9:03 pm EDT, June 24, 2020

‘The 100’ season 7, episode 6 review: Into the belly of the beast

The 100 season 7 continues to pick up momentum with “Nakara,” a scary, dark, yet surprisingly fun episode. Here is our review.

The 100 season 7, episode 6 “Nakara” is absolutely delightful. From the opening montage of Diyoza bossing her way through capture, torture and escape (she didn’t die! I love being wrong!), to Clarke and Raven’s Moby Dickian adventure, and to that extremely satisfying power shift in Sanctum, it was all epic and fast-paced and final-season-worthy.

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New writer Erica Meredith brings what I would call a necessary un-The 100-like energy to the episode – lightness, dramatic irony and a little bit of cheese – and director P.J. Pesce smartly avoids letting the episode run at a relentless pace by giving the emotional moments the space and gravitas they deserve.

Not since “Demons” has The 100 managed to use horror genre elements to play up its drama with such success; maybe it’s the focus on key relationships, or the confinement of legitimately vulnerable characters in a small space, or maybe it’s just the commitment to getting the most out of every moment. Nothing feels like filler.

And whomever’s idea it was to have Diyoza’s power montage set to the iconic “Evil” by Interpol, well, Oso laik wonkru.

Let’s dive into the whale…I mean the maze…I mean,

It’s aliiii(v)eeeee

Let’s see, what pop culture analogy should I pull out of my hat to contextualize my discussion of this part of the episode?

A Moby Dick reference? Tired.

An elaborate Minotaur’s Labyrinth dissection? Wired…

A reverse Alien in which the humans burst through the stomach of the alien?? Yep, I’m going with that one.

Clarke, Raven, Jordan, Niylah and Miller – the immortals, if you will – arrive on Nakara and, after shouting their friends’ names into the vast icy wilderness one (1) time, determine with 100% certainty that their princesses are in another castle.

(This is so silly. It’s a WHOLE PLANET! Bellamy could be three days walk in either direction, or over the next hill, asleep! Plus, what if it was like on Bardo and people lived underground?? They could have so easily missed them!)

Luckily, Raven’s helmet has a handy Anomaly stone locator, and they track it into a cave… that turns out to be the mouth of a giant, living alien creature. That has giant living alien spiders crawling around in its guts. I’m with Miller, this planet sucks.

But it’s a very cool way to introduce some actual aliens without the show having to spend a lot of time talking about it, and not having to spend a lot of its budget on crafting/animating wild and wacky creatures (though for the record, in the prequel, I expect a WETA-workshop level of dedication and behind-the-scenes featurettes to building out this world. No pressure).

Instead, it’s just hallways with slime, another mold of the Ark/Mount Weather/Arkadia/bunker/Bardo template. And metaphorically, aren’t they all bellies of various beasts? And aren’t our heroes always running through them, looking for a hole through which to be expelled?

Will you ever look at this scene the same way again?

Anyway.

Our heroes get to wiggle through a labyrinth with walls that move and make their way to the Portkey at the center, which will them straight to the story’s villain (there are no original ideas, I’m sorry).

And along the way, we get that all-important moment between Clarke and Raven that have been five seasons in the making. Finally, they get their locked-in-a-closet-forced-to-confront-their-feelings scene we’ve been dreaming about (okay no, but as close as we’re ever gonna get), the life-and-death circumstances and Raven’s recent brush with her conscience prompting an understanding an empathy that puts these two heroic, fierce leaders on the same level.

It’s a hell of a lot of pressure to put on a single scene, and I still maintain that the show could and should have let Clarke and Raven work out their issues a lot sooner than this. We were robbed of at least two full seasons of Princess Mechanic power couple team excellence, and that will never stop irking me.

Having said that, the scene does an excellent job framing the conflict between Clarke and Raven around their respective states of mind. It is essentially a more mature, nuanced version of Clarke and Abby’s “maybe there are no good guys” scene in season 2 that accurately reflects what they’ve been through since and how their experiences have shaped their respective worldviews.

Raven getting to define Clarke as “humming along like a finely-tuned engine” and Clarke offering Raven a form of absolution — by refusing to accept a point of no return, for her own or for Raven’s soul — allows them to bury the hatchet, in a way that seems neither sought nor out of character.

Their conversation honors the complicated mess of love, respect, and (at least in Raven’s case) judgement they feel for each other and themselves. They don’t come out of it in absolute agreement, but they do gain a new understanding for the other’s point of view, which (in my opinion) is better.

In the scene, Raven admits that she could have gone in to do the welding job herself, which I actually did wonder about (I just assumed the answer would have been a brush-off ‘well she wouldn’t have survived long enough to finish the job’). It’s great that she brought it up, and it certainly makes her grief and guilt more understandable in context.

The way we’ve always had Clarke’s “I had no choice” moments framed was that yes, she would sacrifice others to save people she cared about most, but she would always sacrifice herself first. And the few times she didn’t – when she and Lexa escaped TonDC before the bomb fell, and when she almost tested Nightblood on Emori rather than herself – the narrative judged her very harshly for it.

As one of the people who’ve judged Clarke most harshly for ‘selfish’ choices, Raven recognizes the selfishness (in her own opinion) of her own choice, and points to her own inability to self-sacrifice* as the specific thing that fractured her soul. Clarke, who has been up and down the guilt block many times, has already made peace with her choices, and she can extend that same peace to Raven now.

(*Yes, we are seemingly being asked to forget that time in season 5 when Raven did self-sacrifice by staying behind on the Eligius ship to kill the prisoners, with no means of escape. But it could be a lot worse.)

Through Raven, we get some insight into Clarke’s seeming unflappable faith in herself and her people and that the mission will continue, which is really the source of Clarke’s strength: the perseverance and integrity that she holds onto, even as the world literally falls apart around her. You take a breath, then another. (You turn the page.)

Miller, Niylah and Jordan save the day (I’m surprised and happy about an opportunity to write that sentence), as Clarke knew they would, and despite the helmet’s scratched-up state, Raven manages to program the Anomaly Stone and send them onward to their next planet… but not before a little on-the-nose moment where Miller and Niylah identify the folded-up phoenix symbol as being Second Dawn’s.

It’s confirmation, if we needed it, that the current Bardo inhabitants originally came from Earth through its Anomaly Stone, and that they are members of the same cult that survived in the Polis bunker and (presumably) founded the Grounders.

The episode ends before we see where our Badventure Squad ends up, but since the promo reveals Clarke on Bardo, let’s assume that’s where they go.

…Which is lucky, since Team Penance is suddenly in need of a new extraction!

The beast in the belly of the Bardo bee

I know I already praised it, but I have to just give another round of applause for that Diyoza opening montage. What an absolute beast she is (or is Hope the beast? I’m lost in this metaphor).

I honestly don’t know if I love how the show has chosen to use and develop Diyoza or Indra more, all I know is that I love that I don’t have to choose.

The Bardoans try everything, but Diyoza simply doesn’t break – she bides (or bites!) her time and pulls off a grim, gruesome escape plan that had me grinning from ear to ear. Rarely does this show delight me so. Rarely does it use its own trademark darkness to do so. But it works, because it’s Diyoza.

She runs into some guards and throws her knife into what luckily turns out to be a knife-proof mask, since Hope is the guard who wears it.

The reunion is shocking, the fun heist-vibe instantly replaced by a beautiful family reunion – not just with Hope and Diyoza but with Octavia.

I think it’s fairly self-evident that this trio’s time jump was the most (only) effective use of that device, since it was used to permanently shift character priorities and dynamics. Because in this moment, Octavia’s loss of Bellamy is balmed by the fact that she still has a family, and that this family shares her pain.

Octavia’s pain, which in any season previous would have wrecked the world, is sharply contrasted by Echo’s. Her pain is raw and fresh and all-consuming.

Despite having had the exact same experience on Penance (even with one of the same people), Echo doesn’t have a new family to soothe her pain. She doesn’t even have her old one. She has no anchor — and unlike Octavia (and maybe Clarke), she hasn’t done enough soul-searchy healing to be her own anchor — and so she defaults to anger and blind violence.

Incidentally, it’s a lot like how we saw Bellamy react to losing Clarke last season, except Bellamy has mastered a self-control and an understanding of the big picture that seemingly still eludes Echo.

Bellamy’s evolution is really very underrated (at least within the show itself): over the past six seasons we’ve seen him slowly and steadily evolve from a selfish my-people kid, his big turning point coming in season 3 when he gave into blind vengeance, after which he rose from the ashes to become a wise — but not unsentimental or emotionless — leader.

When it came to his next test, faced with a very similar personal tragedy – the person he loved most (according to the story) being killed deliberately, for another people’s selfish gain – he felt all the same rage and grief as he did three seasons earlier, but he had grown enough as a person not to act on it in the same destructive, short-sighted way.

Bellamy has come a long way. Echo has too, and yet the story hasn’t allowed her the same space to grow, or to try her hand at big-picture leadership. Much like Indra, she has kept herself a solder and devoted herself fully to a people/cause; unlike Indra, she hasn’t yet stepped into fill a power vacuum and prove herself capable of inspiring peace and positive change.

And while I do think Echo can have the same arc trajectory, maybe it’s her (thankless) lot on the show that she won’t. Not all phoenixes rise from the ashes, after all, but on The 100 (for all its airs of nihilism), almost all the main characters ultimately change and evolve for the better.

We haven’t had someone crack under pressure for a while, and it would be fitting that Echo’s story is ultimately a tragic one, since we’ve seen her repeatedly try and fail to break her follow-the-leader conditioning since we met her. I want to see her break it. But it would be a strength of the writing if they actually stayed true to the core of who she was, and used her to show that some people don’t fundamentally change, regardless of circumstance. (Diyoza is a great example of this too, but Diyoza knows and accepts herself in a way I’d argue Echo doesn’t.)

Unlike a lot of fans, I wouldn’t say Echo has gone full Finn Collins, mainly because killing was already a key part of who she was before she began doing it to relieve her pain. I also don’t think she’s headed for the same fate as Finn, but she better be headed for some sort of reckoning.

But I suppose we won’t know what Echo’s story is actually about until she reunites with Bellamy and we see how they address her actions during her quest to save him. There is still the possibility that this is all just about showing the audience how much she loves him. But I hope not. There is a lot more nuance to Echo and her actions than that.

On their great escape, they miraculously run into janitor-Levitt (did anyone else think he was a hologram/projection of Octavia’s broken brain?? He was a janitor like Bellamy and basically sent them to die on the surface! It was so weird!).

He and Octavia share a sweet OTP-worthy moment during which he asks her to punch him again, and hey, you do you, Levitt. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Levitavia continues to rise, and I love it. They found each other in a — uh, nevermind.

Levitt tells them to avoid the stone room because it’s too heavily guarded, and instead head for the surface, where they’ll ‘survive longer.’ This strikes me as a really weird idea, since surely the slim possibility of fighting their way to the stone is better than the zero possibility of anything but slow asphyxiation (or whatever) on the surface?? But okay.

On their way, they encounter a sweet old man with some flowers, whom Echo promptly stabs in the neck. And that seems to be the breaking point for Gabriel.

Finally we get a payoff to his growing discomfort with Echo (and Hope)’s reckless disregard for human life and seeming complete lack of mercy. He would rather let them all get captured than go to their certain (?) death, and sets his Stormtrooper gun for stun.

Echo accuses Gabriel of just being along for the ride because he wants answers to the questions he’s been asking for the past 150 years. And while I don’t think Gabriel is that devoid of loyalty — on some level, he does care for Hope and Echo — I don’t think she’s entirely wrong, either.

Gabriel isn’t a one-dimensional ‘good guy’ who latches on to the first and the best group he happens to find himself in the vicinity of. He isn’t some null they picked up on Sanctum and brought on his first grand adventure. Gabriel is the Prime who invented the rebirth system, sacrificing countless innocents to save Josephine; he has a lot of blood on his hands and a glaring absence of a people to call his own (he hasn’t once expressed a desire to get back to the Children of Gabriel or voiced concerns that they might need him).

A five-year stint on Penance must have seemed like a drop in the ocean to Gabriel; there is no real reason for him to soul-bond with Hope and Echo, and no reason for us to think he has any more devotion to them than Echo had to Orlando. (Though he might have more honor, earned from experience.)

Right now, the only goal we know Gabriel has is to figure out the Anomaly mystery. We also know he carries Josephine’s mind drive with him. At best, he’s going to be a neutral party whose only drive is knowledge for knowledge’s sake, and a worst, he’s hoping he can barter with Bardo for a chance to recover the lost data on that mind drive.

For now, we leave him knocked out with the others, re-captured once again by the Bardo soldiers, who now have more pieces of the Clarke Griffin puzzle to sort through.

No offense to Hope, but she must be the worst rescuer ever.

All hail Queen Indra

Last but certainly not least is the Sanctum story, which takes a very welcome, surprising turn by swerving away from a repeat Commander Madi performance to instead let Indra finally come into the power she has more than earned.

(It’s funny, I feel like I’ve been shouting into the void for years now that The 100 should just make Indra the leader, but I didn’t think they’d ever actually do it!)

Indra was always a leader, her talents for command honed on the battlefield. Very early on, she proved that her head for strategy made her adept at more than just battles. Indra has always been able to see things from other people’s points of view — an advantage used to fight against them, and later to ally with them. Over time, her instinct has become to build bridges, not destroy them.

More than any other character, Indra has transcended her my-peopleism — first by taking Octavia as her second, then by partnering with Kane, and later by inspiring unity in the bunker.

(I’m not going to divert my review into a bunker story redux; I’ll just point out that Murphy and Emori’s deduction that Indra led the people, not Octavia, is obviously inaccurate – and there’s still a conversation to be had about how Indra, Kane and Abby all failed Octavia by demanding that she took full responsibility for the hard choices that they made her make – but they said it themselves: they weren’t there. They only know what they’ve been told. This is a story about how reality is shaped by point of view; we should never take a character’s word as objective fact, and the story fails when it uses characters’ subjective memories to rewrite history. But I don’t think that was the intention here.)

Much like Clarke in earlier seasons, Indra has a wisdom and a compelling presence that makes her a natural leader, and much like Clarke, she doesn’t have a personal desire for power. She can look beyond herself to see what the people want and need, and her drive to take control comes from a desire to help people, not herself, or even just her people.

But unlike Clarke, Indra also has the experience necessary to navigate as complicated politics as have evolved in Sanctum; unlike Clarke, Indra is very much in the trenches with the people she tries to lead, not above or apart from them.

As long as The 100 operates with autonomous leaders, I think Indra is just about the best option they’ve got.

As this episode makes clear, Indra isn’t perfect. Indra grew up in and perpetuated a toxic leadership system that forced children to fight to the death, with the victor having an AI implanted in their brain and forced to fight wars on behalf of their clan.

She has grown and expanded her perspective in remarkable ways over the course of the series, but even now, her go-to solution is still to find a Nightblood child and force the weight of the world onto their shoulders.

Madi is, for the first time in her life, in a position where she gets to experience that elusive thing called childhood. We see the allure of ‘school’ from her perspective: a calm normalcy, a chance to make friends and play (children casually bonding cross-factions? They really are the future. #playfootballnotwar).

Indra rips her away from that because the fate of the world is at stake. Is she wrong to do so? I think most of us would feel that way. But from her perspective, there are 2,000 bullets unaccounted for, and they could be used to wipe out half of Sanctum at any moment. From Indra’s perspective, letting Madi be a child means letting Madi (and everyone else) die.

From Indra’s perspective, protecting Madi’s childhood at the cost of hundreds of lives is simply not a viable option. (Especially because that childhood might only last five minutes.) She has, as the kids say, no choice.

After all, she sees no alternate leader who could fill the power vacuum and challenge Sheidheda. They have no more Nightbloods, and no more champions. She doesn’t for one second, consider herself an option. Which, as Emori points out, is exactly why she is not just an option, but the best option.

In a really satisfying twist, it is not Madi who ends up leading Wonkru; Madi reacts in a way that honors the trauma of her experiences so far — she is human — and rightfully, it is left up to the adults to shield her and to clean up their own messes.

With Emori, Murphy and Jackson’s help, Indra once again manages to force herself to break her lifelong conditioning, much like when she picked up a gun, or when she accepted a non-Nightblood leader. It would never have occurred to her to take charge, but once she realizes it is the right thing to do, she doesn’t hesitate.

Emori’s powerful words, “The fact that you don’t want it… it’s why you should do it” are spoken to a truly epic piece of Tree Adams score that I really hope is called something like “Indra’s Ascent.” It’s a key moment for the show, not just for Indra’s character but for its over-arching quest of finding the right kind of people to bring genuine change to the human race.

No, Indra isn’t perfect, and she shouldn’t do it alone (no leader should), but she’s absolutely the closest thing they’ve got to progress right now. While it is almost certainly short-lived, this victory for humanity feels earned and worth the journey.

One of the reasons why Indra is Wonkru’s ideal leader is because she speaks their language – she needs a display of physical strength to prove her capabilities to them. Luckily, “Knight” (wow, subtle) stands by ready to assist; she beats him easily, and then sets him to work, like the boss she is.

No, it’s still not democracy and yes, I’d like for Wonkru to default to another kind of leadership-selection than conclaves, but. Baby steps. Now we just have to hope that Indra’s leadership inspires a loyalty to rival Sheidheda’s, when he eventually makes himself known.

Of course Madi isn’t out of the game yet. Her memory-drawings must still come into play somehow (she remembers the Anomaly Stone – does that mean past Commanders saw it, even if they didn’t necessarily go through it themselves?), but at least she doesn’t have to be Heda anymore.

I’m really glad they opted for a different story for her this season, and finally allowed the show to break out of the Heda loop. The time for Commanders was over in season 5. At least now it’s official.

Meanwhile, Sheidheda manages to ensnare his first ally. Nelson, once again ignored by Indra (a tactical mistake, but she does have a lot of balls to juggle), goes to get his justice, only to be lured in with a manipulative speech about how justice and power are the same because you can’t have justice without power.

It’s an interesting perspective, echoing that old adage of history being written by the victors. Justice is not a neutral concept; as Raven says to Clarke, while they make sacrifices for the people they love, the people they sacrificed had people they loved, too. Good old Emerson in season 3 was willing to kill all of Clarke’s friends to avenge Mount Weather. Was that not, from his perspective, justice? Yet to us, because he wasn’t in a position of power, it read like vengeance.

Still, Sheidheda’s correlation assumes that justice must always be a one-sided thing. Right now, Sanctum’s problem isn’t who is in charge, it’s that they assume one person/faction has to be, and that right and wrong must be judged by them alone. Nelson’s justice is as selfish as Nikki’s vengeance, which makes them the same, and means that they require power to get it.

But if anyone stopped to consider what would be fair, to everyone — if empathy and understanding others’ points of view was prioritized learning in that coveted school of theirs, and not just something leaders had to feel and impose on their ignorant subjects — then suddenly power wouldn’t be the deciding factor in who got justice. (In a perfect world, anyway.)

But as long as this show continues to depict a PvP world, there can be no fairness, or empathy, or real justice. There can only be a winner and a loser.

Sheidheda plays chess (just like Orlando! I will never let it go) and talks of bringing down the Queen — which he considers to be Clarke. He offers to teach Nelson how to play, luring him to his side with words and games alone.

And as frustrating as it is to watch Nelson be so easily swayed, I’m frankly quite impressed by how interesting these talking-for-progress scenes are to watch.

It’s not easy to let story progression hinge on characters’ abilities to convince each other with half-truths and empty promises – at least not if it also has to be interesting – and while I still think The 100 did a better job of it in early seasons, season 7 is certainly improving in this regard.

The power dynamics in Sanctum are definitely shifting in interesting ways now, with Wonkru currently united behind Indra; the Children of Gabriel and Eligius potentially allying with Sheidheda, and the Prime followers an unexpected wild card once they realize their gods are dead. (Could the little bonding moment between Murphy and Dad of the Week be an indication that some of them might side with ‘our’ people?)

Will Wonkru stand behind Indra once they find out about Sheidheda? Might the Eligius prisoners end up on ‘our’ side? And how does it all change once the Bardoans are thrown into the mix? I have no idea, and for that reason alone, I’m intrigued.

For your consideration

  • I totally forgot that this is Ivana Milicevic and Shelby Flannery’s first time sharing the screen. They’re so good together! And that reunion, with Diyoza registering Octavia’s pain of losing Bellamy… I stan one (1) found timejump family.
  • Levitt is a “code breaker”? What codes is he breaking?
  • Murphy and Emori: quietly the MVPs of this episode.
  • I guess Indra didn’t tell anyone about Sheidheda last week, but she did tell Murphy and Emori this week, so it’s fine. I really like how that conversation played out, with Emori being fully aware of who he was and Murphy filling in the tech blanks.
  • Sheidheda’s delivery of “Sun up, yo” made me laugh.
  • Indra and Madi briefly discuss that nobody is looking for all their missing people, and that there in fact aren’t anyone left to send. I kind of love that the Sanctum storyline has been bled almost completely dry of driving force characters; not only because it leaves space for Indra and the others to shine, but because it’s interesting to see how much of a difference it actually makes to have Clarke, Raven, Bellamy and Octavia around.
  • I love that Jackson is looking out for Madi!
  • The whole “where are the guns” thing with Nikki, Murphy and Indra was so very season 1 except so very much not.
  • Murphy is really stepping up to be protector of the small, is he not?
  • Desmond is that you??
  • Aww, Jordan finally gets to go on a real adventure. I love it.
  • lol @ Niylah’s little “cool” joke. This episode is so fun.
  • If you were trapped inside the digestive system of a slimy space whale, what would you rather suffer through: the spiders or the smell?
  • So this episode was very good and all, but can we revisit that Crystal Giant thing???

The 100 returns next Wednesday at 8/7c with “The Queen’s Gambit.”

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