REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 2.05 - "Human Trials"
Out of the night they haul her – feet dragging like one already dead – towards the neon light of the Ark. And so it is that we were reunited with Clarke Griffin in this week’s savage new episode – ominously entitled ‘Human Trials’ – of The CW’s gripping sci-fi drama thriller The 100. Covered in cuts and caked in a mixture of Anya’s blood and her own, our heroine is now barely recognisable as the human girl she is, and one can only surmise at just how much this is not the homecoming she either desired or was expecting from her own – or should we say former – people.
Because there can be no doubt now of where Clarke’s allegiances firmly lie, as this week she again defies the resident authority – in this case, Abby: the mother to whom she has only just been reunited, and now-Chancellor – in order to go after her friends. But if only she knew just how difficult that ultimate chase is going to be. Fragmented groups of the people she cares for most lay scattered across the immediate world, in varying states of danger. Deep within the mountain for example, Jasper finds himself at a physical and ethical crossroads – as well as at odds with Monty – as an unexpected system malfunction leaves Maya fighting for her life against radiation poisoning.
Elsewhere, a well manicured monster plies the captured Lincoln with an unknown serum that appears to be driving him mad. Finn meanwhile continues with Murphy in tow on his desperation-fuelledhunt for Clarke, all the while unawares that she is hunting him too after having been reunited with Bellamy and Octavia. Indeed, the world is falling apart and humanity looks less and less like it deserves to survive the fallout.
But so it was that treasured friends, allies , loved ones and even former enemies shared more than one extraordinary reunion – and embrace – this week, but were these fleeting moments of grace and good fortune enough to balance out the brutality and bloodshed? Well, lets find out shall we? Once more into the breach, dear friends…
In a lot of ways it should have been a triumphant return for Clarke. A happy one. The moment that Abby realised her daughter was alive, and even moreso when Clarke collapsed in her mother’s arms when she realised she was back in the keeping of her last surviving family, was beautifully done, and really spoke to the relationship between these two characters, despite the fact they haven’t seen each other since we first met them both, all the way back in episode one, season one.
And yet. Despite this being a whole new violent ballgame – with new rules, odds, players and all manner of killer pitfalls – how quickly, Clarke finds herself being ordered to fall back into the same old, archaic patterns and procedures of the Ark. Wait for Kane to broker a peace treaty. Listen to the adults. We’re older. So we know better. So do as you’re told. In other words, we’re just going to do like we’ve always done, and be dumb enough to expect a different result.
In truth, part of it I think is that this is the only way the people of the Ark know how to be, in which case, this playbook was always going to be opened. But the other ninety nine percent of it though, is sheer arrogance, or stupidity: most likely both. It’s like the crucified soldiers taught them nothing. Can they not see? This is not a world of treaties. This is a world where diplomacy is all but dead, bar a few tiny molecules of it that seem to flit into sight, rarely if ever, and even then they don’t last. This is a world that Darwin perhaps pre-emptively summed up best when he noted how it is not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change. This earth? It is the clearest cut case possible of adaptation or death: there is no middle ground. No happy medium. Not anywhere. Not unless you play your cards very, very right.
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH
Clarke thankfully understands that and puts all that she has learned into practice, in order to escape and go after her friends in the mountain, and who are searching for her. In this mission she’s assisted out of the camp of course by Raven, who is understandably very willing to see their band of survivors reunited and everyone she cares about, safe again. Raven actually had one of the moments for the episode for me this week, when she told Abby a few home truths about Abby’s current expectations as to how her daughter should behave, telling her that Clarke stopped being a kid the second Abby sent her here to die. She of course copped a stinging slap to the face for that, and yet still she managed to respond with an insurmountable level of grace. How? Well I think Raven recognises that despite all that’s happened so far, Abby just doesn’t get it. Clarke isn’t the defenseless, helpless kid in need of rescuing anymore. Instead, Clarke is the battle-tested adult of this world. Abby, on the other hand, is not. At all.
But it’s that exact kind of conflict – between the old ways and the new – that seems ultimately to be serving as the overarching theme of this season, and it’s exciting to see the way it’s being played out in so many different kinds of relationships. For my part, I’ll be really interested in particular to see how this new turn of events goes on to affect the dynamic in Clarke and Abby’s relationship moving forward.
A BROTHER’S KEEPER
Oh Jasper. Dear, lovely, misguided Jasper. To be honest, I think we all always knew at some point that the people of the mountain would work out that if you were going to hold this guy over a barrel to make him do what you want, there’s only one thing you’d need to manipulate: his heart. Why? It’s the epicentre of kindness, his loyalty and his selflessness – the place from whence all his actions and motivations flow – and we’ve seen him more than once choose to take those nobler paths over more self-preserving ones when the life and wellbeing of someone he cares about is at stake.
Some might judge Jasper harshly, and to an extent I can see where they’re coming from. How can he be so naïve as to think that what’s happening is a good thing; that the people of the mountain are merely trying to etch out a peaceful survival and that’s all? Is your warning bell busted or something bro? But truth be told, Jasper is being led ultimately by two conflicting things: a very natural desire to be safe in a home where he can live without fear, and the belief that if he cares enough about someone, they are worth the risk to his own wellbeing. And Dante, I think, knows that: hence why he tells Jasper the truth about Clarke’s escape, and gives him the chance to go after her, if he so desires. He knows that Jasper will always choose his friends over himself: all Dante’s men would have to do is follow him to the source. He’s a man blinded by his loyalty to those he loves: that better bait could there be if he’s trying to snag yet more people with his same, strong blood supply?
Thankfully though, this is where I am beyond thankful and delighted that a character like Monty is still part of this picture and looking out for his best friend. He is the perfect foil for a character like Jasper in that he just has this natural spark of healthy suspicion in him where Jasper doesn’t. On the contrary, Monty asks the questions, and his BS radar seems fairly spot on most of the time. In particular I really loved how he stepped up and called Dr. Tsing in the lab on her ‘hey maybe we could hypothetically hook your friend up here to this chick and find out if hypothetically his blood might cure her it could but you know who knows because I’ve like never even done it before’ crap. I loved the pure sass and attitude of him in that exchange, and for my part I was stoked to get that better insight into Monty, in that he’s pretty much been the one character whose back story seems to have eluded us in any great detail. Either way, something tells me that Monty still has a bigger role to play here; the question is, though, did his overt suspicion put him directly in the firing line of Tsing and the Mountain authorities? Because isn’t he the exact kind of guy they’d want to silence? After all. Don’t want anyone going in and unsettling the unsuspecting herd before the harvest, do they?
MACHINATION AND DOMINATION
In regards to the ‘accident’ with Maya, though, and her being exposed to the radiation leak, I think it’s safe to assume that that whole situation was about as accidental as a Kim Kardashian selfie. Dr Tsing and Dante’s Dr Frankenstein of a son seem without question to be running an underhanded joint op here: one that would push their senior leader to take the plunge and sanction the 47 to be used as human blood bags. Dante’s son is seeking to build a race of remorseless, hardened, bloodthirsty super soldiers who are afraid only of their creator but nothing else. Tsing’s blood theft and related technology allows for lightning fast healing and unparalleled processing of radiation even at a cellular level. It is a beyond terrifying combination of technology, power lust and ambition. And if all that is the case – if that is their ultimate plan – then the mountain has absolutely nothing to do with sustaining life, and everything to do with dominating it at all costs.
Either way, I genuinely, FERVENTLY hope that somewhere down the road – even if an even bigger bad than them is hiding around the following corner – that these two clinical bastards get the grim fate they deserve in the end. But between here and that place on this rocky path, who knows yet what devils still lay waiting in the shadows?
THE MISSING LINCOLN
If there is one thing in the world you could never accuse Ricky Whittle of as an actor, it’s a lack of dedication. I’ve loved his portrayal of Lincoln as a character from the very beginning, consistently finding myself inextricably drawn to Lincoln’s mystery and gravitas, and to a certain extent, his grace, and I don’t think I’m the only viewer who would say that. Indeed, Whittle has really put in the hard yards to make Lincoln a character we can engage and empathise with, and it’s because of that effort that I think we in turn as an audience have responded by investing so emotionally in his person and his story: something that subsequently made those experimentation scenes very hard to watch.
They were brutal. I was going back through the writers’ tweet feed of this episode actually, and Akela Cooper (Script Supervisor for The 100 and who incidentally was one half of the extraordinary writing team behind last season's Contents Under Pressure ep) noted that during those scenes, Whittle was so determined to bring to bear the horror and fear of this scene, that at one point he actually snapped the bonds they’d put around his neck through sheer struggle. Likewise, that scene where he had to fight off the other test subject to get the loaded syringe first: I mean that was fricking brutal. Horrible. Smashing the other guy’s head against the concrete floor was (at least at that point of the episode) one of the most jarring sights we’d seen, and it was yet another reminder of just how uncompromising this entire production is – from the script to the acting to the directing, and everything in between – when it comes to really making us as the viewer, feel it. All of it. Keenly.
Either way, though. As difficult as it was to see Lincoln go through all that torture – especially in the knowledge that out there somewhere, Octavia is still desperately searching for him – I was just plain glad to have this wonderful actor back on my screen. I missed him loads and I don’t think I was the only one.
SO IT BEGINS
Finally, it happened: the embrace of the ages (at least, that is if you ask a certain legion of OTP shippers), as Clarke was reunited with some of her nearest and dearest, but namely Bellamy, whom she’d feared dead after the fiery and bloody events of the drop ship battle. I’ll be honest and say that I was a little disappointed that prior to the episode, the powers that be chose to release videos every way fromSunday, of that moment. To me, that was akin to letting the kids in to rip open their Christmas presents on December 17 but still expecting the visual effect of seeing them to be the same on the 25th. For my part that was kinda sad, because I wonder if that overexposure caused the deep importance of that moment be a little bit lost on heaps of viewers, when it came to viewing it in the context of the episode.
Because let’s not forget what a hugely emotional and beautiful revelatory moment this was for these characters. One can only imagine how much and for how long Clarke destroyed herself inside for having closed that hatch door with Finn and Bellamy outside, knowing she was about to rain hell fire down on where they stood, even if it was for the greater good that she did it. One can only imagine how she grieved them; and indeed how much Bellamy and Finn would have grieved when they finally returned alive to the drop ship only to find all their friends missing. To find their girl, gone. And yet suddenly, there the other one is standing: beaten to hell, but still gloriously, beautifully alive.
For my part – as much as I wanted to cheat and see that moment happen before it’s time, because of just how much I love this pairing – I’m glad that I waited to watch that moment happen in context. I’m glad that I got to see it, too, as pre-empted by that really heart-warming hug shared first by Clarke and Raven, the latter of whom had sat outside the tent all night waiting for the chance to just see their friend again. I loved that. I loved that those two characters got that moment because it was such a milestone for them both: a putting away of the former things, the Finn-related animosities and petty jealousies. It was like watching a fresh, unblemished page be turned over on their story – a new chapter – and I for one can’t wait to see what these women can achieve together, both as friends and as comrades in arms.
As for the Bellamy/Clarke reunion, I won’t lie though. The moment she ran up and flung her arms around that stubborn, bloodied, banged up scruff of a man – and those few delirious seconds it took for Bellamy to realise that he wasn’t imagining Clarke, before clutching her up in utter, stunned relief like he did – were wonderful. I know, I know. We have a little while yet to go before this little tree of OTP bears proper fruit, which means that this beautiful moment is going to have to sustain us through a fair portion more of horror and heartbreak. But still. For that tiny fragment of time, it was nice. It was nice to get that one little fraction of absolute joy and see it sparkle like it did. In which case, writer’s room, thanks a bunch. It was super sweet of y’all to warm my little fan girl heart as you did.
BEFORE YOU RIPPED THE SUCKER OUT BY THE STRINGS SHORTLY THEREAFTER.
I remember the first time I ever wrote about Finn. I remember thinking ‘This kid. He’ll be the cute one with the brave heart’. The one I thought I’d ultimately turn my fangirl heart over to as far as loyalty went in the long run. After all. Bellamy was behaving like an asshat. Rememebr that? Petulant, war-mongering, immature, arrogant: he wasn’t exactly much of a choice for ‘Bachelor No. 2’.
The shift was gradual, not seismic. The characters grew as they adapted to the new social and environmental climate of this altered world. They got sharper. Wiser. Bellamy realised the fact that to be a great Chief, you first need to learn how to be a good Indian; that you occasionally need to lead with a demonstrated willingness to be led by someone wiser when necessary. He learned that life in the real world is a million shades of grey but very rarely black and white. He learned the same about people. In short, the man who once kicked the hangman’s box from beneath Murphy’s feet, is gone and even if Bellamy screws up again in future, the man he used to be no longer exists.
Finn meanwhile learned the power of social politics. He put aside the boy and became a man for the sake of the greater good, making choices that gradually garnered more and more moral weight. He fell in love. And then an old flame came down in flames from the sky and blew his new love’s trust to pieces. Choices were made. Bonds were broken, and Finn came to learn the hard way that it’s like the old song says: you can’t always get what you want.
Then came the drop ship battle. This was a game changer for both men, but what blew me away was the equal and opposite chain reaction it triggered within them. Where Bellamy seemed to find his emotional and moral sanity, Finn seems now to have lots his completely, as demonstrated by that utterly horrific and deadly turn of events in the grounder village. His desperation has turned to madness, and truly: the sheer, shattering pathos of that instant where he looks up and sees Clarke standing on the ridge, staring in horror over the carnage he has caused…I mean good grief. It was like someone had reached into my chest with both greedy hands and clutched up my lungs in their fists. It was a point of no return like no other; far worse even than his execution of the grounder prisoner they’d held earlier. And then with an almost blank, innocent expression and tone, he tells Clarke that he’s found her… in that moment there were too many kinds of horror to count.
Because essentially, the Finn we knew died in that village, right there and then, the second he pulled that first trigger. Can you imagine how Raven will respond when she finds out the boy she’s known and loved for most of her life has just slaughtered a bunch of terrified, innocent captives just trying to flee for their lives? And lord only knows if Clarke will ever be able to unsee that horror, which is saying something considering the things she witnessed in Mount Weather. But whether Finn can find true redemption in the end? Well. That’s something that only time will tell.
Either way though, as a general rule, if John Murphy is judging you for how much of a psycho you’re being at any given time – but especially when you’re waving round a loaded semi-automatic at innocent people – then you really should reevaluate your life choices. Like, STAT.
I’ve written a lot of reviews about this show, so it’s par for the course that I show up every week and say that I was blown away, because 9 times out of 10, I am. But the term ‘blown away’ doesn’t quite seem the right descriptive fit what I felt by the end of ‘Human Trials’. Closer to the mark would be to say I was heartbroken, and often, utterly shattered: nowhere moreso than as I watched Finn – cheeky, sweet, brave Finn – loose his mind and massacre half a village of innocent people. But likewise, it hurt horribly to see the brutality inflicted on Lincoln; the emotional blackmail heaped on Jasper, which he then fell for; the look in Octavia’s eyes now every time she even says the name of the man she loves; the cursed cracking sound of Abby slapping her ‘other daughter’s’ face for telling her the truth…it was so much pain, and for so many of the characters we love, seemingly with no way out of the emotional trauma they’re suffering. And we were made to feel all of it.
Herein lies the victory, then, of Charles Grant Craig’s formidably wrought script. We weren’t simply allowed to be spectators in this episode. We weren’t given room at all to sit back, put our feet up and judge any of these people for what they were or weren’t doing. Instead, Craig’s screenplay took us all roughly by the collar and shoved our faces right in the heartbreak, leaving us unable to look away from the pain – and at times the joys, like those reunion moments, particularly with Raven and Bellamy – being experienced by these charatcers we adore. In particular I loved that his script gave Monty some of his best scenes to date, but I also loved those small, beautiful moments he facilitiated, case in point the Raven and Clarke reunion.
This paired perfectly then with Ed Fraiman’s very strong turn in the director’s chair. Like the script, his direction didn’t flinch away either from the gritty, bloodied-up details of the sharp edge upon which this story now rests. The village scene in particular must have taken extraordinary vision, focus and emotion to capture those moments and all their ensuing darkness; to the point where you had to wonder what people must have felt and continued to feel even after Fraiman yelled cut. And for it to be as powerfully and brutally done as it was? That takes a person with considerable talent and empathy, as did this week’s story line, so for my part I genuinely hope that both of these guys return in future to add more instalments to the tale.
So. Where to from here? Clarke has some of her friends back, but not all of them are in one emotional piece. The Finn she knew and loved is, for all intents and purposes, mentally and emotionally gone. In the mountain, Monty’s suspicions seem now to have put him in the crosshairs of the powers that be: is he now too much of threat? Jasper and Lincoln, too, find themselves trapped there and facing two different but equally as insidious futures as Tsing and Dante’s son prepare to use their captives to their own cruel and power-hungry ends. And what of the revelation had by Kane, as he found himself suddenly face to face again with Jaha? Indeed, it seems the rockiest paths of all – those back to forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and most of all, to a place these people could call home – lay ahead now for every one of these characters we’ve come to love. The question then, is not just who will make it to the end, but – perhaps more intruiging still – what monsters and hopes yet lie in wait along the way?
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS…
So beautiful and touching to see Kane replant his mother’s tree on the ground.
Eliza Taylor’s acting in that scene with Clarke begging her mother to let her go out searching for her friends…lord but I got teary.
Kane? Yeah okay sometimes not all the rules are for following, honey. Especially the ones that say “drop all your weapons” when you’re supervising a guy who wants to use you as fish bait.
You gotta feel for Jaha. He gives up his life to save his people, then meets the guy he left in charge, in the same jail cell.
WELCOME BACK RICKY WHITTLE I MISSED YOU. (Even though you’re a tad off your nut at present).
Speaking of which, what is in that serum? And are the mountain men using it to make Reapers? Umm...what?
Loving the fact that we as an audience are starting to see the giant game of 6 Degrees of Separation going on here, when characters who know other characters meet in separate situations and neither know the relation.
Just got a mental image of a nine legged Kevin Bacon doing a giant rendition of Footloose. I…oh gosh...no.
Go on, y’all. How many times have you watched that hug? A bazillion?