For most of its run, The 100 has managed to deftly balance a plethora of tones. In its earliest episodes the show was little more than a space-aged Lord Of The Flies, complete with teenage drama and arguments about survival. One stab in the neck later and the show shifted to something a little different, something darker. Since then, The 100 has only gone further into the darkness. Make no mistake though; the reason this show so often succeeds, as it did throughout much of its second season, is not because it’s gritty or violent, but because it’s visceral. At its best, The 100 hits you in the gut with sadness, joy, desperation, anguish, love. What further elevates the show is that those feelings are tied to complicated musings on themes of power, morality, and loyalty. When The 100 works, it’s because it’s showing how emotions grow, shift, and are compromised, as filtered through characters with real, meaningful arcs.
For the first time since the season premiere, it feels like The 100 is finding its footing a bit, at least in terms of moving some characters forward in a meaningful way. “Bitter Harvest” does a lot to broaden the scope of this world, especially when focusing on Clarke and Lexa, and Jaha and all of his followers—don’t you worry, I’ll get to the Bellamy problems soon enough. This season started out by expanding the possibilities of the world these people live in, but the last few episodes have failed to follow through, instead turning the focus once again to tenuous trust between the Grounders and the Sky People.
I pointed out in last week’s review that Clarke’s ability to convince Lexa to forge peace rather than retaliate for the attack on Mount Weather felt contrived. While I stand by that initial critique, “Bitter Harvest” does a good job of fleshing out Lexa’s reasons for siding with Clarke and moving forward with peace. Those reasons make themselves known when Emerson is delivered to Lexa’s doorstep in a box. Since his crimes were ultimately against the Sky People, Lexa tells Clarke that she will make the final decision in regards to his punishment. Initially, she chooses death. When Lexa questions her decision, pointing out her hypocrisy, Clarke stands strong, saying that this has nothing to do with the potential war.
From there, Clarke mulls over her decision. Titus wants her to kill him and preserve the “blood must have blood” oath, fearing that if she doesn’t, Lexa will be in danger. After much consideration, Clarke gives Emerson his life, and Lexa banishes him from her land. It’s an emotional journey for Clarke that deepens her character. Despite her leadership qualities, she’s always put her people first. In fact, those are the only people she’s had to worry about. Now, her decisions have larger implications. She works side by side with Lexa and the clans, and she knows that the situation back at Arkadia is unstable. She has so much more to consider than ever before, and that makes her decision seem reasonable. It would be easy to use Emerson as a stand-in for all the wrongs done to her people, but what would his death solve?. Instead, Clarke sticks with her and Lexa’s newfound philosophy, and that creates some interesting possibilities going forward.
Similarly, The 100 has turned a potentially disastrous subplot in the City of Light into one of this season’s more rewarding and patient bits of storytelling. Sure, there’s the natural intrigue of the mystery of it all, but there’s a depth to the storyline that’s absent from everything else going on in Arkadia. No matter where it goes from here—and one has to assume it’s going to go to some bad places—the City of Light subplot works wonders because of its exploration of faith and grieving. Everyone on the ground has lost tremendously. In particular, the kids (“haven’t you noticed they’re not kids anymore?” says Abby) have had to deal with violence beyond their years. Nobody has had a chance to grieve yet because there’s always been another threat around the corner.
Now, there’s a slight moment of silence, even as Bellamy and Pike try to expand Arkadia’s control, and people are starting to grieve, to reckon with everything that they’ve done and seen. Considering how few options there are for real, meaningful grieving in Arkadia, is it any surprise that when Jaha shows up with a miracle cure, and Raven proves that it works, that others are quick to jump on board? Of course not, and it’s that type of deeply-felt, patient, layered storytelling that grounds the more surreal elements of the storyline. If this season of The 100 is about expanding the scope of this show, that means that Clarke has to deal with her decisions taking on larger implications, and it means the Sky People have to start moving on from their violent pasts. Jaha, and Alie, just happen to be there to guide them.
Despite all of this complex storytelling, The 100 continues to drop the ball when it comes to Bellamy. It’s truly inexplicable at this point. In “Bitter Harvest,” Pike is looking to expand Arkadia, and that means destroying a Grounder village to get at their soil. As everyone knows from season two, that’s a terrible idea, especially considering a peace has finally been reached. Now, Pike has his own motivations, and those can at least be somewhat understood. But why does Bellamy stand by and let this happen? Sure, he voices a bit of dissent, but then just goes along with the plan. Does he not remember Finn? Does he not respect his sister, or Lincoln, or, you know, human life?
The 100 has spent two seasons showing Bellamy grow. He’s learned to trust the Grounders, to see the moral grey areas in everything the Sky People do, and to ultimately act in a way that’s just. In the span of about three episodes, all of that has come undone, and it’s beyond frustrating. It’s frustrating because it puts Octavia into a familiar position—being a conduit between the Grounders and Sky People—when her character should already be past that. More importantly though, it’s frustrating because it’s repetitive storytelling. Kane even spells it out explicitly when Bellamy says that Pike’s mission is about planning for their future: “That looks a lot like our past,” he says. Yes, it does, and that’s ultimately what’s left The 100 feeling rather underwhelming so far this season.
- So, Titus is torturing Murphy, and the 13th station is just sitting right there?!? Damn.
- It should be said that Henry Ian Cusick is doing remarkable work this season.
- How is Bellamy not even concerned about Octavia? Ugh.
- With Clarke gone, Octavis is stepping up within Arkadia, being the moral guide and the person that kicks serious ass.
- “Your legacy will be peace.”
- Some inspired direction during the scene where Pike details his nefarious plan, with the camera cutting manically between everyone who’s listening in. Great visual touch.
- No, Jackson has found the City of Light!
- I really assumed the worst when Miller’s boyfriend, Brian, left for battle in a red shirt. Alas, Monroe was lost instead.
- Another nice visual touch: the camera spinning around Clarke and Emerson as they discuss the people they’ve killed and the sacrifices they’ve made.
- Jaha doesn’t remember Wells. That doesn’t bode well for the City of Light. At least Abby is stepping in to get things under control.