Ricky Whittle, Eliza Taylor

I mentioned a few weeks back that I was worried about how The 100 was going to handle its impending battle between the alliance of the Sky People and Grounders, and their common enemy, the Mountain Men. I talked about how the season was starting to take on a very similar structure to the latter half of the show’s first season, where Clarke and the surviving members of the original 100 were bound to clash with the Grounders. Certainly, these last few episodes have followed similar beats–there’s a lot of preparation, talk of morality and tough choices to be made, and plenty of obstacles to overcome. What’s kept everything fresh though, and is evidenced in tonight’s first part of a two-part finale, is the fact that these characters aren’t the same people that they used to be. The storytelling beats may be similar, but these characters are new people. They’re battle-hardened, they’ve lost loved ones, and they’ve failed in almost every attempt to find some semblance of society on the ground.

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The opening scene establishes the fact that Clarke and the people of the Ark have come a long way. Clarke, standing tall in front of the army of Sky People and Grounders, details her plan to free their people from Mount Weather; freeing their people is the main concern, as Clarke stresses that this is a rescue mission. The plan involves a lot of moving pieces and a ton of luck, but it’s as prepared as they’re going to be; there’s no time left, as losing contact with Bellamy suggests that the Mountain Men know they have someone working on the inside. This opening scene is staggering for a number of reasons. I don’t know if I’ve overstated it already this season, but watching Lexa and Clarke take command of, and demand respect from, a room full of hulking men is always satisfying. It’s progressive in terms of gender roles on television, but also just a lot of fun to watch; their confidence is magnetic. It’s also a scene that’s beautifully composed in terms of direction and score. Clarke’s detailing of the plan is spliced with shots of Mount Weather and the soldiers carrying out their orders, and the frantic, looping string arrangement builds momentum and creates some serious tension. It reminded me of that rising buzz that scores the opening bank robbery scene in The Dark Knight; it’s purposefully obtrusive so as to build tension.

The opening scene is relatively contemplative, a moment of respite before everything devolves into chaos. The rest of the episode focuses solely on the raid on Mount Weather, and it’s all action-packed. The episode takes the surefire writing tool of presenting obstacles, then a solution, and then another obstacle, to great effect. It was never going to be easy to invade Mount Weather, but the problems that present themselves to the Sky People and Grounders don’t feel contrived. Rather, the episode builds in an organic way, with the Mount Weather army responding to every new move their attackers make, and the Grounders/Sky People adjusting their strategy as necessary. For instance, when Wick drops one of the bombs meant to blow one of the generators inside Mount Weather, Raven’s plan to overload the system by still destroying the other four doesn’t feel like an unearned moment that’s only needed to move the plot forward. Because of the character work on this show, we understand Raven’s ability to innovate and work on the fly, and that’s just what she does.

Meanwhile, Cage knows that the outsiders are a threat, and he sees his control slipping away. If he doesn’t do something soon, the outsiders will come inside and slaughter everyone. He seeks the counsel of his father, and despite the former President’s initial protestations, he helps them, but not until he reprimands Cage for destroying the life that they had. Wallace’s decision initially seems inexplicable. Why would he stand up to his son all this time, only to turn around and help him repel an attack? The answer is found in the way Wallace describes the outsiders as “savages.” He may have sympathy for the people from the Ark, but he still views the Grounders as a threat. It makes his sudden change of heart a little more understandable.

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With the generators blown, the army outside the main door–which the Mountain Men leave unguarded because they believe it to be impenetrable (see, that’s what a contrived narrative moment looks like)–is free to explode the seal and start the actual rescue. Once the seal is destroyed, by Lincoln’s fire arrow no less, the team begins to pull the door open. Everyone is prepared for battle, expecting to find the Mountain Men waiting for them. But just as the door opens, Lexa returns from flanking the shooters that were on the hill.

She orders everyone to stand down. Grounders start to file out of the mountain. Clarke asks her if the Mountain Men are surrendering, as Lexa has their chief soldier tied up beside her. “Not exactly,” replies the Mountain Man. Clarke slowly realizes that Lexa has betrayed her and made a deal to release her own people. Lexa explains that it’s what Clarke would have done as well, but Clarke is obviously devastated. Eliza Taylor works wonders in this scene, flashes of anger, frustration, disbelief, and pain flying across her face all at once. It’s devastating to watch. The same can be said of Octavia’s acceptance as a Grounder warrior, and her refusal that comes only moments later. When the Grounders start to retreat, and Octavia refuses, she says that she won’t leave without her brother, and that she has no home now. Both Octavia and Clarke were under the impression that, after so much heartbreak, they had finally found somewhere they belong, and found someone who understands them. As it turns out, the Grounders are fiercely loyal only to themselves, and that’s a choice that will certainly reverberate into the finale, and likely the third season.

The episode closes with very little hope for the people of the Ark. Bellamy, Maya, and Jasper find their way to the Harvest Chamber, where all the Grounders and remaining Sky People are meant to be gathering for their escape. The room is empty when they arrive though; the Mountain Men have the upper hand. If it wasn’t clear just how alone the remaining Sky People are, we’re left with a shot of Clarke standing outside the giant front door, completely isolated and overshadowed by the mountain in front of her. It’s a powerful visual that suggests if the Sky People are to find a way to survive, they’re going to have to overcome incredible odds.

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Stray observations:

  • This episode was very close to an ‘A’ grade, but a lot of the Raven-Wick stuff didn’t work for me. Not only does their romance feel kind of out of place in amongst all the chaos, but Wick totally ignores what Raven might be feeling. He must know that she was deeply in love with Finn, a guy who was tied to a pole and then stabbed. So when he reprimands her for pushing away men because it’s easier than letting them leave, it felt unnecessarily cruel and misguided.
  • Wick did have some solid one-liners throughout the episode, the best of which was when Raven asks him if he can rig the bombs any faster. He says he’s going as fast as he can, but when he hears the soldiers coming for them, he says, “actually, I can move faster.”
  • I loved how ready Lincoln was to do battle. When Clarke says they have to be ready to fight because the Mountain Men will be just behind the door, he simply replies, “good.” He hasn’t forgotten what they did to him, and he’s out for sweet, sweet vengeance.
  • I was so happy when Octavia was accepted as one of the Grounders, and then equally devastated when she had to stay behind and no one would help her.
  • Gear up, folks. There’s only one episode left in the season, and it’s shaping up to be pretty epic.

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