The 100 – Season 5 Episode 6
The 100 continues to build on the established tension within Wonkru as the threat of Charmaine and the prisoners promises to escalate.
Time jumps are a tricky business because they can end up feeling pointless as they so often take the form of a gimmick that amounts to a brief shake-up in the status quo before returning to the familiar dynamics. One of the benefits of The 100 is that it has never really had a status quo. Change defines this show and always has so altering the dynamics is just something that happens frequently. The advantage of a time jump is that the work doesn’t need to be done explaining why the dynamics have changed as a 6 year gap does that well enough on its own.
So far this season has spent a lot of time establishing what the new dynamics are and using them as the basis for the main conflict. This episode puts a lot of the focus on Bellamy and Octavia who have a really strained relationship at this point made worse by the 6 year gap. Leadership has corrupted Octavia in a sense as all she thinks about is protecting the people that she leads. This singular focus means that she is incapable of empathy of any kind thanks to the harsh conditions of the bunker forcing her to live by one simple dogma; “You are Wonkru, or you are the enemy of Wonkru”. There’s not a lot of flexibility within that simple statement and it basically means that Octavia is constantly expecting to have to deal with betrayal. Her single minded attitude is quickly alienating those she leads and forcing them to live in fear because they know what speaking out against her leadership means for them. Her lack of empathy is clearly shown by her ordering that anyone who takes Charmaine up on her offer be shot as they try to leave.
Bellamy is essentially the outsider to this who has come back after being off the planet for 6 years to see a society terrified that they will be their leader’s next victim and his own sister corrupted beyond recognition. Clarke and Bellamy both acknowledge that Octavia is dangerous and Bellamy goes so far to say that he no longer sees his sister in her. It’s a sweeping and brutal statement but it’s a clear indication of how much Octavia has changed and that Bellamy doesn’t see it as a positive change. I’ve mentioned before that Octavia’s arc is likely geared towards her regaining some semblance of her humanity and realising that there’s a better way to lead but this is clearly still a long way off.
The overriding conflict of the season so far is that leaders are unwilling to cooperate with one another because they prefer to take what they need by force. Charmaine and the prisoners are a technically superior force because they have access to advanced technology and weaponry which causes Octavia’s people to feel uneasy as they assume that Octavia is unable to protect them. At this point it isn’t known if it’s possible to reach a peaceful resolution but since neither Charmaine or Octavia are willing to consider exploring that nothing will get done.
Charmaine is more than willing to use her superior technology and firepower to take what she needs by issuing threats as well as using what she has to offer. She needs engineers and farmers so offers those willing to defect a safe haven in return for them supplying those necessary skills. Octavia takes a hard-line stance on this offer by threatening to execute anyone who decides to defect. Once again her simple dogma doesn’t allow for anything else and she remains blinded to what might actually be best for her people. The events of the previous episode have clearly caused people to doubt her leadership skills.
This episode didn’t feature a lot of Charmaine but her presence certainly hung over the events. The major conflict was caused by her so her reduced appearances didn’t matter as it’s very clear why she offers people the opportunity to defect. Her brief appearances were also used to great effect such as fitting all of the people who chose to join her with a shock collar until they have proven their loyalty. This is an example of strong characterisation through sensible decisions that make sense in the context of established traits.
Extra complexity is added to the internal Wonkru conflict as a result of Charmaine’s offer. Octavia makes it abundantly clear that Echo is not welcome in Wonkru which creates issues because of her relationship with Bellamy. There is an opportunity created as a result of the shared animosity between Octavia and Echo as it means that Echo can earn her place within Wonkru by proving herself through some covert surveillance of the prisoners. It’s more than believable that Echo would defect and she would be the least likely candidate to be a Wonkru mole so as plans go it’s pretty strong. It does mean that Echo puts herself in danger and has to leave Bellamy for a while but it’s something that both Octavia and Echo recognise as an opportunity so go ahead with the plan. It leads to a touching and intimate goodbye between Bellamy and Echo as well so work is put into making their relationship believable.
There is definitely a lot of potential for Echo to develop along some really interesting lines. For now she seems to want to be part of Wonkru and reunite with her former people and she is actively trying to work her way towards a position of trust among the prisoners so she can work against them. There is a strong possibility that she will actually find acceptance from Charmaine and her people which will make her question her mission to betray them. If she finds it easier to be among the prisoners who don’t make her put herself in danger to prove herself then it could add further intrigue to the animosity between her and Octavia while forcing a difficult decision on Bellamy at the same time. For now she is stuffing thumb drives into open wounds but next week could explore this.
Murphy and Emori working together is an effective throwback to the time they were only out for themselves while highlighting how much their relationship has changed. Emori is finally able to open up about why she is so upset with him and is really frank about feeling that he broke her heart. Pointing out how strong her feelings were for him is a bit of an eye opener for Monty who didn’t realise the extent of the pain that he caused her. He also seems to resist the notion that Emori found a sense of identity in space and started to recognise her own value. All the training she received from Raven was everything she needed to find a sense of purpose in her life and Murphy doesn’t necessarily fit into that. This is best shown when Murphy kisses her and she returns the gesture while making it clear that it doesn’t mean they’re getting back together. She wants the physical encounter because of what she can get out of it showing how much her confidence has grown and that her sense of self worth has increased dramatically. On top of that their adventure is a lot of fun and makes good use of Emori’s new skills. Their capture of McCreary should provide some entertaining exchanges in the following episode.
There is a potential grenade ready to go off in the form of Madi who is the last known true Nightblood which means that she has a legitimate leadership claim as far as many of the members of Wonkru are concerned. Madi has no intention of challenging Octavia’s leadership and goes along with Clarke lying about her being a synthetic Nightblood to begin with but it doesn’t take long before people start to learn the truth. It starts with Niylah who approaches Clarke as a friend to inform her that she knows that Clarke is lying. Gaia is on hand to knock Niylah out because she believes her to be a threat who will inform Octavia of the truth. Clarke is still operating under the assumption that Niylah is her friend and would never do that which is never contradicted by this episode mostly because Niylah spends a good chunk of it unconscious and can’t speak for herself. It’s another strength of the 6 year time jump as it’s very possible for Niylah and Octavia to have grown close enough to trust one another or for Niylah to be unquestionably loyal to Wonkru at the very least. Either way Gaia thinks that she isn’t to be trusted which is enough to place some doubt in Clarke’s mind along with confirming that her deception isn’t going to work long term.
Gaia is still very devout and believes in the sanctity of the Nightbloods even if her role within Wonkru had tempered that somewhat out of a sense of self preservation. When there’s a true Nightblood in need of her protection she throws herself into the path of danger in order to secure that safety. It’s unclear what Niylah’s true allegiance is but the possibility of her not having Clarke or Madi’s best interests at heart any more has been teased so there’s scope for this to be developed either way.
The real point of Madi as a Nightblood as a potential opposition to Octavia is to create a situation where Clarke feels that she might lose Madi to Octavia. It turns out telling Madi endless stories about the heroic Octavia might not have been such a good idea now that they have met because that once innocent hero worship can easily become blind misguided loyalty. There is an easy comparison between the two characters as they were both the hidden child. It’s enough for them to connect and feel a sense of kinship with one another. Madi’s decision to pledge her allegiance to Octavia and Wonkru is very much in line with something Clarke would do based on her prior behaviour so it highlights how much of an influence Clarke has been on Madi. I get the feeling that Madi’s influence on Octavia could help her down the road to empathy by awakening some kind of nascent maternal instinct. It could also lead to an exploration of Madi learning that the people who were previously characters in bedtime stories are actually flawed Human beings. As with everything there is a lot of potential for this partnership to go in a different direction.
The handling of characters like Monty is less effective than the others. We get a sense of his friendship with Echo and how they have bonded over her being polite about his algae but in a broad sense Monty serves no real purpose other than being tech support when Raven isn’t around. Having him be a part of the plot to hack the prisoner’s defences is all well and good but I’d like to see more definition for Monty than how other characters react to him. It’s largely unclear what he thinks about the given situation and where his loyalties really lie or what he wants from this new world. This also applies to some of the other background characters who don’t have a meaningful role in the episode.
An excellent episode that spends a lot of its runtime building the established tension while promising an escalation to the conflict with the prisoners. Charmaine’s offer to let people defect from Wonkru so that she gains much needed farmers and engineers is an interesting idea because it creates internal Wonkru conflict. It’s clear that Octavia isn’t the most popular leader because of her brutal and uncompromising approach so Charmaine offers a genuine alternative for people to try something else. Of course Octavia is completely intolerant of people who would choose to leave and reminds them that the two choices are to be part of Wonkru or the enemy of Wonkru. This pays off when she orders any deserters be shot and highlights how far away Octavia is from any semblance of empathy. Clarke and Bellamy observe that she’s dangerous with Bellamy saying that what Octavia has become is nothing like the sister he once knew. The shared animosity between Octavia and Echo is used to great effect as it makes her a natural spy who is less likely to be suspected. This allows for an effective goodbye between Echo and Bellamy adding layers to the relationship and creates potential for Echo to feel more at home with the prisoners.
Murphy and Emori’s scenes together are really compelling as the reasons for Emori’s hostility are revealed when she opens up about them. It also allows Murphy to really see how much Emori has found her own sense of self worth and that she has grown to the point that she can engage in a physical encounter with him because of what she can get out of it. There is also a fun adventure that results in them taking McCreary hostage. Clarke’s lies about Madi not being a true Nightblood feel necessary but there is immediate risk when Niylah realises that Clarke is lying and Gaia steps in to protect the last known true Nightblood. Madi represents a possible challenge to Octavia’s leadership as far as some of the people are concerned and Niylah’s current loyalties are left ambiguous so there’s a lot of potential here. Drawing a parallel between Madi and Octavia as hidden children was a really nice touch as is the potential for Clarke to lose Madi to Octavia thanks to being the cause of Octavia being idolised by her. It’s also possible that Madi will realise that the heroes who once populated her bedtime stories are actually flawed people. Madi could be the cause of Octavia reclaiming her empathy as well so I look forward to seeing how this develops. I also hope that the background characters such as Monty are better defined in later episodes because having him as the tech support who reacts to other people comes across as weak in comparison to other strong character work.
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