“The Face Behind The Glass” is perhaps best described as the episode that could turn this season around. It’s the first episode this season that’s given me hope about the overall story arc. Sure, “Red Sun Rising” was fun, and the premiere had some interesting scenes, but this episode opens up narrative pathways that could take The 100 in a new direction.
A new direction is exactly what the show needs. I’ve written a fair amount of words about this season feeling like a retread of the show’s past work, both in terms of plot and themes. Sanctum, when stumbled upon in the premiere, felt new in some ways, but the character dynamics soon became familiar. It was discouraging to see the setting change and so much else remain the same.
“The Face Behind The Glass” changes all that by revealing a lot more about Sanctum. At some point the smiling facade had to be dropped, and the dark grin behind finally exposed. This is The 100, which means that people living in harmony is simply too good to be true. This feels like just the right time to pull back the curtain, and what’s great is that we only get a peak. The writers structure the episode in a way that preps us for something shocking, but ends in a climax that only reveals some of what Sanctum is all about.
“The Face Behind The Glass” takes place on Naming Day, when another heir takes over a Prime name. None of the new arrivals know anything about the day, but everyone in Sanctum is in good spirits. There’s cookies, wine, dancing in night clubs, and more than a few moments where people sneak away to have sex. It’s not quite Burning Man, but people are having a good time. Even Raven, forever destined to sulk, finds a kindred spirit in Bryson, a hunky dude who likes to fix motorcycles and just so happens to be a Prime himself.
Naming Day is exactly what this season needs; a mysterious event that, as it unfolds, tells us more about Sanctum while still retaining a lot of mystery. Delilah, Jordan’s lover and the one lucky enough to be receiving the name, seems both excited and nervous. Her tension permeates throughout the episode. We, as viewers, are on guard because we can sense something is off. Jordan, of course, just smiles his way through it all because he’s smitten and clueless.
That is, right up until Delilah arrives at the ceremony, desperately tells Jordan to not let her become a “face behind the glass”—a reference to Jordan talking about the bodies in cryo freeze on the ship—and then enters a strange building and comes out with seemingly no understanding of who she once was. Something shady is happening here, and it feels different than the creepy groups this show has rolled out before. The 100 is moving into interesting territory here, rubbing up against ideas of corrosive despotic leadership and what it means to follow divine leaders no matter what.
The 100 has hammered home the idea of survival too many times, which is why this shift in storytelling is so effective. The people of Sanctum aren’t simply surviving, they’re creating a vibrant, thriving community defined by certain rules and expectations. I mean, they have cookies! That’s huge, but it also means there’s a hierarchy here that’s troubling. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky commune, and we’re starting to see that. That’s not just evident in Delilah’s sudden personality change, but in Clarke’s fling with a doctor who’s secretly working for the Children of Gabriel. He tries, in vain, to convince Clarke that he’s not the dangerous one here, that he in fact is trying to keep her safe from the rulers of Sanctum.
“The Face Behind The Glass” does a great job of teasing out bits of information, staying away from tedious exposition and instead allowing us to sit in the mystery. The end of the episode sees Clarke, powerless because of a paralytic dart, under the control of Russel and Simone. They bring her into a room adorned with skeletons, and discuss using her as a host...for their dead daughter. Sure enough, they implant the chip, and “Clarke” comes back as Josephine. It’s trippy and weird and different, and I think that’s a good thing. The use of Clarke as a Nightblood host establishes some necessary rules for how Sanctum works, and depending on how the show handles Clarke’s secret identity, it could be a good storytelling tool. Add in the unburdening that comes with Naming Day, which allows a lot of these characters to deal with past issues and conflicts, and it feels like this season can finally move forward.
- “One condition: I get a bike.”
- Raven has no time for Clarke making amends. “Clarke Griffin and her impossible choices.” She even compares her to Octavia.
- Diyoza has a plan: “The devils of Earth become the heroes of Sanctum.”