Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

The fifth season of The 100 has been building to one thing: war. It’s been the focus of nearly every single character arc so far this season. And yet, war still hasn’t come. It’s perpetually on the horizon. Last week Octavia promised to strike at dawn. This week’s episode ends with a promise to ride the next day—before Bellamy alters those plans, of course—and we’re left with a lot of anticipation until the next episode on July 10. The long wait and the anticipation isn’t an issue, but at this point in the season, it’s fair to say that The 100 is dealing with some pacing issues. On top of that, there’s a ton of familiar storytelling beats in “How We Get To Peace,” which is perhaps the most underwhelming episode so far this season.

That might not be fair. “How We Get To Peace” isn’t exactly underwhelming because there are some compelling storylines here. Monty’s vision for the hydrofarm, and Kane’s plans for a new plot of land, are moments of hope in a season dominated by nothing but existential dread and the promise of violence. Those stories work not because they’re hopeful, but because they represent the show moving forward. It seems as though this world is always on the brink of catastrophe, and while that certainly makes some narrative sense, and it can lead to a fair amount of dramatic tension, it becomes oppressive and repetitive in large doses.

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The result is that “How We Get To Peace” feels like every other episode that’s aired since the laser-focused season premiere. The 100 has essentially rolled out seven straight episodes built around the impending clash between Wonkru and Diyoza’s people, with Bellamy, Clarke, and a few others from the original 100 stuck in the middle. Those episodes have certainly varied in quality, as individual stories have managed to elevate them beyond the familiar. Now though, the season is getting into rote, familiar territory, where every episode and every scene follows a similar storytelling pattern, with people arguing about how to either stop the war or engage in it.

The 100 is a show that more often than not deftly handles its complicated political material. It’s a show about morality, loyalty, and humanity during times of war. It asks stirring questions about the necessity of violence in certain situations, and asks us to identify with characters who occupy a lot of morally grey areas. The problem is that sometimes The 100 goes to that well too often. “How We Get To Peace” is filled with scenes that feel redundant: Abby’s addiction is proven to be out of control again, this time with Raven as her victim; Monty pleads his case for stopping the war using algae; Bellamy and Clarke try to find a way to stop Octavia from executing her raid on Shallow Valley; everybody talks about what’s necessary when you’re trying to survive, or when one side is pushing you to the limit.

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These are storytelling beats that have been beaten to death at this point. The dialogue even follows familiar patterns. “Everyone dies, Monty. Let’s show them how to live,” says Harper. “We want the same thing: to survive,” says Murphy about McCreary. One line after another about how sacrificing one for the many is acceptable, followed by how it’s maybe not so acceptable. Endless conversations about right and wrong. That’s fine in doses that make sense within the narrative, but at this point in the season it’s becoming a form of complacency. The plot, to an extent, is moving forward, and yet The 100 feels like the same show it’s always been. That means it’s still fairly compelling from week to week, but it also means that it’s failing to push itself into fresh, interesting territory.

I’m not here to critique the show for what it should be, but the season premiere suggested that this season of The 100 was going to be different. The characters had been through massive changes that they couldn’t come back from, and the years separated from one another only underlined that fact. Now though, the show is barreling down a familiar path. War is on the way, Clarke is doing what she can to make sure it doesn’t happen, and a whole lot of innocent people are caught up in the struggle between Octavia and Diyoza. That’s not to say there aren’t interesting wrinkles here. The show adds some depth to Diyoza when she reveals her pregnancy to Kane, which prompts her to share that his vision of the future gives her hope. Monty and Harper taking a stand against their friends is also a welcome bit of dissent. But it doesn’t amount to much, at least not yet, and that leaves “How We Get To Peace” feeling like just another bit of wheel-spinning from The 100 in the middle of what’s at times been a very strong season.

Stray observations

  • Issues aside, this is still an episode of The 100, which means there’s two great, insane lines in the first five minutes. “No, we’re not killing my sister,” says Bellamy. “Load the worms into the rover. War is here,” says Octavia.
  • “Eventually the few become the many.” I love Kane. Don’t we all?
  • Don’t ask me to explain the Octavia worm egg thing. What a weird little bit of narrative contrivance.
  • Speaking of narrative contrivance, you have to think Diyoza would see right through McCreary, Emori, and Murphy’s plan. From a radio negotiation to a hostage situation all in the same day? No way Diyoza should buy that.
  • For an episode largely about the impending war and a plot to sabotage Octavia, there’s very little Octavia in this episode. A curious choice.

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