REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 2.04 - "Many Happy Returns"
Out under the vast sky and deep in the killer heart of the wilderness below it, more than one hunt is stepping up the frenzied chase towards its prize in this week’s gripping new installment – entitled “Many Happy Returns” – of CW’s The 100. Some, of course, are the prey: this week Clarke and Anya once again find themselves having to evade the clutches of the monsters of Mount Weather. Little do they know however that others are likewise coming for them, with the same fervor if not the same intentions, as still trekking hurriedly through the forest are Finn and Bellamy. In their case, as they traverse the wilds – with the moral chameleon that is Murphy in tow, amongst others – they begin to fight over priorities as they do all they can to step up the search for friends they are desperately hoping are still alive.
For others, the road back to what they seek is even more uncertain. Still dazed and damaged from his blistering descent to the earth’s surface, Jaha finds himself waking in a storm of sand and suspicion when a drifter child manages plucks him from death and the desert in order to bring him back to his own camp. Elsewhere, Raven seeks comfort in the sweat and grit of hard work and she seeks to regain control of her damaged leg.
Every journey – regardless of whom it belongs to – seems to be more fraught with peril and pain than ever before. So. Did the deep emotional ties that bind these characters together, hold fast or fray? Well, let’s dive in, take a look and find out shall we?
ENTER THE SANDMAN
Ever since we realized that Jaha still had a part to play in this story – despite for all the world seeming lost when he gave himself up with the dying bones of the Ark – it has been a tantalizing concept to wonder about a lot of aspects of his return. Perhaps our minds immediately went to where the Ark now lies; after all, everything else has crashed there, why not his escape missile? (I still cannot believe I am writing that phrase.) How long would he wander the forest? How would he live? How long would he last? Who would find him? What would the reunion with Abby and Kane be like? With the kids he sent to earth all those many episodes ago at the very beginning?
In truth, our eyes could not have been looking in a more opposite direction to his true location. Instead, gritted in a crust of parched sand and lying in the middle of nowhere like an orphaned shoe in the lost and found, Jaha it seems lays close enough to dying on the planet he almost died to get to. So when that quirky, scarf bound little figure sought him out at the base of that hill and began to search of the contents in his pockets – finding Well’s chess piece, no less – and Jaha catches him in the act, you had to wonder what this inquisitive and mysterious little ray of hope was eventually going to look like, if indeed he represented hope at all. After all, the Grounders have taught us nothing if not to be wary of strangers when it comes to this planet and age, no matter how old they are.
When he finally woke in that tent, we were introduced to both the child and his tough-talking, take-no-emotional-prisoners healer mother, Sienna. She is a hardened, wizened survivor, but the way she talks about this so-called City of Light somewhere in the near distance…well it says that she is not entirely without hope either. Then of course, there is her son – Zoran – who we discover has a significant facial disfigurement, due, Jaha realizes immediately, to the inevitable effect of the radioactive fallout after the war. Sienna goes on to note that it is the way of her people with such children to ‘purge the bloodline’ by leaving them outside after birth so ‘nature can reclaim them’, and ‘restore the balance’; she however chose to keep her child, and run that he might live.
Given the depth of insight here, it makes me wonder if this woman will go on to figure more in the long term story for Jaha. I certainly hope so. If she does, so too will her son; will the echoes of being a father to Wells reopen that part of Jaha again? As for Sienna, for all her hard edges – and the fact that she called in the bounty on Jaha’s head in order to do what was needed to get them closer to the City of Light – it’s hard to ignore that there remains a deep and constant heart within her for those she holds closest to it. And Zoran doesn’t know Jaha from a piece of cheese, yet instantly there’s this keen, shining spark of parental bonding between them. That was one of the big vistories for me in this ep too, in the way that their interaction showed how there is no blue print for family, other than by default of the fact that we are all, first and foremost, humans – creatures of mere flesh, blood, bone and spirit – and that arguably makes us all family in a very deep way.
Acting wise, I was utterly impressed with the deep grace of Isaiah Washington’s performance in this episode. It was exquisitely nuanced, packed to the brim with gritty pearls of emotion – of pain, loss, shock, curiosity and, most importantly perhaps, hope – and demonstrated just how well he understands the true heart of Thelonius Jaha. The scene where Jaha gave the little boy Wells’ chess piece for example was beautifully and compassionately done, as was the scene when the bounty hunters came. And for as much as he is one of the characters I never thought I would invest in at the beginning of last season, Washington’s performances over this last few episodes in particular have really drawn me in with their consistently beautiful and very human soul.
DON'T FENCE ME IN
Raven’s return to the fray for Season 2 of The 100 is a decision that continues scene after scene to reap fantastic benefits, and with the fresh introduction to the mix of Wick – the sweet smartass of an engineer to whom we’ve all so quickly become attached – I’m sensing that the writers yet have a heap more in store for this badass mechanic.
Actually it’s strange. Every time I see Raven on screen now, my mind cannot help but be clouded by the sounds made by that extraordinarily brave woman who went painkiller free under a surgeon’s knife not so long ago, on the chance that she could one day get her leg use back. That scene of the entire camp listening to her scream…I swear in a lot of ways the camp as a backdrop still seems to echo with it. In that way Raven is probably one of the bravest characters of any TV story being told at the moment, and it was fantastic to see how she really started to again come out of her shell as she bantered and engaged with Wick, particularly as he challenged her to not give up on her future and mind just because of her new physical limitations.
I think my favorite part for Raven though was to see that moment she finally put that leg brace on. It seems to be arguably the closest she’s ever come in this story to accepting hope on hope’s terms, not on her own; and in that, she again experienced real growth as a character so I’m excited to see where that growth will take her.
WE MEET AGAIN
As soon as that warning horn blew and Octavia Blake stepped clear of the tree line into her battered brother’s sight, it echoed in my head: the moment the words ‘may we meet again’ had last been spoken between these two, in the heat of battle as Lincoln whisked her away to safety while Bellamy stayed to fight. In the case of “Many Happy Returns” I’ll be honest and say I didn’t anticipate either that she would be their savior, or that the siblings would be reunited so soon to each other, but I am so far beyond glad that they have, because as much as the brother-and-sisterly bickering bugged me senseless at times last season, it wasn’t until this ep that I realized how much I’d actually missed them together.
Part of that too stems from the fact that most of us would have been glad to see Octavia get some joy after her loss of Lincoln (as far as she knows) and Bellamy’s loss of Clarke and his people (as far as he knows). It was a smart move on behalf of the writers there, too, in the sense that it shows and awareness of the fact that too many unhappy endings can blunt the impacting edge an unhappy ending can have when it’s used in the right way. That said, I don’t underestimate their ability either to pull the emotional rug out from under me any damn time they want (seriously you guys, therapy ain’t cheap) so for now I’m just going to enjoy the fact there was a reunion of any kind; wondering how long it will last just gives me all the wrong kinds of goosebumps, because truth be told, with this story you just can’t tell.
AT ALL COSTS
I’ll be honest and say that I’m unnerved about the Finn of Season 2. The more he acts the way he does – expedient kills; showing what he is willing to let go as collateral damage (i.e. people’s lives now, which is a terrifying thought – the more I have to wonder whether he really just must be so driven by his love for Clarke that what he felt for Raven becomes more and more of an echo in his bones: one that becomes fainter every step he takes further away from her and the Ark camp.
In which case, if it’s true and he is as fiercely in love with Clarke as he seems to be, then this poses a serious dilemma given the fact that he has now paired off with the nefarious Murphy to find the others, while Bellamy gets the injured back to the Ark Camp for treatment. On top of that, it’s not just regular Murphy: it’s Murphy with a loaded gun, and that is dangerous at the best of times considering I’m pretty sure he’s kill Finn with less hesitation than Finn showed in killing the Grounder, and that wan’t much.
But perhaps just as dangerous is a man motivated – and some would say blinded – by love and a deep seated sense of loyalty. Love after all drives even good people to do bad things. Think about it. Abby letting Jake be floated. Sienna letting Jaha be captured by the bounty hunters to protect her family. And Finn – loving, kind-natured, political-solutions-preferred Finn – putting a bullet in the temple of a prisoner of war. In this way, we have to ask ourselves then whether his feelings for Clarke will inhibit his ability to act smart, and be smart in his search. Because if he is going to get this done, that’s exactly what he will have to be. Razor sharp and at the top of his tactical game. And I don’t know about you but the last time I had feelings like that about anyone, my brain at times was about as useful as asking Stevie Wonder to look and if you had anything stuck in your teeth after dinner. Finn’s stakes however are much higher, which begs the questions: if he keeps going like this, will he pay a price that is higher still?
Despite their being in it together whether they liked it or not, Anya seemed intent if not even a little desperate for much of the episode to do as she’d always done: ignore the fact that she and Clarke share an unshakeable and foundational common bond in the fact that they’re both human. No more, no less. Both creatures with access to the same primal instincts for survival and, one could argue, right and wrong. Indeed just as she argued the Clarke was the weaker one, Clarke could just as easily have argued that Anya’s stubborn refusal to play ball when it came to working as a team, made her the weaker one. In so far as the concept of ‘weak’ goes, I don’t think that I’d be the only one who’d be reluctant to slap that label on a girl who ripped open her own stitched flesh with the metal corner of a bed post, just to be put in hospital so she could find out for sure the truth about life under the Mountain, not to mention brave a reaper tunnel and a sheer cliff face in order to save a person who would probably prefer she was dead. Basically, Clarke Griffin is a mother-flipping survivalist badass; why couldn’t Anya acknowledge that?
Then two things happened.
Firstly, that fight. The raw, brute physicality and commitment of Dichen Lachman and Eliza Taylor’s performances this week were astonishing, and nowhere more so than in that scene as Anya and Clarke had the confrontation that ultimately has been growing between them since that first tetchy political meeting on the bridge so many moons ago. Here though, they were magnificent in their power, edge and equality of spirit, and indeed their fight scene showcased some of the best, most guttural and raw human combat we’ve seen so far. In short, it took the episode to whole new and very promising dimension.
THE FALLEN BRAVE
Then came the loss. The blunt killshot in the dark – in the back no less – by one of those twitchy-trigger-fingered bastards from the Ark’s guards. Anya was a character who I hadn’t realized how much I’d invested in her – in her survival – until she lay dying with Clarke’s bloodied and grieving hands trying with futile energy to stop the blood flow as Anya’s life ebbed away. In this, I was gutted on a level I did not expect as viewer. Shocked too, particularly at the choice to end her journey this way. How could someone so explosively full of life and angry, pulsating energy and potential ever utter the words ‘My fight is over’, this early? And this way?
I don’t know. Perhaps the second that obnoxious guard commander put out the order to shoot Grounders on site, I should have seen exactly that scenario coming. But what I do know is this: if it’s true, and the raw fire of Anya’s life is now officially snuffed out, like this, then the show will have said goodbye to one of its most formidable characters, leaving a formidable hole in her place. In other news, Dichen Lachman, you are magnificent. For my part, I hope desperately that we haven’t said goodbye to your character. But if that is the case, then for the record there is no bravo big enough that could be said for your turn in this role. It was, for me at least, your finest.
First, an anecdote. When The 100 airs in the US (on Wednesdays 9|8c on The CW), the equivalent time here in Australia is about 11:00am EDST. When “Many Happy Returns” went live, I was on a business trip with my colleagues at a venue about four and a bit hours from here. At the time, I remember rather surreptitiously looking at the clock on my phone and being envious of all you guys who got to see it live. I sat there in my spare moments scrolling through all my timelines and feeds, watching people’s gobsmacked reactions appear one after the other (Seriously though, that #The100 tag on twitter moves faster than TMZ chasing a celebrity ambulance). I watched all the reviews and recaps being tweeted out and retweeted. And I was so jealous, because of just how much I wanted to be in amongst that online fervor and buzz that The 100 naturally inspires every week.
But so it was, that it was not until this morning that I got to sit and finally watch this episode unfurl. And truth be told, I was glad to have that space in the end, because it made me realize yet again that the further down the story road this show goes, the longer it takes me to mentally recover from what that writers room does to me every week as I sit down to review.
Yeah, I know, some of you are probably saying. It’s just a story. Get over it.
To an extent, those people are right: it is just a story. But the big moral, ethical and emotional questions this story poses? They are not fictional. Not even close. They go absolutely to the heart of how we each perceive the world. Who we call heroes and who we call villains. In a weird way, actually it reminds me of a famous Lord of The Rings line, one Gandalf says to Frodo in Fellowship of The Ring.
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
You want to know why that line still affects people now? Because it’s got nothing to do with the orcs and the hobbits and the other fantastical elements of the story, and everything to do with the kind of person you as the reader – or in The 100’s case, the viewer – are, at your core. Down in your marrow. Those are the challenges that stay with people. That move them. And it’s exactly that same kind of insight that likewise makes people come back to this show week to week, rather than just for the beautiful people or the action or the special effects. It’s the challenge we’re issued that gets us, and we cannot help but rise to it.
Creatively speaking Kim Shumway absolutely nailed this episode in her screenplay, delivering with acute depth and clarity this next chapter in the narrative. In particular I loved the scenes and dialogue she wrote for Jaha, and how she let the emotional dynamic between Anya and Clarke do as much of the story telling as the words they exchanged. Also, the scenes with Raven and Wick were great and if I’m right in thinking that they’re planning something for the engineer and the mechanic, then the set up of that here was great too. Also really lovely to see Raven having a reason to smile again!!
P.J. Pesce meanwhile had a great return to the director’s chair in this episode, after his last efforts with the game changing “Murphy’s Law” episode last season. He did great work in particular this week in reminding us how intimidating and just plain vast this landscape is for all the people trying to navigate it. The cliff face where the part of the Ark crashed off. The actual crash site. The extent of the Ark Camp. The forest through which Anya and Clarke are being hunted. The desert where Jaha now finds himself. It was great to have that element of the story reiterated to us as an audience in the sense that it enables us to keep a pretty versatile focus, where we can take in the bigger picture, as well as be affected by the human details closer to home. The coat falling down the cliff face as Bellamy is hauled up it to save the girl. The trail of bodies from this crashed part of the Ark. The sound of flies. The fact that at one point during Anya and Clarke’s fight, Clarke smashed Anya in the head with a human skull, in a place where Clarke still doesn’t know if she actually incinerated Finn and Bellamy. All those details: they’re made just as much part of the story as the spoken words and it’s awesome to see, as well as provoking to think about.
So where to from here? While Finn is off hunting for Clarke, if Bellamy makes it back alive then it will be him united with Clarke first? What will that be like? (Hear that, Writer’s Room? That giant, intimidating roar? That’s the sound of Bellarke fangirls all over the world starting their engines.) Elsewhere though, what has become of Kane and his group? Or Lincoln now that he is captured inside the Mountain? Of Jasper and Monty – will there be retribution from Dante upon them for what Clarke has done in escaping? Who knows, other than that you should batten down the emotional hatches kids: methinks the storm of war is brewing.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS...
I sure hope Finn knows what he’s doing taking Murphy along for the ride. I gots the baaaad feelingz bout dis.
I love the fact that aside from learning survival skills from her new people, she’s also learned some nifty hair braiding techniques. #werkdat
RIP, Survivor Kid.
A++ for the excellent misappropriation of helium, Wick. X minus, though, for that awful captain of the guard who shot down (literally and figuratively) Raven’s brilliant idea for a floating transmitter. Genuinely hope she is soon to become Reaper fodder. Did I mention I hate her? SOOOOOOO MUUUUUUUUCCCCCHHHH.
In other news, charming, astute and cute to boot. HELLO AGAIN, WICK.
Missing seeing Lincoln so much on my screen lately. Genuinely hoping we see more of what’s become of him soon.
Loved the line from Clarke about how if they’re going to defeat the Mountain, each other side needs to work together, bringing the best of what each of them offer to the table in order to win.
There is no way Kane has a line that good to lead with for the peace talks. I feel like he'd be about as useful as sending the cast of Duck Dynasty into North Korea to broker a peace deal.
Final word tonight to the props and set departments this week. You guys did an amazing job with the scenes you stages and details you filled them with. Played a huge part in the success of the ep.