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Friday, May 8, 2015

The 100: Murphy's Law, Twilight's Last Gleaming, His Sister's Keeper

I'm back! Yes, I'm sticking with The 100 for now – I like the premise and I really like the female lead, and my dashboard is so filled with it that I'm beginning to feel left out of the loop. I'm going to continue watching and commenting in three-episode helpings, just for the sake of getting through the season in a timely manner.

We open with Clarke next to Wells's grave, in what is probably the last time anyone will bother to remember the victim of this show's first Shocking Death of a Main Character. The whole Anyone Can Die policy seems to be a staple part of television serials these days, though not one I'm necessarily fond of if such deaths are done for shock-value instead of a genuine attempt to shake up the status quo and explore the ramifications of the character's absence in the plot.
(The reason Ned Stark's death in Game of Thrones was so powerful is not just because it was shocking but because it was inconvenient to the narrative. His loss made things infinitely more difficult for the characters left behind. Conversely, the reason Wash's death in Serenity felt like a slap in the face wasn't because it was so brutal, but because he had served his narrative purpose and the plot had no further need for him).
Anyway, Clarke's thoughts have already turned from Wells to her mother's betrayal of her father and his subsequent execution.
As I mentioned in my first review, the key to this show's success is the fact that all the main characters are teenagers. Impetuous, felonious, hormonally charged, short-sighted teenagers – which means that any stupid decisions they make can be easily chalked up to their youth and inexperience.
So to punish her mother, Clarke does what any teenage girl would do in this situation: make Abbie believe that her only child is dead by deactivating her wrist bracelet. Only temporarily though, considering Monty's plans to use the bracelet to make contact with the Arc. Clarke is technically still a good girl.
Outside the teens are putting together a makeshift wall to repel Grounders – the people they think are responsible for Wells's death. It would appear that some weapons are being gathered as well, though I question what THIS guy thinks he's holding:
Looks like someone has co-opted an antennae
Unfortunately their wall is fairly crappy, Octavia and Jasper effortlessly sneak out through a gap, and almost immediately find Wells's severed fingers and the weapon that killed him (wait, wouldn't these have been found when his body was discovered?) Clarke recognises the knife as belonging to Murphy, and against Bellamy's recommendation, rushes out to confront the suspected killer.
So the show wastes no time in getting to its first Lord of the Flies scenario – although unlike poor Piggy, Murphy is an Asshole Victim, having spent most of his time sadistically bullying and bossing around his peers. It makes for an interesting case of Reality Ensues, as unlike other jerkward characters (such as Draco Malfoy or Joffrey Baratheon) who are nearly impossible to extract from an ongoing storyline, these teens can't wait to string up the guy that's been treating them like shit for the past few days.
That escalated fast
Luckily for Murphy, Charlotte's conscience gets the better of her and she confesses to murdering Wells, at which point Clarke manages to cut him down. And with that we come to the most intriguing scene of the episode: Murphy wants the same punishment to be meted out on Charlotte, something that the now-subdued mob is not prepared to go through with. Is it a double standard that they were willing to hang an innocent dickhead but not a guilty little girl? Yeah, pretty much – though it's an understandable response. I mean, who would you want to see suffer: the guy who literally urinated on you earlier or the terrified eleven year old?  
Yet having constructed this scenario, the writers seem at a loss with what to do with it – more than that, they seem desperate to immediately wash their hands of it. As such Charlotte takes a flying leap off a high cliff, Murphy is banished into the wilderness, and everyone else heads back to camp. Turns out it was all a catalyst to Clarke and Finn having sex in the bunker that he found off-screen in an earlier episode.
Yeesh, whatever happened to the slow burn?
And with Raven heading for Earth in her makeshift spacecraft on Abbie's orders to find Clarke and radio back confirmation of their survival, it would appear we have an impending love triangle. I'm so glad they glossed over the difficult moral conundrum of Wells's murder in favour of this. So glad.
***
As with the first three episodes, I find the storyline of the adults on the Arc to be more compelling. Just like the teenagers on Earth, they also have to make choices between life and death – though on a larger scale. Kane's Population Reduction Plan is about to be put into effect and the dwindling oxygen is beginning to have an effect on the health of the Arc's population.
Everything rests on Raven making it safely to Earth and radioing back to confirm the 100's survival – but the spanner in the works is Bellamy, whose singular goal at this point is to prevent the adults from returning. Despite his claim that he's there for the sake of his sister, his current motivation is steeped in self-preservation, having killed (for all he knows) the Chancellor as part of a deal to get on board the drop-ship.
However, Raven is on hand to inform him that Thelonious Jaha did not perish, thereby absolving Bellamy of murder – though he'll still have three hundred other innocent people on his conscience should they not contact the Arc in time, as Clarke is quick to point out. As ever, her method of is appealing to people's sense of social responsibility.
But if Clarke is a grim idealist, then her mother is an optimistic realist, and she ends up airing her late husband's message over the Arc's communication network in the bid to let the population know what Kane and Thelonious have planned for Sector 7 (kill everyone inside and make it look like an accident). You'd think there would some measures in place to stop someone from effortlessly overriding the broadcasting channels, but as it turns out Abbie's gambit has an unexpected outcome.
Well, not totally unexpected. I called it in my last review, in which I pointed out that there was a good chance a lot of adults would be all-too-willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their children, and sure enough, a line of volunteers soon materializes.
But the worst case scenario is what eventually takes place, for as we all know – the Earth is sustainable. Nobody had to die. The theme of this episode is "futility" when you consider that Bellamy destroyed the radio for no reason, the Arc's population is culled for no reason, and if the Council had simply played Jake Griffin's message in the first place, all of this would have been avoided.

Well damn
***
Over in Unintentionally Hilarious Land, we have an episode's worth of Bellamy insisting that everything he's done has been for his sister, and she's the only thing that matters to him, and there's nothing he wouldn't sacrifice for her safety. And where is she?



The best part? Hours pass before he notices she's gone.
***
So it's a good thing the next episode delves a bit more deeply into Bellamy and Octavia's background and the effect Population Control had on their relationship and upbringing. It's about as grim as you'd expect considering the circumstances: there's no father in the picture, their mother will get floated if the authorities find out she had another child, and Bellamy is told: "your sister, your responsibility." Which is what every eight year old should internalize if you want them to grow up to attempt murder and sacrifice over three hundred people for the sake of that sister.
Octavia grows up confined to the tiny apartment in which her family lives, seeing only her mother and brother, and forced to hide under the floor whenever spot inspections take place. It's difficult to believe that teenage Octavia wouldn't be a complete basket case after all this, but as the present-day narrative demonstrates, she actually has a pretty good head on her shoulders.
Having been kidnapped by a Grounder, she soon realizes that her captor has healed her injury, grabs a makeshift antler weapon, and finds a way out of the cave by utilizing her super hiding in the crawlspace skills.
But let's take a moment to appreciate the acting of Baby!Octavia:
This is the face of a baby who knows there's something tasty on its face

This is a baby trying to reach the strawberry jam with its ineffectual tongue
This baby is tasting the sweetness of said jam for the first time
The search part is not quite so lucky as Octavia, and they end up running for their lives through the forest as Grounders pick them off one by one. Surely this means there are two groups of Grounders, right? Or at least that Octavia's Grounder is an exception to his more bloodthirsty peers?
Elsewhere, Clarke and Raven get a chance to bond in their attempt to find spare parts to the broken radio, but Raven is no fool and soon realizes that Clarke and Finn have something going on. In this inevitable love triangle, I possibly could have felt more sympathy for Finn (due to the fact that he was probably never going to see Raven again) were it not for the fact that a. he didn't tell Clarke about her, and b. Raven rightly points out "he could have waited more than ten days" before sleeping with someone else.  
Unsurprisingly I'm more intrigued by the potential friendship that could grow between Raven and Clarke than what either of them have going with the third point of the triangle – especially since both seem mature enough to set aside the rivalry in order to focus on the task at hand.
Hey, maybe this show can pull another Korrasami.
Miscellaneous Observations:
The plot thickens regarding Bellamy's attempted assassination of the Chancellor. Perhaps the guard who offers him the opportunity was working for Kane, or perhaps someone else entirely was pulling the strings. We've so far been led to believe Kane is the prime candidate behind the attempt on his life, but when Thelonious offers to sacrifice himself, he did everything in his power to talk him out it.
The storyline continues to be built around the theme of teenagers being short-sighted, impetuous and (particularly) lovestruck, what with Thelonious accusing Abbie of manipulating Raven's love for her boyfriend to get her in the shuttle, and Clarke scolding herself for getting distracted (by Finn) when Bellamy steals the radio.
Also prevalent is the idea that one person can make all the difference in any given situation – and not necessarily for the better. Abbie broadcasts her husband's message and inspires three hundred people to lay down their lives. But Bellamy's self-preservation in sabotaging the radio means that he's now responsible for all their deaths.
There's something poignant about the fact that Bellamy's plan to get Octavia out of the party safely is foiled due to the simple fact that she has no idea how to get home by herself. We've just watched them move from their doorway to the party. It's only down the corridor, but Octavia has no sense of this spatial relationship.
Though Clarke was a little low-key in the third episode, I like that she's emerging as a leader, just as Abbie is on board the Arc. In other words, the plot of this show is guided by two women: one in space, one on Earth.

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