The 100 – Season 6 Episode 1
The 100 begins a new season with a whole new world to explore as well as the handicap of existing baggage being brought along with the characters.
Last season ended on an unexpected note with Clarke and Bellamy revived after being in suspended animation for over a century to find themselves in orbit of a new planet to call home. Earth is a lost cause because of the radiation so Monty and Harper managed to find an alternative that allows for a fresh start. The trouble with a fresh start is that there has to be willingness among the characters to make that happen as well as conscious effort put into ensuring that the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated.
The spirit certainly seems to be willing in most cases but it’s difficult to change long cultivated instincts born out of necessity. This episode spends a lot of time focusing on the lingering resentments that exist between some of the characters as well as the tendency towards self destruction that almost doomed them on several occasions in the past. In many ways this episode represents a crossroads between the promise of something new and the baggage brought on by the past. It’s problematic in that there is a lot to cover over the course of an episode but it’s also relatable as the promise of a fresh start isn’t enough to make one happen by itself. These issues are very human problems and serve as the connective tissue between what came before and what will happen next.
This episode is at its best when it focuses on the wonder associated with exploring an entirely new world. We are hit with mystery after mystery as different elements come into play. There is an interesting contrast between beauty and danger delivered throughout with various discoveries pointing in different directions. Most of the beauty comes with the visuals; the new world is largely unspoiled and seems very peaceful on the surface. Alpha is the moon of a large planet that is visible in the sky and the locations are beautifully vibrant with the use of colour making it feel like a wondrous alien environment that has infinite potential. There are a lot of light moments such as taking joy in splashing around in a clean water source and taking a minute to appreciate that a captured instinct is the first encounter with alien life. The writers should definitely revel in the spirit of exploration while they have the chance and so far they are doing this well.
A number of dangers present themselves very quickly as well. The aforementioned bugs become lethal when the sun’s eclipse for some reason. The eclipse effect is suggested to be a regular occurrence so that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with if they want to survive. Another danger is a man-made series of pylons that hit those that try to cross the barrier with a lethal dose of radiation. Nightbloods are immune so Clarke is able to deactivate it without being harmed but not before Alpha claims its first victim in the form of Shaw. This loss is fairly gratuitous and unnecessary as it marks yet another example of Raven having happiness ripped from her clutches. She has a brief taste of bliss when they sneak off to have sex on the ship but now she another lost lover to grieve which definitely seems a bit much for this character to endure.
There are other dangers on Alpha that can’t be explained at present. There is something in the air that causes people to turn feral as we see with Emori attacking Murphy towards the end of the episode. Illustrated books act as a warning but it comes a little too late. All of this adds up to the group being unprepared for what awaits them. Their attitude to exploration is far too cavalier which leaves them open to being overwhelmed by the various dangers they are presented with. By the end of this episode they haven’t encountered anyone but there are definite signs of life; the whereabouts of which signal another mystery to be revealed in time. All of this is compelling and the mistakes the characters make are in keeping with their established traits for the most part so the problems encountered feel natural enough.
The characters spending over a century in suspended animation and not having the time to acclimate their new surroundings means that that they haven’t actually changed so whatever dynamic existed at the end of last season is still the status quo. Clarke is still an outsider in a group that has grown closer together in her absence. She didn’t spend enough time with anyone last season to have her relationships with them develop meaningfully so the situation is that Bellamy is the respected leader who takes charge easily while the group are still wary of Clarke. This doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been accepted but there are a number of digs at her tendency towards violence being a potential liability in this new world where peace is the order of the day. Echo coming to Clarke’s defence is an interesting and earned development but there’s clearly a long way to go before Clarke is truly part of the group again.
A lot of talk about second chances goes back and forth; Murphy and Clarke take on the role of the self aware voice offering challenge to the idea by asking how many of those they are entitled to. There is definitely an understanding that most of the group have done truly terrible things in the name of survival so the question of whether it’s possible to come back from that remains open. Hopefully the writers will address this in the context of the new setting and truly move the characters forward otherwise it’s the same storytelling beats with a different backdrop which will make things feel very stale. The worst thing that can happen here is wasting the opportunity that new surroundings bring.
I mentioned above that this episode feels like the crossroads between the old and new. The adherence to the old is best shown through two main resentment based relationships. Raven and Abby are in no danger of seeing eye to eye anytime soon despite Abby’s efforts to overcome her drug addiction. Nothing she has to say is accepted by Raven who assumes that she has a stash somewhere and is still thinking about her next hit. Considering what happened between them last season it’s easy to see why she would feel that way and it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that almost no time has passed so things aren’t easily forgiven. If this continues to be a fixture then it will get tedious but it makes sense to address it at this point to provide the opportunity to move forward.
Another strained connection is Octavia and Kane who are still at odds with one another over their clashing values when it comes to what it takes to survive. Forgetting about everything that happened would be a mistake because the idea of a fresh start on its own isn’t enough to make these problems go away. The fresh start idea shouldn’t brush these aside either as those who don’t learn from the past will be doomed to repeat it; this is something that has been proven time and again on this show so taking the time to address these lingering problems is necessary.
Established loyalty is also something that needs to be addressed before it can change. Niylah shows loyalty to Octavia by waking her up despite being told not to due to the danger she represents to the group. It’s interesting to watch this play out as the societies that had been built through necessity in a given situation no longer exist but there could be factions of sorts within the group itself due to the lines that were drawn back on Earth. True growth will come when people start to realise that survival means working together and whatever drove them apart in the past is no longer relevant.
Even though they are long dead, Monty and Harper’s influence lingers heavily on the group. They are responsible for granting them this second chance while urging them to do better this time so there is a palpable desire from many of the characters to honour the memory of their friends by doing everything they can to find a way to peacefully coexist on this new world. It’s noted as a long and difficult road but the appetite is there thanks to everything they put in place.
A physical representation of their legacy exists through Jordan who immediately blends into the cast really well. Shannon Kook’s wide eyed innocence and optimism is a strong contrast to every other member of the cast but in many ways he embodies what they should all aspire to. He also offers something fresh during every interaction he has and there are a few strong moments such as his realisation that Alpha is a moon. Everything seems exciting to him and it will hopefully be infectious.
Jordan also feeds into a comparison conversation that Clarke and Bellamy have about the girls they raised. Octavia and Madi had sheltered upbringings and lacked the opportunity to experience a real childhood. Jordan is much the same as he grew up on a largely empty ship with only his parents for company and algae for food. It doesn’t seem to have affected how adjusted he is at least for now but it’s possible that having so many people around for the first time in his life will have unforeseen consequences. His upbringing is similar to Madi in the sense that he has heard stories about the group so has them on a pedestal that they may struggle to live up to.
A strong opening to the season that does a great job acknowledging the opportunities brought on by the change in setting but doesn’t forget the existing dynamics that have to be overcome. The episode is at its best when exploring the now. It hits the audience with mystery after mystery while delivering an effective sense of wonder through gorgeous visuals. Many dangers also exist on the planet that manifest in different ways and highlight how cavalier the characters are when exploring a place they know nothing about. This is consistent with established character traits so works really well. Shaw’s death is completely unnecessary and marks another example of Raven being denied happiness after experiencing it briefly once again. Everything about Alpha is fascinating so far and the promise that other people will soon be encountered is intriguing.
In general this episode feels like the crossroads between the old and new. On one hand there’s a lot of talk about second chances but on the other there’s a lot to work through before the fresh start can be achieved as no time has passed from the perspective of the characters since the last season so there are still lingering resentments and strong loyalties that need to change. A good example is the animosity between Raven and Abby that is perfectly understandable when bearing in mind what happened last season. Another is Octavia and Kane who still differ on their perspectives on what can be justified and Niylah’s loyalty to Octavia could also end up presenting a problem. Despite being dead, Monty and Harper’s influence hangs over the group in a positive way. Many of the characters feel driven to honour their memory by embracing the second chance and trying to find a way to coexist peacefully. Jordan is a physical representation of their legacy and blends into the group really well while offering much needed variety with his wide eyed innocence and optimism. Comparisons to Madi and Octavia’s sheltered childhoods are easy to draw and suggests that he might be putting the characters on a pedestal. It’s a strong start with lots of plot to explore.
- the beautiful visuals showing off the new setting
- delivering compelling mysteries and dangers on Alpha
- not forgetting the lingering animosities and issues that need to be overcome
- Harper and Monty’s influence hanging over the group
- Jordan’s addition to the overall group dynamic
- the unnecessary death of Shaw that robs Raven of happiness once again
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