REVIEW | The 100 - Season 4
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
When the flood calls You have no home, you have no walls In the thunder crash You're a thousand minds, within a flash Don't be afraid to cry at what you see The actors gone, there's only you and me And if we break before the dawn, they'll Use up what we used to be.
Lord, here comes the flood We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood If again the seas are silent In any still alive It'll be those who gave their island to survive Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.
Here Comes the Flood, Peter Gabriel
The weight of the world, held in her battered hand. A spirit shudders. Death – hateful, thieving bastard that it is – is already too familiar in these palms.
Always, it seems.
They are always her hands in the end.
Until now, Clarke Griffin’s unshakable underlying faith in the capacity of her kind to overcome, has taken them far. Helped them survive countless terrors that would otherwise have claimed them all long ago. But now...this. Blue eyes take in the sight of a world on fire, stark against the gaping black mouth of the universe. 6 months, ALIE says. 6 months and they will all be dead, consumed by an inferno that will raze the flesh from the earth like meat being torn from a bone. And Clarke is no fool. She knows ALIE has no reason to lie. Not now, here on the edge of all things. But it changes nothing.
Fingers curl around chrome.
Let me ease their pain, Clarke. We can save the human race. Together.
ALIE. A lie.
You don't ease pain, says one who knows the pain of balancing life, and death, on her shoulders. All too well. You overcome it. And we will.
The world she left behind is at once screaming and breathing her name like a prayer.
Can she feel them? The tears of her mother, trying to drag her daughter back from the edge of darkness. The voice of one she loved, echoing bright and true as it rages at the strange and dying sky in the City of Light. The hand of a kindred heart, gripping her ink-blood fingers in his with all the desperation of a man drowning; one straining towards a breath more precious to him than he can express, yet still isn’t entirely sure he deserves.
The sudden, eclipsing silence of a digital devil falling into oblivion.
In an instant, ALIE – their hunter, their slaver – is gone.
Somewhere, the world rushes back into itself, gushing like a flood back into its own lungs. For a moment, they’re done. Freer than they have ever been. For a second, the circle is complete. Clarke blinks, stares. Bellamy. Abby. Kane. Octavia. The people she loves most in this life, are battered but safe and beside her. Lexa – fierce, beautiful, evergreen – she knows now, is waiting in the next. But the truth is, for as much as one terror is dead, a new one is very much alive and coming for them, its fiery jaws set wide as the sky. Such is the frying pan into which these characters were thrust, and the place where we begin Season 4: the next chapter of this extraordinary tale of sacrifice and survival.
HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN ARK
This, in a lot of ways, was a season about symbols: the creation of new ones, and destruction of old ones. One of the most powerful symbols in the series as a whole, of course, has been the Ark. That giant steel circle of gradually rusting life.
It’s weird, you know. As much as it’s never really mentioned, the biblical foundation of the word ‘Ark’ has never quite abandoned its namesake in The 100. It’s always somehow kept that connotation intact. You see that when it even appears ever so briefly that the Ark has the potential to protect them from Praimfaya. Truly, a vessel for any storm.
But the truth is that the Ark as a concept has not represented hope, or protection, or sanctuary, for a long time, and the exact same goes for the society they had built inside it. For all their remaining shiny parts, they’re both fundamentally broken systems. Yet they’re dead horses the Sky people cannot seem to stop flogging. Time after time, the Skaikru have kept returning to the bones of their old life; seeking shelter inside a relic that they know from experience, cannot save them. For all their talk of wanting to build a new life on the ground, they just cannot let go of their old one.
And put bluntly, it’s destroying them.
They’re fearful, yes. Rightfully so. But Pike’s actions in Season 3 stoked the part of them too, that considers itself as superior to their ‘savage’ counterparts on the ground, and it’s a fire that’s taken on a life of its own now. The life experiences of the Sky people have, to date, bred not only a desperate sense of caution, but also a rampant sense of entitlement. An unabashed selfishness that sees them trample on the rights, welfare and wellbeing of others in order to save their own skin; worse, they do it all believing that they are accountable to no-one but themselves.
And my goodness, the havoc it’s wreaked.
Indeed, of all the clans, it’s perhaps the actions of Skaikru above all that most make you question whether Luna had a point when she turned up to the conclave, threatening to make them all die in the fire. She swatted away the idea that it’s about whether people can be saved, and she was right to.
It was about whether these people actually deserve saving.
Either way, it was satisfying to see that giant bucket of bolts go up in flames. It needed to happen, if only for one reason: that it pushed the Sky people into a situation where they had to adapt to their new surrounds – not just take it by force. They had to grow up and shed their long-held egotism, in order to defend the common good, if they were to have any hope of surviving. Because this is what it means to have humanity. It’s the exact kind of humbling the Sky people have needed for so long.
I don’t think I’ve said the words ‘it’s about bloody time’ so many times in a row, in a while.
Although, as we see later, their arrogance going to be a bastard of a weed to pull. In Pike’s place once again stands Jaha, watering that same bitter root and still needling his way towards power. I swear. The man’s like a worm determined to eat its way to the heart of every apple on the tree.
The problem though is that Jaha knows how to capitalise on his people’s fear for the future, especially when that fear arises during a power vacuum. That’s what makes him dangerous. He knows how to wield fear the same way Octavia knows how to wield a blade: not with wildly inaccurate slashes, but smoothly, expertly and with precision. It’s like his super power.
Seriously. We know this guy.
He was never going to keep up with the ‘I’m just one of the people now’ charade he put on in those first few days back in the Ark after the destruction of ALIE. It’s not how he was wired. Him taking the chip made almost zero difference to his human behaviour. He desires that seat of control, and he knows that if he plays the mob just right, they’ll hand it to him on a platter. He feeds off the energy generated by the subjugation of people he sees as lesser. And – even though we know now that Octavia has ultimately made them share the bunker – you can still tell that Jaha is a man who won’t be able to help himself. He will keep weaseling. Keep politicking. Keep choosing his own agenda over the wellbeing of others. It won’t matter because he won’t change. Think about it. Think about those scenes where he was the poison in the ear of Clarke, convincing her to seal the doors to the bunker even while all the people are still outside, despite the fact that Skaikru are no more deserving of that place than anyone else.
Jaha has not evolved.
Ultimately, I think it’s this part of his character that will get him killed. When and how, though: they’re questions for Season 5 and beyond. Either way, it’s enough to make you shake your head. Every horrible thing that’s come to pass and I don’t think he’s really learned a damn thing.
While we’re still on the subject of the Ark, though, it’s worth noting that I think Illian being the one to destroy it was a great move, from a narrative viewpoint. To me it was a really neat way of burning the ships. Illian, as a symbol of life on the Ground, cutting off power to a life in the sky that is no longer relevant.
Are the Sky people furious? Scared? Of course they are. But it needed to happen, and it’s something they were never going to do for themselves. For them to move forward, there had to come a point where there would be no going back. I think too that they needed to know the weight of what it was to have an outsider come in and out of nowhere, destroy all they had, purely to meet their own selfish ambition. Skaikru needed a taste of its own medicine before it took its next steps as a clan.
On a personal level though, Illian’s burning the Ark was an action that dovetailed perfectly with Octavia’s growth at a key point in time. Ultimately it set up the opportunity for him to help pull her back from her own point of no return: something that began a chain reaction of events we know now ultimately went on to have enormous consequences. In that sense, you could argue that Illian was added to this story to be a catalyst more than anything else. But in truth I thought his individual arc played an important part in the success of the story they chose to tell as a whole, for a different reason.
The existence of ALIE and the effect she had were clear on all those sad but nameless faces in the bloody streets of Polis in the beginning. But it wasn’t until Illian that we got up close and personal, at length, with a character who we weren’t invested in, and really viewed ALIE’s impact through those eyes. We needed that. We needed to see that the damage done to the world didn’t matter solely because it affected characters we cared about. It affected somebody, of no greater or lesser worth than our favourites. They were human. It affected them. That alone should be enough to drive us to care, to take action. There’s a lesson there, just in that notion. And Illian was played in a way that made us feel the weight of that lesson.
Much kudos, then, to Chai Hanson, who threw so much heart into this character. He did such a beautiful job here, and to be honest, I’ll miss him in Season 5.
WHEN I AM GONE
No longer mourn for me when I am dead Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell Give warning to the world that I am fled From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell: Nay, if you read this line, remember not The hand that writ it, for I love you so, That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, If thinking on me then should make you woe. O! if, I say, you look upon this verse, When I perhaps compounded am with clay, Do not so much as my poor name rehearse; But let your love even with my life decay; Lest the wise world should look into your moan, And mock you with me after I am gone.
Sonnet LXXI, William Shakespeare
One of the key parts to the success of Season 4 was the way it cross-examined hope and fear as two sides of the same coin. It made this collection of characters almost like a prism through which we might examine the same point; each gave us a viscerally different perspective, and it was a plot device that paved the way for some incredibly beautiful storytelling. In particular I want to focus her eon three characters.
Firstly, Harper and Monty. When these two characters discovered each other, it was lovely. There was an honesty to it, and ultimately it became a critical point of light in an otherwise dark story. Indeed, of all the relationships in the show, it was perhaps one of the more low-key ones, yet at the same time – for me at least – it was one of the most profound. It wasn't happiness, nor a happy ending, but it wasn’t love in a hopeless place, either. They saw a future, however hard, that they would not have to travel alone anymore. Monty and Harper had spent a lifetime together – childhoods, and how adulthood – and yet despite all they'd seen to date, up to a point, they kept their glow in tact while most everything else around them became more and more polluted by darkness, left behind by ALIE, by Pike. Good things now tainted by too much bloodshed and politics.
This is The 100, of course. Darkness catches up with everyone one way or another and we know this. But as hard as it was to watch, Harper’s disintegrating desire to live was part of a key arc that breathed equal parts conflict and compassion into this narrative. Right beside her are two men. Jasper: nihilism flooding every vein, longing for death and the great fire of the end as though they’re the arms of an old friend. And somewhere in the brutal in between, stands Monty, with his steady heart and belief in a tomorrow worth fighting for, even if it’s terrifying. Three sides of a triangle. Every point to a different end.
Harper’s part of this story…the message of her is as beautiful as it is simple, I think. I find myself reminded of that Emily Dickinson poem. Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. She tries to drown it. Tries to shove it away, bury it in lies. I think of those horrible scenes with Jasper near the end when she chooses first to stay behind at the Ark with him, numbing herself to the horror to come rather than risk everything to go with Monty. Even the scenes in “Gimme Shelter” when Harper is struggling with the death of a boy from the Ark, who dies because she ran to safety first rather than help him when the acid rain hit. It was moments like this – smaller, crueler but authentic – that regularly pointed back to that ever-overarching theme of The 100. That for better or worse, people are not the sum of their worst decisions.
She's a tender ricochet of the journey characters like Bellamy have been on, in that sense.
But such are the what would you have done moments that this show does so well. They’re the scenes that grab the audience and drag them right into the heart of the point the writers are trying to make in any given moment. The very thing that sets this show apart from others like it. And I loved that they utilised Harper more than they have previously, to enact something so important. I loved that in the end, the best of her heart won out and she did not give up. It also gave Chelsey Reist more opportunities to shine as an actor, and to her credit, she did not disappoint.
All in all, Harper was a quiet but stunning reminder in Season 4 that sometimes the instinct alone to survive is not enough to break through our walls. Instead, it is only that small, glistening piece of the impossible – the idea that the odds are wrong – that saves us from ourselves. That pull us back from the edge when we want nothing more than to jump. In the end, I was so thankful that Harper came to embody that hope the way she did.
Because it made for a stark contrast to Jasper.
For a long time, I haven't liked this character: something that that only strengthened the more he worked to convince the people around him that to die, drunk, numb and passive, was a better option than to at least try to survive. That said, I'm thankful that towards the end I was taught to appreciate him. Because it was impossible to deny the fact that by the time he took his last breath, he had played a massively important role in the overarching emotional integrity of this season.
For as much as I hadn't liked him, something in me still stung in that opening episode where we see the preparations he's made to kill himself. The plastic sheets. The loaded gun. The painting Maya had loved so much, sitting before him like an open window through which he could float away to find her once he was dead. Just a boy, standing in front of a door into eternity: one that he could step through, and close forever behind him. No second thoughts. A point of no return.
But once he realises that death is coming on swift wings for them all, suddenly a bullet seems cheap. This makes equal sense. Why not go out in a blaze of glory? Why not flip the bird at the life that has stolen everything he loves? The path he follows from that point, of course, makes him a thorn in the side of people who do want to keep living, but I suppose once you are past giving a shit about Armageddon, whether or not your friends think you're being a selfish idiot must seem far too small to sweat. Yes, it's awful. And it's selfish. But it’s bitterly understandable.
It's odd. I think of how we know now that the original plan was to have him die, all the way back in the beginning. A kid, innocent and still with light in his eyes, pinned like a pretty bug to a tree, by devils we had not yet met. And I think of how meaningless that end would have been. It would have taught us nothing about what truly happens when hope and a human heart desert each other in equal measure; about how– unlike the point of a spear, the tip of a knife, a cocked and loaded gun – the sheer act of giving up can kill us, long before we're dead.
And yet. Even then. There – with the orange glow of hell on the horizon, and Monty's grieving but familiar face before him – Jasper still felt the grace of what it was to die, understanding in those last few seconds that the greatest good in his life had not given up on him and loved him still, despite all he'd done to drive it away.
Many have departed from us in this story. Many have died. But this was a tragedy greater than death. It was the last act of a man who looked straight into the eyes of a friend and still said You are not enough. And meant it.
It was critical that such an arc not be left out in favour of more hopeful endings. The desire to end their life, to see no way out of the very darkest kind of pain, is a reality for so many people, every day – not only the ones who die, but also those they leave behind. It was a reality that absolutely had to play out in the context of this story. It needed to be clear that there wasn't just one world that ended there in the ark window, but multiple.
Devon Bostick exited this series having played what I think was a divisive but essential role in giving this season the gravitas it needed to tell this part of the story, well. It was a performance over four seasons that added much to the unrepentant boldness and bluntness The 100 is now synonymous with and for that I’m incredibly thankful.
THE THIN RED LINE
We said goodbye to some phenomenal supporting characters this season: all of whom regularly shifted the narrative in some pretty powerful ways. They made the most of their time, so to speak. Three of them we lost in the conclave. Roan, the last king of Azgeda. Luna, the last nightblood. And Illian, the last of his line. Illian we’ve already discussed; it’s the others I want to focus on here.
Roan, from the outset, was a magnificent addition to this mix in Season 3, for many reasons. His arrival heralded the first real insight we got into the Ice Nation, revealing it to be far more fractured than they would have liked it to appear to outsiders.
In particular with Roan, what was great was that his big interactions weren't all predominantly with the one character. It meant we got to know him from a variety of perspectives. This in turn gave us something really tangible and interesting to compare characters like Clarke, or Kane to. Particularly with Clarke and Kane as leaders of their people, Roan was enormously important in helping them navigate the new world, in a way that saw all three characters grow from the experience. Clarke built a relationship with not only an ally, but a man who the world around them would have had as her enemy. In this, they were leaders by example. In their relationship, too, I was thankful for the fact that Lexa’s good influence resonated so much between them, but it was never a point of contention. It was point of honour, and trust. In particular I loved that scene between them in Becca’s lab when they’re trying for the nightblood solution. He acknowledged that he saw in her, as a leader, the same things that Lexa had seen. And rather be threatened by these qualities, like his mother had been, he saw them as something to be encouraged. Something that had the power to do great good. Aside from telling Clarke what he saw in her, it also told us as the audience much about what he valued most in people.
It’s worth noting just how brilliant Zach McGowan has been in this role. Sad as I was to see him go, we knew it was always going to come to an end somewhere, and it feels absolutely right that that Roan should go down swinging. Fighting for his people, fighting to survive. Roan was never more of a king than he was in that moment. He went out in a way that was fitting to the world he inhabited and sought to rule, remaining true to his creed till the end. A good death, as the saying goes.
Luna, comparatively speaking, was pure darkness. Gone was the girl in Lincoln’s notebook and the strong, acutely graceful protector of innocent lives they met out to sea. Gone even was the mother who wept as her child died in her arms on the Ark. By the time she reached the conclave, she had suffocated her humanity beyond saving. She was a wraith.
Nadia Hilker’s presence in this season was nothing short of stellar. She made this character live up to every inch of her promise. And if you’ve watched this show from the beginning, you’ll know she’d been promised for a very, very long time. My favourite thing about her performance was how seamless she was, across the board, in crafting Luna’s transition between being a symbol of hope and one of horror, for the people around her.
Consider her. This nightblood.
The rescuer. Arms wrapping gently around Raven as she lay screaming in pain on the floor of Becca’s lab. Luna, whispering the deep, quiet magic of the water into the mechanic’s storm. Murmuring madness into submission.
The hunter. Black eyes staring merciless as blood slicked hands drag dog tags from cut necks and pierced chests. She shifts, silent until the kill, every breath more raw and jagged than the last. Luna, sneering malevolently. Arrogant in the belief that she is about to sentence the last hope of her entire species, to death by a thousand cuts.
Light, to dark.
As such, like the Azgeda king, if Luna was going to be written out, her end needed to mean something. On one hand, Roan’s fight and death showed that for all its violence, there were still remnants of Grounder life worth preserving beyond Praimfaya. On the other, Luna came to symbolise the deadliest and most selfish elements of the Grounder mentality. The very mentality that needed to perish in the coming storm.
One gulf. Opposing sides.
In the middle? Octavia Blake, her own humanity swinging in the balance, hanging by a thread. But as she fights the last nightblood for survival, what becomes very clear, very quickly, is that Luna is the embodiment of the oblivion Octavia has been chasing, ever since Pike put a gun to Lincoln’s head and pulled the trigger. The violent end the girl under the floor has been seeking, is suddenly right there in front of her, and Luna is just baiting her to give in. To give up the ghost and take the rest of the world with her. But again, darkness underestimated light, and ultimately did so its downfall.
Her brother, wrestling with an armed assassin and risking everything – even the lives of his own people – just to save her, despite her every rejection of his love since Lincoln died. Indra’s training and wisdom, guiding every step; ringing in every stroke and thrust of her blade. Even Roan, arm outstretched in one last alliance before death. Illian, giving her his life that she might live.
Alone, hunted and surrounded by death, Octavia finally accepted the truth.
That she had never been alone at all. And she had no right to pretend that she was anymore. Not when it would cost the lives of people who were actually worth saving. And so it was, in the turning of a single heart, hundreds of lives were saved. All of which brings us to what I think has been the most powerful story of all in Season 4.
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER
Octavia’s arc was, in my opinion, the absolute best of the season. It demonstrated not only her growth, but also her robustness as a character to carry so many of the profound truths and lessons built into the show. And it was a testament to calibre, excellence and sheer physical commitment to the role, of Marie Avgeropoulos, in just how well she bore the weight of that burden. She executed her part in the story with utter precision and heart. And good grief but did she take the entire show with her.
Like Jasper, like Clarke, Octavia has now had to watch the one she loved most in the world be viciously cut down by injustice, right before her eyes. And just like them, despite all her growth, all her newfound strength and survival skills, she was helpless to stop it. As we know, each character diverged at this point in the woods. All shattered; very different pieces.
In a lot of ways, you can understand why Octavia turned to the business of killing. Death had taken so much of what she'd loved; becoming a killer herself, wielding death at will…it was her way of making death her prisoner. The beast that would have destroyed her, now caged in a muzzle of her own making. You can see that that’s what she’s telling herself. Suddenly, death is nothing more than a tool in a hand. An enemy she can control. But this was never the reality of the relationship she came to have with the dark. Death was still every bit the poison chalice it had always been. And deep down, she knew this. But by the time she entered into Roan's employ, ultimately, she was a slave to the very thing she tells herself she has mastered.
It's not to say that this wasn't without its benefits at times. In fact, it was her ability to kill that ended up saving more lives than she took. That conclave sequence was some of the most gripping TV I've watched in ages, and it put similarly brutal shows into the shade, for one enormously important reason. The key thing to the violence, brutality and even cruelty of The 100 to date – whether physical, mental or emotional – is that it is rarely ever without purpose, and the horror that occurred in Season 4 was no different. There is always a reason for it in this show, the same as there's always a reason for a love scene, for example, and there is genuine integrity of that kind of storytelling. Integrity a lot of other shows and writers' rooms could learn from.
Because for all the destruction we saw in this chapter of The 100, the big point the writers seemed to be making was that in a lot of ways Praimfaya was irrelevant. It was a circumstance. A big one, yes, but still. This was about something far more fundamental: the idea that no matter how bad it seems, death is never the strongest player on the field by default.
Because out of the two, it is the only one with the power change the game. You can’t evolve if you’re dead.
It’s for that reason that I want to point here to a particular piece of excellent storytelling that occurred in Season 4. One that foreshadowed much of what was still to come, by dipping beautifully – if only ever so briefly – into the past.
To be sure, there were some massive echoes to past moments in this series. Case in point, and probably the biggest one of all, the fact that Clarke yet again had to make the choice between certain death and possible survival, with a lever in her hand. Other moments between people echoed back to old days in their relationships. That moment between Monty and Jasper when he's showing in their drinking water in a shower cap and they high five – it made me think of those two pesky kids back in "High Times".
There were echoes of old worlds everywhere.
This, though. This was different.
It was my third watch of the season and truth be told, it was an easy enough detail to miss in the moment. Illian had just been introduced, in a cold haze of blood and grief as ALIE made him murder his family in order to drive his mother to take the chip. It was clear even then that while he might not be a permanent addition to the story, he would still be a catalyst for something bigger than himself in the context of the season. As such, it was important to establish in no uncertain terms that his motivations – whatever the end they drove him to – would be powerful enough to make the story shift around his ensuing actions. That was where the focus was, and rightly so.
The butterfly, meanwhile – tiny, glowing and cobalt as the heart of a fire – had long since made its quiet entry, dancing through the air on to Illian's mother's bloody fingertips. There and just as quickly gone. Fleeting as a breath.
I wondered. Another just like it had once landed on the Octavia of old. Fluttering down a life age ago, on to the unblemished skin of an innocent kid whose spirit was still bright, and still so full of hope for a future she couldn't see. It was…startling. Did they mean to do it?
Either way, as a symbol of rebirth, butterflies were a tender but sharp metaphor to choose. So to have that occur in the context of meeting Illian – who goes on such a huge part in Octavia's rebirth as a character – was a really beautiful touch, but also a very telling one. Because it's not just that she moves from ‘Girl under a floor, in the sky’, to battle-scarred Commander of thirteen warring clans on the ground. Nor was it only about the shift within her that meant she went from trying to die, to fighting for life.
No. It's about love.
A fragile dawn, after the darkest of nights.
Love as Octavia knew it with Lincoln is still a way off: that much is clear. And who knows if before the end of the series, they'll put a relationship like that in her path again. But the love that matters most now – love for her friends, for her brother, enough to begin to spill drops of grace back into their broken places – this is the true strength Illian helped her find again. The ability to forgive, others as much as herself: not for their failings, but simply for being human. The scales of old hate…watching them fall away as finally, she drew him tight into her arms when he came through for her in opening the bunker…hope raised its flag again, and watching it get caught there, high in the winds of change, was breathtaking.
And it's this exact resurrected element of her character that I think will be integral in her being the leader she’ll need to be in order to help her people survive. And I think, even knowing that she is still going to be a viscerally fierce presence in the season to come, it will be fascinating to see how her evolution as an individual and a leader in Season 4, will shape her actions moving forward.
ME AND MY SHADOW
Another massive theme in Season 4 was the idea of characters being haunted by their pasts, and it was examined in a number of pretty clever, nuanced and heartfelt ways.
The first and most obvious cab off the rank here, is Raven. I love this character. I love her to shreds. She had so much guts and fire and tenacity, and yet at the same time has these moments of utter rawness and vulnerability that every now and then, you blink and find yourself holding your breath as she works her frantic magic on what others see as impossible.
Realising that her mind had been ‘upgraded’ by ALIE and had remained so even after the erasure of the AI – well, in a backwards way that was just sheer, dumb luck. Raven is brilliant, but to do what she needed to do to save her friends, she had to use this last shred of her enemy. A terrible means to avoid an even more terrible end. What I thought was fascinating though, was the fact that when push came to shove, it wasn’t ALIE who manifested herself in Raven’s consciousness, but Becca. This was a solid touch on the writers’ part. It showed us again as the audience, just how much Becca actually never was the good guy in all of this. Arrogance made her create that AI in the first place: the self-same human flaw that means the people of the world beyond the lab are spending their last days either killing each other or killing themselves.
Either way, leading into Praimfaya, the truly horrible fear here was that Becca still might take Raven down with her in the end. Like Jasper, Raven too has her reasons for wanting to give in. You see that as she finds herself saying goodbye to Murphy, surrounded by spare parts and a space suit. Finn echoes in those white chambers like the sound of a coin hitting the walls of a deep well on its way down. You can understand why if she’s going to die, she’d want to do it in a way that reminded her of the last time she felt truly free, and without pain. The last time she genuinely felt the wonder of what it was to be alive. And you can't help but think that somewhere, Becca/ALIE knows it.
But like Octavia, the ability to just give up is not in Raven’s bones. As much as she wanted to be free of this world, she knew that the cost of that freedom was leaving behind her friends. People who loved her and would die for her sake.
But would she live for theirs? It could so easily have gone either way.
Enter stage left, Sinclair.
That moment when she woke up to find her father has returned to her was so profound. It reminded me a bit of that last scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, actually. The spaceship, like the resurrection stone, offered a path back. The ones who had changed her life, ghosts standing either side of the road. But as soon as Sinclair arrived, I think we knew Becca was done for. I particularly loved that exchange where Becca says that, with her in Raven’s brain, Raven was Einstein. Mozart. Da Vinci. Without her, Raven is ordinary. No, her father says. She was never ordinary.
Sinclair, even now, is contending for his daughter.
Until you realise, he isn’t.
That’s what made this scene so great. This isn’t Sinclair telling Raven her life is worth fighting for. It’s Raven telling herself. She knows.
And the way that Lindsey Morgan brought that struggle to life, was everything.
That whole scene in the ice bath, Raven rising out of it like a baptism of cold fire, reminded us – much like Marie’s portrayal of Octavia – of the physical commitment Lindsey has made to this role over time. And it should never be underestimated what that means to a huge portion of the audience. I've said it before but I’ll say it again: having a character with a disability portrayed like this, is monumental in the context of current stories being told on TV. It’s more than the fact that she is tenacious and resilient. It’s that she’s made to be critical to the success and survival of the people around her. It’s that she is brilliant, bold, and – above all – anything but helpless. There will never be words to express what that means, to so many people. Knowing then that Raven is coming back – knowing that she chose life over painlessness – makes me so excited to see how she’ll make her mark in Season 5.
But she wasn’t the only one who began on that rocky path back to the light in themselves.
The journey of Murphy and Emori – towards each other, towards their fate – has been an exquisite thing to watch over the course of the last couple of seasons, but what I loved most about them was their loyalty to each other. Two people, completely discarded by their own, have become so much more than lovers. They’re family. They are their own, tiny clan, and together their strength has been a formidable thing to watch as it’s developed. You think of that scene where Emori pretends the Grounder intruder is someone she knows, framing him so he ends up in that death chamber rather than her, that she might not be parted from Murphy. You think of her being discovered, and John raging against his bonds trying to convince Clarke not to make the woman he loves pay for the deceit, with her life. Thick or thin, they stick together. In such a divided world, that’s an extraordinary and necessary example to have around.
But much as I love Emori, it’s John I want to focus on here.
I loved the redemption arc that his and Raven’s relationship took as we reached the climax of this season. Like Bellamy and Octavia – who’ve had so much betrayal and bloodshed pollute the space between them, for so long – Raven and Murphy have existed hatefully ever since the day he fired the bullet that damaged her body beyond repair. Insults riddled the atmosphere every time they were together: mostly Raven screaming abuse at Murphy, and Murphy copping it, already believing every word of it to be true. It was like the verbal equivalent of watching O beat the shit out of her brother when they come back to that cave after Lincoln has been executed.
Seeing them ultimately begin to find a way to be kinder to each other by the time they ended up in space…like the Blakes, Raven and Murphy are a scarred but beautiful embodiment of the idea that sometimes, if you fight hard enough, even the most broken things can be rebuilt: not to be the same as they were, but to be something new and stronger. So many relationships were defined by this idea in Season 4. So much proof that you can sometimes be both the ashes and the thing that rises from them.
This was, in the end, equally true for characters like Echo. I don’t Jaha-level dislike her, but she’s not been on my Christmas card list for a while. Put it that way. And yet. Much like Jasper, it was great to be made to appreciate her more as a key player in all this.
Aside from her own personal growth, like Illian, she also proved a catalyst for important changes other characters. Bellamy, is of course the primary one to consider here. To see her be the one scrambling towards him once they were back on the Ring, ripping his helmet off and shoving him towards the oxygen to try and save his life…it was extraordinary given the fact that only hours before that, he was wrestling with her as she tried to assassinate his sister during the conclave.
No matter how much the world tries to discard her, she keeps ending up back in its grip. Somehow. And given the nature of this show, it’s clear that characters with a penchant for surviving as she does – when all else suggests they shouldn’t – are bound to make an impact. Will that translate into something with Bellamy down the line? Who knows. Six years is a long time in space and Bellamy believes the woman he loves – and he does love Clarke, profoundly – is dead.
Speaking of Clarke, it’s worth touching on that moment Echo and Clarke shared in the forest too, when Clarke agrees to take her to the protection of the bunker. Echo’s words – I was just trying to save my people – were the only thing she had to offer as an excuse for what were, realistically, some pretty terrible and underhanded actions. But in speaking them to Clarke, who has just come out of the bunker mess with Jaha, it made for a really important moment of pathos. A reminder that for all that separated them, they had some very deep motivations in common too. This season was full of connections like that, and I thought the story as a whole was that much stronger, for it.
Either way, the credibility and rawness of Tasya Teles’ work in this role cannot be underestimated. It added a really interesting, clever layer to the greater narrative, and for my part, I’m really looking forward to seeing how this character shifts now. After all.
The only life she has ever known has been on the earth.
Now she’s a Grounder amongst stars.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and, when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.
Louis de Bernieres
Bellamy stares, just as she did. He sees a world on fire. Knowing that Clarke is still down there. Knowing that again, she’d picked his survival and that of her friends, over her own.
She saved us, Raven murmurs. Again.
Clarke as an individual this season, grew as a leader, it’s true. But for me it was more a case of her continuing down a road she started a long time ago, rather than starting on a new path. The threats were bigger, of course, and the stakes were higher, but the inner conflicts were the same. As they should be too – they may have led her to some terrible places, and caused her to have to make some truly horrific decisions, but Clarke’s desires to be fair and good and protect what she loves, remain beautiful parts of her character. They’ve led her to do some pretty noble things too – case in point, staying behind to realign the satellite to give her friends a chance in space.
Bellamy has walked a similar road. He has not stopped fighting to earn back the love and trust of the two most important people of his life. He’s a man who has felt and will continue to feel the weight of the mistakes he’s made, but unlike some other characters, he’s worked hard to move forward and do better tomorrow. It’s why I’ve loved his relationship with Kane so much. Bellamy is like a younger echo of the Chancellor, and while he sees in him the opportunity to teach lessons – that Bellamy might go on to do better – he also sees the opportunity to nurture and encourage the good heart that he knows Bellamy already has. A stark contrast to Pike, who used that same heart against itself for his own bloody agenda.
But ultimately, Bellamy too, continued on the same road he began in Season 3, rather than go off on a new one. As such, I think it’s fair to say that the primary evolution of these two characters in Season 4 perhaps didn’t occur in the context of them as individuals. It happened in the context of relationships. Including their own.
The true strength of Clarke and Bellamy’s bond is not (nor has it ever been, I think) in something so transient as their chemistry. It’s in their ability to save each other from themselves, even when they’re not physically together; in the resilience of their capacity to be equally honest and tender with each other, when the rest of the world would rather see them judged or cut off.
You see that attitude manifest itself in so many key ways, even from the very first episode. The fact that she tells him outright about Praimfaya. The way they refuse to let each other give up their respective places on the list. The way that when it boiled down to it, he could look her dead in the eye even as she pointed a gun at him and trusted that she would value his life enough to let him go to let Octavia into the bunker.
You know, it’s odd. Even now, after so much water has passed under the bridge, a lot of people still give hours of their day over to arguing about whether Lexa was the great love of Clarke’s life. To be fair, it’s an argument of considerable weight and merit. So much of what Clarke and Lexa shared, and brought out in each other, left an indelible mark on those they left behind. A mark of great beauty that continues to effect change even now. Their love was a beacon that lead more than one heart to a safer home than it knew before. It’s an extraordinary legacy that cannot be forgotten, even in a world that’s in the process of being erased. Lexa changed Clarke for the better, and in turn it helped Clarke change the world.
But I firmly believe – perhaps now more than ever – that while Clarke is enough in every way on her own, Bellamy absolutely is her soulmate. There is, to my mind, no two ways around that. Not anymore.
This relationship isn't one spent close to the shore; what they feel for each other is something that dwells in the deep water. It resonates around them in everything they do. This is no longer a game of hints: for them, or for us as the audience. We don’t get to be teased anymore as to what they may or may not be, and if that’s what the plan is in season five, then outright I’ll say I don’t think that’s fair.
We know what they are.
Which means that, given all that has now come to pass, not acknowledging this key element of their relationship – in genuine, practical terms – makes about as much sense as pretending snow is made out of fire. Continuing to dance around it only devalues what has been a core pillar in the foundation of the greater story we have come to love so much.
Seriously. It’s time.
These two have weathered literal hell on earth together. Not to mention weathered each other, at their very worst. They’ve dealt with floated parents. The people who floated their parents. Murdered friends. Murdered strangers. Pierced hearts. Scarred bodies. Made terrible choices. Lived with terrible consequences. Even them! They’ve shot at each other. Screamed at each other. Lied and betrayed each other, more than once. And yet there has never come a moment where one of them has finally said Enough. No more. Where so much else has fallen apart, something powerful inside both of them has not. It holds firm. It forgives and protects and lets old trespasses die. Whatever happens now, I think the relationship of these two characters deserves now to come full circle in its own right. Whether it will or not, though. Well…time will tell, I guess.
One of the fantastic things about taking time away from reviewing has been rediscovering the act of… well, being a fan, I guess. Of watching and enjoying, without dissecting. Absorbing this world for its own sake. Like most shows, you could sit there and pick apart The 100 and find many things it arguably could have done better over the last four seasons. There’s been moments where the actions of characters feel incongruous with their growth. Times where the built-up-then-obliterated happy endings have become almost too wearying. It can be exhausting.
But unlike other shows, even after all this time, I think the heart of this story remains uncompromised. Not because Jason Rothenberg has some kind of gilded, unbending vision that no-one can alter, or because it’s something that the network is invested in and therefore want to keep because it makes it look edgier in the company of its counterparts. It’s because the writers and actors and people behind The 100, respect their audience enough to ensure that they’re never delivering less than the story they think we deserve. At least, that's how it feels. They may not always get it right, but their motivation seems pretty spot on.
That might seem like an overstatement to you, but honestly. When you consider what is out there, being lauded as the best TV has to offer, there is so much bullshit being put to screen. Violence and sex and brutality and lies, added to the mix so often for their own, self-indulgent sake, but rarely to just encourage you to maybe take a minute and see the world from a different perspective. Put bluntly, a show that’s written to shock you first and teach you second, is a show that disrespects you.
This is not that show.
It’s the kind of show that even if it has a bad ep here or there, you know you’ll still tell your friends to watch, because it’s just that good. Because in 2018, it feels like an important kind of story to tell.
Overall, for me, Season 4 was probably its best yet, and I write that knowing that as I type, episode one of Season 5 is going to air. I don’t doubt that the intruders we saw in those final moments of the season finale, will kick things off with a bang. But I will say that I think to beat Season 4, The 100 writers will have to have brought their A game and their game face.
Either way, kids. I’d belt up.
I think we’re about to be in for one hell of a ride.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
Praimfaya wasn’t a global nuclear meltdown, it was just the delayed firestorm from when all the ovaries exploded after Bob Morley grew facial hair in the off season.
No really, true story.
Every time Chris Larkin smiles, somewhere a baby unicorn is born.
I looked though all the DVD extras trying to find a deleted scene of Indra smiling, but there were none, so you can all go home now.
If the only reason Jaha is still inside the bunker isn’t because Octavia’s always wanted to stick someone in a trash compactor, I’m going to be genuinely pissed.
ALL THE AWARDS FOR MARIE AVGEROPOULOS NOW, PLS AND THK U.
Holy crap on a CRACKER the score was amazing. Tree Adams, you are a fiend in F# minor. Also bonus points for the strategic and consistent use of cellos in sad moments. You owe me a bottle of mascara and fifty-eight boxes of tissues.
Sometimes instead of watching Sharknado, I just look at GIFs of Zach McGowan jumping off things, and honestly it’s better that way.
Becca: in case you ever wondered what it would look like if Facebook and a Windows 10 update had a hell baby sponsored by Squarespace.
Chelsea Reist’s Season 4 Braids vs Bellamy’s Season 5 Goatee vs Kane’s ALL THE SEASONS Aslan Hair, is the greatest triple threat match that has never happened and you know it.
Devastated at lack of use of The People’s Elbow during the conclave, tbh.
is there a cw app where hypothetically speaking one could swipe left on becho, asking for a friend
DON’T @ ME, JEN.
Clarke Griffin now has a small cute child and is about to be reunited with her soulmate after six years apart during which he has lived in space, grown top notch facial hair and thought she was dead, but in fact she’s not and has been living in a cottage garden while also wearing pink. THANK YOU EVERYONE THIS SEASON IS PROUDLY BROUGHT TO YOU BY FANFIC.NET
Not even if I fell out of the badass tree, hit every boss branch on the way down, and landed in a giant pile of camel coloured suede and expensive bohemian Etsy purchases, will I ever be as cool as Nadia Hilker, and I’m slowly coming to terms with that.
BRB. Just adding ‘Milicevic’ to my PC dictionary.