REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 2.07 - "Long Into The Abyss"
With the dawn, they will come: Grounders by the dozens, ready to slaughter the Sky people in any case, but even more frenzied in their bloodlust thanks to Finn’s recent deadly actions in their village of innocents. Indeed, the world of CW’s The 100 stands upon a knife’s point now, sharpened to a razor edge by mistrust and hatred on both sides, of opposing peoples and cultures they neither know or understand.
Named so after the famous Nietzsche quote, “Long Into The Abyss” brought us to the frontline of a battle that for both sides has been coming ever since the first kids landed on the earth’s surface. Lexa has surrounded the Ark camp with her army and prepares to decimate the people there should they not leave within the 24 hours they have been given. But life within the camp is torn: between Abby and Jaha as leaders, and the people who want to live versus those who wish to stay and rescue their children from the mountain.
Meanwhile at the drop ship, another battle of life and death is taking place as Octavia, Bellamy and Clarke strive desperately to save Lincoln from his reaper fate. Yet even as the serum rages through his system as he detoxes, he lays perilously close to death, and will be lost unless between them they can find a way to bring him back from the brink. Because he is, as Clarke soon realises, their only hope of having anything to bargain with the Grounders; after all, she may just have exactly what they need to save any of their people who have been made into reapers by Cage under the mountain. Will it be enough to stop the siege?
Speaking of which, things under the mountain are progressing very quickly. Jasper, Monty & Co. finally step up their plan to find answers about what’s really happening to their people, while elsewhere, Tsing prepares to undertake an insidious human trial, in order to determine just how much of the 47 they’re going to physically need in order to make themselves strong enough to live on the outside.
More than one person will be pushed to find out just how far they are willing to go to survive another day on this embattled patch of earth, so with that in mind, let’s dive in to this dark trench of TV terror and examine exactly what happened shall we?
THE GOOD DOCTOR
They’re two very conflicting images of humanity, aren’t they.
On one hand you have Dr. Tsing: cold, calculating and scientifically uncompromising. First, it’s as she stands there watching Keenan slowly, brutally succumb to radiation poisoning: taking notes from behind a lens as an innocent child burned to death before her very eyes, before telling her Cage to keep the doors closed and let her die, lest she talk and reveal their experiments. Then, it’s as she stands over Keenan’s scorched body, arguing that for the greater good they should completely harvest the bone marrow – living human tissue – from 47 innocent children who just happen to have a higher capacity for surviving in the wild. It’s a terrifying sample of the true heart of this character, who wields so much deadly power, from a position of healing where she is meant to be preserving life. Not stealing it from one so that another might live. It is a rigid darkness in which she operates, and she is utterly unwilling to expand those perimeters in order to treat every life as worth saving. After all. They are all locked safe at the heart of Mount Weather. No radiation harm can come to them as long as they’re within its walls. So, they’re not exactly on a timeline where they’re going to die right now if they don’t get the cure for their frailty. Instead though, she is driven by a pure, selfish, unadulterated greed to live, and will do so at any cost. Sounds not unlike the kind of people who started the war that ended civilisation as we knew it, in the first place.
On the other hand, you have Clarke, battered and bruised from her own battles and yet now, putting her own life on the line to treat Lincoln. Here he is: once a Grounder, now a Reaper, always –according to some – a threat. But he is also a comrade in arms, as well as the loved one of one of her few close friends. And so Clarke kneels: tends to his wounds even as he snarls with teeth that have now violently tasted the human flesh of one of her own people. Because she believes he can still come back. The same goes when she tells Finn that for all he’s done, he too is saveable, just as Lincoln was. She reaches out and places to one side the darkness of Finn’s terrible actions, and finds the soul buried beneath it. Because she knows that somewhere in there, the man she loved still exists.
A lot of people are baying for Finn’s blood right now, on both sides. In some ways, they may even see Clarke as a traitor for saying that he can be redeemed. But that, here, is beside the point. The question is how is she able to do that. To find the person beneath the crime. In short, it’s because of one simple thing: Clarke sees in the person before her, exactly what Tsing doesn’t. She sees the person. Sees the humanity. Sees a life that is worth saving – even if it is horribly broken and fragile – simply because it is a life. Not because, in that moment, it’s a useful one. Indeed in this, where Tsing embodies every reason humanity doesn’t deserve to live, Clarke embodies every reason it absolutely does.
In this is probably one of the best and most well constructed conflicts within the context of The 100’s greater narrative: that between whether all these people – Grounders, Arkers, the people from Mount Weather: everyone – can live on earth; and whether or not they should even be given the chance to. But regardless of that, what will be interesting to see now is not so much who takes that chance, but how they take it. Who will put aside their differences to stand shoulder to shoulder with a former enemy, in order to defeat a common enemy? Who will redefine their concept of what a human life is worth, in order to save one? Perhaps even that of a foe.
Either way here, you can help but think that if anyone is going to come out and win this war, someone is going to have to change their battle tactics, and change them big time. And as Dante himself said, the legacy of the Mountain is already corrupted by what they’ve already done to stay alive this long. But is that enough of a deterrent to put him off doing what needs to be done in order to achieve his greatest dream of all?
MAN ON FIRE
From the outset, Lincoln has exhibited a phenomenal depth of character, and in many ways he’s been a game changer for the 100 as far as their capacity for survival goes. He was the first one to save them from the acid fog. Helped them defeat or escape Grounders in a variety of pretty hairy situations. He challenged Bellamy, for one, towards some pretty significant character growth, and in turn Bellamy has gone on to do some pretty powerful game changing of his own, much of it for the better. Lincoln too took the significant risk in contacting the Grounders to make that first, ill-fated attempt at peace talks on the bridge. These are but a few examples.
Indeed, he has changed the course of so much, yet the majority of his actions – if not all of them – have centred on him risking or sacrificing himself for someone else. He is a giver, not a taker. This week though, those tables have been turned. Massively. Lincoln is now for all intents and purposes, a Reaper, and given his hardened physical condition I daresay he’d make an even more deadly one at that: it’s all about saving him now. It’s a stark reminder seeing the three of them back together in the Ark, actually. The last time he was held there, Lincoln was perhaps more human than the rest of them put together, while Bellamy was the torturer determined to get results at any cost. Now, Bellamy has Lincoln trussed up exactly like before, only this time it’s to save his life, and with a view to protecting the man his sister loves, from himself. And to think. According to show runner Jason Rothenberg, the 100 kids have only been on the ground for a scant two months. Eight freaking weeks. It’s insane to think of all that’s passed in that time.
Acting wise, all credit to Ricky Whittle in his portrayal of Lincoln this week, because it was formidable from start to finish. I think like a lot of viewers, I’d been lamenting the absence of both the actor and the role onscreen this season, so to see him there – up, close personal and in your face (let’s be real: probably with a view to eating it) – was a treat, even though it was at times pretty hard to watch. It was phenomenally good acting. Well done, sir. You are a credit to your craft.
LOVE IN A TIME OF HORRORS
That said, huge credit likewise has to go to Marie Avgeropoulos for her magnificent portrayal of Octavia. I’ll be honest, I dismissed this character in the very beginning. She seemed so shallow that even if she did experience character growth, I doubted her capacity to make me feel anything about her of any kind of significance. Instead, the woman Octavia has become since that first step onto earth’s soil, is someone that as a fan I now value at the very top of my list. She’s not some little girl with a gun anymore. She is a woman of insurmountable loyalty, guts, bravery and daring; a formidable catalyst for change, and so much of that has to do with the absolute commitment and heart Avgeropoulos has shown in playing her.
More than that, she made me believe with all sincerity that Octavia’s love for Lincoln consists of more than desire or mere affection. It is a deep abiding love she’s made us believe, which meant that every time Octavia has had to take down reaper Lincoln, no matter how deadly he is, you felt the pain of it too as a viewer. Felt her sadness, her helplessness. Either way, I am so glad that she – like so many other actors on The 100 – have not simply just tried to entice my attention as a viewer, with pretty shows of emotion that ultimately mean very little. Instead, she demands it with her consistent and absolute authenticity. This is an Octavia from which it is impossible to look away, and given her new people and new capacity for survival I am really excited to see where the next steps on her journey take her.
It was great this week to see the kids in Mount Weather really come out and flex their cleverness muscles as they began the search in earnest for answers about Clarke, about escaping and about what’s truly happening behind the closed doors inside the mountain. There were moments of light comic relief (nice touch, by the way, props guys with putting Jasper the mastermind in front of the JFK portrait in Dante’s office – a tease of things to come, perhaps?) but all in all it really changes things up now that the kids know their people are in fact still alive out on the ground somewhere.
It’s also an interesting thing to wonder just how much of an ally Dante is going to be to their survival if he knows they are in fact trying to escape. And it was a very open ended statement he made, as he stared into the jar with the flower he’d picked – yet another beautiful living thing, wilting in an environment it was never meant to survive – and walked away from the painting, to who knows what decision.
Either way, there is now an innocent girl lying strapped and face down on a table, forcibly having her very bones harvested. To quote the ever poetic words of Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II, shit just got real.
Is it just me or is anyone else thinking Jaha has yet to get his own memo? Jaha IS out. Abby is the Chancellor. She who has the pin makes the rules, champ. In all honesty this was a somewhat predictable turn of events – that Jaha would not particularly take well playing political second fiddle when push came to shove – but in a lot of ways it surprised me too, given the fact that there’s been a few times where I’d hoped his recent experiences on earth would have informed his actions very differently. I don’t exactly what that would have looked like; I just know that I’d hoped earnestly for the better.
But ultimately his new, jarring relationship with Abby sets up a very intriguing set of possibilities. Think about it. He wants to run. Abby wants to stay in whatever way they can in order to not abandon their people in Mount Weather. It’s a conflict between what is right and what will preserve life: not the easiest choice, to be sure but still. The more we’ve seen the Arkers operate on the ground – that unwillingness to let go of the ways of the past and embrace the change required in order to survive this new world, where they are no longer the proverbial big fish in the pond – the more you have to wonder at times whether they even deserve to live if this is how they are going to act. But ultimately, you have two very different mindsets operating here. Two very differently informed sets of battle ethics. All of which creates a very ripe environment for the very last thing they need or can afford right now: it sews the seed of mutiny.
Mind you, before Clarke turned up with an alternative, Abby’s other choice wasn’t much easier. Of course the parents of the kids still in Mount Weather wouldn’t go anywhere as long as they’re still close enough to their kids, and with hope – faint though it may be – for their survival. And think about the last time you saw someone on this show act out of a feverish fear for the wellbeing of someone they loved; out of terror and going on nothing but scant bits of scavenged information – any they can get their hands on. Think about what madness it drove them to.
Think about Finn.
ACTIONS AND REACTIONS
It’s been an interesting few days of fan engagement over the events of the last couple of weeks, with both sides hotly arguing the appropriateness of not just the massacre Finn enacted, but also in how we the fans – as well as the other characters – should respond to him going forward, especially now that Lexa has demanded his life as the price for a truce. But, to steal the very wise words of a very smart friend: “Art should be controversial and conversational. If you're not talking about it, something is not being done right.”
Granted, no, it's not real and this is television. Every bit of it is staged to make you feel a certain way and get a certain reaction out of you as the audience. Granted also, even in the context of the story, the nature of the massacre was insidious. Old people, young people, but above all, unarmed people, mowed down by a man out of his mind. This in and of itself is a horrifying thought; an image that perhaps hits home closer than ever before with audiences given the fact that en masse gun violence is so prevalent at the moment. Those images of innocent people dying are very true to life in a lot of ways, for many these days: a symptom perhaps of just how broken the world is and will always be.
And in this I greatly appreciate that the writers didn't kind of hold back on the atrocity of what Finn did. He did what he did and he is guilty as sin. There's no way over that fact. No way under it either. Nobody is denying that this character has just committed an atrocity. Nobody is denying that in many ways, Lexa’s demand for him to be given over as the price for the truce, is the right and natural cost. An eye for an eye. Blood for blood.
But that isn't the point here, I don't think. This show makes a point of having characters that have pretty much all done horrible, questionable things. All of them. Remember that time Charlotte got overcome by her demons and slaughtered Wells even though he was completely innocent? Or when Clarke publically accused Murphy of killing her friend, without a single solid scrap of evidence? What about that time Bellamy stole a radio in an act that ended up costing the lives of over 300 people, because he didn't want to get caught over his assassination attempt on Jaha? Or that time he and Raven tortured Lincoln with a mixture of seat belts and live electrical wires despite the fact that – even though he looks like their enemy – he’s clearly not the bad guy after having saved Octavia’s life? Remember that time Abby let her husband be shunted out an airlock? All acts different to each other, but no less awful. And now look at the moral conundrums they’re all facing.
Case in point, Clarke essentially being asked to do to Finn in a lot of ways exactly what Abby did to Jake: the very thing little Griffin has spent all this time judging her mother for. On the other hand, Abby seemed determined for a long time – really, up until this episode – to keep treating Clarke like a kid even though Abby is one of the people responsible for essentially stealing Clarke’s childhood. The pair of them are at perfect moral odds, with neither able to point the finger at the other without some fault in themselves. And in the same way, it seems that it’s these very same faults that may just help rebuild the bridge between them.
And this is symptomatic of what’s happening to the characters across the board. What’s that old saying? No one is righteous. Not even one. So for my part, I do think it's a somewhat ill-informed call to treat Finn as though he has been the only character who has done something horribly wrong. Because he’s not. And the demands for the writers to say off with his head? I mean, I feel like after everything, as an audience we should know better – and do better – than to succumb to a mob mentality. Likewise, it needs to be remembered that the writers aren’t there to spoon feed us as the audience of their show, mouthful after mouthful of exactly what we want.
After all. Who would want a show like that? Predictable. Unsatisfying. Unrealistic. Barely Challenging. Everything that The 100, isn’t.
I know. It may seem strange to you to argue something like this so passionately – like I do every week, because let’s face it: I don’t write short reviews – and to a degree I see where you're coming from. I really do. But passion and well-informed debate are good things. Important things. They stretch our minds and cause us to rethink boundaries that we may not have considered before. They stop us from being passive. They challenge us about what we value, what makes us angry and what perhaps doesn’t make us angry enough.
And when it comes to The 100, if we’re still talking about it – over things that happen in any given episode – then it’s the clearest signal of all that the writers here have absolutely maintained their creative integrity and are doing their jobs very well. In which case to you guys, I say bravo. For not treating your viewers like a pack of spoilt brats by shovelling on lump after lump of what we want, because you think it’ll keep us watching. Rather, for always inspiring your audience to be provoked in the best possible ways. To think. To be aware. To appreciate hard lessons.
Because that’s real fricking life, people. It’s hard work; not often fair; consistently surprising; terribly confusing; yet brimming with potential for great things if you’re willing to work hard, open your mind, and walk a mile in shoes that aren’t your own every now and then.
In which case, as a fan I say this to you as the writers. Do what you’ve done from the beginning. Provoke me. Make me uncomfortable. Don’t compromise. And above all, challenge me to be a better human being. Keep doing exactly what you’re doing. As for us as the audience, let’s be honest. We don’t watch The 100 because it’s safe, or even because it’s sexy. And if you are, kid, you are tuning into the wrong show. Seriously. Try the shopping channel.
No. You watch The 100 because it’s a story that without fail makes your mind and emotions tick and turn and jar. And that stuff matters. After all, who knows. Perhaps the better we learn to excel at the dangerous art of living a good life – however it is we learn, however we are challenged, be it through pop culture or personal experience or a just a TV show about a bunch of people trying to survive a nightmarish predicament and each other – then just maybe we might be a better presence in the world around us. Just a thought.
Like “Contents Under Pressure”, “Murphy’s Law”, those two insane finale instalments at the end of season one, or this season's "Reapercussions", this episode was a game changer for The 100, and not just because it finally brought together the Arkers and the Grounders to have that talk about how the only way they’re going to conquer the mountain is together.
For one, it brought together two characters who I think have the potential to be incredible allies in Clarke and Lexa. Many of the writers as well as the fans have already taken to Lexa’s brilliance, leadership and fierceness, noting on more than one occasion that in her, we have a fan favourite waiting to happen. I genuinely hope that’s the case, because the growth I think these two characters can inspire in each other has the potential to be immense.
They’re also another gripping reminder that these writers really know how to write magnificent heroines. Clarke, Abby, Octavia, Raven, Lexa...women full of depth, courage, strength and heart; women that stand toe to toe (and sometimes on the toes) of their male counterparts, and good lord but it makes for refreshing viewing. Either way, I cannot wait to see what may yet lay ahead for these two leaders as they come to grips with the dawn of this new world.
Script wise, it was a fantastic week for James Thorpe who penned an episode that really played to the strengths of the actors at the heart of any given scene. He reintroduced the witty banner we’ve missed between Jasper and Monty; gave us further insight into the clinical depravity of Dr Tsing; let the animalistic violence in Lincoln really hit home on the characters and the viewers; and most of all, forged and reforged – with excellent dialogue – some key relationships between core characters. It was also a great script for those moments where we really got a deeper look into just how much Finn’s actions are continuing to shatter and scald him from within. All in all it was beautifully wrought, and leads me to hope that Thorpe will return for more eps later in the season.
In regards to the directing, Antonio Negret had a fantastic week behind the camera, particularly in how he staged some really key moments within the episode. The use of that clearing overrun with wildflowers outside the Mount Weather escape hatch, was fantastic and went a huge way to taking those moments to the height of the impact they made. Likewise, kudos for the attention he paid to detail in so many shots. Everything from the flower in the jar, to the JFK painting, to the drill bit descending into flesh, to the sustained shot of Harper’s face as she screamed beneath Tsing’s incisions, all while having to stare into Cage’s cruel face. Negret’s dedication to those pointed particulars made a huge impact in the context of the episode, and he did exceptionally well in keeping up the attention to detail for which The 100 has, amongst other things, become known.
So where to now? Within the mountain, Jasper, Monty and Co. now know that their people are in fact alive. And if that’s the case, then there may yet be hope. That is, depending on how long it takes Tsing and Cage to step up their human testing. On the ground, Finn’s life has been demanded as a price for a much needed truce. But is it still too great a cost for Clarke to bear? All life seems to sit now in the balance.
Question is, upon which side will your favourite fall?
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS...
Having an innocent girl die in a field full of wildflowers while her own people watched on. Shocking, striking, and beautifully shot. A+ for whoever came up with the vision for that moment.
Ahh, Dr. Tsing. There is a special place in hell for you. (And not the awesome, Maybe-A-Winchester-Would-Break-Me-Out-To-Make-A-Deal hell either).
“I’m bringing her in, she’s hurting”? Since when did Cage grow a social or ethical conscience about the well being of any living creature? Is he sick or something?
WHERE IS RAVEN I MISS HER.
Sit your non-chancellor ass down, Thelonius. Seriously. Abby’s inner Beyonce is about THIS CLOSE to sayin’ ERRYTHING YOU OWN IN AN ARK TO THE LEFT.
Indra > the acid fog. Lady is a one woman angry mob.
Abby driving the electrified wand into Lincoln’s chest. WHAT. WOW.
“Oh hey let’s just casually put this set of human teeth in the dirt here at the drop ship just in case anyone forgot the whole barbecue incident that happened that one time.” I see what you did there, props department. Awesome attention to detail.
Makeup – you had a killer week this week. Lexa’s get up in particular was phenomenal.
Deez Mount Wevver crims. <3 #ARRESTTHEMFORTHEYHAZSTOLENMYHEART
Just like I suspected, Mr. Whittle. SMASHED IT. COMPLETELY. Phenomenal work.
That scream will haunt me. EVERY. TIME. WE’RE IN. THAT. MOUNTAIN.
Oh and hey, people being obnoxious online towards the writers about the Finn storyline? It’s your right to disagree with it, and it’s great to argue robustly about it in a positive forum, but come on man.
Life is short. This is a TV show. Celebrate cleverness. Don’t be a douche.