REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 3.01 - "Wanheda: Part 1"
I bear it so they don't have to.
One can only imagine how those words have haunted Clarke Griffin. In some ways it seems like only yesterday that this extraordinary girl was sent to ground with ninety nine other people, as a sacrifice in search of a new life. In reality, a lifetime has passed as if it were no more than the blink of an eye. With the roar of her own chilling legend still ringing in the ears of the world, and innocence long since left in tatters at her feet, Clarke's very name has now become synonymous with carnage and fear amongst the nations, thanks to her choice to save her people no matter the cost, and the massacre in the mountain heart that ensued. Gone is the gilded girl who fell to earth; in her place, a woman of pain and power, courage and darkness, dirt and fire.
Wanheda. The Commander of Death.
Meanwhile, in Clarke's self-imposed absence a brittle peace has come to rest amongst the people at the foot of the mountain. With Cage Wallace dead and the threat of Mount Weather neutralised, it's true that an old and formidable enemy is gone. But with an unprecendented power vacuum now coming into play between the various nations, more than one new foe will be seeking the chance to rise. And in amidst it all, of course, stand the Sky People, who have spent the last three months establishing their place in the fiery crucible of the new world.
And yet, how horrifically little any of them know. The untold threat lying just over the horizon - the artificial intelligence system known as ALIE - has the power to wipe out them all, and her eye is more firmly fixed than ever upon their every move. Moreover, she watches on with an unlikely advocate standing firmly at her side: the politician-turned-partisan, Jaha. But his conversion to the Gospel of ALIE - namely to the idea that her intention is ultimately to save the world, not destroy it - comes much to the chagrin of Murphy: the last surviving member of Jaha's expedition party to the City of Light, and a man on an increasingly unavoidable collision course with a fate far larger than any he could ever have imagined.
So breaks a new and disquieting dawn over the world of The 100, in "Wanheda: Part 1": the first episode of what promises to be a cracking third season for this powerful story, So. With all that in mind, let's take a look at what this episode revealed, shall we?
It was always going to be interesting to see where and when showrunner Jason Rothenberg would see fit to insert us as the audience back into the story. Moreover, to see with whom we would be reunited in those first moments. And for my part I was so glad that that person turned out to be John Murphy.
It's insane to consider what his life has been like, entombed in that bunker for 86 straight days, and I loved how Rothenberg chose to unravel Murphy's mental state in those opening sequences. The sight of him throwing himself around between those concrete walls, like a giant bewildered bird trapped in a cage, in complete despair, surrounded by opulence he never would have known before in his life, yet jailed in the company of the one person he seems to hate more than any other... It was a brilliant opening statement about what kind of madness we can expect in season three. And I think it was hugely important that they used Murphy to make that statement, as opposed to someone like Clarke.
Here's why. For my part, when it comes to Clarke, I never doubt that she will survive whatever battles she will come to face: be it another Mount Weather or any other horrific choice she may yet have to make. Whatever her faults, she is strong - strong willed and strong minded - and is ultimately governed, even in her worst moments, by the desire to do what is right. Which means that even though her journey in the new world might be a brutal one, she still maintains a level of predictability in the sense that you know she will adapt. You know Clarke Griffin will find a way forward, and that purely by virtue of the person she is, she will do what she has to do, in order to achieve the greater good.
Murphy is governed by no such set of rules. He's less attracted to justice than he is to revenge, and his circle of loyalty - at least at this point - really extends no further than himself: the twist being though that you can never be entirely sure what is reasoning is when it comes to enforcing that circle. Is he just trying to save himself by only ever looking out for number one, or is he sabotaging every relationship he has because he does not believe he is actually worthy of any kind of happy ending? Either way, even when he gets to the point of putting that gun under his chin - when he is so desperate just for it all to be over - he can't bring himself to pull the trigger on himself. He is inwardly torn in every direction. And 'what he will do next' is really anyone's guess, at any given point.
So when you look at all of these things together as part of a bigger picture, you begin to realise the essential and powerful part Murphy plays - and will go on to play - in the greater narrative of this story. Mentally and emotionally he is, without question, the best and most pointed barometer for measuring just how insanely warped the world of The 100 is. But tied to that is the fact that he is a character who speaks his mind and calls people out for their behaviour: be they fellow survivors or AI system with the capacity to wipe out the inhabitants of an entire planet. He sees things for what they are in a way that others don't, and he's not afraid to say so. And that makes him a gamechanger: the kind who could tip everything on its head, purely by default of the fact that his allegiance is to nobody. And I for one can't wait to see how that plays out in the conflict to come between ALIE and the people he left behind.
Of all the really brutal events that occured last season, you would be hard pressed - aside from the death of Finn - to go past the horrific final moments of Maya as she died in Jasper's arms, succumbing to the radiation Clarke released to save her people. In Jasper's case, you knew that it was never going to be easy for him to reconcile the fact that Clarke's choice was ultimately unavoidable if they were going to rescue their people, with the fact that one of his own friends killed the girl he loved. We knew that this was one blow Jasper would have a hard time coming back from.
That said, it made it no less shocking to see the shell of a man he has become. Gaunt, off balance, and in a universe of pain. It was horrific, and played out with striking nuance by Devon Bostick, who gave a performance laced with the kind of sadness that cuts close to the bone. He was so unbelievably good, and as a viewer, I'm so looking forward to what he does with this character now. That said, it was strange actually: Jasper the alcoholic, drunk out of his own mind and being dragged into use by his own friends, was not the worst of it for me. It was the bright, violent buzz of him when they were out in the field, moving with all the compusure if a shattered lightbulb swinging from the ceiling, its filaments flaming in the throes of burning out. All jagged edges hovering over a room about to go dark. For me that was the bit that stung.
I gave Jasper a lot of schtick towards the end of last season because truth be told I had stopped finding him useful as a character, especially in comparison to Monty. In my mind, Monty was the guy working to find a solution while Jasper always seemed at the heart of every unhelpful decision. I saw him as immature and blinded; in hindsight, I think rather that my own cynicism got the better of me, and to be sure, it was to my detriment. I missed out somewhat on what a core part of his story was last season, that part being what it is to truly love and be in love another human being, for the first time, I think if I'd have given it more credit, I would have understood more about how it drove him. About the singularly unique kind of desperation it can make well up inside you, causing you act and think in a way you never have before,
And now, in the absence of that love, Jasper has developed a death wish. Who else would walk up to an Ice Nation scout, rip something from their armour, and then grin as the warrior began to pull a knife along their throat in retaliation? Nobody but a man who has lost the will to live, and - as long is he is alive - is willing to do whatever it takes to feel something other than his own pain. What it took for Jasper to get to that point is horrendous to be sure, but as of right now, I find myself really looking forward to seeing if and how he comes back from that brink. His is going to be a great story this season I think, however long it lasts and however it ends, if indeed it does.
To date, the environments displayed in The 100 have made for extraordinary mirrors of the various peoples we have met. In the sky, the Ark - breaking down, rattling, overpopulated, yet still mostly functional til the end - reflected a humanity that knew it was nearing the brink, knew it had to do something different if it was going to survive, but yet still was stubbournly holding on to the traditions of their forebears. They saw their laws and their way of life as the thing that connected them to their ancestors who had once thrived on the planet they were now about to return to. Everything about the Ark was about preserving the of idea of life as it could be, at what they believed was its best.
On the ground, the rough terrain - full of terror, traps and wild beauty - likewise made for an excellent reflection of the Grounders and nations like them. The landscape is that of an Earth reclaiming itself on its own terms; a landscape that has no time for manners, or kindness. A world defined by the ability of its inhabitants to adapt. Those who do, survive. Those who don't, die and will inevitably die badly. Case in point, the people inside the mountain. It's rough, messy and wild. But much like the Ark, life on the Ground is also about preserving life: long enough to do something of meaning with it, The common thread between the two physical settings - the Ark and the Ground - is the pursuit of that goal in an imperfect, unclear, unpredictable environment,
ALIE and her fortress however are the complete opposite. They are defined by their perfection, their ability to measure and be measured down to the most minute detail. ALIE's fortress is starkly immaculate; a place where not a single thing is out of its place. Now for someone like Jaha - who when you think about it has always been on a desperate search for proof that everything he has lived through, including the death of his son, has been for a reason: a smaller part of a greater divine order - you can understand the appeal of what ALIE offers. Clarity, predictability, purpose, framework. In such an environment, everything can be compartmentalised. There is a plan, and as long as that plan is adhered to, there is peace. Chaos does not exist.
But we get a spectacularly dark glance into ALIE's true motives when we meet her again in the home videos that Murphy watched in the bunker. We meet Becca - ALIE's creator - as she meets ALIE. We see the alarm and disquiet in Becca when ALIE tells her that she (ALIE) did not think she needed an avatar, but then decided she did, and who better for that image to be than that of her creator? We hear Murphy echo the words of the people in the video speaking to ALIE: What is your core command? To make life better, she says. By fixing the root problem of the world. Which according to ALIE, is simple.
Too many people.
A number. A number pertaining to an unpredictable, unprogrammable type of creature that en masse are equally capable of helping ALIE to achieve her core command, or to get in the way of it. A number that exceeds her optimum number. At her core ALIE is all data, and it is abundantly clear from the outset that her data causes her to see humanity as a threat in need of management, in the pursuit of a perfect world. She doesn't seek peace at all: she seeks dominance.
And yet, for something that is meant to be so emotionless - because after all, she is just technology - there were moments in this episode with ALIE that I found chilling. The first is when she tells Murphy that she finds it refreshing to meet someone who from the outset knows what she is, after he lashes out and tosses an apple at her avatar in disgust for her and Jaha keeping him imprisoned for so long. There was a smugness to her: the kind that has nothing to do with data, and everything to do with personality. The kind of person who believes that ultimately they are superior to everyone around them. And with her kind of power that is a terrifying belief to contemplate. The second terrifying moment though, for me, was in the home video that Murphy watched, as he watched a man commit suicide because he was the one responsible for letting ALIE out, She is spoken about by the very team that helped to create her as though she is some great digital Kraken, free at last and wrapping her barbed tentacles over the world, squeezing it down. Crushing it into submission,
What kind of foe would have the power to beat an enemy like that?
But in absence of knowing about ALIE, there is only one monster on the lips of every man, woman and child across every nation. And she, it seems, is nowhere to be found. It seems fitting that once again, we meet Clarke falling out of the sky: only this time, it's not as the victim. There was a kind of poetry to it as she dropped out of the tree to attack the panther, eventually putting a knife through its heart before murmuring the last words a grounder warrior would hear. Yu gonplei ste odon, she tells it. Your fight is over.
There was never any doubt that - as much as she hated herself for what she had had to do that night in Mount Weather - Clarke Griffin would find a way to keep herself going and survive. And it likewise would have come as no surprise to her to find that her new found fame for destroying even the most powerful of enemies would have served only to put a bounty on her head. She knows enough of how the world works now to understand that - in order to assert their own dominance - people would come after her. After all, who would dare attack the one who vanquished the Commander of Death.
As far as her attackers, Indra makes it pretty clear when she reveals to Kane that Clarke is basically now being hunted by everyone, for that exact reason. She notes too that the biggest threat is being posed by the Queen of the Ice Nation, and given all of the tangled history that exists there where Lexa is concerned, one can only imagine that the Queen has her sights firmly fixed on taking down both of them, as her two greatest (known) adversaries. I am so excited to see how that area of this season's plot unfolds, if only because it's been so intricately built up over such a long period of time,
As for Clarke, there is no denying that she has undergone a powerful and irrevocable shift within herself: mentally, physically, emotionally and I think spiritually as well. It's hard to imagine even the girl who took the mountain willingly going head to head with a jungle cat, but she did, and how she did it spoke volumes about the person Clarke has become. It seems like there is this acute awareness of life and death to her now, as though life itself were a tangible, physical thing she could hold in her hands: not to mention destroy if she wanted to. She seems to feel with acute clarity the inate magnitude of what it is when a life passes, by her hand. Of what it is when its at her fingertips, lapping at them like water on a shoreline. She feels everything.
Hence why I think she connected with Niylah the way she did: all physical, all feeling, but no talk. She wants to feel the heat and realness of the life of another human tangled with her own, not talk about the life she has taken. As for Niylah, she is a fascinating character to be sure. Knowing that she protected Clarke's identity out of gratitude for Clarke killing the people responsible for taking Niylah's mother, was a solid touch. But there is something about her that I feel like is hovering just out of sight. Something important that I don't know yet but that will impact heavily on how she fits into the story, not to mention Clarke's life. Maybe we'll be able to trust her, maybe we won't. Either way I'm looking forward to finding out.
This was an exceptionally well crafted first episode back for The 100 on many levels, but none more so in the sense that it has laid some brilliant and deeply arresting foundations across the board for both individual characters and the story as a whole. Indeed, this is a writers room with a black belt in the art of anticipation, and this episode showcased that skill to a tee in the way that it set up more than one set of fascinating potential scenarios. With that in mind, it was television with a fire in its gut, to be sure, but it was a script from Jason Rothenberg that also made us as the audience acutely - and importantly - aware that season three is going to be as much about the slow burn as it is about the inferno. A reminder to be patient, because the best stories is worth being patient for.
More than that, it's going to occur on a scale beyond anything we've seen so far. Octavia charging across a field on horseback, beside of her fellow survivors as they hurtle over the landscape in a jeep towards who knows what enemies...I don't think we've seen anything yet, and I'm hugely excited by that. It's the kind of thing that says to an audience "we are making something that is worth the wait". And good lord did it feel like we waited forever for this premiere.
Direction wise, I was thrilled to see Dean White back for this episode, because he is the king of this kind of television. The way he visually brought "Wanheda: Part 1" to life was defined by a dynamic vision that places equal value on sharp, bold action sequences, and the quiet, nuanced moments of human detail. That whole opening sequence with Murphy in the bunker was particularly outstanding.
In short, there was much to get excited about but also much to digest in this season premiere: especially if this is a show and story you have been with from the beginning. And there's a reason for that. There's a reason this show will get you at your heart, every week. No matter how different the landscape or clothes or anything else may seem, in truth this isn't a story about strangers. It's a story about us and the world we are making - for better or worse - around us, through the decisions we make every day. Decisions about how we treat each other. How we value each other. How we value ourselves. In in real life, these are the things that go on to inform the world we create; the point of stories like this is that we learn enough from them to make better decisions. So as we start a new year and a new season, I'd encourage you there - sitting on the other side of this screen, whoever you are, falling in love with this show: be it for the first time or all over again - to keep that in mind. This is a tale to learn from, and the most important lessons are hard work, but they're worth it if they mean you go out into the world to do better.
As for next week, Clarke is the most wanted woman alive and the bounty on her head promises to interest more than one interested party: assuming the man that captured her outside Niylah's cabin doesn't collect first. But she is not alone. All of the characters are going to have to make their way through their own gauntlet of predators awaiting them out there in the wide world. And call me crazy, but I don't think everybody is going make it out the other side.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
OCTAVIA BLAKE ON A HORSE IS BASICALLY EVERYTHING.
Whoever is responsible for the score and soundtrack for this episode deadset deserves a raise. Like right now. So good. Also I want that road trip mix.
"Shut up and drink" is my new pick up line and you can't stop me. #TeamRaven
Because I know that there is inevitably going to be a heap more of time spent in other episodes around Raven's developing story, I didn't focus on her as much in this review. But suffice to say, Lindsay Morgan came back with a bang this week. Her scenes with Paige Turcco were Spot. On.
That Shawn Mendes song was breathtaking. So naturally the writers beat him up. GUYS THIS IS WHY WE CAN'THAVE NICE THINGS.
Okay so here's my plan to defeat ALIE. Show her Kane with his season three silver fox beard. If she doesn't immediately short circuit from the perfection then she is in fact infallible and will never be beaten ever I'm sorry.
Monty. Still a badass.
Oh lord to have been a fly on the wall the day Jason Rothenberg pitched a live panther to network executives.
Also, where would you file 'live panther hire' under on a budget spreadsheet. Asking for a friend.
I would get Clarke's red dreads for myself if they didn't violate my work's uniform policy so emphatically.
Who designs the tattoos for this show? Niylah's is amazing.
I like Bellamy's girl. There I said it.
Bellamy and Lincoln slow motion practice fighting while shirtless. IT WOULD APPEAR THE CW GOT MY LETTER...S.
EMORI IS BACK and I am basically the happiest right now you literally don't even know how much.
Don't lie - I know there are some of you out there having whole internal debates about whether or not ALIE would ever have seized control if the whole world had converted to Macs instead of PCs.
Richard Harmon is going to earn an Emmy like 10 times over this season, isn't he. I can feel it.