10:02 pm EDT, May 24, 2017

‘The 100’ season 4 finale review: There’s no place like home

The 100 is dead, long live The 100! Here’s what happened as the world came to an end in the stunning season 4 finale “Praimfaya.”

Well. They promised us an apocalypse. “From the ashes we will rise,” indeed, except that tagline seems to be about the whole damn show — whatever comes next will be brand new, rising from the ashes of The 100 as we knew and loved it.

I’m so excited.

I think I first predicted the time jump back in February, because to me, it just made sense. BSG did it. Lost did it. At some point, when you’ve got a narrative setup where time moves forward in increments, you need a big giant leap to counter-set expectations: we know Clarke, Bellamy, Raven and co. as they are right now. We’ve seen them at their worst and at their best, and (almost) all the relationships have reached their peak.

Sure, they could have carried on in real time. I wouldn’t have minded that one bit. I enjoy seeing characters evolve on a micro level. But serialized television always has to shuffle the deck to keep things interesting, and I really appreciate how The 100 has basically just tossed the entire stack of cards into the air, instead.

The bonds that have been formed and the lessons that have been learned over the course of these monumental nine months on the ground are now put to the hardest of tests. How important are these relationships we all put so much stock into really, after six years of separation? How much will these people turn out to matter to each other?

After all, this isn’t a measly little three-month time jump. Six years is a long-ass time. Try to recall your life back then. Your friends. What you thought was important versus now. It’s gonna be a whole new show. This might as well have been the series finale of The 100 as we knew it (although I daresay we’ll find in season 5 that there are still plenty of ‘history repeating itself’ moments and parallels to be drawn).

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Assuming, as I always am, that The 100 is a character-driven show first and foremost, such a significant time jump is as much a commitment to the core character dynamics as it is a reinvention and reinvigoration of the show’s basic premise. Does it suck that we’re missing so much of their lives and development (even presuming there will be flashbacks)? In a way, yes. But if the alternative was to keep it in real-time, never moving beyond the frantic now, I’ll take a time jump any day.

Before we jump (“jump!”) that far ahead though, we have to discuss the actual episode — a spectacular, heartfelt, surprisingly light-hearted season finale, penned by showrunner Jason Rothenberg himself.

‘We Are Grounders, Part 3’

As we’ve come to expect from this series, any significant step forward must come with a nostalgic look back, revisiting and paralleling the past to show how far the characters have come even as their circumstances stay the same (or are reversed). Ultimately it is not the challenges we face that shape who we are — it is how we act in the face of these challenges.

“Praimfaya” not only calls back to the characters’ beginnings, but retraces the steps of the season 1 finale “We Are Grounders” (and oh, the irony of Clarke being the only true ‘Grounder’ left at this point).

In both finales, the delinquents are on their own against an abstract foe. There’s a race to close a door that ends with Clarke/Bellamy having to leave Bellamy/Clarke on the other side. There’s a game-changing cliffhanger that leaves Clarke on her own, the fate of her friends uncertain.

And of course, there’s this:

THE BATON! It’s empty now, cause Jaha drank it all, which means that it’s probably time to bury my long-standing theory that Jaha was suffering oxygen deprivation on the Ark which led him to hallucinate Wells, and left a permanent mark on his brain — he was just stinking drunk, wasn’t he?

Anyway, neat storyline symmetry aside, I suppose all of these parallels are to show that it is officially the end of the beginning for these characters and the journey they’re on; the past four seasons have been a prequel, of sorts, to whatever comes next. Imagine how much story has yet to be told. How far these characters have gone and how far they can still go. Did I mention I was excited yet?

Bunker business

Okay, so, yes, I’m disappointed there was no Kane or Abby in this episode. I get that their ‘finale’ was last week (really, “The Chosen” should have been “Praimfaya, Part 1,” shouldn’t it?), but I just really would have liked to see two of the show’s main characters, one of whom is the second-billed cast member, before we cut to black for nine months/six years.

But narratively, I really like the choice of us losing contact with the bunker when the death wave hits Polis. The ‘feed’ cuts out for the delinquents, and for us. The episode is very much told from the delinquents’ point of view, and by the end, it has narrowed to Clarke: we know only what she knows.

And for all those worried about Abby, I think we can take Bellamy’s reassurance that she’ll “be fine” at face value — especially considering the time jump. We don’t know the fate of anyone inside that bunker of course, but I don’t think Abby is at particular risk.

In fact, I’ll double-down on my confidence that we’ll get our Kabby babies (I said what I said) in season 5. ?

One of the two bunker scenes we do get is an absolutely heart-wrenching exchange between Octavia and Bellamy, where they banter mythology (guys, Searchers would have been a whole show of this, it could have been so good), and Octavia finally tells Bellamy she loves him again — another season 1 finale parallel.

Apart from offering these characters a bit of ‘closure’ before they meet again, the exchange also implies that Octavia might actually have a shot at being a capable leader of the bunker people, at least in Bellamy’s estimation.

Saying that she did what he and Clarke couldn’t have, calling her “Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods,” Bellamy is essentially implying that Octavia can be a great leader because she’s the champion of humanity, not trying to rise above them; she’s different from everyone else who’s ever tried to lead on this show, except perhaps Abby, because she’s never wanted to be in charge. She wanted to give the people back their own power.

In the words of ye olde English playwright: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Octavia was neither born to be a leader nor had any ambition to become one. And now that leadership has been thrust upon her, she certainly doesn’t think she can handle the power and responsibility that comes with it.

And maybe she can’t. Maybe putting a 16-year-old girl in charge of 1,200 people as the Non-Commander (even though it looked a hell of a lot like she was just gonna be the Commander) is a terrible idea, and we’ll open the bunker in season 5 to just this anarchical, wild, Walking Dead-style ‘Don’t Dead Open Inside’ carnage.

She’ll have some interesting challenges to face, at least; as much as I love my Kabby baby theory, what will Octavia actually do if/when people in the bunker start having kids? It’s still a 1,200-people population cap, right? Will she be able to enforce a law that she and her mother were punished for on the Ark?

But maybe, exactly because of her background, Octavia is the only one who can actually be a good leader under these circumstances. Maybe she is the one who’ll finally manage to do what so many have tried and failed to do before her: create a true, lasting peace. Time will tell!

‘I’ve got you for that’

After the radio goes dead, Clarke comes in, only to find out she doesn’t get to talk to her mother. There’s a beautiful hug between Clarke and Bellamy, the first of several heartfelt exchanges between the two of them that hammer home the significance of their relationship.

There’s a lot of banter in this episode, something that’s been missing from the season overall — a shame, because it really makes the characters feel so human — and one of my favorite scenes is definitely the exchange between Clarke and Bellamy, when they share oxymorons (hey, I got one for ya, Bellarke fans: slow burn), a light little moment that quickly turns serious when Clarke tries to say goodbye.

It’s a parallel of their almost-moment in 406, but this time, they aren’t interrupted.

The story of Bellarke, as narrated by Clarke, goes like this:

“We’ve been through a lot together, you and I. I didn’t like you at first, that’s no secret. But even then. Every stupid thing you did… it was to protect your sister. She didn’t always see that, but I did. You’ve got such a big heart, Bellamy. People follow you. You inspire them, because of this. But the only way for us to survive is if you use this, too.”

What a wonderful way to bookend Bellarke 1.0, as Clarke tries to prepare him for a future she somehow knows she won’t be a part of.

We could maybe question the legitimacy of Abby’s ‘vision’ here (Raven figured out the rocket was there by a combination of ALIE memories and logic, she didn’t see the future), but in the end, what matters is that Clarke believes it. She knows there’s a very real chance she won’t make it out of this alive, and she needs to give her friends the best chance, which she does by essentially entrusting them to Bellamy.

When Raven breaks down, and Clarke looks to Bellamy to take charge, I think it’s partly because Clarke doesn’t feel like she can get through to Raven the way Bellamy can, and partly because she needs Bellamy to believe that he is the one who can do it, not her. And he can: Clarke is right when she says that Bellamy inspires people, his charismatic leadership style complimenting Clarke’s pragmatic approach so well (vis-à-vis “we need each other, Bellamy”).

Bravenlarke forever

There’s been a lot of talk about Bellarke being the heart and head of the show (even within this episode!), the idea being that they’ll one day combine their superpowers to become the ultimate leadership squad. And that may well be true, but I’ve always kind of thought that Bravenlarke was The 100‘s true tour de force of leadership.

When we got those Bellamy-Clarke-Raven scenes at the top of the season, I thought that was all we were gonna get, in terms of honoring that fan-favorite dynamic. I certainly never expected for The 100 to commit to this trio in such a major way: this finale was a frickin’ Bravenlarke manifesto, hammering home not only those three characters’ importance to the story, but to each other. The three of them all need each other if they want to be their best selves.

Just look at them in “Heavy Lies the Crown” (still one of my favorite episodes of this season, to be honest) — you had Bellamy and Raven on opposite sides of the ‘heart’ and ‘head’ debate while Clarke was in the middle, the mediator. At other times, it’s Clarke’s heart that balances out Raven’s brain. And again, sometimes it’s Raven’s heart against Clarke and/or Bellamy’s pragmatism.

It’s all about balance. And right now, The 100 has upended that balance by separating Clarke from Raven and Bellamy. After all, Clarke doesn’t do well on her own (although, arguably, she’s solved that problem herself by finding a friend). Raven and Bellamy make a great team in theory, but the show made a point to show us earlier in the season that they’re a lot more combative than Clarke is with either of them. It’ll be interesting to see how that’s affected them all, when we get into season 5.

Objectively, Raven Reyes is probably The 100‘s best character (and the competition is fierce!), so I’m also just really stoked that the show seems to be positioning her as a true ‘lead’ on the same level as Clarke and Bellamy, connecting her so intimately to both of them while making her an independent leader in her own right — the sheer force of Raven Reyes’ awesomeness cannot be understated!

And what a fantastic arc she’s had this year, truly, the show basically giving her an epic love story with herself. Clarke’s “good little soldier” she ain’t, if she ever was.

Another show, another duo, another burning Earth.

So where do we go from here? Can Bellamy and Raven do this without Clarke? Will Monty perhaps take Clarke’s place as the middle-man, completing the core quartet? Will Raven and Bellamy become a Space Squad power couple (“always” is their always), or remain platonic co-leaders? Either way, their dynamic is fantastic.

And hey, who knows what’ll happen. Again, six years is a long time. I’m just excited about the possibilities. (And I guess Becho’s still in the mix, too.)

As for Bellamy and Clarke, their love story is undoubtedly at the heart of this episode, and arguably the show as a whole.

And yes: however you define the nature of the love between them it is, undeniably, a love story. It wasn’t Harper saying “I left her behind.” Clarke wasn’t doing a radio diary for Murphy every day. They’re setting up one hell of a Bellarke reunion, that’s for sure.

As much as The 100 isn’t specifically about romance — though it is about love, whether it’s romantic, familial or friendly — I’m certainly not gonna sit here and pretend that Bellarke shippers are ‘delusional’ or making things up. The love is right there, and if it wasn’t, the story wouldn’t be half as interesting. I can’t speak to the nature of the love; you can interpret it any way you want.

Because of the time jump, I think we can consider all the character/relationship cards to be shuffled — even ones we might not immediately consider up for shuffling. Who knows what’ll happen, and what has already happened, six years down the line?

The only things we know for sure is that a) at the time of landing on the Ark, the Space Squad thinks Clarke is dead, and b) six years later, Bellamy is still the person Clarke radios every day, to keep herself sane; Bellamy is the person she’s been waiting for all this time, even though she’s not even sure he’s still alive.

I really just love it. All of it. Platonic, romantic, tragic, OT3, whatever, bring it on. Can I just say that? Can I classify this love, between all these characters, as something that — in the words of Bob Morley — transcends romance? Because I think he’s right. I think it does. As someone who genuinely just thinks The 100 is telling a damn good story, all that really matters to me is that these people matter to each other. The ambiguity beyond that? Well, that’s part of the thrill of watching a TV show, isn’t it?

Grounders in Space

I found it interesting that in many ways, Echo became the most human character in this episode, so completely overwhelmed by everything that was happening and unable to comprehend the thought of carrying on. Jasper’s journey was obviously unique for several reasons, but really, so many people this season have been forced to consider whether they physically can manage to just carry on through this painful scramble for survival, or if they just… can’t.

The fake-out that made it look for a second like Echo was pulling another Mount Weather speaks to how much of an unknown entity she still is; she’s the new Murphy of the group, and Bellamy is wise not to trust her.

But as cockroachy as Echo might be, she’s also terrified of change, so deeply traditional and hostile in the face of new ideas. She’s forced to adapt because of these impossible circumstances, and it’s such an interesting arc to give her — it casts her in such a sympathetic light, even ‘villainous’ as she’s sometimes seemed. I can’t wait to see how she shakes up the space dynamic and/or what she’s become when we pick up with her after six years!

As for Emori, I think I can officially say that she’s my favorite supporting character of the season. Packed as season 4 was, the writers managed to give her space to be complex, her arc a few steps behind Murphy’s, maybe, but landing in the same place. Emori started the season caring about and trusting no one but Murphy, and ended it by wanting to a) delay takeoff to give Clarke a better chance, and b) arguing with Murphy about who got to share their oxygen with Raven.

She lamented in “The Chosen” that for a moment in the bunker, she felt like she had a home, and Murphy countered, “your home is with me.” That connection is probably what made her less hesitant about following him to space (she’s also just less afraid of the unknown than Echo is), but I think now that she’s up there, she might actually start to feel safe. That’s a wonderful place to leave her for the hiatus, and feels like a satisfying way to ‘wrap up’ her arc.

What happens next with her and Echo will be interesting. As Grounders, they might actually suffer the physical effects of being in space more than the ones born there, and as people, they both have interesting places to go, the six-year jump opening up for many changes and surprises relating to their loyalties, their priorities, and yes, their relationships. Assume nothing, you guys.

Clarke Griffin, a Big Damn Hero

Oh, Clarke. What a year she’s had. In the end, it almost had to end this way; taking the Nightblood in Emori’s place earlier this season was the first step to Clarke discovering, or re-discovering, that she couldn’t be a good leader if she put her own life ahead of others’. It was time to commit to that with the ultimate sacrifice.

Until she gets to the tower, she isn’t planning to die. After plugging in the cable she thinks, for a second, that she’ll still be able to make it back in time. Her frustration when it doesn’t work, shouting “What did I do wrong?!”, slamming her hands on the thing, is such a raw, pure version of Clarke that I feel like she’s spent the past two seasons trying to repress.

Everyone deals with trauma differently, and Clarke’s solution was to try to numb herself and hide behind cold rationale, but now that has all been stripped away. She’s just Clarke, now: impatient, pro-active, I’ll-do-it-my-damn-self Clarke. And she’s dying.

Knowing that there won’t be time for her to get back, Clarke realizes that she has ‘no choice’ but to climb the tower; her own life is forfeit, but she’ll fight on for her friends. And she’ll throw herself off that tower into the rift to stop Glory from opening the hell dimension — wait. Wrong show. (Or is it?)

And Clarke as we know her does die here. “Ai gonplei ste odon,” she says, echoing Anya, echoing Lexa, saying goodbye to the person she used to be. She burns in Praimfaya, and from the ashes, she will rise.

(In fact, in a way, this episode kills them all. The bunker people are buried in the rubble of the old world. The Space Squad have actual ‘death scenes’ on the Ark before the air breathes new life into their lungs. Whatever comes next, it’ll be something new.)

There’s no place like WHAT THE F–

When the “six years later” card flashed across the screen, I was SO SHOCKED, you guys. And I was expecting a time jump, too! But six years?! That’s a ballsy move — and a lot of faith to put in your audience! But then, The 100‘s mission statement is pretty much “go big — go bigger — bigger — aaaand you’re in space,” so I really should have predicted they wouldn’t settle for a tame little two-year jump or something.

What we know: Clarke is alive, on the one patch of ground that seems able to sustain life, and that she’s not alone. She’s older, harder, and seems more at peace. She’s taking care of a Nightblood child called Madi (newcomer Imogen Tear, send her some Twitter love), who looks to be around 14 years old, likely orphaned by Praimfaya.

[A small sample of] what we don’t know: how did Clarke find Madi? Are they alone? What ‘lessons’ is Clarke teaching her, and why? Are the bunker people okay? Why has Bellamy not come back yet?

As far as Clarke’s mental state pre-Eligius landing, she seems… well, she seems fine. Very Rey-like. The biggest lesson she needed to learn in season 4 was that she shouldn’t cut herself off from humanity, and she hasn’t, finding herself a friend/sister/daughter to while away the days with. And I love that she isn’t ‘falling apart’ without her friends, honestly. Way to dodge that trope. Clarke is a Big Damn Hero, and she’s got this.

All that said, Clarke is still radioing Bellamy every day. She’s still waiting for him, for all of them, to come back to her. She needs to know that her sacrifice meant something, that they’re okay. If she were to find out they weren’t, it’d probably have a huge effect on her.

Luckily they are fine. They’re totally still up on that Ark, arguing about how to make fuel. They’ll be back any day now, right?

Right? ?

Go to page 2 for some ‘The 100’ season 5 speculation and stray observations

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