If “Wanheda: Part 1” and “Wanheda: Part 2” presented a bit of a plot mess for the third season of The 100 to sort through, the season’s third episode, “Ye Who Enter Here,” boasts a clearer sense of direction. The episode ditches the City of Light subplot and instead focuses solely on the tumultuous peace between the Sky Crew, Grounders, and Ice Nation. It’s ultimately a smart move; the City of Light stuff can stay mysterious and obtuse for now, but it’s important to flesh out the political relationships that are going to drive the drama of this season. The first two episodes of the season spent a lot of time trying to sort out who was allied with who and all the reasons why. It led to two strong episodes that were also a bit jumbled. “Ye Who Enter Here” finds the footing though, using a political summit as a way to start unraveling the various threads connecting the three groups.

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Still, “Ye Who Enter Here” is a study in contrasts. It’s an episode that churns out some of the show’s smartest, deepest work yet while also cutting corners during one particular storyline. The 100 has always had to balance its ambitious scope and depth with the need to put characters into increasingly difficult situations, resulting in a number of bad decisions. It’s in that balance that the show has always strived, showing the ways in which characters may compromise their individual morality for a larger cause. The creative success of The 100 is largely driven by a nuanced exploration of character motivation; “Ye Who Enter Here” has plenty of that, but also fails miserably in terms of one character.

The good stuff, as always, comes in the form of Clarke’s storyline. Having her reunite with Lexa allows for the show to dig into one of its most complex and compelling relationships. Clarke and Lexa are a tangle of emotions and motivations. Each want to look after their own people, each has a different experience doing so, and yet they find comfort in one another. They share a connection on an emotional level, a romantic level, and they recognize the burden of responsibility that they each have taken on. They’re navigating what it means to be both an individual and a leader, and The 100 finds a lot to chew on in that navigation. It’s what makes the late-episode scene, where Clarke considers killing Lexa on the order of Roan, so fraught with emotion. We can understand why she would want to kill Lexa—she betrayed her trust, and perhaps her death will bring about some sort of peace with the Ice Nation—but also understand that Lexa is probably still her closest ally.

That scene, which acts as a sort of release valve for pent up emotions, paves the way for Clarke’s important decision later. Lexa proposes that the only way to fight off the Ice Nation is to have the Sky Crew become the 13th clan under her command. It’s an offer that Clarke brings to Kane and Abby, who have been invited to Lexa’s palace for the peace Summit. While Abby is initially hesitant (and just excited to see her daughter again), Kane sees it as the only option. The Sky Crew can’t hold their own against the Ice Nation. Plus, isn’t the point of everything they’ve done so far to unite themselves with the Grounders, to create a lasting partnership? It’s that kind of deep, longform storytelling, encompassing all of last season, that makes the decision align with the Grounders relatively understandable. The story of the Sky Crew, and of Clarke, is expanding in meaningful and thought-out ways this season. Clarke’s relative forgiveness of Lexa makes sense within the context of the war of her people, and the larger political conflict at hand. When she kneels before Lexa, and Kane is branded with the mark of the Grounders, it’s loyalty informed by weeks of patient storytelling.

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That’s what makes the other subplot of this episode so frustrating. Back at Arkadia, some Sky Crew soldiers bring in a few Grounders from the woods. After yet another round of Bellamy and Octavia telling the guards to chill out when it comes to the Grounders, Bellamy realizes that one of the captured Grounders is Echo, the woman who was in the cage next to him inside Mount Weather. She’s come to inform them that the summit is a trap, that there’s a Grounder assassin planted inside the meeting who’s going to slaughter all of the Sky Crew.

After saying a tearful goodbye to Gina, his new girlfriend, Bellamy, Octavia, Pike, and Echo head to the summit to save the Sky Crew from the evil Grounder assassin. This leads to a stirring sequence that cuts between the group trying to infiltrate the summit, Clarke, Kane, and Abby preparing for the ceremony to induct the Sky Crew as the 13th clan, and the would-be assassin preparing for his hit. The problem is everything that comes after that. The big reveal comes when Bellamy, Octavia, and Pike storm into the summit and warn of the Grounder’s plan. When Lexa asks them where they got this information, they look around and notice that Echo is gone, and the scene cuts to the assassin, who’s actually inside Mount Weather.

On paper, it’s a good bit of misdirection, but the execution is indicative of some of The 100‘s larger issues, mainly that the show has a tendency to cut corners in order to create conflict. The idea that Bellamy, Octavia, and anti-Grounder Pike would just believe Echo stretches credibility. Bellamy in particular has come a long way since his days of acting rashly, so to see him just go along with Echo’s plan, which involves killing two men at the summit, is disappointing. Even more egregious though is the treatment of Gina. The 100 has a history of creating complex characters, and yet Gina is merely fodder for Bellamy’s emotional journey. Back at Mount Weather, she’s brutally killed by the assassin, whom, along with Echo, was sent by the Ice Nation. It’s a difficult scene to watch not just because of how violent it is—it’s reminiscent of the way Talisa is killed during the Red Wedding—but also because of how frustrating it is to see The 100 fridge a character like that.

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It makes sense that the Sky Crew would have to pay for moving into Mount Weather, but unceremoniously killing a number of people, and having one of those deaths shoehorned in just to create conflict within Bellamy, feels horribly contrived. It’s the kind of lazy storytelling that The 100 normally avoids; hell, everything else in this episode is so beautifully written that it’s hard to even recognize the Bellamy/Gina/Mount Weather subplot as part of the same show. While “Ye Who Enter Here” does a great job of expanding the scope of the story of Clarke and the Sky Crew, musing on themes of power, identity, and cultural assimilation, it also does a disservice to a number of characters, creating conflict for the sake of conflict.

Stray observations

  • Kane for Chancellor! Kane for Chancellor! No, not that Kane.
  • So where do we all stand on “float” as an expletive in this universe? I always find it kind of silly.
  • Raven gets a nice moment of self-realization right before Gina is slaughtered. A study in contrasts.
  • “Garden variety heroic.”
  • I like the basic points of Octavia’s character arc right now, but wish the show would explore her isolation even more. Seems that her character could be the key to unlocking a lot of the underlying thematic work of the season.
  • So where did this assassin come from? Why does he have a self-destruct code on his arm? Why does he have to look so creepy?
  • How about Lexa booting that traitor right out of her sight?

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