Starting over after a catastrophic, traumatic event is extremely difficult. There’s a sense of loss that mixes with natural reactions like confusion, pain, anger, and an attempt to reason. Such an event can leave one dazed, paralyzed, and unsure of where to go next. It’s hopelessness, sure, but also more than that. It’s a complete shake-up of one’s understanding of the world, an existential crisis that’s not exactly easy to remedy. Anyone who’s ever suffered a painful break up, lost a loved one, or watched as a buffoon threatened democracy and the lives of so many, understands this feeling. It’s unbearably human, and yet we face it head on. We regroup, assess what to do next, and set about making it happen.

The 100, as it begins its fourth season, finds itself looking for a way to reset, to recover from catastrophe. Not only is the show itself looking to find a way forward after a shoddy, divisive third season, but so are the characters, who have just gone through the difficult process of defeating A.L.I.E.; they must immediately regroup and find a way to avoid the nuclear disaster triggered by her (its?) demise. Clarke was told that the nuclear reactors would melt down, meaning that, at best, everyone on earth would have six months to live. “We’ll figure something out,” she said, because she’s nothing if not optimistic in situations that call for anything but optimism.

What’s interesting is that despite picking up right after the events of last season’s finale, “Echoes” does work as a refresh for The 100. It’s a tightly-plotted, exciting, twisty premiere that sees the show embracing its past glory while also growing, becoming something with a grander scope. With that scope, which includes a potential nuclear disaster that we only get a glimpse of in Egypt, and an unsteady peace within the Coalition, comes the necessity of a sharper focus. The moral angst that made the second season so compelling can only go so far in this new version of The 100. It worked in season two because of the narrow focus, allowing the show to use its intimate relationships to dig into larger themes of loyalty, nationalism, and the blurry line between good and evil. The world of “Echoes” is larger and more complex, so The 100 will have to be sharper in exploring the consequences of character actions, something the show really struggled with last season.

“Echoes” puts in the work though, and it pays off in the form of a truly engaging premiere. Now that A.L.I.E. has been dealt with, the reality of the situation is setting in, and The 100 understands that that means different things for each character. So, while Clarke and Bellamy are keeping the knowledge about the reactors a secret, Jaha and Jasper are reckoning with their past actions, Kane is trying to keep everyone calm in order to craft a realistic plan, and Monty and Harper are, um, reaffirming their affection for each other, to put it mildly. Small character moments like those give us insight into how these people are adapting to yet another crisis. The moments swing from moving, like Harper and Monty channeling Rihanna and finding love in a hopeless place, to heartbreaking, like Jasper setting the stage to kill himself before being thwarted by an unknowing Monty.

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In those moments are snapshots of how people deal with inexplicable trauma. “Echoes” works very well as a depiction of the struggle for power, as Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia, and everyone else stuck in Polis work against the Ice Nation in the hopes of getting them to adhere to Lexa’s Coalition; but it also succeeds as an exploration of the ebbs and flows of war, and how people, both soldiers and civilians, cope with it. Everyone bands together to save Roan’s life in the hopes that he’ll honor the Coalition, but that’s a temporary, short-term plan. The reactors are still melting—and melting the faces of wanderers in Egypt, apparently—and Raven’s sure that there’s nothing they can do about it. “Echoes” asks an important question: how do you move forward when more destruction, chaos, and pain lies around the corner?

That’s a question that The 100 needs to tackle throughout this season. Again, as the scope of the show expands, as evidenced by the many different plot threads in the season premiere, so too should its thematic interests. The themes present here are similar to past seasons, but the characters have grown. Their situation has gone from having to make decisions solely for the survival of Arcadia, to making decisions that impact the lives of seemingly everyone left on earth. The reach is unknowable right now, but with that comes a need for The 100 to really dig into its characters and craft a portrait of genuine struggle.

“Echoes” comes along just as we need it. Not only because it’s great to have The 100 back, looking like a show with purpose and urgency, but because we could all use a blueprint for understanding struggle in the face of complete hopelessness.

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Stray observations

  • Early on, Kane tries to let Jaha know that he doesn’t have to suffer alone with his guilt. Jaha: “What have I done?” Kane: “What have we done?”
  • One of the Ambassadors want to run Polis until a new Commander is established. So, Echo cuts her throat. That’s one way to get things done.
  • Jasper has a charming way of asking for forgiveness: “Can I plead the chip?”
  • It looks like Murphy and Emori are going to be separated from the group for awhile.
  • Clarke’s pained “I loved her, mom,” hit me hard. Felt like Clarke, with A.L.I.E. now in the past, finally reckoning with Lexa’s death.
  • Kane’s advice to Bellamy on how he might live with his more horrific actions: “You turn the page and you don’t look back.”
  • Indra: “I didn’t agree to give them guns.” Murphy: “Well that’s probably because you’re not an idiot.” Good to have you back, Murphy.
  • Echo worrying about Roan appearing weak just as he applies a hot sword to his wound was a nice touch.
  • Welcome back to weekly reviews of The 100! I quite enjoyed this premiere, so here’s hoping we’re in for a solid season that puts some of last year’s mistakes in the rearview.

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