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Friday, January 22, 2016

The 100: Resurrection, Bodyguard, Blood Must Have Blood Part I

Watching these three episodes brought to mind this comic strip:

Remember it, as I'll be referring to it again later.
We start with the immediate aftermath of the blast: the injured, the dying, the dead, and Clarke trying to process it all. Perhaps unsurprisingly all of our main characters have emerged relatively unscathed, but the emotional fallout of Clarke's decision to keep quiet about the attack is explored across all three episodes.
We get four reactions to Clarke's decision: Abbie's horror, Octavia's anger, Kane's understanding, and Indra's grim acceptance. Between them, I think that the show ultimately condones Clarke's decision: that it was a tough one, but the right one in the context of the war they're fighting.

Abbie's response is probably the toughest one for Clarke to bear, though her mother's visceral recoil makes sense considering: a. she's a doctor, b. her own child made the call, c. there is a perceptible degree of cowardice in Clarke's behaviour considering she ran away from danger, she was willing to let everyone die but made an exception for her loved ones, and because we all have a collective belief that those who let evil happen are just as culpable as the perpetrators of it.
Fire, chaos, you get the picture.
So the rift between mother and daughter grows wider (as we never really got much closure or even understanding of what went down between Abbie/Jake before the latter's execution) and it takes Abbie experiencing my worst nightmare – getting trapped underground in an enclosed space – to gain some perspective.
Kane is down there with his leg pinned under fallen rubble, and though a lot Abbie's rescue attempt feels like padding, it does include Kane sharing a nugget of wisdom and pointing out a sobering truth: the adults are really no better than the teenagers when it comes to making ethical decisions. Clarke was able to stand back and let a village get bombed because she was raised by a society that floated its citizens for minor offences. This pragmatic fight for survival is all Clarke knows.
There's a nice bit of acting from Paige Turco as the realization sinks in, and when she mutters: "like floating the man you love to save your people," it marks the turning point of her characterization. I think from this point on she won't cease to make morally-based decisions (or at least try to), but neither will be judgmental of those that don't or can't. Everyone in this world is compromised.
A similar arc is given to Octavia, though it plays out with slightly different beats. Abbie's horror is at least partially born out of concern at what Clarke's turning into, whereas Octavia treats Clarke's silence as a personal betrayal – to herself and to their Grounder allies. After all, she thought they were friends, and Clarke was clearly prepared to let her die.
Their subsequent confrontation is interesting in that Clarke tries to reach Octavia on a personal level by using Bellamy as her justification, stating she was trying to protect his position as a mole. Octavia's rejoinder is again very much based on the personal element, arguing that Bellamy wouldn't have wanted an entire village to be destroyed for his sake.
Octavia marches away with the moral high-ground considering Clarke asks her to keep the truth a secret (and general wisdom states that secrets are usually shameful things) but Clarke is given a chance to redeem herself – even if it's just in saving one of her own people – by preventing Octavia's assassination at the hands of one of Lexa's soldiers, who considers her a threat for knowing the truth.
Most interesting is that Clarke doesn't claim any credit for it, and Octavia remains oblivious to Clarke's intervention. This is pretty juicy stuff, especially when you consider that Clarke remains ignorant of Indra defending her decision to Octavia. As she points out, this is war and leaders have to make tough decisions.
To sum up, I not only respect that the show went through with the destruction of Tondc, but that it ultimately posits that Clarke and Lexa letting it happen was the right thing to do – or at the very least, not something that either of them should be judged harshly for.
And as it happens, the blast achieved exactly what Lexa said it would: a sense of unity. In a scene that's clearly meant to parallel the citizens of Mount Weather offering hiding places to the remaining teenagers, the people of the Ark turn up in order to assist those in Tondc – a much needed ray of light in what has been a very dark set of episodes.
Even on a micro-level, Indra forgives and welcomes back Lincoln.
***
There's also the loose thread of the sniper taking down Grounders from the treeline (though he possibly has an off-screen teleporter given the way he jumps from place to place) which gives Clarke a chance for redemption or vengeance if she can take him down.
It was Lexa's attitude during the hunt for this sniper that interested me. It's pretty clear at this point that most of her stony exterior is just that: a front to hide her inner vulnerabilities, and Alycia Debnam-Carey puts on a great performance as a girl trying too hard to be emotionless.
It's sometimes too easy to forget that she too is just a teenage girl with the same responsibilities on her shoulders as Clarke, and her fa├žade cracks a little when Clarke confronts her about the hit she put on Octavia – not to mention when she finally lets herself be vulnerable in kissing Clarke.
So it's an interesting layer to her character that though Lexa is against sentiment, she also has no time for vengeance. Clarke was pretty gung-ho about killing the sniper, whereas Lexa was cautioning restraint and sardonically asking Clarke: "do you feel better now?" in the wake of the man's death at Clarke's hands.
A death, as it happens, which was not exactly cold-blooded (as he was holding Lincoln hostage at the time) but done without remorse or hesitation. It creates an interesting contrast between the two young women, one that reflects on Lexa's later betrayal of the alliance.
When Clarke saves Lincoln, she tells him: "you are my people." Notwithstanding the fact that she and Lincoln have a personal relationship with each other, the statement also suggests that Clarke believes the Grounder/Ark alliance has erased the distinction between the two groups. They're do or die together. Yet beforehand, she says: "I'm just trying to keep us alive" in response to Lexa's insistence that she could make a great leader to her people. She doesn't see herself as a leader, just a normal girl committed to saving lives.
So when we jump ahead to the choice Lexa makes at the door to Mount Weather, it's between two fundamentally different women. Lexa is an unrepentant leader/guardian to her people, whereas Clarke identifies herself as a normal girl committed to the survival of as many as possible.
***
In the lead-up to the march on Mount Weather, it's clear that Clarke is attempting to minimize any potential damage: to use tone generators on the Reapers instead of killing them, and to not completely destroy the power supply at the dam in order to leave the Mountain Men with enough power to filter out the radiation.
Between the two strike teams, the Trojan Horse Grounder army, and the diversion at the front door, there's an emphasis on rescue, not killing. That's the plan anyway, which means it inevitably all goes wrong.
As for the teens trapped inside Mount Weather, they're building a barricade, gathering supplies and getting ready to hold off the soldiers until help arrives. Jasper takes charge, but in a nice acting touch he's also very on edge, and clearly doesn't possess the same amount of calm that Bellamy and Clarke can summon in a crisis.
They also have one advantage: the Mountain Men are reluctant to kill them and so endanger their supply of bone marrow. In a step up from making a human chain, the kids play dead before leaping out with weapons to partake in a brawl that makes The Hunger Games look like a friendly football match.
One of them gets caught, and for the first time in the show we get what is an indisputably justified killing. Having dragged this terrified girl through the halls and past the bloody, uncovered corpses of her peers whose bone marrow has already been extracted, the soldiers each get a bullet in the head courtesy of Bellamy. I wouldn't have hesitated either.
It's this scene that serves as a counterpoint to several citizens of the Mountain taking the teenagers into their homes to hide them, which (much like the Arkers coming to help at Tondc) is some much needed alleviation to the relentless violence.
We also get a little background on Maya, learning that her mother refused to take Grounder blood for her own survival and so died of radiation poisoning. We'll call it a case of the Doomed Moral Victor, for it's obviously a choice that many of her people can't embrace, and yet the murder of children just to give them access to the surface is clearly a line some of them can't cross. If you don't say no to that, what do you say no to?
It's at this point the plot gets a little muddled. Maya ends up in a hazmat suit with a limited air supply courtesy of Cage, in an attempt to draw the teenagers out. They deal with this by... something to do with the garbage disposal?
The Grounder/Ark army are on the move, though the Mountain Men are watching and preparing to release the acid fog on them – and since security guards have finally realized Lovejoy isn't Lovejoy, Bellamy's attempt to shut down the acid machine fails. He's lost radio communication as well, and so takes more drastic measures and blows the whole thing up. How? Never mind. 
Something to do with a blowtorch.
Then we've got Cage, proving he knows how to work a crowd by getting on the intercom system and urging his people to give up the remaining teenagers. He uses all the right words and phrases: impassioned "pleases", reminders of the Mountain's history and family values, saying that those helping the teenagers are "harbouring murderers", and even pointing out to sympathisers that bringing in the Arkers will actually stop Grounder bleeding.  
But this relatively restrained plea is (much like his hypocrisy in dealing with Maya) a cover for what's really going on: even after Jasper and Maya give themselves up to save the couple hiding them in their apartment, the soldiers end up shooting the "traitors" at point-blank range.
Cage ends up going to his father for advice, who thankfully drops the truth bomb we've all been waiting to hear: he sucks. It's at this point I wonder for the umpteenth time why no one came up with the idea to broker a deal with the Sky People: voluntary (and non-fatal) donations of bone marrow in exchange for their children, instead of, say, brutally murdering said children. While we're on the subject of daft planning, why don't the Arkers/Grounders just take control of the dam and hold the Mountain's power hostage until they give up their kids?
In lieu of logic and reason, President Dante comes up with the idea to approach Lexa and give her what she wants: the safe return of her own people. The Grounders are worthless to the Mountain now, so what do they have to lose?
Lexa agrees to these terms, and though I can grasp the logic behind the decision, and even come to grips with the betrayal of Clarke and the rest of the Arkers, the decision really doesn't gel with what’s been established about the Grounders themselves, as a culture and as individuals. They're not the type of people to get all riled up for battle and then just walk away. They were screaming "blood must have blood" all the way there, for heaven's sake! To go all that way for revenge on the generations of Grounders and Reapers who have been slaughtered by the Mountain, and then just turn tail?
I just don't buy it, and that's pretty fatal for such a pivotal plot-twist.
Still, it leaves us with this, the perfect visual representation of what it looks like when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force:
That mountain doesn't stand a chance.
Miscellaneous Observations:
There was a smattering of character development for other character as well, though most of the focus remained on Clarke, Abbie and Lexa...
Octavia gets to show her mettle in taking charge of the Grounders at Tondc, and as a result becomes Indra's second – only to give it up the moment she's asked to abandon her brother. Her characterization has very much revolved around her innate sense of "not belonging" (unsurprising since her very existence had to be kept a secret throughout her entire childhood) and after finally getting the acceptance she wants from the Grounders, she has to give it up again for Bellamy. It's a nice reflection of what he lost (his career) in his protection of her.
After a couple of episodes of flirting, Raven/Wick becomes a thing. Her behaviour plays out much as you'd expect: as with Bellamy she makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to sleep with a guy as a form of release/distraction, but isn't hugely interested in wanting to get emotionally close to him (especially after Finn's death). All things considered, Wick probably did the best thing in putting the ball in her court and leaving it up to her.
Their body language pretty much sums it up.
Lincoln is still the very best human being on this show. From telling Clarke to let the sniper kill him to calming Miller's nerves to begging Lexa to let him help her retrieve her people, I will end up truly devastated if he's killed off in season three. He even refrained from chanting "blood must have blood" when all the others – including Clarke – did so, which can't have been by accident.
Call me obtuse, but I've only just realized that the teenagers' names are derived from famous science-fiction authors: Octavia E. Butler, Edward Bellamy, Arthur C. Clarke, Pat Murphy, H.G. Wells, and so on.
What's up with Lexa's giant tent? You could fit that gorilla in there.
Seriously, why does she need this much room?
Also, I hate Clarke's gloves. They belong on a Michael Jackson music video. And Raven's leg-brace makes no sense at all. How does it stop her from limping?
Some great acting from President Dante, particularly in the scene in which says of the Arkers: "They'll never stop. No parent ever would." It's a loaded line considering he has just saved his son by coming up with the Lexa-deal, but at the cost of his own moral compass. He knows he shouldn't have helped Cage (and by extension, his own people) despite his fatherly instincts, and this is the very image of a man realizing everything is crumbling around him because his idiot son pissed off the wrong teenage girl:
Also, isn't this the same room Clarke was
kept in at the start of the season? Nice parallel.
Another good line was from Jasper: "don't tell me Finn finally got his peace talks." Ouch.
I had to laugh when – after the teenagers disappear from the barricaded room – Cage says: "find them" and all his men promptly leave the room that would have undoubtedly contained clues as to how they escaped. And why are there no security cameras in the room that holds the Grounder prisoners? Or at the dam?
She would hate me for saying this, but Octavia is such an adorable little warrior.
Aww. My little baby off to destroy people.
I REALLY want to see Emerson die at some point. Hate that smug asshole.
Abbie's final words to Clarke are: "don't forget we're the good guys." As I've seen the final episode I know they're echoed when mother/daughter are reunited, and it brings to mind the comic I posted at the start of this review:
Nobody believes they're the villain, but what makes Clarke special is that she doesn't try to justify any of what she's done. Occasionally she mounts a half-hearted defence, but for the most part her humanity is still intact because she is well-aware she's becoming increasingly compromised in order to achieve her goals.
And yet for all of that Lexa was wrong when she tells Clarke that making a deal with the Mountain Men to save her people (and only her people) is: "what you would have done." It's pretty clear that Clarke was all-in when it came to saving both Grounders and Arkers, and committed to shedding as little blood as possible while doing so.
She's trying to be the good guy, my God is she trying, but this world is set up so that sometimes only the bad guys can win. Standing in front of those massive doors in the side of the mountain, you can tell that's the moment she decides to become one. 

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