REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 3.05 - "Hakeldama"
War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
Cold eyes. Colder hearts. Chests and faces covered in the blood of the peacekeeping forces they have just slaughtered. Ten monsters marching home. No prisoners taken, no mercy shown. Strewn across the mountainside behind them lie two hundred and ninety nine people - and a hard won peace - all viciously murdered by a squad of angry soldiers and a domestic terrorist wearing a Chancellor's pin. So dawns day one of the official ceasefire between Grounders and the people known as Skikru. As we begin this episode of The 100, entitled "Hakeldama", we find Lexa and Clarke riding towards Arkadia with a view to commemorating their addition to Lexa's kingdom as the thirteenth clan: not to mention travelling with the body of the Ice Queen in tow. But when they happen upon the bodies of the Commander's army - every last man and woman riddled with bullet holes - it becomes immediately clear that someone is unhappy with the arrangement. And it is a notice of rejection served up as an act of war.
As much is confirmed by Indra, who alone has been left alive – barely – to pass on a message from the newly elected leader of the Sky people: this is their land now. And the Grounders? They can stay, or they can die. Faced with her people being wiped out by Lexa's full military in a retaliatory strike, Clarke makes a desperate attempt to connect with her allies amongst her people, only to discover that her closest ally of all was at the very heart of the massacre. An act that has taken them past the point of no return.
But Clarke is not the only one who finds herself back in the inner sanctum of her former home. Thelonius Jaha - one time Chancellor, now ALIE's crown apostle and dually appointed evangelist for the City of Light - has come back to find his people in the throes of the very war he predicted as he walked out the front gates months ago. Any and every person he speaks to of his discovery thinks their former leader has gone mad: not the least of which is Raven, who is struggling worse than ever to deal with the ongoing physical and emotional torment of her disability. But will Jaha's promise of a pain free life prove too much for her to refuse?
All the while, a conflicted charlatan happily plays pickpocket on the roadside with the girl who once held a knife to his throat. A girl who is also desperate to chase after Jaha in order to find her brother. But not all roads lead back to Arkadia. At least, not if John Murphy can help it.
With all that in mind, let's dive in and take a look shall we?
For those of you unfamiliar with the term 'Hakeldama' (or Akeldama), it's an Aramaic word that refers to the last moments of Judas Iscariot, in the hours after he betrayed Jesus to his death. Wracked with guilt for the fact that he had sold out his saviour, his friend - all for the paltry sum of thirty pieces of silver - Judas took himself out to a field in Jerusalem and committed suicide. Unable to take back the silver because it was blood money, the chief priests who had bought Judas off used the sum to purchase the desolate patch of earth where he died. Knowing some of what had passed, the people who lived there named the place Akeldama – meaning 'Field of Blood' - and kept it as a place to bury any stranger who died while passing through their land. It is the final horrific image we have of the most famous coward in history.
With that event in mind, the name of this episode caused me to think about the events that triggered this portion of The 100's story, very differently. Of course in one sense, the use of a term that means 'Field of Blood' is quite literal. Almost three hundred people were shot to death in their sleep by ten Sky men and women with murder on their minds and hateful excuses on their tongues.
But of every person who was involved in this massacre, the greatest contention has centred on Bellamy, who arguably to date had to be considered one of the least Judas like characters of all. After all, he isn't perfect, but from the start we still knew instinctively - whatever stupid decisions he might make along the way - that his heart was good; that he was loyal; a brother and comrade til the very end. The Bellamy Blake we have known up until this point has been a good man. And now this happens. This carnage. So what are we to do now with this bloodstained creature we thought we knew? How do we take him back in? How do we move forward? How can we ever possibly look at him with any kind of care, hope or faith ever again?
Here's the thing, though. Here is what I think was Bellamy's Judas moment in all of this. And it makes a huge difference to how you might think about moving forward as a viewer, with this character. You see, I think on that field, Bellamy tried - and succeeded to a degree - in killing the man he used to be. He wanted to do away with the Bellamy inside himself that was powerless, yet that he felt powerless over: the one man he hates more than any other. The man that couldn't save so many of their friends when they first landed and were attacked by Grounders. The man who stood by Clarke's side and helped her kill all the people who lived inside Mount Weather, including their allies, but also the man who still bears the shame and the guilt of killing friends who deserved no such fate. The man who is powerless to stop his closest friend from siding with a woman who - no matter how sincere her current promises may be - had previously abandoned all of them to die at Cage Wallace's hand.
This is the point at which the infection of Pike's hatred entered Bellamy's blood stream. Pike, I think, sensed early on that Bellamy wanted desperately to get rid of the impotence he felt in the face of threats to the people he cares about. He saw in front of him a man who - despite his strength and loyal soldier front - was inwardly crippled by the dangerous mix of anger, his own self-loathing, and despair at the things he's had to do to survive. Pike knew that a man who wanted to ease a burden like this, would probably do just about anything to get rid of it. It was bait and a hook for a fish Pike knew would bite.
Because Bellamy is messed up inside. Horribly. So ask yourself: if you felt that broken, wouldn't you want to fix it? Wouldn't you be desperate to find a way out of it? Reclaim your life again somehow? And that level of desperation can cause people to do unimaginably stupid - and sometimes bad - things.
Which I think is why - despite every warning from the likes of Kane and Abby and Lincoln and Octavia: people who care so deeply for him - Bellamy suits up and goes out Arkadia's front gates to kill the Grounders. Why he goes against his brother and ally Lincoln; lets him be incarcerated and strikes what appears to be a deadly blow to their friendship. Because Bellamy wants to believe those Grounders beyond the wall are a threat, and that in turn they are a threat he can eliminate.
He wants to believe it because he can't deal with the alternative. He is so desperate to do away with the weak man within, that he does something that he tells himself is protecting the people he cares about. Even if he knows deep down that the lie he's telling himself in the process is paper thin at best. Hence why he reacts with so much guilt. Why he tries to curb the damage by saving Indra, and asking Pike to spare the wounded. He's still trying to keep the doorway to the good man he wants to be, just ajar enough that he has some hope of finding his way back. One foot in, one foot out, so to speak. But truth be told, Bellamy can never go back from this. Ever.
And therein lies the most massive case of 'be careful what you wish for' ever. In getting rid of one version of himself, the new man that takes his place will ultimately cause him far greater torment. So consumed with the Bellamy he was disposing of, he did not stop to think of the Bellamy he would become in return.
Now as to whether he can be 'redeemed' so to speak...well, to be honest, I think the path of seeking redemption is perhaps not the most helpful one we can go down right now. Because honestly, Bellamy is not alone in the fact that he cannot go back and undo what he has done in the course of this journey. Whatever his reasons for going out there and doing what he did, he will always have responsibility for every life that he took on that mountainside. Just like Abby can never go back and undo what she did to Clarke's father. Just like Murphy can't go back from shooting Raven and causing her to have a permanent disability. Just like Lexa can never go back and undo her orders to attack the original 100 when their dropship first hit the ground (I mean seriously, you think that whole armed force just went rogue and attacked the dropship in season one? No, they had their directions and their directions came from their Commander - to kill whatever came out of that ship before it got away). And don't even get me started on Finn. He’s too busy fertilising the Dropship lawn.
No. Arguing for redemption is pretty pointless here. Instead, as an audience, you have to decide whether you care enough about the characters - despite everything they've done - to want them to move forward, past their misdeeds. If you can't, then walk away. But if you stay, you’ll need to understand that the actions of every character in turn become the catalysts for other characters to grow as people. Every character is a piece in the puzzle of another. If you don’t accept that, this show will never satisfy you. Think about it. Without Bellamy's actions, for example, Lexa would never have been challenged to do anything but seek blood for blood.
For now, what I will say about Bellamy is this. He is broken, and he can never give back the lives he has taken. The point of return, in this circumstance, is gone. But that does not mean this character is lost. If that happens – if we feel that he’s lost - it will be because we the audience have chosen to lose him. As for me - as someone who has not only loved but also deeply empathised with this character over time - I do not ever plan to give up on this guy. Because there’s a huge and extraordinary way for his story yet to go. We've seen his greater potential teased time and time and time again. Which is why I think that this man - scarred, flawed and complicated as he is - may yet be at the heart of incredible things. I refuse to let him go. I really hope you hang on too.
So good to see Murphy back this week. The notion of this never ceases to be weird to me given the fact that in season one I wanted to throw him under a bus every time he appeared on my screen. But good grief. How far he has really come. One of the things I've really loved about the development of John's character has come through the introduction of Emori to the mix. Often when I see them together, I remember that conversation they had out in the desert when she first showed him her deformed hand. I loved that he saw her mutation - something that the rest of the world would have seen as ugly - and he yet he was able to identify it as a point of strength in her identity. I loved that he in no way ever saw it as her defining feature, and to me that spoke volumes about him in comparison to so many other characters. Unlike everyone else, who perpetually seem to fret about how they are seen in the eyes of others, John has this gutsy, sharp, raw ability to just call things as and for what they are.
That said, he also suffers from a brutal lack of self-worth: something that he is constantly fighting to mask with sarcasm, wit and cutting observations about everyone but himself. Murphy is a brilliant but also very sad study in self sabotage, and for my part I was sad to see that play out eventually in his scenes with Emori this week. She's smart, of course: she has a wise enough head on her shoulders to get that he is no sweet boy next door by any means. She gets that Murphy has an unmistakeable cunning to him: more than a hint of the unpredictable in his manner. And they can be attractive qualities at times, if not the healthiest ones long term. But then she also care a lot about him. Sees the man he could be, if he just let himself.
He's just as attracted to her too, and I think that scares him. John is so used to his role as the bad guy; to being the spanner in everyone else's works. Being seen wanted, as someone worth another's care and affection, is a very new thing for him. A state of being that is far outside his comfort zone. Til now, he's seen himself as a loner and therefore only looked out for number one. But Emori? She could tip all that on its head. With her, if it got more serious, he would need to learn about what it is to be willing to make yourself vulnerable. To put someone else's need above your own, even if it’s at a cost. And for a moment you do see John lose his nerve in the face of that, and go back to his old MO. That moment where he shuts Emori down when she talks about returning to Arkadia, so she can find her brother. He doesn't want to go back because he knows what he'll find there, and he begins to put that fear above her desire to find her family. But if you were worried that John's character growth in this area wasn't going to stick, that whole scene with him not giving her up to the Grounders who capture him gives you a bit of faith that maybe, John Murphy is beginning to evolve for the better. Even if it is despite himself.
PENNIES FROM A COUNTERFEIT HEAVEN
The reintroduction of Jaha into the mix of his people – especially now that ALIE is in his head – was always going to be fascinating. Because while we have had a number of episodes now to get a grip on just how far down the rabbit hole Jaha has fallen, the people in Arkadia haven’t seen him for months. They have no idea what he’s seen. They know nothing of the pristine white mansion on the hill, or the gleaming city of ALIE’s vision, waiting to be populated by the civilisation laid out before him. As far as his people are concerned, Jaha has not gained enlightenment so much as lost his mind.
For Jaha though, his endgame is simple: save his people, by convincing them to give up any autonomy they have over their own lives, and let ALIE do it all for them. She will give them all the peace in the world: all they have to do is let her take control. All they have to do is stop resisting her rule, and everything will be fine. Everything will be safe.
But then Pike’s Arkadia is built on the exact same principle, isn't it. Remember his words: Resist and you will be greeted by force. Fight, and you will be greeted by death. Can you see what’s missing from that statement? He doesn’t say ‘if the Grounders resist’ or ‘if the Grounders fight’. He’s telling his own people – with a threat they are too blinded by hero worship to see for what it is – that he is willing to take out anyone who stands against his leadership. Pike sees himself as supreme, and everyone beneath him as a thing to be strategically manoeuvred – like pieces on a chessboard – so he can achieve victory. That’s not a leader. That’s a dictator in a diplomat’s clothing. The complete opposite of Kane.
I mean, this guy is willing to ethnically cleanse an entire village in order to set up a boundary for his new little kingdom. He is willing to wipe an entire population of men, women and children off the map, just so his control over that space can become absolute. And if you think even for a second that Pike would spare a single Grounder life in that bloodshed, remember his excuse for taking no prisoners on the hillside. We can’t spare the supplies. He’s wants to commit genocide, and his excuse for it is that they might not have enough Band-Aids and Advil to go around afterwards? It’s sick. Even more sickening that his people are so consumed with their little power trip, that they are willing to overlook the truth of the atrocity Pike has committed. The atrocity they voted for.
But then ALIE also wants to undertake a cleansing, doesn’t she. Forget the ‘I come in peace’ line. For all intents and purposes, she too wants to wipe out an entire species – in their minds, no less – so she can take ultimate control of their lives and then use them to build the world as she sees as fit: naturally with herself at the top. Contrast these two leaders with someone like Lexa and you see quickly that no matter how brutal or bloody her method of ruling is, it at least is done with a modicum of truth. Of honour. Lexa is willing to live and die for her people. ALIE and Pike just want a people to live and die for them.
In which case, ask yourself: when it comes to motive, is the politician spattered in crimson blood really that different to the digital killer in the crimson dress? For my part, I don’t think they’re that different at all.
One of the key themes that defined this episode was identity. And out of that came a lot of honest conversations between characters – some for the first time – about who they believe they are, and where they stand in the world as of right now. Moreover, this episode examined the unavoidable fact of how in this life, the truth of who and what you are is not something you are born with, not something ultimately out of your control: it’s a choice you make every day. You are exactly who you choose to be, unless you willingly let someone do the choosing for you.
In Hakeldama, we got to see two characters grappling heavily – and differently – with that truth. Raven and Octavia’s stories this week made for an exceptional parallel as both women came to grips with the person their self-beliefs are turning them into. In Octavia’s case, she has known for a long time that in the Grounders, she has found her people, but more than that has found a way to healthily reconcile that knowledge with her history as one born on the Ark. You see that in the way she is able to move between the two cultures the way she does, working as well and as tightly with Kane as she does with Indra. Her certainty in her choice to be the woman she is makes her a formidable ally: not just because she is strong, or because she is brave, but because you know without question where she stands. Honestly, when Bellamy told her to keep her voice down and that if she didn’t it would make it harder to protect her, I wanted Octavia to punch her brother in the face. I wanted her to knock him on his ass then kick him while he was down. Octavia doesn’t need anyone to fight for her, and to treat her like anything less than the person she has fought so hard to become, is an insult. All Bellamy is doing at this point is projecting his own fears and concerns on to his sister, and in turn is refusing to acknowledge the fact that she doesn’t need his permission to be the person she has become. She sees what he’s doing and damn, does she call him on it. She ripped him and he deserved it, because out of the two of them, only she still has her integrity intact. He might love her and want her to be safe, but it’s been a long time since he had the right to boss her around.
On the other side of the identity coin, you have Raven, who at every turn is being met with the reality that her leg will never heal and she will never be able to do all the things she used to. She rages against her physical pain, yet is crumbling badly with her mental health. The fall out of that is the hate that it stirs in her. Hate for what’s happened. Hate for people like Abby who say things to her like ‘you can still be useful’, as though she’s a piece of scrap metal in a junkyard that one day might come in handy to repair something else that’s broken. And hate for people like Jaha who just show up, healthy as a horse, promising the unthinkable. Promising a life free from the pain that Abby has already told Raven she will be in for the rest of her days. The life purpose that Octavia has found, Raven has lost, and it’s killing her. Which is why you can see ALIE’s point when she tells Jaha that Raven is the key to making others follow. There is no-one more desperate to find and reclaim her old identity: one not defined by her pain or her condition or her inabilities. And yet no-one more stubborn when it comes to relinquishing control of her fate. In the end though, it proves too much. With Jaha’s question still burning in her ears – What have you got to lose? – she gives in and takes the pill. Yet in that moment, all I could think of was Murphy – the man who shot Raven – when he said no to the same pill. He refused because he knew exactly what he would lose in losing his pain: himself. After all, what’s that old saying? For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? So I cannot help but think that even though Raven’s pain is gone for now, this will eventually become the biggest regret of her life. She’s given up the government of her own life. And she is smart. She will realise eventually just how huge the price is that she’s paid. The question is, though, once ALIE is inside her mind, is there a way to get her out again?
Of all the virtues a human being can have, patience is arguably the hardest one to maintain, but the one with the biggest payoff in the end. And not to say that the full price was paid this week, but I think in “Hakeldama”, fans of Bellamy and Clarke were treated to probably the best and most emotionally charged scene they’ve had to date. Having been smuggled back in to Arkadia by Octavia, Clarke finds herself once again finds herself face to face with the friend and ally who knows her in a way that no-one else does. And the second their eyes meet, it is electric. You understood immediately that it was the kind of scene worth waiting for. The kind that promises that there are extraordinary and powerful things yet to come for them, together, even if right now we don’t know how or why or when that will be.
So much violent water has passed under the bridge between Clarke and Bellamy. In sharing the experiences they have, there exists between them a bond of intricate and powerful proportions; the kind of intimacy shared by people who get what it is to face the fury of something terrifying, yet know that when they look beside them, they can and will find a person they can trust with their life. Together they have survived and conquered enemies that they seemingly never should have been beaten. You could easily argue that every single person who lives and breathes in Arkadia today - and more than one Grounder - owes their life in one way or another to what they have achieved as a team.
But there is also an ugly side to what they are, particularly right now as Clarke stands so closely with Lexa and Bellamy is at Pike’s side. It puts them on opposite sides of what Pike intends to make a war, and it would pit these two against each other in the most shattering way. On top of that, their general decision making process is fundamentally and diametrically opposed. Clarke is governed by her head, Bellamy by his heart. Because of that, there is a brutal friction between them and perhaps there always will be to some extent. And in this case it’s friction that has caused decisions to be made that cannot go without reckoning. Indeed if these two are going to move forward at all, those things needed to be laid out and dealt with. I think this scene made for a strong if painful beginning to that process.
Back and forth they went, blaming and bargaining with each other, and for the first real time, you got a glimpse into just how raw Bellamy is inside after the events of Mount Weather; what it was to have been left alone by her, to carry the burden of what they’d done, by himself. And that statement? It hit Clarke Griffin like a bullet in the back, right where she stood. The anguish of her friend was palpable. And it was her fault. I thought then of everything Clarke Griffin has been through to get this point. Of the death and carnage she has seen. And yet I could not for the life of me remember the last time I’d seen her this shaken. Nor could I remember the last time Bellamy looked this open and assailable either, with his anguish and distress so freely out on display. The state of vulnerability between them was like an exposed nerve.
But deep down, both of them know that one is incapable of abandoning the other without a fight, even if ever their actions should seem to the contrary (case in point, when he handcuffs her and prepares to take her to Pike – even then, he’s still operating under the misguided assumption that he’s somehow protecting her). Clarke then is then the first one to step up to the plate. She takes responsibility for the part she has played in his life since the Mountain, and in doing so, contends powerfully for that same part of Bellamy’s heart that he had so quickly given up and exchanged for a share in Pike’s hatred and contempt. I’m sorry. Two little words that might not always fix everything, but if truly meant, can still change everything.
Now I get that if we take into account the way the current season is playing out, everything seems to be moving towards Clarke and Lexa acting on their feelings for each other. But given the moment that passed between Clarke and Bellamy in this episode, I can’t help but think that it’s a massive indication of the fact that something big is still to come for these two. Because if this scene made one thing abundantly clear, it’s that something greater than friendship that exists between them. Something fierce and necessary to them both. She needs him because he balances her out – reminds her not of how to keep going, but why to keep going – in a way that no-one else does. He needs her because she reminds him in a very real way of the man he wants to be. The man she knows he is at heart, even on his worst day. Truly, between Clarke and Bellamy there is something so prevailing, so intrinsic that it goes far beyond the comradery of war. Beyond basic chemistry. Instead there is a fierce yet hidden tenderness to this connection that gives me chills. Exactly what you call a relationship like that, I don’t know. But it’s as alive, and vital as the blood in their veins. Apart, they struggle. Together, they are stronger than even a mountain.
WE ARE CHANGING THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS
Despite not playing the huge part that she has in recent weeks, Lexa ultimately is the one who changes the game up in the end, doing something she never would have done before. Even as her people lay dead outside – nothing more now than a feast for the crows – Clarke reminds Lexa that she has the chance here to end a cycle of violence that will kill them all in the end if they don’t find a way to break it. To not demand blood for blood. And it’s a chance that Lexa, in her courage and wisdom, takes: much to the dismay of Indra, who understandably has every right to be angry given that her entire force was murdered in their sleep by a pack of cowards.
But Indra’s loyalty – at least for now – remains with her Commander. The same however may not be said for Lexa’s people, who no doubt will expect her to go through with her original plan. They will no doubt demand that the deaths of their own at the hands of the newest – and very unwelcome – clan, will be swiftly avenged by their leader. In any case, I think it’s safe to say that some deeply unsettling and dangerous days are ahead in both Polis and Arkadia, for characters we love as much as the ones we hate. For my part, I’m just waiting for the moment Lexa comes face to face with Pike.
Going into this episode, writer Charlie Craig must have known that audiences would still be smarting and understandably riled up over the episode before. Knowing that you are going to be writing for an already volatile crowd is no small challenge, but then this guy is no stranger to penning an episode of The 100 where a favourite character takes a violent turn. He is after all the man behind season two’s ‘Human Trials’: the episode where Finn shot up a village full of Grounders. Puts a bit of a chill in your blood to remember, doesn’t it. But I was so impressed by Charlie Craig’s script this week for two main reasons. The first was for the fantastic insight we got into the character identity issues I mentioned earlier. I loved the character development that happened there. Secondly though, that scene with Clarke and Bellamy is what stole the show for me. The dialogue was cutting, pained and brilliant, and it fed perfectly into the phenomenal chemistry Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor bring to the roles of Bellamy and Clarke. This episode gave me so much that I just didn't expect.
Tim Scanlan had rock solid week in the director’s chair, too. Visually, this episode needed to strike a hard balance between big landscape encompassing shots – like Octavia walking across the massacre hill, or Pike standing over the crowd in Arkadia when their hunting party returned – and tight, detailed shots of human engagement and emotion. Jaha leaning in, whispering a City prayer in the ear of Ontari’s brother as he died. The small disc with the eternity symbol on it falling into the dirt when Murphy is captured. The pools of blood around the dead warriors. The gradual irrelevance of Raven’s leg brace as she began to walk after taking ALIE’s pill. And perhaps my favourite moment: the quiet touch of Clarke and Bellamy’s hands after they’d just spent all that time arguing and riled up. Scanlan captured all of those moments exquisitely. I loved every second of what he did this week, particularly because it tied in so tightly with Craig’s script.
All of which brings us to now. Viscerally uncertain times lay ahead for this entire landscape and all the people within it. Somewhere just within the 15 mile radius Pike wants to set, lies a village and a community that has no idea that death is only days away from their doors. Beyond that lies a city that will undoubtedly be grieving and demanding for the heads of the ones who attacked their soldiers and left their remains to rot; a city about to learn that their leader is actively choosing not to take revenge for this treachery. And in the middle of all, the characters we love, with an invisible spy sweeping slowly through their midst in the form of a charismatic madman and a pill that promises the world.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
Abby and Clarke’s reunion in this episode totally made up for their nonplussed one in Polis before the clan ceremony. That whole moment with them and Octavia and Kane before they helped Clarke escape Arkadia was THE BEST. Legit. They are family squad goals at their finest.
That scene in the hospital where Pike interns all the sick and dying Grounder patients – and Lincoln along with them – made me want to put my fist through the screen and rearrange Pike's face. I was so angry I could have screamed.
Kane and Lincoln. Guys like there aren’t even WORDS for how much I love you.
Miller. MILLER YOU BEAUTIFUL HUMAN YOU.
Real Gillmer is clever and lovely and one of my favourite humans in the world. But soldier-on-The-100 Gillmer is a real shit and deserves to be Gorilla take-out.
What in the blue hell is going on with Jaha’s goatee? WHAT IS ON YOUR FACE.
Conserving air on the Ark to save your people? 300 lives. Going on a quest to find the City of Light for your people? 10 lives. Coming back to find your people have taken your name off the front gate? Priceless.
Where was Jasper? Someone go check under all the tables.
Indra and Adina Porter are collectively more badass than you or I will ever be and we just need to deal with that.
I MISS YOU ZACH MCGOWAN.
How you doing Bellarkers? You feeling all the things? ARE YOU OKAY DO I NEED TO CALL SOMEONE.
Seriously Charlie Craig, somewhere there gon be a whole lotta therapists makin’ a whole lotta money after your episodes.