The 100 – Season 7 Episode 16
“The Last War”
The 100 delivers its last ever episode with a test for the Human Race over whether they’re worthy of transcending to another plane of existence.
Endings are hard. The writers of this show had the unenviable task of crafting a final season that offers closure on the characters, resolves lingering plot threads and offers a satisfying conclusion for those who have followed the show since it began. I’ve made no secret of how problematic I’ve found the final season of The 100; particularly in the latter half of the season and had resigned myself to the conclusion that a satisfying conclusion wasn’t possible after a point. Is that a fair assumption to proceed on? Perhaps not but it’s in response to what the show was preparing me for.
The final episode hinges on the test that has been mentioned repeatedly over the past few episodes. A representative from Humanity has to be tested by a higher being to determine if they’re worthy of transcending to that plane of existence. The main considerations are who might be the best representative to make the case for Humanity and what the criteria for transcendence actually is. In theory it’s a fascinating setup as one of the pillars of this show has been morality and how it shifts based on what a given character experiences so a finale where characters are forced to take stock of their decisions and measure them against some sort of moral framework is an appropriate situation as it offers a chance for the characters to reflect on whether everything they’ve been through has been worthwhile. If all the trials, loss and hardship was building up to something greater then enduring it all may just be worth it.
Unfortunately, as with most things this season, the complexity is eroded away in favour of a quick fix that doesn’t really leave the viewer with a lot to think about. Cadogan is the first to take the test and meets with the higher being taking the form of his daughter to test him. The test is a series of questions designed to clarify if Humanity are ready to make the transition. He is asked about abandoning love in pursuit of this goal and why he did it but before he has the opportunity to answer Clarke guns him down in an act of vengeance for what he did to Madi therefore removing an opportunity to explore Cadogan’s reasoning for the principles he founded his movement on. Such an exploration is valid and arguably necessary given how much time the season spent showcasing this group of people and highlighting how devoutly they follow Cadogan’s teachings. Up until this point there was only shallow exploration of Cadogan’s motivations that tended to repeat itself so having the direct question asked was the perfect chance to explore the advantages and disadvantages of living life that way. Sadly it’s ended with a bullet and all that’s left is Clarke with her anger and vengeance.
I mentioned in the previous review that Clarke is far from the best candidate to represent Humanity but she would because she’s the main character and I was absolutely right. It was surprising to have this acknowledged directly by the show and have it pointed out why she’s a less than ideal candidate. The higher being predictably takes the form of Lexa though since Clarke understands on an intellectual level that it’s not really her then it lacks any real emotional weight. Clarke could be talking to anyone in that moment for all the significance having the face of Lexa judge her for everything she’s done up until this point has. Ultimately this only serves to highlight how little Clarke has learned and how little overall growth has been achieved in her character. What happened to Madi in the previous episode was undoubtedly horrific and would be difficult for anyone to deal with but her reaction to it is in line with her reaction to any other traumatic experience.
Character consistency can be a good thing as it does show that the writers have a grasp of the characters they are writing but in many ways Clarke has regressed this season without taking the time to justify it. If the test was a vehicle for her to come to the profound realisation that she has been venturing down a dark path then it may have fixed this to some degree but she stands by her actions and even defends her murder of Cadogan as being necessary. Having Clarke be written as such a single minded vengeance driven character does her a significant disservice. Having her be directly asked if her need for revenge is more important than the survival of the Human race and for her to respond with it being seen by her as justice rather than revenge highlights the problematic writing for Clarke while painting her in an unsympathetic light. I’m not sure why she is depicted as having tunnel vision with what she deems important in a given moment trumping anything else no matter what the scale is or why we as viewers are expected to simply accept this at face value. The higher being consistently makes it clear that she understands Clarke because she is aware of everything and Clarke counters that by listing some of her most significant tragic experiences as if that justifies her inflicting harm on others. At every turn the higher being points out that sinking to that level was never the right thing to do and yet Clarke seems to learn nothing. The exchange is framed as if we should be siding with Clarke but instead it ends up proving the point that Clarke hasn’t grown all that much and is a poor representative for the Human race.
Clarke naturally fails the test because she fails to convince the higher being that Humanity are worthy of transcending with her closed minded statements about justice. The cost of failure is extinction because those that fail apparently can’t continue to exist in their current form so Clarke has doomed the Human race due to her inability to learn important lessons and become a better person. The problem here is that nothing is really known about the higher beings other than they have the ability to convert others into whatever they are. The context is sorely lacking here which makes it difficult to form an opinion on the whole process. What is beyond transcendence and why is it better than what currently defines life? What about this state makes it a goal worth striving for? There is an assumption made on the part of Cadogan and his followers that this is basically Heaven but there’s no evidence either way to suggest that the assumption is correct; this robs the test of a lot of its meaning as these questions aren’t answered in any meaningful way. There’s an implied malevolence to these beings as they punish failure with extinction though there are other factors to consider and an entire existential debate that just doesn’t happen.
Extinction happens either way technically as if Humanity passes the test then they transcend to this other plane of existence which means that they transform into something else. It’s unknown what that is but it’s definitely not Human any more which means that Humanity no longer exist. The test should be this opportunity to explore that rather than being a largely one sided conversation that only confirms that Clarke is far from the right person to represent Humanity.
Clarke does exhibit some humility when she processes the fact that she failed and acknowledges that Raven would have been a far better candidate. It does technically qualify as growth albeit slight and her decision to spend her final moments with Madi makes sense given the nature of that relationship. Eliza Taylor continues to excel in her really intense performances as shown by her being at Madi’s side filled with regret and waiting for the end.
Raven’s exchange with the higher being that takes the form of Abby is much more involved, far more layered and therefore more interesting than Clarke’s because it does make use of the fact that Raven has grown as a character and isn’t so black and white in regards to the outcome. Most notable is that Raven is quick to acknowledge that mistakes have been made while making the case that Humanity are capable of being better because improvements have been made however minor and they just need time in order to continue to prove themselves. The higher being questions that because she sees them on the brink of self annihilation through infighting; basically making the argument that they don’t deserve to become more because they can’t unite as a species. It’s a strong and valid argument that feels very timely. Progress is halted when people can’t find common ground because any forward momentum is countered by unnecessary conflict. What is depicted here is two distinct factions ready to kill each other because they can’t see eye to eye which is in itself a tragedy. It has been mentioned that violence is a failure of everything else and this makes for a visual representation of failure. So much mental energy is assigned to this conflict that there isn’t any bandwidth left to focus on building a better future.
The conflict is used as a living example of what the higher being is getting at. It presents the argument that Humanity are incapable of breaking the cycle of violence and failed the test because of an inability to move on from these habits. Of course something has to happen to prove that there is hope for the Human race and this has to happen while the higher being is paying attention to show that there is something that has been missed. This comes from Octavia putting herself in the middle of the warring factions to draw a line in the sand and bring an end to the fighting. She declares that they are “Wonkru” and that if they keep killing one another then there will be nobody left. Basically the message is that they have to work together and put aside their differences because all of the violence and killing is senseless. Indra is the first to follow Octavia’s example and with her everyone that pledged loyalty to her. Of course this comes after Indra killed Sheidheda because the one element that would run in opposition to this unity has to be removed for the simplified conclusion to take place. This still sends a mixed message as the one who disagrees with the concept of unity has to be killed in order for unity to exist, at least according to Indra. It’s always a problem whenever a certain conclusion has to be reached with characters present that will never believably subscribe to that idea. With a bit more work Sheidheda could have been used as an example of a barbaric past that has to be learned from but his presence in this episode was merely to ignite the conflict and little else. After a whole season setting him up as a master manipulator it’s an anticlimax to turn him into a shallow maniac.
Octavia giving the speech about fighting being pointless is very fitting and a perfect encapsulation of how much she has grown over the years. She has been down the dark path, resigned herself to the cycle of violence and felt that the only way to successfully rule is for everyone to be afraid of lethal punishment. Time and experience has shown her that there are better ways and that all comes across in her speech. No other character in the show is better placed to appeal to others on that basis and it is a legitimately powerful moment in an episode running low on them.
The speech and subsequent truth being enough to convince the higher being that Humanity is worthy of transcendence doesn’t make a lot of sense. Raven wasn’t arguing that they were currently worthy; her argument was that they had the potential to be better and need the time to prove it. The more logical outcome would be for the higher being to grant them that time with the promise of being able to retake the test when they felt ready to do so. This would have ended the show on a hopeful note, provided the assurance that everyone would work together to build a better functional society while acknowledging that change is a gradual and often painful process. This would have been consistent with the idea that a lot of work needs to be done in order to prove worthy of becoming something more but it also exists in a better version of the finale where the concept of transcendence was better understood and was defined as a better way to exist that everyone was motivated to work towards.
Instead, literally the entire Human race is raptured except Clarke which is terrible for all sorts of reasons. This suggests that everyone except Clarke is worthy of transcendence and that she is worse than everyone else from the perspective of the higher beings. In fairness she didn’t make the best impression in her brief exchange with the higher being but having her singled out when others have made equally questionable remorseless decisions over the years is confusingly harsh though I suppose the message is that everyone except Clarke has shown some measure of improvement by ending the conflict where her most recent stance was the necessity of violence in certain circumstances.
A major issue with everyone except Clarke being raptured is that a lot of things that have been set up are now ignored. The show quite deliberately introduced characters that are meant to represent the future of the Human race. Jordan, Hope and Madi are products of characters but aren’t necessarily defined by their relationship to their parents. So much time was spent on Diyoza trying to teach Hope to be better than her, Jordan’s entire foundation is around creating a better future for everyone and Madi has been recently defined by wanting to reclaim the innocence that she has been denied by circumstances. With them being raptured along with everyone else it presents all of that development as a waste of time. In theory those characters could have led the charge to a better future by having them create the legacy that would one day lead to the Human race being worthy. What actually happens is they amount to a less than meaningful part of the tapestry of the show.
There is a definite failure to commit to anything in this episode. After everyone else is raptured and Clarke has to deal with the fact that everyone transcended except her she has a vague conversation with the higher being where it’s explained to her that she can never transcend because she is the first person to murder another during the test but it’s not entirely hopeless as most of the core cast have chosen to come back even though it means they’ll never have children and be gone when they die. Once again not enough is known about this whole process to give any weight to this and no time is spent with any of the characters to explore their reasons for choosing to come back. It isn’t know what they came back from and why they found it preferable to live a mortal life with Clarke. That’s not to say that ending a show with some mystery is always a bad thing. There are many examples of endings that leave themselves open to endless fan debate but the lingering questions here are more down to clumsy writing rather than large scale existential questions. Things are unanswered but there remains nothing to debate.
It wasn’t all bad and it’s comforting to note that Murphy and Emori remain a strong fixture. Emori’s death wasn’t a certainty based on the events of the previous episode but it wasn’t surprising when she ultimately succumbed to her injuries. Murphy’s instant demand to have her mind drive removed so that he could see her again made perfect sense as a grief driven action and highlighted the strength of this relationship. Jackson’s refusal to be a part of it because he feels that it’s desecrating her remains only for Miller to encourage him to put himself in Murphy’s place was a great touch as it showed the overall complexity of what is happening here and how that tangible Human connection means everything to these people because they don’t have much else. Murphy and Emori’s time together through the mind drive connection was beautifully handled. Murphy made the whole world literally melt away to be with her as a signal that she is more important to him than anything. He makes the decision to end his own life to be with her because he doesn’t want to go on without her. Emori wants him to live his life but Murphy’s mind is made up and she ultimately accepts that. If nothing else at least the finale served these characters well.
Generally speaking this didn’t feel like the finale of the show. There was no sense of closure to be found, a lot of unanswered questions due to clumsy writing and an overall sense that things had just stopped rather than concluded. The characters endure and get to live happily together based on that final scene but there’s no reason to assume that an eighth season isn’t due to arrive in 2021 where they find themselves faced with some other challenge that prevents them from living a sedate existence. Anyone looking for assurance that their biggest trials are behind them won’t get that here. Given how underwhelming a note this show ended on and the litany of mistakes made over the course of the final season my final recommendation if you should ever feel the need to rewatch the show is to stop at the end of the fifth season as that represents a much better conclusion than this episode did. You would be depriving yourself of some great season six content but it’s a necessary sacrifice to not have to endure the final season.
An underwhelming finale that continues the trend of doing a disservice to most of the characters and fails to offer a satisfying conclusion to a lackluster final season. Clarke taking the test was inevitable given that she’s the main character and in fairness the exchange does highlight that she is far from the ideal candidate to represent Humanity. The problem is that the conversation is robbed of any emotional heft as she immediately realises that the manifestation of Lexa isn’t really her. All that comes out of this is that Clarke has learned nothing and is framed as a one dimensional character driven by a violent desire for revenge. It costs her and Humanity the chance to transcend initially because she can’t break the cycle of violence. The lack of growth for Clarke is troubling and framing the conversation as if the viewer should side with Clarke doesn’t work because it’s clear how problematic she is. Another problem is that transcendence has never been properly defined beyond the vague notion of ascending to a higher plane of existence so there’s not enough information for it to be confirmed as a goal worth working towards. Without that the whole thing feels meaningless though Raven’s conversation with the higher being fares a lot better because she makes a case for the Human race being capable of better but needing the time to prove that. Her appeal is for more time rather than the worthiness and it’s nicely backed up Octavia showing that capability in her speech that draws on what her character has experienced. Having this be enough to prove them worthy made no sense and contrasts what the overall message should have been. Having everyone except Clarke transcend also removes all that was being set up in regards to Madi, Jordan and Hope representing a better future.
Murphy and Emori remained an engaging presence. Her death wasn’t unexpected given the previous episode and Murphy’s reaction to it was perfect. Sacrificing a long life to spend a few final hours with her was an ideal summation of their connection and their time together was wonderfully handled. Generally speaking the finale has no real finality to it and leaves a lot of clumsily unanswered questions. Transcendence was never explained so the choice to come back from it is ultimately meaningless since it isn’t clear what is being given up and no time is spent exploring the motivation behind choosing to come back. It represents a failure to commit and there’s no sense that the worst trials they’ll ever endure is over. Basically it doesn’t feel like an ending so there’s no reason to invest in where the characters are left when the credits roll. If rewatching the show is something that you will do in the future then my recommendation is to stop at the end of season five because it has a better sense of finality than this episode does. It does mean missing out on some great season six content but it’s a worthy sacrifice when it means not enduring the final season.
- Octavia’s speech promoting peace perfectly drawing on her experiences over the years
- Murphy and Emori
- highlighting that Clarke has had negligible growth or development
- not explaining what transcendence is and failing to establish that it’s something worth working towards
- the convincing case that Humanity simply need more time being followed up by everyone except Clarke transcending
- Sheidheda amounting to an obstacle bereft of any of the depth he had over the course of the season
- ignoring many things that were set up and remained undeveloped
- no real sense of finality to the episode
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
My relationship with the show began as a curiosity more than anything else. I happened upon people talking about it and how the CW were doing sci fi right so naturally that got my attention and I started to watch it. At first I found it largely comical because the premise was fairly ridiculous in the way that most Young Adult setups are. Teenagers being sent down to Earth to check if it’s survivable and then having to build a society when they get there while being hampered by their hormones and distracted by the fact they now have no adult supervision. At that point it didn’t take itself too seriously and went in some really dark directions that it somehow managed to consistently earn. By the end of the first season I was hooked by the characters and how they developed, a world that was becoming more complex with each passing episode and situations that were consistently gripping. It only got better from there as the characters were forced to grow up very quickly, make increasingly difficult choices and navigate problems that would be difficult for anyone of any age to deal with.
There were some missteps along the way such as the handling of Bellamy when he fell under the thrall of Pike but the writers constantly showed a desire to put the work in to make up for those mistakes. Bellamy’s redemption was a long an arduous journey that built on the disservice of his character rather than quietly forgetting it as they so easily could have. Fans would have probably forgiven it as well as it runs counter to their reading of the character. There are other examples of this such as post Bloodreina Octavia or Murphy when he had all but entirely given up on life. The strength of this show was in its characters and that was something that was well known by those working on the show for most of its run. Everything flowed from who they were, what they did and how they saw the world around them. Plot necessity rarely got in the way of that and the talented cast brought these people to life in really engaging ways. It’s also a show that wasn’t afraid of change while never feeling like it was betraying what its pillars were.
All of that is true as long as you ignore the final season where the production team seemed to lose sight of what made the show great and forged ahead with a plot that kept gaining new elements without really explaining what was already there. Many of the episodes feature nothing of note happening and took the characters in directions that made no sense for them. Out of universe factors will be given as an explanation for the handling of Bellamy in the final season but to me that’s no excuse as the reduced time with the character should have been taken as an opportunity to make that time count for something rather than the problem it ended up being. There’s no reasonable excuse for the character assassination he or so many of the others endured over the course of the final season and the pacing issues were laughable. It’s unfortunate that such a great show ends on an underwhelming note but I’d encourage those who feel let down to think about the journey rather than the destination and remember why it was something you were consistently drawn to. If it helps stop any rewatch after season five and imagine a better future for the characters than the one that was filmed. I know I will.
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.