The 100 – Season 5 Episode 1
The 100 returns for a fifth season with a time jump and an episode devoted to giving the audience a sense of Clarke’s life in the time since the end of last season.
I mentioned at the end of last season that it was unlikely that I would be able to review this season of the show. Thankfully the Gods of scheduling have smiled on me and I’m able to continue to pick this once again. This review is pretty late due to having a lot to do over the past few days but hopefully the rest will be more or less on schedule.
This episode picks up 42 days after Praimfaya with Clarke digging herself back to the surface to cast her eye on the devastation that happened while she was safely underground. She ended the previous season separated from everyone so has to deal with being completely alone and having no way to contact anyone else she knows. A vast portion of the episode is focused on showing how Clarke reacts to this Mad Max style world and how she managed to survive. She seems to be alone though there is the suggestion of life out there somewhere by showing cairns that could indicate scattered pockets of survivors who are hearing her radio broadcasts.
It’s a very good looking episode. The destroyed landscape is both very beautiful and incredibly menacing to behold. Everything shown evokes destruction on a massive scale and sells the feeling of hopelessness that slowly grows within Clarke. Much like in The Martian she talks into the radio for the sake of her own sanity to summarise what she has been doing and how she feels which is effective to a point though does come across as a lazy storytelling device designed to convey emotions that were already clear from Eliza Taylor’s excellent performance. It’s not entirely ineffective as it’s good to hear a voice amidst the extended loneliness though it might have been interesting if the episode had spent the bulk of its running time focusing on visual storytelling with minimal dialogue other than Clarke occasionally talking to herself as she performs a task. Despite that it’s still very effective with some impressive contrast to Clarke’s reactions to various discoveries such as boundless relief when it rains or the combination of happiness and disgust when she eats bugs that have impacted the Rover.
Her journey across the wasteland works really well with the passage of time being detailed through the various additions that appear on and in the Rover. Eliza Taylor’s performance really sells the isolation and growing anxiety that this causes. This means that when Clarke breaks down and yells about being “done” while remembering all that she has lost it feels earned though I still don’t really buy that Clarke would ever be the giving up type. It’s possible that more time exploring her isolation would have made that land better but the moment is still powerful and well earned by the time it happens.
Fortunately for her her lowest point is immediately followed by her discovering an area rich in vegetation indicating the prospect of a new beginning for her. Her journey is over and she has found all of the supplies that she needs to survive for the rest of her life. Using a Vulture as her guide to this place is also interesting as it could be a reference to the Dove that Noah sends out from the Ark to confirm that there is land. The Vulture leading Clarke to a place she can survive is similar enough for me to suspect that it’s a deliberate reference.
This begins a new chapter in Clarke’s life, one where she feels more free than she ever has and is clearly grateful for this. She makes reference to what the Grounders refer to as “the fight”. Their philosophy is that life is a constant fight so the only way that fights ends is in death. Clarke interprets this differently with her belief that it’s over when there’s nobody else to fight. At this point in the story she is alone but she is content because resources are plentiful and nobody challenges her for them. It’s a new interpretation of an old philosophy that she lived by not so long ago and a great way to show that changes in world view can be brought on by profound life altering experiences.
Once again, Eliza Taylor’s performance conveys this perfectly with the notable highlight being her swimming in the lake, a look of pure contentment on her face. This is what Clarke always wanted from life to some extent and she doesn’t feel guilty enjoying it. Of course this all comes with the assumption that she has made hear peace with never seeing her friends again but given the passage of time it’s reasonable to assume this.
Naturally the peace doesn’t last long and she finds that she’s not alone when she meets a young girl named Madi (Lina Renna and later Lola Flanery). She is hostile towards Clarke at first but quickly accepts her and the pair develop a mother/daughter bond that is really endearing to watch. Their interactions are really natural and it’s clear what role they take in helping the other survive as well as the more character based moments such as Clarke telling her stories about those she used to know. The episode doesn’t spend enough time on the interim period between the hostility and this close relationship so the transition is really jarring because it is so quick but after that point it’s a really engaging relationship with a lot of depth to it right away.
Unfortunately this time of contentment is broken with the arrival of a prison dropship containing some really unsavoury characters. In many ways it’s an extreme version of The 100 coming to Earth in the very first episode. Their arrival immediately upsets the peaceful existence Clarke and Madi have when they violently seek out people around their landing site and force Clarke to throw herself back into that fight she managed to remove herself from. Her skills haven’t atrophied in the meantime but there’s definitely a reluctance to having to pick up those old habits not to mention the serious disappointment that good things can never last for her or those she cares about. We don’t find out much about the prisoners other than there are apparently only two of them who aren’t violent offenders and they are very intolerant of people who aren’t them so there should be lots of interesting drama created by the arrival of this new faction.
Some time in the episode is devoted to catching up with those who escaped into space at the end of last season. Very little attempt is made to explain what happened to them over the years because the short answer is that there wasn’t much going on in their lives. Most of it was spent eating disgusting algae and looking out the window waiting for any indication of life on Earth.
None of that is especially interesting but the character relationships have moved on in different ways. Bellamy has taken charge of the group which makes sense given his leadership skills and is in a relationship with Echo which took 3 years to form apparently. They seem like an unlikely pairing but their interactions are natural enough to make it work and the potential obstacle brought on by seeing Octavia gain should bring some drama to the table as their relationship is tested. Even Emori has managed to blend into the overall group dynamic and seems to get along well with everyone, particularly Raven who jokes about her tendency to wander off on spacewalks. Monty and Harper seem happy enough with Monty providing the food, taking all the well intentioned digs at his algae cooking and generally keeping the peace.
Murphy does what you would expect of him and has closed himself off from the group so that he has no rules and nobody to disappoint. It’s a progression from the completely defeated person we saw last season and an indication that he has found some way to carry on living but it still seems far less than ideal since he has people around him willing to put up with him and he refuses to allow himself any companionship.
The time spent with this group is really effective because it does deliver a more mood based approach to showing how they have progressed. How the actors perform against each other shows how their dynamic has developed and overcomes some of the hammy dialogue explaining the details of their time in space. There isn’t much for these characters to do until they find a way back to Earth and their resourcing situation means that they can’t really do anything until that happens so spending less time on them makes sense unless the show wants to do a long arc showing how cabin fever affects a small number of people. Their story progresses when they decide to take a chance on heading over to the prison station to see if there’s anything they can use after the launch of the dropship brings them home.
As for the rest of the characters we get a brief glimpse of a Fight Club type situation where two men fight to the death as onlookers cheer from the sidelines. Indra can be seen and Octavia sits above them seemingly presiding over this violent community. It’s a fascinating note to end on and I look forward to seeing what life is like for Octavia’s people in this new world.
An excellent opening to the season that explores Clarke’s isolation wonderfully. At times there is some clumsy voiceover to establish feelings that are already clear from the performance but Clarke’s descent into hopelessness comes across well. Her lowest point feels earned though some more time could have been taken to establish her getting to there. Her discovery of the area rich in vegetation changes gears in a really interesting way with Clarke feeling truly at peace for the first time in a long time. There are no struggles left for her at least until she meets Madi who causes her complications for a while before they settle into a really compelling mother/daughter dynamic. The transition between hostility and tranquillity is very quick which is jarring but the scenes where they work together are really endearing. Once the prisoners arrive the peace is broken and Clarke is tragically thrown back into her old life of constant struggle.
The characters who escaped into space at the end of last season also appear and have apparently had a fairly mundane life spent eating algae and looking out of the window. Relationships have moved on in sometimes surprising ways but not much else has happened. The actors do a really good job showing how these interactions have changed and overcome some clunky dialogue that exists only to explain the changes. There is movement in their plot when the prison dropship gives them hope that they can find something on the prison station to help them reach the surface. The brief glimpse of Octavia’s people is interesting enough and leaves plenty of room for development.
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