2 theme (and the other side of Jaha’s leadership strategy, incidentally), the burden of leadership as it pertains not to sacrificing your pawns but to putting yourself in harm’s way for the greater good.

Really, in retrospect, any one of the people in that lab could have stepped up and taken Emori’s place, but they were all hiding behind their moral high ground, and behind Clarke, their assumed leader. Clarke was the only one who could doom or save Emori, and she could only do this by taking her place. And this was her only option if she was going to continue to embody the promise of a better future.

Abby’s choice

Move over, Lily Evans: Even if you saw Clarke’s choice coming, the unknown variable was a mother’s love for her child, which truly changes everything.

Abby, the doctor, was far less willing to go through with the probable sacrifice of Emori than Clarke was from the start; all through this episode it is slowly destroying her, and when it comes to actually doing the deed, she falters.

But she does not falter once Clarke has stuck the needle into her own arm: Clarke may now be a Nightblood, but Abby makes sure she won’t be exposed to the radiation needed to test if the serum actually works, which means that a) Clarke lives to fight another day, and b) Clarke is likely the only Nightblood they’ll actually make on that island.

…Which essentially means that this entire plotline was an elaborate way to make Clarke a Nightblood. But it was ALSO the catalyst for a lot of super important character- and relationship developments!

Abby and Clarke may continue to be at moral odds but above all, the love they have for each other is more important than any other. Whatever happens with Abby from here on out will affect Clarke greatly – of course, where their story goes from here is anyone’s guess (luckily we have a month to speculate about it).

“Whatever the hell we want,” a DJ Jasper remix

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Jasper Bellamy

One of the episode’s many callbacks is to Bellamy’s season 1 mantra – and by extension, season 1-Bellamy – of “whatever the hell we want.”

We’re a long way from Lord of the Flies and two-headed deer now, and the sobering thought of the impending apocalypse has completely changed the meaning of that once so audacious catchphrase, another brilliant subversion of an old theme that reinvents rather than rehashes it.

We now have Jasper, the one with nothing to lose, in Bellamy’s role, reminding the man who has become so wrapped up in his own guilt and pain of what life on the ground was once supposed to be all about. Meanwhile, Bellamy has become the Clarke, high-strung, always worried and having to be coaxed into actually unwinding for a hot second (the man barely recognizes a party when he sees one). When Jasper tells him to relax, Bellamy may as well have shot back, “I have no idea how to do that” and complete the cycle.

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Jasper

Last week’s “Gimme Shelter” was an absolute low-point for Bellamy, and at the top of this episode, he desperately needs a breather. Clearly, Jasper agrees. In fact, Jasper is able to articulate what fans have been shouting at the screen all season: “What is the point of beating yourself up over all the crappy things you did, you did them!” If that isn’t just straight off my Twitter feed I don’t know what is.

And Jasper is right. Bellamy needs to lay down a few of his many burdens, and stop blaming himself for things that are out of his control (like the conspicuously absent Octavia), and regretting things he can’t change.

This storyline allows us to really take stock of just how much Bellamy has changed and grown due to his experiences on the ground, but we also see that he’s still Bellamy, underneath it all. It’s not a regression, however, because just as Bellamy is not what he was, ‘whatever the hell we want’ doesn’t mean what it used to.

The phrase now functions as a swan song rather than a jubilant call to action: None of these people are whatever the hell they want-ing because they just got a fresh start and can finally live their lives free of rules. They know that death and destruction is imminent and rules mean nothing; there is no future to shape to their liking because there is no future.

It’s the other side of Octavia’s “darkness is all we have left,” this time with booze and drugs and dancing. Hey, would you rather be crying or laughing your way to oblivion? I’d take a swig of that radioactive nut tea, too.

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Bellamy girl

For Bellamy, “whatever the hell we want” also extends to whomever. It’s been a long time since Bellamy has had anything resembling a romantic interest, so it makes sense that him ‘letting go’ involves letting himself actually look at girls again, and I think the symbolism of him retracing his season 1 steps (a happier time) in an effort to escape the pain and self-flagellation that has followed speaks for itself.

And no, Bellarke fans, you don’t need to be wearing your shipper goggles to notice that Bellamy’s new fling (old fling? It’s Bree from season 1!) looks exactly like Clarke. TOTALLY a coincidence, right?

Of course now that I’m a ride-or-die Ice Princess shipper I’m totally against this ;) (just kidding) (but really though, ship whatever the hell you want).

The storyline also allows Jasper to finally get a little real with someone, contextualizing his newfound cheerfulness in a way that should satisfy the viewers that don’t necessarily sympathize or empathize with Devon Bostick’s excellent portrayal of a depressed/suicidal character (I know those viewers exist, and that’s why Jasper’s story is so important — hopefully, if Jasper pisses you off on screen, you’ll take a good hard look at how you think about people in real life who display the same symptoms as he does).

He’s neither ‘annoying’ nor comic relief this week – he is honest, expressing a genuine desire to connect with Bellamy on this “terrible, beautiful planet” while he still can, make Bellamy understand his perspective (he doesn’t think he’s throwing away his life by giving into the inevitable, he thinks the fight is the waste of life).

I’m still incredibly worried for Jasper, but I’m honestly just glad he’s getting more screen time, and allowing him this role-reversal and essentially becoming Bellamy’s mentor for an episode is a nice full-circle moment for him.

And finally, the squad who will ACTUALLY save them all…

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Harper Monty

Guys, the reason this review is extra long is because literally all three storylines felt like A-story. While Clarke is getting ready to bear another burden and Bellamy is letting go of some of his, the surprising superteam of Kane, Jaha and Monty go off to save the world.

But first we get a little scene with Harper and Monty, which further establishes that Harper has lost all hope of a happy ending for them, while Monty continues to fiercely fight for it. It feels like a setup for future heartbreak, and I found myself really not wanting the pair to separate (couldn’t Harper have gone with them?).

Harper needs her anchor now more than ever. Monty saying “We will find a way out of this” makes me worry they won’t, and I don’t want to talk about this anymore. ?

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Jaha

So y’all know I love Jaha, and I’m feeling super vindicated that this time, his wild dash of self-imposed heroism is actually paying off. If the City of Light had been a real city, this could have been his journey in season 2, and it’s actually really admirable that Jaha is getting right back on the four horsemen after that spectacular failure.

At the end of the day, Jaha wants to save his people. Full stop. Of course he’s partly spurred on by the unfaltering belief that he is destined to save his people, which is nuts (nuts!), but still makes total sense to me: As always, I maintain that Jaha’s God complex (wait a second…) stems from a combination of the power corruption that came with Chancellors ultimately deciding who lived or died on the Ark, his oxygen deprivation after being stranded in space, and his legitimately miraculous descent to the ground. Of course he thinks he’s the Chosen One. Wouldn’t you?

Because of Jaha’s natural inclination to be fascinated with cults, I don’t question for a second that he’s able to decode all of Cadogan’s clues. His confidence and clarity of vision must be like a breath of fresh air to the floundering Arkadians – no wonder they’re already inclined to follow him again, despite it all – and after his big win this week, my Chancellor Jaha 2.0 theory is seeming more and more likely.

Now, WHY and HOW did Cadogan find himself building a bunker under the place where Becca later landed her rocket?

I can’t wait to hear everyone’s theories! Here’s mine: Cadogan’s cult was surviving underground in the bunker post-apocalypse, then Becca happened to land right on top of it (could she control where it landed? If so, were she and Cadogan connected pre-apocalypse?) and distributed Nightblood to them, allowing them to ‘rise’ to the surface and become Grounders.

Becca obviously wanted to make more Nightblood and spread the cure, but because Cadogan was (probably) a power-hungry maniac, he wanted to reserve this special privilege for his level-12 followers. So he killed Becca and took her Commander chip (“blood must have blood”), and spread a fear of science and technology among his people so no one would ever think to make more Nightblood. He twisted science into a religion and made the Grounders a warring, brutal society who feared technology rather than a peaceful one who embraced it.

How will we find this out??? Maybe through a flashback. Or maybe when Clarke eventually gets the Flame in her head again…

Speculation time! Commander Clarke?

Soooooo I don’t know if y’all ever watched Dollhouse…?

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone cause it’s EXCELLENT and you should all watch it, but in as vague terms as possible, the series is about a girl (whose name is Echo, lol) who has personalities implanted into her brain that eventually take root, and so she becomes all of them at once. When her lover dies, his ‘mind’ is saved on a little chip, allowing the pair to get their post-humous happy ending… see where I’m going with this?

But wait, hear me out. If The 100 is going where we probably all think it’s going, Clarke becoming a Nightblood means she’ll eventually take the Flame, possibly to gain information from Becca or, alternatively, become the ‘Commander’ (read: leader) of whatever people are left ground-side post-apocalypse and societal collapse– the Becca Pramheda of the new survivors.

Let’s say this happens. Clarke+Flame means that Lexa would literally become a part of her (like the other past Commanders), and actually legitimately pay off all that ‘death is not the end’ talk last season that felt like a cheat. And whatever potential romance comes next for Clarke, it would also keep a part of Lexa with her.

Of course it still kind of feels like a cheat (there is, unfortunately, no real win here), because it doesn’t bring Lexa back to life and a Clexa ‘endgame’ in this format (a literal head-canon, if you will) probably won’t satisfy many fans, past or present. Personally, any mention of Lexa still kind of stings – I’d rather they let her be dead and allow the show to move on — but I’m also aware that my personal desires don’t dictate the story.

Whatever the point of Clarke becoming a Nightblood ends up being, it’s important to remember that, if we remove ourselves from the immediacy of fandom as all of this is unfolding (as anyone watching The 100 on Netflix two, five or 10 years from now will be), it will ultimately become a wonderfully thought-out, cohesive story of a girl who fell from the sky, fell in love and ultimately found her true strength as a leader partly through these love stories. If she does become Commander and Lexa literally ‘lives on’ through her, we need to remember that the writers aren’t writing to put out fandom fires (unlike certain other shows they AREN’T going on Reddit and changing things based on our theories, good riddance). They’re committed to telling the story they want to tell, as it should be.

I’m not saying this will happen (and I don’t necessarily know how I’d feel about it), but if it did, it would give Clarke some closure and allow her to have another romantic endgame while letting her keep Lexa with her. It’s worth bringing up as a possibility for discussion, at least. Or it might not happen at all, and Clarke can keep being Clarke as we know and love her! We’ll see what happens.

For your consideration

The 100 season 4 episode 8 Harper Niylah

  • I CAN’T BELIEVE the one person I desperately wanted Niylah to interact with was Harper and THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! How did they knoooowwwww.
  • Also, Jaha twirling with his hood and stick after Niylah said the magic words is the FUNNIEST THING. Seriously, watch it again.
  • “Do not mistake coincidence for fate.” Who said it: Thelonious Jaha or John Locke?!
  • So are we meant to wonder why a measly Lv 11 seal worked as a key to the Lv 12 bunker or…?
  • MONTY ONCE AGAIN SAVES THEIR ASSES WITH HIS BRAIN. Is anyone keeping count??
  • “We Will Rise” may have been the title of episode 6, but this was the episode in which the characters actually began to rise from the pit of despair they’ve found themselves in this season. I’m so happy??? I don’t recognize this emotion. I hope Jasper’s line, “The ending is the same, but who says the journey has to suck?” is taped to the wall of the writers’ room.
  • “Don’t smile at me Kane, what do you want” is my new favorite greeting. Indra is my fave. Please don’t kill her.
  • In related news, Kane and Indra’s best-friendship means a lot to me, so I was happy to see them working together in this episode. Of course it opens up for a future problem, because while Clarke and Roan are buddying it up on the island, the actual Chancellor of Arkadia is allying himself with Trikru…
  • Also, GAIA!
  • “Did you come up here to make me feel better?” “It’s never been my strength.” Never leave us, Roan.
  • Seriously guys. Ice Princess. King and King of the wasteland. It has a n-ICE ring to it don’tcha think?

The next episode of ‘The 100’ airs April 26 at 9/8c on The CW

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