A feast of ornate, stunning patterns. Walls of wood and stone, interlaced with a dance of crafted shadows and sunlight. Lush furs, and materials somewhere between royal purple and ruby red, garnishing the room. As we come to this week's newest episode of The 100 - entitled 'Ye Who Enter Here' - you can't help but wonder if there was ever a more a sumptuous and plush prison for one such as her. For the one who has caused so much mayhem for so many, even if she did have her reasons. Maybe if it were just the home, Clarke Griffin could take more peace from this place. But it's not just the home, is it. It's the host. After twelve weeks on the run, Clarke is now trapped in the company of the one person she told herself she despises most.
The warrior who became Clarke's trusted friend and proven ally in battle. The lover who stirred up a passion and a fire in her bones unlike any she has ever known. The deceiver who lied and abandoned Clarke and her people to death at the foot of Mount Weather. And - somehow - still the keeper of a vital piece of Clarke's fractured, blazing heart. A piece she looks unlikely to let go without a fight. But despite the magnitude of this conflict, a far greater and more deadly wolf is howling at their door. And it threatens anything and everything that either woman holds dear.
With that in mind, Lexa makes Clarke an offer that will not only be hard to refuse, but will also force her to choose what matters more to her: the long-term safety of her people, or making the Commander pay for her betrayal at Mount Weather. Thankfully though, it's not a decision Clarke will go into without wise counsel at her side. Kane and Abby make their way to Polis to - as far as they know - negotiate a treaty with Lexa that will keep Skikru safe. But for everybody's good intentions, everything may yet fall apart if the news received back at the Mountain is anything to go by. Bellamy and Octavia have received word from an unexpected source that the summit is in fact a trap. Rather than peace, the informant says, the only thing waiting for the Sky people at sundown is death.
All the while, oaths tumbling in lethal whispers from his lips, a killer waits in darkness to strike.
Okay, kids. Let's do this.
NO HONOUR, NO CHOICE
I wrote a lot last week about the state of the relationship between Lexa and Clarke, particularly as it stood in comparison to Clarke's relationship with Bellamy. Now for the purposes of the exercise, I'm just going to put Bellamy over here for a while. Because in truth, while there is still some Clarke/Bellamy stuff in this episode to consider - i.e. Bellamy's making it clear that he still thinks Lexa can't be trusted, but Clarke still not going with him back to Arkadia - it was clear from the outset that 'Ye Who Enter Here' was primarily going to be about the evolution of her relationship with Lexa. Which figures: it doesn't take a genius to work out that the growth we saw in this instalment is going to go right to the heart of how the season as a whole, plays out.
Now. Many of you disagreed heartily with my assessment of Lexa's moral character last week, and with my belief that she isn't Clarke's emotional equal where it counts. For the record, I respect your right to disagree, folks, but I really do stand absolutely by what I said. They were observations made after a long and extremely keen study of this story and its characters; I might not always articulate it perfectly, but I know what I'm talking about. I've worked hard to know.
That said, there were a lot of well-articulated arguments to the contrary of my assessment laid out in the comments and on social media. And so it was that after reading those comments, I went into this week hoping to have my mind changed greatly for the better about Lexa. I was hoping I would have a reason to adjust my attitude significantly enough that I would start to see more of what was making fans look so quickly past what happened at Mount Weather. Because that was the bit I could never get: how one could let Lexa get away with what she's done at Mount Weather so scot free. Weirdly, in trying to come to that place of understanding, I experienced both ends of the spectrum. I came out the other side of this episode appreciating Lexa much more than I did before, as a leader, but also believing more than ever that she still has a long way to go before she is in Clarke's emotional league.
Here's why. Firstly, the good stuff. It's not too hard to go back and find the moments in this episode where Lexa showed strong, decisive leadership. Kicking that bastard out of the top window of her headquarters was a prime example of that. It was quite literally a Leonidas moment for her and reminded her enemies as well as her friends that showing her respect in her own domain was not a choice: it was a requirement. Another quality I love about her is that she gives people more than one chance to correct their course. An unspoken 'check yourself before you wreck yourself' that she issues before every engagement she enters into. And I think it's a quality that's arguably gotten stronger since she first started engaging with the Skikru and their altogether different style of governance and justice. So that's what made me value her more in this episode than I had before. I thought those parts of her were brilliant.
But then there is another side to that coin. That opening scene with Clarke revealed a lot more than just Lexa's plan to clan, and not all of it was good. I actually found myself quite annoyed her in that opening few minutes, particularly for two things she said to her prisoner. For one, saying to Clarke that it was easier for her to hate Lexa than it was for Clarke to hate herself. That entire statement to me seems tied up in the concept of blame, ergo it seems Lexa is basically saying that it's easier for Clarke to blame her for what she's become, than to blame herself.
Now, call me crazy, but I'd say the actions of Clarke - who, even knowing that it was Lexa's abandonment that put her in that very position in the first place, still chose to exile herself as penance for the deaths in the mountain - are not the actions of someone who is seeking to lump all the blame on to someone else's shoulders. To me, that's someone taking responsibility for what they've done. That is someone owning who they are and what they've done: in doing so, showing the very honour that Clarke - quite rightly, I think - accuses Lexa of not having the night at Mount Weather.
You also have Lexa's 'it does no one good to dwell on the past' comment. To me that was downright average, and a real low point of Lexa's treatment of Clarke. Granted yes: the Ice Nation threat is imminent, so their time to act and strategize is short. But in the end, you make time for the conversations that matter, even if they're ugly. And make no mistake: this conversation - whether you see it as between warriors, or allies, or friends, or lovers - matters immensely. Why? Because if they are to have any chance of surviving an attack by the Ice Nation, their faith in each other needs to be repaired, and it's going to take more than an apology for 'making' her Wanheda. More than a declaration of fealty, too.
It's going to take these two putting all their cards on the table, and being totally accountable where accountability is due. Clarke has clearly already begun the hard slog of that journey, whereas I don't think Lexa has. But without that level of honesty from both of them, I daresay you can forget achieving the trust they'll need to have in each other in order to beat the Ice Queen. Without that trust, their focus can never be fully on the task at hand. They'll always be affected to some degree by the fear that their back is not covered by their fellow soldier. Without that focus, they run the risk of hesitating in the face of an enemy who will not hesitate even for a second.
As such, I think Lexa is really going to have to prove herself now to Clarke, and not just with words or promises: no matter how beautiful they are. Which is a hard thing to say given that that whole last scene with the two of them - Lexa bowing before the woman she had told to bow, swearing fealty to Clarke with such utter sincerity in her eyes; Clarke taking Lexa's hand and pulling her to her feet - was just so stunning, so powerful.
Either way, for me, after seeing how extraordinary those promises were, I genuinely hope Heda has Wanheda's same courage when it comes to backing up her words with follow through. Likewise, I hope Clarke has not abandoned all her hope for the good in others: if Lexa proves herself, then I hope Clarke has it in her to acknowledge it. For my part, I think she does, even though it won't be easy.
THIS IS POLIS
Up til this point, details about the Grounder capital had remained as broad as they were sparse. All we knew was that it was the cornerstone location of Lexa's rule, and that it was an interesting place. That was it. What I loved then was the way that it was then brought to life with such gritty warmth and vivacity this week. Indeed there's a heat and a spice and an urgency to Polis; an environment that's been designed and built according to the plans of someone who has a vast and acute understanding of the world they are creating. And fantastically, it's an understanding that reaches from the highest point of the tallest tower, to the smallest detail on the dusty ground. Some people aren't always massive fans of story tellers who are like this, but for me, I love them. They create tangible, complicated, nuanced worlds that remind you constantly - and with acute precision - of the fact that in the end, this isn't just a story where only a handful of characters have their individual needs, wants, desires and livelihoods at stake. This is a story about a civilization and a way of life on the line. And to me that seems like a key point this season. The story is bigger than it ever has been before.
Seeing Abby and Kane go into this environment, then, was an interesting and pretty awesome thing to watch. I think perhaps we've known it for a while now but it was nice to see Abby finally acknowledge that since they landed, for all intents and purposes Kane has been the chancellor his people needed, if not necessarily the one they elected. I loved that Abby acknowledged him as being the one most deserving of bearing the mark of the thirteenth clan, too, on behalf of their fellow survivors. Because she is so right. Kane wears his desire for peace, prosperity and respect on his sleeve, and he does it with integrity. He does the best he can to do what's right, even when it's messy; after all, it's that exact attitude that saw him and not Jaha bond with Lexa in the very beginning. It's him having that kind of presence in all this, that means Lexa makes no argument whatsoever when he steps forward to be branded and not Abby. He is a leader who has earned the title in every respect; an amazing thing to consider when you think back on the fact that he was nothing more than a slick politician waiting for his predecessor to fall or be pushed off the perch.
NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER
Speaking of Abby, her reunion with Clarke this week I think spoke volumes about the distance that exists now between these two women: especially from Clarke's side. There was a coolness to it, an awkward formality. Indeed Clarke seems to operate now around Abby in a way that almost suggests she's grown out of being her mother's daughter. Which is sad because that was a good relationship once upon a time. I miss the 'family-ness' of them. Abby though, in her role as mother...it's like she's just adrift now. Not entirely sure where she stands. Not sure where her little girl has gone. And no real idea at all about Wanheda: the commander of death that wears her daughter's face.
From a parental perspective too, it's worth noting the ever-more fatherly role Kane is starting to play in all this. He has the whole awesome dad-vibe thing down pat: especially in the way that he encourages the younger people around him. Clarke, Bellamy, and even Lexa to an extent. He wants to support them - even protect them a bit, maybe - but he ultimately respects their autonomy. He respects their right to make their own choices. He offers advice, provides guidance, but he doesn't force it down their throats. So yeah. I don't know if that whole element will go anywhere in future per se, but it bears mentioning, if only because it's been a great dynamic. After all: the track record of parents on this show to date hasn't exactly been that crash hot. It's nice to see one guy getting it right - even if technically he isn't actually a parent.
I'll be honest and say I did not see it coming when it was revealed that the Ice Nation assassin was in the mountain, and that his plan was to blow it up. It always seemed like such a strategic place to capture given the resources stored within it. And given Roan's offer to Clarke - for them to form an alliance, culminating in assassinating Lexa - it seemed feasible that the Ice Queen would somehow find a way to infiltrate Polis and have a crack at the Commander there, as a backup if Clarke did not succeed. After all: Roan clearly has enough influence inside the very walls of Lexa's own headquarters. A terrifying thought to say the least. He showed that when he noted how many guards he'd paid off to sneak the knife into Clarke's room, so she would be able to kill Lexa when she got close enough.
But no. The killer's intended target was far from the capital. And when he finally made his move, it could not have been colder or more horrific. A lot of people who love Clarke and Bellamy together were naturally going to be miffed that Bellamy was with another girl at the start of this season. And to be clear, I ship Clarke and Bel hugely. But I liked Gina. I thought she was kind and smart and really good for the elder Blake, and to see her die like that...like I had to get up and walk out of the room for a minute the second I saw the assassin standing behind her. I knew what was coming. And she didn't. She had no idea that a man was about to come up behind her and stab her to death; no idea that she was about to die on the floor, in a pool of her own blood, like an animal. That she warned Raven and Sinclair long enough for them to get out was a terrible ending for a good person. I thought about Maya on the floor in Jasper's arms only 12 weeks before. I thought about how Gina had no-one. About how much I hoped that she was already dead when the bomb went off, but couldn't be sure. Not when her eyes were glassy but her tears were still falling. I hope desperately that her last second of life wasn't spent being consumed by enemy fire. But then in her death, we again see the true heart of what the mountain has always represented, I suppose. A place that seemed like a sanctuary but was and had always been nothing more than a giant tomb for the bones of more than one nation. Including the Ice Nation, it seems, if the oaths of the assassin were anything to go by.
BIS VINCIT QUI SE VINCIT
The above quote is one of my favourites. It's Latin for 'He who conquers twice who in the hour of conquest conquers himself'. It seemed like a fitting quote for Raven this week, as she engaged in a fantastic and much-needed heart to heart with Sinclair. Because he gets that for her to move forward, it's not the external problems that need conquering the most. It's the demons she battles inside herself. Fear, doubt, pain, regret, trauma, and even self-loathing. Sinclair astutely point the latter out too. He sees that Raven is not just being stubborn about her pain: on some level, she thinks she deserves it.
You know, it's been a strange thing watching so many fans vent so much rage at the writers for the pain of Raven's storyline. I for one think it is brilliant, actually. Why? Raven has a disability. In fact I'd argue she has more than one. I'd say that her leg is a distant second to her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Every day it is a battle she has to wage within herself in order to keep going, and some days - some weeks and months, even - are better than others. Raven has a disability and yes, it sucks. You want to know something else? I have a disability as well. I have a form of epilepsy that messes with my brain and memory, plus I have anxiety. And I am but one of a huge portion of the world's population.
So I ask you this: why - in a show so defined by its commitment to diversity of all kinds - should my kind of people not be represented, alongside the characters who represent other groups in our society? Lexa and Clarke represent the LGBTQ community brilliantly. Characters like Indra and Octavia are amazing examples of capable, smart fierce warriors who also happen to be women. So why should people out there with disabilities not have a character of their own too: one that powerfully, accurately and honestly portrays what it looks like to deal with physical and mental health issues on a day to day basis? Why should they miss out? Why should we?
Because I speak from experience when I say that the character of Raven Reyes is downright inspiring in that regard. In her weakness, there she finds her strength. There she finds her courage. She is an amazing human being of immense worth, wisdom, intelligence, humor and refreshing audacity. And like every other character on the show, she deserves the chance to discover that person inside herself. But you can guarandamntee she's not going to do it by getting better suddenly, or getting a happy ending. She doesn't need a man to turn up and love her despite her conditions to make her somehow whole again, either. Because Raven Reyes has a disability, but her disability does not have her. And that's the point I think Sinclair was trying - so wonderfully - to make.
Without suffering, we will never learn what we are truly capable of. We never learn the depths of our own strength or understand our full potential, until we are in a crucible up to our necks in things that scare us. We also never learn to truly value good things. So I ask you: if you love Raven Reyes, do not suppose you are doing her a favour by wishing away her suffering. Do not assume that by demanding she be kept safe and therefore wrapped in cotton wool, you are somehow appreciating her more than the writers who put her through the hard stuff. Because you're not. Raven Reyes is strong, and she deserves the chance to show it. Just like everyone else.
THE FROST AND THE FIRE
It's been a hell of a long time coming, but finally this week, we got to meet the Ice Queen. It seems like a pun of the most obvious kind to call her chilling, but in truth it's a bill she fits every way from Sunday. It was hard not to immediately draw the mental comparison between her and the White Witch out of the Narnia Chronicles, actually. At least it was for me. There was a bitterness, a mercilessness and a cunning about her that made it absolutely clear that she is by far the most terrifying enemy the people have ever faced. In a world on the brink, she seems for all intents and purposes to now hold all the cards: especially when it was revealed that not only is she instigating war with Lexa, but has also somehow managed to get the representatives of the other 12 clans on her side, all of whom are acting presumably out of fear. After all: the concept of killing the Commander of Death is one thing, but it's a relatively new thing. The Mountain, however, has been their common enemy for nigh on a century. Even though the people who were in it are gone (except former mountain main and Cage's right hand gun, Emerson, who has now aligned himself with the Ice Queen and who I legitimately hate with the fire of a thousand suns) the monument to their enemy still stood. That is, until the Queen blew it up. She's played a bigass trump card in doing that, and she has the benefit of the fact that Lexa has no idea what her 12 other tribes have so stupidly done.
Here's what I'm fascinated by, though. We didn't see ALIE once this episode, but she's out there. And NONE of them have any idea about what's coming. ALIE is the game changer. She is coming. Soon. She is all about eliminating her enemies by whatever means necessary. And she has a nuke. So whatever the next move of the Ice Queen is - however bloodthirsty it is - I have a feeling that the coming war is going to be insane in a way that even we can't comprehend. Indeed, there is no telling what the toll will be once that spanner finds it's inexorable way into the works: for all of them.
If you're wondering why this review is so late, in truth it's because I have struggled for days to find the words to describe it accurately. Some are predictable: it was brutal, perfectly executed, surprising, emotional and explosive. Those things, anybody could tell you. But my overwhelming feeling as I sit here writing this final verdict, is conflicted. I am deeply conflicted about everything 'Ye Who Enter Here' made me feel about what is to come. I feel like whatever instinct I built up after two and a bit seasons of this story is completely gone. I can't trust my gut instinct anymore, about anything or anyone: which is, to be sure, a very unnerving but also very exciting place to be. Because I believe that great story should put us off our balance at some point, in order that we find a better one. It could happen via good and beautiful things, or it could happen via tragedy. But either way, if it doesn't put us off our balance at all, then we are not connecting with it. And without that connection, what's even the point? Why should we stick around til the end?
With all that in mind, it goes without saying that writer Kim Shumway has done an extraordinary job of furthering this story in 'Ye Who Enter Here'. Her script was brave, uncompromising and faithfully executed, with so much heart. Clexa fans in particular should be sending this woman a gift basket for the tale she told this week, because as previously noted, that fealty scene was magnificent. Simple and to the point, and delivered flawlessly by Alycia Debnam-Carey and Eliza Taylor, who it must be said go from strength to strength every week in these roles.
Directing wise, I loved having Antonio Negret back - I think he did an amazing job: particularly in the way he blocked and staged the journey through Polis, doing so in a way that helped us see it very much through Kane and Abby's eyes. After all: the audience was a new to the place as they were. There was a real technical prowess to the way he undertook this task, and I for one hope he's going to be back this season.
All in all though, as the smoke continues to rise from the decimated and bloody remains of Mount Weather, we now only know one thing for certain: the fate of life as it's known for every living thing, sits precariously on a razor edge. Only in this case, there are three ways to fall. Two grounder armies, each capable of great conquests. But over the horizon, an enemy that has the power to raze them both to the ground.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
Note: One fan (thanks @skikru! :) has picked up on the fact that I did jump over a lot of Bellamy's plot line this week. and there was a reason for that. I felt that a lot of what he did was perhaps more of a plot device than anything else to keep the episode moving at a pace. But personally, Bellamy just kind of stayed in the same place emotionally. Particularly in his relationship with Clarke. This episode was mostly about Clarke and Lexa, and that needed to be the focus I think. What I AM looking forward to though is when the Bellamy/Clarke/Lexa tension reaches that next level, which honestly I think it will. When that happens? Honestly. Getting me to shut up will be the trick.
I NEED TO KNOW WHERE MONTY AND JASPER AND HARPER AND MILLER ARE RIGHT NOW PLEASE.
Has anybody survived what happened in the Mountain? And if so, HOW?
Wondering if the explosion will reveal anything that we didn't know before about what secrets were housed there too.
RIP that horrible painting Maya loved.
WHO came up with that totally sick assassin get up? Seriously were his lips sewn together at one point?!
Nice touch with him being dressed like he's a post-apocalyptic dude from Assassin's creed, but using a digital wrist watch to count down to the moment he made his move. It was weirdly jarring and I liked the juxtaposition of that.
BRENDA STRONG. GEEZ LOU-BLOODY-ISE. WOW.
Someone please kill Emerson immediately I HATE HIM I HATE HIM I HATE HIM.
Also, how is he even still alive? How did he even live long enough for the Ice Queen to not kill him?
I might be nicer about the Ice Queen if she kills him.
The hair. The eyes. The strength and fierceness and poise. Clarke in her braids, and muted, glowing scales of gold, sheathed in shadows and that phenomenal dress. Lexa, shoulders square and draped in a regal sea of warm darkness falling down her frame to her feet, as though she were wearing a whole sky on the edge of nightfall. You were breathtaking beyond measure this week, ladies. Kudos not just to you but also the costume and make up departments as well. Stellar work, people.
You should know that I screamed at my computer multiple times during this episode and at least once got up and ran away into my living room yelling unintelligible sounds of shock, awe and horror that made my best friend stop what she was doing and come to check that I was still watching a TV show and NOT in fact being mauled by a Kodiak bear on an acid trip.
Gah. Zach McGowan. I am SO GLAD you are on this show now.
Julia Dominczak, Tree Adams and Lauren Muir. You three - what you made and brought to life with that anthem - I haven't felt that much over a song in a TV show since Starbuck and All Along the Watchtower in Battlestar Galactica. Chills. I cannot stop listening to it.