The 100 – Season 7 Episode 1
“From the Ashes”
The 100 begins its seventh and final season with the struggle to find the new normal in Sanctum and a showcase of some of the major mysteries to be explored in the coming episodes.
The events of the previous season left Sanctum in turmoil with a power vacuum in place after the Primes were overthrown. A large part of this episode is devoted to showing the initial impact that has on the people who once relied on the Primes for guidance and leadership. There’s no denying that the Primes were an entitled elite who saw the people as little more than a resource to be used to ensure their lives continue but those people accepted that reality and were conditioned to believe that it was an honour to be chosen to receive the consciousness of a Prime even though it results in death for them. People hoped that they would be chosen to become part of this grand tradition so even though it has been identified as a terrible thing and stopped, that conditioning can’t simply be forgotten. These people have to figure out a new purpose and shape a society around that purpose which is no easy task.
Sanctum is massively chaotic at the moment with wide scale unrest and uncertainty creating a far less than stable situation. There’s no leadership, no direction and the threat of imminent violence perpetually in the air. The chaos is portrayed really well though it would be better to have a definitive perspective to help lead the audience through the current situation. At the moment there are a lot of voices making emotionally driven statements so there’s a lot to take in but a lack of focus on anything specific which is limiting. I suspect this perspective will come shortly once clear natural leaders are identified but it would have helped to have a central figure or two to latch onto so that what is being said comes through more clearly. The factions are clearly defined as those who still believe in the Primes, the Children of Gabriel who hate the Primes, the former prisoners who were at War with Wonkru only a few days ago from their perspective and Wonkru who have taken it upon themselves to make sure that these various groups mesh together into something resembling a society. It’s a less than ideal situation that will take finesse to navigate and arguably Wonkru are far from the right people to be in charge of this.
I really liked the portrayal of old habits dying hard and the clear need for guidance, direction and leadership from the people. It is still believed that Murphy and Emori are Primes and people naturally look to them for that direction which makes Murphy feel very uncomfortable but is seen as an opportunity by Emori. Murphy’s position makes sense for him as he wrestled with the idea of becoming immortal last season before eventually deciding that a finite life was a better way to live. The idea that people would essentially worship him because of what they think he is doesn’t sit right with him and he initially refuses to even entertain the notion. Raven sees it as essential for survival in the short term and Emori sees this as the first step in creating a more peaceful world. At the moment the people are looking for guidance to help them move towards that new normal so she’s content to let them believe that she’s a Prime so she can help steer them in a direction that leads to their independence. It’s an uphill struggle as children are still being taught about the Primes in school which shows how deeply the very structure of their entire world is built around them. Just because they have been overthrown doesn’t mean that influence goes away and there are people who would rather defer to their beliefs than accept that everything they knew was a lie. It’s powerful stuff and there’s no easy way to combat that.
Emori’s position is morally dubious as she is knowingly playing on the beliefs these people hold and resolving to misdirect them but it’s easy to see why she believes this to be the best way forward. It could end up having negative consequences down the line that prove to be damaging for this fledgling society as a whole but for now it’s helping to keep the fragile peace intact so it’s worthwhile and arguably necessary at this stage. The theme of “doing better” is still in the air and Emori looking for a peaceful solution rather than having Wonkru try to use violence and fear to keep the people in line is in line with the desire to be better. If Emori does this right then she can act as the bridge between the old way of life and the new but if it goes wrong then she will end up exacerbating the lack of trust that already exists. Not to mention the fact that the Children of Gabriel automatically want her and Murphy dead because they believe them to be the last of the Primes. It’s a great source of tension that highlights the difficulties associated with upending a way of life that has persisted for a long time and trying to force groups with such strong beliefs to find common ground.
Russell being still alive presents its own problems as there are still people loyal to him who want to ensure he’s being treated well, there are those who want him dead because he’s a Prime and he himself would rather be dead than face being imprisoned after losing his entire family along with his way of life. The fact that he crushes the mind drive that Jordan kept shows that he has acknowledged that what he once held dear is over and all he wants is to join those he loves in death. The fact that he gets what he wants in some way when Sheidheda appears to kill his consciousness and take over his body would be in line with what he wants to some extent but I’d be surprised if he’s actually dead.
This also ties into the “doing better” theme with Clarke making the statement that she doesn’t want Madi growing up in a society that subscribes to the notion of an eye for an eye. She’s directly asked if Russell deserves to die or not and she thinks that he may have it coming but her desire to be better means that she won’t resort to punishing him with death. In this new society he has to answer for his crimes. Of course this doesn’t last long as Clarke’s darker impulses can’t easily be silenced and she ends up reacting violently to Russell. She holds a gun to his head and challenges him on his desire to die before learning that it’s genuine as the palace starts to burn down. The palace acts as a symbol of the old days of decadence and oppression from the Primes and is designated as a place that nobody should live. Having it physically present within Sanctum serves as a reminder of everything that once was so it’s not healthy for it to remain when a better world is still being figured out. The visual of it burning at the end of the episode is striking because it’s a sign of the old regime being completely torn down in an effort to create something better.
Clarke’s speech about them being the last Humans and having to pull together because of that very fact is passionate and is complimented by the symbol of the old world burning behind her. Her acknowledgement that everyone has made mistakes that they have to live with before announcing that Russell will die for his mistakes comes as a shock and Eliza Taylor’s almost maniacal delivery of that promise suggests that she might not be entirely in her right mind at that point. I suspect the next episode will explore the morality of this decision and whether Clarke has the unilateral authority to make it especially in emotionally driven circumstances but the episode establishes that some will be happy with her decision and some will be angered by it. It will be down to Wonkru to debate it most likely.
The episode spent a great deal of time showing contentment among Wonkru through establishing the farmhouse that they are all going to be sharing, a quiet picnic where they get to relax and enjoy being around one another and the general domestic trappings that would appear to suggest that they can actually be at peace. It’s quickly countered by the chaos of Sanctum but for a time they seem happy. Taking Clarke away from significant responsibilities appears to be good for her mental health and Eliza Taylor plays the different sides of Clarke that present themselves in different situations brilliantly. When she’s with Madi and the rest of her found family without being in some sort of danger or having to make decisions that could have wide reaching consequences she appears far less burdened. In these scenes she acknowledges that there is a lot of work to do but doesn’t seem stressed about it. It’s only when faced with the situation directly that the darkness that is always just beneath the surface has an opportunity to present itself.
It seems early on that having a simpler life is the end goal for Clarke and the others. She wants to raise Madi and let her have the chance to be a kid without the stresses of leadership and life of death situations. Madi is excited about going to school and Clarke has changed her stance on letting her. The former Grounders still see her as the Commander but it seems the current idea is to make that a figurehead position with Indra doing the real work of being in charge. It’s an interesting setup and opens Madi up to a different sort of development to what she has done before. Clarke and Gaia have fallen into a platonic parenting arrangement where they work together to raise Madi in the best way they can. They see it as the best thing for Madi and there’s a real sense of stability to the arrangement that works for all concerned. It capitalises on the strong connections Madi has to both Clarke and Gaia while also having the others on the periphery to influence her development.
As the societal growing pains escalate there is still the issue of the mysterious anomaly to deal with. The previous season ended with Hope appearing -following Diyoza disappearing into it- to stab Octavia before she then disappeared and now this season begins with Echo, Gabriel and Hope having to figure out what all of this means. There’s an added complication of Bellamy being taken away by an invisible force so there’s a lot of confusion and not a lot of clues as to how to proceed. The motivations are kept simple with Echo wanting to save Bellamy, Gabriel looking to understand the anomaly and Hope looking to understand who she is and what her place in all of this is. The idea of her memory coming and going depending on contact with the anomaly is an interesting one and Shelby Flannery plays the confusion brilliantly. Having a character who is a mystery even to herself works really well because it essentially gives the anomaly a Human form that we can invest in.
The anomaly has the potential to create compelling introspective character beats for those who come into contact with it. Echo facing up to her insecurities through visions of Roan and the “real” Echo. The manifestations actively present her with an opportunity to question whether she is a better person who has managed to make up for some of the mistakes she made. She has to look into the faces of those she feels she has wronged in a significant way. It’s strange, trippy and isn’t something she’s able to resolve. The act of shooting at the manifestations suggests a defiance of confronting those issues but they fact that they are there at all means they won’t go away until she deals with them.
As for the anomaly itself, we learn that it is controlled by people in high tech suits that have heads up displays containing information about Echo, Hope and Gabriel. If I had to guess I’d say they are likely from the future and have found a way to manipulate time but whether they’re a corrupted future version of what Wonkru is trying to do or something else entirely is yet to be answered. This is the right amount of forward momentum on this plot that keeps the questions intriguing and at a manageable level. I have trust that they will be answered in a satisfying yet surprising way.
The only issue with this plot is that it felt at odds with the Sanctum plot in terms of timing. In terms of how the episode is edited the suggestion is that it runs concurrently with the Sanctum story but the way it plays out suggests otherwise. There is a temporal anomaly at play which does account for some of this but the immediacy of the anomaly plot feels at odds with the more deliberate Sanctum one to the point that the two should perhaps have occupied their own episodes to make it feel less jarring. It’s possible that the purpose of this approach will become clear but for now having them run concurrently in the same episode doesn’t entirely work.
A strong opening to the final season that focuses a lot on world rebuilding, delivers excellent teases as to the nature and purpose of the temporal anomaly while providing the typically excellent characterisation this show is known for. Spending a lot of time building up how much of a mess Sanctum is in the wake of overthrowing the Primes works really well. The different factions are clearly defined though could have more prominent representation in terms of characters to make it easier to follow. Placing Wonkru in the centre of it all and tasking them with building something positive out of this chaos is interesting because there is always the lingering question over whether they should be the ones to do so. Clarke starts out with the best of intentions in building a society that isn’t about violence or punishment but ends up giving into her darker impulses when pushed by Russell. Her speech about punishing him for his mistakes as the palace burns behind her is excellent and works well on a symbolic level with the representation of oppression and the old ways burning behind her as she talks about moving forward. Russell being inhabited by Sheidheda means that he definitely won’t die right away but there’s an interesting moral debate set up by Clarke’s decision. Raven and Emori’s decision to have Emori and Murphy pose as Primes to act as a bridge to a more positive future is morally dubious but well intentioned. It has the potential to work out well or the potential to be disastrous depending on how the people of Sanctum react to learning the truth. At the moment they’re in willing denial based on the fact that Madi talks about the schools still teaching children about the Primes. Change isn’t going to be fast or easy but it will certainly come so where Emori finds herself in the midst of that is a compelling open question at this point.
Showing Clarke and her found family living a contented existence in a farmhouse where they all get to be together and largely unburdened by the world around them is really fascinating because it shows a peaceful side of Clarke free of the burdens of leadership. In this setting it’s all about what’s best for Madi and the platonic parental partnership she has with Gaia where Madi’s best interests are their primary focus works very well for their characters. Madi getting the chance to be a child without any of the responsibilities she once had has potential for different development for her as Indra does the real leadership work in her name. The anomaly plot ticks along nicely with more questions being raised with enough reveals to balance that out. Keeping it personal by focusing on Hope’s desire to know herself, Echo’s desire to rescue Bellamy and Gabriel’s desire to understand the anomaly gives the audience something to latch onto. Echo being faced with her insecurities through manifestations of Roan and the “real” Echo was a strong beat for her that shows she still carries those issues because she isn’t dealing with them. The only issue with this plot is that the timing felt at odds with the Sanctum plot. A temporal anomaly does allow for this but it may have been less jarring to have them separated into their own episodes rather than have them play out concurrently. There may be a defined purpose for this that remains unknown but for now the approach doesn’t entirely work.
- the exploration of the chaos that is Sanctum in the wake of overthrowing the Primes
- Clarke’s good intentions giving way to her inner darkness when pushed
- the visual of the palace as the symbol of oppression and the old ways burning as Clarke gives a speech
- Raven and Emori’s well intentioned yet morally dubious and risky idea
- the farmhouse and the different side of Clarke that it shows
- Clarke and Gaia’s platonic parenting partnership working in very practical terms
- Madi being taken down a different characterisation route by being allowed to be a child
- defining the character motivations to keep the anomaly plot focused and understandable
- Echo facing up to her own insecurities through painful manifestations
- enough answers to offset the questions posed by the anomaly
- the mystery surrounding Hope and the strong characterisation that accompanies it
- not having enough representation for the various Sanctum factions
- the anomaly plot feeling at odds with the Sanctum plot in terms of timing
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.