The 100 starts its fourth season tonight (9 PM Eastern/Pacific, after Arrow!), and I for one am stoked. This has been my #1 show since about episode 104, and it continues to be a sweeping, gorgeous, thoughtful sci-fi spectacle, exploring a future in which race, gender, sexuality, and even personality conflicts all feel secondary, because the true measure of a person's worth is simply, "Are you contributing to our survival or endangering it?"
Let’s look back over an intense Season 3:
Clarke's decisive victory at Mount Weather earned her notoriety among the Grounders. She became known as Wanheda, Commander of Death. But not all the clans revered Wanheda, at least one just wanted to kill her and gain her power (the Grounder mythology about reincarnation has led to some unfortunate offshoot beliefs!).
Lexa first captured Clarke (for her own protection from Azgeda, aka Ice Nation), but then earned Clarke's trust and affection once again. Lexa allowed Clarke to influence her decisions and leadership style, which kept skaikru alive but increasingly weakened the alliance and Lexa's own hold over the clans. Lexa wound up fighting to defend her reign upon a challenge from Queen Nia of Azgeda, and we got to see one of the most badass fight scenes in the series.
The erosion of support for Lexa led to her Flamekeeper, Titus, making a horrible decision. He sought to eliminate Clarke, whom he saw as a distraction and a corrupting influence on Lexa, but he wanted to frame Clarke's own people for her death (specifically Murphy), so he used a skaikru weapon. Lexa wandered into the room where Titus was wildly shooting a weapon he had no experience using, and Lexa wound up his unintended victim. This was not the best scene, obviously, but way more than enough has been said about that plot point, so I am not going to talk about it anymore. Suffice to say, Alycia Debnam-Carey took a role on Fear the Walking Dead, and as a result, we got an in-depth story exploring the Grounder mythology of reincarnating Commanders.
In the wake of Lexa's death, Clarke took responsibility for the Flame, knowing that it literally contained Lexa's spirit. She couldn't bear to see it handed to a mass-murdering psychopath like Ontari, and Titus had explained that the Flame doesn't overwrite its new host, it just becomes part of them, so Ontari's violent nature would not be dampened by gaining the Commander's Spirit. Both to save skaikru from a cruel new Commander and to honor Lexa's spirit with a worthy host, Clarke struck out on a quest to find Luna, who had known Lexa and Lincoln, and who was the only remaining Nightblood (i.e., viable host for the Flame).
Clarke's desperation to complete this mission brought out the worst in her; when Luna refused the Flame, Clarke tried to force it on her. Luna's a pacifist, but I don't see her inviting Clarke to holiday supper this year.
With no Nightblood hosts to take the Flame, but a pressing need to gain access to the Flame in order to defeat ALIE, Clarke took the Flame herself (aided by a Mount Weather-style transfusion from Ontari). She was briefly, beautifully reunited with Lexa, and she did defeat ALIE...but in doing so, she learned that an even more implacable threat faces humanity: Earth's nuclear power plants, long unattended, are in critical meltdown. The world is going to be irradiated and unlivable within a few months.
Murphy spent some time in Polis, playing at being the Flamekeeper to make himself useful to Ontari, as she pretended to be a legitimate Commander. She also forced herself on him sexually. Murphy's been difficult to truly like most of the time, but he's truly suffered, too. At season's end, he was reunited with his girlfriend, Emori, and Ontari was dead. So maybe Murphy will be on a better track than in the past. Also, Emori's history as a well-connected thief and smuggler may be useful as our heroes seek a solution for their nuclear dilemma.
Raven's another one whose suffering was extreme but whose portrayal featured some of the greatest acting of the year. (Seriously, someone get Lindsey Morgan a pile of awards for the work she did!) She was the first major player to volunteer for the chip, seeking relief from her chronic, debilitating pain. She was also the only one to fight back after taking the chip, because she realized she'd lost more than she could stand, such as her memories of Finn.
She saved the day by hacking into ALIE and showing Clarke how to access the back door and shut ALIE down.
In addition to her physical suffering, she lost her mentor/surrogate father, Sinclair, when he was murdered by Emerson. (Of the many deaths last year, that one was toughest for me.)
King Roan of Azgeda wasn't always on our team's side, but he also wasn't an intractable, straight-up baddie. He had plans and needs and loyalties, just like anyone. He and Clarke have made alliances here and there where it suited them, and he's smart enough to be a valuable frenemy, at the very least.
Octavia suffered the loss of her love, as well as the loss of her family connection, because of the part Bellamy played in the events that led to Lincoln's death. She took her revenge on Pike, but she just walked away from her brother (and skaikru as a whole, it seemed).
Abby & Kane grew closer, finally acting on the chemistry we've all been seeing between them for a while. It was lovely, but the timing was as unfortunate (as usual on this show!). They had their first kiss as he fled to avoid execution, and when next they saw each other, she'd been chipped; their next kiss was false (the moment of his realization that she's not really herself is one of the most powerfully acted scenes in the series--Henry Ian Cusick is phenomenal), and he wound up surrendering to ALIE to save Abby's life.
Kane has had probably the most profound character arc on the show, and one of the best I've seen on any show. He used to be a leader of his people, but on the Ark, that meant something very different than it does on the ground. Adjusting to life on the ground means learning to be a new kind of leader, and we've watched him do the hard work of finding his path, learning his limitations, accepting the counsel of others based on their experience and wisdom rather than shutting them down to preserve a hierarchy. He's become the man who humbly insists on having a free election rather than simply accepting the power offered to him by its current wielder. Granted, that went horribly wrong, but the intent was noble enough.
The political situation portrayed in S3 was heavily influenced by, even patterned on, the events unfolding in the United States’ presidential election. Watching it again, after the fact, the similarity is stark. Kane and Abby represent the incumbent leadership, cocky about holding on to their power. They are secretive, because they’ve been in charge for so long, they’ve got these bad old habits from the Ark council. On the Ark, secrets were their way of life, and if you told the populace too much, it was bad for everyone. Spilling a secret would get you floated. Sharing the inner workings of any council decision with the people affected by it was unheard of. The one time we know it happened, the culling of Section 17, was traumatic for everyone involved. The other time we know it almost happened, Abby had to consent to her own husband’s death. Abby and Kane have not yet learned how to be open and honest leaders. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good leaders in other ways, but it led to growing distrust and dissent from the people. They never imagined they could lose power. Pike’s populist uprising took them entirely by surprise.
So yes, that brings us to Pike. He’s angry, aggressive, vengeful, unwilling to see the Grounders as humans on some level. Like Bellamy, he can’t help but be affected by Lincoln’s bravery and honor, but he also can’t extend that good will to the Grounders as a people. He challenges Abby and Kane for their whole “need to know” attitude, as well as their edict that skaikru must make peace and submit to Grounder authority by becoming the 13th clan. He doesn’t want to make peace, and it turns out that at least a slim majority of skaikru feels the same. He wins the election, and his first action is a war crime. He slaughters the entire Grounder army that was stationed there to protect Arkadia from Azgeda. He immediately plans his next war crime: He wants to murder a nearby village and claim their land. Perhaps most telling, though, is how he treats his own people. He railed against the behavior of the Ark leadership, but his own leadership style is also based in secrecy, distrust, and punishment. He starts a spy network, uses friends and family against each other, throws his political enemies in jail and orders their executions. Ultimately, he has to be deposed in order to avoid all-out war.
And you have to imagine that by the end, a number of those who voted Pike into power found themselves thinking, I guess Abby and Kane’s know-it-all attitude wasn’t really that bad.
Jasper was a wreck all season. He couldn't move on from the horror of Mount Weather, of watching Maya literally melt in his arms. His rage at Clarke and Monty for their parts in the mass murder served to isolate him emotionally, which fed his misery further. He desperately wanted to take the chip and lose his pain, but in the end, it was unclear whether he willingly accepted a chip or was forced...he'd joined the fight against ALIE, but he remained deeply conflicted and weighed down by emotional pain. In the end, he was back out of the City of Light, but he was plainly struggling with a suicidal urge when we last saw him.
Monty was hurting all season because of Jasper's anger, but things only got worse when he was suddenly reunited with his mother. Hannah Green turned out to be a mom from hell, and Monty's loyalties were torn for a little while; he wanted to be with his mom and honor her wishes, but it meant betraying most of his friends and doing things he truly didn't believe were right or honorable. Ultimately, he chose to do the right thing, and they shared a tearful goodbye as Hannah told him she couldn't defend his treasonous acts, so he should run before he gets arrested. He later saw her again, but she was chipped and homicidal, so he had to kill her.
A small ray of sunshine entered Monty's life toward the end of the season when Harper made a move on him, and he accepted. So yeah, let's take a moment to talk about the good things in our heroes' lives. There aren't that many, but there's still Miller and Bryan's relationship.
These two were together on the Ark, then separated by Miller's incarceration and dropshipment to the ground. Miraculously, though, they found each other again, after Bryan survived Azgeda's sieges on Farm Station's crash site. Bryan's loyalty to Pike was a problem, but Miller was understanding in a way people aim for in their purest heart but rarely achieve. Ultimately, Bryan realized that his loyalty to a man who'd saved his life couldn't outweigh his loyalty to the man he wants to spend his life with.
Jaha was a real piece of work, as usual. You can argue that he was chipped, but the truth is that he wasn’t a good guy to start with. He has a religious fanatic vibe–he feels that he knows what is best, and he will stop at nothing to make it happen to you, for your own good, like it or not. That’s who he’s always been. He was ALIE's acolyte, helping her to enslave people, though he called it "saving" them. (Technically, that's true--they got their brains backed up to the City of Light, so he saved them as you save files to a disk...but not without serious loss of data.) When Raven rebelled, ALIE said she was unable to override free will, so Jaha came up with the evil idea of torturing Raven until she agreed to permanent submission. That's all kinds of messed up, and make no mistake, that was Jaha's idea, not ALIE's..
Can Jaha be redeemed? Is he capable of admitting he needs to seek redemption?
And now I'd like to talk about Bellamy. One of the common complaints from fans last year was that he changed too much, or too quickly, or without sufficient explanation. But I have a different viewpoint on it. He never changed at all; we just learned something we had never known about him, and it was different from what we had assumed, so it felt like a change.
Think of it this way:
Have you ever had a friend with whom you never actually discussed a major topic, yet your depth of friendship led you to assume you both felt similarly on it, so when the conversation finally took place, you felt betrayed, like you never could have imagined you disagreed on something so huge, and you must never really have known them?
That’s Bellamy Blake in Season 3 of The 100. He never really liked or trusted the Grounders, but he loved and trusted his sister and his friends, so he deferred to their judgment. He went along with the whole scenario of allying with the Grounders, not based on his own feelings toward them, but because his people made that choice, and he had faith in Clarke and Octavia, and he is loyal. His people (and the audience) made the easy mistake of assuming he felt the same way they did.
We know of one Grounder Bellamy truly did trust: Lincoln. And we know that Lincoln had a kill order hanging over him, because the Grounder leadership considered Lincoln a traitor for allying with skaikru. Do that math: Lincoln stood by us when the other Grounders betrayed us, and that is a death penalty offense in Grounder justice; therefore, Lincoln is nothing like the rest of his people, and my high regard for him should in no way extend to his people.
So while Bellamy wasn’t outspoken about his anti-Grounder sentiment, it really wasn’t a change to his character when that sentiment was finally revealed. We felt oddly betrayed, because we have seen things mostly from Octavia and Clarke’s perspective, so it had never occurred to us or them that Bellamy felt that way…but there was really no reason he couldn’t have felt that way all along–we just didn’t notice until it became more important to him to express his own feelings than to go along with others’ feelings.
And of course, the event that pushed him over the edge was the destruction of Mount Weather, when his decision to trust a Grounder, Echo, led to the slaughter of dozens of skaikru, including his girlfriend, Gina.
Throughout S3, Bellamy acts in a way that is difficult to forgive…for us, for his friends, and most of all for Octavia. But think of the moment by the signal fire, before they’re taken to meet Luna, when he asks Octavia, “How long?” How long will it take her to forgive him, to look at him as her big brother again. To us, and probably to everyone in the scene, it sounds callous and selfish, because we are aligned with Octavia. But if you try to see it from his perspective, you can’t deny that he’s been twisting himself around to accommodate the emotional directives of everyone else, overriding his own suspicions and misgivings to accept the decisions Clarke and Octavia have asked him to help enact, setting aside his own feelings at every turn. Now, he’s finally acted on his own feelings, and he’s waiting for the others to respond with the acceptance and forgiveness he’s shown. Yes, Lincoln died…but Gina died, too, and no one seems to treat that with the same reverence or regret. It’s hard for us to feel that strongly about Gina, because we didn’t get to know her much, but we can’t assume that Bellamy’s feelings are less intense or important than Octavia’s or Jasper’s or Clarke’s, just because the relationship didn’t get as much screen time.
Plus, Bellamy didn’t only trust a Grounder, he went off to save Clarke (again), only to be rejected by Clarke and sent home empty handed (again!). So the decisions that weigh on him for causing Gina’s death are twofold: He vouched for Echo, and he chose to go rescue Clarke rather than stay to protect Gina. Never mind that he didn’t know the attack was coming, because the emotional weight is the same, and the emotional answer is that he should have known better than to trust a Grounder; he should have foreseen the danger.
So that more or less brings us up to speed. I’d love to hear your reactions, thoughts, predictions, etc., about absolutely anything in the world other than Lexa’s unfortunate demise, because I am sick of that topic for all time. Let’s just remember the good times, as Jasper would want to do.