REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 2.11 - "Coup De Grace"
They rake his skin with chemicals and scalding liquids that “purify” him to within an inch of his battered life; shunt medicine loaded guns down his throat and humiliate him as though he were little more than dirt under their feet. All in the name of survival, as they drag his body off to Harvest chamber to begin reaping his blood. Such is the world in which Bellamy not only finds himself – in this week’s episode of The CW’s The 100, entitled ‘Coup De Grace’ – but must also escape from if he is to have any chance of bringing down the Mount Weather defences.
Yet though his beginning is dire, hopes are raised when Maya yet again comes to the rescue of the Sky people, finding Bellamy and assisting him to escape into the halls of Mount Weather, but at a terrible cost. But even as she helps the infiltrator that would bring down the only home she has known her entire life, elsewhere the people she is fighting for – Jasper, Monty and Co. – are facing the greatest peril yet, as Dr. Tsing and Cage’s plans for the 47 are finally revealed for what they are, in a coup that threatens to be the end of them all.
Meanwhile on the Ground, Clarke is finally forced to challenge her mother for leadership of the Sky people, after Abby makes a series of judgement calls that only go to prove how little she understands this new world and the people within it. With a would be Mountain assassin now captured and in their grasp, Clarke knows what must be done in order to make use of him, yet is met at every turn by Abby’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that this is not a world ruled by age, but rather life experience. Only Kane stands between them as a voice of reason, but whose side did he choose? Abby the elected leader he has supported? Or Clarke: the one holding their Alliance together; the one who killed the man she loved in order to seal the truce that saved her people; the daughter Abby shunted down to Earth only a few scant months ago in an almost certain death sentence disguised as a reconnaissance mission?
Well, let’s dive into the episode and find out shall we?
DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE TSING?
Indeed, this truly was the song of angry men – and women – as Jasper finally bit the bullet and confronted Dante about his rapidly disappearing friends. First off, I wasn’t surprised by Jasper’s ‘do something stupid’ mentality to this whole situation. For all his good intentions at times, Jasper is a character that responds to situations of peril where his friends are involved with kneejerk emotional responses that more often than not paint him more as the well intentioned fool at times as opposed to the hero he really wants to be seen as.
And let’s face it: the true brains of the operation are locked up in a cage about to get drilled by the evil doctor. Monty has been the driving catalyst for connecting the Mountain to their people on the ground, and has exhibited both guts and strategic thinking in equal measures. So if Jasper is going to step up to the plate, he’s going to have to do something big and that counts. Go the full Monty (so to speak), or go the frak home.
Dante, it must be said, did surprise me a little with his telling Jasper that he and his friends could go. Because blood properties aside, it’s a big risk to let your former captives out of the prison and back to their people, all in possession of some pretty meaty knowledge as far as the inner workings of Mount Weather go. It’s a risk to be sure, but it’s also a big indicator as to how close to home the conscience bomb has hit for Dante. Suddenly, the blood that has sustained him all this time, has a face, and a voice; empty cages waiting or puncture marks already there.
But the one that weirded me out the most this episode was Tsing, with her ‘you matter so much’ speech to Jasper when he asks in front of his people, why Tsing is doing this to them. Honestly, you can say whatever you like when there is a platoon of armed guards with their guns pointed at your unarmed prey. Tsing could have chosen anything to say. And yet she chose to say how much they mattered, how important they were, with a face like she was almost sad about it. But rather than make you wonder if she had even a sliver of soul to call upon to feel an ounce of regret, instead it made every sorry tone coming out of her mouth a sound smacking of hypocrisy and death. I for one, genuinely hope that the end she meets one day, is as grizzly as the means she’s used to avoid the end. In short, writer’s room (if you’re reading this) A MUTANT GORILLA WITH AN ANGER MANAGEMENT PROBLEM IS TOO GOOD FOR DIS WITCH. And don’t even get me started on how much I’m looking forward to the day that they make Cage acutely aware of just how ironic his name can be.
TUG OF WAR
The title of this episode – “Coup De Grace” – was perfectly chosen, because indeed this was a week of mercy kills, if not necessarily in all the ways we expected. For a long time, despite their differences, there has been a kind of bleak parallel between the Mountain and Sky people; a persistent tug of war between the values of old worlds and the realities of the new one. It was a tension in both camps always bound to break and cause the power to fall on the stronger side, which means it could be argued that the strongest of both sides will now meet in battle.
On one hand, you have Cage and Dante. Cage was at unbackable odds from the get go to have a crack at his father’s crown, so to speak, and with Tsing on his side providing all the evidence he needs to ‘validate’ what he’s planning for Jasper, Monty and their friends, he was only ever going to need a little push to find the motivation he needed to make his move.
Much as I hate to admit it, he had a point when he pointed out the hypocrisy of his father’s outrage over their plans for the captured sky people; harvesting the blood of outsiders is how their people have survived for generations. So, what, now Dante suddenly has a problem with it after it’s kept him alive all this time? That said, though, the end does not – and will never – justify the means here. What Cage and Tsing are doing is evil, just as it’s always been evil. What Cage and Tsing are doing is ethically bankrupt, just as it has always been ethically bankrupt. Therein lies the epicentre of the power shift of Mount Weather. Because no longer are Cage and his kind happy to simply survive in the Mountain, or for that matter, outside it. Their motivation now is bigger and more absolute than that: driving their cause now is a lust for power and domination over a world full of people they see as little more than lambs for their slaughter and sustainment. And that attitude is the exact difference between Cage and Dante. Where Dante would have let his conscience get the better of him and let the Sky people go, Cage will now shunt them all into cages and bleed them dry until there is no more blood to pass round at the dinner table. Yet both are as bad as each other, because of the simple fact that Grounders are human beings too. There is an equal condemnation; we have simply now transitioned into the rule of Cage, who feels none of the weight of that condemnation.
On the ground below, you have Abby – mother and the current Chancellor; and Clarke – daughter and the current leader of the Sky people as she represents them for their lives as part of the Alliance. In one, you have a stubborn refusal to let die the useless framework and attitudes of an old world that no longer exists. In the other, you have a woman forced out of that old world, thrust into adulthood by the resulting pain, battle and bloodshed; and as such, is now in possession of the tools required to understand and navigate the new world with any hope of survival.
For the record, it’s not about who is a better human being – that’s essential to note, here. Both of these women have done awful things at one time or another in the name of their causes. Neither are completely good, or for that matter, bad. Both are infinitely flawed. Instead, this tussle for leadership between Abby and Clarke comes down to two things: reality; and being both humble and strong enough to lead – or be led – by the one who has what it takes to survive in this new and brutal wilderness, whoever that is.
I was getting pretty sick of Abby’s stock standard reaction to Clarke and Lexa, to be honest. Even her treatment of Raven, who it must be said only gave support to the argument regarding the truly adult lives their group now leads. Speaking of which, when was the last time any of the so-called adults said “Don’t pull his mask off, I can build you an airlock – just give me twenty minutes”? When was the last time an adult was that strategically useful, save the times that Abby has patched up the wounded in her capacity as a doctor? Can you think of any?
And yet. Abby kept calling or referring to them as children. I went from being bemused that she couldn’t see how it truly was, with her own eyes, to being downright pissed every time she inferred that any of these women were still somehow kids, and that she – a person with virtually no knowledge of life on the ground – had the audacity to say that she still knows best. Why, lady? Because you’re ‘mom’? Are you serious?
Because let’s be real. They are not still kids. And FYI, Abby: once you’ve shoved your kid out an airlock in a rust bucket drop ship just to make sure earth won’t kill you, then you are officially disqualified from playing the mother card. We are past that point of no return, lady. Instead, this is a world in which for the most part, age is an obsolete detail that plays no part in determining what a person should expect of another, or what they should expect from themselves. Remember Lincoln last week? His father made him slaughter an injured man, purely because he was an outsider, when he was eight years old. Eight, and his first kill is already lying dead at his feet. It’s a reminder that serves us now watching as much as it does the characters, that this is a reality founded in survival not diplomacy.
Either way, seeing Clarke stand toe to toe – as a true and worthy leadership contender – against her mother was one of the best and most defining moments of Clarke’s journey so far. Because while week after week she grows in knowledge about her own strength and capabilities, this was the confrontation needed more than anything else to break down that last wall between being seen as a child and being recognised as an adult by default of life experience. And I don’t know about you but I literally punched the air in co-sign triumph the moment Clarke stepped up. Because she was fricking brilliant.
Can we all please stop and talk about what an insane badass Bellamy Blake is being right now? Because I’m telling you. He is as far removed as the east is from the west, from that two-chicks-in-the-bed, irresponsible, consequences-be-damned asshat from those early days in Season One. In his place is a fighter who someone like Abby could learn SO much from in the way he works with Clarke. He not only sees her leadership for the superior one that it is, but he trusts her enough to put his life on the line for a judgement call and plan that she has made. In a strange way, he is her second, and between them is a resulting equilibrium that is balanced on something so much vaster than romantic or sexual chemistry. In this situation right now, those things could literally not be more superfluous. Instead, their relationship is founded in a fierce equality of spirit and determination to be brave enough to see this plan through to the end, for the lifesaving good of others, even if it comes at the cost of their own wellbeing or pride.
So whenever it may be that these two get together – and you’d have to think they will at some point – you can guaran-damn-tee their relationship will not be founded in incompleteness – the idea that without one, the other will not be whole. Instead, just as they are in battle, they will come to that place as equals: infinitely clear on the fact that they are both broken, both human, both complete, both enough. So you want to know why I’m excited for them to get together one day? That’s why. Give me relationship founded in trust, equality, wholeness and a willingness to get your hands dirty if that’s what it takes. Give me what they look like having. Because pretty, shallow affections have no place in this world other than to blind you. They are what get you killed. They are what gets burned away, until the underside of human relationship is revealed for what it truly is.
I think too, you got a really good look into the heart of this Bellamy in two particular areas this week. The first is in his interaction with Maya, and the depth of trust he showed back to her in a way that lets her know her contribution means so much to infinitely more than him, and indeed to Jasper as a way of showing her loyalty to him. There was a kindness and earnest acknowledgement of a friend behind enemy lines in the interaction between these two, and for my part, I also think it showcased the game-changing guts the once meek little Maya is becoming known for. In the beginning, I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t that sure of Maya. Because really. Think of it from her perspective. She is actively making choices to sabotage the only life she’s ever known – a society of polite people, safety (and cake – never forget the cake) who are basically her family – in order to save a bunch of outsiders who she knows are destined for a fate that will keep her alive but kill them. Hell, how fast do you think that Grounder prisoner next to Bellamy in the cages, would have slaughtered Maya without thinking twice, just for being what she is, let alone whether or not she’s responsible for hurting them? Maya would be dead ten times over. Yet still, every week she is taking risk and walking into the lion’s den to save Jasper and his people. Every week. Girl’s got guts and is rapidly becoming an MVP in my book.
In regards to Bellamy though, the other area of the story that really showed the deep change in his character was the moment that he realised the mountain was as full of innocent victims as it was monsters, causing him to ask Clarke to do what she can to find a way to spare the innocents as much as she can. It was heartbreaking the moment you realised that the little kid he spoke to in the hallway was the child of the man he just choked to death in the harvest room. Also appreciated the bleak poetry there of their surname being Lovejoy. A brutal irony if ever there was one. Either way, you realised that that was the difference between Bellamy and someone like Cage. Bellamy values the survival of life – no matter who it belongs to – as a priority. Cage values it only so far as it saves himself. And therein lies the factor that – for all the guns, bombs, spears and arrows about to fly – may just win the coming war.
Even a recent fan of The 100 will tell you that this show that never shirks from the hard scene. It has no qualms in getting up in your face; getting brutal and ripping at your every TV sense like it’s nobody’s business. Because that’s what it does. What it is. It steals your opportunity to get lazy and complacent with what you’re watching. At its core, The 100 is a story told as though every week there was the chance the episode airing could be the last one. And so it is that week in week out, it makes promises and delivers, doing so with a blistering enthusiasm that straight up makes you glad to be a viewer, let alone a fan.
“Coup De Grace” was a thumping example of that attitude, summing up all that is right, ingenious and vastly important about this show in the context of a greater TV climate that often relies on violence simply to shock; sex simply to entice; and fear simply to grip. Instead, The 100 uses those elements as they should be used: sharply, with intent and clever purpose; implemented as the right catalysts at the right time to add the right kind of guts, grit and heart to the wider narrative.
With all that in mind then, it goes without saying that Charlie Craig’s script this week was an absolute killer. The guy has a whomping talent for kicking the given story up a notch: not easy to do when that story is already thundering along at a cracking pace like this one is. Of particular note were the scenes between Clarke and Abby, as Clarke finally and officially took charge of the Ark people in their alliance with the Grounders, showing every ounce of the steel spined leadership that audiences have also embraced in Lexa. Craig’s script was likewise incredibly strong in the tragic poetry department this week, as he tied together with intricate heartache some of the smaller details that often get forgotten in the midst of action shows: case in point, discovering that the little boy he speaks to in the hallway is the son of the guard he has just killed. It was a simple but pointed reminder that every death has a consequence somewhere for someone, and that they all matter, even if that death doesn’t directly affect the characters we know, and especially the ones we love. I loved the way Craig used that tactic this week, and it really makes me hope that come season three, this guy will without question be back in the writer’s room.
Speaking of triumphant returns, it was likewise great to see P.J. Pesce back in the director’s chair, coming back for his first episode since "Many Happy Returns" this season, and on the back of the game-changing “Murphy’s Law” in Season One. Pesce wasted no time in shattering viewer comfort with that extraordinary (and extraordinarily shot) opening sequence detailing the purification process Bellamy had to endure before being sent to the Harvest room under the mountain. In two seasons, it was arguably the most brutal opening The 100 has ever been brave enough to bring to TV to date. He staged and captured that brilliantly, along with the visions of life both inside Mount Weather, and down on the ground: the latter of which was hugely important, because in many ways the stories at times were very bleak but telling reflections of each other, particularly in regards to the respective power shifts that took place between Cage and Dante, and Clarke and Abby. It was essential to the story that those two elements dovetailed into each other in this episode in order for it to hit its mark, and technically speaking, I think Pesce nailed it.
As it stands though, the hour hand seems now to stand perilously close to midnight on the unhung Doomsday clock of this new and bloody earth, as the new powers that be within Mount Weather seek to unleash a hellish offensive that my yet wipe out the new insurgent alliance bubbling up like acid at their booted feet. All the while under their nose, Bellamy still waits hidden inside their stronghold, but can he finish the mission he was tasked with without killing everyone – the innocent along with the guilty – in the fight to save his friends?
Who knows, but that it seems it will all come down to something the Alliance has, and the mountain ultimately do not. On the ground, a blazing, unquenchable heart of war is burning: the kind that beats in not one but two of the deadliest, bravest and most extraordinary leaders that Mount Weather – for all their guns; beige pleasantries; weak blood; and hidden politics – has ever encountered. Indeed, between them and the earth stand a legion of fighters; a brilliant, battle-seasoned Commander, and a woman who fell to earth a prisoner but rose a warrior. And they are ready to rumble.
Either way kids, buckle up. A hard rain’s about to fall.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
Lexaless this week. SADFACE.
What Raven can do in twenty minutes makes you wonder what she could do in a year given the right resources. Literally. She is the Hannibal Smith of post-apocalyptic America.
Octavia is going from strength to strength to strength lately. How she walks, talks, operates…she always had the spirit but seeing her in flight using it is magnificent. More please.
Also, someone give makeup and costuming a pay rise stat.
We didn’t see them this week, but how many butterflies and three headed, fanged lop eared bunny rabbits do we think Jaha has stopped to cuddle on his journey to the City of Light? Discuss.
Does Jaha think he IS a three headed, fanged lop eared bunny rabbit? Discuss, but over vodka – it will make even more sense, then.
Now taking guesses as to where the City of Light is. I vote Hawaii.
Why am I missing Murphy suddenly? I DON’T WANT TO MISS MURPHY THIS IS APPALLING WHO IS RESPONSIBLE.
Also, roll call department at Camp Jaha – you know a chunk of your people are now missing, right?.…..RIGHT?