The 100 – Season 7 Episode 11

Aug 13, 2020 | Posted by in TV
The 100

“Etherea”

The 100 reveals the fate of Bellamy and chronicles an arduous journey to the summit of a mountain.

Reports of Bellamy’s death being greatly exaggerated shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone watching the show at this point. The scene where he appeared to die was deliberately staged with a wormhole directly behind him so the truth was always pretty obvious. Leven’s analysis of the footage confirms that the explosion threw him into the wormhole rather than killing him which leads us into the meat of the episode that focuses on what happened after that.

The 100

Strange New World

The bulk of the episode belongs to Bellamy and his experiences on the titular planet, Etherea as he works to survive as well as find a way to escape. He has company in the form of a character known only as Conductor (Jonathan Scarfe) so that gives him someone to talk to and allows for the exploration of Bellamy’s views on what the people of Bardo believe in. Naturally he begins the episode as a sceptic and questions everything that’s in Conductor’s handy pocket book that summarises everything that Cadogan is preaching. One of the foundations of his scepticism is the idea that in order to transcend to a perfectly peaceful existence a War has to be fought. That runs counter to Bellamy’s experience of War. He says that War only brings pain, death and more War for those that survive so he’s less inclined to believe that anything good can come from fighting a War. It’s a very personal viewpoint that is formed by Bellamy’s experiences; it makes sense based on his character but the episode fails to offer a strong counter argument. The writers are clearly trying to tell a very specific story that starts with prompting the viewer to side with Bellamy in an absolute sense in order to build to the shocking cliffhanger ending.

It’s easy to see why this approach would be adopted but it comes at the expense of nuance. There is another character in this situation that could be used to highlight the complexity of the issues being discussed. War can eventually lead to positive change which opens up the discussion to whether that change is ultimately worth the cost of bringing it about. It could have been a fascinating debate but instead Conductor is framed as a devout follower who has little more to say other than cliché statements about faith and belief. Despite his claims to the contrary, Cadogan is a cult leader and the people of Bardo are a product of generations of indoctrination into his way of thinking so most of them haven’t ever questioned what they were taught as their entire existence is built around those teachings. That works in a static society where everyone is conditioned to think along the same lines but the whole point of exposing our characters to that belief system is to have them learn what it is and then question it based on their own experiences. In theory this forces the indoctrinated to consider those questions themselves and look for answers beyond the surface level teachings they have received previously. To an extent this has been done with Leven who has been opened up to questioning his beliefs thanks to his obsession with Octavia but as yet this hasn’t been covered in great detail. Conductor was ideally placed to do this through his conversations with Bellamy but instead repeats much of the same empty information. It’s possible this is a commentary on how deeply ingrained those beliefs are but it’s a waste of an opportunity to really dig into them and add much needed depth to a big part of the season.

Failing to add depth to them makes it all the more difficult to accept that Bellamy would come around to that way of thinking. There are references to Pike in this episode in terms of the skills Bellamy uses to help Conductor and survive in general so that acts as a reminder of his history of being sucked into supporting certain wrong-headed ideals though the Pike situation was better justified than this was as time was taken to explore Pike’s beliefs and offer meaningful counters to them even if Bellamy following Pike didn’t make sense. The episode is significantly let down by strong reminders of who Bellamy is and what his life experience has shaped him into. The idea is to establish that before having that torn down in favour of him subscribing to the blind faith that he so passionately condemned. We as viewers have a strong sense of who Bellamy is and have seen him become a man who has a clear idea of what’s truly important to him in life so it would take a lot to justify a change in that mindset and this episode doesn’t earn that transition.

The 100

Another mystery to solve

There are two main catalysts for this change. The first is a particular discussion that he has with Conductor that details where he thinks Bellamy is going wrong. It specifically targets Bellamy’s love for the people in his life and suggests that confining love to a small group of individuals is the wrong approach because the only way for Humanity to truly move forward is if everyone loves everyone else on an equal basis with no favouritism. It is a slightly deeper look into Conductor’s beliefs and contrasts them with what motivates Bellamy but it’s still not enough as it’s thrown together with the mystery surrounding the recently discovered beings of light. Conductor’s entire argument is founded on the belief that he will ascend to that higher form of life if he follows those teachings despite having no evidence of that or why ascending would be better. Since his position is that of blind faith that evidence doesn’t need to be there but since Bellamy explicitly states he believes in what he can prove there should be something that points him in that direction. The idea that being close to a small group of people constitutes a weakness is an interesting one that invites exploration but there’s a particular agenda to this episode that means there’s no interest in actually exploring it.

The second catalyst for the shift in Bellamy’s mindset is the vision he has where he speaks to Cadogan and his mother. In the vision he is surrounded by weapons that are arranged almost like headstones in a cemetery. Cadogan appears to him and tells him that he’s misguided if he believes that weapons can save him because “faith is the true weapon”. He invites Bellamy to follow him into the cave and take another look so that he may see something different. This is where his mother comes in; she encourages him to go into the light which he does and when the vision ends the storm that has been raging outside the cave has subsided. The implication is that Bellamy draws the connection between embracing the light and the storm subsiding which gives him the proof that he needs. It’s very tenuous as Bellamy’s vision could easily be dismissed as a dream and the storm subsiding could be explained as a coincidence. His shift in  mindset is cemented by his leap of faith into the wormhole that is generated out of view once they reach the summit. Once again it’s easy to see what the writers are getting at and what they want to bring across but Bellamy going from die hard sceptic to faith driven follower does not work based on what this episode presents.

Another thing that doesn’t work is the way the cliffhanger is presented. There’s a lot going on in that particular scene with Clarke, Octavia and Echo reacting to learning that Bellamy is alive and the reveal that Bellamy is now a believer. The camera focuses nicely on those reactions and the actors play the complex emotions associated with what they’re seeing wonderfully but beginning the scene with clumsy dialogue that reminds the audience that it is believed that Clarke has The Flame and ending it with Bellamy betraying her is painfully unnatural. Adding that dialogue in at all highlights the general structural problems of the season as it has been so long since the show picked up that thread that clumsy dialogue is required to bring it back into focus. It also makes no sense for Clarke to go from having an intense emotional reaction to Bellamy’s reappearance to quickly summarising the exact thing she doesn’t want Cadogan to find out when he could very easily hear her if he was listening carefully enough considering his proximity to them. This exists for plot reasons in defiance of how Clarke would normally behave.

The 100

Embrace the light

This is the eleventh episode of the season and it’s the first substantial one for Bellamy in the final season of the show. Pushing aside any real world reasoning for Bob Morley reducing his role for this season it’s still an issue that one of the leads has suffered such a disservice. His return in this episode was welcomed and Bob Morley is more than capable of carrying an episode where he shares screen time with one other actor for most of it but as I’ve mentioned above the treatment of his character is far below what he deserves. His scepticism over Conductor’s beliefs and the arguments he makes in opposition to them are well constructed but it falls apart at the point where his mind is supposed to start changing. Supposedly months are spent on this planet enduring insanely harsh weather and an arduous climb up a high mountain but the actual time spent in near isolation for Bellamy doesn’t come across. This is a basic criticism that can be given to any episode this season that takes place over a period of months or years. Since the episodes themselves accelerate through this time there’s no sense of how long it actually was for the characters.

Equally problematic is that this is another episode designed to tell a story that happened before the current present day meaning that there’s little in the way of forward movement on whatever the major plots are at this point. I mentioned above that clunky dialogue is used to establish what the latest developments on Bardo were and Bellamy is now a part of that but things have barely moved forward. Not only that but there’s an additional new element to consider in the beings of light. Now there’s a mystery around what they are, what ascending to that level means and how that impacts everything else that’s going on. It’s looking less and less likely that all of this will tie together in a satisfying way before the end as it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time left to tie everything together in a satisfying way before the show comes to an end a mere five episodes from now.

The 100

In this together


Verdict

A lacklustre episode that does a disservice to Bellamy’s character and fails to make significant progress in any of the main plots. Bellamy’s return is certainly welcomed and Bob Morley is more than capable of carrying an episode where he shares most of his screen time with one other actor but the entire episode is built around accepting that he would change from a die hard sceptic about Cadogan’s teachings to a devout follower in the space of a few months. The episode doesn’t do enough to justify this change in mindset despite the references made to Pike as a reminder of him being sucked into supporting wrong-headed ideals. Part of this comes from a failure to add much in the way of depth to Conductor’s side of the debate. His words come across as blind faith that results from a lifetime of indoctrination into a belief system without much substance to the counter arguments he offers to Bellamy’s challenges. This was a real opportunity to explore the differences and have Conductor really think about his own beliefs but that’s not the case here. Bellamy’s shift coming after Conductor challenges his definition of love and how he applies it combined with a vision about embracing the light doesn’t work because it doesn’t show how his mind has changed. The storm subsiding in that moment is seen to be connected to that and his belief is supposedly cemented by his leap of faith. The early part of the episode where Bellamy was reasonably questioning everything about Conductor’s beliefs worked really well because it felt in character but the shift in mindset didn’t.

Part of this might be down to there being no real sense of how much time is supposed to pass over the course of the episode. Supposedly months go by but that doesn’t really come across which makes Bellamy’s shift difficult to invest in. Ending on him betraying Clarke and fully embracing his new way of thinking is in theory shocking but it’s ruined significantly by Clarke behaving out of character and revealing that she doesn’t have the Flame to Bellamy with Cadogan in potential earshot. Having this come immediately after the well executed reactions to learning that Bellamy is alive from Clarke, Octavia and Echo. It was a smart decision to have the camera linger on each of them for the appropriate amount of time to put their reaction across but surrounding that with clumsy dialogue and out of character behaviour was a bizarre choice. It’s also worth noting that there is now a new element to consider among the other things the season is slowly exploring; the beings of light are yet another mystery that needs to be solved. Time is running out and there doesn’t seem to be enough of it left to tie everything up in a satisfying way.

Overall
  • 3/10
    Etherea - 3/10
3/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Bob Morley carrying an episode where he shares most of his screentime with one other person
  • pitch perfect reactions to learning that Bellamy is still alive

Rise Against…

  • another episode with little to no forward plot movement
  • Bellamy’s change in mindset being completely unjustified
  • not taking the opportunity to explore Cadogan’s teachings through Conductor
  • Clarke behaving out of character to manufacture a shocking ending
  • another introduced mystery

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User Review
7.11/10 (9 votes)

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