The 100 – Season 7 Episode 3
The 100 returns to Sanctum for an Apocalyptic problem and growing unrest among the various factions as preparations are made for Russell’s execution.
At the moment there are two distinct settings at play that have entirely different tones and styles to them. The Sanctum plot is a social and political powder keg of clashing views that has to be handled in a very particular way and the anomaly plot is a character driven science fiction narrative that focuses on unravelling a mystery. Everyone will have one that they prefer over the other based on where their interests lie. For me the anomaly story is far more engaging though there are a lot of elements at play in the Sanctum plot that I find interesting. Unfortunately this episode sidelines much of that to focus on a problem that doesn’t really need to exist.
The ticking clock on the reactor meltdown feels like well trodden ground because we have already dealt with pending annihilation due to reactors failing. It’s old news at this point and in this case it comes from nowhere with the problem appearing and being resolved in the same episode. That’s not to say it isn’t well handled because it largely is and it does manage to bring in the factions at play relative to this story but there’s more than enough going on in Sanctum without needing to manufacture tension in this way.
One advantage to this is that it lets Raven take the lead on a plot after an extended period of her occupying the background. It seems that Raven takes the lead whenever something needs fixed at this point which does a disservice to a character who used to be so rich and versatile. The point of this one, at least where she’s concerned, is for Raven to experience having to make tough decisions that result in people losing their lives in service of the greater good. She has previously condemned Clarke for her decisions because she felt that they were morally long but now she gets a taste of what Clarke had to deal with and finds it’s not quite as easy as always taking the moral high ground and finding a way to preserve all lives. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to do so and Raven learning that by having to make those decisions herself is really interesting because it puts her in a position that she has never been in before.
The execution left a lot to be desired as her approach was unnecessarily cold. At first she was unaware of the severity of the situation so was content with sending volunteers in who would be ill for a few days once the job was finished. It’s not ideal but at least it’s not life threatening. Her decision to lie to Hatch (Chad Rook) and his men about the fact that they have been exposed to a lethal dose of radiation meaning it’s only a matter of time until they die felt out of character. Instead of being upfront with them she lies about the severity of the situation because she feels that they will refuse to work if they learn the truth. It’s morally dubious and it’s supposed to be but based on what we know about Raven up until this point I don’t see this being a decision she would make under those circumstances. First of all everyone involved knows the cost of failure in this situation. If they refuse to work then everyone they care about dies horribly so that in itself should be incentive to get the job done even if and when it costs them their lives. Hatch shows himself to be a lot smarter than Raven gives him credit for and resolves to finish the job no matter what but it doesn’t excuse the fact that Raven withholds that information therefore potentially robbing those people of the opportunity to face death on their own terms. The pressure she was under wasn’t in doubt but it was definitely cold and arguably very out of character.
By contrast she is very upfront with Emori and Murphy, at least initially. Emori gets to go into the situation being fully aware of the available facts and the risk she was agreeing to shoulder. It’s a great example of what people will take on if it means protecting those they care about. In this case sacrifices needed to be made or everyone dies. Raven locking Murphy in the room with Hatch and his men to ensure the job was done quickly was another example of her not trusting others to do the right thing. She was counting on Murphy’s well honed sense of self preservation causing him to prioritise finishing the job to assure his own survival rather than trusting him to simply agree to help finish welding the pipes. It’s an odd choice on Raven’s part that doesn’t work because it ignores the connections that have been forged between these characters before this point.
This did allow for a really engaging conversation between Murphy and Hatch about past mistakes. Hatch details what led to him being imprisoned and gives a brief summary of the guilt he carries on his conscience. He says that there’s no way to make up for this but finishing the job means that his wife will be safe which is a worthy sacrifice as far as he’s concerned. Murphy is the right person to hear this because he knows a lot about feeling guilty for past mistakes though the situation was probably a little too urgent to be having such a casual conversation. It was necessary to make Hatch’ death mean something tangible rather than him being a faceless casualty like the rest of his men but it was at odds with the urgency of the situation.
Despite Raven’s questionable behaviour over the course of the episode, the impact her decisions have on her works brilliantly. As I mentioned she gets a taste of what Clarke has had to deal with in the past and finds that she isn’t as morally upright as she once believed she was. Murphy puts it perfectly when he says to her “welcome to the world of the grey”. This one line is perfect as it summarises the transition Raven has made while making her acutely aware of what she has now become. The fact that she takes the beating from Hatch’ wife Nikki (Alaina Huffman) because she feels that she deserves it shows an awareness on her part that she crossed a line she thought she would never cross. More introspection on whether she felt her actions and decisions were necessary would have enhanced this but the aftermath was otherwise really well done.
As this is going on there is still time to explore the factions within Sanctum. In the case of Wonkru, it feeds into the annihilation plot when they are asked to volunteer for what will amount to a suicide mission but are reluctant to do so because the request comes from Indra rather than Madi. It took less time than expected for the absence of Madi to be questioned by those loyal to the Commander and it instantly creates a problem because they don’t want to accept Indra’s assurance that the orders she gives come directly from the mouth of the Commander. It was always going to be something that would fall apart eventually because there’s only so long that a figurehead can makes excuses before people start to question their integrity. It presents a problem because Madi has no interest in taking on that role, Clarke refuses to even let her pretend for a little while which makes sense because if it has to be done once then it will likely need to be done again and again to maintain the loyalty of the people. In reality it can only go on so long before the truth becomes known and the consequences are severe because they then have to deal with a group of people who have been lied to for an extended period of time.
Gaia is the one to encourage Indra to come clean which shows a clear transition from the old way of doing things to the new. Indra represents the old way because she has lived in that world for a long time and experienced things working in that way but things are different now and constantly changing. Gaia is younger, less set in her ways and has a commitment to doing right by the people which in this case means being honest with them because she feels that the outcome will be more positive in the long run. Indra resists this idea because she knows how the people thing and doesn’t see a favourable outcome resulting from the truth being told.
Telling the truth goes exactly the way Indra predicted punctuated with the words “faith may be blind but loyalty isn’t”. Gaia’s decision has made the situation significantly worse because Wonkru has been split apart meaning there is no longer a unified group of people to help maintain a semblance of peace when Russell’s death inevitably causes further issues. After this it’s difficult to see a way out of this situation that doesn’t result in further bloodshed which makes the mantra of “do better” even more difficult to live up to.
Russell’s death is another major hot button issue that pretty much everyone has an opinion about and Sheidheda -now in Russell’s body- wastes no time in taking advantage of this. At first he talks about how much he deserves death and that it should be used to heal Sanctum rather than an excuse for violent revenge. As he’s giving that speech he is shot by someone from the crowd which puts a hold on the execution just as he planned. Killing him now would make him a martyr which would certainly make a tense situation worse especially with Wonkru being split by decisions made elsewhere.
Sheidheda was one of the weaker aspects of the previous season but I really like how he’s used here. J.R. Bourne does an excellent job playing the character and the character is written as being a devious opponent made stronger by the fact that nobody has any idea that he’s in control of Russell’s body. It’s unknown if he has Russell’s memories at this point so either he’s using them to manipulate the situation or he’s just very adept at quickly reading the room to figure out what buttons to push. For the moment either explanation works and the way he manipulates Jordan is perhaps his strongest move as he plays on his morality to turn him against Clarke because of her decision to execute Russell. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t take much of a push to send Jordan in that direction which highlights how fragile and tenuous the peace currently is. Based on this season so far there is a danger that Jordan will become a tool used by various parties to illustrate certain points which is a step back from the strong new character introduced at the end of season 5 who embodied what the future morality could be so hopefully he will be given more meaty material as the season progresses.
Russell’s upcoming execution by itself generates a lot of discussion that doesn’t paint everyone in a particularly favourable light. Jackson openly declares that he deserves to die because he killed Abby which is highlighted as being something that a Doctor probably shouldn’t be saying considering the oath he took to preserve all life where possible. His personal feelings are valid and hatred is a very powerful emotion which makes what he says all the more shocking. It’s a showcase for similar discussions that will be happening throughout sanctum and further evidence that there is still a long way to go before a more morally upright future can be achieved. Violence and death are institutional which makes them difficult to cast off as is being consistently proven.
Clarke and Gaia reinforce this in a couple of low key discussions that they have. Clarke regrets the decision she made and recognises that her emotions took over in a crucial moment. This passionate reaction now has consequences that everyone has to deal with. Gaia doesn’t sugarcoat it but does understand Clarke’s decision because of what Russell did to her mother. At this point Clarke naively believes that they might be able to start over after the execution but this isn’t the first time that a fresh start has been suggested and it has never worked out that way before so there’s no reason to assume this will be any different. Her conversation with Gaia towards the beginning of the episode and at the end bookends this issue because Clarke does come to realise that it’s possible the cycle can’t be broken because violence and death has become the very fabric of who they are which means they may never be rid of it. Gaia believes that they do have a choice but Clarke is aware that things don’t ever seem to change no matter how much she may appear to want them to. Even Gaia has doubts because she wonders if she’s taking certain actions because she knows nothing else. There are a lot of doubts at play preventing personal growth from both of them.
Change is definitely in the air one way or another as signified by Clarke burying her mother’s ring alongside the remains of the Flame. In both cases it’s an attempt at some form of closure and an acknowledgement that things do need to change in some way. This is reinforced by Clarke recognising that things don’t change and Gaia lamenting the loss of her faith which kept her going before now. This partnership that has formed between Clarke and Gaia in order to give Madi a supportive and stable parental unit is proving to be a great asset for them as well. They have become comfortable being vulnerable with one another with Clarke sharing the burdens she never has the opportunity to share with anyone else and Gaia using Clarke as a sounding board for things she has difficulty resolving. It’s unexpected but a beautiful connection that enriches the characters massively.
A good episode that portrays the tense situation within Sanctum really well, makes great use of the newly minted Clarke/Gaia partnership and turns Sheidheda into a formidable presence. The decision to be honest about Madi no longer being Commander created an interesting problem with Wonkru now being split apart in a way that makes a tense situation worse. It ties into the potential difficulties that will arise following Russell’s execution because as there’s no longer a united group to help counter that. In this case Indra represents the old way of doing things where Gaia represents finding a new way but her efforts are in vain as devotion to the Commander and the Flame isn’t something that people are prepared to leave behind. Indra understands this and it highlights that there is still a long way to go before things can really change. Sheidheda takes full advantage of the hot button issue that is Russell’s execution. He encourages the people to see it as a peaceful gesture because Russell deserves to die for what he’s done but a staged assassination attempt ensures his ongoing survival because to execute him after that would make him a martyr. After being one of the weaker aspects of the previous season Sheidheda is used really well here with his ability to manipulate people being his greatest strength. Manipulating Jordan to turn against Clarke by appearing to appeal to his morality was a strong example of that though there is a danger that Jordan could become little more than a tool to be used by whoever needs to deploy him in a particular direction. Change does seem to be in the air though Clarke has doubts about the appetite for her. She opens up to Gaia about once again resorting to violence and being afraid that they’re capable of nothing else while Gaia has lost her faith and doubts her own future. The Gaia/Clarke partnership does more than provide a stable parental unit for Madi, it offers each of them someone to confide in and it’s used brilliantly.
The nuclear meltdown plot wasn’t necessary as there is enough going on in Sanctum to carry several episodes as it is. This plot feels well covered by this point and wasn’t necessary here as there’s plenty of tension. It does provide a showcase for Raven who experiences having to make difficult decisions which puts her in a position Clarke often finds herself in. It’s significant because Raven has condemned Clarke for her decisions so now gets to see how difficult it is. Opting to be dishonest rather than trusting people to take steps to protect those they care about is out of character for Raven and doesn’t paint her in a good light. There are consequences to it that work well but in the moment it was clearly unnecessary for her to make decisions in that way. Hatch was a great one shot character who had the opportunity to be developed briefly albeit at a point where there shouldn’t have been time for an idle conversation and Murphy was used well in this space but the situation itself wasn’t needed. There must have been some other way to test Raven’s morality and ability to make decisions.
- Gaia learning that faith isn’t something easily left behind
- the decision to open up about the loss of the Flame making the situation worse
- Sheidheda being really well used in Russell’s body
- the Clarke/Gaia partnership offering them both someone to meaningfully confide in
- Clarke’s meditation on whether it is possible to be better
- Raven understanding what Clarke had to deal with making life or death decisions
- the nuclear annihilation plot being unnecessary and played out
- Raven acting out of character in some of the decisions she made
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