10:00 am EDT, July 14, 2019

‘The 100’ season 6, episode 9 ‘What You Take With You’ review: In love may you find the next

The 100 season 6 continues to smash it out of the park, each episode delivering incredible emotional payoffs that have been years in the making.

An impressive writing debut by Nikki Goldwaser and directing debut by The 100’s stunt coordinator Marshall Virtue, “What You Take With You” manages to feel like the calm in the eye of a storm, allowing three key relationships — Bellamy and Clarke, Abby and Kane, and Octavia and her inner Blodreina — to breathe and, in two cases out of three, fundamentally evolve and shape the story moving forward.

The 100 season 6 has positively surprised me by being so ready and willing to take leaps forward, not just in terms of the story but the characters and their dynamics. These people have changed and grown and the decisions they make reflect how far they’ve come. As Anomaly!Pike told Octavia: “The path to the future goes through the past. We are what we’ve done and what’s been done to us.”

The 100 is all about choice and circumstance and the grotesque ways in which we marry the two, with heart-wrenching consequences. They say you either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain; on The 100, our heroes and villains are endlessly swinging back and forth on the pendulum until someone cuts the cord.

The longer you survive on this show, the more swings you get on that pendulum. The longer you survive, the more ‘impossible choices’ the narrative forces you to make, and the harder it becomes to hold onto your humanity once the dust settles. But the ones that do are the ones we call heroes: not because they don’t fail, but because they keep trying.

And always, all of the moving around on this pendulum is in the name of love — for yourself, for a cause, for your people, for your person. Sometimes that love feeds greatness and self-improvement, but more often on this show, the love turns to loss and becomes destructive, or self-destructive.

Abby, Octavia and Bellamy are all at different points of the same story about risking everything to save someone they love, and in losing that person, letting the loss — or the risk of loss — corrupt and destroy them. It’s a story the show has told before, many times.

But this time, they’re up against enemies that have conquered death, and who never have to contend with their loved ones dying. Immortality is actually an option now. But at what cost? For the Primes, the prize of immortality is, quite literally, their souls and their moral humanity.

It’s a price Abby was willing to pay to save Kane, because losing him was unfathomable. And now, his loss may very well destroy her, the way the loss of Lincoln once destroyed Octavia. Losing Clarke is similarly unfathomable to Bellamy, and while he isn’t trying to make her immortal, he is risking everyone and everything to give her a second chance, just like Abby. Because, just like Abby, he knows that losing Clarke might destroy him (but unlike Abby, he probably won’t).

No wonder the Primes’ promise of immortality is tempting. Because when it comes to saving the one you love — be it people or person — you’ll do whatever it takes. Won’t you? You’ll sacrifice anything, anyone, including your own humanity, before you give up. Because if you lose, then what is the point of trying to do or be better?

For so long, the question The 100 has posed to its characters and the audience is: “How far are you willing to go to save the person you love?” This season, it challenges us further by positing that there is a way to save the people you love forever — but in doing so, you destroy your own soul and theirs in the process. So is it even really salvation, if ‘living forever’ comes at the cost of your humanity?

Marcus Kane didn’t believe so. His and Abby’s humanity wasn’t a price he was willing to pay for something that didn’t even really feel like life.

Marcus refused to corrupt his own soul, and he refused to let Abby corrupt hers in his name. He already had his hero’s journey, and he had already learned the lessons that made him a good man. He had already compromised his own and Abby’s humanity to save Abby once, and he wouldn’t let her do the same for him.

And, unlike Abby (and Clarke and Lincoln), Kane’s journey was already over by the time Abby ‘saved’ him. His life had already reached its natural, if unfair, end. The body that experienced everything that made Kane Kane was cold and dead.

It wasn’t about Abby saving him or letting him die; it was about not letting her pay the unbearable price of immortality.

And that is the cruel but crucial point of this storyline: that even in a world where immortality is possible, the price of eternity is too great. The Primes may not see that, but Kane did.

There is a limit to life, and there is a moral limit to “whatever it takes.” At least, that is what Marcus Kane believed, and it was this limit that defined the humanity he lived and died for.

Kane also knew that even when our lives end, our stories don’t have to. We can live on through the people who survive us, just as Kane will through the people that learned by his example.

The 100 is above all a story about humanity and all the beautiful, broken, bitter associations we pile onto that elusive word. And the story of humanity is not a happy story. We claw out the love and goodness and peace that we can, for as long as we can. We may not be able to live forever, but we can save as many souls as we can while we’re here, including our own.

Let’s discuss the emotional, sensory overload that was The 100 season 6, episode 9, “What You Take With You.”

Are you now, or have you ever been?

One of my favorite things about The 100 is that its female heroes get to have love stories with themselves: Raven in season 3, Clarke in “Eden” and “Nevermind,” and now, it’s Octavia’s turn.

Octavia’s arc has been incredibly satisfying to watch. You can track her descent into self-imposed darkness from the very beginning: she was raised in isolation, imbued with the self-loathing of knowing her existence was a burden — to her family, who loved her and sacrificed their own freedoms for her, and to humanity itself (by the Ark’s constitutional decree that by existing illegally, she stole oxygen from the human race).

On the ground, Octavia found freedom through violence and physical pain. She found a way to earn her place among a people that acknowledged her by exclusion; she wanted to belong somewhere but she was always, always othered; she wrapped up all of her hope and freedom and happiness in one person and then she lost him; she had to become the thing she hated, and rule the way she had been ruled, and take on the form of a demon, to save a people who didn’t want to be saved and to save herself from a pain that almost killed her.

All of Octavia’s desperate, increasingly self-destructive grapple for control and identity and fairness was building to Blodreina. This was to be her final form, the ultimate subversion and amplification of what Octavia Blake stood for. In everyone else’s eyes it was her ‘villain origin story’ — how easy to make someone else the embodiment of your own damnation or salvation — and it could have easily been where her story ended.

But it didn’t. The 100 neither let the powerful woman who lost her way die a brutal death by the male hero’s hand (side-eyeing you, Jon Snow), nor did it grant Octavia a band-aid redemption through sacrifice. Instead she got to live. Live with the guilt and grief and pain that she tried so hard to repress, live with the urge to redeem herself in her own and her people’s eyes, and live to be Octavia Blake — no labels, no expectations — maybe for the first time ever.

This young woman has jumped from one label to another since the day she was born, and she has always been defined by what she was to other people — ‘my sister,’ ‘the girl under the floor,’ ‘Grounder Pounder,’ ‘sky girl,’ ‘Skairipa,’ ‘Osleya’, ‘Blodreina’ — escaping one just to be defined by another.

But now, finally, Octavia can put all of her titles behind her and discover who she is without them. Her past has made her who she is; her choices have shaped her, but the slaying of Blodreina represents more than her ending that chapter of her life.

It represents that she is no longer bound by her past, or forced into a certain mold by her experiences. She has a choice to just be herself, and now, she actually has the ability to discover who that self is, through acts of redemption that are as much for herself as for the people whose love and respect she wants to earn back.

And who is Octavia Blake? Well, for starters, she is the person who will ride her motorcycle straight into the lion’s den to save a people that has disowned her. And wasn’t she always?

What we’ve done and what’s been done to us

While Octavia’s story tracks from the beginning, the origin of Blodreina can be pinpointed to two specific events in her life: something that was done to her and something she chose to do in response.

Lincoln’s death is the obvious defining moment for Octavia. It was the moment she lost all hope for a ‘happy ending’, and the moment when everything she considered good in the world was ripped away from her. It was, ironically, a lot like what Abby just experienced losing Kane.

But Lincoln’s death wasn’t something she could stop or control. It was, like so many tragedies, something that happened to her. By contrast, killing Pike was Octavia’s choice. He had just saved her life, she had one moment of hesitation between sparing him or killing him, and she made a choice.

In killing Pike, Octavia chose who she wanted to be: from that moment on, she shaped herself in the image of what she hated and learned to lock away her pain. She gave into her violence; she pushed people away; she learned to murder without feeling, to make Death a tangible thing she could fight and control. This all instinctually stemmed from losing Lincoln, but Octavia chose to become this person when she killed Pike.

Because that’s the thing The 100 very astutely recognizes: we can’t stop tragedy from happening to us. We can’t control the world, and we cannot make other people’s choices for them (except through tyranny). We can only control ourselves and our own choices.

As another great show about complicated female characters empowering themselves once said:

“Even if you see them coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”

(Yeah, it was Buffy. How did you know?)

And that is the gift the Anomaly gives Octavia: a chance to go back to the moment that came after the formative tragedy, when she had to decide who she was, because that was the part of her story she could control.

In this episode, Octavia slays her demon and learns the all-important lesson that Pike was summoned to impart: that the only one with the power and responsibility to decide what she becomes is herself. By saving Pike and killing Blodreina, Octavia breaks the cycle of her own self-destructive choices.

What a delightful surprise (thank you for not spoiling this one in a sneak peek) to see Michael Beach back as Charles Pike. It’s always great to see the show letting its best characters continue to impact the narrative through how others remember them.

And I’m glad it was Pike. While Octavia probably has similar reasons for not being able to face Lincoln as Clarke has for not facing Lexa and Finn, it also just makes more sense for it to be the person whose death Octavia could control and ‘undo’ within herself that manifests to let her face her demon.

Because, as much as she might have wanted to, Octavia couldn’t improve her situation, either how she felt about herself or how others felt about her, as long as she carried around this immense self-loathing.

Pike vocalizes that she hates herself, but I think an even more telling line is Octavia asking, “What if I don’t deserve [redemption]?” As much as she might want to change, she’ll never truly be able to if she doesn’t think she is worthy of changing.

Sometimes we don’t seek to better ourselves because we don’t think we deserve to be or feel better. We accept the love we think we deserve, and this includes self-love. I can’t tell you how many opportunities I haven’t taken and how many experiences I haven’t let myself have because I thought I hadn’t earned the right to want them. And I’ve never even ruled the last survivors of mankind in a cannibalistic Roman Empire cosplay death match cult!

When Octavia killed Pike (and later almost killed Ilian) she was turning herself into the monster she hated to protect herself. This episode sees her reckoning with the monster; the pain; the choice. She finally faces the pain that would have killed her, and in the Anomaly, it almost does.

But she beats it. She wins. She reclaims not just her humanity but the pain that comes with it. She is her brother’s sister, but she is so much more than that. She is Octavia Blake, and the Anomaly allowed her to feel like she earned the right to call herself by that name again.

She emerges from the Anomaly trip having made peace with her own past — but having learned nothing about the Anomaly in the process.

I’m not sure if Octavia forgot about Diyoza or if we’re just meant to assume they think she’s dead (she better not be!), but regardless, she’s probably off to make amends with Bellamy when she hears Clarke’s message (did we hear it playing before she even made it??).

Knowing Clarke is in trouble means that “her people” are too (note: she’s still not counting Clarke as her people), but Gabriel convinces her to stay with him.

You know, for the… endgame. 😏

And you guys. She smiles. How incredibly refreshing to see Octavia with her walls down.

While you won’t catch me getting my hopes up about any Clarke and Octavia interactions, it seems Octavia will be there to help Gabriel save Clarke, which probably also means that she’s about to cross paths with Bellamy.

Bellamy of course already rejected Octavia’s attempts at redeeming herself to him several times. But this time, he needs all the help he can get, and just maybe, they’ll be able to come together as equals.

And considering that Clarke’s life or death was very much at the heart of their last conflict, it’s only fitting that they should begin repairing their relationship on a joint mission to save her.

The heart and the heart

This episode treats us to some fantastic exchanges between Josephine and Bellamy (Bellaphine? Jollamy? Should I just not?) that hammer home that Bellamy cares more about Clarke than anyone else; that he would do whatever it takes and put everything and everyone else on the line to save her.

(…I mean, are we shocked? He already poisoned his sister for her. Bellamy couldn’t be more heart > head for Clarke if he tried.)

I just love it when The 100 puts these two on screen together. Some of the show’s most memorable emotional moments come from what is said — and not said — between Clarke and Bellamy. I always leave their scenes feeling like I know them a little better as individual characters.

(Though I’d know them even better if they got to finish their sentences, but hey.)

On paper, this storyline is more about Clarke than Bellamy, but it is as much about how everyone else feels about her as it is about how she feels about herself.

While “Nevermind” gave us a journey into Clarke’s mind where she learned to value and fight for her own life, the real-life story has primarily focused on Bellamy’s feelings for Clarke, and his/everyone else’s mounting certainty that there isn’t anyone or anything he cares more about than her.

In many ways, this storyline is to Bellamy what the Anomaly vision was to Octavia: a chance to re-evaluate his priorities and revisit a formative regret.

The primary themes of season 6, “face your demons” — synonymous with “face your past,” because their demons are themselves and their own choices — and “second chances,” are very complimentary, because a second chance is what our heroes have a chance to earn if they can face and slay their demons (the path to the future is through the past).

In some cases, their second chance is a literal do-over of their formative regret: Octavia got a do-over of her decision to kill Pike, which allowed her to exorcise Blodreina for good, and Bellamy now gets a do-over of saving Clarke after she ‘died’ in Praimfaya.

This time, he doesn’t leave Clarke behind. This time, he gets her message. This time, he responds. This time, he saves her. Whatever it takes, he’ll save her.

It is, potentially, a very powerful personal arc for Bellamy, of finally reckoning with why he needs Clarke so desperately. Is he in love with her? I mean, probably, why wouldn’t he be? But it’s not just that.

It’s been a while since the story really examined the immense guilt and pain and self-loathing Bellamy feels, and which he is so rarely able to express unless it directly pertains to Clarke or Octavia. (I believe the last time Bellamy’s emotions were about himself was in the season 4 episode “Gimme Shelter.”)

We know Bellamy projects a lot of his desperate hope for betterment and redemption onto Clarke, exactly like Abby projected onto Kane, and that one reason he desperately wants to save her is because of what she represents to him, both personally and as someone who embodies qualities he believes he himself lacks.

At this point, it feels like Bellamy has lost confidence not only in himself as a leader, but in humanity’s capacity for betterment. “You can be better than us,” he told Madi in the season 5 finale, but it was more out of desperation than hope; it was an acknowledgement of his own (and his ‘generation’s’) failure and a wild plea for radical change in the face of yet another apocalypse.

And no wonder Bellamy’s hope is failing. Because here they are again. Nothing is better. Another us, another them, and his friends just keep dying and betraying each other. Just like last year, just like always. How hard it must be to keep believing that things will get better when nothing ever does.

Bellamy might as well still be sitting in the rover in season 4 crying about losing his hundred and being helpless against the forces pulling his people away from him. Despite all his efforts and sacrifices, nothing has made a damn difference.

The only thing that ever made a difference, from Bellamy’s point of view, was Clarke. They shouldered all the big burdens together and they saved people together, and change always felt possible when they were together.

Bellamy has repeatedly had to confront who he is without Clarke and always comes up short by his own standard, judging himself not by who he saves but who he doesn’t (“18 dead” vs “82 alive”), becoming more and more certain that he doesn’t only want her by his side but that he needs her to be.

He needs Clarke to help him save their people, which is paradoxically why he needs to save her, which is paradoxically why he needs her. It’s always been this way. Every season, Bellamy and Clarke go through this loop of separation and salvation, hope and hopelessness, and every season, the show goes to greater and greater lengths to show that they (believe they) need each other to be a complete entity. An infinite loop of head and heart, heart and head.

And that’s why nothing matters without Clarke — not his friends, not their colony, not peace with the Primes. Because without Clarke, how can humanity ever hope to do better? And how can Bellamy hope to lead them in that quest if Clarke isn’t there with him? He doesn’t think he can do it without her, and clearly, he also doesn’t want to.

It’s also interesting to have Bellamy go on this Clarke-saving rampage, because his actions these past few episodes — leaving Sanctum with Clarke and letting his people fend for themselves in hostile enemy territory — perfectly mirror Clarke’s actions in season 5, when she left Bellamy, Gaia and Indra behind in Polis to save Madi. There is no malice involved in Bellamy’s choice (except perhaps with Murphy), but his person/people priority is exactly the same.

Bellamy says it himself: “When the people we care about are in trouble, then we do what has to be done.” Bellamy has shown his hand now in terms of what person he cares about the most and what person he cannot bear to lose (again) if he is to have any hope for himself and a better future.

Will anyone from SpaceKru begrudge him choosing Clarke over them? I doubt it, but I wish they would, because he has drawn a very clear line here. His actions in these past few episodes are proof that Bellamy has his people, and he has his person.

It’ll also be interesting to see how his former top priority person Octavia reacts, seeing as over the past few seasons, Clarke has really taken over the spot she used to hold in his heart (she’s his favorite sister now! Just kidding!). At heart if not head, Bellamy is still the same Bellamy he was in season 1, “risking everything for one person,” ready to burn the world down because he has made it his life’s mission to protect her above all others.

Even though Clarke was only in the episode for a hot second, I can’t not talk about her amazing clawing-her-brain-back storyline that is outrageously cool and incredibly empowering.

Morse coding “Boo hoo” after Josephine’s sob story? That’s! My! GIRL. Taking control and kicking the not!Grounders’ asses reminds us how far she’s come. And picking up on Josephine’s skills and revving that motorcycle like a pro… well now that’s just plain badass. (And I don’t use that word lightly.)

Eliza Taylor’s Josephine is so good, I completely forgot this body usually belongs to Clarke when she was talking to Bellamy. I also find myself forgetting if it was Eliza Taylor or Sara Thompson in any given Josephine scene. It’s going to be so interesting (if nerve-wracking) to watch the walls between the two characters deteriorate further.

Cool as it is, we should probably worry about Clarke picking up Josephine’s skills. The promo for “Matryoshka” shows things and people meshing and dissolving inside their mind(s), and it probably won’t be as easy for Gabriel to separate the two as it would’ve been for Russell back in Sanctum.

So how can Gabriel extract Josephine if the two minds are blended? Could the Anomaly help? Do we actually need the Flame to act as a mind-sweeper? Will Clarke end up losing her memories? (I hope not, but all credit to Heather Mason at TV Source Magazine if it happens!)

In peace may he leave the shore

RIP Marcus Kane. Again.

We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. The writing was on the wall since Henry Ian Cusick joined The Passage and Kane landed in a coma last season. While he could theoretically be kept on ice indefinitely, this is The 100. They have enough players on the field, they don’t need to stack the bench.

The only question was whether Grayston Holt was going to stick around as Kane II. I admit, I was interested in seeing Kane in Gavin’s body — Holt deserves a lot of credit for that, because his take on the character was brilliant — and I was interested in seeing what ethical questions might arise from Kane grappling with the literal loss of his own human self, and the question of whether he even truly considered himself himself in the corpse Abby had reanimated for him. And I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to linger with this.

But I also understand that for Kane, lingering was impossible. Because Kane died when his body did. Kane was, at least by his own measure, the sum of not just his mind but also his scars: his physical self, the son of Vera Kane and the marks that defined the man he had shaped himself to be. Whatever he could be in Gavin’s body wasn’t truly going to be himself, so he wouldn’t exist in that form, “amazing” as it may have felt.

And we knew this was going to be his response. Not in a million years would Marcus Kane be able to inhabit the skin of someone else and learn to call it his own. It was antithetical to everything he had been through and become.

So of course Kane was going to go out the airlock. What else could he do? The moment Abby brought him back in another man’s body, this was the only possible way that his story was going to end. It is a terrible thing to say, but it is a factual acknowledgement of this particular character’s reality.

Marcus Kane would never be okay with living at the direct expense of someone else, and he was never going to consider himself truly alive without the scars that made him who he was.

Even conscientious Primes like Gabriel and Ryker are able to live with themselves in other people’s skin because to them, it still means living. But for Kane, it wasn’t a life, or at least not his life, to live. He was like a ghost haunting a stranger’s corpse. And Abby couldn’t force him to exist like that, however much she wanted to believe she ‘saved’ him.

And I should say, before I go any further, that I am very hesitant to frame Kane’s death as a suicide in the way I would Jasper’s, which is why I’m not going to talk about it in those terms. (I highly recommend reading Sam Casey’s review on Tell-Tale TV for a different and very personal reflection.)

I certainly don’t want to imply that Kane wanted to die or thought death was his only or best option, because I don’t think it was actually a question of life or death. Death had already happened to him.

The way I see it, this episode explored not whether Kane wanted to live or die, but whether Kane truly considered what Abby had given him a life, or his life, to live; whether he truly considered himself himself anymore, and whether he could abide living and breathing and loving in another man’s body.

This was a story about Kane refusing to ‘live on’ as someone else after his own body had died, of refusing to be hailed as a resurrected savior or a miracle and refusing to let his existence be a perpetuation of a dehumanizing system of false gods.

To me, Kane’s decision to go out the airlock with the Nightblood serum wasn’t Kane choosing to die, but rather Kane accepting that he was already dead, because his body was already dead, and this new body didn’t belong to him (and he didn’t feel like himself in it).

I see it as Kane righting a gargantuan ethical wrong that Abby couldn’t, because she was blinded by love and desperation, and accepting his natural death rather than lingering as a ghost of his former self and letting his existence further the Primes’ agenda.

I love The 100 for throwing completely wrenching things at us and leaving us to sort out the morality ourselves. Truly, I do. Why do you think my reviews are so long? I live for fiction that lets me think for myself.

But this is perhaps one of instance where I wish the narrative would have been a little more explicit in its reasoning for Kane making this decision, exactly because of the sensitive subject matter.

Not because Kane’s point of view needed to be spelled out — the words “everything is wrong” told us everything we needed to know about why Kane couldn’t see this as the miracle Abby wanted him to.

But because Kane was the only character left whose big-picture mindset would allow him to express that vital other side of the Prime debate, which has nothing to do with saving individual hosts or dying friends but is about humanity and the construct of the self: the way our minds and bodies and choices and senses all make up the sum of a soul, and how that soul might be shattered if we start pulling it apart.

The Primes have worked for centuries to simplify the bodyswap process, and Abby wanted so badly to buy into its simplicity: Kane has been reborn. She saved him, just like he saved her in Praimfaya. It was Gavin’s life for his, and Gavin gave his body willingly, so it is now Kane’s to make his own.

The Primes want it to be that simple, because that’s how they justify their own deity. And without resistance, it becomes that simple, because that’s how deification works. But it’snot that simple. There is a whole other story here, of what it does to a soul to be unmoored from its body and how we negotiate a ‘self’ when it involves one person’s brain in another person’s body.

And this was the perspective Kane could have offered, and which he did offer, but mostly with emotion rather than verbalization.

This is how I imagine Kane’s thought process: his body is dead; his scars are gone. He died on the operating table. Abby brought something back in Gavin’s body, but what? What had Kane become, and what could he ever be, in the body of a stranger who’d had his own scars and tastes and soul? Having lost everything but the part of his brain that held his memories, was he even still himself in all the ways that mattered?

I would have liked Kane to reflect more on these things. For perspective in terms of the choice he made to end his second body’s life, but also just because I would have liked to hear his answers.

But, having said that, the direction they chose to take the story is no less interesting. While Kane was the one who got bodyswapped and was forced to reckon with life as a relative entity, this entire story is about Abby. From the moment Vincent bit Kane, his life or death has been about Abby.

Having Kane’s body die and making Abby compromise her ethics (again) and helping the enemy (again) and sacrificing her humanity (again) in the service of a myth of her own making about Kane as the Last Good Man (a concept so flawed and foreign to The 100), which made her believe her only redeeming mission in life was to resurrect humanity’s savior, was a story about Abby having to learn that there is no such thing as gods or saviors or external absolution for her own sins.

Abby could not absolve herself, or humanity, by playing God; she could not ‘get humanity back’ by resurrecting her chosen Jesus (note the overt callbacks to Kane’s “crucifixion scars” and Indra referring to his return as a “miracle”), and she couldn’t force Kane to be a symbol of a harmful cultish faith.

Whatever you think about Kane’s choice, Abby had to learn that Kane was only mortal and that there is no such thing as miraculous external absolution. Abby is responsible for her own fate and her own sins, and now, she has to learn to live for herself again. She has to live. And she has to do better. Just like Octavia.

Kane putting himself out of the airlock and ending the half-life she forced on him is, in a way, letting Abby off the hook for the frankenstinian horror story she enacted. But was also dropping her into the middle of an ocean without a life vest and letting her sink or swim without her designated lifeboat.

I know there is a lot of anger and frustration about Kane and Abby’s storyline. I never seek to undermine anyone else’s perspective when I express my own. But I will say I really appreciate that Abby didn’t die with Kane, and that the in-story judgement was primarily of the Primes and how they treat the hosts, not of Abby, who above all else did just try to save the man she loved.

Just like Octavia, the interesting choice now is to let her live and find her own humanity (because her humanity was never Kane), and face her mistakes, and make more, and be imperfect, but to keep trying.

And that’s all Kane ever wanted, for any of them. Abby can’t see it right now, but there is still hope, for her and humanity. There is always hope.

Like Monty, Kane can live on now the way he would want to: as an example of a man who genuinely worked to change himself for the better, and succeeded; who was able to look beyond the limits of his own worldview and desires to humanity as a whole and who always, always fought for peace.

I always say Clarke is my favorite, but if I had to pick the character I most identify with (or aspire to be like), it would be Kane. He always strove to better himself and to help others do the same, and in a story like The 100, you desperately need people like that to put all the my-peopleism into perspective.

Thank you, Henry Ian Cusick, for bringing this absolutely fantastic character to life, and for inadvertently causing me to start watching The 100 when I picked up the pilot by mistake and only let the episode keep playing because I recognized a familiar face.

Passing the baton

Raven was right when she said they need Kane. Not because he was particularly pure or good or perfect, but because he was able to see justice and fairness in a way nobody else could and because he never stopped believing that humanity could improve.

Part of Kane’s evolution was learning to see beyond his own perspective and truly understand other points of view in a way so few other characters are able (or willing) to do.

Monty and Lincoln did, Lexa and Roan arguably did; even Jaha and Pike did in their own way, but they’re all gone now. There are no main characters left who open their eyes, look at another character, and think about their point of view as anything other than an obstacle to their own.

(Clarke and Bellamy both have this ability, but it’s been a while since either of them were in a position to deal with anything beyond balancing the needs of the people(s) they personally care about.)

In a story like The 100, which is very good at letting all individual perspectives breathe, someone needs to keep an eye on the big picture.

And without characters like Kane and Monty to provide a counter-perspective to (and sometimes forcibly rein in) everyone else’s tribalism, the narrative runs the risk of becoming claustrophobic and reactive and small.

Not that I don’t enjoy the individual, interpersonal stories. I love them. It needs to be personal to matter. But for an ensemble narrative to feel connected rather than anthologish, someone needs to lead the group meetings. Someone needs to care about everyone’s people, not just their own.

(I feel like this is one of the things that went wrong in Game of Thrones season 8: all the big picture characters got trapped in small nets of petty catastrophe, and the forest got lost for the trees because no character was left to provide that crucial bird’s eye perspective. (Not even the actual warg bird.) I think the true function and importance of characters like Marcus Kane (or Tyrion Lannister or Davos Seaworth) in an ensemble narrative is sometimes grossly underestimated for this reason.)

So who is left to fill the role of the, for lack of a better word, ‘grown-up’? Right now, I think Indra, Diyoza, Echo and possibly Gabriel are our best bets in terms of being able to look beyond their own interests to the greater good. They’ve all switched sides at some point, which forced them to learn how to see both sides of an ‘us vs them’ divide, which in turn made them empathetic to other people’s points of view.

Indra has gone through an incredible evolution closely paralleling Kane’s. She has transcended tribalism in a way few others have managed to do; she has adapted to new religions, new leaders, new constellations of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and she’s learned to listen to and understand views she disagrees with, putting her own feelings and needs aside to see the big picture and evaluate people and situations fairly.

She and Kane were drawn together because they both wanted to build bridges, and their friendship was a symbol of their shared ability and willingness to compromise and expand their own points of view.

In this episode, Indra swoops in like a breath of fresh air and puts everything into perspective. She compares the sins of the various peoples she has encountered and unites their purpose: “we survive.”

She weighs pros and cons. She plays devil’s advocate. “Who cares what I believe? I can see why some might think it’s a miracle.” Indra understands how love informs our ‘us vs them’ perspectives and determines the relative value of a life.

And, crucially, Indra performs both the Arker and Grounder funeral rights for Kane, in the episode’s absolute best moment.

In so many ways, Indra is perfectly poised to carry Kane’s legacy forward as the voice of reason and pro-active peacemaker. But of course, Adina Porter is a highly sought after talent (as she should be), and external factors will always play into these character role changes, so we can’t count on her sticking around.

Similarly, Diyoza has been on both sides of ideological divides and, like Kane, has proven herself sensible and able to make compromises for wider peace. But as with Indra, we don’t know much about Ivana Milicevic’s involvement with the show moving forward.

And then there is Echo, who has become a much-needed voice of reason since joining SpaceKru, exactly because she used to be their enemy and had to learn to not only understand ‘the other side’ but to identify with it. Being a spy meant that she was already a POV-chameleon, but finding a family taught her to emotionally engage with people she disagreed with.

Of course there is also Abby herself. But for her to find the mental clarity necessary to step into Kane’s peacemaker role, this episode would have to be a giant wake-up call for her, and I’m not yet sure it will be.

Until the moment Kane goes out the airlock, Abby was still in denial about what she did to him, and I think she still might be. Despite Raven and Indra nudging her to consider his perspective, she refuses to see his resurrection as anything less than a miracle of her own making, and even Kane letting himself go might not be enough to make her do the same.

But as long as Abby breathes, there is hope for her to find the strength to embrace the values she projected onto Kane. Abby is, as Kane said, incredibly strong. (Kane said to both Raven and Abby that they were strong, clearly bracing them to pick up where he left off.)

I hope she’ll realize that her trying to force him into another body wasn’t the way to make Kane immortal; rather, if she wants Kane to live on, she needs to live by his example and become the version of herself he always knew she could be.

Marcus Kane might not be Jesus, but there is a certain poetry to the idea that he will be the example that humanity chooses to live by, much like others invoke Monty in their quest to do better.

And for Abby to pick up his quest (which was always supposed to be their joint quest) for peace and coexistence could be a powerful story.

For your consideration

  • I’m waiting???
  • Indra saying the traveller’s blessing broke me.
  • Kane floating himself to make sure humanity deserves to stay alive, like he once floated other people to keep humanity alive (while Abby was the one who fought to make sure they deserved it) is a really harsh but incredibly clever full-circle moment.
  • Can you believe it took Kane dying before he and Raven got to have a scene together?
  • I ship… Pike. Just Pike.
  • Where is Diyoza?? Why can’t Octavia remember what happened to her in the Anomaly? How long was she in there? What was she running from? Why is she the only person who ever got out? Did she help Diyoza give birth? Was the Hope that led Diyoza into the Anomaly actually Hope? Please tell me we’re getting a flashback.
  • 😏😏😏
  • If Gabriel was so mad about being brought back to life, why didn’t he go into the Anomaly himself, just to see what would happen?
  • What was in Octavia’s green box?
  • I didn’t realize how much I had missed the Linctavia theme!
  • Aw, reptile phase. Guess there are no three-headed deer on Sanctum after all.
  • Why did “I won’t let you die” hit Josephine so hard? It wasn’t a big confession. Bellamy had already said the same thing earlier in the episode. Was it Clarke’s reaction shining through? Or did it remind her of what Gabriel once promised her?
  • What would Callie Cartwig say about all this?

‘The 100’ returns Tuesday with 6×10 ‘Matryoshka’

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