But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Raven'
With the white lights of the great ship fading into the night behind him, a man - veins stinging with fear and adrenaline - thumps an armored truck into next gear, and plants his foot down hard on the gas.
Arkadia has fallen.
Having stolen the most horrific of cargo as a means of thwarting ALIE, we come to this next chapter of The 100 - entitled "Nevermore" - to find Jasper fleeing for his life, into the wilderness and under cover of bitter darkness from the place he used to call home. A place now populated entirely of the most terrifying kind of enemy imaginable. And yet for all that, you can't help but sense he'd almost prefer them to his other, unexpected passenger,
Having stumbled out of the dark and straight into a firefight, Clarke sits reeling from the things she has learned in this scant few minutes. Lincoln is dead. Her mother has lost her mind to the point of letting armed gunmen shoot at her daughter. Her friends are hunted fugitives from their own people. But if the look on Jasper's face is any indication, it's clear that old wounds - and the smoking, ever-present shadow of Mount Weather's ruins - are going to play just as big a part as any new injuries, in the fraught hours to come, if any of them are to have any chance of coming out of this alive.
All the while, a prisoner lays unconscious in the boot of the rover. Snatched up tight in ALIE's mental choke hold, Raven is bound and buried deep inside her own skin as the AI attempts to use her capture to ascertain the location of the rest of the rebels, and the location of ALIE 2. Indeed, it seems that the last thing standing between victory and the digital devil herself, is this one, lone, brutalised but steel-spined girl, who finds herself in the fight of her life, not just for her own mind but potentially even the fate of the world. It is in an intimately horrific arena, too: one filled with feuding friends and new allies. All people who must somehow find away to put aside their own differences and betrayals in order to play their part of what is about to become a vicious game of emotional chess. truly, it's going to take every one of them - working together - to save their brilliant comrade from the horrific fate ALIE has planned for her.
From the fate she has planned for them all.
One of the really fantastic elements of 'Nevermore' was the way it deftly and expertly laced the plot of this chapter with some truly powerful echoes of moments and events from the past; it was smartly done, and added an enormous amount of gravitas to this part of the plot. Writer Kim Shumway went back so far as to reference a number of moments even from season one, which was very clever storytelling on a number of fronts. Firstly it added some fantastic depth to the key scenes that really formed the wheel house of this episode. The obvious examples of that, of course, were when when ALIE used Raven's memories and histories with the other rebels to manipulate them into giving up not just their location, but also possibly details of their plan to beat her.
As we saw, ALIE went back and revisited some truly condemning moments of each character's life, in order to throw their mission off course. The three main people she chose to pick on were Bellamy, Clarke and Jasper, and what was fascinating about it being them is how it served as a collective reminder of just how intricate and interconnected each plot arc is. Each thing that would condemn one, directly affected another, all in a kind of never ending circle. But more than that, this episode also seemed to make Raven a kind of mouthpiece for many of the big questions we as the audience have asked over the past three seasons.
Firstly, let's look at Clarke. In some ways she was easy pickings for ALIE. You don't have to be a rocket scientist (or, y'know, a cognitively independent, nuclear capable AI bent on the destruction of the human race) to know which of Clarke's buttons to push. Pretty much all of those buttons exist as a result - whether direct or indirect - of the innocent people who've perished due to her actions in taking out their various enemies. And given the presence of Jasper - not to mention what her motives are - ALIE was always going to make the Mountain her smoking gun here. In turn, there were the expected verbal cuts. About Jasper after his angry outburst, when Raven says to Clarke that she 'guesses he hasn't forgiven you for killing his girlfriend'. When Raven/ALIE asks Clarke if she still sees the faces of all the people she's killed. And you can see just how much these things sting Clarke bitterly, despite even her best efforts not to show it.
But this was actually a really important reminder for Clarke. True, she has lived the life of a Grounder in Polis. She fell in love with a Grounder and in so many ways, has become one herself. But she's also became so entwined with them that she arguably began to forget who she was and where she came from. And it's this old existence that has come back now, with a vengeance no less, to remind her of just how much of the loved part of her life never really left the Ark.
For a moment, it feels like the realisation has come too late. In the very same second that she returns to the Ark, she also finds herself contending with the fact that with her mother has been taken by the enemy; her friends are being hunted; and her particular friend in Raven has basically been possessed by a monster. And she cracks. 99.9% of us would. Clarke lashes out at ALIE and in turn reveals a tiny detail to ALIE about their plan to get her out of Raven's head. She's emotional and she's in pain. But most importantly, Clarke is reminded that these are her people too: every bit as much as Lexa became her people. And for all intents and purposes, in her own way she loves them. These people...they're her family, in every way that matters.
And when something matters to you, you fight for it and you fight hard.
For me then, I think this was the moment that seemed to place those two loves in Clarke's heart, back on equal footing. It was a reminder for her that this is not an either/or situation, but an 'and' one. There is room to care deeply for both parts of her new life, at the core of who she is. And for my part, I wasn't just glad to see that. I needed to see that. I needed these two parts of the story to be tied together again in a way that I believed. Had the writers failed in this, the greater narrative would still have been brilliant, but it would also feel unavoidably incomplete. And this story deserves better than that.
Then of course, we had Jasper. Like Clarke, he too was easy pickings. After all, he may not have been the one responsible for Maya's death, but the darkness and threats did not cease the moment she died, and in reality he has done nothing to help his friends push that darkness back. And ALIE takes all of that and turns it into a taunt of guilt and weakness. How it was a betrayal of him to have become so useless. How, on top of everyone having to fight for their lives, they were also being made to carry him because he had let himself become so weak and pathetic. In some ways, I think that's how a lot of fans came to feel about him too. And indeed if I remember correctly, there was a whole bunch of people on social media after this episode that referred to his grief over Maya as 'man pain'.
(Just in case I didn't say it at the time, that term is gross, cheap and debasing. Using it or any term that refers to emotional trauma in a way that is gender derogative is disgusting - seriously, it's 2016. We can do better.)
But I think here we saw the next stage of that turning point for Jasper. He begins to make the commitment to not be solely governed by his pain over Maya - and his hatred of Clarke for doing what she did - from this point on. Indeed if you think about it, ALIE's treatment of both these characters kind of dovetailed here, and in that, you begin to see that the AI's plan arguably backfired in the end. Why? Because it was ultimately the catalyst for Jasper and Clarke having the big, painful conversation that directly confronted Clarke's actions and Maya's resulting death. Clarke got the chance to voice an honest apology, and Jasper got to air his anger. But by the end of it, the discussion ultimately seemed to bring them to a place where they can begin to heal and reconcile. And every bond that is made tighter here within this small band of rebels? It will only make them all stronger as a whole. And if ALIE's behaviour is any indication, she fears the strengthening of that bond.
Lastly, we have to look at Bellamy. Everything about this character right now feels like it's steeped in tragedy. The tragedy he's caused; the tragedy he's experienced...everything in him and around him feels like it's broken, and it's heartbreaking to watch.
As I said earlier, there seemed to be a lot of direct voicing of the natural questions we as the audience have had over time about each character, but what I thought was particularly interesting about how ALIE referenced him was when she called him the good little knight. It's kind of a common turn of phrase now to refer to Clarke as he did, when he called her a princess. So to refer to him as a knight...I don't know. I guess I just really liked the neatness of that tie in. It was so full of pathos; it hearkened back to an older world. A reference that took you back to how things used to be between Clarke and Bellamy. It returned us to the thought of what it was like between them when they stood together in a fight. It was a small but weighted reminder that he was willing to be led by her because he knew - imperfect as she was - that he could ultimately trust her judgement. Mind you, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days.
Interesting though, that ALIE tried the same line on Bellamy as she did with Clarke in referencing the Mountain. Indeed she asked the exact question I know I've asked a lot of times myself as the viewer: as to why it's Clarke that cops the full burden of responsibility for pulling the lever when Bellamy's hand was right there with hers. But much like the aforementioned turn of events that happened between Jasper and Clarke, I think again here ALIE's plan of attack backfired in a way she hadn't considered. Because exactly like Clarke, Bellamy too needed reminding of who his true people ultimately were, in order to move forward. And ALIE? She's inadvertently handed him that reality check - that those people aren't Pike, but these: his fellow survivors from the drop ship - on a platter. It's a gift.
It's a gift because it's only going to be through such a reminder that Bellamy is going to grasp the full truth of the statement Kane and Octavia made to him: that there's a difference between doing the right thing to save someone you love, and doing the right thing simply because it's right. Because true motive matters. And a Bellamy reminded of that fact ? He would add even more power to this group. Think about it. His skills and his knowledge would be re-driven towards a far better purpose, because his motivation is different. In rediscovering who he is - and in turn where his strength and integrity truly lie - he becomes stronger.
MEN LIKE YOU
Here I think it's also important to acknowledge the twin arc he had this week, as his dealings with ALIE also brought him face to face with the human consequences of the massacre, when he comes into contact with Niylah. We learn, of course, that her father is among the people that Bellamy helped Pike slaughter on the hillside. Again, the tragedy of it all feels overwhelming. Particularly in that line where he tells Niylah he's sorry, and she replies that men like him always are.
But despite all that, there was hope too. I loved that moment where Clarke says to Niylah that the reason she didn't tell her about Bellamy is that Clarke believed Niylah wouldn't help them if she knew what he'd done. I loved that Niylah's response to Clarke was to remark that Clarke did not give either her or Bellamy a chance to find out what they might have done had they known who the other was from the outset.
To me, despite the bitterness that tinges those words, there's also hope to be found in there. It's a response that suggests despite everything, and regardless of what has gone before, the belief still exists that people can choose to be their better selves in the face of things that would see them become the opposite. Which means that yet again, despite all ALIE's plotting, here is hope rearing its determined head amongst the fear, pain and mistrust. Hope that simply will not go away, no matter how dark it gets.
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL
That said, in 'Nevermore' the darkness went away anything but empty handed.
As I mentioned earlier, the echoes of past events played a huge part in this episode, and this turn of events at the drop ship was no different. As Monty and Octavia drove to the site to retrieve the battery they need to power the device that will, in theory, destroy the chip in Raven's head, I couldn't help but think back on all the iconic history that has taken place there. I found myself remembering things like Monty and Jasper's fight that night, when they came back to have it out on the now lush green earth that once was a pit of dirt, ash and blood. I thought about how when the two of them fought, there was this huge ripping of emotional fabric between them as their friendship seemed to fall irreparably apart. I thought of Finn's ashes and bone shards accidentally being spilled in the process. I thought of the Grounders and Ark kids whose ashes made the ground so fertile. I thought of the bleak, deathly poetry of the fact that it was Raven that burned them all to nothing, and caused all that death, yet now they're back at the same place using the bones of the same ship, trying to save her life. I thought of how we later discovered that even then, ALIE existed and was manipulating every move of both sides to her own ends.
Beside Monty sits Octavia, who is still seething with anguish over Lincoln and brimming with hatred for her brother. Her feelings for her old life are likewise as lacking; she makes no bones about the fact that she doesn't feel like she's coming home in coming here. You can understand why. It's where she saw Lincoln be tortured. Saw enemies revealed unlike any any horror she's ever experienced; seen people butchered - friend and foe alike. And yet. It's also the same spot where she pushed past all those other kids, stood out on that ramp, sucked in a breath of the free air, and joyfully screamed 'we're back' on behalf of the last known remnant of the human race. It was where the girl who was kept alone in the hole in the ground, made her first real friends, and understood what it was to be a part of something. A valued member of a group of equals, fighting side by side - not a child kept in a hole in the ground, as though she's little more than a dirty secret that deserves only to be hidden.
But like Clarke, like Bellamy, she too has forgotten who she once was. She's forgotten her roots and the strength that grew there. Moreover, she's openly acknowledged more than once than she intends to keep forgetting; that she has no people to which she belongs anymore. Especially not now the man she loves is dead. She says as much to Monty, when he tells her in reassurance that if nothing else, she's still part of The Hundred. And then she just turns back into the familiar folds of her grief. Not altogether unlike Jasper in that sense.
Enter stage right, Monty's mother.
It doesn't take long of course for Monty to realise she's been chipped and is being controlled by ALIE. Just as Jaha forgot Wells, like Raven forgets Finn and Jackson his mother, Monty uses the question that requires his last surviving parent to reach back into her past and remember something about the beloved husband she lost. And she's got nothing. No answer. To her own ends, ALIE has stripped him from her mind. And it's horrifically sad.
Again though, here come those overarching themes. About how grief and the depth of it are often the most powerful indicators of how much we loved something - or someone. About how in reaching back, and looking into that pain and love, you have the power to find the lesson you learned there - the one lesson you need - and use it to move forward towards a better life. About how keeping hope in a seemingly hopeless world isn't foolish: it's brave and has the power to change everything. About how it takes courage to remain true to yourself, especially when it hurts. None of these lessons fit into the construct of ALIE, and yet they are a core part of the human experience. In this sense, what ALIE does not know, can do more than hurt her. It can absolutely beat her. And while she doesn't understand these human intricacies fully - because there is no effective way to fully quantify or measure them - you sense that she still knows that they have the power to cause her a lot of trouble.
Which is why the shock that Monty and Octavia experience here is hugely important. Have both of them been traumatised here? Yes. Massively - particularly Monty. But despite that, for Monty, the act of putting two bullets into his mother in order to save Octavia will have steeled his resolve and his mind in a way nothing else ever could, to put aside his guilt over siding with Pike and the control it would have over him, and instead focus on destroying ALIE once and for all. And for Octavia, it's a huge wake up call that her grief isn't the only grief. That her righteous anger isn't the only righteous anger; and that she needs to come to grips with the fact that this is a whole lot bigger than just her desire to get revenge. This is about what is happening to all of them, together. And whether they stick together or they don't may well prove the difference between life and death in this situation. So it is that Octavia realises in a massive way just how much they need each other - and that includes Bellamy - given that the biggest fish ever to fry is waiting for them at the end of the line. Horrific as it was, this was the moment Octavia Blake got her head back in the game and steeled Monty's resolve to end this system that's hunting and hurting all that they both hold dear.
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
All of which brings us to Raven, and what was a truly powerful and unparalleled performance by Lindsey Morgan.
ALIE dug up some horrific stuff in an attempt to bury her foes: something made all the harder to watch when you realise how in the same moment she's hauling out everyone's skeletons to accuse and condemn them with, she's also bending and insidiously abusing Raven's real bones and flesh in the process.
And truly, it was brutal watching ALIE use Raven this way: bowing and twisting her limbs and mind like a voodoo doll, manoeuvring her to hurt her own people. ALIE relentlessly inflicts a kind of cold, holistic torture on the broken, bewildered body of someone who has already been through so much. And it is chilling. But I think what added a whole other layer of menace to the situation was having ALIE so visually present in the space. Where they are wretched, bruised, battered and muddy, she is all clean, perfectly manicured lines: immaculate red lips and dark eyes, in a face framed by perfect, marble skin; her glossy dark hair, ever elegant and without a strand out of place, as she stands there sheathed in a perfectly tailored dress, shaded the exact colour of the blood she has shed oceans of.
But where ALIE's digital presence is stark, blank faced contrast to the emotionally shattered human beings in the room, you see the reality of her visceral, haughty ambition being played out in Raven. You see Raven's lips dripping blood, the crimson smear of it coating her bared teeth. You feel the withering, smug chill of ALIE's arrogant stare as she uses Raven's eyes to survey a room full of people she views as lesser and little more than playthings waiting to happen. Make no mistake. ALIE would have all who know her believe that she alone - not any human - is capable of exacting the best possible outcome for the world. As long as the world exists on her controllable terms. And in that, what you come to realise - particularly in this episode - is that ALIE herself has inherited the exact same hubris her creator had. She is defined utterly by the identical mental arrogance and misguided principles of perfection that Becca showed when she created ALIE.
In which case, a really big idea gets raised here.
Consider this. The warped notion of imperfect people creating a perfect world - and all the very human character flaws that go along with it: pride, conceit, ignorance, condescension, vanity and egotism, just to name a few - all manage to not only fit into ALIE's construct, but thrive in it. Case in point, Jaha. Remember the whole concept of overriding free will? Hell, even ALIE balked at the difficulty of the idea at first. And yet it's Jaha - a HUMAN MAN - who not only comes up with the notion, but pushes it constantly until it becomes the plan. Worse, until all his former people are slave to it.
But things like love, loyalty, courage, passion - they do not fit at all. They have proven themselves to be simply far too big and too complex for ALIE to handle in a way that allows her to just put them in a box and manage them the way she does, everything else. And there is something HUGE in that. It's a reminder to ALIE and to the people fighting against her, that for all her power, she ultimately still cannot handle the greater power that stems from the will of a free mind and a driven heart. Indeed, the only thing standing in between ALIE and victory is human who may have the courage to do what they need to do in order to wield that power to its fullest.
Which brings us right back to this small, tired, fighting band of friends. ALIE is right there, realising her prized asset is about to be compromised. At which point this clinical creature - who to date has always simply been able to turn a human mind to her whim with the relative ease of flipping a switch - takes the vicious and far more primal approach and instead begins to make Raven beat herself to death. Flesh is tearing; the air is a tangle of Raven's gritted screams and her shouting friends holding her down. ALIE has all the chaos she desires and is *this close* to capitalising on it. Until she sees the one thing she desires more. The ALIE 2 chip: so close, and right there in Clarke's hand.
But that split distracted second is all they need. Together this battered group set aside their own anguish long enough to hold their possessed friend down on a strangers bed, strap an electromagnet to her body, and send a single shaft of white hot energy ripping through her nervous system, which in turn melts ALIE like a scrap of plastic in a bonfire. Despite all the odds she tosses at them, they beat ALIE at her own game. And make no mistake: the win comes because they choose to trust in the fact that there is something inside them that ALIE fears.
One of my favourite moments of this whole episode came after that, where they're all standing outside at the back of the truck. Raven, in her father's arms, exhausted but finally free, and more confident than she's ever been that they can win. Octavia, finally acknowledging that there is actually something still to treasure, something still worth fighting for, here in the company of her first friends. Clarke, Bellamy, Harper, Monty, Jasper, Miller...all of them. United under one purpose. There was a massive moment of empowerment that happened here. And you get the feeling now that it's going to change everything.
It's hard to know where to start with a verdict on 'Nevermore', given that it was defined not by one point of excellence, but rather, underpinned magnificently, by many. From start to finish, it displayed equal amounts of storytelling skill and technical excellence, and demonstrated exactly what kind of amazing things can happen when an entire team behind a show really has its act together.
Firstly, we need to talk about the spectacular job Ed Fraiman did in directing. The first time we encountered Fraiman's direction on The 100, of course, was in season two's gripping 'Human Trials'. He was then back in season three, when he helmed the brilliant 'Watch The Thrones' episode where Lexa fights Roan and subsequently kills Nia.
In many ways, he had similar content to deal with in 'Nevermore': namely, multiple core scenes steeped in close-quarter violence, but that simultaneously also needed to peel back the emotional layers of the characters involved, in a way that provided us with key insights into why each person respectively dealt with the world, and in it. And again, it was a goal he achieved here. He executed the task of bringing writer Kim Shumway's viscerally moving script to life, with acute clarity, skill and conviction. Honestly I think they make a great creative pair.
Speaking of Shumway, while she is wonderful at writing episodes based in other plot arcs on The 100, her particular gift for writing Raven-centric episodes came incredibly to the fore in 'Nevermore'. It was a script of extraordinary gravitas, guts and heart, and added this new chapter to the story in a way that demonstrated a keen and beautiful awareness of the history that has already come to pass. That awareness in particular made this an even more powerful episode to watch: so many were the reminders of all the life experiences and decisions that together, have led to this very moment. Moreover, it was a script that brought something bewilderingly powerful out of Lindsey Morgan as an actress. Shumway's understanding of who Raven is at her heart, dovetailed perfectly with the sheer physical and emotional commitment Morgan showed in how she brought that understanding, to life. And heartbreaking as it was to watch at times, I was in absolute awe of the way the actor managed to take an already lionhearted character and made her even stronger.
I also had a huge time for the fraught, almost chess-like interplay of her distressed Raven with the icy, calculating aloofness of Erica Cerra's ALIE. Both showed incredible skill, and for me, it only served to cement Raven's place - to my mind - as arguably the most powerful character in this story right now.
And to be sure, it's a story in the balance. ALIE knows now that her enemies are in possession of the one physical weapon that could destroy her and dismantle her plans; but she now also knows that those enemies are nowhere near as weak as she once judged them to be. Both sides of the war have finally begun to see the truth of who their foe is and what they are capable of. A realisation that has sent the juggernauts of multiple agendas hurtling towards each other, now, and at a cracking pace. The game has truly begun, and almost every player has the power to change it if only they play their cards right. Over it all, the uneasy shadow of the Polis Tower looms, replete with a cruel, scared and bitter girl hiding at the summit, desperate to the point of madness to make good on a massive lie.
Indeed - to quote a wizard - It's the deep breath before the plunge.
The board is set. And the pieces are moving.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
You know who I ship? I ship Jaha and THE ARK WHEN IT WAS FLOATING OFF INTO SPACE THAT ONE TIME NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN.
You ever noticed how everybody else who got the chip immediately acquiesces to ALIE - even tough, hardened people like Abby: they just give up immediately and don't fight back at all - but Raven, even when she has ALIE operating at full capacity and with full access inside her head, STILL has the mental willpower to plan and start to launch a counter strike. I mean DAMN, GIRL.
The whole moment when Clarke screams at Jasper not to destroy ALIE 2 - because somewhere inside it, Lexa's consciousness still exists - was so good. Even though this episode was not about that arc, I thought it was a beautifully stand out moment. I loved that after we'd spent this entire episode seeing the damaging presence of ALIE in her chip, we had this one tiny glimpse of Lexa's presence - and all the extraordinary wisdom and good that she ultimately represented - in ALIE 2. I AM SO DOWN FOR THAT THROWDOWN when all this finally gets to the City of Light.
The only thing that can destroy ALIE is ALIE 2. Gives a whole new meaning to being your own worst enemy.
LINDSEY 👏 MORGAN 👏 FOR 👏 ALL 👏 THE 👏 AWARDS 👏 EVER
Shout out to Chelsey Reist who I glimpsed in this episode and who I think is the bee's knees and who I don't say that enough about. She is wonderful.
Never thought that seeing Monty's mother get killed off would give me the 'I just got my heart stomped on' feels, but it did. Geez, though. That scene was harsh.
Shout out to all my fellow Bellarkers who felt all the hand touch tingles this week.
Between this and iZombie, I am loving all the cool stuff I am seeing Jessica Harmon in on my TV right now.
ADVENTURE SQUAD IS BACK, BITCHES.