REVIEW | The 100 - Episode 5.03 - "Sleeping Giants"
He would tell you if you asked him. It would sting, but he would be honest.
He’d tell you about the time he’d spent hating the man who stared back at him in the mirror every day. He’d speak of memory…judgement…dead things. People whose lives he’d help take for whatever reason, clawing up out of the ground in his head to hunt him every night; actions he wished he’d taken on the ground and ones wished he hadn’t. He’d speak of moral compromise covered in blood he’d shed; tell you how, for years, they’d held the upper hand every time he closed his eyes. Old devils biding their time as they waited for his to be up.
But it’s not.
He is…here. Still.
More to the point, he’s okay. He’d tell you how having made a rough kind of peace with the past means he’s been able to be useful now, back here in space. He’s doing something. Encouraging, leading, forgiving. Relentless in his work to be a source of grace and repair. Why? Because he gets it. Because nobody knows better than him that she didn’t give up her life, so he could just…exist. No. She saw what he was made of and told him so. Saw the person he could be, and wanted to be, when he could not see himself. And that…that is the person he chooses to be now – as much as he can, even when it hurts to – because he knows it matters. Because that person mattered to her.
She wanted him to live. So he is. That’s all there is to it.
Something otherworldly shifts inside him.
Six years, and he hasn’t forgotten a thing.
When it’s quiet, and he can stare uninterrupted out of the ship window for a while, sometimes it feels like she’s staring back at him. She is nowhere and she’s everywhere. She’s in the dark places between stars; in the light of constellations that lay tangled and bright above him, endless as they stretch beyond time and thought. And yet it’s like she’s right there, too. Beside him. Inside him: the last sharp fragment of something he holds precious, buried under his ribs. Quiet but unmistakable as his own pulse.
Sometimes…sometimes it’s like she’s not dead. He’d tell you it’s like she’s sleeping in the next room; he'd ask if that sounds stupid, and wish he had better words. He’ll shuffle in his seat moved by the tender weight of that presence just underneath his sternum, always pressing at him from within. She’s in all of it. Every last barbed, glistening beat of a life that he freely admits would have ended long ago, if it wasn’t for what she gave up.
He thinks of Praimfaya. Wonders if she was…if it was over quickly.
He’d swallow hard, unable to speak for a moment as he closes his fingers into a fist before opening them again. Forgetting you’re there as he remembers what his hand felt like when hers pressed down on its back; how she looked every time she told him they were about to do something terrible but that they were in it together. It was a different life, back then. One where it felt like the scariest thing you could ever do was make a list to decide which of your family, friends and foes you’d leave outside in a nuclear holocaust and keep your back pressed against the door as they burned to death on the other side.
A glimpse of his sister flits before his mind’s eye. Vanishes again in the dark.
No. No, he’s alright now, he’d say. And mean it. Whatever it takes, whatever he has to give, they’re going to get home – all of them – if it’s the last thing they do.
But it’s not long before he will learn the truth about the new predator that now stands between them and that very goal. A monster waits, and because of it, war, calls. Again. But this strip of green hope that Bellamy and the others have been eyeing off for the best part of a decade…right now, in lieu of knowing for certain whether Octavia is alive, he would tell you that this place is the one thing left on the ground worth fighting and dying to protect.
Elsewhere – bound, gagged, and focussed as the sting of a razor pressed to flesh – a woman steels herself to fight off another enemy. She looks different. Stronger. Not Wanheda anymore, but something infinitely deadlier. She watches, silent for as long as she can be as she sizes them up. They’re armed but for the most part, they’re arrogant. Bloodthirsty. No. For all intents and purposes they’re a bunch of trigger-happy jarheads. Whatever their capabilities, whatever their firepower, if they continue to lead with this ego it’ll make them no better or more terrifying than any she’s fended off before. She thinks of Mountain Men, Grounders, razed to ash and bone. Despite worry for the child, a small part of her still makes room to relish the smug ignorance of a woman and her thugs who have no idea who they’ve captured. Who have no idea just how much their new prisoner knows about what it is to put body, after body, after body, in the ground. An old part of herself – experience, perhaps – begins to stir. But either way, right now, Clarke Griffin would tell you in absolute terms that there’s only one person left in the world that she cares about protecting from that fight. There’s only Madi. Just her.
Strange, isn’t it.
How sometimes the most beautiful thing we can be, isn't right, but completely, and utterly, wrong.
Remember Charlie Remember Baker They left their childhood On every acre And who was wrong And who was right It didn't matter in the thick of the fight We said we'd all go down together
Goodnight Saigon, Billy Joel
One of the great strengths of The 100 over time has always been the extraordinary way it's examined the idea of villainy and heroism as two sides of the same coin. It was probably best summarised in that sense, with that beautiful soliloquy of Clarke’s as she entered Eden in Episode 1. She spoke of a mentality about war that didn’t focus on sides as much as perspective; the idea that pretty much everyone who goes into battle – no matter who or why they’re fighting for or over – ultimately thinks their motive, their cause, is the righteous one. She spoke of how. in that sense, nobody is really any better than anyone else. And yet for as often as they talk about this world being one where ‘there are no good guys’, over the course of four and a bit seasons, the writers have consistently delivered us clearly identifiable threats and villains that have each, in their own ways, gone on to play key roles in shaping this world beyond their time in it.
In the case of these new predators, they’re shaping a world out of their time. There is something so fantastically mind-bending about that, don’t you think?
Now, some like Dante Wallace – and, perhaps, like new character McCreary, who’ll we’ll discuss in more detail later – will be remembered as bad guys: the concentrated kind, where no argument about some trauma from their past or fear for their future, wholly excuses the gleam in their eye when it comes not just to killing, but also the cruelty they inflict beforehand.
In that sense, their presence in the story was/is not about survival, nor is it symbolic, I think, of the emotional and mental scars that stem from the fight to live. People like this: they're natural born killers. Their stories are about dominance, power, control. About the mentality that every life that doesn’t matter to you, is just another piece of currency you’ll spend to save your own skin, and no more. Blood is just another price you’ll pay without losing any real sleep over the human cost. And you see that attitude, not even just in their words – it’s in the very way that they move. These creatures are black holes, and they are determined to swallow into oblivion, anything and everything that gets in their path.
They are, in short, evil at its most clear cut.
But being so makes them, oddly enough, a lesser threat. Why? Ego. No matter how loud and obnoxious it is, left unchecked it practically breeds predictability. It’s weird, I kept thinking of it – what’s that saying Jack Sparrow had in the first Pirates movie? I'm dishonest, he says, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they're going to do something incredibly...stupid. It’s the same with evil when it’s arrogant. At some point, it makes a mistake. Will drown because it was too distracted by its own reflection in the water that went on to kill it.
All of which makes for a formidably stark contrast to the key big bad of Season 5. Brutal, determined, pragmatic, yet still incredibly mysterious, Charmaine Diyoza all but sauntered on to the stage of this strange, crushed world, and from the moment we saw her, she's only made one thing properly clear: she is a woman who absolutely knows her own mind.
She knows what she's here to do, and she will see it done.
For me, one her most iconic moments will always be that first one, as she looked out at Eden with the eyes of someone surveying something they already owned. In some ways, in the beginning, you could possibly forgive that. After all, what other sign of life was there? It was terra nullius to them for all they knew. But when it becomes rapidly apparent that they are not the only ones alive down there, we cannot ignore the fact that there was no adaptation. No recalibration of thought, or even a base sense of thankfulness that another person managed to survive the great fire.
You know. All things that would happen if your humanity was still fundamentally in check.
So what do we say? Does this behaviour make her just another McCreary? Not at all. She’s so much more complicated than that, and I love that we’re seeing that blurred line right from the get go. It’s what made that scene she shared with Clarke after she was captured, so fantastic, and so integral in taking another evolutionary step in this story.
In one short conversation, Diyoza flooded the greater narrative with so much fascinating, previously unforeseen detail – things that neither we nor the people on the ground, had any idea was going on. But she did so in a way that gave us an insight into why she is how she is now – a jarhead full of jagged, possessive edges: broken by something, by someone, but no less deadly – without compromising the greater mystery of herself. Because make no mistake. Diyoza might have made it abundantly clear that she's willing to cross whatever lines she needs to get what she wants, but she’s still absolutely a locked door to us. And I'll be fascinated to see who will be the one to ultimately kick it in.
I wondered if this episode if preparing us for that person to be Clarke. It seems to make sense. There's a great arc to be had there. That moment where she’s telling Clarke that she gets what it’s like to have someone come in and rip her home away from her; that she gets what it’s like to want blood, and to seek vengeance – we see this unmistakable parallel begin to form.
These two formidable women, these leaders, who we know are ultimately going to go head to head over this last patch of good earth and do so in a way that without question will have life or death repercussions for the people that follow them: for a moment, they’re extraordinarily similar reflections in the same great mirror.
But when we cut to that moment where, after believing Clarke betrayed her trust, she lets McCreary put the shock collar on – moreover, when she lets him keep torturing Clarke, even after Shaw challenges her about having already made her point – that’s when the roads diverge. In that instant, we saw the enemy. Clarke came face to face with a coldness – a clinical, razor-sharp darkness – that we haven’t seen since ALIE stared back at Clarke through her mother’s eyes while she pushes a scalpel into her chest.
Gone is the ghost in the red dress.
Fear's new face is all flesh and blood.
In that sense, what’s so awesome about Charmaine – particularly as we speculate, looking forward – is that she’s a terrifying hybrid of all the darkest elements of every foe Clarke’s faced until now, with a little of Clarke herself thrown into the mix. Diyoza is every bit as ruthless as Pike; cunning and driven as the Wallaces, and every bit as bloodthirsty and cold as Nia. But she’s also a child of harsh and dark times like Clarke. Like Bellamy. Like any of the remaining members of the 100.
She’s seen great carnage, and lost people she loved in horribly unjust circumstances. It’s strange. I find myself remembering that episode back in Season 1, when the kids are on the ground watching the meteor shower, not realising that it’s the bodies of three hundred plus members of their community back home, plummeting dead to the ground, the atmosphere burning everything that made them human, away, until all that was left to hit the earth was ash. Diyoza strikes me as a person for whom her own humanity has been burned away by life. But rather than be consumed by it, she’s been reforged: a story that will dovetail magnificently with Octavia’s at some point, I think, once those two characters finally come face to face. I think between them, we’ll be asked those most bitter of questions, and they’ll be equally driven to ask themselves: How far behind me is my point of no return? Can I come back from the things I’ve done? Do I even want to?
From a creative perspective, seeing Ivana Milicevic come into this role was awesome. After her brilliant, morally compromised turn as Carrie in Banshee (she will blow you away in that role if you haven’t seen it – it’s four seasons of incredibly raw, sharp and beautiful acting on her part), I was so excited to see her come on board here. To see her bring that same skill to a show already driven by complex, grey, nuanced, powerful female characters…well. She’s so at home in this story, and the best part is you can tell just how in her element she is. She seems to revel in this part.
Safe to say I think her performance is going to tip this world on its head in Season 5. What remains to be seen, though is just what kind of mark Diyoza is going to carve in the flesh of the world before the next battle is over. My guess is it’ll be a deep one.
NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Going back to McCreary for a minute, one thing I’ve found really fascinating this week has been seeing the comparisons a lot of people are making to other characters, and where they were at in themselves at earlier points in the story.
One of the most…I don’t know, challenging ones for me, I guess, has been seeing some compare McCreary to the Bellamy of, say, mid-Season 1. Remember? When he was all bout dat life. Being the king of the drop ship. Random girls in his bed. The posse at his side. Having the whole damn room turn to him for leadership and a final word. The more honest appraisal of his popularity in those days, I think, was that Bellamy was just another guy who said what people wanted to hear, but was also convenient for the other kids so they wouldn’t have to go around feeling the weight of their desires and decisions to torture and kill other human beings. A really ugly, shallow version of ‘I bear it so they don’t have to’, if you will.
But even then, I think it’s still hugely important to remember that Bellamy’s moral compass never completely left him. Even in his absolute darkest hour, it was still straining to find North. Likewise, from that first day, he’s pretty much remained surrounded by people who cared enough to force him to be accountable regularly for his actions and choices.
For all his mistakes, in Bellamy there exists an innate goodness – a deep desire and capacity to protect what’s good, and an equal desire to be wanted, needed, just as he is. He has an instinct for selflessness, love and sacrifice; no matter how much he’s tried to bury those things under fear and duty at times, they just keep rising back to the surface. And it’s this depth, this complex tangle of strength and weakness, beauty and imperfection, that not only makes him such a treasured character on this show – I think it’s what enables us as the audience to forgive him time and time again, even when he’s being a complete and utter bonehead. Perhaps especially then.
But McCreary? To me, he doesn't seem like he's had any of that. He's not had to be accountable for his darkness; if anything, he's been more valued because of it. You see that when he and Shaw have their little face off.
But that does not for one second mean that he his not absolutely deadly, or – more importantly – out of his depth in the context of this narrative. In fact, it makes him the exact opposite. This is a world that keeps trying to tell itself it can define itself in absolutes, as it sees them. But the absolutes it focuses on are ridiculous. As all the clans learned in the fraught days and months before Praimfaya, you cannot operate in terms of black and white, and expect to survive, when literally everyone is in a state of grey. It’s not just wrong: it’s illogical.
But here’s the thing.
Stupid as the black and white mentality is, it’s not to say that there are not absolutes. There are. And I think that’s the point of having McCreary in this story. I think he will serve to remind these people – and indeed us as the audience – is that there are still uncompromisable lines in the sand of this life. Despite the fact that most of us are in a perpetual state of balancing the best and worst of ourselves, the reality is that there’s genuine, undiluted evil out there in the ether. And sometimes – more often than not – it takes the form of another human being.
So, with McCreary’s presence already so front and centre, this early in, I think it means his kind of evil is one we’ll get to see up close in Season 5, and it’s going to be so compelling to watch how other characters react to that. Clarke for example. He’s tortured her and he loved every second of it. He’s a killer who likes killing and is intent on killing her friends. So while revenge is one thing, just killing him at some point seems like a smart move. But if this show has taught us anything, it's that every human life has a weight. All of them.
Even that of a monster.
So, what example will she be setting for Madi if she acts that way? If she gives into her baser sense with all of them like she did in the forest with the first Eligius crew she met? It might have helped them survive at different times, but ultimately, isn’t kill or be killed something that played a massive part in leading even us to wonder, if humanity even deserved to survive?
Whatever happens, though, one things clear. If this guy is in the neighbourhood, people are going to die. And honestly, I’m a bit fearful of who he might take down with him.
THE PROMISED LAND
Meanwhile, as all this sound and fury has been unfolding on the ground, there was an equally compelling story unfolding in the air, as our favourite dysfunctional little family in space decided to make their big break and go check out the Eligius ship while its occupants were otherwise occupied on the ground. With fuel running low, this may be their last chance to do what they need to do to get home, and for better or worse, they're taking it. Whatever it might be that waits there for them.
Gosh. Where to start with all the things I’m enjoying about the growing these characters have done in the last six years amongst the stars. It’s messy and awkward and genuine and strangely encouraging to see the different directions they've evolved in, in the time between Praimfaya, and now, as they float just beyond the hatch door of what may be their last hope to get back to Earth.
Let’s start with the ones who apparently have been determined to go all ‘fine wine’ on us and get nothing but stronger and better with age. In particular here, I want to focus on just what a stellar, telling episode this was for Raven and Bellamy in the context of not only their relationship with each other, but also as people who every day choose to remember and feel the weight of Clarke’s sacrifice for them.
Raven is, to me at least, one of best and most well written protagonists in recent TV memory, holding her own alongside any number of extraordinary characters in the pantheon of stories we have begging for our attention in 2018. Indeed, out of everyone here, she is arguably the only one on equal par to Clarke when it comes to being utterly integral to the survival of her people over time. Clarke may have pulled the lever in space, but it was Raven who literally went to war inside her own brain to first defeat ALIE. She’s the badass who blew a drop ship’s worth of hydrazine while laying with a bullet in her back as the Grounders threatened to hack them into oblivion. She’s had her circuits fried, frozen; felt them be tied off by ALIE when she had the chip, and then had every last splinter of pain flood right back in again when she realised that there were bigger fish to fry than this present agony. Truly. When I think of all Raven Reyes has overcome, it is remarkable to see how uncompromising her determination is to always, always see the job through to the end.
Hell. Though much of the surviving world owes its life to her, she still lives in a way that pays enough debts to put a Lannister to shame.
But for all her intelligence and ability to strategise in the face of mortal peril, the one thing Raven is able to bring to the table that is more important than her mind, is her heart. It overflows with absolute loyalty, and love in its most compassionate, powerful form. Every beat of who she is, is tempered by her desire to keep her word to get her friends – her family – back down to the ground.
And it’s what made her exchange with Bellamy so special.
When she forced him to accept that she would stay behind to pull the kill switch on the remaining prisoners, if the people on the ground didn’t play ball, it wasn’t just a scene that affirmed these parts of Raven’s character that we love so much.
It’s that we got to see up close, the intimately personal effect she’d had on the lives of one of those people she is determined to save. In all honesty, all those seasons ago, it would have been so easy to just make these two another ill-fated hook up. To have that be a pervading element of their dynamic as time passed. But there is none of that here. As his voice breaks, when refuses to go unless she comes with him, he puts her in the same basket as Clarke of people too precious to him to leave behind again, and knowing Bellamy, we cannot underestimate what a huge thing that is for him to say to another person.
And because of that, there ends up being this beautiful moment of another character giving something back to Raven that she hasn’t always had. So many have wanted her for her brain. For her ability to fix the impossible. And now, here, you have this person, at whose side she has been through so much, and he’s telling her that her – not Raven the engineer who can save them from just about anything, but Raven, his friend, his ally, his confidant – she’s every bit as important to get to the ground as anyone else.
Her life is bigger to him than the promise she made; without her, it’s not complete. And that moment when she lies to him about the escape pod, just to make him go? It made me feel so much. It was her ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known’ moment. My heart could have burst for them both.
Little does she know though, that it’s going to be bravado that comes at a cost. Figuring he’ll hitch a lift with a less hostile crew, Murphy volunteers to stay behind with Raven as she holds the prisoners ransom. For one brief moment, John has the twin convenience of knowing he won’t have to look at Emori – who for him, seems now to embody the archive of pretty much all his failings – as makes the trip back, and the added bonus of returning to the ground with the more experienced pilot. Interestingly, apart from Bellamy, Raven seems to be the last person willing to not make John feel like garbage on a daily basis, for what the others see as him having wasted the last 6 years in the safety of the Ring when so many others died. On one hand, of course, you can understand their point – John himself knows he could and should have done better with himself. But despite all his hard work on the ground, what’s become abundantly clear here at the beginning of Season 5, is that whole seething groundswell of self-loathing has remained intact, only ever existing just below the surface of the love and belonging he felt with Emori.
Now, somewhere down the track, I feel like (or at least I hope) we’ll get a bit of a flashback look into exactly the moment where it all fell apart for these two. It feels like too big of a thing not to, to be honest. But for the purposes of this episode, it was a moment worth noting I reckon when – after blurting out that they should take Raven and leave John behind instead – Emori’s face drops like a stone in a pond when she realises that he is in fact staying behind. It was a look that betrayed her, whereas John is too far back down that rabbit hole of self-hatred at the moment to consider that she might just have been putting up a façade out of stubbornness and pride.
But either way, she’s gone now, and has no idea that there is actually no second pod. John and Raven are stuck where they are until either death, or the return of the ground transport. Two options that don't sound all that mutually exclusive, either.
But what I’m fascinated with is how this relationship is going to change, now that both of them have to come to grips with the fact that they may never get home to Earth again. That kind of knowledge – we’ve seen – does something to a person, as does the presence or absence of hope in a dire situation. How will this alter their time together? If another killer wakes in the night, and another, and another, do they have it in them to keep fighting? For my part, of all the arcs that are gradually revealing themselves now as the story progresses, this is one I’m really looking forward to. They have so much water under the bridge, and yet so many rivers still to cross.
I AM NOT THROWIN’ AWAY MY SHOT
In truth, this is not what Emori thought her life would be. She thought – even as they blasted off that forsaken patch of ground that was never quite home – that it wouldn’t matter what else came to pass. It would be her and John. Up there in space. Down there on the ground when it was safe again. It wouldn’t matter because wherever they were, as long as they were together, they were home. Always.
But the road to hell is, as the saying goes, paved with good intentions. And Emori’s relationship with John now? Hellish feels like it’s being generous. She’s so angry at him. Angry at him just giving up. How dare he. She could lose it. She has. Was I not enough? she wants to scream at him. Was it all too much? Haven’t we all been through too much? Why are you special? Why am I not special enough? Why why why why.
As a character in her own right, Emori has always intrigued me, so as much as I loved her with Murphy, coming into Season 5 it really felt like it was time for her to start exploring her own, singular place in the world as a human being. Independent and growing: not just someone waiting to be hated by one person and needing to be loved by someone else. With that in mind, I was so grateful for the direction the writers took Emori in, as they made her become the faithful apprentice of Raven.
What was so well done here was this great parallel the writers established, as they examined the idea of capability in the face of adversity. Emori’s disability in this sense had nothing to do with her physical issues – in fact, far from it. Her barrier here instead was a lack of learning. Of honed technical skill and understanding. But in showing Emori to be so capable here, they capitalised on the tenacity and intelligence of this character, doing so in a way that absolutely made her shine. And it made such an impact. Because it would be an extraordinary thing, I think. To have a room full of people look at you and say ‘You’re it – you’re the only other one we trust to get us home alive’. Seriously. When you think of the knowledge Raven would have had to impart to get Emori to that stage, your mind should boggle. It’s a massive feat on both parts. And in that, I think there’s something enormously powerful being said.
Why? Because so many of the pervading themes of this show, find their root in the argument that it will never matter how long they exist: humans just don’t have it in them to learn to be better AND back it up. You see it a lot in the little speeches that characters like Monty are so often making these days; in the case of this episode, there was a whole discussion dedicated to the subject as Murphy, Bellamy, Monty, Echo and Raven debated over whether or not they should simply kill all the remaining prisoners on Eligius. After all, it would be a useful strategic move.
But much like Clarke on the ground, more often than ever these characters are having and having to check themselves when it comes to consciously taking on the weight of a human life, not to mention death. In the case of the wider group here, they remember exactly what it cost their friend to give them this chance, that one day they might go on and do better. And is this really better? Not particularly, no.
For Emori as an individual, though, she has absolutely done better. She’s gone from being a pickpocket snatch rat in the desert, to fully fledged astronaut, space pilot and engineer who now has the ability to safely land a rocket full of the people she cares about most, on the ground, while overcoming enormous odds and genuine potential dangers. All the while, we can’t look away. We are riveted by this impossibly journey, and I love that even in the midst of all this other craziness, we can still be hooked on this incredible person’s strange path from oblivion into a future that holds as much potential as it does, threat.
As far as new characters go, I spent two episodes thinking it would almost impossible to top the introduction of Madi, who across the board was just ten thousand kinds of wonderful in this episode. In truth, I’ve found myself wondering a lot what all this war and talk of war – over her home, no less – must be like to listen to. After all. How many years did she wander like a lost thing, scratching a living off the mossy floor of the jungle, before Clarke found her, took her in and loved her like her own? Without the arms of Clarke to hold her at night, keeping her warm when the rains came, didn’t she sleep every night in the arms of this land? It fed her, protected her. Her room, her things, her place in the world; the bones of everyone she’d ever known or loved in the days before Praimfaya. All of it was held between the fragile ribs of this valley that hell forgot.
Her small, brilliant heart is in every last echo of this place.
She knows there is no going back to her old life. It’s dead: even as a little kid, she fathomed that. But since then, she’s gone on to make an extraordinary life with a person who takes care of her with incredible love, grace, practicality and tenacity. This is her ground. Their ground. Their home.
And in a weird way, this episode was a tale of two worlds coming to land right on top of that home. On one hand, the invaders have come, and they care nothing for all that this land represents. To them, Eden is a prize to be taken. A treasure to be stolen without a second thought for the victims with empty hands they left behind.
But then there came a man with the night. One brief glimpse was all she needed, to know.
Bellamy Bellamy Bellamy.
Hope has come home. And that moment where Madi bursts out of the dark to save the lives of the group from the Ring…I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Because consider what that revelation could have looked like. The moment where Bellamy learned Clarke was alive, could have been about just that, and that would have been enough for the audience. Truly. Months of hiatus, we’d have taken it with both hands.
Instead though, that moment ended up being so, so much more and this episode was infinitely better because of it. She knew you’d come. I found myself thinking about what it must have been like for Madi all these years, watching Clarke drag out that radio every single day, and tell this presence on the other side of the sky about their life on the ground. How many times would she have hear Clarke say it? It’s safe for you to come home. He may only just be meeting her now, but in truth, Bellamy Blake has been with this little girl for most of her life. Guarding that place in between stars until a day came where her adopted mother would never have to think about that old piece of wireless junk again. That moment where, full of utterly implicit trust, she just grabs his hand and drags them off to the Rover to rescue Clarke…it made the hope riot in your chest to consider. With Monty, Echo, Emori and Harper right behind…this was family. Instant, strong, and real.
Honestly, I went back and watched that scene almost as much as the last one. So much. So much happened here that was worth waiting for.
But not to be outdone, even as all this was taking place, a new voice was being raised in the fray. Diyoza had chastised him already for questioning their behaviour since they'd landed. She’d put a bullet in their skewered compatriot’s head as she told him that this ground was not, and would never be, middle ground. They had been away long enough. Now, it was their time.
Zeke Shaw entered this universe unlike almost every other character before him. From the beginning, he marked himself as different. He came into Eden not with violence, or agenda, but as though he were little more than the first, solitary breath into a pair of relieved lungs. It is impossible that he should even be here, but it doesn't change the fact that he is, and that he has another chance at life; they all do. War could not feel like more of a waste now, if he wanted it to.
It's been over 100 years. Floating asleep in space while the world died beneath him, too far away for even a whisper of its roar to dent his slumber.
The thought is like a knife between his ribs.
In that time, whole generations would have lived and died. Little boys from his hometown, buried as old men under trees; little girls with rosy cheeks who vanished twice. Once into the cloying, moth-eaten decay of old age, then again into the ash of photographs and a world that will never see the light of another day.
Shaw didn’t need Praimfaya to kill off his world. Time and circumstance, it seemed, had been quite capable on their own.
What’s so heartbreakingly beautiful but also very clever here is the way the show very gently tore from top to bottom that veil that has always kept us as the audience just a bit too far away to touch the world of The 100. Physically, culturally, everything tangible about this universe has always existed just a little bit further than we could reach; whether we said it out loud or not, this was always a show about a world that could come to pass long after we did. But with Zeke, that distance no longer exists. He’s one of us, a contemporary from our midst, and he’s been tossed into this fracas of a future with all his old strings still attached.
That scene where he’s discussing with Clarke what his old life in Detroit was like, the motorbike…in a weird way, the memory he shared reminded me of that photo of Sarah Connor in Terminator. The one that her son gives the man he sent back to save her. In it, her skin is pale, soft. Sunshine dances in her hair. She’s not even an echo of the fighter she had to become in the years after it was taken. She’s still who she used to be. No scars; her eyes don’t yet bear the gaunt look of someone whose whole life will be spent being hunted, and killing impossible digital monsters in the dark. Zeke speaks of his old life the same way the men who loved Sarah Connor, used to look at that picture. Always mentally tracing the edges of it. Dirty fingers endlessly thumbing at the frame of this last tiny window into a long-obliterated reality.
All of which begs the question.
What is this man – with his heart, and his convictions – doing here, in the company of killers like McCreary and rebels like Diyoza? Was he a prisoner escaped from cryo like the others? If so, what was his crime? Or is he a soldier who switched sides, perhaps, to the downfall of his old captain and crew a century ago? If that, then why did he mutiny? Indeed, much like Charmaine, Zeke as a character expounded on some huge points of storytelling in the grand expanse of one conversation with Clarke – the least of which wasn’t that observation about the nightblood, and the fact that it was the same as one of the other Eligius ships – and yet in doing so, he never lost that mystery that makes you wonder why he’s here, doing this kind of stuff, for such a crew of bloodthirsty misfits.
I mean, what a road to meet a character on. Where others are cruel and single-minded about hunting down anyone who might get in their way, Zeke is observing – out loud no less – that he doesn’t understand why they’re pursuing war when they’ve spent a century or more without real peace. He’s a man out of time, in possession of a conscience that’s struggling bitterly under the weight of moral compromise. To me, that’s such a clever, interesting spanner to throw into the works of this kind enemy, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this contempt he seems to have for useless conflict and cruelty, go on to shape his actions in future. For my part I think he’ll be a game changer. After all.
There ain’t nothin’ like an inside man to really get the part started.
Some may have blamed you that you took away The verses that could move them on the day When, the ears being deafened, the sight of the eyes blind With lightning, you went from me, and I could find Nothing to make a song about but kings, Helmets, and swords, and half-forgotten things That were like memories of you—but now We'll out, for the world lives as long ago; And while we're in our laughing, weeping fit, Hurl helmets, crowns, and swords into the pit. But, dear, cling close to me; since you were gone, My barren thoughts have chilled me to the bone.
'Reconciliation', William Butler Yeats
The thought fractures him inwardly like light hitting a prism. Hits him right where he's been holding her ever since the second he'd left her behind, to whatever end she met in the fire that ended the world.
For six years, he's replayed what he thought it would have been like for her.
All he's ever seen in that moment was death.
Clarke's alive, the child says.
The world banks hard. Shock snap freezes everything that isn't nailed down in his brain.
What is this? Who is this? This kid with her wonder-lit face, talking about the one person he misses more than anyone else in the universe? But even then, it's bigger than that and he knows it. Questions. So many questions. Why does this child speak to him so directly and with such certainty, as though they've known each other forever? How can she look at him with those big bright eyes the ways she does now: as though somewhere between the Ring and the ground, he became Christmas morning?
The bodies of men she just killed to save him lay thick and dead between them, still warm at her feet.
There's no time for this.
Everything in him stumbles, rushing headlong back into reality. But the kid doesn't miss a beat. She reaches out and pulls him towards the tree line, urging them to move quickly. The others trail swiftly behind, still processing their own shock. And it is...bewildering. Too much that it should feel so natural, so right to just take the hand of this tiny stranger and let her lead him towards the most impossible truth he's ever faced.
Once more into the breach they go.
I have wondered in fine detail, for months – ever since those final frames of Season 4 – what that second of realisation would look like. The moment that Bellamy Blake discovered Clarke Griffin was still in the atmosphere. And I was overjoyed to discover my speculation accounted for approximately zip minus zero to the power of nada.
For so long in my mind, my speculation was focussed on two characters reuniting. Just two. And in hindsight, I can see now how limiting it would have been if that's how it had played out. But it didn't. In truth, what we got here was so much more than we as the audience perhaps bargained for. And my goodness but did it make for beautiful television.
Meanwhile, back in the village, we're confronted again with the nastiness and thirst for cruelty this crew of killers is rapidly becoming known for. One of my favourite things about the way this particular scene was staged was how jarring the image juxtaposition was. Pretty pastel ribbons still fluttering in the night air overhead, as killers wandered between them with high powered rifles locked and loaded. The natural, glowing light of the fire, versus the stark white bolts of electricity as McCreary shocks Clarke over and over again. And Diyoza – herself a child of war and carnage – torturing Clarke for no other reason than to watch her squirm in the dirt for defending her home. This is meant to be a moment that screws with us; a sight designed to make us uncomfortable by virtue of all the ways this picture of paradise has been corrupted.
Clarke is in the dirt, skin burning. Mind reeling. Hope fading.
What was the point of anything if this is how it would end.
They puncture the night with an icy glare, and for a moment she's lost. It's the Rover, screeching out of the dark into the clearing. Guns are raised. Diyoza...maybe she wouldn't shoot a child but she wouldn't put it above the man holding the keys to her collar. Grief snatches at her gut like an axe at a stump. Madi. Her girl should have known better; should have stayed hidden and kept on living as long as she co-
Relief – cold, wild and beautiful as a dam bursting across dry ground – floods everything.
A sob hitches in her throat.
She knows that frame.
And exactly why he's here.
It's a strange reversal of sorts, knowing that Bellamy has come brandishing the fate of almost 300 sleeping criminals as a ransom: not for the lives of their people this time, or for a greater good. It's just for her. All for her. She alone is enough to risk everything. What's stranger too here is the echo of Hakeldama. An unsuspecting, sleeping army that has no idea a man is willing to slaughter them all in a move to save what he loves.
But make no mistake: this is not the same lost boy who was so easily manipulated by Pike into shedding blood. This is not the person who let his heartbroken sister beat the living daylights out of him, out of shame and self-hatred. This is not even the same one who stepped into that escape pod without her all these years ago.
This is a man who has reconciled the act of what it is to balance love and death on his shoulders and bear that weight in full. Right now, he is no less than the man Kane was when he went against Abby's wishes and saved her from Praimfaya. No less than the person Abby was when she showed she would rather shatter hope for all humanity than see her daughter test that hope with her life.
He is, in a word, everything. And he is hers.
Diyoza seems to be the only person who even vaguely cottons on to the gravitas of what happens here, as he comes to bargain for the life of the prisoner at her feet. Charmaine has already hinted at the things she has lost in the course of the war to live, so what will be enthralling to watch now, is how this reforged army of two will challenge her. What will drive her to overthrow the challenge she knows they'll bring to her front step.
Jealousy. Bitterness. Anger. Brokenness.
Who, now – with the little that we have garnered in the space of three episodes – can guess what lurks behind the locked door of this enemy. But one thing is for certain: the reality that for all her strength in numbers, for all her guns and gung-ho, Diyoza can ultimately have no real idea what she's up against here. This is a bond tested in the crucible of world's ending. It passed through the greatest of all fires and lived. For my part, that encourages me no end as to the direction the writers are heading with this season. There'll be inordinate amounts of pain and bloodshed, we know. But there'll also be them: Clarke and Bellamy. What they are together, whatever you want to call their kind, you can be damn sure it won't go quietly into the night.
Wow. Where to being with summing up everything that 'Sleeping Giants' meant. Not just to the story, but to the audience as well. This was storytelling at its riveting, glistening best, and honestly, I would struggle on my best day to find a thing about it that I didn't love.
Let's start here with the writing. Wade McIntyre and Aaron Ginsburg are no strangers to penning epic moments in this show. They have this incredible knack for tangling opposite concepts, in a way that almost makes them feed their best into each other. Into brutality and violence, they weave moments of incredible heart and stillness that can take your breath away. Into absolute certainty, they stitch doubt. But above all, they write in a way that demonstrates two things that I think are essential to great television: a dedication to do what's best for the story, and a respect for the audience; for the journey you know you've taken them on. For me, this has always been their greatest strength as a writing team, and in all honesty this critical chapter of the story was overwhelmingly better for that influence. I never fail to enjoy writing about the material they create, but I must say. Fellas. Of all the crazy you've ever put on my desk, this might just be my favourite. It was amazing and you should be so proud. It made me feel everything.
As did the direction of this episode. Helmed by the always wonderful Tim Scanlan, 'Sleeping Giants' was a visual feat as much as a written and performed one. This episode needed to strike that perfect balance between fear, urgency, reality and intimacy – as much between enemies as friends. And to my mind, Scanlan nailed that brief. In particular it's worth noting the fantastic way he utilised light and darkness in this episode, to really beautiful effect. When I say that, I think of that failed détente by the fire between Diyoza and Clarke, as overseen by Shaw. I think of the silhouette of Bellamy in the night when Clarke sees him again, and yet the way he's still somehow illuminated in the dark that first time he meets Madi. I think, too, of things like the contrast between natural fire – the way it seems to be a loose visual symbol for Clarke and her friends – and the stark, electric white neon of the sleeping bodies on Eligius; the electricity as McCreary shocked Clarke with the collar. Visually speaking, this episode was so well put together, and for my part, I really hope Scanlan will be back for more in Season 5. Because he is just so good at what he does.
All in all, whether they realise it or not, the fate of everything human left in the world, will split and change upon the knife edge of what happened here.
What fights await them all. What love. What madness, grace and terror under this cold banner of stars, as the shadow of the most unnecessary war humankind may ever have fought rises to loom now on the ash horizon.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS
THAT'S IT. I'M RUINED. SOMEONE TAKE ME HOME.
are you okay are you doing good? good good i'm glad because THAT MAKES ONE OF US
Just in case you were wondering if the power of this reunion was really as nek level magic as we're all making out, just remember that on the same day, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift suddenly buried one of the biggest hatchets in musical history. Coincidence? I THINK NOT
All y'all over here with your Captain Daddy mugs and I'm just like BUT DID YOU SEE HIM IN THAT LEATHER JACKET
Legit, I just straight up tossed my ovaries out the window. BOOM. GONE.
Neighbors are devastated tho, I destroyed their new patio. #TheWorst
Actual note I wrote: "Activate Kodiak? Wait. IS IT A BEAR? THAT WOULD BE SO AARON IF IT WAS A BEAR"
Madi I looooooove yooooooooo Madi I dooooooooooooooooo
No prizes for guessing what in flight movie was playing in McCreary's pod for the last century:
More Shaw, please. Precious cinnamon roll needs to know he is loved and that I love him and oh what the hell JORDAN BOLGER YOU JUST COME OVER HERE NOW SO ME AND ALL THE OTHER REVIEW FAM CAN KEEP YOU SAFE srsly we know things and we're not afraid to use them
Srsly I heard Jen once killed a guy with a trident.*
*I can't back that up but it feels right.
Possibly also the only person who's ever been THAT sad to leave suburban Detroit
I still don't believe you about those kittens, William Miller.
ALL HAIL IVANA MILICEVIC
I have been practicing writing her name without relying on spell check because I respect her that much and also because I genuinely think she could kick my ass if she wanted to.