3:09 pm EDT, June 22, 2019

‘The 100’ season 6, episode 7 ‘Nevermind’ review: ALIVE Guarded

"I'll find a way to survive. I always do."

The 100 season 6, episode 7 “Nevermind,” almost exclusively takes place inside the mind of the show’s central character. Visited by her ghosts of seasons past, Clarke Griffin embarks on a self-reflective journey to decide whether she wants to die for her people… or live for herself.

“I’ll find a way to survive. I always do.”

With these words, and in so many ways in this week’s episode of The 100, Clarke Griffin reminds us why she is one of the most empowering lead female characters in television history.

That is not hyperbole. If The 100 is remembered for anything, I hope it is Clarke Griffin and her brazen refusal to give up. Clarke isn’t perfect. She falters. She falls. But through it all, Clarke Griffin does. not. quit.

“How about we just relax?” “I have no idea how to do that.” AN ICON FROM DAY ONE.

Wayward daughter Kim Shumway returns to the dysfunctional post-apocalyptic family fold to shine the spotlight on Clarke’s awesomeness with “Nevermind,” a title cleverly referencing her season 3 episode “Nevermore” (two can play at that game!), Nirvana… and, you know, the whole mind thing.

Eliza Taylor flawlessly jumps around Clarke’s emotional spectrum, perfectly capturing the duality of Clarke’s feelings about herself and her own survival. (Give this woman all the awards!)

“Nevermind” is a love letter to our heroine, a beautiful love story of Clarke re-learning to love herself and learning to trust the love others have for her.

It is a perfect companion piece to the season 5 opener “Eden”: we see just how far down the rabbit hole of guilt and self-loathing Clarke has gone, but also how far up she has already climbed on her journey to self-acceptance and self-empowerment.

“I don’t go down easy.” Words to live by, indeed.

In this episode, Clarke is all alone, as she has been alone for seasons, and yet, she’s very much not alone, because she carries her history with her, and she learns to weaponize her losses and memories into a love for herself and a belief in her own ability to endure (and survive™). Just as she did in season 5, where she carved a new life for herself while still drawing strength from Bellamy and their friends and decorating her home with drawings of those she loved.

And even when she thinks she is truly, completely alone — that even Bellamy, the one person she thought she could always count on, has given up on her — what does she have left? A small part of herself, the Monty part, the part that loves her and wants her to live and do better. The part that flat-out refuses to give up.

So Clarke sets out to save herself — a plan that, not coincidentally, forces her to rely heavily on the fact that, despite what her treacherous mind wants her to believe, Bellamy cares about her and knows her well enough to help her — coming to the game-changing conclusion that yes, she wants to live, for herself, as a person, on her own terms. It’s triumphant, it’s empowering, and it’s important.

We need more female characters like Clarke Griffin on our screens. But we also need to celebrate those we have. So choo-choo haters, the Clarke Griffin appreciation train has left the station.

Her heart in her head

“Nevermind” is almost a bottle episode, if we can call Clarke’s mind a bottle. And, if you’re getting technical, 90% of the episode featured only two (female) characters and manifestations of their emotional lives and memories.

I know, right?! But that’s just par for the course on The 100, which has unassumingly and unflinchingly spotlighted women and their rich, multi-faceted, inner lives and conflicts from day one. I’ve almost come to take it for granted.

In order to somehow get through this densely packed masterpiece, I’m going to — gasp — attempt to be linear. The Josephine Lightbourne brain file reviewing technique, if you will.

“Nevermind” opens with Clarke waking up in her primary mindspace, an appropriate prison of emotion that takes us straight to the core of who Clarke Griffin is and shows us how far she’s come — and how true to her origins the show has stayed.

This might be my favorite EVER The 100 set. I already raved last week about how in awe I am of this entire concept: Clarke’s very first prison, the Ark cell where the very first scene of the show takes place, then filled with beautiful drawings of empty places she’d never seen and now filled with memories of the people she loved and lost there.

It also illustrates (ha) the essence of who Clarke is and how she thinks, particularly in contrast to Josephine: where Josephine has rows of neatly organized books, Clarke has weaved disjointed fragments of her past into a patchwork of personality; where Josephine remembers information, Clarke remembers emotion.

No rest for the wicked

The first mindspace Clarke enters is the Eden home she shared with Madi: the place that represents happiness, safety and peace. Appropriately, she is greeted by her father, the person she probably always felt safest with and whose death, in the grand scheme of things, is probably the least traumatic of her many losses.

Unlike some of Clarke’s other projections, Jake is pure light (and delight! Welcome back, Chris Browning), occupying something like Clarke’s idea of heaven.

“Now you rest,” he tells her, playing to the part of Clarke that wants it to be true. It’s the exhaustion, the temptation to just let it be and let go that will later (almost) win out over Clarke’s survival instinct. She has fought and fought, and at some point, her fight being over must feel like a relief. As Monty later acknowledges, Clarke is tired.

But she didn’t get to say goodbye to the people she fought for. And so she can’t truly be at peace. This is enough to make Jake, her subconscious, drop the illusion of heaven: this isn’t the end, there is still hope (she is still breathing), and Clarke’s fight is not over.

Jake leaves her with the words “I’ll be here if you need me,” which is a simple but beautiful way to illustrate how Clarke (and everyone, really) can use the love they have experienced in the past to comfort them in the present. If Clarke needs to return to her ‘happy place,’ she can, and she can draw strength from it if she needs it.

Girl and the ghosts

Clarke goes into the white light — not that one — through a door to Eligius IV. She sees Josephine’s Christmas door, but another space opens, leading her back into her Ark cell.

And who is waiting for her there but ALIE, in her iconic red dress, accompanied by her equally iconic musical theme! What a wonderful surprise. It’s always great to see Erica Cerra.

ALIE explains how Clarke can still be alive: the City of Light chip she swallowed in season 3 is still in her head, and it interfered with the mind-wiping drug. So… everyone say thank you ALIE!

She takes Clarke’s memory of Raven being EMP’d off the wall (killing a million theories) and hides it, because Clarke’s survival instinct is at this point still winning out over her self-doubt, and so her ALIE-projection obeys her command (if grudgingly).

But already here, there is doubt, and ALIE and Clarke come to represent the two sides of herself that will battle for control for the whole episode.

“I tried to spare the pain and horror of your existence,” ALIE tells her, playing to the part of Clarke that is hurt and tired of suffering. But survival!Clarke stands firm: “There is no joy without pain,” she insists, glancing at her memory wall, where Clarke’s traumas exist side by side with moments of happiness, one experience informing the next and making up who she is today.

But of course that isn’t entirely true: as ALIE reminds her, there are some painful memories, so destructive and crushing that Clarke can’t bear to face them. Proving her point, Clarke immediately changes the subject, because her will to live depends on her avoiding the source of her greatest guilt and the deep-seeded belief that she doesn’t deserve the second chance Monty gave her.

She rushes to the Christmas door, and opens it… breaking down the divide between their minds, allowing Josephine to walk straight into Clarke’s memories.

In two minds

Clarke vs Josephine was always going to be an epic showdown, exactly because they are so similar on the surface and yet so very different at their core.

Clarke calls Josephine a sociopath — which she is — and Josephine responds in kind, only to immediate dispute her accusation by appealing to Clarke’s love for her people.

And that is exactly the difference between them: Clarke cares. Clarke always cared. Clarke has been battered and broken and has come close to losing faith in herself more than once, but her emotions and her human connections are what keep her centered (h/t Thelonious Jaha).

They may have had similar experiences — an ex-boyfriend’s blood on their hands, being ripped away from home onto a new planet, genocide, romantic isolation, leadership — but as their mindspaces indicate, Clarke’s strength is that she always kept feeling, whereas Josephine learned to shut off her emotions.

Few leaders on The 100 resist the temptation to see themselves as superior to ‘their people,’ but Josephine has taken it a step further. She is an actual monster. She straight up wrote the book on eugenics.

But we can’t forget that Josephine is also a monster who was made, her father and Gabriel being the Doctors Frankenstein who loved her too much to let her die in peace as a human being, instead putting her (memory stick brain) through literal hell, broken brain after broken brain, and forcing her to resurrect in a reanimated — or, I suppose, reappropriated — corpse.

It doesn’t make her actions or treatment of ‘nulls’ now any better, but she also isn’t wholly responsible for who she became. She was brought back, and tasted immortality, and came to believe she was a god.

Russell can talk all he wants about fairness and second chances, but he is as much as fault for Josephine losing her (literal) humanity as she is. (Gabriel, too, but it seems that at least he recognized that and worked to make amends.)

Josephine enters Clarke’s cell, and sneaks in a little dig at what, let’s be honest, is the worst (and most OOC) thing Clarke has ever done: shocklashing Madi. “Child abuse dressed up as protection,” indeed. The show needed to call itself out for that, and I’m glad it happened here.

Josephine also drops some astute observations about Clarke, including this gem: “You think you’re a badass, but your bravado covers self-doubt.” This is Clarke Griffin 101 (102?), and I love it, and I love that I feel so wholly confident that Kim Shumway and the rest of the writing team fully understand this character while taking us on a tour of her brain.

And then, an epic fight commences. I’ve always loved that Clarke isn’t a natural fighter, yet when she has to, she throws 👏 down 👏. Nothing will ever top the Clarke/Anya mud fight for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Josephine get her ass kicked.

But there is no killing Josephine in Clarke’s mindspace, and so she rematerializes like the Cylon she is.

Monster mash

Clarke runs away and finds herself back in another iconic setpiece, the bunker fighting pits, confronting a literal demon in the form of Blodreina.

I’m always happy to see Marie Avgeropoulos and Eliza Taylor share screen time (it doesn’t happen often). And this scene is so telling about their relationship — or lack of same — because, like most of their interactions, it’s really all about Bellamy.

Not to suggest Clarke doesn’t also have a lot of guilt about Octavia specifically, and I’m really glad this episode addresses this. Taking the bunker for Skaikru while Octavia was fighting for them in the conclave, leaving her to die when the bomb fell on TonDC, almost letting Lexa have her assassinated. But like Blodreina (speaking Clarke’s darkest truths) says herself: “You wrote me off. The thing is: I really thought you cared about Bellamy.”

As much as I hope we get there one day, Blodreina didn’t manifest here because Clarke needs to confront her guilt about Octavia. Blodreina appears in the fighting pits because Clarke can’t face her brother and the overwhelming guilt she still feels about leaving him to die there.

This season continues to positively surprise me vis-a-vis emotional honesty and consequences. Not only have Clarke and Bellamy already had several healing conversations about what happened in season 5, but we’re now seeing that conversation alone isn’t enough to heal such a traumatic betrayal (that went both ways, as I hope they acknowledge).

Clarke’s guilt doesn’t go away until she forgives herself, and she can’t do that until she truly lets herself believe that Bellamy can and has forgiven her for what she clearly considers one of her darkest moments.

As they say, it takes a monster to know one, so Wanheda has conjured Blodreina to condemn them both for this unforgivable sin — and the one that will ultimately break her.

When Josephine shows up, Clarke can’t muster her inner warrior to fight for her survival. The part of Clarke that is her self-loathing about leaving Bellamy to die doesn’t fully believe that she deserves to live, and so Blodreina does’t fight back against Josephine.

(Sidenote: I really hoped Clarke’s subconscious would let Blodreina fight for her when Josephine entered, or that Octavia might show up to do it instead. I don’t think I’ll ever stop hoping for a reconciliation between these two women, and for their relationship to exist outside of Clarke’s feelings for Bellamy.)

Nevermaya

Next, Clarke enters another terrible, tragic, guilt-filled space: Mount Weather, where she actively chose one group of people as being more deserving of life than another (a decision skirting the line of what the Primes are doing, even if obviously there is a big difference between doing something in desperation and doing it premeditatedly and repeatedly).

And then, a wild Zombie Maya appears! Whether or not they were always planning for it to be Maya, or if they tried for Jasper at any point, having Clarke’s mind conjure up a peripheral character who she directly sacrificed to save the group she deemed worthy of saving worked out great. It also fits with the fact that Clarke can’t bear to face the people she cares about most.

(It’s also a sign of respect to the audience, because the show expects you to remember who Maya is, how and why she died, and to feel emotionally connected to a tertiary character who was around for a handful of episodes in season 2. It strengthens the show’s bones. Buffy the Vampire Slayer would do this frequently and similarly expect its audience to keep up.)

Aside from the pure glee factor of bringing Eve Harlow and the iconic Mount Weather set back for a victory lap, Zombie Maya also adds some surprising levity to an otherwise heavy episode about self-loathing and the paralyzing power of grief. Josephine saying “you’ve got something on your chin” and Maya clocking the joke is such a grotesquely funny little aside.

Maya drops more truths about how Clarke really feels about herself: “If you actually cared about saving people’s lives, you’d walk away. You like playing the savior. You like playing God. You’re not so different from the Primes.” And there it is again: the monster, the god, the things Clarke is so terrified of turning into. And the things Clarke is so terrified that Bellamy believes she has turned into.

But like every other interaction Clarke has with her projections, this is really a battle of wills between Clarke’s two instincts: guilt and survival. It’s a constant back-and-forth, and here, Clarke’s survival instinct only wins out because her guilt eggs her into giving up control, and ‘control’ (and ‘giving up’ for that matter) is a bit of a trigger word for her.

It reminds her that she controls her mindspace, and so she uses Maya to her advantage in a supremely satisfying bit of misdirection.

Clarke turns another trauma into a strength by using Madi’s shock collar on Josephine, glitching the Matrix and buying herself a bit more time.

Josephine drops a “bored now” Buffy reference, reboots and brings back a projection of her dad. How? Why? Oh, who cares. J.R. Bourne is the best!

Clarke runs past one of her worst memories, Jake getting floated, and it leads to the deepest depths of her guilt and darkness.

Darkest minds

Well, we had to get here eventually.

This is the darkest part of Clarke’s mind, figuratively and literally. Gapingly, painfully empty. No demons, no ghosts, no relief. Nothing but the looming symbols of the two people whose love and loss traumatized her the most — Lexa and Finn — and smaller mementos of Jasper, Jake and the hundred.

These are the deaths Clarke still punishes herself for (and which the show still punishes her for). This place, these deaths, these loves lost comprise Clarke’s deepest, formative trauma.

As Josephine explains, this is the thing her brain (and the story) won’t allow her to move on from, which she has used to punish and isolate herself for years and which, I fervently hope, is something Clarke will eventually be allowed to finally move on from and make some sort of peace with.

I love the symbolism of Lexa’s throne and Finn’s pole being next to each other. As is always the case with The 100, they don’t ascribe it a set meaning — there might not even necessarily be one — leaving us to read into it what we must. For me, it’s a way to connect their lives and deaths as they must be in Clarke’s mind.

Their deaths were a season apart, but Clarke loved and lost Finn and Lexa within the same very short span of time. Too often, we talk about Clarke’s love for Lexa as an isolated thing, even though Lexa was the one who ordered Finn’s death — which, if Clarke hadn’t stepped in, would have been much more drawn out and traumatic — and however much Clarke’s head recognized that Lexa had ~no choice~ under the circumstances, her heart clearly still links the two together, as it should.

I also love that in this context, Finn is being ‘honored’ by the show as profoundly as Lexa. His pole and the knife Clarke killed him with are as big as Lexa’s throne. As much as I loved Lexa and decidedly didn’t love Finn (I did feel bad for him though, and his death had me sobbing), Clarke loved them both, and it would be disingenuous to try to rewrite her history.

I just really appreciate that we’re in season 6, and I have a reason to still talk about how Finn’s death affected Clarke in season 2. The best stories are layer cakes!

But there is more than empty chairs and tables in this tableau of grief. The lock to Jasper’s box opens with code 0102, the hundred plus Raven and Bellamy. Even here, in Clarke’s darkest mindspace, there is a tiny little box of love and hope and human connection.

But now that Josephine knows that, she only needs to twist Finn’s knife a little to deliver the killing blow.

Speaking directly to Clarke’s guilt and feelings of failure and her desire to save her people, Josephine accuses Clarke of abandoning her people to genocide in an effort to save herself. She turns Clarke’s survival instinct around on her and calls it selfishness. She makes Clarke’s love her weakness.

Nothing she says is a lie, but it is of course deeply manipulative. “Have you ever once considered that the solution is to sacrifice yourself?” Josephine asks, and of course Clarke has considered that, many times over. Clarke has been willing to go to her death for her people multiple times, and in “Praimfaya,” she did.

But here, where she can’t hide from herself, Josephine and her own self-loathing impulses convince her that it wasn’t enough. That nothing but her actual, permanent death is a good enough sacrifice. That anything less is selfish.

It’s chilling to watch Clarke’s resolve break like this. But it makes that final spark of defiance she finds later so much more satisfying.

Josephine knows exactly how to break Clarke, and she has already figured out that Bellamy is the key. Again, she doesn’t lie — she very carefully curates a memory of Bellamy’s defeated acquiescence to Russell’s deal, leaving out his gut-wrenching grief to convince Clarke that he made a pure head-decision.

This memory is the perfect way to ‘confirm’ Clarke’s worst fears about how Bellamy feels about her (and feeding the part of herself who feels the same way). This memory is the proof she needs that he considers her expendable. That he is ready and willing to let her go to save his family, just like in “Praimfaya” and just like in season 5. That she is neither worth saving nor avenging.

Heartbreakingly, Clarke gives up on herself because she believes Bellamy has given up on her; Clarke hears him say the words “it’s the move she would have made,” and she lets him (unwittingly) make up her mind for her. Head over heart, right?

It makes sense that Clarke’s last spark of defiant belief in her own value was connected to Bellamy, and that his apparent indifference is what ultimately breaks her. Because, through everything, Clarke has always carried a deep-seeded belief that Bellamy is the one person she could always count on and who would never give up on her.

“I knew I could [leave our people] because they had you,” she once told him. And after Praimfaya, he was the person she called every day; he was the person she truly believed and expected would come back to her. He left her because he had to, but he would come back because he wanted to. She knew this.

(We could get into a whole psychological side-step about how her leaving him to die in season 5 was a way for her to punish herself for trusting someone (who let her down) and to definitively cut the tether to a kind of human connection she felt she didn’t deserve, but psh, who would go that deep into a TV show amirite?)

This is probably debatable, but it also seems to me that, in her heart of hearts, Clarke was expecting Bellamy to fall apart without her. To prioritize avenging her over keeping the rest of their people safe. Heart over head, instinct over reason.

On the surface, this seems like an unreasonable and selfish expectation for someone like Clarke, and yet it would make me so happy to know that she is capable of such an honest, pure instinct. We are literally in the deepest, most instinctual part of her brain, and in here, she can’t repress the part that wants, or even expects, to be picked first.

Even here, in this gaping chasm of lost love, a part of her still believes herself deserving of that kind of love and loyalty from others, just as a part of her (the Monty part) genuinely loves and wants to fight for herself. It might be the part that is locked in a box at the bottom of her deepest well of grief, but it’s there.

At her lowest point, Clarke concludes that her only value to her people is in death. That she is a tool for other people’s survival and that everyone is better off without her.

It’s what Bellamy thinks. He doesn’t need her. He doesn’t want to save her, and trying to save herself would only make things worse. The second chance Monty gave them was never meant for her.

The memory also ‘confirms’ what Blodreina said: Bellamy didn’t forgive her after all. “It’s what she would have done” isn’t just Bellamy invoking Clarke’s ‘greater good’ leadership style; it’s a reference to what she already did when she left him in Polis.

The memory is proof: Clarke really is a monster, and the only way she can save her friends from herself is to die.

Of course we know that none of this is true. But it feels true for Clarke, because a part of her already believed it.

And you know what? I like to think that the part of Clarke who feels this way truly does ‘die’ here.

Because when the Monty part of her rises and she fights back, it is not as a leader or a savior. It is as someone who wants to save herself, and — I think equally significantly — as someone who wants to be saved and who trusts that her people, Bellamy specifically, loves her enough to want to save her.

Always on my mind

Well well well. If it isn’t my beating heart ripped out of my chest and presented on a plate of greens.

Clarke’s Jiminy Cricket is Monty. You guys, IT’S MONTY! She conjured him up to represent the tiny voice inside herself that feels like she is worthy and deserves a second chance. The part of her that absolutely refuses to let herself give up manifests as Monty Green. Excuse me while I lie down and cry for a century.

The reveal of Monty was sadly not a complete secret to anyone who had seen the promotional pictures (protip: The 100 fans are really smart), but if the emotional impact was going to depend on the surprise factor, the show would have bigger problems. Luckily that is rarely the case.

It’s wonderful that Chris Larkin agreed to come back for this. Monty was always a massively important character, and he continues to be as important, as the one who always had his friends’ backs and who always held onto his humanity even when everyone else was in danger of losing theirs.

Even if it was never really Monty in these scenes, it felt very much like he was really there. Unlike Maya and ALIE, who were more obviously a part of Clarke’s mindscape, Monty and Jake both felt real, probably because Clarke knew them best.

But unlike Jake, Monty argued against Clarke, vocalizing a truth she would only let him vocalize because he is one of a handful of friends she’s ever had who she fully believes loved her.

And he died so that she may live. Not so that her people may live. He saved Clarke, specifically, and woke her up to show her the new world. And she needed to be reminded of that.

“Giving up isn’t better,” Monty tells her. “‘It’s all for my people’ is just an excuse.”

Monty makes such an important point here, which Clarke has forgotten but which the writers thankfully have not: that Clarke as an individual human being has value. To herself, and to her friends.

She isn’t a chess piece to be moved around and sacrificed for the greater good. Her worth isn’t measured by her utility. Not to Madi, not to Bellamy, not to any of them.

Sure, her people can live without her. But that doesn’t mean they should or that they want to. And that’s the vital, all-important piece that was missing from the memory of Bellamy that Josephine showed Clarke. The part where Bellamy shattered, where he lost his will to fight back, where he acknowledged to himself that life without Clarke would be significantly worse.

So Clarke takes herself by the hand and musters the strength to keep fighting. She steps into Josphine’s mind space, a neatly organized library straight out of The Magicians. 230 years of memories, all neatly stacked and identical in design, signalling her complete emotional detachment.

They figure out that they can control Josephine’s body by accessing her deepest trauma, and damn it, she keeps fighting.

Prime fire

This act, perhaps a little less emotion-filled than the rest, fills in the blanks about Kaylee murdering Josephine VII and reinforces that Josephine’s psychopath status is at baby-killer level. (I was pleasantly surprised to see Sarah-Jane Redmond again as Kaylee.)

Josephine kills Kaylee’s null boyfriend, who has been stealing the sacrifice babies and giving them to Gabriel. Like Echo’s encounter with the guards last and the flesh eating trees last week, this is just hammering home the lengths the Primes will go to for the purity of the bloodline. (First Horcruxes, now Purebloods, what’s next?! Platform 9 3/4? Oh wait.)

It’s interesting to observe what Josephine’s words “for my people” does to Clarke. That phrase has often been used to spark a connection between Clarke and the many antagonistic leaders she’s crossed paths with, and it’s no wonder she finds it harder and harder to set herself apart from them.

We learn a bit more about the Prime system of oblation and selective breeding (yiiiiikeeess) and literally sacrificing babies to the trees. tl;dr: turns out there are bad guys!

The most significant bit of information we get here is that Gabriel did use host bodies, at least for a while, before renouncing the practice and the Primes’ way of life and founding the Children of the Forest with all the babies he probably snatched.

Too real

The final mind space Clarke visits is the one Josephine has been desperately trying to avoid. Monty and Clarke get to live out our wildest AU fanfiction fantasies by visiting a pre-apocalypse diner in December 2043, complete with winks to contemporary characters Diyoza and Becca and the tangled web that has been weaving between these factions since before the beginning.

(It’s not the same diner, but what a neat detail that the happiest place in Clarke’s mind strongly resembles the most traumatic place in Josephine’s. And of course there is something universal and eternal about the image of a small town diner somewhere in America — the more things change, the more they stay the same, right? They even have a similar diner-esque hangout space on Sanctum.)

Diyoza stares out at us from a newspaper, slash mark fresh on her neck, the ‘Boston Daily Capsule’ gleefully exclaiming “GOT HER!”

Becca Franko, Creator of All Known Worlds, is on the cover of the magazine Josephine is reading. (I would have called it ‘Frankly Franko’.)

It seems maybe memory implants were more common than we thought, because the cover proudly displays “INPUT DEVICES: A-300 Memory Tested.” It’s all effective world building for a world long gone.

The scene looks picturesque and utterly normal — and eerily reminiscent of something much older, like a scene out of every wartime period in U.S. history where the shadow of death and destruction hands over everyday life.

A reference to a water rationing protest and the dusty air sneaks its way into two girls’ college chatter, and Josephine treats the decision not to go on the Eligius mission as just another decision about her future. I guess it’s true: War never changes.

But then we get to the heart (and the head) of the scene, when an ex-boyfriend of Josephine comes in, lays a gun on the table and finally shoots himself in the face, splaying Josephine with blood and traumatising her forever.

The whole sequence is stark and straightforward, the colours are muted, and in a show about genocide and nuclear apocalypses and murder and the occasional radioactive gorilla, somehow this is the scariest scene the show has ever done. Because it’s real, and normal, and it happens. Without the sci-fi safety blanket, this trauma slams into us like a freight train, just as it did Josephine.

No wonder she doesn’t ever want to die.

And no wonder her brain began to warp, even before the rebirths began, to make her believe she had the power to decide whether other people lived or died. Of course it doesn’t explain how she became a psychopath who believed in a superior race of humanity, but it isn’t meant to.

Josephine is the closest thing the show has ever had to a real villain, maybe besides McCreary, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an origin story or that we can’t find sympathy for her.

He still has hope (she’s still breathing)

The episode coda, the only part that takes place outside Clarke’s mindspace, shows Monty!Clarke sending a morse code message to Bellamy through the lights in Josephine’s diner (it’s a Christmas miracle!).

And in a genuinely thrilling moment of victory, Bellamy gets the message! It sure is lucky that Bellamy Blake majored in morse code and Clarke Griffin, hmm? Nerd alert.

No seriously, I may or may not have shed a tear when the camera shifted and Monty transformed into Clarke — because it had of course been Clarke all along, but now, she has admitted to herself that she is the one who wants to fight for her own survival. And she genuinely believes that Monty would want her to, which is why he was the one her mind conjured to fight for her.

And of course it had to be Bellamy that got and understood her message. Not only because their relationship is being thoroughly hammered home as the most important in both of their lives, but because this is in so many ways their second chance: Clarke’s second chance to live, and Bellamy’s second chance to save her.

The first time around, when she ‘died,’ he moved on, unable to hear or respond to all her messages. But this time, he gets the message.

Her name is Clarke Griffin, and she is alive.

Now, she needs her friends to save her. And this time, they will.

She will rise

During the relentlessly aggressive commercial breaks, I was reading a random book called The Paris Bookseller that has nothing to do with anything but, by happy accident, right as the episode was about to come back, I read this passage:

“I’ve often wondered why people don’t write more books about living. Anyone can die. But living?”
“You’re right, Madame. There is so much to say about living.”

How apropos for this episode, which is all about Clarke Griffin fighting for, almost losing, and ultimately claiming her right to live, as an individual and as a human being that is more than the sum of her importance to her people.

The 100 has always been about death. Because death is a vital part of life: grief and loss and death shape our humanity, and the show is one big deconstruction of humanity. I don’t think The 100 ever got too nihilistic in its exploration of these themes, but it’s come pretty close.

However, in Book 2, after the dark year of devastation and near-hopelessness in season 5, I no longer feel like this is a story about death. This is the part where they live. As I said in last week’s review, The 100’s heroes more often than not survive their denouement these days, and their stories become about the after. The living. The hard part. The journey. The part that matters.

This doesn’t mean nobody will die or suffer or that we’re past the darkness, because somewhere along the line, your survival is contingent on you surviving the deaths of those you love, and that is a part of life, too. (Or is it?)

But it means, on a structural level, that the characters on The 100 aren’t living to die: they’re living to live, as long as they can, with as many of their loved ones as they can. That small twist of basic intent is what makes a show like this inspirational and empowering and invigorating to watch, as opposed to grim and nihilistic and monotone.

It’s no coincidence that Clarke’s code was the hundred + Bellamy and Raven; that we saw Jasper’s goggles and Clarke’s watch and Finn’s death pole and Lexa’s throne and Jake’s tablet.

All of Clarke’s losses make up who she is, and her choosing to live isn’t about closing the door on her lost loved ones. It’s about letting their love give her strength. Maybe one day she’ll even be able to think about Lexa without crying.

Clarke has always loved too much and too deeply, and the story has used her capacity to love against her, to the point where she thinks her only value as a human being is to die for those she loves.

And when Clarke convinces herself in this episode that everyone she loves is better off without her, it isn’t just heartbreaking because it shows that she doesn’t value herself as an individual. It’s heartbreaking because that is how she has been made to feel.

Her status as an isolated leader never just came from her. It’s a position her peers have forced her to occupy: she has been Clarke the Hero or Clarke the Villain, but she has never been ‘one of us.’ Only two people — Bellamy and Lexa — have ever stepped up to shoulder the burden with her.

But this episode marks what I hope is a real shift: Clarke reclaiming her right to be Clarke The Person, not just Clarke The Leader, and to reclaim her ability to use love as strength, not weakness.

When we talk about Clarke and love, I think we sometimes get too hung up on who Clarke loves, or who she is or isn’t allowed to love. The important thing, to me, is that she loves.

Bellamy and Clarke’s dynamic is a great example of the show pivoting to showing love as a source of strength rather than a burden. The 100 has always been telling an epic love story* with these two, but in season 6 — and I think this is a key part of why the season is so strong, and why the emotional beats resonate with the audience — they are no longer shying away from letting it be a love story.

(*No, I don’t need to define that love. That’s a perk of not being the one to tell this story. I can just call it love and call it beautiful and leave the rest to the writers.)

It feels like there is a newfound, refreshing level of emotional honesty in how their relationship is written, but it’s also a way to move both characters forward on their individual journeys.

I don’t have a lot of story-specific hopes, because the satisfaction I get from this show is less about what happens than how it happens. But right now, Clarke’s story specifically seems to be about learning to love herself, letting herself be loved, and making sure the space in her mind where love twines with guilt and grief isn’t just dark and empty and full of ghosts. And I think that’s a very important story to tell.

A piece of my mind

  • Now ki– juuust kidding.
  • Their hands form an ‘M’!! I love Clarke and Monty’s friendship so much.
  • Earth Skills, huh? So really, when you think about it, Pike saved Clarke…
  • Sigh. I know they tried to get Wells back for this episode, and I obviously can’t hold it against them that it didn’t work out, but man would it have been amazing. There’s always season 7, right?
  • If they had just explained Clarke’s lack of dying by saying it’s because she’s so awesome, I would have accepted it without question.
  • I cannot AND I REPEAT I cannot believe they planned a Pauna comeback, filmed it, and then cut it out of the episode???!!! Not to cry over spilt gorilla, but it would have been so good??? That Pauna moment in season 2 floored me. It was so unexpected and honestly the most badass, rebellious way to signpost ‘this show can be anything we want it to be’. What a shame. I could have done without 30 seconds of that Josephine VII act, just saying.
  • I love one (1) Nathan “what does the word ‘alive’ mean” Miller.
  • When I said Josephine reminded me of ALIE, I wasn’t expecting her to literally parrot the “Too many people” line…
  • ALIE’s explanation of how Clarke retained her memories rules out any of the other hosts being saveable, no? Only the other characters who still have the chip in their heads — Emori, Jackson and Echo (and Gaia?) — would have a chance of coming back if their minds were wiped.
  • ”Just between us girls, I kinda like your body.” No, you will NOT make me ship Clarke/Josephine, I refoops too late.
  • Everyone’s calling Monty twisting Christmas lightbulbs a Stranger Things reference, and it probably was, but all I could think of was this:
  • “I care about both of you”? Listen, it might just be because they haven’t had a non-antagonistic interaction since season 2, but if there is one character I have a hard time believing Clarke genuinely cares about, it’s Octavia.
  • For an episode in which Clarke had to face her demons, she faced surprisingly few demons. She faced Octavia and Maya and an empty chair, and a looming absence of manifestations of those things she is still too afraid to face. I wonder if we’ll get more encounters.
  • I know some people wanted more cameos, but to me, it is almost more exciting to spend an episode with semi-peripheral characters from Clarke’s past than it would have been if she’d been visited by the show’s greatest hits, because this way, “Nevermind” becomes an homage to the show’s entire history. It was for the fans, not for the headlines.

‘The 100’ returns Tuesday at 9/8c with ‘The Old Man and the Anomaly’

Look out for an interview with Shannon Kook, who plays Jordan Green, coming to Hypable soon! One half before next week’s episode and one half after.

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