The 100 – Season 6 Episode 11
“Ashes to Ashes”
The 100 starts to consider what the next move for the various characters should be while furthering the theme of “doing better” through the actions of those involved.
One way or another the recurring main theme of the season has been tied to Monty’s dying wish, “do better”. It’s simple, clear and acknowledges the terrible things that have been done in the name of survival over the course of the previous seasons. The real challenge for many has been breaking out of the pattern of behaviour that has become second nature for them. Some have more to work through than others such as Clarke or Octavia who have made several life ending decisions that have contributed to the cycle of violence and death where others like Raven have been more successful when it comes to holding onto their morality.
Much of this season has developed this in one way or another. At first the Primes condemn the past actions of Wonkru as if they are are a more enlightened people with a more evolved sensibility. This seemed reasonable until it was revealed that they weren’t exactly in a position to judge anyone else on their ethical behaviour so there’s a lot of blood on a lot of hands that can’t be forgotten but also can’t continue.
This episode predominantly focuses on table setting with limited plot movement. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it allows the viewer to take a breath and takes stock of everything that has happened while considering where the characters are in their different arcs. The Josephine plot was particularly intense so it makes sense to explore how this affected Clarke and how she is in the aftermath of that ordeal. In short she comes out of it far better than anyone could reasonably expect. Her unique perspective on what the Primes do make her the best candidate to put a stop to it as she will know better than anyone what it means to be replaced. Her interactions with Gabriel are always engaging as they both approach the issue from their different points of view that are naturally complimentary. It’s agreed that something has to be done to bring down Sanctum and save Wonkru. It’s a mutually beneficial objective that ties into the unique experience of these two characters. The problem of the Josephine/Gabriel relationship being ill defined drags this down a little but Clarke’s contribution goes a long way towards making up for this.
The plan involving the use of the red sun toxin to make everyone go berserk and use the confusion to lower the shield allowing for easy access has a significant drawback as it will result in death and bloodshed. Clarke’s suggestion to use less so that the early warning system is triggered without people being affected is a clear example of how her mindset is shifting towards what Monty had in mind. Instead of falling back on old habits and finding a way to internally justify the more violent action as being necessary she approaches it from a different angle and considers what could result in zero casualties. It makes aspects of the plan more difficult such as lowering the shield since the distraction of people being crazed can’t be relied on but it’s even more noteworthy that the more difficult option is what Clarke wants to go with if it means keeping everyone alive. This feels earned considering all the time she has spent literally in her own head having her every decision scrutinised. Clarke has been forced to take a good look at herself and she has made the decision that she is going to be better. Her experience with Josephine looks to be the wakeup call she needed judging by the evidence presented in this episode.
Clarke’s more difficult plan involves her pretending to be Josephine which completes the list of possibilities when the notion of them sharing a brain was introduced. We’ve had Eliza Taylor play Josephine, Josephine pretending to be Clarke and now Clarke pretending to be Josephine. Predictably her performance is excellent thanks to the small touches Eliza Taylor provides. The brief pauses when Russell speaks to her as she tries to come up with an answer that won’t arouse suspicion as the way she conducts herself in general completely sell this and feels completely distinct from what she has done before.
Keeping Murphy in the dark about this plan is a really nice touch for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is that him being oblivious means that there’s less chance of the truth accidentally comes out. If he can interact with Clarke as Josephine and not see through it then it means that the deception has a good chance of working and that the inevitable reveal will be a genuine surprise for him. It also makes for an excellent test of Murphy’s morality as any decision he makes will be made without him knowing the full picture so it will provide a clear indication of what side he’s actually on. He’s well placed as the wildcard at this point but he can’t occupy that role forever and the moment of decision is coming soon. There’s still a question over whether he will accept immortality and sell out his friends though there’s evidence that he’s playing a long game that will end up benefiting Wonkru. It’s also very possible that he sees through the deception and is going along with it because he understands what’s going on which would be consistent with his previously established intelligence but time will tell on that. Clarke having no idea if Murphy can be trusted because of her knowledge of the arrangement he made with Josephine adds another layer to this complex situation and makes everything that bit more tense.
Octavia is another voice championing Clarke’s peaceful plan which makes for an obvious shift in her overall outlook as well. As with Clarke this feels earned based on the events leading up to this change in mindset. This is explored in a really compelling conversation she has with Bellamy. She is determined to find a way to repair their relationship but it’s an uphill struggle as the rift between them is significant. Bellamy is certainly less than pleased to see her for obvious reasons and Octavia is acutely aware of that but it doesn’t affect her motivation to find some way back from the animosity that has defined their relationship of late. This interaction feels very real and deftly avoids the trope of an emotionally charged conversation resulting in total forgiveness. Real life and real relationships simply don’t work like that so it’s good to see the writers letting this play out organically.
The point of this scene is to open a dialogue and get the issues out in the open. Octavia is very realistic about it and acknowledges that there is possibly no redemption for everything she did but it won’t stop her trying to achieve it. All she wants from Bellamy is a chance and pleads with him to recognise her as his sister. This is something that he does but he no longer considers her his responsibility so he’s committed to keeping that distance from her because the damage done to their relationship is significant. The road to reconciliation will be long if it can be achieved at all and I applaud the writers for not taking the easy way out here.
Echo’s contribution to the episode proves to be another fascinating addition and ties into the overall plot in surprising ways. Russell designates her as the guinea pig for the new Nightblood creation method and selects her as the next host for Simone. Echo has been a player in prior episodes this season but she often sits in the background complimenting other characters in some way without having anything major to write about. The “Azgeda Spy” label follows her around with her significance often beginning and ending with what earned her that label. Basically she tends to sneak around and take action that won’t necessarily be expected. It’s consistent but far from interesting and negates how much she apparently changed during her time in space. This episode changes that and has her act as a major moral mouthpiece. Her conversation with Ryker about what they can and can’t live with is fascinating, adding much needed complexity to Ryker who is torn between living with ending the lives of innocents and disappointing his people by not going through with it. This isn’t a lot of complexity but it’s yet another example of how skewed the morality of the Primes is and how institutionalised their belief system is.
A flashback to Echo’s past where she is given the “kill or be killed” ultimatum and ends up killing her best friend so that she can survive tells us a lot about her and offers grounding for her views on the current situation. It goes without saying that killing your best friend so that you can survive would be a formative experience but the added brutality of being given the name of that friend and having no choice in the matter adds so much more to that. Being given and keeping the name Echo is symbolic of her becoming someone else that day and possibly trying to distance herself from the young girl who was able to kill her best friend. In fairness the choices were limited to killing to win the fight, lose the fight by being killed or be killed for non compliance so it’s far from the easiest choice to make. Echo keeping that name acts as a reminder of who she became that day and the guilt she will carry with her forever. It’s really powerful and offers much needed insight into Echo.
This detail of her past links into what the Primes do as well. They transfer the essence of a person into different bodies and destroy the consciousness that owned the body before in the process. Echo became Echo when she killed her best friend, the essence of who she currently is was forced on her through that experience so in many ways it’s very similar to that process albeit far less literal. It still gives Echo the basis to understand what that means for the person lost in that process as the person she was was effectively erased that day. Hopefully this is the beginning of more meaty material for Echo and the writers will build on this strong groundwork.
Her transformation into a Nightblood certainly creates some interesting possibilities. There is a potential leadership vacuum at this point as Madi’s behaviour is murderously erratic and there’s a lot of resentment for Clarke so it’s easy to see that people might be looking for another alternative. Echo might be a strong possibility as her morality seems to gel with what everyone would like to become. I’d welcome her in this role as it would change up her role on the show and provide lots of potential for growth. The Madi plot really isn’t working as it is now so bringing in another element for her to play against may make it less tedious.
A strong character driven episode that gives great focus to the ongoing theme, offers excellent insight into Echo and refuses to opt for an easy resolution to the fractured Bellamy/Octavia relationship. The focus on table setting rather than plot moving is a good choice as it allows for reflection on recent events while deciding what the next steps should be. Clarke learning the necessary lessons from her ordeal with Josephine and opting for the more difficult plan that has a higher chance of resulting in zero casualties is welcome progression and ties into the theme of “doing better” set by Monty. Eliza Taylor gets to shine in her performance as Clarke pretending to be Josephine which works brilliantly especially when Murphy doesn’t know about the deception. Keeping Murphy as the wildcard for now is another nice touch as it’s fun to see him out of the loop and makes for an excellent test of his morality as it’s still unknown if he will accept mortality.
The scene where Octavia tries to open a dialogue with Bellamy is excellent because of how real it is. The writers deftly avoid the trope of an emotionally charged conversation resulting in total forgiveness. Instead their interaction shows how fractured their relationship is and leaves an open question over whether repairing it is even possible. Octavia acknowledges everything she has done and recognises that she may not be able to make up for it but she’s determined to try regardless. It’s another sign of progression and works brilliantly. The insight into Echo’s past is really strong and long overdue. Having this link into the idea of the loss of self that the Primes represent and allowing her a unique perspective on that situation works really well and hopefully signifies the beginning of Echo having more meaty material. The possibility of her being a candidate for leadership is certainly interesting and might offer a welcome diversion to the tedious Madi plot.
- taking the time to reflect on recent events
- Clarke’s progressing indicated by her choosing a more difficult plan likely to result in zero casualties
- Eliza Taylor delivering yet another excellent performance as Clarke pretending to be Josephine
- deftly avoiding the trope of an emotionally charged conversation ending with total forgiveness
- Octavia and Bellamy’s conversation feeling very real
- insight into Echo’s past and how that connects to the Primes on a symbolic level
- the spectre of the undeveloped Gabriel/Josephine relationship still having an impact
- the tedious Madi plot
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