“Long Into An Abyss” couldn’t have come at a better time, not only in terms of setting up next week’s midseason finale, but also in terms of its echoing of real world issues. It’s appropriate that while our real-world America struggles to find a basic sense of humanity and empathy, where unarmed black men are being shot down in the streets and reports are being leaked that detail extensive and horrendous torture methods undertaken by the government, The 100 would turn out an episode that largely focuses on the personal, physical side effects of torture, and the political implications of its application in times of war.
The episode is largely devoted to the rehabilitation of Lincoln, and the looming decision that needs to be made about whether or not the people of Camp Jaha should pack up and leave to avoid a confrontation with the Grounders, or stay and try to rescue their people from Mount Weather. It’s a fruitful storyline in terms of dramatic tension and thematic exploration, allowing the show to muse on its complex morality while furthering the wartime plot.
First, let’s check in with Mount Weather, where Jasper, Monty, Harper, and Miller are starting to wonder if their plan to just go along with the experiments and wait for Clarke to rescue them is a little misguided. What if Clarke’s not coming back? What if she never made it out? Such questions probe them into action, and they plan to break into President Wallace’s office to uncover the truth about Mount Weather. What follows is a great ensemble scene that blends drama and humor. It’s like every heist movie you’ve ever seen, and the cast nails it. Jasper and Monty get in a bunch of banter, and Harper gets one of the best moments of the night when she calls out the guys for sticking her on watch duty. True, she doesn’t change their minds and still ends up watching the halls, but it’s nice to see a female character (and a tertiary one at that!) challenge the traditional role of men doing the sleuthing while the women keep watch.
They end up finding proof that their friends are alive, giving us a tender moment where Jasper smiles with relief. That relief makes the episode’s final scene all the more devastating. Harper, having not shown up for breakfast the next morning, is having bone marrow drawn from her hip by Dr. Tsing. After realizing that the blood of the 47 will only keep them alive on the surface for so long, she concludes that numerous bone marrow transplants, which would kill every one of the 47, would permanently give the 300+ people of Mount Weather the ability to live on the surface. This is mostly conjecture on her part; she has no way of knowing for sure. Cage attempts to convince his father that the procedures must be done, and even takes him to the surface for a few minutes in order to convince him, to remind him that the surface is their true home. President Wallace refuses though (or does he?!?!). Still, Cage and Dr. Tsing begin the experiment anyways, and it’s devastating to watch. Harper’s screams blend into the high-pitched shriek of the drill being used to extract her bone marrow. Dr. Tsing calls this “sacrifice for the greater good,” but it looks a lot like selfishness and a misguided sense of morality.
Morality is at the center of the episode’s main storyline, where Clarke attempts to negotiate a truce with Lexa and the Grounders, who are set to attack Camp Jaha. The now-present Jaha says that they must leave now, but Abigail, still the Chancellor until a vote can be held or she relinquishes power, won’t leave the kids behind. The struggle between Jaha and Abigail comes to a boil, and boy, it’s staggering. Jaha gets completely righteous and attempts to mansplain to Abby why she’s in the wrong. He has no problem slipping back into the vague political rhetoric he used on the Ark. He tells her to give the order for evacuation. She says no, twice, and asks him, not unlike you would a petulant child, if he’s done. Isaiah Washington and Paige Turco are magnetic here. Their eyes and body language giving the scene the stakes it needs. This is a huge decision on behalf of the camp, and each actor beautifully portrays their character, each of whom believe wholeheartedly that they know what’s best for their people.
Only one scene manages to outdo that one, and of course it involves Clarke. After bringing Lincoln back to life from his withdrawals, caused by the drug Cage was putting in him, Clarke proposes that if they have the ability to bring the Reapers back to life, then they have some leverage with the Grounders. After all, Mount Weather is filled with captured Grounders, and surely Lexa will want them back. I’ve mentioned before that The 100 may have the best female characters on television; not because they’re strong, but because they’re complex. This is evidenced early on in the episode. When Clarke hears Jaha talking about leaving, she doesn’t just sit back in the crowd and ponder what to do. She takes charge and calls out Jaha’s plan as the abandonment that it is. It’s a strong, stubborn, and potentially harmful decision, and that makes for a complex character.
Then, three of the shows best female characters get a chance to shine. Clarke is brought to Lexa in order to negotiate peace. Indra is having none of it. She begs Lexa to let her kill Clarke and get this whole war business over with. Clarke continues with her pitch though, telling Lexa about the Grounders at Mount Weather, about the possible Reaper cure she has, and about Anya and her death. The whole scene is built not only on strong characters, but on serious world-building. We understand everything that’s at stake here, from a political and emotional standpoint, because this show doesn’t ignore its past and certainly doesn’t ignore character development. It’s an astonishing scene. Clarke shows wit and desperation because she knows she’s bluffing, at least a bit. Indra, having seen her people burned, is looking for revenge. Lexa is more levelheaded, certainly a necessary characteristic for the leader of the Grounders. These are all female characters with real, complex, thought-out motivations interacting with one another while the men at the Grounder camp stand around them as merely scene decoration. I can’t overstate how wonderful that is to see. I want to put that whole sentence in caps.
The whole episode allows the show’s women to shine, from the negotiation scene to Octavia’s struggle to save Lincoln. Then there’s Abigail, who not only has to make the decisions that will impact whether or not the people of the Ark live or die, but then must bring back Lincoln from the brink of death for the whole truce to be rectified. And all of this is happening while badass Raven is off somewhere listening in on the Mount Weather people from a radio signal made available because she cracked the encryption, while the men (like Bellamy and Finn) wave their guns around and do a whole lot of nothing. What a breath of fresh air.
- Over 1000 words above and barely anything on Lincoln! So much to write about with this episode. I’ll say this: when Lincoln was zapped back to life and whispered Octavia’s name, it was the first time I felt truly invested in their relationship. It finally feels earned, and that’s in no small part due to Marie Avgeropoulos’ wonderful, emotionally fraught performance.
- That’s not to undersell Ricky Whittle’s work as Lincoln, who’s taken a mostly empty character and injected it with life and personality. Watching him writhe in pain, and understanding how that echoes not only drug addiction but also the stomach-turning torturing practices of America that we read about this week, makes it all the more difficult to watch. Long into an abyss, indeed.
- I’m still weirded out by how the show seems to be trying to redeem Finn. The Grounders are asking for his sacrifice in order to ratify the truce, so obviously there’s more to come with his character, but so far, the fallout from the massacre in terms of Finn and those around him has been underwhelming, and at times truly troubling.
- Great cold open this week. The camera, shooting from above, establishes Keenan on the ground. She wakes up and begins to revel in being on the surface. She twirls in the flowers. Then her skin breaks out and she begins to die, all while Dr. Tsing and Cage watch via security camera. Then Keenan falls to the ground, and the camera ends up back where it was, above her, though the image isn’t so lovely this time.
- I found it a bit weird that Jaha’s initial motivation for finding his people was his (ghost) son, and yet he’s willing to leave the 47 behind just like that.
- I love when this show engages with its past, and that happened a lot this week. We get Lincoln’s signal flower; Jasper and company using their criminal abilities to uncover the truth about Mount Weather; Clarke recalling what Anya uttered to her as she died, which she then uses to save Lincoln at the last second; and of course, Lincoln ending up right back where he started, at the dropship, though this time he’s chained up in order to save his life.
- That speech from Finn where he’s talking about Lincoln and the “things that will stay with him,” yet we all know that he’s really talking about himself, was one of the few heavy-handed moments this show has peddled; a rare misstep.
- The full Friedrich Nietzsche quote that the episode takes its title from: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” This show is hitting its thematic beats like nobody’s business.
- Alright, everybody take a few days to recuperate from the episode and I’ll see you all next week for the midseason finale!