Pacing has always been one of the more unpredictable aspects of The 100. Think back to the show’s first season, and how laborious those first few episodes were, only to be salvaged by a pretty stellar back-half that allowed the show to hit its peak the following season. With the second season, The 100 crafted a near-perfect 16-episode arc that built tension and anticipation before a number of memorable, earned moments. Then there was last season, a hurried, strange, out of whack season where the pacing never felt consistent. Too many storylines lasted well past their expiration date, and others (RIP Lexa) weren’t given much of a chance to bloom.
Now in its fourth season, the show seems to still be struggling with how to space out its meaningful, impactful plot points while also giving the characters plenty of time to ruminate. The 100 has always found its most fruitful material in those quieter moments, examining the existential angst that comes with responsibility beyond our comprehension. As this season hurtles toward nuclear catastrophe though, there seems to be less time for those moments. Sure, Jasper can still pull a pretty great prank by “floating” Jaha, but as he later points out, everyone in Arkadia seems to have lost their sense of humor—and they don’t even know about the whole nuclear meltdown thing yet.
The 100 doesn’t need to be excessively funny or lighthearted in order to balance outs its darker moments, but there is something troubling about the way “A Lie Guarded” continues to move the plot forward with such reckless abandon. The focus is, somewhat necessarily, on Arkadia’s continuous prepping for the nuclear fallout, but by narrowing the focus the show loses some of its depth. Gone are the political intrigue and shady alliances from the first two episodes, replaced instead by self-contained arcs that, while intriguing in some sense, fail to really push these characters in new directions.
The general feeling in “A Lie Guarded” is one of listlessness and familiarity. When Monty confronts Clarke about her decision-making, specifically in regards to keeping her list of 100 secret, it’s a conversation that this show has had numerous times. Clarke has made a broad, sweeping decision, some have backed her up, and now others are working to correct what they believe is her mistake. That pattern is deployed often on this show, meaning that it’s not nearly as effective as it once was. To give credit where it’s due, this season has done something interesting in terms of examining leadership roles: where Jaha, Kane, and Abby once ruled, now the “kids” have taken over, a development echoes in Roan taking his mother’s place on Ice Nation’s throne. Raven and Clarke are running a tight ship, while Miller easily falls into the role as the head of the mission to find A.L.I.E.’s lab. Those shifts in character roles give us fresh insight into who these people are while allowing for some fresh storytelling.
I’d argue that The 100 isn’t going far enough though. While it’s fascinating to watch the dynamic between the former and new leaders change, there’s little sense of how such a shift is affecting everyone involved. Having Monty openly challenge Clarke’s leadership makes sense for his character, but the show doesn’t do enough to explore the complexities of these actions. Instead of really digging into how Monty feels about being left off the list, or how the group might react to the truth about the impending nuclear disaster, “A Lie Guarded” takes the easy route and lets Clarke off easy.
Now, who knows, there could be a reckoning sometime in the future, where Clarke really has to examine the impact of her decisions. For now though, Jaha steps in to ease the crowd’s worries, getting them back to work in the hopes of making a future for everybody, and that feels like a cop out. This season has been building to the moment when Clarke’s lie would be revealed, and here it is, arriving with little fanfare or controversy. Everyone just shrugs it off and gets back to work because Jaha suggests a lottery. The sense then is that The 100 is coasting on the gravity of these big decisions, and yet never really getting its hands dirty with the consequences once those decisions are made.
That’s par for the course with “A Lie Guarded” though, which is a more manipulative episode than most. Not only does Nyko get a lackluster sendoff, the show then leans into melodrama with the “death” of Octavia. Of course, Octavia is alive and well (somehow) after being stabbed by Echo before falling hundreds of feet into a rocky river, but that doesn’t stop “A Lie Guarded” from milking the emotions out of her potential death. As the music swells, Roan and Echo inform an imprisoned Bellamy that Octavia has been killed, that she refused to be captured alive.
It’s a curious scene. On the one hand, it’s setting up Roan and Echo for a rude awakening whenever Octavia shows up again. On the other hand, the episode plays the scene straight. It’s meant to be a heartbreaking look at Bellamy’s pain and Kane’s hopelessness, and yet it rings completely false. It’s The 100 having its cake and eating it too: the show gets to exploit Bellamy’s pain while also keeping Octavia alive. In any other episode, it might work. Within “A Lie Guarded” though, it’s just another instance of The 100 glossing over moral complications and lived consequences.
- For a very brief second I actually thought the show was going to kill off Jasper. Alas, his time has not yet come.
- Kane is awfully worried about Octavia’s new gig as an assassin. “Justice and vengeance are not the same thing,” he warns. As she crawls out of the river at the end of the episode, something tells me she’s not about to heed that warning.
- Just moment after I thought about how the conflicting levels of trust between Nyko and Luna could help facilitate a fresh look at the Sky People, the show goes ahead and kills Nyko.
- Raven keeps getting left behind on missions, and she keeps saving everyone’s ass.
- A brief moment of joy: Abby and Raven sharing a look after finding the lab fully equipped and operational.