Season 4 opens mere moments after the climactic events of the previous season's finale. Octavia has just murdered Pike and is climbing down the tower. She probably would have fled (as Bellamy and Clarke's conversation shortly will remind us, skaikru tradition includes being very tough on crime, and there's no guarantee Octavia won't face charges for killing Pike), but she sees Indra being pulled down from a cross, mercifully still alive. They share a moment as Octavia assures Indra she has taken care of Pike.
Bellamy and Clarke have come down from the tower as well. Taking in the devastation in Polis, Clarke sees a woman crying over a dead body. Now, there are a lot of bodies here, but this one is notably undamaged; he didn't die in battle, at least not here in the real world. Clarke recognizes him as one of the people Lexa killed while defending Clarke in the City of Light. Yes, dying in the Matrix counts in the real world.
The mourning woman glares at Clarke. "Wanheda." Clarke begins to realize the Grounders aren't going to thank her for saving the day...it's time to get out of Polis
Back in Arkadia, Raven's all miles-to-go-before-I-sleep, as usual. She's hard at work getting the Ark computers back online and the radios functioning. Jasper tells her that he wants to go back to the City of Light. She doesn't get the depth of his meaning, but hey, she's pretty busy throwing her mind into hard work so she can try to ignore the pain of her body; for her to get into a deep conversation about wanting to go back to a place without pain is more than she can probably handle right now. Monty and Harper are still in their love bubble, so Jasper is able to sneak a gun into his pocket right in front of them.
Jaha was in the City of Light longer than anyone else, of course, so he's coming down hard as he gets his first looks at the devastation he has wrought as ALIE's acolyte. "What have I done?" he asks. "What have we done?" Kane replies, and Kane, you're too generous. Your sins are pretty long in the past, and this was all Jaha's mess. Don't shoulder too much of his burden here, because guilt is the only thing that might help him grow.
Clarke hurries over to quietly fill them in on what she's determined: The Grounders definitely blame us, and we need to get out before it's too late.
Of course, it's already too late. Echo blocks their path and declares that skaikru is responsible for all that has gone wrong, including the death of their Commander, Ontari, the power vacuum left now that there are no Nightbloods to ascend, and oh yeah, the impending death of King Roan of Azgeda.
Clarke and Abby beg for the chance to save Roan, but Echo knows that letting him die is the right move for her own power grab. She claims authority over the 12 clans in the name of Azgeda, murdering the one Grounder ambassador who dares to argue. Our gang is all, Hey, don't you mean to say the 13 clans? And Echo's like, Don't question my math! Hey, everyone, let's kill skaikru!
Our heroes have a short discussion about their options. Indra is prepared to rally the other clans to fight Azgeda alongside skaikru, because while Wanheda and Jaha aren't popular folks these days, Azgeda has been the schoolyard bully for as long as anyone can remember; no one's really happy about the coup Echo is trying to throw. This is when Clarke springs the news about the impending nuclear apocalypse, part deux. She says with what's coming, there's no time to go to war. Kane and Abby quite reasonably challenge the entire premise: Why do you even believe this thing you learned from ALIE, of all non-people? Bellamy nods his agreement with their skepticism and tells them Raven is busy investigating. In the meantime, Clarke's crazypants notions have worked out surprisingly well in the past, so they are right to go along with her again while awaiting further information.
Into Azgeda's command tent, where Roan lies dying, walks Jaha. He's carrying a body, wrapped in muslin, and he announces that he has brought Ontari to be among her people. They set the body aside and start kicking the crap out of him on general principle. But this scene was really about Trojan Jaha and Amazonian Octavia! When the tent clears out momentarily, a knife slices through the muslin, revealing Octavia has been brought in under Ontari's guise. She badasses her way through three Ice Nation guards and lets Clarke and Abby in to work on saving Roan.
It falls to Bellamy to keep Echo talking outside, so Clarke and Abby have time to work their doctors-without-borders magic in the tent. Kane tells Bellamy to offer anything Echo wants, because if all goes to plan, they won't have to give any of it anyway, and if things go south, we're all dead and Azgeda takes what they want from our corpses. As awkward as it is for Bellamy to be dealing with Echo, it's a relatively low pressure negotiation structure.
Echo is not the least bit nervous, because Azgeda is the toughest and cruelest clan, and they haven't suffered nearly so many losses as trikru lately. At the mention of the slaughtered trikru army, Bellamy flinches, confirming for Echo that he was there and bears responsibility. It's because of that war crime, she lets him know, that there can be no deal with skaikru.
In the tent, Clarke and Abby have succeeded in their mission, just in the nick of time; Roan wakes up from their impromptu surgery just in time to interrupt Echo in one of her homicidal speeches. But don't get too excited, because he's perfectly happy to toss skaikru on the fire over the death of Ontari. (Clarke may have overshot when she said she and Roan were "friends," and you can see in her face the moment when she realizes this.)
Echo and Roan have a private chat in which she points out that he's not in a strong position, despite being their king. He was supposed to kill Lexa in combat while the clan leaders watched, and that would have made him a hero to Azgeda. But he lost that fight and is only alive (and king) because Lexa chose to kill his mother instead. The simple solution to multiple problems, Echo counsels, is to kill Wanheda and take her power. (Again with the crazy superstition of absorbing people's essence when you kill them! No wonder their society is so violent.)
It's a quiet night in Arkadia, and Jasper is setting a fairly elaborate scene for his suicide. He's got Maya's MP3 player, her favorite painting, and the gun he took earlier, plus a note addressed to Monty. Fortunately, Monty interrupts just in time, asking Jasper to join everyone, because Raven has something to say. And of course, Raven has confirmed ALIE's projections about the nuclear plants. They've got six months at most, and there's nothing they can do to stop this from happening.
Jasper laughs, perhaps at the notion that he no longer has even the potential for a long life of misery, so there's no rush to die anymore; perhaps simply at the irony of almost dying, then being stopped only to be told you're going to die. Either way, he sets the gun down and announces he's going to watch the sun rise.
Roan invites Clarke in to speak with him, disappointing Echo by not just killing Wanheda on sight. Clarke knows this is her only chance to win him over and keep her people alive for another day. She tells him about the power plants, but because she's speaking with a Grounder, she sticks to familiar terminology: "the fire that ended the world."
Again, we get a sad echo of our own real-world struggles as Clarke begs Roan to see that "science is our only hope." She pulls her final bargaining chip, literally, offering him the Flame. With this, she says, you are in control of the ascension for any new Commander. Ice Nation won't need to bow to anyone until you have decided you're okay with it. This is a big advantage she's giving him, but again, if we all die in six months, it won't matter; if we don't reach a deal, we won't have even those six months.
Roan makes a speech to pronounce that skaikru will remain the 13th clan, in honor of the agreement to that effect, which was struck by "the last true Commander, Lexa kom trikru." This admission that Ontari never ascended is crucial to undoing the damage she did, as well as to justifying the skaikru pardon.
Our heroes are given an emblem that will identify them as being on King Roan's business as they travel, so they can seek a solution for the meltdown without being killed. Kane tells Bellamy to remember how much work lies ahead of him and not to shy away from it, because that work is how to earn his way back, to "deserve to live." Kane would know.
In other news, Murphy and Emori are reunited. She reminds him her mutation makes her unwelcome in Grounder society. He at first insists she should come back to Arkadia with him, which is really nice. Later, Bellamy hands him a gun and asks him to stand guard, but he takes the gun and flees with Emori...that's less nice.
I was edge-of-my-seat enthralled with the season premiere, and I can't wait to see what happens next! What did you think? Was Echo being genuine when she asked Bellamy if they might ever trust each other again? Or was that just her habit of playing spy-vs-spy mind games?