The 100 – Season 6 Episode 13
“The Blood of Sanctum”
The 100 closes off its 6th season with the final battle between Wonkru and the Primes as well as posing the difficult question of where the characters go next.
Looking back at this season as a whole it’s probably best described as transitional. The shift in setting has opened up the show and characters to no possibilities but there exists and awkward limbo because things still linger from prior seasons. As a result the show is starting to grow and become something else while still remaining rooted in its past because work needs to be done to resolve various things.
Some things are easier to push aside than others. Octavia’s past decisions will be seen as unforgivable for many so the concept of a new beginning doesn’t easily apply to her; a similar issue exists with Clarke who has cultivated a great deal of resentment over the year. The rift between Abby and Raven was comparatively easy to deal with because they were both overreacting to the situation to some degree as shown in the previous episode. This season has been really strong overall but any weaknesses tend to come from the ghosts of the past that the writers don’t always know what to do with in the context of the new elements that have been introduced.
Monty and Harper’s instruction for Wonkru to “do better” and take advantage of their second chance to break the cycle of violence has been at the root of everything this season. Early on it was about characters realising that they were stuck in this pattern of behaviour and really needed to change it if they wanted to move forward in a meaningful way. The most poignant example of this was Octavia who renounced her former role of Bloodreina in order to find a way back to a version of herself that she could live with. Clarke’s journey was a similar one and her time spent sharing her brain with Josephine was clearly eye opening in terms of her approach to violence as well as how it rarely made a situation better for all concerned.
This feeds into the events of this episode which mostly takes the form of a battle between Wonkru and the Primes. On its most basic level its one faction working to defeat the other. After a season of building up what the two factions stand for and what they want to achieve it doesn’t feel overly simplistic to have a straightforward conclusion that largely focuses on the conflict that has come to a head. The main themes are established, many of the characters are developed so now it’s time to put all that to the test in something that is more story driven. I’ve always been one to favour story over character but I think this episode blends the two appropriately even if there is more of a focus on the narrative.
The episode splits into two main threads; Clarke attempting to save Madi as well as the rest of her people in space and those on the ground trying to survive a murderous cult made up of the people that remain in Sanctum. On the whole the writers balance these two plots really well with the stakes remaining level throughout and giving the character beats the time they need to play out properly.
Clarke has a lot to deal with picking up from the previous episode as she is still pretending to be Josephine in order to wait for the right time to make her move. She has to do this while being faced with the constant reminder that her mother has been replaced by Simone. Eliza Taylor once again does an excellent job conveying the small private pained facial expressions whenever Clarke’s grief threatens to overcome her. She remains on task because that’s the sort of person Clarke is but her nuanced performance shows the audience how difficult it is. There’s also clear relief when Clarke is able to drop the Josephine persona and act like herself again. It comes just before the point where Simone and Russell are ready to kill the members of Wonkru still in stasis; it’s the right time as it allows her to save the rest of her people even if she loses the advantage of Russell and Simone still believing that she is their daughter. She has the opportunity to say goodbye to Abby even though it turns out Simone is pretending to be her. Sometimes denial of the truth can aid in the healing process and Clarke clearly relishes the one chance she has to gain at least some closure on that relationship. It’s a powerful moment played brilliantly by Eliza Taylor and Paige Turco.
Russell and Clarke have been established as something of a mirror of one another -at least to some degree- in recent episodes and this idea continues here in how they approach the death of someone they love. In Russell’s case he learns that Josephine is dead in a way that prevents her return and JR Bourne conveys this brilliantly. It’s the small moments of depth that stop his villainy from coming across as cartoonish. Without this his actions wouldn’t make a lot of sense. There comes a point in many villain stories where it’s impossible for their plan to succeed because they have lost so much and they forge ahead through some sort of dogged determination to make life as difficult as possible for those who oppose them. Russell is a bit like that beyond the point that he realises Josephine is dead. Losing Simone is what really tips him over the edge and prompts him to make a deal with Sheidheda/Madi to jointly enforce their rule. It stops being about anything rational and Russell becomes entirely motivated by revenge which makes sense given his current emotional state but doesn’t come across as a well thought out long term plan. He’s all about getting back at Clarke for taking his family away from him and that blinds him to everything else he’s looking to achieve.
Up until this point the idea of moving from planet to planet until his people can settle as the dominant faction on any of them is solid enough. There is mention of additional mind drives out there to be discovered and with them the promise of even more storytelling variety associated with how the other colonists managed to find a way to live on the other planets that were discovered. Whether there’s time to explore that to its fullest extent in the final season remains to be seen but the promise of it is interesting enough though I’d rather the show not play with it if there won’t be enough time to truly explore it.
Russell’s downfall is very appropriate for him as it’s an extension of how he approaches leadership and the value he places on lives that aren’t his own. He rules through lies crafted to make himself and his people seem like Gods which means that there is no personal connection there. He assumes that having Madi/Sheidheda on side will be all he needs to take charge of everyone because as far as he sees it she has unconditional loyalty from those that consider her their leader. Clarke is able to use her personal connection to Madi against him because she appeals to the Madi who became her daughter and has faith in their relationship. Clarke talks about losing Abby and holding a gun to her hear while in floods of tears sends a very clear message that life isn’t worth living if she loses Madi too. It’s enough for Madi to overcome Sheidheda’s influence and order her people to take Russell prison. This isn’t something Russell could anticipate because that sort of connection is unthinkable to him, That’s why it’s such an effective way for him to lose that final degree of control. It’s also worth pointing out that Clarke manages to defeat him without using violence which ties into the “do better” mantra that she and the rest of Wonkru have been struggling with. Instead of attacking she thinks about it and finds a better way which is another example of improvement and shows that there is hope for a better future. This method keeps Russell around which could be interesting as he’s had to deal with the permanent loss of his family after centuries of having no concept of what that might be like. This makes for excellent fodder going into the final season through a potential arc of a broken man rediscovering loss.
Of course Clarke’s victory isn’t entirely bereft of bloodshed as she floats Simone as well as some of the other Primes. The main difference from previous seasons is how she reacts to this after the fact; she talks to Bellamy about what she did and expresses deep remorse which suggests she isn’t confident that there wasn’t another solution. Her actions in that moment run counter to Monty’s wishes but it further reinforces that the road to redemption is a long one and that it’ll be difficult for Clarke to break out of such an ingrained pattern of behaviour. Seeing her regress and find a better way within the same episode in two different situations is a great way to show how difficult it is to live up to Monty’s final wish. On its own the remorse is something new as previous seasons would have seen her stand by her decision and find a way to justify it no matter how flimsy that justification can be. Something I always enjoy about this show is how organic the character development are and how resistant the writers are to rushing towards the milestones. The audience spends a lot of time in that grey area and the show is definitely better for it.
Madi’s contribution to the season has been among the weakest things about it. Previous reviews have mentioned how this hasn’t been working because it is always far from the focus so it’s no surprise that the resolution of this is underwhelming. It is good to have Madi take control back as a result of a character driven emotional beat though it doesn’t resonate as well as it should because the struggle between Madi and Sheidheda has been almost entirely superficial. The resolution follows this pattern with a quick fix involving the removal of the code that represents Sheidheda. Unfortunately for the characters the code promptly disappears and will of course return to threaten them at the least opportune moment.
Something that is largely glossed over but could prove monumental is the destruction of the Flame. Nothing says making fundamental changes in the future like the destruction of the past. Destroying the flame forces change though there are some really significant sentimental consequences associated with this. It’s good that Madi feels removed from the burden of responsibility that comes with it but the Flame being destroyed also obliterates the legacy attached to it. The essence of the prior Commanders is now gone which can’t be seen as anything other than a deeply tragic loss. For one thing Clarke will have to accept that the last remnant of Lexa is now gone forever. It’s a shame the episode glosses over this though it will hopefully be a fixture next season.
I’ve mentioned both in this review and in prior reviews that Octavia’s arc is very similar to Clarke’s in the sense that others resent both of them a great deal and they have perhaps the furthest to go before approaching something resembling redemption. Octavia and Bellamy had a conversation in a recent episode outlining how Bellamy feels about her at this point and affirming Octavia’s commitment to earning the forgiveness that may be impossible for Bellamy to give her. In this episode she manages to get on Bellamy’s good side when she refuses to let the devout residents of Sanctum die. She fights her baser instinct and finds a non violent solution to the problem which impresses Bellamy because he sees a real effort on Octavia’s part to change. It’s a very quick reparation of a fractured relationship but it’s so well handled that it feels almost worth it and I’m willing to accept a somewhat rushed conclusion if it means the writers can take these characters forwards into more interesting territory.
The conflict between the ground members of Wonkru and the residents of Sanctum left behind after the Primes left is an interesting one as it attempts to inject complexity into this society. In the previous episode it seemed as if the truth being revealed would tear down the whole belief system but it actually appears as if it is more secure than ever despite the Gods having abandoned them for their own safety. Octavia puts it best when she points out that the people have to continue to believe otherwise their lives will be rendered meaningless in their eyes. It’s a bleak statement but it comes from Octavia’s personal experience and makes sense in context. It also enables important parts of the narrative to play out such as Murphy pretending to be a Prime in order to create opportunities for his people to be safe. It’s unfortunate that no effort was made to show society outside of the Primes before now as there are some interesting rituals that are witnessed her and it would have helped reinforce the point that this is a heavily flawed yet functional society that has endured for centuries because everyone in it was comfortable in their place. Whether it was ethically correct to force the society to function in this way is absolutely up for debate but the baseline fact is that the society endured for a long time.
Jordan makes this point eloquently towards the end of the episode when Bellamy approaches him. He clearly feels guilt over the part he played in tearing everything apart even though he hasn’t actually been seen in weeks. His main issue is that Sanctum functioned well enough until Wonkru showed up. He feels a measure of responsibility in this and condemns the group he is part of for failing to commit to living peacefully. It leaves an open question as to whether their opposition to the Primes was entirely right or not. The lingering shot on a Mind Drive in his hand is deliberately ambiguous and leaves a question as to what he plans to do with it in the next season. It’s possible that Jordan is no longer Jordan though that would be a terrible idea considering how little time the Jordan character has been in the cast. It would make no sense to have him exist just to be replaced this quickly so it’s more likely that he’s seeking an alternative way to live and the Mind Drive will probably have something to do with that. The only thing that’s certain is that he doesn’t feel comfortable among Wonkru. Bellamy’s side of this conversation is interesting as he falls back on the distasteful habit of finding ways to justify the actions undertaken.
Based on the ending of this episode and the season it looks like Octavia will be very important in the final season. I have to confess that the ending took me by surprise though on reflection it probably shouldn’t have. The temporal anomaly has been referred to on and off all season and it’s easy to forget that Diyoza disappeared without any follow-up until this point. All that really happened is that Octavia entered the anomaly and then came out with no memory of what happened fuelled by a desire to atone for past mistakes in the pursuit of becoming a better person. This was rapidly filed away and largely forgotten about which makes sense given how much was going on but it’s telling that the first quiet moment brings this back in a big way and sets it up as being significant in the final season. Everything happens so quickly though this is clearly by design with the viewer taking on the perspective of Bellamy and Gabriel who are completely blindsided by the rapidity of events. It starts with the tease of Octavia having a tattoo that points to the solution of a hitherto unseen mystery that connects to the anomaly. Once activating the mysterious device the anomaly makes a beeline for their location and out of it comes Hope (Shelby Flannery); Diyoza’s grown up daughter who says something cryptic about her mother before stabbing Octavia who then vanishes in a puff of smoke.
This confirms that Octavia spent longer inside the anomaly than anyone knows and that time doesn’t behave as expected when in there. It’s unclear if Octavia was lying about remembering her experiences inside it or if her memory came flooding back to her once Hope emerged from it. Either way there is a story to be told about what Octavia needs to do next as well as what happened to Diyoza and how this all feeds into the overall plot of the season. It also can’t go unsaid that the anomaly literally injects Hope into the lives of the characters which may or may not end up functioning as a metaphor to be explored in the final season. It’s definitely a surprising ending but far from an unwelcome one.
A well constructed finale that boasts strong character beats, wraps up the major conflicts in satisfying ways and drops compelling teases for the next season. The exploration of the binary threads of the action and space and the action on the planet is handled really well. They are nicely paced and the stakes match up appropriately throughout. As always Eliza Taylor knocks it out of the park with her performance as Clarke playing Josephine while not betraying the grief that she can’t let herself feel. The opportunity she gains to say goodbye to her mother even though it turns out to be Simone playing the part is very powerful. Russell is further confirmed as being a mirror of Clarke through his approach to dealing with the death of loved ones. JR Bourne adds depth to the Russell character that prevents his actions from coming across as cartoonish. Without this depth his actions wouldn’t make a lot of sense. His downfall being engineered by Clarke making an emotional appeal to Madi is very appropriate as it highlights the differences in approach between Clarke and Russell. It’s not something he could ever do because he doesn’t value life in the same way she does. The fact that he loses everyone close to him and lives to deal with it sets up a compelling arc for him next season as the man who rediscovers loss after centuries of not dealing with it. Clarke’s role in this episode isn’t devoid of bloodshed as she floats Simone in a moment of apparent necessity. The main difference is that she doesn’t attempt to justify it and shows clear remorse when recounting the story to Bellamy later on. This clearly shows that the road to redemption isn’t an easy one. Madi getting rid of Sheidheda is about as weak as her plot has been the rest of the season but it has fascinating implications such as the code representing Sheidheda showing up to cause issues next season and the loss of the Flame along with its associated legacy. Clarke will have to accept that the part of Lexa that remained is now gone.
Octavia’s arc is similar to Clarke’s in that they are both looking for redemption but may not be able to achieve it. In this episode Octavia is able to repair her relationship with Bellamy when she demonstrates her commitment to finding a better way than violence. It’s a strong moment and manages to skirt around how quickly this was resolved. This opens them up to actual progression next season by letting the lingering issues fade into the background in favour of something new. The conflict between Wonkru and the remains of Sanctum plays out really well though highlights how poorly served the non-Prime section of society has been. Having them stick to their religion even after hearing that everything they have been told is a lie makes sense especially after Octavia’s explanation as to why that is. The conflict ends on a largely bittersweet note as summarised by Jordan who points out that they managed to violently ruin a functional -if flawed- society leaving an open question as to what the right thing was. The ending of this episode sets up Octavia as pivotal player in the next season through revisiting the temporal anomaly that has largely been ignored since Octavia returned from it. Her short trip into the anomaly wasn’t as brief or simple as previously though; the season ending cliffhanger sets up the mystery that will be explored next season surrounding Octavia, Diyoza’s grown up daughter Hope and what the anomaly actually means for everyone concerned. It’s a surprising ending but far from an unwelcome one.
- juggling the space and ground conflict expertly
- Eliza Taylor delivering yet another stunning performance
- Clarke getting to say goodbye to Abby even if it wasn’t really her
- the complexity of Clarke falling back on hold habits while also finding a better way
- following up her decision to use violence in dealing with Simone with remorse
- Russell’s downfall coming from how he values life feeling appropriate
- the potential associated with a man rediscovering loss following his defeat
- repairing the rift between Octavia and Bellamy in a mostly satisfying way
- the remnants of Sanctum sticking to their religion despite it being lies because they have nothing else
- Jordan leaving a complicated open question
- a fascinating cliffhanger ending
- a weak resolution to the already weak Madi plot
- glossing over the loss of the Flame
- the remnants of Sanctum only highlighting the lack of attention given to them before now
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User Review( votes)
It was recently announced that season 7 of The 100 will be its last. I’ve been an avid follower of this show since the first episode and am proud to say I’ve reviewed each and every one of them. Learning that a show you enjoy is coming to an end is never easy but in this case I acknowledge that it’s probably about the right time to bring it to some sort of conclusion. Arguably last season ended in a pretty perfect way with the promise of a new world and Monty imploring his friends to “do better”. If the show had ended there and left me to imagine how Wonkru function on this new planet then I would have been quite happy. Fortunately this season has been routinely excellent so it doesn’t feel like the show is artificially continuing beyond the point of telling good stories.
There’s a lot of potential for next season. Sheidheda being installed on the ship could go anywhere at this point. It’s possible the essence of Sheidheda will turn the ship into something resembling a haunted house that tries to kill everyone onboard or perhaps the ship will gain some form of sentience and become a disembodied character within the show. Admittedly that second one is out of left field for this show but considering the other things that have been introduced this season it wouldn’t surprise me.
It looks like next season will play around with time travel in some way. It has already happened as shown by the grown up Hope in a matter of days/weeks since Octavia and Diyoza entered the anomaly. Could the series end with the character going back in time and undoing the mistakes that led to the destruction of Earth in the first place? I really hope not but it’s possible. I think it’s more likely that the anomaly will be used to tell some non linear stories and add fuel to the Octavia mystery in some way. It’s the most outlandish science fiction concept this show has played with and I’m eager to see how it plays out.
On a more grass roots character level there’s a lot to make use of as well. I mentioned above that there could be an extended arc where Russell deals with rediscovering loss after centuries of not having to worry about it. There’s a bit of a power vacuum as a result of the destruction of the Flame since Madi no longer feels like Commander as well. The rest of Wonkru being awake runs the risk of repeating the lingering arcs that brought down this season at times so hopefully the writers don’t fall into that trap. In short what I want from the final season is for the characters to progress and to give the show a send-off that fits the general quality brought to audiences since it began.
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