Thomas McDonell, Bob Morley

After spending some time setting the table after last season’s hectic finale, The 100 seems to be taking all the pieces it has put into place over the first two, relatively solid episodes, and putting them into action. Not that there hasn’t been a fair amount of action and movement so far this season–there have been plenty of mysteries to unravel at Mount Weather–but the third episode begins the process of shaking up the status quo and giving us new narratives and relationships to sink our teeth into.

While it was disappointing that “Reapercussions” (great episode title) didn’t check in with Jaha and his crash in the middle of nowhere, narrowing down how many storylines the show juggles within a single episode serves to dramatically improve the focus, allowing each storyline room to breathe and develop. Those first two episodes felt chaotic, while “Reapercussions” has a sense of purpose and forward momentum.

“Reapercussions” largely muses on ideas of justice, responsibility, hierarchies, and the exploitation of power. These are themes that act as the connective tissue between every storyline in the episode, and it provides a thematic clarity that this season of The 100 has largely sidestepped so far. At Camp Jaha, Kane continues to struggle with organizing the camp and establishing some sort of rule of law. When he finds out that Abigail was responsible for setting Bellamy and Murphy free, he’s torn between punishing her according to laws on The Ark, or starting fresh here on Earth. The underlying moral philosophizing here is resonant, but Kane’s characterization is lacking. He waffles back and forth, and his decision to “lash” Abigail publicly feels rushed. He unleashes a monologue about the necessity of being ruthless on the Ark, and how such force, by contrast, isn’t necessary here; moments later, Abigail is being lashed. What happened to his moral highground? What happened to the fresh start? Kane comes around to that opinion again at the episode’s end, but the hurried nature of his decision making, instead of a steady deliberation, undercuts the moral complexity of the moment.

Still, the collapse of familiar institutions and governing principles are driving this show and giving it some of its best moments. After capturing a Grounder during their raid on the camp, Bellamy, Murphy, and Finn argue about how to go about getting information from him regarding the whereabouts of Clarke and the rest of their friends. The subsequent interrogation/torture of the Grounder is a bit of a retread of last season’s Lincoln storyline, but the emotional heft is still there. Bellamy is ready to question the Grounder. Finn, spurned on by the appearance of Clarke’s father’s watch, wants to beat any information out of him. Eventually, Finn wins out, threatens to shoot the Grounder, leading to him drawing them a map to where their friends are (or so they think). Before going in search of Clarke, Bellamy and Murphy argue about whether or not to kill the Grounder. Finn takes the decision out of their hands, shooting the hostage before any real discussion has taken place. Again, traditional forms of justice and democracy have collapsed; heck, these kids have spent most of their lives locked up in a space jail and have hardly known anything resembling democracy anyways, so seeing them engaging with issues of social justice, and maybe working to correct the wrongs done to them, is deeply rewarding.

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As many of you in the comments predicted back when the pilot aired, we finally got the Anya-Clarke jailbreak we’ve all been waiting for, and boy did it pay off. First, we get a great moment where Anya calls out Clarke for being exploitative and manipulative, a welcome bit of dialogue that runs contrary to the usual portrayal of Clarke as a do-no-wrong protagonist. Clarke keeps trying to get Anya to follow her out of Mount Weather, but Anya doesn’t want to leave her people behind. Anya refuses to go, leaving Clarke stranded for most of the episode. I don’t know if we’re intended to sympathize with Anya here, but it’s hard not too. She has a point; Clarke is always focused on her own goals, and consistently assumes she knows the right course of action to pursue in any given situation, and then she drags others into her plans with little attention paid to the consequences. When someone actually challenges her ideas, as Anya or Jasper do, she says they’re being ridiculous. Having Anya challenge Clarke’s perceived authority, however briefly, adds an interesting layer to their relationship, complicates their storyline as it moves forward, and serves to deepen the characterization of both Clarke and Anya.

Finally, “Reapercussions” actually gives us a bit of progress when it comes to the season’s most forgettable storyline so far. Octavia, still in search of Lincoln after the attack by the Reapers last week, heads back to the Grounders camp to team up with them and find their pals. It’s still frustratingly unclear why Octavia is so invested in Lincoln–her final scene, where she cries in anguish after Lincoln isn’t amongst the Grounders they rescue, fails to land on an emotional level because we haven’t been given a reason to care; there’s no stakes here. With that said, the fact that Octavia must team up with the Grounders and earn their respect in order to fight a common enemy is promising. It opens up a world of narrative possibilities under the umbrella of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and it gives us a strong, driven Octavia, a breath of fresh air when compared to the weak, constantly-fainting character she’s been so far.

With “Reapercussions,” The 100 presents a renewed focus, and a sense of narrative and thematic clarity that’s been lacking early on this season. It’s an episode that boasts meaningful insights in regards to the power of institutions and the exclusive nature of social hierarchies. Consider this: Octavia is working with the Grounders; Finn and Bellamy are working with Murphy; Kane is conflicted about how to control his people, and hands the Chancellor reins to Abigail; The Mountain Men (or the Mount Weather establishment) may be working with the Reapers. All of these relationships suggest that traditional establishments of power and authority no longer apply on this Earth. That’s an exciting possibility for a show that’s still in the early stages of its second season.

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Stray observations:

  • I thought the “lashing” scene was a little overdone and killed some of the emotional impact. The ethereal score is overbearing, especially with those cheesy, chanting voices, and the ground-up perspective of the camera is a little heavy-handed with the religious imagery.
  • So, are the Reapers collecting bodies for the Mountain Men and their hospital experiments? Is that meant to be our takeaway?
  • Abigail dropping some serious truth: “You weren’t elected Chancellor, Marcus. You only got the job because Thelonious beat you to redemption.”
  • The more prominent role of the Reapers this season has really opened up this world and made Earth a more dangerous place. The slowly-expanding universe of this show is one of its most promising traits right now.
  • That shot where the camera lays alongside Anya and Clarke as the bodies are dumped on top of them was delightfully claustrophobic.
  • Hey, Lincoln’s alive! That’s, um, something.

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