The 100 – Season 7 Episode 7
“The Queen’s Gambit”
The 100 continues to heighten the tension in Sanctum as the Bardo prisoners have little to do but discuss their issues with one another.
This season remains a difficult one to understand just because of the volume of plot being burned through. So far the strongest episodes have been the ones that focus on the characterisation within those situations and put the plot aside for the most part. This is an episode where the characters are the central focus and any plot movement is directly informed by how they relate to one another so it feels more considered overall rather than the common approach this season of throwing a lot of information at the viewer that is nearly impossible to absorb all at once.
Broadly speaking the stories being told in this episode are really simple. Sheidheda continues to manipulate the situation in Sanctum from the sidelines, Emori wants to reconnect the Children of Gabriel with their families, Hope finally gets some time to talk to her mother, Octavia and Echo are forced together and Bardo still continues their march towards War. Arguably things don’t move on a great deal but there’s a lot of character development within the various situations and the stakes are most certainly raised for pretty much everyone involved.
JR Bourne continues to deliver an excellent performance as Sheidheda. His rampant scenery chewing are a definite highlight of any episode and the writing certainly backs this performance up. The way Sheidheda is able to get under the skin of whoever he happens to come into contact with as he spouts endless rhetoric about his desire for power and the plans he has to achieve his goals is routinely excellent. Pairing him up with Murphy in this episode was a great idea because Murphy remains someone who could be swayed under the right circumstances. Despite how tense the situation in Sanctum currently is, things actually seem somewhat stable for Murphy. He’s currently revered because people think he’s a Prime, he’s close to finding a purpose for his life that he’s comfortable with and his relationship with Emori couldn’t be more fulfilling so for now he’s incredibly content but his conversation with Sheidheda is designed to cause him to question that stability.
Naturally this interaction takes the form of a game of chess because Sheidheda’s all about tactics and playing a long game so there’s no better way to illustrate that. By demonstrating his skill at the game he is also demonstrating his skill at manipulating the person he’s playing against. As he and Murphy play Sheidheda uses carefully chosen words and phrases to make Murphy consider his current situation differently and open his mind up to the possibility of having more in his life. He talks about Godhood as an achievable goal and promises to tell Murphy what he has planned if he can win the game. This basically presents Murphy with a challenge and tests his ability to resist his own curiosity. Murphy’s allegiance can still be played with as he remains believably someone who could shift depending on what he thinks may benefit him at a given moment. That on its own is enough to create tension as it’s conceivable that he would genuinely consider Sheidheda’s offer.
The conversation is also cleverly framed to offer a reminder of Sheidheda’s history. Murphy wastes no time in reminding him of his own history and trying to get to him by pointing out that Lexa was a more respected leader than he ever was. It doesn’t quite have the impact that Murphy likely intended as Sheidheda”s focus is on his future rather than his past though his actions remain motivated by what has led him to this point. It’s very clear that he’s in control of this interaction as signified by the chess game being deliberately drawn out to keep Murphy there as long as possible rather than winning as quickly as he could. Once again chess symbolises the long game that Sheidheda is playing with this particular game being intended to distract rather than defeat.
There are other details that serve as reminders of the support that Sheidheda has such as notes left in his food detailing the situation outside his prison cell. This tells us that he’s well aware of how things are progressing, knows that he has a following and is biding his time before making a dramatic move that will most definitely not be subtle. The working assumption is that Nelson is involved in passing him information since the previous episode left it ambiguous as to whether he decided to take Sheidheda up on his offer. Nelson’s actions in this episode would strongly suggest that he allied himself with Sheidheda but allegiances are complex in this show so there’s likely more to it than we’ve seen so far. Similarly, Murphy’s decision remains a mystery though I’d be surprised if he doesn’t manage to spin things in a way that ensures nobody is happy with him. It’s basically what he does every time so I see no reason why that would change.
Emori’s plan to reconnect the Nulls with their families feels ideally suited to her given her history. Conveniently this was something that Kaylee Prime championed as well so her actions are unlikely to arouse suspicion that she’s someone other than who she says she is. Luisa D’Olivera plays Emori with a fierce determination throughout that is infectious and a welcome dose of positivity in what is typically a relentlessly dour setup. Reuniting families is intrinsically a good thing and Emori latching onto it as one good thing she can get involved with in a rapidly deteriorating situation makes sense as even the smallest positive step is a step in the right direction. She’s not going to solve the problem entirely but what she’s doing has the potential to make a massive difference to the lives of a reasonable number of people so it’s certainly an avenue worth pursuing.
Her conversation with Nelson around reuniting the families is the perfect opportunity for her to highlight exactly why she feels that it’s worth doing. She talks about how she understands exactly what it feels like to be cast out for being considered less than those in more privileged positions. Her deformity made her an outcast so she understands the anger and pain that comes with being thrown away by those who are supposed to care. She also understands the desire to understand why that decision by looking those who made it in the eye and asking them. Emori believes that on some level everyone wants to do that and the fact that she will never be able to has inspired her to make sure that others don’t lose that same opportunity. All of this comes from who Emori is which makes it really easy to buy into what she’s trying to do.
Nelson is a lot like Emori was a number of years ago. He’s angry and lost with no real outlet for his pain so he is unwilling to listen to Emori’s offer of a way to resolve that. At the point of their conversation in the bar he is deeply resentful of his parents and resists the very idea of seeing them again because of how much pain they caused him. This comes directly after Nikki comes to him with the offer of an alliance that could result in them being in charge of Sanctum on an equal basis so there’s a few open questions as to what Nelson’s next move will be. Is he allied with Sheidheda? Will he take Nikki up on her offer? Will he try to make peace with his past through confronting his parents? At that point in the episode it could believably go in any of those directions and it all adds to making Nelson a more complex character.
The Unification Ceremony appears to go well at first though there is some concern over the fact that Kaylee Prime isn’t as well regarded as Daniel Prime so at first there’s a sense that people won’t feel at ease unless Daniel Prime is there supporting this endeavour. This leads me to wonder what the relationship between the Primes and the people ruled was as there was definitely a hierarchy or at least strong preferences that had to be dealt with. Nelson’s arrival at first seems to suggest that he has come around to the idea of reuniting with his parents and it does result in a really beautiful moment where his mother tenderly welcomes him but this is quickly countered by his father calling him an abomination before proceeding to choke him. Nelson’s retaliation to this is to stab his father which comes just before Nikki storms in with the rest of the prisoners armed with guns revealing that Nelson took her up on her offer and used this ceremony as a public way to declare their intent to take over.
In true The 100 tradition a happy moment can’t possibly last long and the situation almost instantly becomes a tragic one. It’s also clearly all part of Sheidheda’s plan as his primary reason for drawing out the chess game with Murphy was so that Daniel Prime wouldn’t be present at the ceremony to potentially divert support in the wrong direction. It’s all carefully thought out and increases the tension appropriately, Things are certainly coming to a head in Sanctum and the timing is very deliberate to coincide with Indra being absent. I don’t buy that Indra would remove herself from this situation to attempt to track down those that are missing given her impassioned commitment to leading the people considering how increasingly tense things are and how much her presence is surely required at this time. Sheidheda may not have been confident making a move if she were present.
Madi seems to be having a better time than most but still has a long way to go before being considered well adjusted. Jackson helps her deal with her panic attack and directly addresses the pictures she has been drawing by asking her if she knows what she’s drawing or has any idea who the people she draws is. This confirms that Madi has no direct access to the memories of the former Commanders but she is influenced by them in some ways. She’s concerned that she might be crazy but Jackson in his additional role as a therapist doesn’t want to use that term and looks to ensure that Madi doesn’t believe that there’s anything wrong with her. He does the right things to encourage her to open up about her feelings to get to the root of what caused her panic attack. Jackson reaches out to her, offers her an alternative take on the events of her life and tells her that she doesn’t have to assume the level of responsibility that she feels she has to. It’s not the end of the road for her by any means but it’s an important step forward. Madi’s single tear during this exchange signifies her protective shell starting to soften and the fact that Jackson encourages her to play soccer says a lot about what Madi wants from life as well as what people want for her. Soccer is an innocent activity free from the massive political issues that are raging around her so it keeps her separate from things that will cause her anguish, at least for now.
Those imprisoned on Bardo have plenty of time to talk and consider their situation. Putting Echo and Octavia together makes a lot of sense because they have a complicated history and are both mourning the perceived loss of Bellamy in different ways. This is a great opportunity to highlight how much perspective Octavia has gained in her time on Penance while also showing that Echo is continuing to spiral. The first thing we see before any material in their shared cell is a flashback to the beginning of Echo and Bellamy’s relationship when they spent those years in space together. It’s a good scene that serves as a reminder that their relationship only began because they were effectively trapped in a situation together that forced them to find common ground which led to a romantic entanglement because of their shared need for companionship. Their conversation in the flashback is about strengths and weaknesses as a reminder that despite everything that has happened Bellamy’s first duty is to his sister and she was foremost on his mind during their long exile in space. The purpose of this scene is to set up that loyalty was the weakness Bellamy identified in Echo which becomes relevant to her current situation as her loyalty to Bellamy in the wake of his loss is causing her to unravel. She has no idea what to do with her grief and ends up receiving comfort from the most unlikely source. Octavia reaches out to her and reminisces about Lincoln’s death. In that instance Bellamy let her take out her anger on him but with perspective Octavia wishes that she had hugged Bellamy instead because she needed to actually process her grief in a healthy way rather than giving into her violent urges. Echo resists this at first but eventually allows herself to break down and accepts Octavia’s support. It’s a really powerful moment and Octavia’s acceptance of Echo as part of her family adds a deeper layer to this interaction as they share in their grief.
This didn’t quite redeem Echo’s behaviour in the recent episodes but it does contribute to the notion that she’s spiralling and needs an external influence to pull her out of it. Octavia’s well placed to be that influence because she is strong enough to deal with anything that Echo might throw her way while understanding what it means to be comfortable with doing terrible things and working to find a way to break that cycle. The flashback reinforces Bellamy as a stabilising influence in Echo’s life though I wonder if it was an unused scene filmed at the time rather than new material considering how different Bellamy and Echo look in that scene. The later scene where Echo cuts her own face as a sign that her pain is over runs contrary to the apparent step forward taken earlier. It’s more likely that she’s doing this in an attempt to convince herself that she is no longer grieving so that it might come true. There isn’t time to debate her actions as she immediately offers their services in fighting the upcoming War but I suspect her denial will be an ongoing problem that manifests in later episodes. This is the best use of Echo in a while because the focus is on an understandable complex reaction to a relatable situation. Dealing with loss is complicated and inconsistent which is exactly what Echo is experiencing. As a contrast, Octavia is dealing with it in a much more subdued way by being the pillar of strength but it’s obvious that she’s struggling with it as well. It’s great stuff and rightly shows grief as the messy thing that it is.
Diyoza having some time to spend with her now adult daughter has been a long time coming and doesn’t disappoint. Hope gains a different perspective on the woman she only knew as her mother on Penance. The woman she remembers is peaceful and compassionate but now she learns about the intensely violent past that she had and tried to put behind her to set the best example for her daughter. There’s a lot to process here but the episode does a good job of outlining the complexities of the situation while focusing on the emotion. Diyoza is disappointed that Hope would put herself in danger to rescue her and also hates the idea that she ended up being dragged into a life of violence as that was the opposite of what Diyoza wanted for her. In an attempt to remedy that Diyoza talks to her about what she wanted Hope’s life to be and offers her perspective on the life she has lead. Time and motherhood has given her perspective on her actions that she recognises as being for nothing because ultimately they weren’t able to stop the annihilation. She tells Hope about her biological father and how terrible a person he was but also how thankful she is that her choice to be with him resulted in Hope being born. Ultimately Diyoza wants something different for Hope than what her life amounted to so regrets that circumstances have played out in the way that they have. Hope tries to assert dominance by bragging about her training and everything she went through to get to this point which prompts Diyoza to challenge her to show what she’s made of. Unsurprisingly Diyoza is far more skilled and uses it to teach Hope a lesson about how destructive violence is. As Hope breaks down and processes her feelings about losing her mother at such a young age, Diyoza is there to offer the support she needs and let her unleash the full extent of her emotions. It’s another powerful and beautiful moment.
Gabriel finds himself with more trust placed in him than the others though is relegated of the busy work of inputting code sequences into the anomaly stone to see what happens. He recognises this as busy work. His role in the episode is also busy work and it’s less than interesting to watch though it does enable him to be present when Clarke and the others who were on Nakara come through the anomaly. He’s the one to tell Clarke that Bellamy is dead and Eliza Taylor’s performance when playing the reaction is incredible. It’s such a visceral and raw reaction that stands out despite how brief it is in the context of the other emotional beats contained within the episode.
The reveal that Cadogan has been in stasis this whole time adds weight to a theory that I’ve been considering for a while though doesn’t really do much else of interest. The implications are surely to be explored but by itself it adds very little. I hadn’t articulated my theory before now because I didn’t feel there was enough evidence to make it anything more than a long shot but the reveal of Cadogan combined with the knowledge that the compound currently occupied by those on Bardo is underground leads me to wonder if Bardo might actually be Earth. The biggest indication at this point is Anders’ repetition of “From the Ashes” before waking Cadogan up. The accepted canon is that Second Dawn became the Grounders so Cadogan’s speech evolved into a Grounder prayer that translates to “Old life and new. From the Earth, we will grow. From the ashes, we will rise”. The operative statement is “From the Earth, we will grow”. My working theory is that Cadogan had a different bunker that he and some of his followers retreated to that is now known as Bardo. This theory may well prove to be false and Cadogan made his way here by way of an anomaly stone meaning that Earth remains unsalvageable though based on the available information it’s possible that a Planet of the Apes style twist is coming our way.
An excellent episode that is overflowing with powerful emotional moments, complex characterisation and intelligent plotting. The Murphy/Sheidheda interactions are a highlight because it’s more of JR Bourne chewing the scenery as Sheidheda and makes great use of Murphy’s fluid allegiances to create tension. It’s believable that he would be tempted by what Sheidheda has to offer and the use of the chess game as a reminder of how calculating Sheidheda is was a really nice touch. It’s also well used to set up the reveal of the game being a stalling tactic that feeds into the tense Sanctum situation. Emori’s desire to reunite the Children of Gabriel with their families works for her particularly as she never got closure with her own family after they cast her out. This fuels a conversation she has with Nelson who has a lot of open questions surrounding him at this point. The Unification Ceremony starting out well before becoming a disaster is typical of this show and provides an opportunity for the reveal that Nelson chose to ally with Nikki. Nelson’s reunion with his mother is really powerful and the treatment he receives from his father is effective in a different way. Things are definitely at a head now and having this happen in Indra’s absence is surely no accident. Her absence makes no sense in context but it being used to further the plot in this way works well. Addressing Madi’s drawings and the relationship they have to her memory through a therapy session works well and it also furthers the idea that she wants to commit to the childlike innocence she has the chance to experience.
Echo and Octavia being put together on Bardo provides great material and is the best use of Echo in a while. Showcasing different interpretations of grief through Echo and Octavia shows how complicated and inconsistent grief is. It’s messy and is portrayed as such which is great. The flashback involving Bellamy is a great way to punctuate how Echo is feeling and Octavia using her newfound perspective as emotional support is excellent. I also liked that Echo is in complete denial about her progress through her mourning because that is also very real. Hope and Diyoza having the time to process how much everything has changed is also great. Diyoza gets to express her disappointment that Hope ended up following a life of violence as that was the opposite of what she wanted. She also gets to open up to Hope about the choices in her life that she regrets but also how grateful she is that they led to Hope’s existence. Hope is forced to process her feelings of abandonment and really breaks down in her mother’s arms. It’s a beautiful and powerful moment. Gabriel’s role in the episode is largely busy work and is acknowledged as such though isn’t especially interesting in the way it’s presented. It does enable him to be present at the moment Clarke learns about Bellamy’s death which adds yet another powerful emotional moment. The reveal that Cadogan is still alive adds weight to a theory I’ve had for a while though does very little else. The implications of this will be explored but by itself the reveal doesn’t add a great deal.
- Sheidheda and Murphy’s interactions
- further use of chess to illustrate Sheidheda’s intelligence
- Emori’s role in the episode tying directly to her history and who she is as a person
- the ambiguity surrounding Nelson and how that pays off
- Madi being encouraged to process her emotions in a healthy way
- complex and varied depictions of grief through Echo and Octavia
- Octavia’s newfound perspective helping Echo
- Diyoza and Hope getting time to process the situation
- Hope breaking down and having the support of her mother
- Clarke’s reaction to learning about Bellamy’s death
- the Cadogan reveal doing very little in the context of this episode
- Gabriel’s role largely amounting to uninteresting busy work
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