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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The 100: We Are Grounders Part II

I was going to write this up last week but then I got hit by a delightful case of the flu and have spent the last six days in bed. I hate being sick. Especially when it lasts this long and I can't even do basic chores. I could moan about all this for a while longer, I really could, but I'll spare you and get to The 100 finale...

When it comes to finales, it always pays to take note of what's showcased in the "previously on" section, as sometimes the episode itself can draw on stuff that happened ages ago in order to create that "full circle" quality to close off the season. In this case we're reminded of Mount Weather and Lincoln's admonition that the bridge explosion will attract the attention of Mountain Men – which are somehow considered even more intimidating than the Reapers.
As with most season finales on the CW, this one ensures every character gets something important to do, ups the stakes for the next season, and ends on a cliff-hanger.
When we start up, it's to find Bellamy and Finn in yet another impasse. The former wants to stay, the latter wants to go, and although I've spent the entire season raving about how much I've enjoyed the dynamic of these two representing opposite sides of an argument and Clarke being the all-important deciding vote; for some reason the pattern suddenly grated this time around – perhaps because she's so often backing one of their decisions instead of making any of her own.
In any case, she was there when Lincoln advised them to head for the coast and so backs up Finn, while still knowing that Bellamy's leadership and cooperation is essential for everyone's survival (and we finally get a number on the surviving members of the drop-ship: apparently eighty-two of the original one hundred are left. No way. Surely more have died than that).
After a big dramatic slow-motion exit complete with vocal orchestration, the teens walk maybe ten feet before a kid gets a giant blade to the head. Eighty-one then.
So in under a minute they're all back where they started, and Clarke immediately flips to Bellamy's plan of action: stay and fight. It was at this point her role as "girl who picks which of the two boys to agree with" became frustrating for the first time, and so it was relief that a few seconds later she comes up with the idea to use the rocket fuel still in the drop-ship as a weapon. Fire the engines, ignite their attackers.
This would be easy enough to achieve had Raven not been given the most unlikely injury imaginable by Murphy on his way out: apparently she's been shot in the spine, but she's not only in full possession of her facilities, but isn't even screaming in pain. Instead she's slowly losing consciousness, and to slow her bleeding (or something, it doesn't really matter) Finn decides to get a coagulant from Lincoln's stash. When she protests, he counters with the argument that what he's doing is completely pragmatic: she's key to everyone's survival. They're all dependent on her brain power.
It's a smart move, though he follows it up with the line: "I'll be right back." Come on people, never say that!
But the real question is: where did these figurines come from?
Soon enough the Grounders attack, but the teens catch on pretty quickly that they're only drawing their fire to make them waste ammo. At the same time, any delay is a welcome one, as it gives Raven more time to prepare the drop-ship.
Little do they all know is that the Grounders have a radio and are listening in on all their plans. This is thanks to Murphy (which makes you wonder if his infiltration of the camp was a set-up right from the word go) though they're not treating him particularly well. He's going to end up one of those horribly embittered hermits whose only joy comes from screwing everyone else over, isn't he.
Finn reaches Lincoln's love-cave (and Lincoln himself) and in what is a nice touch, is inspired by Bellamy's earlier words on the possibility of reaching out to the Reapers for help, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", to come up with a really bad idea.
Up on the Ark, Jaha is following through on his idea to separate the station and fly the pieces down to Earth. It transpires that someone needs to separate it all manually, and though Kane volunteers for the job he gets his thunder stolen by Jaha himself. It's kinda funny actually; you can tell Kane thought this would be his great act of atonement, but he really shouldn't have stopped to enjoy all those touching handshakes.
Instead Jaha sends them all down, which conveniently provides a distraction for the 100. As the Grounders are busy staring up at the sky, none of them notice Lincoln and Finn leading the Reapers straight to them. All things considered, this was a pretty bad plan – one that relied on finding the exact location of the Reapers, outrunning them despite their superior numbers, and betting that the Grounders would be able to kill them all instead of the Reapers overpowering their original enemy and making things much worse for the teenagers – but hey, it's season finale time. We'll let it slide.
I can't say I'm going to grieve too much for the Grounders; a group of adults who are picking off a bunch of teenagers that made a rudimentary attempt to barter for peace (and losing pretty badly to them). In a somewhat overwrought scene, Finn goes after Bellamy, Clarke does some slow-motion staring across the battlefield, and things hit maximum Narm capacity when we're asked to believe that Clarke can be heard over the sound of gunfire when she orders everyone back into the drop-ship (making herself an excellent target in the process by standing in the middle of the doorway).
Continuing her uninterrupted streak of epic failure, Anya takes a running leap through the doors of the drop-ship and instantly gets taken down by a gang of angry teenagers. Wow, these Grounders really are useless. It's thanks to Clarke that she's not beaten to death on the spot, by asserting "we are NOT Grounders"; a line so overtly opposed to Bellamy's words at the beginning of the episode "we ARE Grounders" (not to mention the title of the episode itself) that it has to have some deep significance, though I can't say what beyond the fact that the 100 are – well, not Grounders.
At a guess I'd say Clarke wants to differentiate between the two groups to prevent her peers from killing Anya, but hey – that doesn't stop all the rest of them getting barbequed moments later.
And it all ends on a surprising note, albeit one that was borrowed heavily from LOST. Explaining some of Lincoln's weird sketches, people enter the aftermath of battle with gas masks and lasers – turns out there's more advanced technology left on Earth than the 100 originally supposed.
The cliff-hanger is Clarke waking up in a modern facility, and though it's quite like the reveal on LOST that the Others weren't as primitive as we'd been led to believe, I actually think this show handles it better. As I recall, the Others were outed after the protagonists found their fake beards and tatty clothes hanging up in a closet. What plays out here is much more striking and surprising, and done with minimal dialogue.

Well played, show.  
Miscellaneous Observations:
I'm sure that being an extra is tough work. Your natural impulse would be to make a big deal out of every fraction of screen-time you manage to secure, though at the same time I'm sure any given director would want you to remain low-key so as not to draw attention away from the leads. But every now and then an extra manages to deliver a little background performance that just works beautifully. These two managed one of them:
A lot about Lincoln's lifestyle was conveyed through his anger that Finn had returned just to save one life. Also, has he ever seen a walkie-talkie before? It would seem not.
I still love the dynamic that exists between Clarke/Raven, especially since this episode got to see them interact without the spectre of Finn's love life hanging over them. That both are confident young women used to being first in everything they do gives them a solid basis for their rivalry that's not about a boy, and one suspects that had they met in different circumstances they would still have this vaguely competitive vibe between them – and like each other regardless.
So Octavia is off to live with the Grounders (or at least Lincoln) for a little while. Ignoring the rather absurd part in which Bellamy sets his sister on the ground only to immediately say: "let's move", it was a touching scene, though one that seemed to be more about Bellamy giving up his sister to another man than Octavia making her own decision about what was best for her.
Speaking of which, I mentioned a few weeks ago that I thought Octavia acted too socially aware for someone who had been raised under the floorboards in a tiny apartment, after which it was suggested to me that perhaps she became socially adapt during her time in prison – assuming there was communal dining and other recreational activities. Okay, that's a decent handwave, but I still think that on the whole the character would have been more interesting if she had been portrayed as a girl with serious adjustment issues.
A girl who only ever spoke to her brother, who automatically found small underground spaces to sleep in, who looked at the other teens with a mixture of terror and fascination, who for the first handful of episodes lived a bit like a scavenging animal who listened and watched and occasionally stole food because she was too overwhelmed by being around so many other (noisy, frightened, hormonal) people for the first time in her life. It seems a real missed opportunity, but hey – my philosophy is that if someone else misses a story beat, they've just given me the inspiration to do it myself.
Finally, I'm glad they didn't rush the scene in which Abbie and Kane climb out of the Ark and see the world for the first time. Something like that deserves to taken slowly.
So that brings us to the end of season one! I've got the first handful of the second season available, but I think I'll have a little break before diving into them. This review feels oddly short considering I've been watching and writing about episodes three-at-a-time, but so far I've enjoyed myself. I'm always up for a good survival story, I like the parallel storylines between the Earth and the Ark, and there are tons of great female characters. I've heard it said that the writers treat this world as though sexism, homophobia and slut-shaming have been eradicated, and there's certainly been a refreshing lack of sexually-based threats.
There are a few clunky bits and pieces, but I'd definitely call myself a fan. Hmm, maybe I'll get started on season two sooner than anticipated...


  1. I very much sympathise with your flu, having been knocked out with it the week before. It's absolutely the worst.

    I've really enjoyed your thoughts on this show, and I particularly enjoy when you point out parallels to LOST, which I've never seen but this show clearly has. (The other parallels are, of course, to the great Battlestar Galactica, both in general plot points and visuals, and in the fact that this world apparently has a population composed about 75% of BSG tertiary cast members.)

    Really looking forward to your thoughts on season 2 when you get there. It's a long, long wait to season 3!

    1. It really is THE WORST. Sometimes I don't mind being moderately sick, as at least it gives you some peace and quiet - but this flu just made me feel terrible.

      The other parallels are, of course, to the great Battlestar Galactica, both in general plot points and visuals, and in the fact that this world apparently has a population composed about 75% of BSG tertiary cast members.

      Ah, that's interesting as I haven't seen BSG. So if I end up watching it I'll see the other half of this show's main inspiration? I'll add it to the ever-growing TBW list.

    2. I can't recommend BSG (the 2000s version) highly enough. Probably the greatest sci-fi show this century. And it's definitely influenced this show a lot, especially the Ark stuff and the way it deals with leadership in a survival situation.