REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 5.01 - "Eden"
The last grasp Is the strongest Fingers clasped All around it The let go Is the hardest When you don't know What comes next But something new and beautiful grows Yesterday must die Before tomorrow can be born
Yesterday Must Die, Missy Higgins
It greets her in the yellow light where she kneels with a shovel and a backpack stretched to its seams. Scar-pinked skin turns up to sky. So…empty. Nothing but rocks and an oblivion that stretches far as the eye can see. The tombstone quiet is deafening, as the wind shifts aimlessly. Dancing over the bones of a world razed to the ground. She stands there, staring out as the sulfur draft from the wasteland tangles and flutters through her hair like a caught moth.
No more fire raging towards her. No sound. Not a bird, not a bug…no trace of life except the hiss of air in and out of her own lungs. Dead. It’s all dead. As far as Clarke Griffin knows, she is the last thing left to clatter around in the atmosphere of an entire planet.
But she can’t think about that. Won’t think like that. There’s a bunker to be dug up. Friends in the sky to bring home and loved ones waiting underground. There are arms to run into. Something pulls tight inside, in the dark place under her ribs. If she closes her eyes she can almost feel what she misses. Light still lingers on every detail. There are chests to press cheeks against and faces to hold in hands and words to be said said that shouldn’t have taken the end of the world, to say. Too many things. Things to never let go of ever again.
She scrambles down the rocks and set her eyes on the scorched horizon. Sets her defiant mouth in a hard line. Later, she will drag out the radio, and tell him everything regardless of whether he can hear her or not, because the hope that he can is enough. Just. She has to believe that it’s about more than surviving. She has to believe that there’s living still to be done.
Little does she know that out there, in the black, sparkling jaws of the sky, good and evil are already preparing to move their next pieces on the board. A man behind glass, looking down. Always watching. Always thinking.
Somewhere, an echo resounds in the steel guts of a prisoner ship. Moral compasses rattle away unused as a host of devils begin to stir in the night. Bellies, hungry. Blood, ravenous. Mission, clear.
So begins Season 5 of The 100: a world where the end of all things appears to have been only just the beginning.
THE GOODBYE GIRL
One of the fascinating elements of this show is the particular way in individual characters are so often crafted to bear the singular weight of the core themes the writers are looking to explore in any given season.
Bellamy, for example has been the poster boy for the power of forgiveness. Not just the idea of needing it, but also what that fight looks like to forgive yourself at rock bottom, and believe you deserve it. Octavia? She utterly embodies the concept of self-determination: the idea of ‘no destiny but that which we make for ourselves’. Murphy is a masterclass in survival and the war for self-worth, whereas Raven personifies the tenacity of the human spirit to overcome, to endure.
Clarke, meanwhile, from day dot has always been examined through the lens of leadership. Who she is and the person she needed to be in order to take her people out of the dark, is a theme that has pervaded every single aspect of her character: from her relationships to her actions to her reactions, and because of that, aside from her little stint in the woods after the events of Mount Weather, we’ve pretty much always seen her in the context of a crowded room.
Which is exactly the antithesis of the Clarke of the Season 5 premiere.
In a lot of ways, seeing how absolute her aloneness is in the beginning of the season felt suspiciously like a slate was being wiped clean: not just for Clarke but the whole 100 world. All above ground that went unshielded from Praimfaya, was lost, and for my part I think that was more than sensational. It was absolutely necessary.
We spent a heap of time in Season 4 examining the idea that surviving and deserving to survive are two different things, and from a show perspective, I think The 100 strangely became a perfect metaphor for itself. If it did not adapt, change, and demonstrate a willingness to grow beyond its own borders, in the competitive context of all the other content out there available to the audience, then it arguably would not have deserved another chapter.
Evolution or extinction.
Four seasons in, that’s the point we’re at now.
So. If that evolution was going to happen and be successful, it need to do so on both a massive scale and a fundamental level. And all of it had to start with Clarke. Without question. She is the soul of this show: it had to be her.
So what did they do? They took a leader and stripped her of people to lead. They took the Commander of Death and stripped her of people to kill. And as if to cement this notion, they had her alone onscreen, bearing the weight of this story alone for a full 20 minutes before we saw what happened to anyone else. If you’ve watched this show for any length of meaningful time, you’ll get what a big deal that is.
Then they started in on the metaphors. Instead of a dove flying over water towards an Ark to signal a new life after a flood, she’s leaving an Ark. She’s met by a carrion bird – an animal synonymous with death – circling over a desert, used now to reveal new life after a fire. It’s cutting, startling, beautiful and terrifying all at once as the poetry and meaning of these things begin to unravel beside each other.
We see Clarke enter the last remaining green valley of the world. She murmurs a heartfelt thank you to what that lead her there, then puts a bullet to its heart. And it’s such a stunning allegory for what the writers are doing to the world of The 100 that has gone before: they’re making it clear here that a layer has been shed for Clarke in her capacity as the heart and soul of this story, but they’re doing it in a way that says ‘we do not forget what’s on the other side of the page we just turned’.
A key part of that process was Clarke returning to the Ark, and finding the box containing the last traces of Jasper. Despite all the caustic antipathy he threw at Clarke in those last days – having never completely forgiven her for the death of Maya – it was clear in this moment that Clarke still harboured significant grief and guilt for the pain she caused him. Irradiating the mountain was unavoidable – and she knows this, as do we, and arguably as did Jasper – but what we see here is proof that the inevitability of the act has done nothing to tame the sting of its ghost. She is still learning to live with this scar.
The real devil here in this moment, was in the details. Maya’s iPod. The last time we saw it, it was in Jasper’s hands as he’d prepared to shoot himself before finding out about Praimfaya. The bitter tears as she opens his goodbye note to Monty. And – in what I actually thought was the most heartbreaking detail – finding Jasper’s old goggles. It’s such a tender relic from a life before nuclear meltdowns and mountain men; before Grounders and AIs hellbent on taking over the world. A reminder that once, they shared the atmosphere of a good life; friends at a time when hope was still thick in their midst. It felt like such a beautiful thing that she should take them with her. After all, it’s a bittersweet kind of poetry that it should be Jasper, in his own small way, giving her something to help see the road ahead more clearly. It was incredibly poignant.
Visually speaking too, it’s worth thinking about Clarke in the physical context of being back in the Ark, scavenging for parts that might help her survive. Seeing the splintered steel skeleton of that old behemoth ripped apart and strewn across the land, was truly a sight after four seasons. Maybe it was an intentional effect and maybe it wasn’t, but I was particularly taken with the debris laid out in a way that made it look like rib cages in the dust. It added a stark sense of finality to the end of Arkadia and the world she left behind there, but again, it also had that strangely biblical sense to it – the story of the Valley of Dry Bones.
If you haven’t read it, it comes from the book of Ezekiel in the old testament. Ezekiel has a vision of himself standing in a valley of dry bones. He does not know to whom the bones belong – only that he is charged to bring a prophecy into their midst and speak it to them. As the story goes, the bones began to draw together: tendon and muscle growing to case them, until eventually a people stand before him. This, God tells him, are His own, exiled people; the prophecy to be given to them, one that outlines a plan to resurrect them and return them to their rightful and true home.
Like I said, maybe it was a reference they meant to make and maybe it wasn’t. It was definitely powerful. Question is, was it prophetic?
Perhaps as if to cement Clarke’s passing from old self to new, we were introduced in earnest in this episode, to Madi: the child by Clarke’s side when we last saw her, on those impossible green slopes in the season four finale. I have to say, I loved that this is where they took this growth. I love it. Before this, Clarke was about protecting everyone for the greater good, but now? Now she has this tiny little family of two and it will completely tip this game on its head.
It’s strange. Watching this, I remembered something my mum once said to me. I am the eldest of two sisters, and out of the two of us, Laura is the one whose gone on to be the mum. She is…oh gosh. She’s amazing. The best of both of us by far. And she has the three most brilliant, beautiful, funny, smart, bright kids in the whole world. Little people who make my heart burst just to hear them laugh. One day while we were all together, I remember saying to my mum that it doesn’t matter if I ever have my own kids, because I don’t think I could ever love my own more than I love those three little buckets of crazy and sunshine. She didn’t hesitate.
Yes, you will, she said. When they’re yours, you will.
The words stopped me in my tracks, then. They still do.
If we take that same idea and apply it to Clarke in this new role she has – not just guardian, or protector, but nurturer and guide to this – it yields some truly fascinating potential outcomes. Because what of that next choice? Because it will come, make no mistake. Will she have it in her to not choose her own daughter? If you remember, Abby certainly couldn’t. The fate of all lives may have rested on the nightblood solution, and yet the second it looked like Clarke could have been the one in that testing chamber, Abby took a steel pole and shattered it beyond repair.
Because when they’re yours, you will.
Now, granted we’re only one episode deep in this season: for all intents and purposes, we haven’t seen a damn thing yet. All we’ve seen is a metal bucket full of predators who know how to land a rocket, be assholes and blow shit up: none of which is new to our faves. Literally. What other people call an ‘invasion by super psycho death squad plannin’ a one way trip to Murdertown’, Clarke Griffin calls ‘Thursday’. We’ve been here. Old Clarke has been here.
But new Clarke hasn’t, and it feels hugely important that we remember that. For all her battle-tested strength, leadership and wisdom – honed in the fires of conflict, and that will never leave her – new Clarke’s priorities and focus are categorically different. And they may lead her to make decisions she never would have dared to make. Perhaps even at costs she never thought she’d find herself willing to pay.
But then that’s what I love most about Madi’s introduction to this story. I mean, what an awesome thing that even after all this time, we can still have a brand-new character be introduced, and from the get go, be absolutely certain that she is worth the fight to protect her. The nightblood was a particular touch in the way it connects her – if in a different kind of way – by blood to Clarke. Indeed, Madi’s very existence is going to throw characters we care about into some absolutely terrifying situations – we already know this – but it does nothing to diminish how welcome she is into the mix. In a world so scarred by death, the things that are worth living for, shine all the fiercer, and I loved the fact that Madi shone like that from the very beginning (despite the fact that I referred to her in my initial notes as ‘the hell child’. I’m not sorry, though, because brats are bad, but brats who are smart, steal stuff and know how to set bear traps are the absolute frickin’ worst).
Although she was introduced to us via a couple of different actors – all of which were wonderful – it was Lola Flanery who took the mantle on a permanent basis, and it’s a real testament to someone so young, that she brought Madi to life in such a bright, interesting way. Given the weight of the part this character is set to play, too, I was particularly delighted to see that Flannery was the person ultimately cast. Her recent work in Shadowhunters was so sharp, and incidentally I had been wondering where she might pop up again. Either way, if what I saw there is any indication, I think both Madi and the one playing her will go on to be jewels in the crown of this season, and perhaps in ways we may not expect. In any case, welcome on-board Lola!
But for all the new faces, there were some old ones too: all bearing the weary mark of people who’ve seen too much and lived too long at the sharp end of life. Given the eclectic mix of the group that ended up back on the Ring, it was always going to be fascinating to see how and what dynamics would shift after six years in space, and six years of thinking that Clarke had died to give them their shot at survival.
As we re-entered the confines of this ship, we were presented with a huge number of images to process in the context of what we’ve seen to date. Raven is a brilliant example of that. To see her revelling in the strength of her body again – in a way we have not witnessed since all the way back before Murphy’s ill fated bullet in Season 1 – was brilliant, if only because our image of this character – like her image of herself – has been dominated by pain for so long. To see her look like she’s done so much more than keep the ship afloat, so to speak, was incredibly encouraging. And given what we know, now, waits on the ground, it’s heartening to think that she’ll have these new skills going in.
Equally, I was so glad to see that it was Echo teaching her. This ride was going to be an absolute hell spell for her given what she’d done before hitching a lift to space. And in a lot of ways, it would be easy to think that much of the Azgeda way of life – fighting and brawling as they did – might be rendered useless here in this new confine. But no. Deadly as they were on the ground, they’re helping another character to find a new lease on life, in the air, and I really loved the poetry of that. Of course, in talking about Echo, we can’t avoid the fact that things have shifted enormously between her and Bellamy too.
Okay, okay, okay, I know. I’m not the biggest fan of this relationship either. Nor have I ever have been, really. But by the same token, reality and realistic expectations tailored to the world that affects them, are still key players in this scenario. Call it intuition – call it whatever you will – but it’s been pretty clear that at some point, Bellamy and Echo were going to find some common ground to work out their issues and their chemistry alike. And hate is a hard thing to hold on to in close quarters for years at a time.
And it is important to note, I think, the chemistry these two characters have always had in one way or another, even since that first introduction in Mount Weather. Is it necessarily the healthiest chemistry all the time? Well no. Obviously. We’ve seen that demonstrated more than once. But much like Clarke down on the ground, in Echo we see that same idea being examined, in some ways: the idea that once you pass into a new realm of who you are meant to be at any given point of your life, it is impossible to go back to the person you were. You have to go forward. In Echo’s case, her entire world is gone. And the one person who would understand better than most how much that experience has changed and affected her, is naturally going to be the one she fought hardest with, in battling for that world’s survival. Them becoming lovers? Well, it sort of felt inevitable once they were up in space, and while some might view it as predictable storytelling (and others still, view it as a little incendiary) to me it felt bittersweetly realistic. This was going to happen whether the audience wanted it or not, and who knows but that it may have actually helped these characters heal a little in themselves after the torment they’ve endured.
Either way, of all the hills to die on, fandom, this ain’t one.
Because indeed, it’s important to remember where these characters are when we first met them again. Ask yourself what that moment was saying about them. Echo, we remember, was in the fight. Raven was learning. Monty was caretaking. Harper was supporting. Emori was constructively contributing. Murphy? John seems finally to be facing a few of his demons.
But Bellamy. He is still looking down.
Do not underestimate the power of that moment.
Think about it. More than six years have passed in a world where he thinks Clarke is dead. Six years he’s had to mourn her in a way that meant he let go, came to terms with the sacrifices they all made, and reset his focus to life on the ship. He’s had time. But he’s still looking down. It reminded me oddly of that line in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The one Rochester uses when he’s trying to convince Jane that there is something bigger at play between them.
I have a strange feeling with regard to you, he says. As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And if you were to leave I'm afraid that cord of communion would snap. And I have a notion that I'd take to bleeding inwardly.
For all those people who would argue against the idea that Clarke and Bellamy are the endgame of the greater world of this story, I look back at moments like this – moments they share, without even needing to be in the same space – that gives me faith that their arc will still come full circle in the end. I refuse to feel gaslit, when the reality is that maybe it’s just a lesson in patience: something I think we could all learn to cultivate a little more of.
I think the big thing I’m trying to say here though – particularly in the case of Bellamy, Echo and Clarke – is that it is still such early days. There’s still so much we don’t know; the one thing we do know, though, is that they’re worth sticking with until whatever end, comes.
That said, it’s as important as it ever was to make sure Bellamy’s value is never simply defined just by his potential with other characters. In and of himself, he has an inordinately powerful part to play in taking this story to some incredibly special places. With that in mind, I have to say: I loved his scenes with Murphy in this episode. Bellamy is absolutely aware of the level of self-hatred he is speaking into, when he challenges John to stop pretending that he doesn’t have a hero within him. He’s aware because he’s had to have that exact same conversation with himself, to the point where the healthy, affirmation of a wiser self, is louder than the sins and bloodshed he has been responsible for in the past. I loved the kind of tenderness that he showed John, as he pushed him to be a better friend to himself. I love it because after everything he’s been through with Octavia, it’s showed that Bellamy has grown in a profoundly deep way: one that enables him to be a good brother, whether the person beside him is blood family or not.
In regards to the rest of the crew though, I did find it really interesting to see the ways some relationships had fallen apart where others had fallen together. Emori and John splitting up was an interesting twist, but much like Echo and Bellamy, it made sense for it to happen to somebody. Again, not doing it would have dinted the realism of what it would be to have seven people living in close quarters, with little more than glorified pond scum to eat, for six years. While Monty and Harper remain as constant as they ever did, something still had to give, and in some ways, its not surprising that it was the most passionate bond that broke the hardest.
But where Murphy and Emori have gone backwards, the relationship between John and Raven seems to have moved nothing but forward. Not that we’ve seen much, of course, but it does feel like they’re now on whatever green hill it is that lies beyond a truce, and I’m excited to see how that unfolds over the course of season five. After all. Mischief and brilliance make excellent allies, and if the enemies they’re about to have to contend with are any indication, it’s a friendship that may yet yield some game-changing results.
CROWS AND LOCUSTS
Where Season 4 spoke almost entirely to those notions of survival, and salvation, Season 5 is shaping up to be a viscerally brutal debate on whether humanity actually deserves to survive any given calamity, given the fact that they – well, we – never seem to learn from our past. Always, always, our arrogance, our conceit and pride, bring us back to war. And now here, in the midst of an impossible paradise, humanity is about to throw down again and bloody its knuckles in a fight it should know better than to pick.
To be fair, these new enemies – led by the mysterious woman who keeps killers for company – have all the hallmarks of being an enemy it would be easy to hate. But then so were the Grounders at one point. Clarke perhaps summed it up best when – as she wandered into the Valley, scarred hands dancing over lush grass, and riots of velvet colour too pretty for words – she spoke of how really every side to the fight has a motive to kill that it believes in. No one – not Skaikru, not the mountain men or Grounders; not even ALIE – is any better than anyone else, in that sense. Which makes you wonder what truth exactly will drive these new entrants into the fray.
That said, for as little as we know about them, we know enough of how they do business – even from this brief introduction – to indicate that the line may still have to change. So long it’s been echoed in our ears. In their ears. There are no good guys. And maybe not. But here’s hoping at least that some are better than others.
Listen to the wind blow, down comes the night Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies Break the silence, damn the dark, damn the light
The Chain, Fleetwood Mac
All the while, a storm is brewing deep under the scorched ground. As we descended into the final moments of this episode, it became abundantly clear that the sleeping dogs of war apparently aren’t the only ones who haven’t learned the error of their ways.
Wonkru? Not so much. Our last vision of this opening verse was of a new Polis: every bit as blood spattered. Every bit as brutal and void of compassion as the arena that now lies in dust and rubble over their heads. Men clatter inside the great cage, hissing and spitting like goaded animals as they try to tear each other to shreds. Above it all, she sits: crowned in blood, eyes dark, soul darker.
Holy geez, Octavia. What have you done.
All in all, ‘Eden was a magnificent way to open Season 5, for a show that appears determined to reinvent itself from the inside out, while retaining those elements of it that have made it such powerful viewing for the last four years. Understandably, it was an episode Jason Rothenberg was always going to write, given the formidable evolutionary turn the show took here. And what I loved most about his writing here was the fact that it demonstrated two hugely important things, with absolute clarity. Firstly, it was writing that both acknowledged the borders that had been set for this world and broke completely through them into new and uncharted territory. That’s not just an exciting thing to see as an audience – it’s an incredibly encouraging sign for what’s still to come. But secondly, it was writing that demonstrated an awareness and respect for the robustness of these characters, to not only tell big stories, but to keep telling them with equal strength even as they grow. I loved the way the story line turned the page on so many old things, but did so in a way that left us guessing each time as to whether a chapter is being closed for good, or just for now. Either way, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of Rothenberg’s best turns as a writer so far in this series he has overseen to date. I’m looking forward to seeing how his work is built upon in the episodes still to come.
From a direction view point, Dean White, as always, bloody crushed it. But the real strength of his directing here was interestingly in how opposite it was to his usual action-packed work. White is so often the go to man for those episodes designed to be the show equivalent of a punch in the face. Not so with ‘Eden’. From the beautiful village in the forest, filled with the dead, to Clarke’s scream in the desert as she considers to take her own life, every inch of this show needed not action but nuance first. It needed heart and, quite often, no small amount of tenderness. White delivered on all of these things with such beautiful precision that it made this episode probably one of the best of the show to date, to watch. Cannot wait to see who else he’ll be teaming up with this season.
Because in truth, this is a beautiful place. One worth fighting for. One whose beauty and terror will absolutely inspire the very last thing it needs brought to its door. But it’s done now. It’s clear that the door of the secret garden will be more than opened in the days to come: it will be ripped clean off its hinges. War is coming to this last precious expanse of good earth, and it's clear that neither side is going to give up the ground easily. Two serpents begin their coiling, poisonous dance and something dark echoes in warning. The promise of bitter days ahead. And yet. In the midst of it all are a people unlike any these invaders will ever have met.
Eden didn’t stand a chance.
At least not until Clarke Griffin stood in Eden.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
This review has been proudly brought to you by so much tea, seriously you have no idea. It is 2:00am and I’m pretty sure I can hear colours.
SETTLE YOUR SHIT FANDOM, IT’S BEEN FOUR MINUTES
‘Alleged soup’ is an actual note I made for this review, and really where is the lie.
Tasya Teles is a treasure. Protect her at all costs.
No, Clarke, that is a TERRIBLE CHILDREN'S BEDTIME STORY.
Madi gon' love Aunty O, tho.
Jason: i want a fairy garden… Props: yuhuh Jason: …and some pretty outdoor furniture… Props: too good to be tru but k Jason: …plus streamers lots of streamers, all the colours, in a really big room… Props: *tears* who dis sweet guy Jason: and now fill it with bodies All Crew: *resigned sigh*
SPACE FIGHT CLUB. ME GUSTA.
Ivana Milicevic. Stop it, you flawless queen.
The Bellamy Blake therapist AU fanfic where he gives a TED talk, is everything I wanted but never knew I needed and if one of y’all don’t write it soon, I will take it very personally.
I missed you guys, no like really, I did.
Emori loves space walks and in other news CUTE THING IS CUTE MUST SEE