Shortly after I wrote and published my review of last week’s season two premiere, I had a thought: the baby that Jaha hears crying at the end of the episode might be a figment of his imagination. It just didn’t seem plausible that someone left their baby on the Ark; partly, my thought was a defense mechanism, as I wasn’t too excited for a ”Jaha takes care of a NEW son” storyline. Well, my (and many others’) suspicions proved true tonight, as early on in “Inclement Weather,” we receive hints that all is not well with Jaha. As he searches the space station for the crying baby, the audio pans left and right, up and down, completely disorienting, like the cries of a ghost child in a James Wan film. It’s the first sign we get that perhaps this baby isn’t real, and that something different is going on. The resulting storyline is the episode’s strongest in an otherwise mediocre episode that, at least until that explosive and creepy ending, struggled to create any significant momentum.
We start the episode by checking in at Camp Jaha, as Kane, the interim Chancellor of sorts, is working to establish some sort of order. He’s locked up Bellamy, taken charge of the guard, and is trying to formulate a plan for finding the rest of the 100. The establishing shot here is wonderful in its visual imagery; Kane, with his hands in his pockets, walks amongst his people, most of them laboring intensely to clean up the wreckage and start building a camp. This is poignant visual storytelling, a shot that shows how quickly institutions and hierarchies can be established, and how much we, as a civilization, blindly rely on such constructions. No one seems to be questioning the need to construct a camp, and no one seems ready to question the authority of Kane. Even though the landscape and the rules have changed, Kane still defaults to a position of power, and everyone around him feels like a subordinate.
While the imagery is insightful here, the storyline struggles to keep up the momentum from last week’s premiere. When the adults were introduced back into the lives of the 100 last week, there was a sense of real possibility. That’s still there, but it needs to steep for awhile. Thus, most of the interactions between Kane, his people, and Dr. Abigail Griffin in this episode touch on the same point over and over again: what to do about finding the rest of the 100. Naturally, Abigail wants to send out a search party right away. Kane is more hesitant, wanting to know what he’s up against with the Grounders, especially after some of his men are crucified as a warning. The storyline hits all the necessary beats–Kane is stubborn and controlling, Abigail is reactive, and there’s an increase, frightening military presence–but that’s about it. Still, The 100 continues to present a deep, layered understanding of character motivation. For instance, it’s great to see Abigail so determined and crafty, especially as she organizes, with the help of Finn, the escape of Bellamy and Murphy from confinement; she gives them guns and tells them to go find their friends. It’s a great moment of character symmetry because we get to see the attributes Clarke has inherited. She’s just like her mother; perhaps dangerously reactive, but also smart, creative, and a natural leader.
Elsewhere, Octavia is still fainting like the overwhelmed protagonist of a Victorian novel. A Grounder and healer is keeping her alive while Lincoln is “paying for what he’s done.” As some readers addressed in the comments last week, the Lincoln-Octavia storyline is growing increasingly convoluted, lacking any sense of character motivation. In this episode, Octavia takes the Grounder hostage, heads to their camp, and demands a trade for Lincoln by nightfall. But why? Even the slightest bit of fleshed-out backstory here would help. Instead, we get a trade-off that results in Reapers attacking Octavia and taking Lincoln hostage as she passes out. Again. Seeing Octavia take control of her situation worked well because it’s in line with the Octavia we know from last season, and it makes her an active player in the show. But that’s swiftly undercut as she’s once again left immobile and defenceless because of a relationship with a man that we’re given little insight into.
Getting back to Jaha: in another one of his signature heroic moments, he decides to launch a missile from the Ark that will get him and the baby back to Earth. But first, he must propel himself across space to get to the other side of the Ark. It’s a Gravity-inspired moment, and the tension builds expertly, with Jaha floating in the quiet expanse, his helmet slowly cracking before he sticks the landing and seals the door. Then he rips off his suit, where he had stored the baby for safekeeping, and only finds bundles of cloth. Then Wells, his dead son, appears, and tells him he has to live. He has to get to Earth and help his people. The baby being a manifestation of Jaha’s struggles with the death of his son isn’t novel, and even feels a bit contrived, but the emotional aspects of the storytelling save the scene. It was hard not to get a little misty-eyed when ghost Wells says to his father, “your life can be more than just impossible decisions and a tragic end.” Beautiful stuff.
While the Jaha storyline feels tight and efficient, by contrast, everything at Mount Weather is underwhelming. Perhaps that’s necessary, as we still don’t know much about Mount Weather and it’s creepy leader, but this episode is mostly Clarke running around acting paranoid, Jasper calling her out on that paranoia, and Clarke finding ways to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Mount Weather operates. It’s necessary storytelling to position Clarke as the skeptical one of the bunch (she’s our hero, after all), but for the first time since about halfway through last season, the narrative beats feel stale. There’s no real tension to the storytelling because we know Clarke will be proven right. Of course Mount Weather is messed up. It has to be, otherwise there’s no arc in the narrative, no conflict. But everything is too tidy right now… that is, until that final segment. The scene, where Clarke discovers bodies hung upside down, being drained of blood, and cages filled with living people, is a staggering one. When she walks down the middle of the cages, the hands reaching out at her as moans fill the air, it’s eerie and beautiful, with the look of one of Roman Polanski’s most recognizable compositions from his 1965 film Repulsion. Cap that off with Clarke discovering Anya in one of the cages, and we have actual narrative momentum. It’s just a shame it fell at the very end of the episode.
- First of all, thanks to everyone who read, shared and commented last week. It was great seeing everyone engaging with this show, and excited for coverage. Let’s keep it going!
- To all the Raven fans out there, I didn’t forget about her (there’s only so much room above)! The surgery scene was great in that it gave Raven a moment of pure vulnerability. “I’m so scared,” she says to Finn. The best way to sell a consistently-tough character is to give them the occasional moment of weakness, and that’s exactly what works here.
- Man, this show has piled on the gore lately. The scalpel cut wasn’t that bad, but Clarke opening up her stitches on the edge of the steel bed? That was cringe worthy.
- Let’s just get it out there: Maya and Jasper are adorable, but oh so doomed.
- Seeing the soldier who was exposed to radiation being brought into the operating room was one of the first times we’ve seen just how bad the conditions on Earth can be for anyone who isn’t a Grounder or a citizen of the Ark. It added some welcome gravitas to the plot, and deepens the story of Earth, Mount Weather, and its people.
- Hooray for a credits sequence! It reminded me of the opening credits for Game of Thrones. It hints at a wide-reaching universe that could be populated with an endless number of intriguing narrative and character possibilities.