The 100 brings back Bellamy Blake for a transformative adventure beyond the wall / in Mordor / BYO pop culture reference. Here is our review.
Well, well, well. Look who isn’t dead. And more importantly, look who isn’t old! Praise Cadogan. I love it when I’m wrong. (Sometimes.)
Eleven episodes into the final season, and The 100’s self-proclaimed heart has started beating again, for what seems to be a very apropos final arc about losing touch with the very things that kept that heart beating – love, family, humanity – and hopefully rediscovering that which make Bellamy so quintessentially Bellamy before the end.
And yes, you can call me an otherwise sensible woman, because Bellamy’s absence sure did put a dampener on my enjoyment of the final season. Particularly because I was tuning in every week half-expecting him to pop up for a big reveal and growing increasingly frustrated when he didn’t. (I will forever believe that this would have gone over a lot better if we had simply been told in advance that his absence would last for two thirds of the season.)
But hey. He’s back now, which is great, and I know that a certain dedicated group of fans who love this show and character (and have worked much harder than I ever did to show it) are very, very happy that he has returned. So at least we can all go forth on the final leg on this journey together.
And how great was this episode? While I definitely have some issues with the pacing and justification of Bellamy’s big turn, the writing and direction was top notch, the visuals were stunning, and I really appreciate getting a whole Bellamy-centric episode before the end! It was about damn time.
Let’s dive into
the void “Etherea,” expertly written by genre buff Jeff Vlaming and directed by Aprill Winney.
They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard
(I see your Jon Snow, and I raise you…)
Bellamy arrives on Etherea, on what quickly becomes a not-so-solo pilgrimage, because the disciple that he was holding at knifepoint on Bardo – whom I regret to report is not in fact called “Doucheroy,” as I initially heard it – transforms into his companion and spiritual guide for the entire episode.
‘Doucette’ (…you know what? Nope. His name is Doug now) is very keen on killing Bellamy, because, um, I suppose he has momentarily lost touch with his otherwise so prevalent “I love all humans equally” philosophy? I don’t get the Bardoans, I really don’t.
Anyway, they have a kerfuffle, and Bellamy — being Bellamy — spares Doug’s life.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Mercy and the ability to see the humanity in his enemies have always been part of Bellamy’s DNA. Sparing his enemies’ lives is kind of his thing, actually, and even while fighting fiercely for his people, he has more than any other character (aside from Clarke) been thrown into storylines that forced him to join forces with his would-be enemies. First it was Shumway on the Ark. Then it was Clarke. Then Lincoln. Then Kane. Then Maya. Then Indra. Then Roan. Then Echo. Then Gabriel. And probably others that I’ve forgotten.
So maybe it’s fitting that his solo episode is one more instance of him insta-bonding with a would-be foe, even if I admit that I’d have preferred to see him spend this time with someone that mattered to him (and us), and who might have allowed for more than very shallow insight into who Bellamy is as a person.
After jumping up and down by a wall a few times and realizing that he’s stuck on planet video game and needs an NPC companion to advance to the next level, Bellamy goes back to feed Doug some healing potions.
Bellamy nurses Player 2 back to health with the posthumous help of Charles Pike, a neat little nod to the past: Pike, too, had to learn to fight side by side with his enemy, right before his untimely demise. (If there was ever a point when we needed Pike’s no-nonsense BS detector, it was season 7.)
Referencing back to Pike is probably also a tool to remind us of how Bellamy has always, consistently made choices he believed were in the best interest of his people, even when that included closing himself off to their individual needs and wants (“I do it every day”).
In fact, I would even argue that the only thing that’s ever really changed for Bellamy is how small/large of a group he considers his people to be, and then his head (strategic, cold) vs heart (impulsive, impassioned) balance has shifted accordingly.
In season 3, he had come to see everyone in Arkadia as his people, which made him colder and more logic/head-led than we’d ever seen him; we saw him willing to sacrifice individuals and individual relationships (imprisoning Lincoln; handcuffing Clarke) for the greater good. He acted similarly in season 5, when he tried to be big-picture and thus ‘sacrificed’ Madi and Octavia (and again, handcuffing Clarke) in an attempt to secure a wider peace.
When he is most in touch with his heart, however, he drops everything to save the one (or ‘one of his many’, if you say so). In season 1 and 4, it was Octavia; in season 6, it was Clarke. Bellamy is no less ride-or-die for his people, he’s just shifting his definition of how many people need him to ride or die for them.
And for his final arc, it seems that Bellamy will go full big picture; now that he is drinking the Cadogan kool-aid (or should that be kombucha? The Cadokombucha? How’s that for a finale title?), he is shifting into ‘for all mankind’-mode, and will therefore be at the most ruthless, impersonal, Clarke-handcuffing end of his head/heart spectrum.
(And my inner lover of storytelling symmetry of course hopes that it is Clarke who, once again, drags him back to the heart-side, where I like him best.)
And since we’re on the subject of Pike (kinda), it is super interesting to see how — despite how different the sources of he and Cadogan’s convictions were — similar they are in terms of having blind faith in themselves, and how that self-confidence in turn makes Bellamy fall under their spell.
Bellamy, as much as he’s come into adulthood and leadership in his own right, has on some level always been looking for a good, strong, charismatic adult to show him the ways of the world – some might say he’s looking for a dad — and while Cadogan’s powers of persuasion are of a more ~Ethereal (hahah) nature, Bellamy is falling to his knees for much the same reason. He believes he’s found the man who will save them all; someone to believe in. And he will do whatever it takes to ensure that man’s victory.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Bellamy and Doug spend a few weeks in the cave of wonders, during which Bellamy
picks up a training manual reads up on the life and lies of Bill Cadogan. He is skeptical, of course, of what are still hilariously illogical instructions for culthood 101.
It is however clear that Bellamy is somewhat lost for purpose; he recognizes better than most the futility of constantly losing and finding his people, and of trying to herd them to safety like cattle, even as they keep being picked off by monsters in the woods.
Yes, he can find his way back to his blurred-lines one true love person Octavicholarke and probably manage by sheer force of will to get them all back onto the right planet and in the right bodies at the same time, and they might even all survive for a while after that, but then what?
There is no permanent peace in sight for any of them, and Bellamy knows that; he’s known it since the beginning, even as he kept soldiering on, his life an uninterrupted struggle to get back to one person from one place and get another person back from somewhere else; every victory temporary and incomplete.
So of course the idea of a legit, guilt-free permanent happily ever after for everyone at once is a temptation Bellamy struggles to resist, and one you see him angrily laughing off here, not just because he doesn’t believe in it but because he so desperately wants to.
Bellamy has always carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, from the minute Aurora Blake put baby Octavia into his arms, and while he’s tried to live up to the responsibility, some part of him always wished there’d be something — someone — bigger and wiser than himself to take the weight from him. Someone who might actually take responsibility and do what Bellamy doesn’t believe himself capable of.
The tragedy is that Bellamy never noticed, and now might never get the chance to notice, that somewhere along the way he grew up and became that person himself.
A song of ice and phoenixes
As Bellamy and Doug move through their cosplay trials, from Frodo/Sam over Jon/Tormund and to Luke Skywalker/Hux, they come upon a second cave. The man cave, if you will.
Here, the Etherea storyline’s key and – sorry Doug, you should have been Gaia – only really interesting sequence unfolds: they discover the ‘ascended’ golden Groots, and Bellamy’s spiritual awakening begins.
Now, I just have to say this because it’ll bug me if I don’t: I’m not sure I understand why anyone would see those glowy alien nightlights and assume that something good had happened to them?
The first thing I thought when I saw them was that they’d met the same fate as Bardo’s crystal giants, only consumed by fire rather than ice; Bill Cadogan might see phoenixes rising from the ashes, but I would see those things and run screaming in the other direction because they look to me like living beings trapped in their last, agonizing moments of being burned alive.
I understand that Bellamy and Doug feel something profound emanating from the figures that I obviously can’t feel through a screen. But even so? Surely it’s not a coincidence that they were all in the same pose as Becca Pramheda as depicted on the wall in Polis, who was captured in her moment of burning to death, even while her mind ‘ascended’ into the Flame?
(Or the disciple in Sanctum, who held that exact pose as she lit herself on fire? Or Pompeii victims? Or that charred drunk guy from the start of the epic 1995 point-and-click Discworld game starring the cast of Monty Python? You get my point.)
But okay. Let’s say there is a ~feeling. Let’s even say this cave-dwelling alien race did actually pass the God-not-God’s rapture test and ascend somewhere, leaving behind glowing imprints of their mortal husks behind. Would we not still be just a tad skeptical of why these so-called deities would be selecting ‘chosen’ species from around the galaxy and, for lack of a better word, uploading them somewhere?
I mean, based on what we know about this universe, it doesn’t seem like a reach to assume that this higher plane of existence is somewhat akin to what Becca’s mind was to the Flame, and as Jaha’s followers were to the City of Light, right? Bodies destroyed, minds captured, into a ‘collective’ that might actually be as devoid of individualism as Cadogan preaches.
At least seeing and feeling those things isn’t enough to instantly transform Bellamy into a Last War truther! He’s seen enough weird shit at this point to just kind of roll with it, I guess, because it seems like he just kind of leaves the shiny people alone and lets his beard grow over the indeterminate amount of time he and Doug hang out and eat bugs at the front of the cave together, waiting for the endless storm to break.
This is the point when Bellamy is at his most hopeless and begins to long for the tranquility that has fallen over Doug. And even if he doesn’t buy into the particulars of the Shepherd’s teachings, he’s come to understand the comfort that faith itself can bring — of giving up control and taking comfort in a greater plan — and that, not the oversized fireflies, is what reels him in.
So he joins Doug in prayer. And then, things get weird.
Bellamy opens his eyes to find himself clean and fresh-shaven. Doug is gone. Call-me-Bill Cadogan appears before him.
Before we begin picking it apart, let me just say that I am thrilled by the fact that the Bill Cadogan / Second Dawn story is, on some level, something more than straight-up bullshit.
However Cadogan communicates with Bellamy here (if he even does), clearly, the belief guiding the disciples isn’t completely without foundation. There is something akin to mysticism here, surrounding the glowing blobs. (Even if it turns out to be like Jaha and the City of Light.)
I enjoy being invited to wonder if Cadogan ‘appearing’ to Bellamy is an actual spiritual deviation from the schmience that has guided the show so far; that this so-obviously-a-fraud character really could be the real chosen one, as Gaius Baltar was on Battlestar Galactica… but I do hope we ultimately get an explanation that fits into the established reality of this story, because frankly, I always found the “God did it” explanation at the end of BSG a huge cop-out. But anyway.
There seems to be three ways to read this moment:
- Cadogan could actually be tied to this cave in some spiritual way, communing with Bellamy through his powers as ‘The Shepherd’.
- The Bardoans have yet another variation of Becca’s brain implant technology, tying Doug (and by extension Bellamy, through their clasped hands) to a hive-mind collective, which Cadogan can use to project himself into individual minds.
- Bellamy’s ‘vision’ was entirely a construct of his own delirious, half-frozen brain, inspired by the photo of Cadogan he looked at right before blacking out. The real Bill Cadogan is just extremely perceptive, so he clocked Bellamy’s look of reverence and played into it, without actually knowing what Bellamy ‘saw’ in the cave.
Which do you guys think it is?? I’m frankly not sure. But I’m leaning towards the technology-enabled mind meld situation, just because that would be a cool reveal, and also because it would help explain why he has been so ‘present’ on Bardo even though he’s mostly been locked away in cryo sleep.
The 100 season 7 brings another small, surprising, delightful cameo when Bellamy comes face-to-face with his mother Aurora (Monique Ganderton), whose name suddenly feels a lot more poignant.
She takes over from Cadogan and shows Bellamy the light, revealing one big giant shiny figure behind her and letting him see… something, before he wakes up back in the storm.
This leads us to big mystery number two: what exactly did Bellamy see when he touched the vision blob that has convinced him to believe in Bill Cadogan and the need to get to ‘the other side’ — to the point where he puts all of his loved ones in direct danger to do so? It had to be something spectacular, right? ‘Proof’ of what awaited humanity post-war?
Because while I don’t have much trouble believing that Bellamy in this moment would be susceptible to the power of faith, having him leap to the conclusion that Bill Cadogan is the once and future king because of a sword and a cave and a bright light (hashtag all fiction is King Arthur fanfiction) is just further than I’m willing to follow the story logic.
I hope it’s not controversial to say that, objectively, it is completely absurd that Bellamy has turned his back on the people that drove his entire existence based on a feeling and a fever dream. I get that he was very cold for three months on a mountain, and I suppose I could write this off as a brain freeze (or a cold heart), but. Come on. This is Bellamy Blake we’re talking about.
Having said that, it’s still an interesting story that opens new doors and provides interesting new acting challenges for the cast. And, as implausible and rushed as it feels, I think it’s objectively a good final arc for this particular character.
Bellamy’s story is and always has been about him loving too many people too fiercely and beating himself up for not being able to keep them all safe at the same time. Putting him in a position where he genuinely believes that the right thing to do is to put his individualistic love aside in order to save them all in a more abstract way will force him to really examine the core of who he is and reconnect with his heart once and for all, which feels like an appropriate note to end on.
Still. Whatever he saw better have been damn convincing.
And now his watch begins
So, Bellamy has become a True Believer. [Frankly it kinda feels like the thing he believes in is the power of friendship, not All Mankind, but] he saves his new BFF and they bop to the top, after which Bellamy briefly face-morphs with Luke Skywalker (I am willing to put money on this: for a split second, they layered Mark Hamill in there for real) before jumping through the eye in the sky…
…Landing on Bardo, embracing his one true love (“I love everyone” my ass, Douglamy forever), before laying eyes on Callmebill Targaryen and falling to his knees in reverence, like any good Stark would do.
Cadogan acts like he already knows Bellamy – again, playing it with delicious ambiguity, because it could be true that Bill really appeared in the cave/Bellamy’s mind, but it also just could be that he recognizes Bellamy and deduces from his behavior that he’s had a transformative experience and plays into it.
As it happens, Clarke, Echo and Octavia are breakfast buddies, making it so that Bellamy’s reunion is conveniently only with the women he name-checked earlier in the episode (Raven honey I’m so sorry.gif).
And Gabriel is also there. :)
And here, as we take in the appropriately socially distant characters who have been proven to have very little in common aside from their love/grief for Bellamy, I just want to point out that if nothing else, Bellamy’s prolonged absence served to prove just how necessary he has always been to the story as a whole.
This scene – or rather, how the energy shifts the moment he walks into the room – is proof in and of itself of how Bellamy has functioned as the emotional glue that held together what were otherwise disparate women living separate lives and sporadically intersecting to try to murder and/or call each other “sister.”
Do I wish it had turned out that way? Honestly, no. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I wanted the female characters to develop (and maintain) deep emotional bonds with each other, rather than have Bellamy function as a kind of emotional middleman between them.
But that’s just how it worked out. And I didn’t mind that! Because even while wishing the show had devoted more time to female friendships, I’ve always appreciated The 100’s willingness to bend gender roles and place the weight of pretty much all the main characters’ (non-familial) relationships on the shoulders of the male lead, because you don’t often see that on genre shows. Or most shows, really.
As I believe I also stated repeatedly in my season 6 reviews, it is remarkable how hard it is to talk about Bellamy without talking about his relationships, because more than any other character on the show, he is defined by them. He is driven by his love for his friends, for his people, for the three* people in that room specifically — and they are, mostly separately, driven by their love for him.
(*Raven totally got Harpered, didn’t she? The disresPECT.)
Over the seasons, as love interests and peripheral foes-turned-allies came and went, I loved how the show consistently dug deeper and deeper into Bellamy’s emotional bonds with the mainstay cast (Clarke, Octavia, Raven, Murphy, Jasper, Monty and Kane in particular – but there’ve been a lot!). I loved how, while the women were busy saving the world and wrecking themselves on the inside, Bellamy was busy saving their lives and souls.
And however you feel about this – you might consider Bellamy the Bechdel Test’s public enemy #1 (which is hardly his fault; rarely are Clarke, Octavia and Echo allowed to talk about anything that doesn’t involve him), you might think it is super cool and gender-role-defying that Bellamy has been made to carry most of the relationship-specific emotional weight of the story (which it is) — removing him from the narrative certainly unstuck these characters from each other emotionally, and bringing him back restores some of the implicit unity between them.
And isn’t that wild? Honestly more than anything else, I think it’s pretty spectacular to see the result of years and years of making Bellamy the core emotional lynchpin – instead of Clarke and/or Octavia, who were both repeatedly separated from the main group – and having that pay off, in a way, by how much his absence affected the series as a whole.
And that effect continues: even though he’s physically present again, he’s still not with them, making everything feel as jarring and uncertain as if he was still missing. You feel it as an audience member and you see it on the faces of Clarke, Octavia and Echo. Bellamy was the one you could always depend on; even in absentia, his name was held up as a moral beacon.
But as in season 3, but in a more extreme way, Bellamy has shifted to big-picture thinking and is no longer going to be chasing and safeguarding individual members of his flock; instead he will risk their safety and well-being for their own collective good. So what the hell does that mean for the rest of them?
Well. It means — or at least I hope it means — that for once we’ll have to see everyone Bellamy loves and has sacrificed so much for fighting for him, as opposed to the other way around. (Of course Hope’s weird insert line about all the women supposedly willing to die for Bellamy kind of threw me off, because that was never actually the case, but are we meant to think it was…?)
It’s a very cool payoff for this character. Or it can be, if that’s where they’re going with it. Who knows? As this is a week-to-week show, not a Netflix binge, and as I don’t have the Shepherd’s gift of brain traipsing, and/or bullshitting, obviously I can only interpret the story as it’s told to me and react based on that.
For now though, it’s wonderful to have Bellamy back. His absence was a hole in the world, and his betrayal is devastating, because this character’s capacity to love and be loved matters — to the story, to the audience, and to the show’s ultimate moral message.
I’m nervous? and excited? to see what happens next.
For your consideration
- Y’all, it should have been Gaia on this quest with Bellamy. Or Gabriel. Or Russell. Or literally anyone we already knew (they made up the time dilation rules; they could have snatched up any character and had them converted to Bardoism before Bellamy left Sanctum). The actor playing Doug was great, but this is Orlando all over again: yet another bit player in a final season of a show known for its overabundance of amazing main and side characters just begging to be fleshed out. Aside from Madi, Diyoza and Gabriel, every new character they’ve introduced since season 4 has been there to be someone’s scene partner and die, when they could have paired up mainstays and let them play off each other instead. It’s just not an ideal use of screen time and it wastes so many chances to organically flesh out character dynamics that will have lasting impact on the story.
- You know, I’ve come a long way since I thought romance on this show would be simple and I could casually enjoy the angsty Flarke and Braven slow burns all the way through (LOL FOREVER), but man, he didn’t even mention Raven once! Not gonna lie, it stings a tiny little bit! *sighs in think-we-can-do-this-without-her*
- So Bellamy going on a pilgrimage and coming face to face with the shepherd leading people to the promised land is exactly the same as when Jaha found ALIE in the mansion at the end of season 2 and became an advocate for the City of Light, correct? Now, if the City of Light technology ends up somehow being connected to the ‘transcendence’ offered, linking these two stories, then wow will I be impressed! If it’s just… the same story again… then I’ll be less impressed.
- When Bellamy opened his eyes in the cave and Doug was gone, I forreal thought he’d been imagining him all along.
- I’m definitely not the only one who’ve noticed this, but how weird is it that Octavia isn’t given the space to grieve Diyoza, considering how much emotional weight was placed on their connection just a few episodes ago?
- I’m also kind of confused by how everyone is just super chill around Echo even though she went full Finn a few hours ago.
- ”Faith is the real weapon” is the truest thing ever said on this show.