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The 100 once again wonders if war and violence is necessary for survival

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The 100 has, pretty much from the beginning, been a show with a fair amount of weird mythology. There’s been a lot of surprises along the way, a lot of new characters, tribes, villains, and communities; Nightbloods and AI systems and Commanders that live on in “flames.” But this season, perhaps more than any other, is steeped in a history that we never got to see. The Primes have ruled over Sanctum for more than 200 years, courtesy of bodies that act as hosts for their minds, and it’s all built on a system of religious belief that gives them great power, and separates them from everyone else. Much like Clarke, Bellamy, Raven, and the others, we arrived at Sanctum when it was already a fully formed, operational community, and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since.

The history of the Primes and Sanctum forces the show to strike a rather precarious balance. On the one hand, the mystery, and the lurking evil that comes with their system of surviving, gives the season some necessary narrative thrust. Just as the team decides it’s finally time to get things right and live by Monty’s inspirational words, they encounter a group of immortals hellbent on using them for Nightblood. So it goes. That presents an interesting moral challenge. On the other hand though, is it not just more of the same? Are they not simply deciding whether it’s right to kill people to survive, especially if they’re threatened?

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“Memento Mori” is both a deepening of this season’s themes and stories, and a retread of old arguments. There are scenes where it feels like we’re going somewhere new—the Dark Commander comes to mind, and I remain entertained by Josephine’s unhinged, cutthroat tactics—but then there’s other scenes where it feels like we’re watching the same people debate the same big questions. Bellamy says he’s “not surprised” to learn that Murphy has taken the deal to be immortal; Bellamy isn’t the only one.

The dilemma that plays out in “Memento Mori” is an interesting one. With everyone realizing that Clarke is dead, they must decide whether they take up the Prime’s offer to make Nightblood so that they continue to have hosts, or seek out revenge. Bellamy immediately goes for revenge, telling Murphy that they should kill everyone and take their town. When Josephine cuts Bellamy loose, he attacks Russel, and in that moment he realizes something. He realizes that this is what Clarke and Monty warned about, this instinctive violence, this thirst for revenge. So, Bellamy stops, and convinces the others to take the deal.

For once, it feels like the characters aren’t just talking about tough moral choices, but actually acting. Their decision to let Clarke go is difficult—and, it really needs to be noted, coerced by Josephine—but it’s for the survival of everyone, and it’s the path that avoids war. What’s disappointing thought is that the episode doesn’t give us any real insight into this decision. It’s simply “what Clarke would have wanted.” That doesn’t feel like enough, not after everything that’s happened.

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And yet, there’s something about this season that’s keeping my attention. I think it’s the fact that the endgame looks promising. Perhaps the episode-to-episode redundancies are frustrating, but watching the separate pieces slowly moving towards a collision keeps the tension high. You can see how Diyoza and Octavia’s journey will put a wrinkle in whatever happens at Sanctum, and any run-in with Gabriel/The Anomaly and the rebel war on the Primes will influence events too.

In that potential collision is some interesting material about how even the best intentions can vanish in the face of outside forces. Plus, there’s Maddie lingering around with a Dark Commander in her head, and now she wants to kill everybody and avenge Clarke’s death. The separate storylines don’t always hold up on their own, but an episode like “Memento Mori” shows that there’s enough promise in everything coming together to keep the stakes and intrigue high. It’s just enough for now.

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Stray observations

  • I’m not going to pretend that I have any idea what’s going on with this radiation shield stuff. So much science jargon in such a short amount of time.
  • The best part of the episode is the war of ideas between Ryker and Raven. Their moral arguments about host bodies and religion and the cost of immortality acts as a microcosm of the season’s larger themes, though explored with much more nuance.
  • Echo is ruthless. Bless her.
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About the author

Kyle Fowle

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.