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The 100 finally embraces its sci-fi horror elements

Illustration for article titled iThe 100/i finally embraces its sci-fi horror elements
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Last week’s episode of The 100 showed some signs of the show moving in a new direction. More specifically, the show seemed to be steering away from the themes of war and conflict and starting to embrace its sci-fi elements. The renewed presence of the City Of Light subplot was the main indicator of that shift, and it largely worked to move the show away from a number of contrived, misguided narrative directions in the first part of the season. “Nevermore” ups the ante, taking last week’s creepy sci-fi tinges and going full-blown sci-fi horror film. It’s still a messy hour, as has been the case for most episodes this season, but there’s something inspired in the shift in tone and focus.

Focus really is the key here. So much of the first half of the season suffered because of the sprawling narrative. While a dystopian sci-fi epic expanding its scope is a welcome and arguably necessary change, The 100 proved to have trouble balancing the necessary setup involved in creating new plots and subplots while also doing right by the characters who have been there since day one. That’s largely why Bellamy’s character arc this season has been so frustrating. There’s something interesting in his decision to side with Pike, but the show never gave itself an opportunity to tease it out. The narrative has felt compact and rushed all season long. In contrast, “Nevermore” is laser-focused. There’s no unnecessary subplots, no divergences. There’s just the one single story: can Clarke, Jasper, Bellamy, Octavia, Monty, and Sinclair come together to help Raven escape from A.L.I.E.’s control?


Such a cohesive story immediately injects some stakes into the episode. When we know exactly what the characters are trying to achieve, and can focus solely on that goal, it’s that much easier to get wrapped up in all the twists and turns. Everything on screen suddenly becomes a threat to Raven’s safety, and there’s real tension in the chaotic efforts to get A.L.I.E. out of her head. Part of the reason “Nevermore” feels so urgent and alive is the fact that it adopts a tone straight out of a ‘70s horror flick. As soon as Clarke and the gang take Raven to Nyla’s trading post, shades of The Exorcist make themselves known. Raven is tied to a bed in the back room, and this gives Lindsey Morgan an opportunity to go full Linda Blair, minus the pea soup. She positions her head in strange ways, moves from whispering to screaming in an instant, and works to get in every single person’s head by revealing all the horrible things they’ve done.

It really is a wonderful, visceral performance from Morgan, who once again shows what an asset she is to this show (so The 100 will probably kill her off soon. Kidding, kidding.). Raven has always been complicated, and that’s because Morgan has imbued the character, who doesn’t get a ton of screen time compared to some of the other characters, with real depth. Here, even as Raven is controlled by A.L.I.E., it’s Morgan’s previous work that allows her “possession” to feel so real and pointed. When Raven begins lashing out at Clarke, Bellamy, and Jasper, taking them to task for their various murders and misdeeds, it’s certainly A.L.I.E. playing head games but it’s also the revealing of the history of death that all these people have to deal with. The “mind games” scenes are hard to watch not just because “Raven” is getting personal and hurtful, but because it’s the show taking stock of the emotional and physical traumas these characters have been through. After weeks of seemingly depth-less episodes, “Nevermore” digs a little deeper and finds something meaningful to explore.

That said, the way everything comes together is still unforgivably redundant. Part of The 100‘s popularity and critical acclaim in its first two seasons was its ability to deftly handle heavy thematic material. Musings on war, sacrifice, death, and loyalty were handled in ways that not only added weight to the plot, but also gave us a sense of these characters. In its third season though, the show has struggled to define what it wants to say beyond the basic plot. “Nevermore” is a product of that uncertainty, as it hits a lot of the same notes that have defined previous, more engaging episodes. For instance, the most shocking moment in this episode occurs when Monty is forced to kill his mother, who’s swallowed one of Jaha’s chips. It’s a brutal moment, but I can’t help but wonder if we’ve been down this road one too many times. After all, Clarke had no choice but to kill Finn in order to save her people, and that’s just one example. Monty killing his mother in order to save Octavia is that on a smaller scale. Later, after the EMP fries A.L.I.E. and Clarke bleeds the remains of the chip out of Raven, it’s clear that Monty is struggling with knowing that he could have potentially saved his mother. Such internal struggles have popped up again and again on The 100, and I’m not sure the show has much left to say.

As “Nevermore” comes to a close, everyone is teaming up to take down A.L.I.E., but existential crises are brewing. Bellamy, Clarke, and now Monty are all dealing with the fact that they’ve killed people from time to time, and that all of those deaths might not be just. That’s a perfectly fine grey area to explore, but it’s overly familiar at this point. The 100 feels like it’s treading on the same old ground it always has, and it’s producing ever-diminishing returns. “Maybe there are no good guys,” says Clarke. It’s a refrain we’ve heard in one form or another week after week, and there’s little power behind it anymore. “Nevermore” delivers in terms of action and a focused story, but the emotional and intellectual depth that defined the first two seasons of The 100 still remains to be found.


Stray observations

  • That moment where Jasper cries and lets everything out was heartbreaking.
  • “Everywhere you go, death follows.” Again, this is territory that’s been covered before. That’s not to say the show can’t revisit the theme, but there needs to be something fresh about its approach. How many times are we going to have to hear that Clarke maybe did a bad thing over at Mount Weather?
  • So Lexa’s chip is the second version of A.L.I.E.’s A.I. and it can destroy her. Just making sure we’re all on the same page here.
  • The image of Raven biting Clarke and then having blood drip from her mouth was perfect.
  • Also, that shoulder pop!
  • Octavia offering a lamp to Nyla in exchange for clothes was a nice touch. At least there’s one character here who still seems three dimensional and connected to her past actions and motivations.

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