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Can a new planet, and new beginnings, actually lead to change on The 100?

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You know how some horror movies completely fail to force you to suspend your disbelief because the characters are just so, so dumb? That no matter how hard you try to invest in the eerie atmosphere, the characters keep making decisions that simply drive you crazy? That’s how I felt for much of the season six premiere of The 100. For five seasons now we’ve watched these people attempt to live alongside various groups, in various places, all while facing various dangers, and every single time they’ve failed. Still, survival is the name of the game here—we’re told that numerous times across 42 minutes—and they keep moving forward. At the end of season five, some of the original 100 (and a few others picked up along the way) found their way into a cryogenic freeze on a spaceship. 125 years later, they’ve found Planet Alpha thanks to a long-dead Monty. It’s a chance for both these characters and The 100 to start fresh, and yet both seem to immediately make the same mistakes all over again.

The episode begins with the small group of people who’ve been thawed out gazing at Planet Alpha, picking up where last season’s finale left off. The years and decades that have gone by certainly faze the crew, but not enough to distract them from their next mission: colonizing another bit of land. This time though, the crew says things will be different. Monty told them to “do better” with this planet, and they want to do right by their old friend. It’s a sentiment that doesn’t last long, as Bellamy immediately ignores Clarke’s call to not bring guns to the planet on their exploratory mission, and old tensions arise within the group. Raven is still mad at Abby for torturing her (duh), and she’s also pissed at Clarke for turning her and Shaw over to the enemy.

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Still, this is yet another chance for survival, and they have to take it. Raven stays on the ship, along with Monty and Harper’s son Jordan, Nyla, and Abby, who sets about reviving Kane. All sorts of problems ensue from there. Raven won’t let up on Abby, calling her an addict and telling her that they’d all be better off is she was dead. Nyla thaws out Octavia despite instructions not to bring her back just yet, and that leads to a fight with the revived Kane, who then begins coughing up blood and is within seconds of dying until Abby just freezes him again.

It’s a lot to take in during a single episode, but more frustratingly the conflict feels out of touch with the rest of the episode. “Sanctum” is at its best when it’s reveling in the wonder of new possibilities. Watching the team gaze at Planet Alpha—which actually turns out to be a moon—or Murphy excitedly dive into the water while the rest of the team shakes their head at his recklessness, is genuinely thrilling. We’ve seen these characters go through a lot, so this reprieve from war is more than welcome.

The problem is, those moments don’t get much room to breathe. They’re either being stifled by bad dialogue—when they land on Alpha, there’s no shortage of horrible exchanges about “being better” and Monty watching over them, to which Shaw responds with “talk is cheap,” its own bit of stale dialogue—or a curious insistence on picking at the wounds of these characters.

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Now, you need some sort of conflict, obviously, and its not like we’re flashing ahead here. Yes, this is 125 years or so later, but Clarke, Bellamy, Murphy, and everyone else are still emotionally stuck in the moments after leaving Earth. That means their relationships haven’t changed. In some ways, that makes storytelling sense, but it also doesn’t make for the most satisfying premiere. The fresh start represented by Alpha is spoiled by the tensions that still simmer in every interaction, leaving The 100 feeling like the same show that stumbled its way through the previous season.

Now, I’m more than willing to see how it all plays out, because there’s at least some nods to the repetition here. Murphy and Clarke joke about how many “second chances” they get, and the history certainly informs the action. A lot of what these people have done is unforgivable, and they seem to have some understanding of that. With that said, the premiere does have a tendency to immediately wave away the bigger concerns in a way that feels frustrating and familiar. So, while Octavia and Kane being at odds makes sense and reminds us of how their dynamic is built on their perspectives about what happened on Earth, and that’s a good thing to dig into, the larger concerns, like cannibalism and the crew’s tendency to fail to coexist with others, is waved away as “what’s needed to be done to survive.”

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“Sanctum” hammers home that point again and again, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. These people reckoning with their humanity, or lack thereof, is fertile ground, but there needs to be a change in how it’s done. Otherwise, you’re just hitting the same storytelling beats with each new season. “Sanctum” does pick up in its final 15 minutes or so, even as the characters are “dumb horror characters” and don’t seem to be too worried about the houses filled with strangely placed collars and restraints. There’s an undeniable tension and nervous excitement about Alpha, and the candy-colored settlement that the crew stumbles upon. This feels different, and the final revelation of an airborne toxin is a nice change of pace from the in-fighting that dominates the rest of the episode. In other words, the set-up in the final stretch is good, but I’m already worried about the follow through.

Stray observations

  • Do the writers hate Raven? Because every time she’s given something good, it’s immediately snatched away. Killing Shaw in the premiere feels like a particularly nasty move, and I while I don’t condone crafting art explicitly to please a fan base, I do think this isn’t going to sit well for most people. “Tell Raven she deserves happiness.” Tell the writers that, you monsters!
  • “Mom and Dad would have loved this.” This dialogue is on-the-nose too, but it’s sweet and I miss Monty and Harper already.
  • Miller is struggling to live with what he did in the bunker. Thankfully, there’s always that go-to line to make him feel better: “you needed to survive.”
  • I love the way the team comes upon the town. It’s all reaction shots at first, just their faces lit up with wonder, before the whole layout is revealed to us. Great bit of building anticipation there.
  • Murphy crooning Emori is adorable. Shame she goes full rabid zombie on him moments later.
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About the author

Kyle Fowle

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.