The 100 – Season 5 Episode 5

May 23, 2018 | Posted by in TV
The 100

“Shifting Sands”

The 100 explores how relationships have changed and continues to set the stage for the main conflicts that will define this season.

So far this season has been very deliberate in its approach to storytelling. The first four episodes are very much a slow burn that establishes what the characters have been doing during the gap between seasons while pointing them in a direction that shakes up the status quo they had created for themselves in the intervening years. We as the audience don’t see that but we get enough of a sense of what happened to appreciate that the events of this season are a significant alteration to the lives they have become accustomed to. Clarke is violently expelled from the home she created and put right back into the violence she thought she had gotten rid of, Octavia has become a cold and uncompromising leader and those in space were content if bored with their lives.

The 100

Octavia prepares for War!

Bringing everyone together was bound to challenge that complacency and that’s exactly what happens. I mentioned last week that Clarke might represent a legitimate challenge to Octavia’s leadership and and we’re starting to see the beginnings of that manifest in this episode. The specific disagreement is over where to take the people next. Clarke comes from a position of knowledge and experience because she has lived on Earth since Praimfaya so knows what to expect where Octavia doesn’t have that knowledge and comes across as impulsive. It’s a clear conflict between the two leadership styles though I would have liked to see something a bit more ambiguous as in this case it’s obvious that Clarke is right and Octavia is wrong.

There are also seeds of unrest starting to appear within Woncru as a result of Octavia’s leadership. A clear example is when she orders the bodies of the dead to be left behind which clearly isn’t a popular decision but it’s also a reasonably practical one at least as far as Octavia is concerned. I suspect this will grow into many seeing Clarke as the better option and looking to her for guidance. If done well it could be a clash of leadership ideologies that would possibly result in Octavia being more effective as a result.

Octavia’s lack of effectiveness at present is one of the driving forces of this episode. She makes a foolhardy decision that indirectly results in someone dying as well as the group being thrown into an awful situation that they have to power through. It’s easy to see where Octavia is coming from as she spent the last 6 years being ruthless while detaching herself emotionally from those around her because that’s the only way she was able to condemn people to death by forcing them to fight in the pits. Getting into that mindset was one thing but getting out of it is quite another and that’s what she struggles with here. She associates compassion with a lack of strength going as far to say “love is weakness”. She still feels that emotional detachment is necessary in order to make decisions that benefit the people she leads. Indra is there for a much needed reality check by countering her statement with “I love you. Does that make me weak?” and Octavia has no real response to it because hearing Indra says those words challenges her world view from the point of view of someone she respects. This is engaging characterisation that makes good use of a long and well developed relationship.

The 100

Zeke takes a big risk

Octavia’s arc will likely be focused on her relearning empathy and using that to create a more balanced leadership style. A scenario is created where she is forced to rely on the help of others when she ends the episode in a weakened state and her people have to shield her from a violent sandstorm. It’s an example of how compassion can be an important resource especially when it comes to running a society and will hopefully serve as a lesson for Octavia.

With Octavia behaving unreasonably it’s down to Clarke to be the voice of reason. It’s played well because Clarke clearly has no desire to usurp Octavia’s leadership but she also doesn’t want to see people led into danger unnecessarily. She is forced to oppose Octavia while being careful not to make it appear that she’s trying to take over. Based on Clarke’s position in the first episode of the season being burdened by leadership seems to be farthest from her mind. Her main concern in life at this point is Madi with the added confusion of having so many other people around who might need her help.

The “Clarke was right” moment comes when Miller’s scouting partner starts screaming in pain prompting the realisation that there is something inside him basically tearing his insides apart. The foreign occupant can be seen pushing against his stomach which provides a really clear and disturbing visual of what is going on inside his body. Comparisons to Alien are naturally immediate but it also works beyond that reference because the various reactions to this new problem help sell just how serious it is. Basically the group are faced with a threat that not even Clarke understands which sends a clear message to them and to us as the audience that this isn’t the world they knew as there are unknown dangers ready to pick them at any time. The threat is revealed to be worms that live beneath the sand and burrow into the body before laying their eggs and bursting out. It’s really grotesque by design which helps sell the immediacy of the problem as it’s impossible to prepare for it or really defend against it. Octavia survives thanks to luck and some quick thinking on Clarke’s part.

The 100

Danger in the distance

Octavia’s desire to keep moving does have some merit because she knows that Charmaine and the other prisoners are a significant threat capable of easily overwhelming them. Charmaine has basically declared War and Octavia is ready to fight it even though it’s definitely not the best plan at this point. Octavia wants to take the Shallow Valley because it’s an ideal place for people to live but for now taking over that area is an impossibility because the prisoners wield superior firepower. Some might say that Octavia is putting her people in danger to prove a point but I think it runs deeper than that. My thinking is that she considers the prisoners to be invaders so taking back what she considers to be hers feels like a necessity. Unfortunately she’s somewhat blinded to the practicalities of what it will take to get rid of them.

Bellamy is in direct opposition to Octavia and it is pointed out that he has become a far better person in the past few years. He does seem more mature and self assured than he was last season. Octavia has also observed that he has changed and there’s a great deal of complexity to their relationship at this point because they are both struggling to deal with how much the other has changed. Octavia makes a definitive statement about considering him an enemy if he goes against her again and based on her current emotional state it’s clear that she’s being serious.

Charmaine’s approach in this episode shows how far ahead of the curve she is compared to Octavia. She watches safely from the ship while Octavia prepares to go on the offensive out in the open and Charmaine is fully prepared to use missiles to wipe out any threat to her once and for all. It’s certainly overkill but would definitely get the job done. Octavia and the rest of Woncru only survive because they receive a warning in enough time to evacuate otherwise they would be obliterated.

The 100

True loyalty

One of the few things in Woncru’s favour is that the prisoners aren’t entirely on the same page. Zeke still represents the other point of view among the prisoner population which comes to something of a head in this episode. He delays the missile launch by telling the others that Raven and Murphy have the codes when he actually has them. He does this to give Woncru a fighting chance to escape while keeping himself safe by deflecting the blame away from himself. Unfortunately this means that Raven and Murphy are tortured as a result but as far as Zeke can tell it’s the best option available to him to ensure safety for everyone concerned. This sort of moral complexity is what I love about this show. Zeke takes a big risk with this method and ends up being unpopular with both sides of the conflict but the result is ultimately best for all concerned as it means that Woncru aren’t wiped out by a missile attack.

Raven doesn’t see the upside to it but Murphy understands the position Zeke has put himself in and is willing to hear what his plan will be. Raven comes up with a different plan involving letting Murphy go under the guise of leading them to the others while Raven stays behind as a prisoner. It’s clever because it allows Zeke to still be trusted by Charmaine and the others while working to undermine them. It’s clear he is being forced to work with them so his desire to make sure they don’t massacre people makes a lot of sense and the difficult situation he’s in makes for interesting drama.

The way that loyalty works among the prisoners is really interesting as is Charmaine’s approach to leadership. Like Octavia she constantly feels the need to show strength though for her it’s more out of necessity than a misguided belief. She uses the example of Woncru going through the sandstorm together and asks Kane if her people would show the same loyalty. The answer is a definite no which tells a lot about what Charmaine has to deal with and suggests that she might have some trouble maintaining order in the near future. Some backstory is also supplied about where her detached attitude came from which adds extra layers to her character. There’s definitely a lot of potential and this episode suggests that there’s a lot of manoeuvring about to take place in terms of how the different groups are due to interact.

The 100

Charmaine drops some knowledge

Charmaine has some interest in cooperation as long as it suits her interests. It turns out the prisoners have an issue that affects their brain and they need a good Doctor to sort it out. This means keeping Abby alive and well medicated. This furthers the dependency story that has been developing and makes the situation more difficult for both Abby and Cain. She is shown to be suffering from terrible withdrawal after Kane wants to help her quit cold turkey. This doesn’t fit with Charmaine’s plans because she needs Abby to be useful so keeps her supplied with the pills. It does level her out but it means that the problem won’t be easily solved. I suspect we are in for a long addiction based subplot that could go either way in terms of quality. For now it’s fine as a background element but giving it more prominence might not be a good thing.

On the lighter side of the narrative is Madi who is meeting all the people she was told stories about from Clarke. She tells Murphy that she thought he’d be funnier and highlights Octavia as her favourite. I’d like to see a flashback of Clarke telling those stories because it will be interesting to observe how it is she sees the people she knows. Madi talking about that adds much needed levity to the episode and gives the others insight into what Clarke thinks of them even if it is limited.

The 100

The end result of Octavia’s decision


Verdict

Another strong episode that adds greater complexity to the various dynamics. Octavia’s assumption that she has to lead with strength and remain detached despite the fact that life is different for everyone now that they are out of the bunker sets up her arc over the next few episodes. Indra calls her out on this assumption by using herself as an example and forces Octavia to hesitate briefly. Her decision to take the Shallow Valley is motivated by a desire to cast out the invaders but she’s unable to consider the bigger picture associated with this idea. The prisoners are far superior in terms of tech and ferocity. Octavia and Bellamy’s relationship is interesting at this point because it is defined by change and a lack of awareness of how deep that goes. Octavia makes it clear that he will be considered an enemy should he oppose her again so clearly her arc towards compassion has a long way to go. On the side of this is Clarke who is looking like a legitimate alternative to Octavia’s leadership because she has the experience of living on the planet and knows what’s out there. There are signs that people are starting to turn away from Octavia which creates a natural conflict between her and Clarke.

The addition of the worms is a nice touch because of how grotesque it is. They are a new threat that nobody can understand and they attack without warning. It works as another symbol for change in this world and shows that not even Clarke has all the answers. It also proves that Octavia’s decision is a foolhardy one as she puts everyone in unnecessary danger. Zeke appears to be the most reasonable among the prisoners with a clever plan to protect Woncru while keeping himself from coming to a bad end because of the risks that he’s taking. Raven doesn’t see the necessity but Murphy understands how complicated the situation is so there’s extra complexity added to the prisoners as a group and having Zeke work with Murphy and Raven is interesting so far. Abby’s addiction plot isn’t all that interesting at this point but it looks like it’s going to develop over the next few episode thanks to Charmaine which could go either way right now. There isn’t much levity in the episode but Madi talking about the people she meets in context of the stories she has heard about them is really endearing and amusing.

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