The 100 – Season 6 Episode 2
“Red Sun Rising”
The 100 channels a horror movie as the new surroundings test the landing party’s sanity while the history of Sanctum starts to be revealed.
As viewers we have the benefit of perspectives that the characters don’t. The episode opens with the early days of colonisation on the planet that will become known as Sanctum. These scenes follow Josephine (Sara Thompson) who is cataloguing the animal life present on the planet’s surface and working to find baseline comparisons to animals found on Earth. Her father (Sean Maguire) is really excited about the prospect of a fresh start on a new world rife with potential for scientific discoveries that change the very understanding of life and how it evolves. There is an enthusiastic and positive tone as everyone is fully on board with the new challenge. Josephine has even found love so the situation is about as idyllic as it gets. It’s a sharp contrast to how the previous episode ended and how this one will come to play out.
Things turn bad very quickly when the swarm hits following the eclipsing of the suns. The situation quickly turns very violent when Josephine’s father kills her along with everyone else in the camp while declaring “Sanctum is mine”; he is clearly crazed and completely out of his mind. This sets up the danger that the characters on Alpha will have to face over the course of this episode. The scientific explanation is that the eclipse prompts the plants to produce a toxin that relieves people of their sanity and forces them to act out their most violent impulses. Naturally this is really dangerous and puts the characters at odds with an environment that they simply don’t understand. This acts as a strong counter to the arrogance exhibited in the previous episode where nearly everyone thought this new planet meant salvation for them and didn’t proceed as cautiously as they should have.
Once it becomes clear that the toxin alters behaviour they all chain themselves up out of reach of each other and keep hold of the key that isn’t theirs. The belief is that all they have to do is wait for the suns to stop eclipising so that the plants no longer release the toxin. Basically they will be safe once they regain control of their faculties and can head back to the ship. It’s not a bad plan and the episode could have got away with having all of the characters chained to a wall a few feet apart from each other. It could have created an excuse for them to rationally discuss everything that they have to deal with and go some way to resolve their differences. It wouldn’t have been particularly tense but it would have been intimate and interesting in itself because these characters are interesting and exploring how they grow is always a good use of time.
Instead the decision was made to create a tense and thrilling horror driven experience where actions are unpredictable and there is always a palpable sense of danger hanging over everyone involved. It’s especially compelling that everyone is affected by the toxin differently so there’s no baseline expectation of what might happen. Miller and Jackson are the first to show symptoms and this is where things start to escalate as neither Clarke or Bellamy can stand by hoping for the best in this situation. They free each other and try to manage the situation but end up making things worse while trying to help. It’s so often the case on this show and one of the few things about this outing that doesn’t work. Everyone should be well aware of the potential risks involved and commit themselves to sticking to the original plan of staying separated until the crisis is over. This is a clear example of behaving like stupid horror movie characters who put themselves in obvious danger so that the carnage can begin. In fairness I’m not sure how else the writers could have accomplished this but it’s noticeably clumsy in its execution.
The unnatural madness is a clevery piece of narrative trickery as it allows for out of character behaviour without the need for believable motivation. They act like this because of an external influence and that’s the only explanation needed. Arguably it’s a bit of a cheat but it allows for exploration of lingering issues while establishing Sanctum as an environment filled with dangers like nothing else that has been experienced before. Instead of an opposing group the environment itself is their enemy and that’s really refreshing.
In some cases the characterisation is somewhat repetitive. This applies to Clarke and Murphy who appear to have the same argument over and over again about how Clarke betrays everyone around her. There is a debate to be had but it remains circular with no real progress on it. Part of the problem seems to be that Clarke and Murphy are unwilling to move beyond the position that they currently hold which makes the argument stagnate a great deal.
It does serve as a reminder of the self loathing that Clarke hides just beneath the surface. She doesn’t turn feral when exposed to the toxin, instead it intensifies that self loathing to the point where she is seconds away from committing suicide as the voice of her mother calls her a cancer that infects everyone around her. This is how Clarke feels about herself not so deep down and hearing the voice of her mother saying the things that she believes about herself is enough to push her into taking her own life to end her own suffering as well as the suffering of those around her. Murphy is the one to help her see sense by pointing out that the radio she’s talking into isn’t even on. It’s enough to bring Clarke back from the brink and allows her to listen to the rational part of herself despite the overpowering influence of the toxin.
Murphy is conspicuously unaffected by the Toxin, or at least he appears not to be. This makes sense as Murphy has been teetering on the edge of sanity for a long time now so it makes sense that this wouldn’t be enough to push him over the edge. I don’t see this as him being immune to the effects as it’s more likely that he’s more in tune with his darker impulses and is under no illusions about his darker impulses. This allows him to be in control of himself in this situation. He tasks himself with keeping everyone as safe as possible by keeping a hold of the guns and making sure everyone is kept in line. It’s a great use of Murphy and frames him as the central figure this narrative revolves around. It appears that he is impacted in some other way judging by the black veins and weakened pulse at the end of the episode.
Bellamy has his drive to save everyone intensified. This makes him really controlling and incredibly violent as his corrupted mind has him convinced violent behaviour is required to achieve that goal. Anything that is a danger to those he cares about needs to be stopped even if that happens to be someone else he cares about. Rationality is completely out of the window thanks to the toxin and Bellamy is fuelled by righteous anger. This also offers a potential explanation for his out of character and poorly developed violent streak a couple of seasons ago. His behaviour here suggests that his volatility always sits just beneath the surface.
The scenes on the planet’s surface are visually impressive. Echo and Emori’s hallucinations being shown with jagged camera angles help bring the viewer into their psychosis and the camera work is generally delirious with harsh angles and a real sense of chaos coming across. This is enhanced by the performances of the actors who do an excellent job dialling up their performances to sell the instability.
Those left back on the ship have to deal with a hostile boarding party from the surface. It’s a fairly standard situation as far as science fiction stories go but it’s done really well as it frames the main characters as the underdogs in the situation who are quickly overwhelmed by a hostile force. Gas grenades get around the problem of having to deal with skilled combatants like Octavia otherwise it would be unrealistic to portray such a swift defeat. Raven finds herself the only one in a position to help but she naturally can’t take them on herself so she wakes up Diyoza who has the necessary training and cunning to handle a situation like this one. Diyoza made for a great addition to the cast last season because she was impressively complex, incredibly threatening and uniquely driven in seeking out her goals. Of course she has been defeated but this episode proves that she can still be interesting under the right circumstances. The dynamic between her and Raven here is delightful to watch and it’s endlessly entertaining to see how merciless Diyoza can be in retaking the ship. She sees the invaders as the enemy who need to be stopped at all costs and has no problem depriving them of their lives. The way she finds the perfect way to exploit their attachments and turn the tables on them is impressive and her utilisation of Raven is really clever even if the deception is short lived. Diyoza’s continued presence is justified through Abby using the offer to deliver her baby safely as leverage.
Being in confinement stirs up recent -to the characters- resentments. These are mainly aimed at Octavia who has no way to escape the ire of those she wronged. She encourages everyone to take their anger out on her and they -with the exception of Abby- happily oblige. Having an opening like that is what they were looking for and no time is wasted savagely beating Octavia in retribution for everything she did to them. It’s really harrowing stuff and Marie Avgeropolos plays this wonderfully. Her performance as Octavia begs for her life to be ended perfectly sells the dark place Octavia finds herself in at this point. She has no support and is struggling to find a reason to keep going because she has no people to fight for. It’s grim, dark, compelling and sets up a potential redemption arc for Octavia who is clearly in dire need of another chance to find her place in a new world. Whether that’s possible for her or she just won’t be able to rehabilitate herself in some constructive way remains to be seen. Her skills are obviously needed on the planet’s surfaces as shown by how quickly she picks up the trail and, whether everyone hates her or not, she is still one of them which should count for something.
Her strongest dynamic at this point is with Abby who had her part to play in Octavia’s decisions. Octavia is the only one keeping Abby from relapsing into being a self destructive addict. There’s a reminder in this episode that Kane and Abby should share a portion of the guilt as well but since Octavia was in charge she shoulders the majority of the hatred from those who feel wronged. This means that Octavia takes some of her frustrations out on Abby and attacks her for being a former drug addict while never letting her forget what they all did. Abby’s counter to that is to tell Octavia that the major difference between them is that Abby feels regret where Octavia doesn’t. Her desire to have her life end had nothing to do with regret and everything to do with being tired of the fight. There’s still work to be done on what Octavia sees as her own sins and what she plans to do to make up for them. Perhaps time to reflect on what happened before will allow her to be seen in a more sympathetic light. The key thing will be taking the time to explore Octavia’s perspective as this remains largely undefined which explains why she would continue to work with them.
The introduction of those who currently inhabit Sanctum through the boarding party as well as the children who appear once the eclipse is over adds further intrigue to the scenario. One of the kids asks if they are to be taken home now that those from Earth have arrived. It’s a surprising question as the assumption was that Sanctum was the alternative living situation should the Earth become uninhabitable as it currently is. This sets up those who currently inhabit Sanctum as a group who feel displaced and are awaiting the day they can return home. This might have something to do with the toxin or perhaps there are other dangers that make long term settlement an unattractive prospect. I look forward to seeing how the characters fit into the society that will have built over the years. The slow burn reveals are working brilliantly to flesh out the new surroundings at a manageable measured pace.
An excellent episode that makes great use of the new surroundings by making the environment itself a threat. Establishing the toxin and what it does through a flashback to a seemingly idyllic time where everyone concerned was excited about scientific discovery before tearing it apart when the toxin results in everyone being murdered was really effective as it lays the groundwork for what the landing party have to deal with. The toxin affects everyone in different ways which means that there’s no baseline expectation of what might happen. It also allows action to be taken without worrying about what motivates it as there’s a clear external factor. Clarke finds her self loathing intensified to the point where she almost takes her life and Bellamy’s desire to protect those he cares about is dialled up to an extreme. Each of these is very concerning as the suggestion is that these traits are barely beneath the surface. Murphy isn’t noticeably affected by the toxin though I see it as an extension of the fact that he has been teetering on the edge of sanity for a while now. He doesn’t really hide anything so he is in control of his darker impulses. This makes him the only one who can keep them safe and tasks himself with doing so. This overall plot comes with its share of problems such as repetitive arguments between Murphy and Clarke as well as the plot being moved by the characters acting like stupid horror movie characters who go against common sense.
Those on the ship have to deal with a hostile boarding party from the surface. They are quickly overwhelmed and it’s down to Raven to solve the problem. She wakes up Diyoza who is best qualified to handle such a situation and the end result is excellent. Diyoza is merciless and intelligent at retaking the ship while having some great moments with Raven. Her continued presence is justified by Abby’s promise to deliver her baby safely acting as leverage. Being in confinement stirs up resentment towards Octavia who takes a savage beating before begging to have her life end. It’s a powerful moment brilliantly acted by Marie Avgeropolos and sets up a potential redemption arc for her. There is mention of the blood that is also on Abby and Kane’s hands with the focus perhaps unfairly being on Octavia. Work needs to be done to establish her perspective and have people reflect on the prior situation to help decide who is really at fault. It’s unknown if it’s possible for Octavia to find her place but for now she’s needed and it’s important to remember that she’s one of them. The introduction of those who settled on Sanctum through the boarding party and the kids adds to the slow burn development of the new surroundings and the suggestion that those on Sanctum don’t actually see it as a permanent him is intriguing.
- a tense and thrilling horror driven experience
- using the conceit of the toxin to explore the darker impulses of the characters with minimal motivation
- Clarke’s self loathing being intensified with a hallucinated voice of her mother confirming her worst fears
- Bellamy’s protective streak being taken to an extreme
- Murphy remaining in control and having the narrative revolve around him
- Raven and Diyoza working together to retake the ship
- Marie Avgeropoulos’ powerful performance as Raven begs for death
- the potential for a redemption arc for Octavia
- the Octavia/Abby dynamic
- further intrigue brought on by the introduction of those living on Sanctum
- the repetitive Murphy/Clarke argument
- some horror movie stupidity to move the plot forward
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