REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 3.02 - "Wanheda: Part 2"
For three months, Clarke Griffin has successfully evaded a veritable horde of mercenaries: every one of them eager and salivating at the thought of capturing the woman they call Wanheda: Commander of Death. But no longer. In this week's episode of The 100 - entitled "Wanheda: Part 2", Clarke finally finds herself outfoxed. Now captive to a mysterious bounty hunter who seeks to return her to an unknown enemy, she knows that she is heading to a potentially fatal end at the hands of any one of the many nation leaders who want her power. But she'll be damned if she goes quietly. For the last three months, too, Clarke's family and friends have been in the dark as to where she might have gone; what her life has been like. But with Indra's news that the entire known world is now hunting Clarke - an act that is being undertaken with no small amount of bloody mythology and political ambition behind it - comes a renewed desire from those who care about her to bring her back to where they believe she belongs.
Elsewhere, more than one emotional and unexpected reunion lies in store for those who venture into - and out of - the wilderness beyond. Octavia and Lincoln rescue a desperately wounded Grounder ally and friend on the outskirts of Arkadia, while in the forest, Monty finds himself face to face with someone he was not sure he would ever see again. But he cannot afford to reminisce: together with Bellamy, Kane and a former Ark resident - Pike - they continue their desperate search for Clarke, aided by the intel provided by a bloodied and beaten Niylah who has been busy protecting her part time lover's identity in a most brutal inquisition.
Despite their common goal, though, it is an uneasy alliance between the two lots of Ark survivors: namely, because one side walks - to the disbelief of the other - side by side with a Grounder. But it is a walk that may yet turn into a full blown sprint for cover if the deep, horrific beat of Ice Nation war drums at their backs is anything to go by. That said, it does not stop Bellamy - now a warrior and leader in his own right, able to contend toe to toe even with his leaders - from coming face to face, finally, with the one person he wants to see more than any other.
All the while, on the other side of the known world, Murphy and Emori find themselves contending not just with the threat of ALIE, but also the turncoats in their midst. To Murphy's particular horror, Jaha and his companions appear to be descending even further into the stark, glittering mental oblivion ALIE has assured them will be theirs - a descent that continues even as they make their physical return journey towards the Ark.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the episode. After all. It seems like a perfectly good day to go into the woods....right?
ON EARTH AS IT WAS IN HEAVEN
All the way back in season one - when the writers were busy spearing Jasper and our deepest thought as an audience was 'man, this show about pretty people from space is a bit different isn't it!' - I remember thinking that Monty was one of those characters who could be interesting if you took the time to develop him and maybe flesh out his story a bit, but ultimately in the grand scheme of things was destined to be little more than cannon fodder. He seemed the least likely to have any real impact on the greater story. Not in comparison to characters like Clarke in any case.
But by definition, The 100 is a show firmly rooted in the belief that nothing and no-one are ever ultimately what they seem, and Monty - the quiet boy wonder with a knack for technology and a black belt in sass - has turned out to be a magnificent case in that exact point. His rapid and rather fiery evolution into manhood has been a constant process of peeling back expectations: both ours of him as a character, and his expectations of himself. It was a process that revealed a man of courage and incredible loyalty, but it's a loyalty that is perfectly tempered with intelligence, focus and decisive strategic vision, even under fire. And it's been those latter qualities that have really been honed in on over the course of the last two seasons, particularly in the sense that they've played key parts in driving the story forward at critical plot points.
What made this episode so fantastic then, was that it made for a return of sorts to the Monty that existed on the Ark. A visitation to the life and heart of the innocent kid he was, before he came to earth. I loved that they chose to reveal his mother was alive by having her tear back a Grounder-looking mask, as Pike and his team prepared to ambush who they thought were their enemies but were in fact fellow Ark survivors: namely Kane, Bellamy and Monty amongst others. I loved the collision of life experiences that happened there: namely because it reminds you of the absolute gulf between the old and new lives of everybody who now inhabits the earth. Between the people they are and who they used to be. Teasing the reunion out, too - and untangling the events surrounding Monty's parent's portion of the Ark landing on earth - was cleverly done by the writers, in the sense that it took a long while for Monty's mother to reveal what had happened to his father.
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
What exactly made it clever? Well I think it's because purposely woven into all that good emotion of Monty's reunion with his mother, is also the bitter disquiet and distrust that exists due Indra's presence in the company of so many Ark survivors. Think about it. A Grounder in the midst of a people who have seen any number of their loved ones slaughtered by Grounders. Hearing Pike describe their own experience - of landing in the new world; of children venturing innocently, joyfully out into the broad, white glistening world of ice and snow; of their being the first ones slaughtered, and Monty's father being murdered trying to save them - you can understand without question why Pike's crew are so wary and maybe even a bit angry, about Indra being there in Kane and Bellamy's search party. There, this would-be foe is counted as equal. Worse, she's counted as a friend too,
Now, we of course know Indra to a degree. Her back history is still a bit murky (*cough* still waiting to find out who that guy was that she ran into in the Reaper caves last season, and said she used to know *cough*) but where it counts, she is nothing like the Ice Queen, or the inhabitants of the Ice Nation. Indra is a hard woman to be sure, and one who has shed much blood, but she as of right now, she is an ally and a proven one at that. In her case I can't help but always think of that analogy they use about Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. Not tame, Mr. Tumnus says. But he is good.
But Monty's mother, and Pike and the rest of their company: they know none of this. They don't know her: only a race of people, like her. In an ideal world, they would come to the same conclusion about Indra as we did; as Kane, Bellamy, Monty and Octavia did. But we and they know all too well that this is anything but an ideal world. It is a broken, brutal place down here: full of jagged edges and misconceptions and defined by the ability of its inhabitants to survive, regardless of whether the threat is a just or unjust one. So you can't help but think that Pike in particular and his hatred of the Grounders as a race is going to create havoc when he gets to Arkadia. Because despite there being a peace treaty, the belief of the Ark people that they are safe where they are is a fragile belief at best. In order to feel safe again, their basest, most natural instinct will be to gravitate towards what they know, especially that thing - or person - is strong. As such, someone like Pike would have the power to undercut the fear of his people, simply by speaking directly to the barely buried hate of the Ark people for what the Grounders did to them before Clarke took the Mountain.
But 'seems' is the key word there, isn't it. Because unlike Indra, we don't know Pike at all. If we're being honest, we don't know even Monty's mother. Just as the fall to Earth has irrevocably changed the Ark survivors that we know, one can only imagine how it has changed these guys. On top of that, Monty's mother doesn't know him now either. He might have her son's face, but the man she met in this episode is nothing like the son she said goodbye to all those months ago. You can tell that the moment that Bellamy goes to console him - after Monty has discovered the manner of his father's death. Monty appreciates the gesture but immediately shrugs it off, because he knows he cannot afford to lose focus. Even if it is to grieve the death of his family.
INTO THE LION'S DEN
Another unexpected meeting this week came in the form of Nyko - Lincoln's fellow warrior and ally from his original Grounder days. Badly injured and in desperate need of medical attention beyond that available in Arkadia, Abby finds herself confronted with a scary but necessary choice when it comes to saving Nyko's life. When he arrives he is haemorrhaging badly but it's only after Jackson does a test that we discover Nyko's blood is incredibly rare, As such, he can only be saved with a transfusion using blood from the stores under the mountain: a choice that has more than one sharp edge.
The act of taking Nyko there to be saved has every chance of upsetting the balance between the nations who have agreed to make the Mountain neutral territory under the peace treaty. Abby knows that, and you can tell that she is more torn than she has ever been between her role as Chancellor of the Sky People, and head doctor in Arkadia. Saving his life, well...saves his life, but it also makes a very distinct political statement. And although to a degree I could see where she was coming from, it seems to be a clear thematic thread in this show that if you have to abandon basic human decency in order to survive, your reason better be a good one: otherwise you need to ask yourself if you even deserve to keep on living, let alone keep on going. Thank goodness then that Jackson was there to remind her of that. The thing I love most about Jackson as a character is that he seems to take over as the compass of Abby's conscience and sense of compassion, when her own fails. He's been a constant in that regard, and given that virtually nothing can be counted on as a constant in this story, that makes him a rare and beautiful thing in the grand scheme of things.
On the other hand, as for Nyko I found the concept of him being back in the mountain - given how many of his people have been slaughtered there, yet who inevitably provided the very blood he now needs in order to stay alive - a brilliant plot construct in this episode. It's an extremely fraught and emotional point of inner conflict for him, not to mention Lincoln. And if Abby is serious about turning the mountain into a medical facility, you can be pretty damn sure that it's a conflict that will arise again. After all. Think of the ethical nightmare it is. Not altogether unlike using the scientific discoveries that came out of the horrific experiments conducted by the Nazis in WWII. It would save lives to use these resources, but does that necessarily make using them right? It's the exact opposite side of the coin.
THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY
In the quest for survival, there have been a lot of exquisite and wonderful things that have fallen by the wayside in this new world. As Jasper - in another fit of grief - goes down into the archives and starts smashing up items that have not just historical significance but also great skill and beauty, you begin to wonder if these characters have forgotten what goodness actually looks like. What softness and sweetness and kindness actually feel like.
Which is why it was such a beautiful and moving thing to see Octavia being the one comforting Jasper in his pain, better than anyone else, as he continues to mourn Maya. As she sat down there with him, arm slung softly and affectionately over his shoulder and telling him that it will get better, I couldn't help but again think about what the two of them were like in their early days, all the way back in season one. She was the wild, beautiful girl, grinning with her newfound sense of unbridled freedom; he was the nerdy boy with a sweet but smartarse disposition and a crush on her that was as cute as it was awkward. There was a lightness to both of them: a buoyancy. A hope. Here now, we have the two same people but with the weight of the world bearing down on them, altering the very fabric of who they are, crushing them into new shapes with no small amount of blunt force.
And yet, for all the world has thrown at them, this one, sweet, human connection has survived. The world may have been falling apart overhead, but underneath, this link has held fast. Quietly unbroken; forgotten mostly and yet still ready to be called upon for relief in such a moment as this. I loved that element of this episode. It was a great reminder that no matter how scary or dark or crushing the world gets at times, some things are made to just keep going. To keep fighting when we can't anymore. How, though, you might ask. Well, ask yourself. What could ever run deeper than our need to know that we are not alone in the world? What could ever be stronger than the act of loving and being loved in return?
PICK YOUR POISON
I wrote last week of just how much I am loving the character development of John Murphy, but in truth, that whole plot arc with him, Jaha, ALIE and Emori on the road back to the Mountain is the broader storytelling gift that just keeps on giving. Writers Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre did a magnificent job with this whole portion of the story this week, particularly in how they began to unravel the deeply unsettling intricacies of ALIE's plan to bring peace to the world. What I appreciated about this particular plot arc though was the devastatingly on point metaphor it was for one of the great sore points of our society and life as it is, right now.
The whole City of Light thing - the notion of being utterly transported in your mind to a place where pain doesn't exist and the world is so fantastically removed from any of the darkness you have ever known; a place you can get to just by giving up, then giving in, and swallowing some tiny innocuous little pill - is a brilliant allegory on the subject of mental health and substance abuse: probably one of the best I have ever seen. It is storytelling and writing that cuts to the heart of what addiction is: examines the cruel nature of the beast in the way it feeds on the need of someone in weakness and pain, insisting that it knows the way to escape the misery in their life. A beast of rare violence and cunning, whose words make even the hollowest of promises sound full.
John, Gideon and Emori's companion (whose name I have forgotten - sorry, dude!) as they stand in ALIE's cold, immortal paradise are all hideously disfigured in their own ways, it's true. You can see the appeal to them of the escape she is offering. Jaha has gone through the trauma of losing his son. Emori's companion has major disfigurement. And Gideon presumably is suffering the grotesque and painful side-effects of post-nuclear warfare mutation.
John and Emori though? They understand that to take that pill Jaha has been offering is designed to switch off everything that makes it worth being alive: including the fear, which is necessary at times to drive us towards the people we need to be. Murphy in particular gets that Jaha may as well be offering him a bullet in the brain as opposed to the pill. Both would remove his autonomy, his fire, his will. But only one of them would make him the equivalent of a robot, and a robot - unlike a dead man - can be manipulated to its programmer's content. So thankfully - with his trademark glorious snark still intact - he tells Jaha where to stick it before stealing their boat and escaping. After all. Nobody puts Murphy in a corner.
Just in case you weren't spooked enough by all that, though, consider this: that mindless, painless, immortal roboticism is exactly what ALIE plans for the human race. ALL of it. So you have to ask yourself: is that really a better fate than those who died from radiation poisoning in the Mountain? For my part, I don't think it is at all.
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU WISH FOR
Like most people who follow The 100, I knew that Lexa would be coming back this season, and to be honest I picked it that she would come back fairly soon in the piece. This show never ceases to shock me in tipping my expectations on their head, so in truth Lexa could have returned in any number of ways. But it didn't come as that much of a surprise to me to see that she is still on her throne, despite what she had to do to stay there; still commanding with cutting conviction much the same as she ever did.
Clarke's reaction to meeting Lexa again was always going to be interesting to see. Would it be cold? Would it be bitter but with a hint of understanding? Would they be angry? Well as it turns out, angry didn't cover the half of Clarke's feelings. Spitting and screaming like a tiger trapped in a cage, her rage was vicious and for my part I was relieved to see that. Now Clexa fans, don't get me wrong here. Do I still think your ship has a huge amount of merit? You're damn right I do. These women together are extraordinary and formidable to say the least. But I've read a lot of commentary over the last ten months that have let Lexa get away a bit too much with what she did in betraying Clarke last season.
Seriously, I get the choice Lexa made. One lot of lives taken so that another lot might live. Clarke essentially did no different when she irradiated the Mountain. The difference though between Clarke and Lexa is that there is a weight to human life in Clarke's heart and mind that does not exist in Lexa to anywhere near the same degree. In the same way, there is a capacity for cunning and manipulation that exists in Lexa - a willingness to achieve the end goal at all costs, even if it means giving up your humanity and honour in the process - that just does not exist in Clarke. And in my mind, those distinctions are crucial ones: particularly if you are ever going to look at these two powerful people as something more than lovers, or friends, or comrades.
I mean, ask yourself: if it had have been Lexa in the mountain, killing all those people with the push of a lever, do you think she would have purposely exiled herself in the wilderness as penance for her actions? Would she have made herself feel the personal cost for taking the lives of all those people? After all, when Clarke did those things - when she left - it wasn't because someone made her do it. She left because she understood the deeply human consequence of her actions. Because she understood the fact that how a person chooses to command death says a lot about how they choose to live life. And for all her good qualities, I can't see Lexa having the emotional or ethical integrity to make that same sacrifice if the hand on that lever had have been hers. Which is why, despite their chemistry, I just don't think Lexa is Clarke's equal where it counts: her heart.
IF I SHOULD FALL BEHIND
You knew as soon as she walked away from him in that last scene of season two, that Bellamy was never going to give up on seeing Clarke again. Was never going to let her spend the rest of her life walking the world alone, in solitary penance for an act that he to - by choice - is equally responsible for, Indeed, he is the silent Wanheda in so many ways. Hence why he steals one of the dead Grounder bounty hunter's uniforms and breaks off from his group - where they hide in the forest, out of sight from the passing Ice Nation army who seem to be marching onwards to war. Perhaps not the smartest move he could have made in the hunt for Clarke, but it's an understandable one: especially after he has seen her out in the wild, being dragged along by Roan to whatever fate. Because let's face it: if there is one thing Bellamy Blake is not good at, it's giving up on the people he cares about.
Dante Wallace famously told Clarke in regards to the deaths in the Mountain that he carries the burden so his people don't have to; Clarke in turn said the exact same thing to Bellamy when she left him outside the gates of Arkadia. What she may not realise though, is that he too carries the burden of her burden: not so she doesn't have to, but rather so that she can live the rest of her life knowing she isn't alone in shouldering the consequences of her actions. It's the exact same mentality that would not let her push the lever on her own in the mountain. Bellamy knew every bit as much as she did what the human cost would be of their actions in that moment, and yet he still did it. Why? Because he was unwilling to let his friend, his comrade and someone with whom he has been to hell and back again, spend the rest of their life in the emotional equivalent of solitary confinement in purgatory. And make no mistake: that's the exact place Clarke would have been in, had she taken the whole choice to kill all those people, singularly upon herself. As someone so driven by the desire to act for the good of others, one can only imagine what her life could have been like were that the case.
I will preface this final verdict by saying that should the day ever come where they make a terrible episode of this show, I will be the first one to say so. When you care enough about a story and its characters - when you have had a taste of just how phenomenal and affecting they can be - then it is the most honourable thing you can do to find a respectful way to say why you think things could have been done better.
But, as my homeboy Aragorn once so eloquently said in Return of The King, it is not THIS day.
In truth, I loved this episode so much, for so many different reasons. (If you were playing a drinking game based on how many times I said that during this review, then congratulations: you are probably the drunkest you have ever been and I applaud you). With that in mind, then, and taking the emotion out of it, you would be hard pressed to argue against the fact that this was an exquisite accomplishment in storytelling on so many levels. Writers Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre absolutely nailed two core elements in particular. The first was, as previously mentioned, the way the script mirrored contemporary issues as much as it told the story of a world yet to exist. The second area of their success, though, came from the way that they successfully used the return of Lexa as an opening for a couple of seriously left field revelations: the first being that Roan - Clarke's captor - is actually a prince, and the son of Lexa's sworn enemy, the queen of the Ice Nation. The second being that insanely intriguing location of Lexa's new (or are they?) headquarters. Together, these things demonstrated an acute awareness and understanding of the audience, as well as giving the story a deep sense of integrity and guts, in the typically whip smart but uncompromising style for which this team has become renown. A+, fellas.
Likewise so thankful for this week's director Mairzee Almas and the wonderful way she brought this chapter of the story to life. In particular she really did a fantastic job of bringing the wildness of the landscape into play, almost as a character in its own right. Especially when you consider that even as you watched over wide open fields (holy mackerel on a crackerel with that Ice Nation army!) and splashed into those pristine river scapes in when Clarke and Roan fought, you still in the back of your mind had that image of Monty's father rushing out into the snow to save their children, their crimson blood staining the stark white perfection of that icy place. That combination of imagery - of direction and script - was elegantly and very well done.
Speaking of which, I don't think it's the last time we'll hear the words 'ice' and 'blood' together this season. Not by a long shot. One imagines that it's not going to take long for the Ice Nation Queen to hear that her nemesis not only has Wanheda captive, but also her son: giving her double the reason to attack her enemy. Even though she strikes me as a woman who only needs one. But it won't take long for the Ark people to realise where their girl is either, and Bellamy has already proven that he is willing to go wherever it takes to get her back, Either way, it would appear that we are on the precipice of the convergence of many conflicting agendas: every one at its heart, fixated on the life - or death - of the woman they call Wanheda.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
DAMMIT GINSBURG AND MCINTYRE, I WAS NOT GOING TO WRITE A REVIEW OVER 4000 WORDS THIS SEASON.
Roan is a prince. Well. This is just ten kinds of delicious.
Team Jackson EVERY DAY OF THE WHOLE DAMN WEEK.
I have the most enormous theory about why the Ice Nation Queen really hated Lexa enough to kill Costia AND wage war on her twenty four hours a day. AYAYAYAY.
THE FINN REFERENCE, THO with Abby and Jasper. As if Abby using him as an example of how not to handle grief didn't make me feel ALL OF THE THINGS, then Jasper had to go and say to Abby's face that her daughter killed Finn too.
I love how even when Clarke's hair washed out, she still ended up with strategic badass berry highlights. YASS KWEEN.
"YOU WANT A COMMANDER OF DEATH? YOU GOT HER." #ElizaForAllTheEmmys
Still love you Clexa fans. Big time. To the lovely ones, I say thanks for understanding my thoughts and position on the matter. To the tiny portion of really mean ones cursing my sudden but inevitable betrayal and probably plotting my downfall on Tumblr right now, I say: