The 100 – Season 7 Episode 10
“A Little Sacrifice”
The 100 deals with Indra’s efforts to stop Sheidheda on Sanctum while those on Bardo deal with a genocidal Echo.
This season’s Sheidheda plot has been great showcase for JR Bourne who owns every scene he has as that character. His performance is so strong that it elevates material that doesn’t hold up under any scrutiny. This episode is an example of this as the events in Sanctum require the audience to accept things that are inconsistent with what we know about the overall setup in order for the story being told to work. Sheidheda means “Dark Commander” and it is well established that he represents a really troubled time in Grounder history; one that is best left forgotten. This makes it difficult to accept that he would have such a large and loyal following now. In some ways it makes sense as the situation in Sanctum has left many feeling lost, isolated and starved for leadership. People aren’t quite sure where to put their loyalty after learning that Indra wilfully hid the truth from them in order to preserve their loyalty to her. There’s precedent in our world for people opting to back problematic leadership when feeling betrayed by previous regimes so from that point of view it works to some degree.
If that had been the angle that the show chose to explore then that might have been really interesting. Sheidheda making promises about restoring Grounder society to a position of power and influence where they regain an identity that they can take pride in once again could have been compelling. With Indra’s focus on being unity and preserving the idea of Wonkru as the natural way forward, an opposing isolationist viewpoint could have been a great thing to explore while also being relevant to modern times. Instead it amounts to a power grab from Sheidheda that goes ahead because the plot needs it to. We have very little sense of how the people as a whole feel about this and even less justification given for people following his lead. It’s another obstacle to be overcome instead of a fascinating look into the dangers of regressing as a society. On a very basic level, Sheidheda represents the old way of doing things and Indra represents the proposed new way so the show should be spending more time presenting those points of view to then explore which of them is the better way. It’s there in the background but very far in the background which means that it’s far less compelling than it should be.
Ultimately it amounts to JR Bourne chewing the scenery as Sheidheda as he threatens Madi, gives rousing speeches to his people about the lineage of the Commanders and acts in opposition to Indra. It makes for engaging viewing because JR Bourne is great in this role but in general it feels fairly empty. Indra challenging him to single combat in the hope of violently taking leadership from him is the least interesting thing that could have come from this and it plays out about as well as could be expected. Indra couldn’t win that fight because so many episodes have been spent with Sheidheda in captivity waiting to make his move and Indra killing him as soon as he attains the power he’s been working towards would have been a massive disappointment given all the time taken getting to this point. Their fight is clumsily handled from an execution standpoint with too much cutting taking away from what should be an epic confrontation. Madi entering the fray and depriving Sheidheda of an eye before being almost immediately overpowered was a nice touch as it presented a very specific problem for Indra to deal with once Sheidheda threatened to end Madi’s life in front of her. Indra has no choice other than to back down if she wants Madi’s life to be spared and she does because Madi’s survival is more important to her than killing Sheidheda. It’s a great character beat and Adina Porter’s performance when Indra realises the sacrifice she’ll have to make to protect Madi is excellent. She is clearly disgusted by the prospect of kneeling to Sheidheda but also knows what’s important in that moment. Indra has always been a capable strategist so will be in a position to understand that beating Sheidheda isn’t possible at this point if she wants to preserve the lives of those she cares about.
This ultimately represents a defeat for Sheidheda as well outside of the loss of an eye because Madi is considered by many to be the true Commander. The background work hasn’t been done extensively to really highlight that Sheidheda’s leadership is considered secondary to Madi’s but his reaction to her attack certainly suggests that he fears that possibility. There’s a real petulance to his reaction and JR Bourne’s performance suggests humiliation which makes sense given the circumstances. Indra did back down because of the opportunity presented but Madi didn’t have to do much to make Sheidheda feel threatened so that puts him in an interesting position as of this episode. Unfortunately this is all a pale shadow of what was promised as it seems all but forgotten that Sanctum was in danger of tearing itself apart because of conflicting viewpoints creating distinct factions that were headed for inevitable conflict. All of that seems to have been eroded away in favour of the Sheidheda vs. Indra conflict that isn’t without merit but is far less interesting.
Murphy and Emori remain well placed within this situation with them reverting to their prior roles as survivors who adapt to any situation they’re faced with. There are strong signs of growth in Murphy in that he is far less selfish than he once was as shown by his commitment to protecting others. His approach is also a pragmatic one which makes for a good contrast to Emori worrying about how they get out of that situation where Murphy is only thinking about short term survival. He states “That’s tomorrow’s problem; today we survive!” which doesn’t offer anything in the way of answers or solutions but it is an objective for now. It’s decisive in the sense that Murphy has chosen to focus what he can do now rather than making a plan for what follows though sealing everyone in the reactor chamber seems like a very risky proposition. It’s hard to say what direction the Sanctum plot will go in because it has been stripped down to such a degree that there’s not a lot of material left to explore; all that really remains is for Sheidheda to be overthrown or killed before Indra, Murphy and Emori try to create a unified society in the way of his rule. It’s a far cry from what was promised and incredibly disappointing to see it reduced so massively.
The Bardo plot is similarly unfocused but has a stronger focus on character in general. It’s bizarre how little Clarke has had to do this season in general but this episode is the most significant showing for her in a while. Most of her material concerns dealing with Bellamy’s apparent death which feels like a while ago for viewers but is still very recent for the characters. The abundance of flashbacks and time passing at different rates in different locations makes it difficult for the viewer to be aligned with the perspective of the characters so it feels like the grieving process is really drawn out when it’s actually been very little time for the characters. Despite this, Eliza Taylor is excellent in her scenes and the way she bonds with Octavia over their shared loss is truly touching to watch when considering the troubled history between these characters. Their current dynamic is a reminder that it is possible to forgive and repair relationships even under the most unthinkable circumstances. Having them brought together by their grief makes sense and there’s a real sense that they have grown closer as a result. It also feels like an appropriate use of Clarke within the context of this episode as she is the natural leadership figure for many of the characters so having her act as a pillar of strength that allows others to break down is a reasonable fit.
Clarke trying to talk Echo out of committing genocide makes for the strongest scene in the episode for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is Eliza Taylor and Tasya Teles’ performance. I’ve written at length about how problematic Echo has been this season and her actions in this episode are really no different but this scene is another example of how talented the cast are. In the moment, Echo’s pain, anger and desire for revenge are sold by Tasya Teles’ performance which pushes aside the problematic characterisation briefly to allow the emotional core of the scene itself to be the focus. The scene itself is about Echo’s grief driving her to want to commit an atrocity and the other characters have to stop her. In that respect it’s simple and resonates well within the episode.
The majority of convincing comes with Raven who expands on Clarke asking what Bellamy would have wanted by referring back to all the time they spent in space together. She references Bellamy’s massacre so at least there isn’t an attempt to gloss over a generally terrible character decision in an earlier season and effort being made to integrate that into the story being told now. It’s used to highlight how much better Bellamy became during his time in space and the admirable qualities that led to Echo falling in love with him. He may be absent but Bellamy is being used as encouragement for Echo to embrace the better parts of herself and not lower herself to an action that she won’t be able to come back from. It’s a great interaction beautifully performed by Lindsey Morgan as well as Tasya Teles though it doesn’t earn Raven’s declaration that they became sisters when in space together because there has been no evidence of that before this point. It stands out because it comes from nowhere but otherwise it’s a strong scene.
An interesting dynamic that has appeared is Gabriel and Cadogan. Gabriel is seen as an equal by Cadogan because they have both lived long lives -though Cadogan has technically been asleep for most of is so does that still count?- so he talks to Gabriel in a very natural way because he expects a similar perspective. Cadogan doesn’t realise that Gabriel has rejected the notion of being more privileged than anyone else and has taken ownership of the mistakes he made. Watching them discuss their outlooks is really fascinating and gives a great deal of insight into how Cadogan’s mind works. He seems himself as a chosen leader tasked with rebuilding the Human race into something new and better. In short, he has a messiah complex and sees himself as the saviour in the wake of the coming conflict that he is positive will come to pass. He also talks about feeling betrayed by a loved one and how painful that was so there’s a strong sense that he considers himself incapable of doing wrong at this point even though he acknowledges mistakes that he once made. Dealing with his level of ego may well be interesting over the course of the final few episodes.
One major missed opportunity is that Cadogan and Anders are unable to spend any meaningful time together. Are their outlooks, ideologies and objectives still aligned as closely as they should be or have the centuries warped his vision into something that he doesn’t recognise? As time goes on teachings undergo different interpretations so having the person who originated come back to critique what his vision has become is a rare opportunity to see how things evolve or corrupt over time. Anders being in a leadership role is the obvious embodiment of the modern version of what Cadogan stood for but with his death in this episode there is no opportunity for this to be explored unless a new character is hastily introduced to fill that role which would feel cheap at this point.
The idea that Cadogan is painfully misguided is introduced in a really interesting way. Jordan having a crack at translating the language written on the Anomaly Stone works brilliantly because it draws on his family history as well as his ethnic history which makes his perspective unique and justifies him seeing something that nobody else across the centuries has. A mistranslation leading to someone having the wrong idea entirely is nothing new as far as plots go but the reframing of “War” into “Test” presents some interesting potential in terms of how Cadogan will react to that, what the test entails and who takes it. It’s probably going to be Clarke but would someone else be better suited? I guess we’ll find out
Diyoza’s death was really well handled and a genuine shock. In general this has been a fairly risk averse final season in terms of the safety of the characters. Bellamy is believed dead but won’t actually be so to have a major death happen feels like a shock The abundance of slow motion prior to her death is somewhat laughable but the emotional impact of the loss is strong and pays off her earlier conversation with Hope about how violent impulses change people. Hope was consumed by a desire for vengeance that meant she saw no innocents among the people of Bardo but she is hopefully given the shift in perspective she needs when Diyoza dies right no front of her as a direct consequence of her desire to destroy Bardo. Diyoza’s sacrifice is in service of Hope not shouldering the burden of committing genocide and giving her the chance to be better. Among Diyoza’s final words is a plea for Hope to be better than she was so it remains to be seen if she will take that forward or find some other way to blame Bardo for what happened. The writing of characters this season is so inconsistent that it could go either way. Despite whatever the consequences might be, Diyoza’s death is visually striking and has impact which resulted in a powerful ending.
An uneven episode that does have some strong character moments and presents a particularly fascinating dynamic but suffers massively from unfocused plotting eroded down from what was once really complex and interesting. The Sanctum plot is the clearest example of this as it started out as a situation on the bring of falling apart due to the tension between various factions. It has been eroded down to Sheidheda seizing power even though there’s no real reason for him to be able to do so. If the show had chosen to have him represent a desire to regress to an outdated way of life that doesn’t make sense any more as a commentary on modern times with Indra representing the opposing view of unity to his isolationist ideals then that might have been really compelling but that isn’t what’s happening here. JR Bourne and Adina Porter are great in their roles to the point of elevating some of the material but it’s not strong enough to justify the time being spent on it. Sheidheda’s temporary defeat and loss of an eye thanks to Madi has interesting possible implications but it would take a lot to rescue this and I can’t see it happening. Murphy is used really well in the episode along with Emori in ways that show major growth for both of them. They fall back on their survival instincts but are motivated by protecting others rather than just themselves.
The Bardo plot is similarly unfocused but fares better in characterisation. Clarke taking on a leadership role and being the pillar of strength in the wake of Bellamy’s death works brilliantly even if Bellamy’s apparent death is far more recent for the characters than it is for viewers which creates a disconnect. It’s a role that makes sense for Clarke and leads to a number of strong interactions. Her scene with Octavia is really touching and her initial attempt to talk Echo out of committing genocide is another highlight. This transitions to Raven who has spent a lot of time with her and is able to talk to her about the man Bellamy was as a way to appeal to her better nature. This conversation offers a reminder of a questionable choice made earlier in the run of the show and deploys it in a way that makes a lot of sense though Raven’s declaration of them being sisters because of the time they spent together in space is unearned as there has been no evidence of this shown. Gabriel and Cadogan’s dynamic was really fascinating and offers a great deal of insight into Cadogan’s mindset. He has a definite messiah complex which makes him dangerous and Gabriel is in opposition to that despite being seen by Cadogan as a peer. Unfortunately there’s a missed opportunity to explore how Cadogan’s vision has altered over time through Anders who represents the modern version of that. His death prior to them spending any meaningful time together removes that potential entirely. Jordan’s success in translating the language on the Anomaly Stone works brilliantly because it draws on his family as well as ethnic heritage in way that justifies why he would notice things that people across the centuries missed. Cadogan is predictably misguided as the “War” is actually a “Test” which changes things significantly and raises a number of interesting possibilities. Diyoza’s death is handled really well despite a laughable abundance of slow motion. It pays off an earlier conversation she has with Hope about her desire for violence and is a meaningful sacrifice because it removes the burden of genocide from Hope to give her the chance to be better. It’s strong, powerful and a really effective ending.
- JR Bourne and Adina Porter’s performances elevating the material they’re given
- Murphy and Emori falling back on old habits while showing growth through their desire to protect people
- Clarke as the pillar of strength for those grieving
- a touching Clarke/Octavia moment
- Raven appealing to Echo’s better nature to encourage her to stand down
- the strong dynamic between Cadogan and Gabriel
- Jordan drawing on his family and ethnic history to translate the Anomaly Stone
- Jordan’s personal circumstances justifying why he would see things that so many missed
- reframing the War as a test and the implications of that
- Diyoza’s powerful death
- eroding the Sanctum plot to the point where it’s a shadow of its former self and no longer contains much of interest
- no opportunity to explore how Cadogan’s vision has changed over time with the death of Anders
- Raven declaring that she and Echo became sisters being completely unearned
- unfocused storytelling in both of the major plots
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