REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 2.15 - "Blood Must Have Blood - Part 1"
In the walls. Around corners and in shadows, wanting the vast concrete heart of the Mountain to absorb them like water into earth; hoping that the people within it that are sympathetic to their plight, are able to keep them safe. Such is the fraught, tenuous hold on safety to which the 44 are clinging as they wait for Clarke and Lexa to finally break down the doors with the Grounder army. But despite the acid fog being destroyed, Cage – a man with no qualms about shedding blood at the mere hint of threat – is not to be outdone, in this week’s killer first half of the two part season finale – entitled “Blood Must Have Blood: Part 1” – of The CW’s apocalyptic powerhouse, The 100.
When an initial attempt to unearth the location of the 44 proves fruitless, Cage sends his soldiers into every home in the Mountain in search of the Sky people: an action that triggers some devastating results for both the fugitives and their supporters, as the window for escape – and hope – begins to close much faster than anticipated. But despite the attacks, Bellamy continues in his quest to save not only his own people but also the Grounder captives still locked in the harvest chamber. He knows that without this army of blood-farmed former enemies, he will have no hope, and so it is that he races against the clock to get them to the necessary checkpoints: not only in time for Clarke and Lexa to storm the facility but – perhaps more importantly – before Cage and his men find them first.
Outside, a formidable force stands ready to blow out the last remaining defence of the Mountain, as Clarke and Lexa stand marshalled with their troops in preparation for attack: all under the ever more nervous eye of Cage and his men. But little do they know it is only a distraction. Secretly, the commander and the leader of the Sky people have sent three other parties out to attack from other points. Of all the ones that matter, two will be key: Octavia and Indra, looking to sneak in the back via the Reaper tunnels; and Raven and Wick, who are tasked with the formidable challenge of taking out the power to Mount Weather, via the turbines in the great dam wall.
And all the while, an old man from a rapidly fading past sits in silence. Alone. Captive. Waiting.
Victory, it seems, is close. But then it so often does shortly before it is snatched away. Indeed, in a war where it seems all sides had put their cards finally on the table, an enemy from within is making a plan of their own. In light – or perhaps the great shadow – of a twist that none of us saw coming, let’s dive in and take a look at the episode shall we?
I don’t know what I expected in those first dark moments, to be honest. What I thought might happen when Cage decided he wanted to actively flush out the 44 from their hiding places. We knew that it would be awful; that was a given, because this is The 100 and nothing of consequence happens in it without some kind of brutal cost. I did expect that Cage would start sending soldiers door to door – it seemed like a natural progression of things – but I guess in my mind for ages I’ve had this pervading thought that for all the senior politics, in reality the general community inside the Mountain was actually a pretty small one. Everybody would know everybody. Everybody had grown up with everybody. Think about it. It’s been close quarters for generations. The people of Mount Weather are basically a big family.
On top of that fact, this was the first episode where we really came face to face with that family (excepting Maya of course) and their courage. A teacher. A middle class husband and wife. A father. We even started to learn their names. How brutal then that in the same episode, within minutes, members of this tight knight community are being shot point blank in the head for hiding children in their walls, by people they have known their entire lives. For me, that idea sends more than a shiver down my spine. It turns my guts to tar. Because the deadly scenario of murder in a tight knit community is too fricking close to home these days. Too similar to what I see every day when I switch on my TV and see the news. Who knows? Maybe these characters aren’t so different from humanity today; a fact all the more terrifying because we know deep down it’s true.
But then herein lies a deep, core strength of this show. It hits us with that stuff because the writers know we as a contemporary audience need to hear it. They know we should be looking at ourselves in light of our mistakes; that for anything to change for the better and for good, we need – to quote the classic line – to start with the man in the mirror. Otherwise the generations ahead of us will be no different.
Either way, that whole scene with the guards and the husband and wife being executed – with Cage all the while on the loudspeaker accusing the Grounders of being savages and the 44 of being murderers. I mean seriously: the fricking nerve of the bastard – was a vastly clear indication of the fact that this episode was going to be as dark as it was relentless. People weren’t just going to die, you realised. They were going to die badly.
Hunted – as much for revenge as slaughter, now – by Cage and his men, time has rapidly run out for the 44 to stay in their respective hiding places: something we kind of always knew was going to happen even despite the assistance of the residents. Because while Bellamy has been a huge help to them too, ultimately this is Cage’s mountain. He knows it inside out. These are the corridors of his life the 44 are traversing. And ultimately – unless you have some kind of knowledge or weapon that will change the tide in your favour absolutely without fail – the enemy will always have the distinct advantage on his home soil.
But perhaps what Cage didn’t count on was the people in the Mountain having the one thing he lacks above all else: humanity. Indeed for as much power as Cage has had at his disposal to date, humanity is the one thing that keeps the favour tipping ever back to his enemy. It’s caused more than one person to put their lives on the line, often standing between themselves and someone they used to call a foe. And if there’s one thing we’ve been reminded of in this show it’s that while desperation and the desire to survive are formidable motivations for characters to act, more often than not it’s been love of one kind or another that has driven them to the edge of any number of terrors: all in the name of protecting the people they care about from a horrific fate. I look not just at Clarke killing Finn here, either. Remember that it was Finn who took Raven’s place in the space suit to spare her being floated all those months ago on the Ark. Then there’s characters like Lincoln, who has endured incredible and often extraordinarily cruel backlash from his own people, all for loving someone different to him and standing up against the system for what he knew what was right. He had every reason in the world to become consumed with bitterness, and yet in all things he has come back to the table with grace, honour and humility. Think back even to Kane all those weeks ago, braving that blistering, deadly heat in the malfunctioning Ark when the drop ship was stolen, all to go back and save Abby. This is love. Not romance, not attraction but real, gritty, battle seasoned love between human beings who have been brave enough to trust the people around them with a portion of their heart.
And it’s that selfless love that deeply drove home the cost that Maya in particular has paid so far, in her journey to protect her friends from the injustice that awaits them in Cage’s grasp. We’ve heard more than one mention of her mother’s extraordinary heart – and how they are so alike – that by the time we met her father, you really came to understand just what made this girl so incredibly special. She herself has a heart the size of a star, and her selflessness and bravery on more than occasion have been deadest game changers: not just for Jasper, Bellamy or Monty, but for the efforts of Clarke and Lexa’s attack as a whole. Without Maya having taken her life in her courageous, compassionate hands more than once – against her own people and home, no less – there would be no hope for rescue. No hope for survival. She is the girl with the voice of a mouse, and the heart of a lion. She is the antithesis of Cage; she embodies everything about humanity that is worth fighting for, not to mention dying for.
So believed her beloved father, who also went in to fight for the Sky captives, only he paid with his life. It was an honourable death, but for Maya – as is to be expected – a crushing one. But if there is one thing that has perpetually kept shocking me about this girl, it’s that she just keeps going. Just keeps pressing on, quietly but with a courage that could move mountains. The question is, will it be enough to help move this one before it’s too late?
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Since last week’s events, where Raven and Wick finally gave in to their feelings for each other, some have accused Raven of being not so much heartless, but hard hearted for her rebuff of him so soon after they’d slept together. Others declared it was too soon for her to feel anything; that it was therefore a meaningless thing that had passed between her and Wick. Just a pick me up. Nothing more, nothing less. What I loved about this episode was that it blew both of those assumptions out of the water completely. What I loved about their interaction in this episode – as they raced against the clock to bring down the Mountain’s power supply, and cause a minute long disengagement in the door that Clarke and Lexa are trying to enter – was that it made you realise that it’s not just shallow but an insult to assume that what they ultimately share is just a casual thing. Because while their romantic feelings might be new and untested waters, their friendship already runs deep: with understanding and affection for the person they each become around the other, even if they (and by ‘they’ I mean Raven) won’t necessarily admit it.
The truth of the matter is that the writers did something hugely important here in this episode with these two characters, and it’s symptomatic of an attitude that reaches across the entire story board. So many shows these days treat the romantic relationships between their characters as though that is the only place the relationship has any depth: the romance. And really if you thought about it for long enough, eight times out of ten you’d have to question whether – if they weren’t romantically involved – whether those characters would even have it in them to simply be friends. And so sadly what you end up with is this candy jar full of sweet little trysts that have no real taste or value, other than that one, tiny but acute sweet fix.
Not so with The 100, and Raven and Wick are a prime example of this. Their chemistry is off the charts; their attraction is undeniable; and the romance of them is palpable. But these are merely the trimmings of what is in fact a veritable banquet of deeper and far more beautiful things. Things like loyalty. Like trust and belief in what you know of the other person’s heart. Things worth not giving up for. Worth the fight to endure.
Aside from the always satisfying banter these two share, nothing beat that moment when he tried to finish her sentence, thinking that she was going to ask him to leave her and save himself, so he said he would do no such thing. In fact, she was asking him not to leave her alone. And that tiny moment where he pulled her up closer to his chest – even as the guns of the Mountain Men trained on them for capture – was so beautiful. It meant everything and made me desperately hope that these two characters have a future of some kind to be explored in Season 3.
DARKNESS RUNS DEEP
Two people I can’t say the same for though are Dante and Cage. Cage is out and out warped and twisted. That much we know. And for a while there it seemed like he was more of an aberration than a continuation of Dante Wallace’s desired legacy. When Dante ultimately sided with Jasper and the other Sky captives to set them free, I felt so pleasantly surprised. As though yet again the writers were content to again say to us as viewers ‘Oh was this your expectation? Let me just tip that suck on its head for you’. He’s the figure that in all other contexts, we would have spotted as bad’ had it confirmed that he was bad; wondered if it was possible for him to be that bad, all the time; and then finally had it confirmed that yes. He is awful.
The writers though took the whole scenic route in, rest stops and all, for that same journey with Dante though. He really had me believing that the elder Wallace had seen the light, and would do the right thing, even perhaps if it came to giving up his own life. I really had fallen for that. And then came that one word at the end of his first emotionally charged exchange with Cage.
Little did we know what that pause would ultimately mean. Little did we realise just how much the desire to transition out to the ground was still firmly planted in Dante’s heart. But so it was. Dante of course it was revealed was the one who suggested Cage make the secret pact with Lexa to save the Grounders in return for abandoning the Sky people to the machinations of the Mountain, and you can only imagine how that will go down if he comes face to face with Clarke every again.
Now, strangely Dante seems to have a better grasp than anybody of who Clarke truly is and what she’s capable of as a leader. It’s why he is so emphatic about her to Cage; about reminding Cage that the true drive for the attack came from her, not Lexa. And as long as she exists, this will never be over. And there was that moment: that awkward tenuous moment where – as Dante explained this fact to his son – you realised that Cage was still far too immature to understand that Clarke was not just his foe in this war. Nor was she conquered. Nor is she his equal. Instead, I think Wallace knows that Clarke is a vastly superior leader to his power-hungry son; and knows that in her lies a strength beyond reckoning. The biggest threat they have ever faced. And he very astutely understands that the wisest opponent to her would recognise and take that strength into consideration, even if it should seem like Clarke had nothing but her wits and her bare hands at her disposal to fight.
But the question is now, is Cage immediately back to his over confident self? Does he think his father’s warnings have no relevance left now that Lexa has abandoned Clarke entirely? If so, then regardless of how dire the situation my yet appear at the end of this episode, I still think somehow Cage will be in for a rude shock.
I live tweeted a bit of this when I watched it, and one of the things I said this episode felt like was being cut apart, sewn back together, cut and then cut again, until all you’re left with is a bunch of frayed seams. Now, granted that probably sounds a bit over the top. But to be honest, these characters are people I’ve spent a lot of time with over the last year and a bit, and the emotional investment I one day discovered I’d made in their stories, turned out to be huge. So in case you hadn't noticed yet, these people...they mean a lot to me. So do their journeys.
Case in point of that for me this season has been in the story of Octavia: in particular her becoming a Grounder warrior and Indra’s second. Having Octavia turn Grounder was a fricking masterstroke. It’s made her a character that isn’t just engaging to watch. It’s made her a character that makes me so proud to be a fan of show that champions a woman’s strength to contend in the world. As one who can stand toe to toe with a man and be considered his equal in battle, whether as a foe or a friend. But more than that, I’ve so loved how amidst all of that, they never compromised her womanliness. Not her heart, or her ability to love or her capacity for compassion.
So it truly broke my heart this week to see Indra and Lexa break ties, over Octavia’s unwillingness to abandon her brother to death in the Mountain, and follow Indra when Lexa sounds the retreat. It broke my heart because it wasn’t just a backwards step for Octavia’s growth, either. Indra really did start to open up and become a better person because of Octavia’s example. So what now? Will she go back to what she was? Go back to being anger and consumed with hate? I hope not. I hope even if Lexa doesn’t ever return, that somewhere in the future these two characters find a way to reunite. Because it still feels like there is just too much of their story still to tell.
THE STAGE OF WAR
In a strange way, Lexa is almost like one of those old school, world famous stage actors. The kind that ruled the visual storytelling world long before television and film.
Seriously. Close your eyes. See it.
Imagine that the entire combined army of Sky people and Grounders is the audience in an auditorium seething with conflict; one where every night is opening night and the fear of abject failure is always at its realest. And so the audience waits in baited anticipation. The air rumbles with voices, hopes, cynicism. Expectation.
And then finally the curtains of battle are drawn. Silence falls. And she appears: a gripping presence that seems even to command the oxygen in the room. Alone, she singularly owns the space. She is resplendent in her full, fierce dark make up and battle scarred armour. Her presence billows with lines and emotions that she has practiced over and over again, day and night until her bones could practically recite them. Her every stride is purposeful, confident and assured. Yet despite this public display of authority, privately, in herself she is utterly aware that she has a set role to play: one that predetermines and informs every tiny move she makes. A true commander does ‘this’. A true commander would never do ‘that’. The role governs everything. So breaking out of that role? Revealing her true self, even for an instant? Not an option. She knows her true self is not who the audience came here to see. They did not pay to see a vulnerable, grieving widow shout ‘victory or death’ on a hill.
But like all productions, at some point the world goes home and the leading lady is left on her own – alone now, perhaps, feeling the guilt of what she’s done burn and prickle in her gut – to pick apart her performance. In Lexa’s case, to consider how vastly separated the character of ‘Commander’ is from the grieving partner still mourning the love of her life. But private pain does not change fact. She had people on all sides to consider, she will tell herself. To lead. To save. More than that is the vast awareness in life she cannot please or appease everyone. She cannot satisfy every pair of eyes that look to her. So she does what she does best. She buries the violent dissatisfaction and anger of those who will be cheated by her performance, and holds on to the idea – leads with it, even – that she played the part she did for the people to whom her role matters most.
And so convincing was the part that Lexa played in all this that I don’t believe Clarke would have seen her eleventh hour act of treachery coming at all. Not after everything that has passed between them. Not after all the ways Clarke has come to the table to represent her people with integrity and honour, with humility and her heart in her hands: especially after killing Finn. Indeed from Clarke’s perspective, for a long time it must have seemed to her that thread by thread, the veil was fraying between herself and Lexa. And last episode with the kiss, Clarke must have thought she finally found the truth of the Commander’s heart. That underneath all of the armour and fierceness was a human being who’d privately spent what must have felt like a lifetime buried under her grief, loss and love. And to a degree, I don’t think that part was a complete lie. But ultimately – sadly – what ran deeper for Lexa than her capacity to love was her incapacity to trust. She, not Clarke, was weak. And Clarke’s people will now pay the price for that weakness. Because for all her heart eyes and comrades-in-arms talk, Lexa used Clarke: wilfully and deeply. Manipulated her, her people, her resources, and her trust, unto death. And while to a degree I understand that she was simply saving her own kind, there was a dishonour in her actions towards Clarke that ultimately stripped me of any sympathy for her fate going forward.
A WOMAN’S WORTH
Now, that’s not to say that I don’t still value or appreciate Lexa as a character, because I do. Her powerful story has been a plot arc that has made me the most proud to support The 100, both as a reviewer and a fan. It was so bravely done, beautifully captured, and exquisitely acted by Alycia Debnam Carey.
So in that same vein, my newfound indifference to Lexa’s life or death isn’t to say that I’ve stopped valuing the Clarke/Lexa dynamic either. Because again, I do value it. But I don’t have sympathy for Lexa anymore; not the way I used to. If she lives and comes back, then so be it; I’ll always appreciate what she as a character brings to this show. But if she dies, she dies, and the dishonour of her deed here would suggest that it is not an entirely undeserved fate. Because for all her talk about sacrifice and death on a battlefield, conveniently, she has never actively championed the importance of honour. Not really. Not until the warrior is lying dead at her feet, life given and price paid.
In short, Lexa has ultimately embodied the whole question of humanity’s continued existence in this post disaster world: if we give up on the things that make us human – mercy, honour, friendship, love – even if it is in order to survive, does humanity still deserve to live in light of what it will become? For my part, I say no. I don’t think we would deserve life at all. Indeed we’d be no less barbaric than a jungle cat with its teeth ripping the life out of its prey; and infinitely less honourable than the animal. For to kill or be killed is their natural born instinct; the animal – whether prey or predator – is only being what it was created to be. Us, however? We were born equals, with equal worth, and the capability to do right by each other. We were born to learn from the past; to continually do better and be better than those who came before us. Which is why – regardless of the quandary Lexa is in – her excuse that she’s only doing what she needs to do to save her people doesn’t wash at all with me. It’s chicken shit. She was capable of doing better and she knows it.
Either way though, all we have left now is Clarke: standing alone before an impenetrable fortress door. Betrayed, but still violently determined to rescue her people. Which means one very important thing, people: hope is not dead. Because with Clarke Griffin – for all her flaws – comes a deep, raging belief that not a damn thing in the universe is over until it’s over. Not as long as you keep fighting. So personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass how secure Cage now thinks he is. Because as long as this magnificent woman who fell from the Sky is still alive, he will never be secure. As long as Clarke Griffin is still kicking, a predetermined outcome is a luxury Cage Wallace will never have. And good grief but I can’t wait for the moment he learns it.
I’ll be honest. This was a brutal piece of television, delivered with a deeply acute clarity of vision and purpose. It had me by my heartstrings even from the opening moments, and literally did not stop yanking me around until I was sitting up here in bed, watching on gobsmacked as my screen went dark, leaving me to ponder events I could not yet for the life of me wrap my brain around. And I fricking loved it.
By rights, as a viewer – and someone who has watched many hours of this show – I should have known such darkness was coming. But I didn’t. I never imagined that level of brutality. Never imagined it up that close. Never imagined it on The CW. And yet here we are – again – standing on the last precipice of an extraordinarily brave narrative that has seen its characters conquer heights and depths of the human experience, in incredible, vivid detail.
Credit for that must go in part to Omar Madha, who had yet another cracking turn in the director’s chair,. The sheer depth and scope of the vision captured was exquisite in attention to detail. The whole episode was, really. Because yet again, I’m sitting here gobsmacked and overwhelmed with the collective cleverness. The skill. Ginsburg and McIntyre in particular have to be vastly commended for the guttural brilliance of this script; in particular for the way it delivered so much unexpected character progression. They proved that even this late in the game, everything can still change, and what you thought you knew, you never knew at all: doing it all in a way that stripped the audience utterly and yet again of any laziness it might have had after fourteen chapters of the story. It was incredible, and has now paved the way for a finale that has every indication of being an absolute blinder.
On top of that, you had some of the absolute best acting of the season to date, across the board. Everybody stood up to be counted this week, although notably it's hard to go past the amazing work of Debnam Carey and Taylor in their respective roles as Lexa and Clarke.
As for the fall out? Well. This finale is a two part deal. There’s still so much yet to see, yet to unravel. Right now, we are only at intermission, and now we simply await the final dimming of lights; the last breath before the plunge into the final gripping instalment, of this extraordinary tale of life, survival and the cost of being human.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
That whole war chant scene, though. WHAT.
Loving the new direction of costuming for Clarke now too. Such a step up.
Also think I've found my new thing to start yelling at live sporting events.
Somewhere there's a mutant gorilla short of a chew toy. I VOLUNTEER EMERSON, PLS.
Who was the man in the tunnel that caused Indra so much sadness to find? I feel like there's a story we either haven't heard yet or somewhere along the way I've missed.
What of Lincoln, dragged back to camp with the Grounders? You can't help but think that he is going to find some way back for Octavia.
Still reeling from Lexa. Way to blow holes in a ship, lady.
As for now though, if you’ll excuse me, I have a final chapter to consume…