Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

At the end of last season, with a renewal already in hand, The 100 gave itself the best possibility to start over. After four seasons of fending off violence at every turn, The 100 allowed itself to jump ahead in time and truly shake things up. Clarke was given her moment of heroism, one that felt true to the character, and then “Praimfaya” ended on a mysterious cliffhanger. Six years later Clarke and a young Nightblood named Madi watch as a ship lands on Earth. Clarke presumes it’s her friends finally returning from the Ark—a year later than planned, but better late than never—but quickly sees it’s a transport ship for prisoners. Questions lingered: Who’s in the ship? What had happened to Bellamy, Monty, and the others on the Ark? What about Octavia, Abby, and those in the bunker? How did Clarke survive all those years in a world made barren by Praimfaya?

The season five premiere, “Eden,” refuses to answer all those questions at once, instead spending the first 27 of its 42 minutes with Clarke. It’s a bold choice, but one that’s bolstered by the cleansing nature of last season’s finale. Like farmers and their prescribed burns, Praimfaya acted as a way to wipe the slate (and Earth) clean, and allow new stories to grow from there. Sure, this isn’t exactly a new story, as the episode spends most of its time catching us up to the final moment of the season five finale, but it still feels like everything has changed in significant ways.

“Eden” wastes no time hammering home the idea of irrevocable change, kicking off with a scene set 42 days after Praimfaya. Clarke searches through rubble in the hopes of salvaging just about anything. She emerges from a pile of rock and stands tall, looking out at the landscape. There’s nothing but barren desert where there once was lush forest; a visual confirmation of the show’s shifting nature. As Clarke tries to find her way to Polis, gathering guns and trinkets along the way, she acts as the guide to this new world. The emptiness is unsettling, but as the episode rolls on, we can’t help but wonder if it’s perhaps preferable to what’s to come.

The first 27 minutes of “Eden” stumbles at times—Clarke’s occasional voiceover feels like a blunt way to underscore feelings that are evident in the subtext—but it’s largely a compelling, fresh look for the show. The 100 needs this time to resituate itself, to establish a new norm. That norm is a Mad Max-style hellscape where Clarke is all alone for months on end, joyful when it rains, and forced to eat bugs that gather on her car’s windshield and grill. This section of the episode does a wonderful job of condensing Clarke’s six-year arc into something manageable and yet impactful. Her grief, her triumphs, her near-suicide; it all plays out with palpable tension and a solid sense of pacing.

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The scope has to expand eventually, and it’s a credit to “Eden” that it does so without it feeling too fast or overstuffed. Rather, the final third of the episode uses the first third’s open spaces to underline just how troubling this world can be. After a period where Madi doesn’t trust Clarke, her young life defined by nothing but violence, the two eventually create something domestic together. They find their sanctuary in an untouched bit of forest previously dominated by the Shallow Valley Clan. They create a life, one with food, shelter, and a pseudo-maternalistic relationship.

Thus, when those open spaces are suddenly penetrated, it’s devastating. “Eden” uses the knowledge of last season’s finale to build its tension, offering up the possibility of a better life for Clarke even though we know it will be ripped away. The first 27 minutes of this episode, despite the grief, is an arc of triumph, both of the human spirit and the natural world. That makes it all the more jarring to be transported into space and watch as Bellamy, Monty, Harper, Raven, Murphy, Emori, and Echo try to navigate the dullness of their lives and their failure to get back to Earth.

“Eden” doesn’t spend too much time catching us up on what that crew has been up to, and that’s for the best. This is an episode that works because of its refusal to include an update on every single character that’s managed to survive Praimfaya. “Eden” centers the experience of Clarke as a way to ease into the season’s conflicts, a patient approach I could see paying off in the next few episodes, as more and more familiar faces pop up. In the meantime, there’s the episode-ending payoff of one specific familiar face making a brief return. As the episode comes to a close, we get our first glimpse inside the bunker. Two men fight to the death in a pit while onlookers cheer with bloodlust. Up above them sits Octavia, seemingly the ruler of this violent place. What has happened in these six years, and what kind of person is Octavia now? “Eden” ends on yet more questions, and a thirst for more episodes.

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Stray observations

  • Welcome back to TV Club’s reviews of The 100! I’m grateful to be back on the beat, especially after having to hand over a few episodes of the fourth season. Between last season’s finale and this premiere, I’m incredibly excited to see how this show grows in the next 12 episodes.
  • Clarke’s breakdown in the desert is so wonderfully visceral. “I’m done. I’ve lost everything,” she says before pointing a gun to her head.
  • I definitely expected another river monster to pop up when Clarke went for a swim.
  • Something tells me that Bellamy and Echo’s relationship might be tested once they’re back on the ground. More interesting though is how Bellamy and Octavia will likely be morally at odds. They’ve been growing apart for a long time now.
  • Ivana Miličević is already terrifying, and she didn’t even do much in the premiere. What a stellar addition to the cast.
  • Much like The 100, these reviews have always floated (heh) near the line of cancellation, so please comment, like, share, and all that fun stuff if you’re a fan of what’s going on here. Also, as always, I’ll be hopping into the comments as much as possible to talk about everything The 100. Can’t wait to get back to discussing this show with you all again.

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