If there was one major issue with season three of The 100, it was that it had a difficult time parsing out the motivations of many of its characters. From Jaha turning toward the City of Light, to Bellamy suddenly becoming nothing more than a hired gun, the show’s third season was too often hindered by what were meant to be explosive, game-changing moments. Instead, two major deaths felt unearned, and the lack of depth to Pike’s character resulted in a strain on the season’s other narrative threads. Where this season’s premiere did a good job of hitting the reset button and showing a way forward for the show, “Heavy Lies The Crown” doubles down and begins to wade back into the murkiness of motivations. This time around though, everything feels a little sharper, a little more focused.

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The reason that character motivations matter so much when examining The 100 is because this is a show driven by character decisions. The plot, through every single season so far, has always relied on putting characters in situations that test their sense of morality. This is a show about kids (in a sense) making decisions well beyond their years, with the fate of many hanging in the balance. Confronted with violence, death, and now nuclear radiation, the group is struggling to keep their wits about them. Varying perspectives and opinions are flying, and while that’s not necessarily good for the group, it makes for compelling drama. If The 100 wants to get back to meaningfully engaging with complicated questions about war, morality, and human nature, then it needs to thoroughly explore character motivations.

“Heavy Lies The Crown” goes a long way to establishing just where everyone is coming from after the destruction of the City of Light. There are conflicting opinions throughout Polis and back at Arkadia about how to move forward, but it never really feels like conflict just for the sake of it. Instead, The 100 is building a post-A.L.I.E. world that’s filled with confusion, joy, sadness, and rumination. As I watch Jasper belt out “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats as the citizens of Arkadia wind down after a long day by playing soccer and enjoying the outdoors, I recalled the episode of Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain visits a newly liberated Libya. In that episode Bourdain is struck by the unabashed sense of fun and freedom, the pervasive feeling that anything is possible, even as tensions remain. Arkadia feels like that. Everyone left has survived a disaster, and been liberated from their oppressor, A.L.I.E. But where do they go from here? Nobody really knows. For now, they’re just enjoying the freedom.

Of course, what those people don’t know is that they have six months at most to live, and out of that The 100 creates another moral conflict. Both Bellamy and Clarke don’t want to tell their people that nuclear disaster is on its way, at least until they have some sort of solution to present along with the problem. Raven, and a handful of others, think that withholding that information is a betrayal of the community Arkadia has worked to establish.

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“Heavy Lies The Crown” saves the best moral complexity for Jasper though, who confronts Clarke about her keeping secrets. When she chastises him for essentially not working people hard enough to prepare the ship, he snaps back, saying he can’t do much when people have no urgency, so sense that the world is coming to an end. Then, he goes further. When Clarke says she has no choice but to protect those people by not informing them about the radiation, Jasper immediately fires back by comparing her to the Council that sent all of them to the ground. It’s a scathing insult, but he’s not wrong, and I’ll be curious to see how much the show explores the parallel between Clarke and the Council. Here, a seemingly reformed Jaha recognizes that Clarke is in a similar situation to his on the Ark, telling her that now she knows exactly why he kept the information about Earth from the original 100.

Compared to the intriguing parallels and comments on leadership that “Heavy Lies The Crown” leans on, the episode’s other plot feels a bit lackluster. A challenge to Roan’s throne is certainly interesting, and a necessary step if the relationship between Ice Nation and the Sky People is going to continue to be explored, but most of the action in this episode feels predictable. Outside of Octavia turning into a badass assassin and all the potential that comes with that, the plot never really gathers much momentum.

In other words, “Heavy Lies The Crown” embodies two versions of The 100. There’s the version that tells a self-contained story that, while often engaging, doesn’t do much to further character development or our understanding of this world. Then there’s the version that’s interested in characters, their actions, thoughts, feelings, and how they bring their unique perspective to the chaos around them, like with the morality-related tension forming in Bryan and Miller’s relationship. I prefer the latter version, but “Heavy Lies The Crown” proves that The 100 can also strike a good balance.

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Stray observations

  • If there’s some shaky motivations here, it’s once again with Bellamy. I get that leaving the hydro generator is meant to be part of his redemption, but I’m not convinced the episode did enough to explore the gravity of that decision.
  • I might die of happiness if we get an Octavia vs. Echo showdown sometime this season.
  • How are we all feeling about Jaha right now? He still seems pretty smug for a guy that helped facilitate the murder of numerous people.
  • I’m really digging “I don’t even care, the world is ending” Jasper. At least he’s not brooding.
  • Roan spills the beans about the nuclear disaster to Echo. Surely that won’t cause any issues down the line.
  • Kane and Abby seem to have a legitimately healthy relationship and it’s great. The way Kane instantly recognizes that Abby has to go back to Clarke warmed my heart.

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