The 100 – Season 7 Episode 15
“The Dying of the Light”
The 100 focuses on the need to rescue Madi and the aftermath of the explosion featured in the previous episode.
I’ve come to accept that the ending of this show most likely won’t be a satisfying one because of the rapidly diminishing quality that has come to define this season. It’s actually liberating in a way because my expectations are so low that I end up being a lot more impressed when there is something good or even great to latch onto in a given episode. This episode is a great example of something that is lacking overall but contains moments of greatness that serve as a reminder of the quality that this show is capable of.
As always the greatness is to be found in the characters and their connections. Taken as individual character beats there’s a lot of strong content here. Clarke struggling to hold herself together after Madi sacrificed herself for the good of those she loves was impressive on pretty much every level. Eliza Taylor’s performance was passionate, powerful and heartbreaking as a previously unknown aspect of motherhood was made clear to her. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that there has been periodic evidence that Madi is taking after Clarke which is to be expected given Clarke’s influence in her life. It is pointed out in this episode that Madi has taken after her in taking massive risks motivated by a desire to protect others. Clarke is no stranger to that and arguably thrives on being the one to put herself in harm’s way for the benefit of others. Until now she had never considered what anguish that may create in those that care about her. In particular she had failed to consider that her own mother might find it very difficult to deal with the fact that her daughter was constantly putting herself at risk. Clarke wonders if her mother felt like she does following Madi’s sacrifice and wonders how she managed to deal with it. She is shown to be unravelling, talks about how she feels that she can’t get enough air and is clearly imagining many horrible scenarios in her mind. Since Clarke has kept Madi largely isolated up until now she hasn’t had to deal with anything like this before and really struggles with the reality of it.
Clarke’s frustrations are no doubt compounded by the fact that she feels trapped as she is unable to follow Madi. Instead she is stuck in the bunker with no apparent way to get back to Bardo. It makes sense that Clarke’s emotions would overwhelm her in such a situation as taking action is how she copes with difficult situations. When there is no action to be taken she can’t handle the helplessness and retreats into herself. Gaia is there to support her which feels earned because the work was done earlier in the season to build a strong platonic parental connection between them. They were shown to be uniquely supportive of both Madi and each other earlier in the season so calling back to this relationship in the midst of Clarke’s emotional turmoil works really well and provides some hope that the writers still know what they’re doing at least on some level. Gaia is also worried about Madi but is proud of her for making that decision and has a great deal more perspective than Clarke has in this situation. Having her be the supportive presence who can help Clarke order her thoughts and regain control of herself highlights the value of the connection they have forged and makes for an engaging character exchange that takes full advantage of the work put in to build that connection.
Another strong character interaction is between Octavia and Clarke who remain on the common ground they found earlier in the season. They both have an understanding of motherhood through their individual found family situations. In their exchange, Octavia is the voice of optimism which contrasts with Clarke’s frustrated pessimism. Clarke sees the situation as hopeless because they’re stuck in a cell but Octavia recognises that there is an opportunity because the fact that they are on Bardo in the first place probably means that they have help so they just have to bide their time until that help arrives to break them out. In the meantime they both reflect on their motivation for being there. It’s brief but well done.
When Clarke and Octavia find Madi things aren’t quite so well executed. Madi is found in a vegetative state after Cadogan aggressively searches her mind for the code so she is unable to communicate. Clarke is naturally distraught at this discovery and Eliza Taylor plays that influx of emotion brilliantly as we have all come to expect from her. Seeing her worst fears confirmed and then having to process that is heartbreaking to watch and on a performance level is beautifully done. The subsequent dialogue fleshes out the situation and it becomes known that Madi has awareness so can hear and see everything that’s going on around her but is unable to move or communicate so isn’t able to be an active participant. Clarke, Octavia and Levitt all conclude that this means she will be better off dead. Having them come to that conclusion doesn’t by itself make it badly executed as characters holding opinions or beliefs that might run counter to opinions or beliefs that the viewer may hold. My personal point of view is that all three of them are wrong to assume that Madi would be better off dead than in her current state. She still has awareness even if she can’t articulate it so there is still an opportunity to live a full life with some assistance. It wouldn’t be easy and would be emotionally draining for all involved but it’s certainly an option that could be explored.
The episode fails in giving that debate to the viewer. If every vocal character in the room is on the same page the the decision becomes a unilateral one and the other side of the debate is completely ignored. This is where someone like Gabriel would come in handy as he would be ideally placed to present a rational case to the contrary and highlight that there may still be hope for Madi. Other characters could do so as well but the moral core of the show this season was Gabriel and if he was still alive then it’s highly likely he’d be involved in this plot. The episode frames the decision to euthanise Madi as if it’s the right one no matter how difficult it may be and Octavia takes the gun from Clarke to carry out the act herself so that Clarke doesn’t have to live with having killed her daughter. It’s an odd thing to see play out and a very problematic position for two prominent characters to be in as it highlights that there hasn’t been a lot of growth for them.
The revelation that Cadogan managed to extract the code needed to access the mysterious test delays the plan to euthanise Madi for reasons that aren’t properly explained. The execution of this is odd as all three characters leave Madi as she is and leave to pursue Cadogan. It is a theoretically urgent situation as Cadogan is deemed to be unworthy of representing Humanity in whatever this test ends up being but to leave Madi alone trapped inside herself is highly insensitive especially when considering how much time in the episode was devoted to how important Madi is to Clarke.
As for worthiness to represent Humanity in this test, Cadogan is far from the right choice given his beliefs though it’s hard to argue that Clarke is any better. She will be the representative because she leads the show so has to occupy that role in that respect but arguably is far from a suitable candidate. This very episode provides a great deal of evidence in opposition to Clarke’s suitability such as her casual disregard for the lives of others when she knowingly unleashes Sheidheda on a group of suited up soldiers knowing fine well it would result in their gruesome deaths. It’s fair that a distraction was needed to provide an opportunity to get to Madi but this tactic was merciless and Levitt was the only one to show remorse. Yet again there’s very little evidence of growth in Clarke towards the mantra of doing better that was supposed to be the underlying goal when starting life on a new planet. If anything Clarke has been moving further away from being a better person. It would be fine if the show was framing her decisions and actions as being in opposition to the preferred way of doing things but the setup suggests that we as viewers are supposed to be on Clarke’s side which sends a very concerning message as to what the best of Humanity looks like. It’s true that people oppose her as Murphy and Madi did in the previous episode but she still gets the last word on these things and the narrative progresses without Clarke being questioned to any major degree.
Levitt is a classic example of how much time has been wasted this season. This episode is built around the assumption that he is a character the audience is invested in. His loyalty to Octavia is absolute and drives so much of the momentum the episode has which would be fine if more time had been spent developing him and clarifying his standing in Bardo. It wasn’t so long ago he was called out as a traitor and forgiven for it though he’s now placed in a position of trust and is completely unsupervised which gives him the opportunity he needs to aid Clarke and Octavia. It doesn’t make any sense and makes those in Bardo seem incompetent. It’s also jarring to see Levitt turn into Jason Bourne when threatened by several suited up soldiers without ever explaining where his intricate combat skills came from. Perhaps his infatuation with Octavia renders him capable of the impossible when trying to protect her. His inclusion in this episode was transparently geared towards providing whatever Octavia and Clarke needed to achieve their goals and the execution of this was incredibly clumsy.
The subject of worthiness does play into a really interesting scene featuring a number of the characters. There’s an extended debate about the Last War and/or the test that awaits Humanity that focuses on the wider implications of both of those things. Indra wants to kill Cadogan but Gaia points out that killing him won’t change anything and uses it as an opportunity to point out that they have to break the endless cycle of killing because all that ever happens is someone loyal takes the place of the one killed. The prospect of “one last war” seems to appeal to Octavia though it’s countered by Jordan that War is a failure of everything else and shouldn’t be what people strive for. Hope’s point that Jordan looks over the Bardo texts once and thinks he knows better than those who have been studying it for over 1000 years is valid but his perspective is fresh where Cadogan’s followers were starting from a particular assumption.
Jordan does lay it on a bit thick about how he now understands that existence has a purpose and there’s a part to be played in taking the next step and it’s not entirely clear if his mindset has been radically altered by what he has read or if the writers are cutting corners to have him take the characters in a particular direction. This lack of clarity is down to the failure to develop things properly meaning that characters often say things that feel unmotivated. Jordan’s position in this admittedly interesting debate feels unmotivated and is really jarring especially when considering that the other characters are acting as expected. It is a strong scene and having a debate about violence as a solution take place in an arena where people once fought for their right to live adds to its effectiveness.
The episode boasted other strong material in the scenes focused on Murphy, Emori, Raven and Jackson. Emori being seriously wounded because of the rebar sticking into her and spending the entire episode fighting for her life added a palpable sense of urgency to the situation while offering an opportunity for the other characters to shine in different ways. Jackson being fixated on keeping her alive long enough to get her proper medical attention makes him an integral presence due to his skills and deepens his character through his displays of compassion and determination. He feeds into some of the important dialogue exchanges and keeps things on task in a very believable way.
Murphy’s reaction is complex and fascinating. Richard Harmon’s portrayal of the immediate reaction to discovering Emori’s injury is pitch perfect and the change in his emotional state throughout the episode is very organic. His desire to keep busy in the face of this situation especially when his efforts could be vital in saving Emori’s life is consistent with his characterisation while also moving the plot forward. The Murphy/Emori relationship has always been a strong one and usually very well written so it’s great to see how it shifts when Emori is near death with Murphy working to get her help as quickly as he can. They share some really heartfelt moments together that are fleeting by necessity because there is work to be done.
Emori’s long conversation with Raven is perhaps the most significant because it celebrates their hard earned friendship while increasing the tension as there’s a real finality to Emori’s words. She is basically dictating her dying wishes to Raven because she believes her to be the most practical of those around. Murphy is consumed by his love for Emori so won’t accept that she will very likely die and Jackson is blinded by his determination to save her. Emori sees Raven as being the only one to understand what is probably going to happen and tasks her with keeping everyone else moving forward. Raven doesn’t accept the way Emori sees her because she is ashamed of the decision she made in the reactor crisis because to make that choice she had to devalue Human life and treat it as a resource. She deeply regrets that and refuses to let Emori die out of some adherence to the greater good. If Raven had been given a proper arc to follow rather than snapshots of one that might exist then this might have resonated more as the clear intention is for her to have realised that she needs to be true to herself which involves finding a way to save everyone rather than accepting that losses are inevitable. It presents as a powerful declarative statement on her part but doesn’t have the foundation to support it due to the general issues that have plagued this season.
Despite that, the moment itself was really poignant. Emori reminiscing about being in space being some of the best times of her life as they were safe and grew very close due to the forced isolation of the situation was excellent and her declaration that she loves Raven is entirely earned even though we haven’t seen a lot of them interacting directly. It feels appropriate in the moment and is nicely sold by the actors.
One episode of this show remains and there is still so much ground to cover after this episode once again is very limited in actual plot movement. Favouring characterisation and providing strong material for them is definitely a good thing but storytelling shouldn’t be almost totally sacrificed to make it work.. My prediction is that the final episode will race through the plot threads that are left lingering in a clumsy attempt to tie them up in a way that feels final while also trying to offer satisfying conclusions for the characters where in many cases such a thing is no longer possible due to repeated failures over the course of the season. I’m also still convinced that time travel will be used to fix things which would mean that the writers have been creating situations where the characters suffer needlessly because it will all be reset in the end. I could of course be wrong but there are strong hints that time travel is a function of the stones yet to be unlocked.
A capable episode that provides really strong material for many of the characters that makes great use of their relationships and histories. Clarke’s reaction to Madi’s sacrifice widening her perspective on motherhood was particularly effective. She comes to realise something she had never considered before and is unable to properly process the feelings that come with it. Gaia being there to offer support and help her work through what she is dealing with calls back to the strong connection that time was taken to develop earlier in the season. Octavia and Clarke’s brief exchange calling back to the common ground they now enjoy is also very effective. Things are less well executed when Madi is found as concluding that she would be better off dead rather than being unable to communicate is cold and ignores the other side of the argument entirely. Having all the characters present be on the same page isn’t bad as such but framing the moment as if it’s the only choice despite it being established that Madi is fully aware. Leaving her alone trapped inside herself is also a baffling choice. The test is repeatedly referenced and it’s evident that Cadogan is ill equipped to represent Humanity though there isn’t exactly strong evidence for Clarke being the ideal candidate. In this very episode she unleashes Sheidheda on soldiers by way of a distraction knowing they will be brutally murdered as a result and shows no remorse for that decision. She will likely be the representative since she is the lead but I fail to see why she deserves to be.
The debate had over the Last War/test is interesting as it has many of the characters involved playing to their established traits. Jordan is the exception and lays his views on a bit thick considering his limited contact with the texts. It’s another symptom of the general failures to establish things properly found everywhere in this season. Emori being near death works really well to add a palpable sense of urgency to their situation. Murphy trying to remain focused on getting her the help she needs while taking the time to have tender moments with her works really well and adds to the pace. Jackson’s determination to save her deepens his character organically and the long conversation Emori has with Raven is really strong despite it supposedly representing the end of a character arc that Raven hasn’t really been through. The actors always manage to sell the material and the moments themselves are engaging to watch. With one episode remaining it still looks like the ending will be rushed and unsatisfying through I remain ready to be surprised.
- Clarke’s reaction to Madi’s self sacrifice and the realisation it creates within her
- Gaia supporting Clarke making for an excellent callback to their well built connection
- a brief yet strong Octavia and Clarke moment
- the debate over the War/test and how the characters feed into it
- the urgency created through Emori’s injury
- Murphy remaining on task while taking time to have quick moments with Emori
- Jackson’s character being deepened through his efforts to save Emori
- a moving conversation between Emori and Raven
- the unilateral decision to euthanise Madi and presenting it as being the only choice
- leaving Madi trapped within herself to pursue Cadogan
- no evidence for Clarke being any better a choice to represent Humanity than Cadogan
- Levitt becoming Jason Bourne with no explanation
- weaknesses in the writing over the course of the season meaning that things are paid off without proper development
- once again, minimal plot movement
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