9:27 pm EDT, July 17, 2019

‘The 100’ season 6, episode 10 ‘Matryoshka’ review: The heart and the head and the thing with feathers

The 100 season 6, episode 10 opened layers and layers of story and emotion as Bellamy fought to save Clarke and everyone else fought to save themselves.

…How are we doing, The 100 fans? Is everyone still breathing?! I feel like I just had my heart restarted!

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The 100 season 6, episode 10 “Matryoshka” was written by Drew Lindo (“Exit Wounds,” “The Children of Gabriel”) and directed by first-timer (but bonafide sci-fi legend — you might know her from a few little shows called Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis) Amanda Tapping.

It brings the Clarke/Josephine storyline to a thrilling close as Bellamy and Clarke’s quest to save their heart comes to a head (aha) and they get, if not a happy ending, then a little moment of happy now.

Meanwhile in Sanctum, Russell JUST WANTS TO HAVE LUNCH IN PEACE!!, hashtag relatable, but those pesky aliens are ruining his culty fun by doing super evil things like telling the truth and trying to undo that time he murdered their friend.

Simone is killed in a frankly unnecessary side-swipe (RIP Simone, I miss you already), by a null who gave his baby to the trees, so naturally, Peaceful Leader Russell now must burn everyone from space at the stake.

Like Second Dawn cult father like son, amIright????????

(…AM I right?)

Just another day on this glorious, batsh**, amazing moon. God I love season 6.

And, I know, every review this season, I’ve been praising The 100 season 6 with a weird combination of vindication and surprise, because I know The 100 is good and I always enjoy it, but exactly because of how good I know the show can be at its best, I’m always a little anxious that it won’t live up to its own potential. (An unfair expectation, perhaps, but they’ve set the standard high.)

But this episode, as most episodes this season, was just as good as I knew it could be, and I’m just thrilled about it. Remind me, when the season is over, to start being very persuasive about getting the rest of the world to pay attention to this fierce and defiant masterpiece.

The 100 really is Clarke Griffin incarnate, this little show that refuses to live or die on anyone’s terms but its own, and that’s the highest praise I can give it.

And speaking of Clarke: she’s BACK! She’s really back. Bellamy saved her, as he promised he would: he needed her, and he refused to let her die, and he loves her, and as a fellow person who loves Clarke Griffin, how can I fault him for that?!

Through everything else the show has thrown at them, Bellamy and Clarke’s relationship has been like a port in the storm, and I think it would be hard to be a The 100 fan if you didn’t love their dynamic, because they literally are the beating heart of this thing. It’s fucking epic, is what it is.

And the thing is: it’s epic right now. Whatever happens next will happen next, but whatever the story is, the writers are telling it on their own terms and in their own time, and that is what makes it so rewarding.

The writers really deserve more credit in general for how they’re managing and not letting themselves get distracted by fan expectations, including mine.

I was tense AF during this entire episode. I expected anyone to die at any time. I even genuinely thought, just for a second, that Clarke might die. It felt like anything could happen, because these writers have proven themselves to be fearless, for better and worse, and they answer to no one.

I can’t think of many other contemporary shows that stay so true to their story vision (or are allowed to!) and that really let things happen and develop in their own time, not to appease an antsy audience.

Is it sometimes hard to watch and provide commentary of the show on a week-by-week basis because subversion and misdirection is a big part of its design? Yes. But the show isn’t made to appease me. That’s the point.

It’s their story, not ours; it’s constantly evolving and it’ll go a million more places before it’s through. And I’m ready to follow it there even when it’s not where I might personally have wanted to go (which has been the case in the past), because I know the story will be amazing as long as the writers stay true to the cohesive arc they’ve built and which, no, they have no obligation to tell us about in advance. It’s not about me, or any of us. And I’ve always believed it shouldn’t be.

And, so far, The 100 season 6 has proven me right in placing my trust in the story.

Without further ado, let’s talk about Russion Do– I mean, “Matryoshka”!

Into the woods

Clarke’s on a bike! And she’s… terrible. Hah! As cool as it was to see Clarke pick up Josephine’s skills, it’s incredibly endearing that in reality, her body can’t actually operate this beast.

Clarke may not be born to ride like Octavia and Diyoza, but she’s fierce and scrappy, and vows to Josephine that she’ll remove the mind drive from her own head and destroy it herself before dying. And she would, too. I love her.

Clarke and Josephine’s mind barriers breaking down is obviously a bad thing, but at least we get a lot of great banter between them while we wait for inevitable catastrophe.

It’s a genuine joy to see Eliza Taylor and Sara Thompson interact as their characters on screen, and while I’m happy to have Clarke back, I’m going to miss seeing Taylor as Josephine.

They find a hatch (Desmond flashbacks! Too soon?), and Josephine reminisces about better times spent in there with Gabriel (Finn flashbacks! Too soon?).

Clarke loses consciousness, and wakes up back inside her mind space to find that their spaces are collapsing. Sadly this doesn’t mean that people from Clarke’s past interact with Josephine’s, but rather than Josephine’s memories litter Clarke’s hallway and the only way to buy them both time is to begin flushing memories out the airlock.

It’s a scary concept, memories literally being removed from your mind without you knowing what’s missing (I knew I’d get my Eternal Sunshine tie-in), and for a while there I wondered if it would end up happening to Clarke. I suppose it still might have! But I hope not.

Clarke, proving once again that she’s not as ruthless as she thinks she is, doesn’t kill Josephine when she has the chance. Clarke, who we of course know to be uncommonly compassionate, can find sympathy for Josephine even now, and not only lets Josephine linger on what appears to be one of her only happy memories — dancing with Gabriel in their first resurrection bodies — but even tells her, “you can keep this one.”

Interestingly, it’s the sins Josephine ends up washing away, not the happiness, which later helps makes a neat little point about what we’ve done vs who we are: because even without the memories of the monstrous things she did, even telling Clarke that “I wasn’t always like this,” Josephine of course still ends up trying to save herself by convincing Gabriel to help her steal Clarke’s body for good.

Clarke sums it up herself, very neatly: “We can let the bad things that happen to us define who we are, or we can define who we are.” As it turns out, even if she erases the bad things,Josephine is exactly who we’ve seen her to be.

They flush it all out, Josephine wakes up and takes control of her body, only to find that she’s being eaten by Old Man Willow. But luckily she gets rescued by the friendly forest dream team and accidental official OTP of these reviews, Octavia and Gabriel!

Yep, #XtaviaEndgame still going strong 💪

Not to be outdone, Bellamy Blake: Master of Disguise swoops in on his own motorcycle (was one of grandpapi Blake’s four PhDs in motorcycling? How did he get the outfit? Does it matter? NOPE!) and takes out the guards, except for Jade, who is clearly the real immortal of this whole operation. That girl survives everything.

He sends her back to Sanctum with leverage that they don’t really have anymore — well, I guess they still have Josephine’s mind drive, even if it’s empty? — and proceeds to get an incredibly moving if incredibly one-sided hug from Octavia.

Octavia’s completely unrestrained emotions in this entire episode is such a refreshing change for her. As Blodreina (and even as Skairipa), Octavia worked hard to lock away every emotion she had until only hate remained, but now that she’s broken herself free, she really is just Octavia again. A little harder, a little quieter, but Octavia nonetheless.

And while Bellamy only very grudgingly hugs her back, I consider this a pretty good start to the Blakes’ eventual reconciliation. It’s not going to be as easy as working together to fix the latest crisis (if it was, he’d have taken her back when they first got to the ground).

There is so much baggage between these two, all the way from their childhood through Octavia beating him up for Lincoln’s death and their separation, Bellamy poisoning her and her putting him in the fighting pit. There’s a lot to work through.

But there is time for that later. This is a start.


Abby and Raven are taken back to Sanctum, where Simone very callously tells Abby that Clarke is dead. Was it payback? Or was a small part of her speaking to Abby as one mother to another?

Honestly, I’d love her either way. Simone was a brilliant character, maybe even more so than Russell, more callous and unrestrained in her ‘evil’ because she wasn’t in denial about what they were doing. She’d made her choice, and decided that the price of power and immortality was worth paying. In some ways she was a more extreme, warped and seasoned version of Abby.

Russell, meanwhile, is speaking to Simone as though he was the main character of this show and all our heroes were the invading enemy, which is brilliant, because from his perspective, that’s the reality. Russell genuinely believes he is a good guy, and he doesn’t want the invading monsters to pervert his paradise.

If Simone is bizarroverse Abby, Russell is bizarroverse Kane, wanting to do the best he can and wanting to believe that what he’s doing is what’s best.

But both Simone and Russell’s humanity, such as it is, is solely dependent on holding onto the idea that they’re doing this for love. That’s how the resurrections started, and it’s how they reassure each other that they’re the good guys. Whatever it takes to save the one you love, right?

Since love is the only thing the Primes have left to ground them, losing the ones they love expose their true inhumanity, and the quest for power and warped self-divinity that has slowly seeped in and corrupted their once-noble intentions over the centuries.

Losing Simone sends Russell spiraling into more traditional villainy, to the point where he’ll watch our (innocent!) heroes suffer painful fiery deaths to assert his sanctity.

Only the lingering possibility that they can help him get Simone and the other Primes back restrains him. But when that’s gone, and Russell has nobody left to love? He’ll have no reason to convince himself that he’s a benevolent god.

Meanwhile, Banished Buddies™ Echo and Gaia are hiding out at Ryker’s, who begins spreading the truth to Sanctumnians (Sanctonians? Sanctonites?).

Specifically, he tells Delilah’s parents that she’s really dead, thoroughly upsetting the nice Cookie Man in the process, as well as a man who gave his baby up to be eaten by the trees.

Already here, we should have known this was a terrible plan! Protect the Cookie Man at all costs!!

However, the part of the plan where Echo saves the day is pretty solid. Honestly, until the babydaddy went and blabbed to the Primes, I was zero percent concerned about anyone getting executed. I’d trust Echo with her bow any day. (Ryker, however, can go feed himself to the trees.)

Inside the holding cell, new!SpaceKru is reunited with the original SpaceKru, and actual Ark!SpaceKru, but this particular reunion is somewhat less epic and beautiful than that other one you’re all just impatiently skimming this part to get to me talking about. (I See You.™)

Abby, reeling from SO MUCH PAIN, I can’t even begin to imagine, finds out Murphy helped Josephine steal Clarke’s body. While Emori does her solid best to stand up for Murphy, it’s really hard to take his side here, as it should be.

And listen, I get that Murphy doesn’t want to die, and I get that only very briefly did he actually consider doing anything that put anyone at risk (when Josephine told him Clarke was still alive and he still chose to help her, believing the chance at saving Clarke was too small and it wasn’t a risk worth taking).

Murphy is selfish on behalf of himself, and Emori, and SpaceKru, and anyone who thinks that makes him particularly worse than 80% of everyone else on this show should reevaluate their faves.

BUT. He still helped a bodysnatcher snatch Abby’s daughter’s body, and that patented Griffin betrayal slap™ (though maybe not the nomination for the Nightblood machine fiery death) is well earned.

And it’s painful to watch. For all that Murphy has done, Abby has always had faith that he could be a better man. And sometimes, her belief in him genuinely helped him believe it too.

Now, he has lost that faith, through choices borne out of fear that he wasn’t a good man. It’s a snake eating its own tail, and not in a neat full-circly kind of way.

Murphy hasn’t, however, lost Raven’s faith in him, and I doubt he ever could. Raven and Murphy’s relationship is honestly the main reason I’d be interested in SpaceKru flashbacks, because I absolutely love their dynamic.

Even though it didn’t really change in space (they already bonded in Becca’s lab), I’d like to imagine that even with Murphy’s self-imposed isolation and Raven’s growing friendship with Emori, the two of them still grew closer and developed into what we saw in season 5, which is something like family.

Certainly, Raven is the only one who can tell him he messed up with genuine affection and understanding, and if anyone, she’s the one who can make him understand what others (including Abby) have already told him.

Fresh from space with a bucketful of Kane wisdom to pour over everyone’s heads, Raven tells Murphy: “I know you’re scared to die. But everyone dies. If you want to avoid hell, the answer is not immortality. It’s morality.”

I have to say that Raven has had some truly hokey lines over the course of the series, and this one might be right up there with “it’s not your blood that defines you, it’s your heart.” But the sentiment is still good.

The line is basically a summary of the entire Prime storyline and explains why Kane in particular couldn’t go down the immortality storyline. By shacking up with the Primes, Murphy isn’t saving his soul, he’s dooming it to whatever hell might await them for their atrocities.

(Tl;dr: all of those 2k+ words I wrote about Kane last week, basically! Thanks Raven!)

I wasn’t sure how to feel about the immortality plot device at the top of the season, but I really like the way The 100 has tied the concept of immortality into the series’ over-arching exploration of humanity and morality.

Immortality is actually possible (if you accept computer drive resurrections, which, fine, I can do it if I have to), but not without corrupting your morality/humanity/soul/whatever you want to call it in the process. That is always going to be the price.

So the story isn’t about anyone becoming immortal. It’s about which individuals are willing to pay the show’s chosen price for immortality, who they’re willing to pay it for (themselves or someone they love), and what it even means to ‘save’ someone.

Gabriel and Russell clearly have opposite definitions of what it means to save Josephine’s life, one wanting to unnaturally extend her life indefinitely while the other wants to let her life end, which in turn will have made it a life, as opposed to whatever limbo state the Primes exist in now. Abby and Kane had a similar ideological conflict. And, as with all the best moral dilemmas on The 100, you can understand both points of view, and both are arguably true.

(Clarke and Bellamy’s story, by contrast, is almost refreshingly simple and human.)

Gaia gets herself captured, all part of Echo’s master plan (which, again, was a great plan until everyone started betraying her! Which she should have maybe seen coming, all things considered).

Sheidmadi is not amused by her unbanishment (where was she supposed to go???). “We should have killed you,” she snarls — and props to Lola Flanery here, because Sheidmadi is genuinely terrifying.

Gaia knows Sheidheda is in control, and vows not to let him take Madi. Abby, speaking for literally everyone on this planet and all the rest, tells Gaia to just take the Flame out already — but, of course, Madi changed the passphrase last season after Clarke got all mama beary (that storyline is just a gift that keeps on giving), so that is conveniently not an option.

Still, Gaia knows she has to do something. “I can’t let her lead them,” she says, and I just want to point out how significant this is. Nobody has held onto her faith more firmly than Gaia, but Gaia has also shown herself to be remarkably flexible and reasonable, just like her mother.

She cares about Madi, she always has, and even now that she’s the Commander, Gaia still values Madi’s own life and identity. (Really, if anyone was going to lead the conveniently sleeping Wonkru survivors it should be Gaia.)

Raven, still pulling on her ALIE knowledge from season 3 (which actually is a storyline that keeps on giving!) realizes that Sheidheda has isolated the other Commanders inside of the Flame, which means it’s possible to delete individual Commander ‘files’.

This might be a neat way to get rid of Sheidheda for good, and would make it possible for Madi to continue living with the Flame in her head — if that’s really what’s going to happen. At this point, I’m not sure I see the value of Madi being a Commander, as opposed to just being Madi (who was a great character in her own right).

It doesn’t look like the Flame will be used to save Clarke — barring some last minute memory loss plot twist, which, yikes — and it hasn’t been used at all this season to provide any useful Becca/Second Dawn/Eligius information. So what is the Flame’s purpose once it’s done corrupting Madi (and, presumably, giving us some Sheidheda-and-potentially-Cadogan backstory flashbacks)?

I suppose we won’t know until the story tells us, and I suppose there’s always that whole splitting Commander files thing (they could separate anyone out, not just Sheidheda). But right now, I don’t really see a compelling reason for it to stay in Madi’s head. Maybe they’ll surprise me though!

Russell, who is hangry because his nice lunch was interrupted (or because Simone died, who can say?), decides to kill everyone but Madi, the one who actually did the Prime crimes, and ties them all to stakes to be burned. Which totally wasn’t meant to tie back to that one time Cadogan burned Becca at the stake in the Second Dawn bunker, I’m sure!

Echo’s plan to shoot Russell as soon as he stands still doesn’t work out as well as we might have hoped, because he’s a pacer, and of course then Ryker shows his true colors and knocks her out.

And you know what? After Ryker took out Echo, I looked at the people tied up there — Raven, Murphy, Emori, Abby, Jackson, Miller — and for one moment, I genuinely worried that the show would just kill them all. Isn’t that amazing? Terrifying, yes, but also amazing that the episode made a mass culling of main and recurring characters seem even remotely possible! (Don’t you dare.)

Emori tries to tell the Sanctimonians the truth, only for Russell to punch her in the stomach (Echo would never stand for this!!), and all hope seems lost, but at the very last minute, Murphy finds the magic words that would win over any immortal mastermind: “bone marrow.”

That’s right, we’ve completed the full circle loop back to season 2. Everyone is tied up waiting to be executed, and our heroes trying desperately to strike a deal where they donate their bone marrows willingly in exchange for everyone’s survival. This really is the time travel season!

Except this time, it’s Murphy, not Kane, who’s doing the bargaining :(

And also, this time, it actually works. Because Murphy really can talk his way out of anything.

And so, the Adventure Squad lives to see another day! It’s really a good thing that these people are so capable of saving themselves and each other since Bellamy and Clarke are off being each other’s top priority, hm?

Life and death to Primes

The final scene of the episode absolutely gutted me, in the best possible way, and not just because all of my Xtavia Endgame theories are definitely coming true. (Jk.) (But not really, I’m committed to this bit now.)

Josephine, for all that she briefly got back in touch with her humanity through her instafriendship with Clarke, makes one last stand to save herself, proving my earlier point: that she is who she’s always been, with or without the memories of the bad things she’s done. Because she’d do them all again. To survive, Josephine would do anything.

If this commitment was on behalf of anyone else, it’d be touching. Maybe it’d remind us what Abby tried to do for Kane or what Bellamy has done for Clarke. Maybe once, for Gabriel, it was like that. But that is a story we’re only allowed to peek glimpses at rather than fully experience.

And while I’d like to get the full story (and who knows? Maybe we will), I kind of love that there is such a rich backstory informing these characters and the world of Sanctum that we don’t need to know or fully understand.

Josephine tries to tempt Gabriel by offering him the ‘ever after’ he always wanted — for her to keep Clarke’s body so they can live out their (bodies’) natural lives and die together — and he is of course tempted, because he loves her.

But, in the end, Gabriel voices what feels like the core of this entire Prime/immortality storyline: “I have loved you for centuries. We had our time.”

It is not because he’s stopped loving her that he is willing to let her go. It is because he does love her, and has loved her for several lifetimes, which is enough. He doesn’t want their love to be corrupted and diluted any more than it already has been.

Gabriel knows that the end is what will make their story whole. For their love to matter, it has to end, before it becomes twisted and fake like every other part of their stolen lives.

Because that’s the lesson our heroes have to learn this season, and the lesson they might have learned by Monty and Harper’s example: that any hope of a ‘happy ending’ has to include the actual ending. Because the ending is what makes it real. True immortality is the legacy we leave behind, and a legacy is only left behind once it is complete.

When Josephine tells Clarke, “I wasn’t always like this,” she might not mean ‘I was once good and righteous like you,’ because she never was, but I do believe Josephine was more than she became.

In the flashbacks, we saw a Josephine who certainly had the makings of a future eugenics-preaching psychopath, but we also saw a Josephine who was full of emotion and feeling and, yes, love, a desperate and fragile and skittish thing.

And love is what immortality slowly drained out of her, to the point where I’m not sure we can call Josephine fully human. Josephine is certain the most villainous villain we’ve ever seen on the show, because she lost her fear of death, and in so doing, she forgot what it felt like to be alive.

But Gabriel still clings onto his humanity, because he believes in life and death and natural impermanence. So instead of letting Josephine seduce him to perpetuating their cycle, he basically pulls a reverse Kane (which isn’t as sexy as it sounds): he forgoes a chance to spend a lifetime with the woman he loves, choosing instead the rightful natural death for Josephine in an effort to save both of their souls.

In letting Josephine die, Gabriel is giving her back the natural death he stole from her. He is bringing her back to life by letting her finally die. Because “death to Primes” really was always a gift, not a war cry.

The head tells the heart to beat

In letting Josephine die, Gabriel is also giving Clarke back her life, because, as his words imply, he and Josephine already had their turn. To love and live, and now to die.

Now, it’s Clarke’s turn to live (and maybe even to love — she’s certainly earned it) and, by extension, it’s Bellamy’s turn to save her.

Because, like Clarke, Bellamy hasn’t had his turn either. He has lived, sure, but arguably, he hasn’t yet lived a day in his life where he was solely living for himself, pursuing what he wanted, and freely following his heart.

And his heart, as it turns out, is Clarke. Or he is hers. I lose track. That’s not the point.

“The heart and the head” might once have been a way for the show to tell us whether Clarke or Bellamy was acting rationally or emotionally at any given time (which was a little heavy-handed), but they’ve taken the metaphor to a much more interesting and beautiful place this season.

It’s not that each of them is ‘heart’ and ‘head’ and they complement each other. It’s that Bellamy and Clarke are each other’s heart and head, like two halves of the same whole. (Damn it show, now I have Merlin trauma flashbacks.)

So when they say they need each other now — something Bellamy and Clarke have been saying to each other since season 1 — they mean literally, both emotionally and physically. One keeps the other alive. One can’t exist without the other.

Clarke would be dead without Bellamy keeping her alive with his bare hands, and yelling that she has to keep fighting. And Bellamy? If Clarke died, I think we’ve already seen the shell of a man that would reduce him to. I think he’s said in as many ways that nothing matters to him without Clarke.

As Gabriel so perfectly puts it: the body dies “once the head stops telling the heart to beat.” The body is, pretty overtly, Clarke and Bellamy together, and what Bellamy takes away from Gabriel’s words is that he is the head and Clarke is the heart and that he can be her heart to save her head.

(It feels like I’m exaggerating, but this is literally what is on screen. And it’s epic, is what it is.)

What follows is an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the amazing, soul-crushing scene in season 1 of Lost where Jack desperately pounds on Charlie’s chest while Kate cries and tries to make him stop, but he won’t, because Jack doesn’t quit. A beautiful homage, but not a perfect parallel.

The difference is the dialogue and the intention. Jack Sheppard refused to give up on Charlie because he was a stubborn asshole (whom I loved dearly, shut up) who, well, refused to give up.

Bellamy refuses to give up on Clarke because he cannot physically live in a world that doesn’t have her in it. He tried that once. He knows what it’s like. And, evidently, it’s not a life worth living.

“I’m not losing her again.” “I need you.” “I’m not letting you go.” Bellamy might as well have been pounding on his own heart (and as far as I understand it, that is exactly what he feels like he’s doing).

But for a moment, Josephine wins. She beats Clarke and she kills her. Clarke dies. The heart stops beating. Until the head forces it to restart.

Bellamy brings her back to life by sheer, stubborn force of will and something that, let’s be real, is a true love’s kiss straight out of a fairytale if you squint.

Bellamy gives Clarke the second chance she’s earned — that they’ve both earned — to live. Together? I suppose that question has yet to be answered.

But this is the season’s true resurrection; the miracle, even, that these characters (and the audience!) desperately needed to find their hope again.

As if this scene wasn’t beautiful enough, it’s made even better and more poignant by Octavia standing by Bellamy’s side, helpless to save him from the heartbreak they both know will destroy him (probably remembering how her own heartbreak destroyed her), and genuinely happy and relieved when he actually saves Clarke.

(It also didn’t escape my notice that Octavia herself has stood exactly where Bellamy stands now, pounding on the chest of Lincoln after he got injected with Reaper serum and Abby stopped his heart, and she refused to accept that he was “gone.” This show’s parallel-game is off the charts.)

Octavia just got her second chance last episode, and now, she gets to witness Bellamy get his. Working together to save Clarke and Octavia offering quiet but unwavering support as he almost loses her is the perfect way to bring them back to each other and begin what is probably a long and jagged way to a healthy sibling relationship.

It’s perfect both because Clarke has been by Bellamy’s side almost every time he’s fought with and/or fought to save Octavia and because Octavia has witnessed many of Clarke and Bellamy’s emotional moments in the past.

Specifically, this scene draws a very cute visual parallel to the season 2 scene (that frankly I mainly remember because I see it all the time on Twitter) where Clarke runs to hug Bellamy and Octavia stands by and smiles.

All we needed were the words “Now there’s something I thought I’d never see,” but I daresay Octavia isn’t as surprised by the affection between Clarke and Bellamy this time around.

(Hope) Love is the thing with feathers

On The 100, I dare say that love is both a strength and a weakness.

Love has definitely been weaponized by all sides to excuse all manner of sins, and one character’s love for another is very often used against them. Even Murphy suffers for letting himself love other people. Love can make you desperate and reckless, and losing love can literally make you self-destruct.

But as love is powerful enough to destroy you, it is also powerful enough to be the thing that saves you. Love for yourself, and love for others, and the love others have for you, are the most powerful motivators you can ask for.

And in stories like this where pain and loss and seemingly inevitable doom can make everything feel meaningless, love is what gives our heroes the power to keep going. Love is what motivates them to keep fighting for this elusive better world.

And hey, I’m sure a lot of Bellarke shippers found this moment cathartic for many reasons, and I’m truly happy for you all, because this storyline has needed to move in one direction or another for a while now. But for me, the catharsis comes more through seeing these two characters finally getting a win that feels so utterly insular and personal, after so many seasons of losing and sacrificing and learning not to want anything for themselves.

Clarke and Bellamy have lost and failed and had their hearts broken so many times over that one might be forgiven for thinking that this really is a story about the last people on Earth slowly learning that love really is weakness and hope is for fools and we should all just lie down and wait for inevitable doom because nothing matters anyway.

Every time they’ve tried to carve out something for themselves (love, progress, peace), it’s been almost immediately ripped away or used against them. Their harsh experiences have taught them not to dare hope, and they’ve both fallen into patterns of something like despondency that have cast a shadow over the past few seasons.

Because when your lead characters don’t want anything (or aren’t allowed to want anything), the entire energy drops, regardless of how fast the plot moves.

But, if I’m reading the giant flashing anvil neon signs right, then the thing Bellamy and Clarke truly want in this world, that they’re finally learning to identify — something they could only ever do by having learned to live without it — is each other.

And the result of seeing them recognize and fight for that, and by extension for their own happiness, is honestly invigorating the narrative and the viewing experience in such a drastic way. It makes everything feel like it matters that much more, because the stakes are suddenly hyper-personal, and it matters to the characters what happens.

They aren’t just jumping from one inevitable catastrophe to another, doing the best they can and cutting their losses; they’re taking a stand for the one thing that gives everything else meaning. The thing they can’t live without, whatever that happens to be. And that is excellent, because main characters who want something and fight for it >>> main characters going through the motions as plot happens around them.

This season, Clarke has learned that she deserves to survive, and that she is worthy of love — and that she can depend on love, which is exactly what she did when she tapped out the Morse code and hoped someone would care enough to save her.

Clarke was worried that she was an unforgivable monster, but Bellamy not only forgave her, he put her above everything and everyone else, burning the world down to save her. He cares about her so much that life without her is meaningless.

Bellamy has learned to identify what he wants and has learned to value his own wants enough to prioritize them. He has very symbolically gone from “we can’t lose Clarke” in season 3 to “I can’t lose Clarke.” It’s not “we need you,” it’s “I need you.”

Him identifying that it’s personal, that wanting Clarke by his side isn’t about what they can give to other people but what they can give to each other, feels really significant for a character who has spent his entire life measuring his worth by what he gives to others. (First his sister, then the 100, then Arkadia, then SpaceKru.)

Bellamy refusing to let Clarke die, keeping her heart beating with his own hands and pumping his own air into her lungs to keep her breathing (because if she’s still breathing, there’s still hope, and if she stops, there is nothing), is a pure act of love.

In “Nevermind,” seeing Bellamy give up on her led to Clarke giving up on herself. Now, hearing him shout for her to keep fighting is what gives her the strength to kill Josephine and reclaim her own mind as he keeps her heart beating.

Bellamy telling Clarke that she’s strong, that she’s a fighter, is a way to turn love into strength: they both need to be strong enough and love Clarke enough to fight for her and to save her.

Love for themselves and for each other is very literally life for both of them in this scenario, symbolically complementing how love, in Gabriel’s eyes, was to live and die as mortals.

I’ve always said The 100 is at its very best when it’s not pulling punches both where tragedy and victory are concerned, and I was right. This is just epic television. An invigoration of purpose and injection of hope that felt so very necessary.

Love is hope is life is hope. And hope is what keeps them breathing.

For your consideration

  • Can we all just appreciate Russell’s giant ass Himalayan salt lamp? That is some puuuuure air they’ve got there.
  • Xtavia Endgame jokes (“jokes”) aside, I love Gabriel, can we keep him?
  • Nice touch that it was ALIE’s voice giving the warning notice in Clarke’s head.
  • Where is Jordan? Where is my son??
  • And speaking of sons, where did the dog go?
  • *breaks down your door* HELLO do you want to talk about Bill Cadogan and the Second Dawn cult and Eligius and Sanctum and their shared Art Nouveau fetish and how I’m still convinced “Lightbourne” is a fake hippie name and– what do you mean I’m running out of words?
  • I like Raven as someone who tries to take over Kane’s role as the moral center. The thing that I feel like she can’t quite embody (which I discussed at length in last week’s review) is his ability to build bridges and find empathy and understanding for other people and peoples. But who knows? Maybe she could get there someday.
  • “Echo will think of something,” you guys, the friendship between Echo and Emori is SO PURE.
  • No joke I would watch a whole spinoff about Jackson and Emori just looking at things together.
  • I’m not a big fan of POV shots, but I love how the last thing Clarke saw before she died was Russell’s face as he traded her life for Josephine’s, and the first thing she sees when she is resurrected is Bellamy’s face as he gives her back her life.
  • Goddamnit. I’ve spent a long time trying to shut off all my emotions, and The 100 of ALL SHOWS is the one that makes me feel things? I hate this. (I love this.)
  • Is Clarke really out of the woods?? Is Josephine really gone?? (I’ll miss her.)

Wow! Tell me how that episode made you feel in the comments! Next up is 6×12 “Ashes to Ashes,” written by Charmaine DeGráte and directed by none other than Bob Morley!

PSA: I’m sad (but not that sad) to announce that I’m going on holiday for two weeks starting tomorrow. In a shocking twist, The CW somehow failed to consult me in its hiatus plans, so my holiday ended up colliding with season 6 even though I tried to avoid it! That means I will not have reviews up for episodes 11 and 12, but I will be back to cover the season finale.

And after the season is over, I hope to be able to look back not only on the episodes I missed but also a few specific topics that I didn’t have time to give attention to in individual articles while the show was on air.

It’s been a blast covering The 100 season 6 and discuss it with everyone. If you couldn’t tell, I think this season is pretty okay. ;) Take care of each other while I’m gone, and see you in three weeks for The 100 season 6 finale “The Blood of Sanctum!”

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