9:01 pm EDT, July 1, 2020

‘The 100’ season 7, episode 7 review: Between a rook and a hard place

Lindsey Morgan directs The 100 season 7, episode 7 “The Queen’s Gambit.” Here is our review!

Following in the footsteps of her cast mates Henry Ian Cusick and Bob Morley, Lindsey Morgan steps behind the camera to direct the seventh episode of the The 100’s seventh season.

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“The Queen’s Gambit,” written by one of the show’s top writers Miranda Kwok, is wonderfully rich both in emotion and mythology, and Morgan’s intimate knowledge of the characters and the acting craft helps everyone in the cast deliver stunning, moving performances. It is an episode that seems structured specifically to suit an actor’s director (or an actor-director), with multiple one-on-one tableaus carried entirely by the performers.

When you watched a finished episode of television, you obviously can’t know for certain what was in the script, what the director brought to the table, what the actors layered into their performances, and what choices were ultimately made in the editing.

So I could be wrong here, but I get the strong sense that Morgan was responsible for adding the many casual touches and moments of physical intimacy between the various character pairings, particularly in Sanctum, adding a tangible sense of history and genuine affection between these people that the show tends to underprioritize.

Watching a serialized story for seven years, you would expect the main characters to love and care about each other as much as you’ve come to care about them. But constant conflict and lengthy separations have made most of the characters on The 100 virtual strangers, to the extent that even calling them ‘friends’ is a stretch (case in point: Raven and Octavia have technically known each other for hundreds of years, but they have barely ever spoken to each other).

There is little concrete, tangible love between most of these characters — which in my opinion means whenever there is love, it should be highlighted and celebrated. This episode does that in subtle, quietly satisfying ways; in the writing, of course, with Miranda Kwok packing as many small and big moments of connection and reckoning into the dialogue as she can. But also in the actors’ physicality: a hand on a shoulder. A supportive pat on the back. A visible response to spoken words.

I am aware that this observation is going to seem completely silly in the context of our current reality, but something that has bothered me for a while about most media, frankly, is that characters very rarely touch each other unless they’re fighting or making out. (I have a whole theory that viewers being touch-starved by proxy might help explain why we flock towards relationships that display casual physical intimacy that indicates a more ‘real’ connection.)

A simple physical touch with no narrative agenda is a powerful, evocative storytelling tool that adds so much nuance and depth to a relationship without anything having to be vocalized, and I’m not sure why it has gone out of Hollywood fashion.

But this episode adds this crucial physical element, which I hope to see more of in my media in the future (you know… post-pandemic). And it has the immediate effect of making me believe in the bonds between the characters, in a way formulaic exchanges of sentiment and information doesn’t.

That is just one of the many great aspects of this jam-packed episode. Let’s break down the many gambits made by our various queens.

Death is life is death to Primes

The episode opens with a big ”f– you and your theories, Selina” because lo and behold, it’s Orlando, and he’s right there, and he’s dead!

…Or is he?

I’m just saying, we still haven’t seen a body! “They just didn’t book the actor for this episode,” you say? Pah! Convenient excuse. #OrlandoForever #TheOrlandoBeforeTime

And just to breathe a little extra life into my conspiracy theory, Gabriel literally says the words “death is life,” verbal confirmation that dead Orlando is, in fact, alive.

(Could I just let this go? Yes. But will I?)

My schadenfreude at being able to cling onto my petty theory was so all-consuming when I first watched this scene that I *almost* failed to realize that “death is life” is a callback to last season, when the Children of Gabriel were chanting the same phrase.

Then as now, the words encapsulate the belief that drove Gabriel to fight against the Primes’ resurrection cycle in the first place: that only death can give life meaning.

He speaks the words in Spanish here, which drives home the origin of the phrase and why he chose it as his motto: “La muerte es la vida” is a poem by Gabriel’s potential namesake, Gabriel Álvarez de Toledo, Royal Librarian of King Felipe V of Spain (= a fellow knowledge-seeker).

The poem speaks of how the soul is ‘buried’ inside of the human body, only set free from “its earthly chain” when the body dies. It concludes that, “the soul dies when the man lives [and] the soul lives when the man dies,” which is essentially the deliverance that Gabriel was fighting to give himself and his fellow Primes.

It also might make us look at his final scene with Josephine in a different light: he didn’t just sacrifice her to save an innocent, he also genuinely believed that he was setting her soul free.

But this isn’t season 6 anymore (or even season 3, which was also in some ways also a story about human souls being ‘set free’ when their bodies died). Gabriel’s raison d’être is no longer to achieve mortality; he doesn’t want to die, he wants to live and seek knowledge.

More specifically, he wants to crack the Anomaly Stone mystery, a desire that Anders taps into. The opportunity to research the stone alongside the Bardoans is Gabriel’s version of the snake’s temptation; he bites into the apple of knowledge and ‘betrays’ his fellow inhabitants of the Garden.

Gabriel is an interesting character to put in this situation. He is probably the only character who can believably choose to side with ‘the devil’ without his choice actually seeming self-serving.

He has lived long enough with regrets of past my-people motivated sins that he is somewhere in the vicinity of genuine ‘good guy’-ness; he has a sense of fairness and a drive to help the helpless (…sounds familiar), but he isn’t and has no reason to be blindly loyal or stubborn to the point that it actively hurts himself/his friends.

He is, if you will, the anti-Echo — and no, I don’t think either extreme is necessarily ideal.

Gabriel wanted to save himself and his friends, yes. But he did so by taking their agency away and handing them over to the faction we know tortured Octavia and Diyoza and (allegedly) killed Bellamy. He could have chosen to surrender himself and let the others make their own choices. His actions could very easily have gotten his friends killed.

I don’t think Gabriel’s actions are black and white, and he’d be a less interesting character if they were. But he ultimately has good intentions, and a character whose pursuit of knowledge doesn’t invalidate his compassion is always hard to resist. It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll choose to align when Clarke and co. shows up three months later and the ‘war’ begins.

Thanks for the memories

Look closely now, because here we have a rare glimpse at the elusive Bellamy Blake bird, so rarely captured on camera. Shown here in his space plumage, the Bellamy – unfortunately now believed to be extinct – sings his traditional support song, enabling the Echo to rise from the Ashes of, er, herself.

Echo’s story this week opens with a surprise Ring flashback: one of the episode’s multiple attempts to close up old loops and address audience criticism, which I suppose I just have to accept will be a recurring thing in season 7.

And hey, as far as flashbacks go, this is a pretty good one. It gives us new insight into Echo’s character and her feelings for Bellamy. It adds depth to their relationship, particularly Echo’s side of it: she reacts to Bellamy’s kindness and affection with vulnerability and disbelief, and you really understand why he became such an anchor for her, and why she ultimately transferred her loyalty from Azgeda to Spacekru (although I suppose they retconned it a bit to make her loyalty be specifically to Bellamy).

If the scene had aired midway through season 5, I probably would have appreciated it a lot more, and it would have given the Bellamy/Echo relationship the gravitas and context it sorely needed. But even now, coming two seasons too late, I can still recognize it as a beautiful moment of vulnerability from Echo that shows us the moment she felt like she found a ‘home’ in someone, juxtaposing her present-day grief because she (thinks she) has lost it.

“This isn’t real,” she tells Bellamy, giving him — and herself — an out, in a last-ditch effort to protect herself from this all-consuming thing she already feels. But it was real, and she lost it anyway, and now she is left regretting the fact that she ever let herself feel it in the first place. That is absolutely necessary context for her extreme reaction to Bellamy’s ‘death’ this season.

Recently, Echo has been uncharacteristically expressive, with very big, physical reactions — a change probably meant to indicate how the loss of Bellamy has made her lose control of herself, too.

But I have to admit that I miss the contained, strung-back-bow-like composure that Echo used to have, and I love how Tasya Teles recaptures that stillness in her performance here. It also really underscores that it was never Bellamy’s actions, but his words and kindness — the one thing Echo never learned how to guard herself against — that made her let her guard down around him in the first place.

…And that is how their relationship should have been framed from the beginning. Writing backwards fixes neither the past nor the present, and continues to do the relationship (and Echo specifically) an unnecessary disservice. It’s not this scene’s ‘fault,’ as such; it just doesn’t fit in halfway through the final season.

Plus, seeing as they had very limited access to Bob Morley this season, it also just feels like such a waste to have Bellamy’s one appearance be so wholly about someone else (and taking place during a time in his life that is so irrelevant to his current situation).

Bellamy is basically a prop in Echo’s story here, his voice a vehicle of exposition for Echo’s character alone, and as much good as can be said about the scene from an Echo-centric perspective, I can’t help but be disappointed that this is what Bellamy has (currently) been reduced to.

When Echo comes out of her flashback, it is to find herself embraced by the other Blake, who basically offers her the exact same absolution for her past ‘bad’ deeds as Bellamy. (For a second, I even thought she was going in for the same conversation-stopper, too.)

Octavia essentially tries to be to Echo what Diyoza was to her, drawing the poison from Echo’s wounds with kindness and offering the only thing she has to give: family.

Having a family who loved her is what healed Octavia after losing Bellamy, after all, and she rightly surmises that it is exactly what Echo needs now if she wants to have any hope of healing and re-centering herself.

While this scene is still mainly about Echo, it says a lot about Octavia that she is able to recognize this – even setting aside her own pain at losing Bellamy to offer comfort to someone who needs it more acutely.

And yeah, it’s weird to see Octavia be less openly affected by Bellamy’s loss than Echo is, but I really think it’s meant to show us how much more equipped Octavia is to handle such a tragedy, and how much peace she has found within herself — whereas Echo’s entire sense of self and purpose was tied to Bellamy.

As Octavia comforts Echo, we get the episode’s second instance of rearview storytelling, when Octavia (finally) addresses that horrific moment in season 3 when she beat up her brother. This was one of the show’s most controversial moments, that should have been addressed a lot sooner than this, and I understand why the writers had it on their ‘fix it’ list for the final season.

But again, it comes about three seasons too late. If this was a wound they wanted to mend for the characters’ sake, the season 4 finale would have been the time to do it.

(And if they really felt the need to bring it back up four whole seasons later, Octavia should have expressed her regret to Bellamy. Maybe Morley’s allotted screen time could have been used on a flashback showing us a deleted scene where she already did.)

How Echo reacts to Octavia’s extended hand highlights the fundamental difference between them: Octavia and Echo may be alike in many ways, but Octavia has always been able to let others in and accept new people, which has allowed her to change her perspectives and grow as a person. Echo, conversely, is and always has been violently ride-or-die for her people or person, to the detriment of herself and whatever big picture cause she (vaguely) aligns with.

Octavia accepting Echo into her family doesn’t mean that Echo will consider Octavia to be hers. Scarring her face is, certainly, not an indication of Echo being in the process of growing as a person. She was a shapeshifter, and she is still a shapeshifter.

I assume she decides to join up with the Second Dawn because it is the only move she feels like she can make on her quest for revenge (a zugzwang, if you will), and not actually because she just wants to lose herself in loyalty to a new people. But regardless, cutting up her face is a completely unnecessary, horrific step on that journey, so it must be something she did for herself.

But why? To distract her from her grief? To anchor herself to her revenge mission? To punish herself for her emotional weakness? Whatever the reason, Echo deciding to self-harm in order to affirm her love and devotion to Bellamy does nothing to make that relationship more appealing. (At this point, all I want from Echo is for her to find some kind of peace within and respect for herself that isn’t contingent on her loyalty to someone or something else.)

And why would Anders ever in a million years believe her? Why would they let Hope and Diyoza, who haven’t communicated with Echo at all and cannot be assumed to have even the faintest desire to fight on the Second Dawn’s side in their final battle, out of their cells and treat them as de facto recruits? Anders can’t be that stupid. He must be planning to mind-wipe them, or something equally extreme, in order to secure any form of loyalty.

Kramer vs Kramer

In the other cell, one of the episode’s (season’s?) best dynamics continues to play out beautifully. Hope and Diyoza are finally together again, under terrible circumstances, particularly for Diyoza, who has not only missed 15 years of her daughter’s life, but has to deal with Hope a) knowing who her mother really is, b) having lost her innocence, and c) having been imprisoned, likely facing execution.

While Hope wants to keep fighting, Diyoza is despondent and nearly broken. Whatever happens next, the absolution she gained from raising a child of peace isolated from the source of all evil (humanity) has already been lost. Hope is corrupted – and Hope has seen Diyoza’s own corruption, which means that Diyoza’s paradise is essentially corrupted by knowledge.

It doesn’t matter whether Hope uses the label freedom fighter or terrorist. Her past actions don’t change because of how people talk about them now (ahem). To Diyoza, “doing the right thing the wrong way isn’t doing the right thing,” a worldview which of course directly contradicts what both Octavia and Bellamy say to Echo: that her past ‘mistakes’ can be absolved if she is now loyal to the people she wronged.

I suppose the varying perspectives just reflect their different views on humanity (and the fact that Diyoza is condemning herself, while the Blakes — who usually share Diyoza’s self-flagellating tendencies — are extending forgiveness to someone else), but it also serves to reflect how the audience tends to divide itself based on how/why we judge the characters.

The fandom is constantly fighting about action vs. intent this, or actively doing better vs addressing old mistakes that. I appreciate whenever the show allows both approaches to judgement to exist simultaneously within its narrative.

Ultimately, Diyoza is heartbroken because she thinks that she’ll never again get to be “mommy”; that she has forever lost the child that looked at her and saw someone pure.

But significantly, over the course of the episode, I think Diyoza does get to reclaim some of what she thinks she’s lost – because while Hope’s knowledge and actions can’t be taken back, she is still and always will be her child. It is an emotional compromise all parents eventually have to make (and some handle it better than others), and the episode tackles this universal aspect of parenthood really well.

Diyoza challenges Hope to some good old-fashioned mother-daughter fisticuffs, and easily overpowers her. It ends with a fierce hug, not unlike that shared by Octavia and Echo, with Diyoza telling Hope not to let rage destroy her soul.

It’s a powerful moment. We’ve seen Hope come so far, and to be so broken by her losses, and the fact that she is allowed to have this reunion and reckoning, finally getting to let out all the pain the loss of her mother wrought inside of her, is a real gift.

Emori will never get a moment like this. Nelson had his parental reunion, only to be rejected again. Hope, at least, gets to be a daughter again, and knows for a fact that her mother didn’t leave her on purpose.

But it is just one moment. Hope is still very much not okay, and much like Echo, she has shaped her entire existence around reuniting with and saving the one person her life revolves around. I really worry how a potentially imminent loss of Diyoza will affect her.

From the freezer, he will rise

Cadogasp it’s Cadogan y’aaaall!!

I’m so excited. This is like, my mythology OTP becoming canon. And the fact that it’s the same actor is so much better than if he’d been chip-reborn or lived inside of a giant computer (although I still think that would have been cool).

I’m sure John Pyper-Ferguson never in a million years expected that his iPad bit performance would lead to an eventual grand return as the big, over-arching series villain. But here he is! Here we are! It’s all coming together! Cadogamazing.

Like a post-apocalyptic Rip Van Winkle (what’s that? “Jesus?” Never heard of him), Bill Cadogan has slept through most of recent history.

Going into cryo sleep at some point after leaving Earth through the Anomaly Stone, the First Disciples have been waking him up once per generation to give him the cliffsnotes on how their search for the Key is going.

And speaking of clifssnotes, in case anyone needs it — because let’s be real, most of the casual fans will have been like “?????” at the “just call me Bill” reveal — here’s a tl;dw on Bill Cadogan:

In The 100 season 4, as humanity was scrambling for a way to survive Praimfaya, Jaha stumbled upon evidence of a doomsday bunker created before the first apocalypse. The bunker belonged to a cult called “Second Dawn,” which was founded by someone named Bill Cadogan — a man who seemed to have pre-existing knowledge of the impending apocalypse.

(Since ALIE was (as far as we’re aware) responsible for ending the world, we assume — but don’t know for sure — that Cadogan was in some way connected to ALIE and/or her creator Becca prior to the world ending.)

The Second Dawn cult had 12 levels, and people could only achieve the highest level by donating $10 million, which would secure them a spot in the fallout shelter (and likely pay for its construction).

When the world ended, all followers below Level 12 were sent to die in a fake bunker beneath his childhood home, while Cadogan and his elite Level 12’s went to the bunker below Polis.

When Becca came down from the Ark with the Nightblood serum, she landed right above the Polis bunker — maybe coincidentally, maybe because she was aware of its existence — where she was greeted and taken in by Second Dawn cult members.

We don’t know the details of how she distributed the Nightblood, what kind of relationship she had with Cadogan before or during their bunker time, or why they became enemies – presumably, he either felt she challenged his leadership or wanted to purge the technology she brought with her and snuff out the potential of her becoming a new ALIE – but one way or another, he ended up burning her at the stake.

What happened to Cadogan after Becca’s death was a mystery, until we began to get hints that he and some of his followers (perhaps the secret Level 13s) left Earth through the Anomaly Stone.

Since the Flame in Becca’s head seems to have witnessed his journey through the stone, it must have been inserted into one of the people injected with Nightblood serum prior to this event, either covertly or at Cadogan’s request.

(Since Becca knew about the planets connected by the wormhole system, there certainly would be a reason for Cadogan to be interested in the information on the Flame, as it might tell him how to activate the stone.)

While the Flame-bearer and their fellow Nightbloods, and whomever else survived the apocalypse, went on to form the Grounder society on Earth, Cadogan and his select disciples ended up on Bardo, where they are now preparing for a final war to end all wars. They are seeking “transcendence” — a “final evolution” of mankind.

But in order to reach their endgame, they first need to find a “Key.” Apparently aware that this would be a waiting game, Cadogan has been in cryo for centuries so that he will still be around when the Key is eventually found.

And now, they believe the Key has been found in Clarke. It seems likely that her significance is ALIE/Becca related – that they want her for the City of Light and/or Flame code still in her head — although I also really like the ‘ring theory’ floating around fandom that would make Clarke special because of her ancestry.

Whether it is Clarke’s unique DNA code, or the ALIE code in her brain, or something else, it seems that the “key” is what they need to “unlock” the true power of the Anomaly Stone.

Is the stone’s ‘true power’ the ability to bring Earth back ‘online,’ i.e. restoring the planet somehow? I don’t know. The ‘war to end all wars’ and human evolution thing still sounds like some sort of City of Light 2.0 simulation to me, in which case physically returning to Earth would be irrelevant, right??

Maybe we’ll be a little wiser after next week’s episode, as that will serve as The 100‘s backdoor pilot for the prequel and likely fill in some of the Becca/Cadogan/Eligius/Grounder/Ark blanks! Can’t wait…

To little, too late?

Clarke, Raven and the rest of the badventure squad appear in just one, brief scene, arriving on Bardo and being told that Bellamy is dead.

As usual, whenever Bellamy or Clarke is part of a group that is collectively told that the other is alive/dead, the camera and every single person in the room turns their attention to them and their reaction.

But as the truth dawns on Clarke’s face, the episode ends, leaving us wondering how she’ll react.

We’ve already seen Octavia react with despondent acceptance and Echo react with flat-out rage. So what can we expect from Clarke? Mild sadness from which the plot will conveniently distract her before she is allowed to actually reflect on her actual feelings in a way that feels true to her character? Actual forward momentum?

Eh, who even knows anymore. I’m hopeful we’ll see more of Clarke and Bellamy later in the season, and we can resume this discourse when we do.

The more immediate question is what the consequences of Echo signing herself and her friends up for cult membership will be, now that yet another rescue mission has arrived — at least partially made up of people Echo considers to be her family.

Gabriel has been with the Second Dawn for three months, which means it must have been a similar amount of time since Echo made them all become recruits. So we have to assume that they’ve been somewhat ‘converted’ at this point, or at least have had to pretend to be for some time.

Dare we hope that seeing Raven in danger will remind Echo that she’s still got a few SpaceKru family members left to be loyal to? And/or that losing Bellamy will finally be what lets Clarke and Octavia come together?

That’s what Sheid said

At the top of their arc, Murphy and Emori are running around like they’re characters in a wacky sitcom, Emori’s storyline legitimately being to plan a party while Murphy plays the grumpy husband trying to talk her out of it.

This delightful deviation from the grim status quo of course means that things are about to go horribly wrong for them. (And for us all! It’s really beginning to hit me that Richard Harmon and Luisa d’Oliveira are almost done being scene partners 😢)

Because as it turns out, Murphy is the ~key~ to Emori’s plan of reuniting the Children of Gabriel with their Sanctum parents, so Sheidheda deviously lures Murphy into a trap that will prevent him from helping her. Because Indra happens to be away. Because Murphy happens to bring him breakfast. Because Emori’s party happens to be a luncheon. Because Nelson’s dad happens to be a jerk.

Sure, it’s a little too convenient, considering that that Sheidheda is essentially playing a Kriegspiel (to keep it chess-related): he can see none of his opponents and gets all of his information from second-hand sources. He shouldn’t be this puppet-stringy.

But whatever. It works. Even if this scene exists solely because someone requested that Richard Harmon and J.R. Bourne share a scene together, that would be justification enough. Two very talented actors locked in a room together, on opposite sides of a chess board, sizzling up the screen with words alone = what’s not to love?

(In fact, we should take the idea even further: quick, someone pitch “The Sheidheda Sessions”* as a CW Seed exclusive and we can have a wacky Doctor Phil/Jimmy Fallon type spinoff with a new main character in the hot seat every week.)

(*Also accepting alternate titles along the lines of “Two Suns, Double the Sheid” or “You Just Got Sheided” or “Sheid hed a who?” or my current personal favorite, “Oh Sheeeiiiiid.”)

And can we talk about that chess set? Is that not the most fabulous thing?? Do the pieces depict the Primes in their current forms? Can we have a set with the main The 100 characters? But who would be what piece?! MY BRAIN.

As they play, Sheidheda taunts Murphy with the fact that he wants to be a hero, which… I mean, he’s right. Murphy has always wanted to be accepted and to belong, but his recent brush with ‘Hell’ has made him hyper-fixated on tipping his Good Place/Bad Place point scale.

And the combination of wanting to be liked and wanting to save his own immortal ass has, I believe, awoken in him a completely sincere desire to do actual good. His newly-developed obsession with saving any random child he comes across definitely isn’t a calculated move to save himself, but an instinctual urge to save the innocent.

I think what was once an imitation has become genuine; Murphy has aligned with the good side for so long that it’s who he truly is now. Which makes him ripe for exploitation.

Just like Emori, Murphy is made to pay for his inherent goodness, because We Can’t Have Nice Things.

He takes Sheidheda’s bait, stepping directly into an obvious trap, all because Sheidheda dangles the possibility that winning the game will save lives.

It seems like an obvious lie (and it is), but Murphy simply isn’t able or willing to take the risk that it’s true, and so he enters into the game with The Queen’s Gambit, sacrificing his pawn to take control of the center… not realizing that he is the pawn, and by playing the game, he’s already lost.

He should absolutely know better. But that’s the problem with heroes. They make stupid mistakes, because they get distracted trying to predict the consequences of their actions.

(Murphy does get a little bit out of Sheid, though, by digging into his Lexa complex and bringing up how the Flamekeepers united to kill him (did we know this?). “They killed me because they were afraid of my ideas,” Sheid says. What were these ideas, do we think? Unity? Or a trip through the Anomaly Stone to follow in Bill Cadogan’s footsteps?)

While Murphy plays the Bad Bishop, my bb Emori is over here carrying the whole damn show on her back.

I am so grateful for how Emori has been allowed to develop over the past few seasons, with Miranda Kwok’s episodes in particular (see also last year’s incredible “The Old Man and the Anomaly”) making a point to let Emori be an independent player with real narrative agency, who makes choices that have nothing to do with her relationship with Murphy.

One thing that often gets lost in the shuffle of The 100 discourse is that Emori is, fundamentally, a good person. Her introduction as a violent scavenger out for herself established her as essentially the ‘Grounder-Murphy,’ but since then, we’ve learned that Emori was a discarded child abused by the man who took her in, an outcast whose violence was learned and who had no choice (!) but to steal to survive.

Through all this, Emori was never vindictive, power-hungry, or corruptible. The closest she came was in “God Complex,” where she threw a random Grounder (who tried to kill her!) under the bus to save herself, but she did that because she felt cornered and hated and lesser than, just as she had been made to feel all her life. Just when she thought she had found somewhere to belong.

Emori is as damaged and morally complex as any character on The 100, and like any character, her desire to be loved and to belong sometimes leads her down dark paths. But what sets her apart as (what I would call) a pretty definitive Good Guy is that she has just as strong of a desire to give love and to help others find belonging, too.

As we’ve seen with SpaceKru, Emori isn’t content to just be part of a group; she wants to be a useful and productive member of that group. She wants to earn her place, but she also wants to make sure that everyone else is thriving. And she loves her specific people, not just the personal perks that come with having a people.

And unlike a lot of the other characters, Emori’s love and support, once given, is not conditional (which is one of the reasons she’s such a good fit for Murphy). She sees the good in people, and she stands by the people she considers good.

In this episode, Emori’s big heart, and the way her attachment to SpaceKru has made her more trusting of both her own abilities and her fellow humans’ better natures, is used against her.

It is hard to watch someone whose intentions are so pure (how often do we see someone set events in motion for purely altruistic reasons?) have their efforts so cruelly squandered, with potentially devastating consequences.

But whatever happens next doesn’t invalidate the power of Emori’s journey, or the importance of having a character whose main source of strength is her compassion. Especially when it’s a character whose history would, in a lesser story, make her such an obvious candidate for a shocking selfish turn. But Emori has risen above, quietly becoming the character on The 100 who gives me the most hope for the human race.

Before it all falls apart, Emori gets to literally play god, a role that she seems born for. It helps that she happens to be masquerading as the most compassionate, benevolent of the lot: we already know that Kaylee was one of the Primes more sympathetic to the ‘nulls,’ but we learn in this episode that she actually dreamed of reunifying the outcasts with their parents.

Emori can relate to the nulls’ struggle because she used to be one herself, called a ‘Frikdreina’ on Earth and cast out because the Grounders saw physical disabilities as stains on the bloodline and cast out deformed children in an effort to purge nuclear mutations.

(It’s neat, in a horrific kind of way, that not only have the Frikdreina and nulls suffered similar mistreatment, but they were cast out for the exact same reason. Despite being lightyears and centuries apart, both the nulls and the Frikdreina were considered ‘lesser’ to their people because of the absence of Becca’s blood alteration solution in their systems — leading them to be susceptible to nuclear mutations on Earth and unsuitable for hosting Primes on Sanctum.)

She sees herself in these nulls, and she genuinely wants to give them the opportunity to reunite with their parents that she never had – to make peace, but also to provide the individual nulls with peace, and to give herself peace in the process.

As Emori tells Jackson, she can heal herself by healing others, and sets out to realize Kaylee’s reunification plan. And the most heartbreaking thing about all this is that it very nearly works.

Sheidheda already lured Nelson to the dark side last episode, but Nelson isn’t your average one-dimensional bad guy lackey. He is written to be, and portrayed by Lee Majdoub as, a fully-fledged, complicated human being, which means that it feels like Emori’s kindness can actually win him back over to the side of light if she plays her cards right.

And she does. She actually finds Nelson’s parents, and convinces him to meet them. And for a moment, when he reunites with his mother, all of his anger and desire for retribution melt away.

But then his father ruins it all, by upholding his (at this point absurd) belief in the Primes and insisting that casting out his son was the right thing to do. Fathers, am I right? Maybe if Daniel Prime had been there to give his blessing, it would have been different; we’ll never know. I think this guy would always have turned out to be a jerk though.

The result is that Nelson now firmly on Team Bad Guy, and even almost kills Emori (don’t you dare!!!!!!) before his new partner in capical-C-crime Nikki makes him take her hostage instead. It’ll be fun, she says.

And now, as Sheidheda hinted: how Murphy responds to the loss of his queen will tell us who he is.

Paging Doctor Jackson

My favorite scene of the episode is perhaps an unlikely one, but listen, this is just amazing. How many years have we lamented the fact that none of the characters on the show actually sit down and talk to each other about their experiences, and allow each other to reflect and process, and just generally pay attention to each other’s emotional well-being??

There are a lot of people who could do with a Doctor Jackson sit-down (where can I sign up?), but it is very very very good that Madi, at least, gets to process her experiences. And it makes total sense that Jackson would be considerate enough to set these sessions up for her, in his capacity as the closest thing the known universe has to a psychologist.

It is just a really well-written and directed scene that takes Madi’s feelings seriously, weaves in some exposition about her mysterious drawings, and gives us more insight into her traumatic childhood. Being a hidden Nightblood didn’t only shape her existence after we got to know her; Madi’s entire life has been defined by the danger her ‘specialness’ put her in, and how limited her childhood was as a result.

(It is 0% surprising that soccer is the sport that survived apocalypses and space odysseys and provides a universal language of understanding and unification between all these warring peoples lol.)

Their conversation moves from her early childhood to one of her more recent formative traumas: when Bellamy asked her to take the Flame in an effort to save Clarke.

Considering how many minefields a discussion about this particular storyline has to navigate — it is just so easy to over-simplify the show’s intentionally murky, multi-faceted moments when trying to recap them through dialogue — I think the way Jackson and Madi address it is pretty well-balanced.

How we judge characters’ actions usually depends on whether we feel like the ends justify the means; the narrative undercuts itself when it tries to make this judgement for us. This scene doesn’t use Jackson’s words to impose judgement on Bellamy – it just states what is true, and what effect it has had on Madi.

Because yes, it was true what Bellamy said – Madi taking the Flame did save Clarke – but it also wasn’t right to put that burden on Madi. Both of these contradictory things have to be acknowledged, because they are equally reflective of what happened. Nothing is black and white on this show. No character is lesser for being complicated. Just as in this moment, Madi can be both strong and overwhelmed, Bellamy was both right and wrong.

Jackson is a pretty great psychologist in general. He lets Madi process her past traumas and gives her real, useful advice that visibly lightens her and changes her perception of herself moving forward, and it is just so good and useful and satisfying and I wish we had a million more scenes like it, but I also am just so happy we have this one. (Forget the Sheidheda Sessions – I want weekly “Dear Doctor Jackson” segments from now and till foreverrrr.)

Again, Lindsey Morgan’s direction is noteworthy in the ways she lets the characters react to and move around each other. Lola Flanery and Sachin Sahel both give really subtle, nuanced individual performances, but the strength of the scene comes in their cooperation and interplay. It is not the dialogue that drives the emotion, it is how they react to what the other says.

I also really like how the scene transitions from being about Madi to being about Emori, with Murphy’s walk-by connecting the storylines and leading us into the next scene. For once, the characters feel like they’re all part of the same story and moving around in the same space.

All in all, there are a lot of little details in this episode that improve the flow of the story and enhances my emotional attachment to a lot of the characters, without being flashy or overtly signposted.

I hope everyone is keeping an eye out for Miranda Kwok’s new show The Cleaning Lady at Fox, and I hope Lindsey Morgan looks into directing more things, maybe eventually getting the chance on her new show Walker, which has been ordered to series by The CW. All my best to them both.

For your consideration

  • JR Bourne is showing so much teeth this week, you’d think he was still on the werewolf show.
  • As if Sheidheda wasn’t enough of a bad guy, they have him vandalizing Cookie Man’s cookies as well?? PURE EVIL.
  • Hypothetically, if we were going to design a The 100-themed chess set, which characters would you put on which side of the board and as what pieces?
  • This shot making Emori look like a phoenix better be a cute aesthetic thing and not a sign of things to come Istg.
  • They called him Sachin 😭
  • So Nikki is basically picking up where McCreary left off, I guess. Alright. She’s very villainy, but Alaina Huffman plays her so deliciously, I can’t help but like her (it’s very annoying).
  • What was that little ‘ugh I had to spend five years with Echo’ moment from Hope all about?? I thought Hope liked Echo now! Damn it, I was rooting for that friendship.
  • What books were Octavia and Gabriel reading in their cells? The Second Dawn manifesto? (Btw what a fun little detail that Octavia was lying on the table upside-down.)
  • Octavia being horrified at Echo self-harming and smearing her own blood on her face is a great way to show how far removed she is from Blodreina (who did the exact same thing).
  • Alien reference! Drink!
  • I know he’s the villain, but Anders just looked so excited when he was skipping down the corridor to wake up Cadogan, I was very pleased for him.
  • I’ve been rewatching Once Upon a Time (don’t judge me, we’re all just trying to get by) and so I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between Jackson and Madi’s scene and Henry’s therapy sessions with Archie. Was it directly inspired, or just coincidentally similar?
  • Speaking of comparisons: I don’t know if anyone has noticed yet how loudly I have NOT mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer whenever the show talks about Clarke being the Key, but fair warning, if it ends up actually being about her blood having the ability to open a portal between worlds, I’m gonna reference so hard.
  • Hey, if Sheidheda challenges Clarke to a game of chess, at least she knows how to play!

Next week is the backdoor pilot for The 100‘s proposed prequel, which I bet means we’ll get some answers to our Cadogan questions. Can’t wait!

What did you think about “The Queen’s Gambit?”

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