6:31 pm EST, February 7, 2018

Overanalyzing ‘The 100’ season 5 episode titles: From ‘Eden’ to ‘Damocles’ and ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’

The 100 season 5 is getting closer, with the premiere episode “Eden” airing on April 24. While we wait, let’s break down the episode titles.

It’s been a long, long hiatus. With little to no information about the upcoming fifth season of The 100, the fandom has taken it upon itself to #PromoteThe100 on social media, aided by showrunner Jason Rothenberg’s tireless efforts to ease the long wait for the trailer.

Related: We’re all Grounders now: Humanity, tribalism and the pursuit of unity on The CW’s The 100

While we remained in the dark for most of the hiatus, we have recently received a substantial amount of teasers in the form of images, snippets revealed at conventions, and behind-the-scenes material. Hypable’s list of teasers from SDCC alone revealed the origins of Eligius, the status of Wonkru, Clarke’s new maternal role, and much more. Our report from Unity Days 2018 gave insight on future relationships and Octavia’s journey.

As a fellow eager fan waiting for The 100 season 5 news, I am of course looking for any and all hints about the season to come. (And every year, I’m surprised by how much I think I know versus how many plot details the production team actually manages to keep under wraps.) And one of my personal favorite sources of speculation is the episode titles.

The 100’s episode titles always have at least two meanings, using proverbs and famous quotations (sometimes its own) to very literally describe something that happens in the episode while also expressing a more general theme or sentiment.

“I Am Become Death” is part of famous quotation from Robert Oppenheimer (who in turn bastardized it from Hindu scripture), the ‘father’ of the atomic bomb and the indirect reason this story exists; Clarke cited Oppenheimer within the episode with reference to the bomb that the delinquents had created to fight the Grounders. “Fog of War” is a military term used to express uncertainties about one’s own abilities and the enemy’s intent, which was exactly the problem the characters faced in this season 2 episode; it was also a direct reference to the acid fog used by Mount Weather. “Stealing Fire” is a common mythological theme, the ‘fire’ usually representing hope or agency (Bellamy later references the story of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods to Octavia), a perfect title for an episode in which all hope seemed lost; actual fire was also stolen, what with Clarke sneaking the Flame out of Polis.

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With this in mind, we might be able to use The 100 season 5 episode titles to gain more insight into the story’s developments and major themes — with the massive caveat that we don’t actually know what the episodes are about or who would be performing the actions the titles might describe. The thing about The 100 titles is that they are often deceptively straightforward, and historical/mythological references cannot be applied on a 1:1 basis. Ahead of season 4, for example, we would never have guessed that “God Complex” referred to Clarke’s intention to take the Flame herself, nor did we know who “The Chosen” were going to be. So take all this speculation with a few buckets of salt!

But no matter how much we can or cannot derive from these titles, it’s fun to take a deep dive into these deceptively clever titles and explore what historical/mythological events they might be calling back to while we wait for that ever-elusive trailer!

Breaking down ‘The 100’ season 5 episode titles

Unless you’re very active on social media, you might not be aware that all but one of the titles for The 100 season 5’s 13 episodes have been released! As per tradition, these have dropped via SpoilerTV, not official channels. As such, there is a chance they might be incorrect or subject to change. Last year, “We Will Rise” had a different title for a while.

They seem like titles The 100 would use, though, so we can probably assume most of them to be correct for now, and then update as we learn more.

5×01 – ‘Eden’

The premiere episode is the only episode of the season whose name is neither an idiom nor a historical/mythological phenomenon, but denotes a tangible (if also symbolic) place.

[The Garden of] Eden is of course a Biblical reference: it is the name of the paradise on Earth in which the first humans, Adam and Eve, lived happily and peacefully before they were tempted, corrupted, and cast out.

It is also the name given to the green oasis we glimpsed in the season 4 finale, for obvious reasons: being one of the only inhabitable pockets of land on an otherwise barren surface, Clarke’s Eden is a literal paradise on Earth. Like the Biblical Eden, The 100’s version is also currently inhabited by two people, Clarke and Madi, who have as far as we know enjoyed relative peace and happiness for six-ish years before the ‘devils’ arrive on the Eligius prisoner transport ship.

The name, which also serves as a tribute to Jason Rothenberg’s daughter Eden, has been used on the show before: the little tree which Kane’s mother Vera used in religious ceremonies was called the ‘Eden Tree,’ here symbolizing the ‘Eden’ which the people born in space imagined the entire planet below them to be.

In season 2, we learned that Kane had brought the tree down with him, and he planted it in the forest on his way to meet the then-mysterious Commander of the Grounders. Is it possible that the Eden Tree was planted within the area that Clarke now inhabits?

This would be a great callback, but seems unlikely based on the assumed geography of post-apocalyptic North America. Clarke’s Eden is located in the former Shallow Valley territory near Virginia, which is south of most known The 100 locations — which, as far as I can tell, also rules out the ‘Eden’s Pass’ located somewhere north of Niylah’s trading post.

(Thanks to The 100 Hypnoweb on Twitter, a fellow non-American, for helping me try to figure this out.)

5×02 – ‘Red Queen’

The 100 does like its fairy tale and mythology references, and this one is particularly rich with potential meanings. The fairy tale imagery may or may not be thematically linked to the story Clarke told Madi in the sizzle reel, which romanticized and mythologized the events of the series so far and showed the ways in which memory and storytelling can manipulate our feelings about and understanding of the past.

The ‘Red Queen’ alludes to several relevant figures and phenomena that might indicate to whom/what it is referring. The most obvious is the Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass (not to be confused with the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland), a humanoid chess piece whose status grants her the freedom to move all over the ‘board’ that comprises her world. Significantly, she and the White Queen are the only two players who can move about freely.

In the Lewis Carroll tale, the Red Queen initially presents herself as a friend and mentor to Alice, explaining the rules of their chess game and telling her that she is able to progress from pawn to queen herself if she plays her cards right (ba-dum-tshhh). Alice joins the game as the White Queen’s pawn and, after progressing to the other side and winning the title of queen, determines that the Red Queen is in fact the “source of all the mischief” and ‘captures’ her, checkmating the Red King in the process.

Relevant to The 100, Through the Looking Glass is a story about women on different ‘sides’ of the board battling for control and trying to influence each other, without there being a clear good and bad side. Once the season is done, there will likely be parallels to be drawn between The 100 characters and not only the Red Queen but also the White Queen and Alice herself, with various characters inhabiting these roles in different ways throughout the season.

But who is the specific character acting Red Queen-y in this particular episode? Is it Octavia, Clarke, or perhaps newcomer Charmaine (which would make McCreary the Red King)? And who’s the Alice?

There are, of course, other Red Queens that the title could be referring to — if it isn’t simply a tongue-in-cheek description of Octavia covered in blood! (I wouldn’t put it past them.)

A real-life Red Queen once existed in the form of Lady Margaret Beaufort, a key player in the War of the Roses (also analogous to Game of Thrones). An influential matriarch of the House of Tudor, Margaret was the mother of King Henry VII.

Could there be layered in a specific reference to motherhood (Clarke/Abby), or perhaps a more general exploration of which ‘family’ has the right to inherit the kingdom (Eden)? In so many ways, the war for Eden is like any other war for control of a country in human history, and much like in season 1, there will likely be talks of who has the best claim to it: those who never left, or those who returned from exile. Eden is, for all intents and purposes, The 100’s Iron Throne.

Finally, we might consider the evolutionary Red Queen hypothesis which proposes that organisms must constantly adapt, evolve and proliferate to survive against competing organisms fighting for the same habitat and resources (h/t once again to The 100 Hypnoweb for this reference).

We know that the people aboard Eligius have some form of Nightblood, which might be considered a form of ‘evolution’ that will make them better suited for surviving on post-apocalyptic Earth, much like the people from the Ark have higher radiation resistance than the Grounders. But the Grounders have evolved and adapted to their environment in different ways, which might give them an advantage in turn.

5×03 – ‘Sleeping Giants’

In various mythologies, giants are representations of chaos and wild nature. A giant waking from sleep would thus cause much chaos and upheaval to the world around them, causing literal or proverbial earthquakes and making life more dangerous for the existing surface-dwellers.

In Norse mythology, there are several giants, including Skrymir, whose snores make the earth quake. In Celtic mythology, there is a particular tale of a ‘sleeping giant’ who will awaken if a specific instrument is played near his hill. There have been theories that the Eligius prisoners are called back to Earth/awoken from cryo sleep by a signal sent out into space either by remnants of ALIE tech or Clarke’s radio broadcasts.

Whether or not these theories pan out, the fact that the Eligius prisoners have lain dormant in cry sleep for close to 100 years can’t be a coincidence. We know that their awakening and return to Earth will have massive repercussions and ‘shake up’ existing dynamics and power structures.

However, the Eligius prisoners are not the only sleeping giants: while they haven’t actually been asleep, Wonkru has been completely “silent,” from an aboveground perspective, while buried underground in the bunker. They are lying in wait, as it were, and their ‘awakening’ upon escape (which might come with a literal earth-shaking explosion to clear the rubble) will also be a giant upheaval and game-changer.

5×04 – ‘Pandora’s Box’

Credit: Walter Crane, “Pandora,” 1885. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

This artefact from Greek mythology contains death, destruction, and all the evils of the world, and once Pandora (made from clay — a Grounder?) opens the jar, all the evils are unleashed. She hurries to close it, but it’s too late: the only thing remaining inside is hope.

In popular culture, a ‘pandora’s box’ is usually a metaphor for a seemingly innocuous action or statement with unforeseen negative, wide-spread repercussions.

On The 100, however, it’s not unlikely that we’re talking about a literal opening of a box containing chaos and evil — the bunker, with 1,200 warriors suffering from a severe case of cabin fever unleashed upon the world? Or the Eligius ship, full of prisoners from our time, spilling all manner of ‘original sin’ from pre-apocalyptic times into the garden of Eden?

But whatever bad things happen, let’s not forget about that remaining hope, a theme which recurs throughout The 100. The hope that remains even after Pandora’s Box is opened could be an idea, an action, or a person — a small glimmer of light in an otherwise chaotic darkness.

Diving a little deeper, we might also note that Pandora was presented to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus by Zeus as a punishment for Prometheus stealing fire from the gods — and Bellamy, of course, proclaimed Octavia the Prometheus of their story at the end of season 4.

If we take the allegory at face value for a second, Prometheus being Octavia would make Epimetheus Bellamy. And Pandora — who was not evil, but nonetheless used as a tool to punish humanity — would be someone who appears to him/them as a friend but ends up accidentally sparking massive chaos and/or involuntarily betraying them. If the reference is going to be this literal, could Pandora be Echo? Zeke? Madi? Clarke? Does this title actually give us a clue as to who opens the ‘box’ of the bunker and/or unleashes the Eligius prisoners upon the world? (I did warn you that this article would be over-analyzing the titles!)

While the term “Pandora’s Box” certainly indicates the onslaught of some chaotic upheaval, it is also possible that the Pandora’s Box here is actually the secrets of what really happened inside the bunker, and the opening of the box doesn’t mean that actual people will spill out of it, but rather represents the revelation of Octavia’s actions to her friends and allies. These truths might have dire consequences for Octavia, and threaten her plans/position.

In any case, when paired with the previous titles, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that this is the episode in which all hell breaks loose.

5×05 – ‘Shifting Sands’

The term ‘shifting sands’ is used to describe a situation which is constantly and confusingly changing, like sand dunes in a desert. (“Sand. It blows.”) The title could be a reference to the shifting allegiances of the various factions and individuals, or it could denote the physical conditions of the world around them. Most likely, it’s a combination of both.

Thanks to the sizzle reel and promotional pictures released by showrunner Jason Rothenberg, we know that parts of Earth are now covered in literal sand, and that the characters will be in some kind of yellowish sand-covered environment, though we don’t yet know why and for how long. The 100 titles do tend to be both figurative and painfully literal (“Bodyguard of Lies,” anyone?), so I bet there will be actual shifting sand in this episode.

It might also be worth noting some of the existing works of media that bear this title, most significantly a strategic board game based on the World War II African campaigns of 1940-1943. In this game, according to Board Game Geek, you have to “try and achieve your goals while events in other theaters influence your ability to maintain any semblance of a plan.” This sounds totally on brand for The 100, referring here to both/all sides of the battle for Eden attempting to predict the others’ moves.

Other potentially relevant references include the fantasy novel by Emily Roda, in which the Shifting Sands is a place the protagonists are trying to get to, moving through enemy territory and encountering treacherous strangers along the way, and the 1918 silent film in which a female protagonist is sent unfairly to prison, and upon release joins the Salvation Army and marries a philanthropist. Over the course of the movie, they each discover that the other is a Secret Service agent, and even though they are captured, they refuse to betray their country.

5×06 – ‘Exit Wounds’

An ‘exit wound’ is a medical term, used in reference to penetrative wounds caused spears or guns (or similar) to denote the place where the object leaves the body.

When someone gets shot in a medical drama, you’ll likely see doctors check for an exit wound, and if there is none, this is a bad sign. Indeed, on The 100 itself, the lack of an exit wound for Raven meant that the bullet had lodged itself in her spine, leading to permanent nerve damage.

The episode title is thus instantly foreboding. Whether or not anyone literally gets shot, it hints that we are saying goodbye to something — whether in the form of a character death or the end of a relationship or alliance — and that this event will have significant repercussions moving forward.

The most famous use of the Exit Wounds title in pop culture is a 2001 thriller, which incidentally starred Isaiah Washington, whose character Jaha won’t be a series regular this year. (Translation: uh-oh?)

And if this wasn’t worrisome enough, “Exit Wounds” shares its name with the devastating Torchwood episode where two main characters were killed off in one go. But no cause for alarm, I’m sure…

5×07 – ‘Acceptable Losses’

This military term refers to the unsentimental, strategic decision that a certain level of casualties or damages are tolerable in the name of that pesky ‘greater good’ The 100‘s characters are so fond of.

Cutting one’s losses and moving on, or accepting a partial victory, is something we’ve seen many of the lead characters struggle with throughout the series, most notably when Kane, Jaha and Abby fought about the culling in season 1 and when Lexa convinced Clarke to let Mount Weather’s bomb fall on TonDC to maintain their strategic advantage in season 2. Even giving up Finn to secure peace with the Grounders was an unacceptable sacrifice to many of the main characters.

The Grounders, more accustomed to war, generally have an easier time sacrificing individuals/groups for the sake of the big picture, while Sky People seek justification or absolution for such actions (“maybe there are no good guys,” “who we are and who we need to be to survive are very different things,” “I had no choice”).

Come season 5, none of these characters are strangers to war and suffering, and it isn’t hard to imagine any of our lead characters making hard choices in the name of whatever they have come to believe is right. In fact, we’ve already seen them do it: in season 4, Clarke cut her losses when she closed the bunker doors; Bellamy and the space gang cut their losses when they left Earth without Clarke; Kane and Jaha cut their losses when they allowed over half their people to be killed to save the rest.

Paired with the previous episode title, this might further indicate a big ‘exit’ in the series, or some big loss/sacrifice that will severely impact the story and characters. Alternatively, it could be referring to a ruthless deal struck by one or more leaders that betrays a certain segment of their people(s).

5×08 – ‘Secret Weapon’

When this title was revealed, I immediately began to wonder who, not what, this weapon could be. Glancing at my Twitter feed, I noticed that most of my fellow The 100 fans had jumped to the same conclusion.

Perhaps this is just a reflection of what we’ve come to expect from the show, as a last-minute plan or reprieve usually comes in the form of a person or alliance. There are, however, a couple of objects or newly introduced technologies that could fit the description as well.

Eight episodes into the season, traditionally this is when our heroes are beginning to run out of options. But there’s still a whole third act left, so whatever or whomever the secret weapon is, it likely won’t be the final/complete solution.

Potentially unrelated, but Secret Weapon is also the title of a 1990 movie which told the story of a nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli pacifist and government employee, who committed an act of treason in 1986 by informing the British press that his country was working on a nuclear bomb.

Is there an allusion here that the ‘secret weapon’ is information presented to our heroes by an unlikely source? Perhaps someone defecting to another faction, and warning them of their imminent destruction and/or giving them insight into the other side’s weakness?

Whatever ‘acceptable losses’ have just been dealt with, this title is one of the few that potentially spark hope that our heroes — whoever we feel are most heroic come this point of the season — might have one last triumph card up their sleeve, or that someone will think of a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem. (Unless the secret weapon belongs to the other side, of course!)

5×09 – ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’

One of the most intriguing titles, this Latin phrase means “thus always to tyrants,” and is generally used as a rallying cry against tyrannic leaders. It dates back to the assassination of Julius Caesar and is (most likely falsely) attributed to Brutus, and was later adopted by John Wilkes Booth, who claimed that this is what he shouted when shooting President Abraham Lincoln.

It seems fair to assume that this title indicates an imminent assassination/betrayal of a leader or perceived tyrant, perhaps by someone the ‘tyrant’ considers a friend or ally.

But who is the tyrant? And who is the betrayer? Nine episodes in, we really have no basis for predicting the answer. As far as I can tell, fandom seems convinced that Octavia is the tyrant betrayed, but then again, Octavia seems to be the go-to guess for almost everything.

As much as our minds might attach to the word ‘tyrant’ though, the uttered phrase might say more about the person doing the assassinating than it does about the leader in question. Abraham Lincoln, certainly, was not widely considered a tyrant. Caesar is harder to defend. But in both cases, the culprit believed they were acting in their people/mission’s best interest.

On a more abstract level, the title might suggest that a major shift in whatever power balance has been established takes place in this episode. We can only guess as to who betrays who and why — but we can probably be pretty certain that whatever happens here will be hugely significant.

Incidentally, “Sic semper tyrannis” is also the official motto of the state of Virginia, which as we know is where Eden is located…

5×10 – ‘The Last’

Not the last episode of the season, but the last… what? Stand? Word? Supper? Hope? Chance? Jedi?

Much like “Secret Weapon,” general fandom sentiment seems to be that “The Last” refers to a person. The last survivor of some faction, the last holdout of some old idea or belief, or someone representing the final chance or hope our heroes have of victory. It could, of course, also be a place, or a thing, or a last problem that needs to be solved.

It is hard to draw mythological parallels when we don’t know what/who ‘the last’ is the last of, but I did want to note (more because it’s interesting than because it’s necessarily relevant) that the apocalypse is sometimes referred to “the last myth” in contemporary society.

And of course, recalling Pandora’s Box, we might keep in mind that the last thing left inside once all the death and chaos had been unleashed was hope. Maybe this is the episode in which they remember or discover this hope, whatever form it takes?

In pop culture, “The Last” is also the title of the fifth (!) and final studio album by the Bachata group Aventura; it is the name of a 1970s pop band; it is the name of a song by The Replacements, and finally, “The Last” is the name of a Doctor Who radio drama for which the description reads: “Trapped on a dying world, the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz come face-to-face with the people responsible for the war to end wars. Will anybody, however, survive to get off the planet before the war comes to an end at last?”

Coincidence?! (I mean, probably.)

5×11 – ???

This is, for some reason, the only episode of season 5 for which we do not yet have a title. Watch this space.

5×12 & 5×13 – ‘Damocles, Parts 1 & 2’

Not only is this a super intriguing and multi-layered title, but it also reveals that the finale will be a two-part episode. This has been the case for every finale thus far, except last year’s “Praimfaya.”

In Greek mythology, Damocles is a courtier who envies the seemingly luxurious lifestyle of King Dionysius (not to be confused with the god Dionysus). Recognizing this, Dionysius invites Damocles to swap places with him: Damocles gets the power, riches and all the luxuries that come with the position, but above the throne on which he has to sit, Damocles finds a giant sword dangling above his head by a single horse hair. (Alternate title for this episode: “Helios’ Revenge.”)

Why? Because ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ as well as great personal risk and sacrifice. To take on the responsibilities of a leader is to forfeit your own life and individual freedom; the benefits that come with the job are a small consolation prize for that proverbial sword hanging above your head, which might fall at any time (as indeed it did for Caesar and Abraham Lincoln).

In the story, Damocles learns that to be a leader is to acknowledge the sacrifice that comes with it, and he ends up turning it down and going back to his own life, with new understanding and respect for the king’s position and the unseen burden on his shoulders.

Understanding the burden of leadership is a prevalent theme in The 100, and Octavia is a particularly interesting case study since she, unlike all leaders before her, never actually desired power or the perks of leadership. (Maybe this fact alone means she can’t be the Damocles of this story — or maybe I shouldn’t be so pedantic in my analogies.)

Tentatively, we might read the title as Octavia — who spent the past four seasons judging other leaders’ choices, only to end up in their shoes and likely making similar choices herself — finally understanding what it means to be a leader and, with this new insight, willingly giving up the position for the good of her people (much like Jaha did in season 1).

However, since this is The 100 we’re talking about, it might be a hair too optimistic to assume that the finale title refers to the bracing moral lesson Damocles learned in the original story; more likely, the Damocles of this tale — be it Octavia or a similar incumbent — will find the sword actually falling on them, either dying as a result or simply being forcibly removed from power. In whatever way, this episode spells ‘judgement day’ for our heroes.

What are your theories about ‘The 100’ season 5 episode titles?

Now that we’ve meticulously broken down almost all the the titles of The 100 season 5’s 13 episodes, are we any closer to knowing what happens in the season?

Yes and no. It seems to me like we have a pretty good idea, from these titles as well as teasers shared by the cast and crew, which major themes season 5 will explore, and what major historical and mythological references it will draw on to do so. The increasing use of terminology from Greek mythology and fairy tales in particular speaks to the power of storytelling — how much you can influence others by framing and naming the people around you as heroes and villains.

The evocative episode titles suggest that this season, like previous seasons, will tie post-apocalyptic events into our own history and literary canon, The 100 cementing its commitment to cyclical storytelling and constant re-shuffling of character motivations and perspectives.

And yet for all that, we know very little about the choices the characters will make under these new (yet familiar) circumstances; the general framework of opposing factions battling for a space in paradise, discovering what unity means to them in the process, don’t reveal what factors might influence Harper’s, Miller’s or Abby’s choices; we don’t know what strategies each side will employ, or even exactly who is on which side and why.

The more we discover about The 100 season 5, the clearer it becomes how little we actually know. We see pictures, but can only guess as to the circumstances. We hear snippets of characters’ stories, but have no idea about how they got there or why. I can’t wait to dive into this season and find out how these episode titles actually match up to what happens!

For now, we can use the titles as reference points for which historical and fictional events it might be worth reading up on to better understand the choices and motivations of the characters. (Yes, there’s homework now. Welcome to paradise.)

‘The 100’ season 5 premieres 9/8c, April 24 on The CW

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