The 100 – Season 7 Episode 5
“Welcome to Bardo”
The 100 properly introduces Bardo and its complicated command over time as Sanctum destabilises even further thanks to Sheidheda.
Without a doubt the most difficult thing to keep track of this season is the timeline. There are different planets where time passes at different rates and rules around what characters can remember depending on where they are.As a science fiction fan I love to try wrapping my mind around how all of this works but it is definitely confusing at this point though there’s a sense that things are beginning to come together so hopefully it’ll all add up in the end.
The central perspective -at least on the surface but more on that later- is Octavia who finds herself on Bardo twice. Her first trip ends with her emerging from the anomaly to be found by Gabriel and her second begins when Hope tags/stabs her. Keeping the timeline straight is the biggest challenge as it relies on having a memory for when certain events took place relative to others and then bearing in mind the time dilation effect that the writers are making extensive use of. It more or less makes sense but it is complicated. Fortunately the characterisation is largely on point which gives the viewer something fully relatable to focus on. The magic of this show is watching the well written and developed characters reacting to new situations so if the viewer can understand how things work as the characters learn then the writers are definitely doing something right.
Previous episodes have mentioned the memory capture technology that is a massive focus in this episode. It’s clinically and dispassionately referred to as “M-Cap” which offers a strong contrast to how much of a violation it really is. The residents of Bardo see it as a tool that can be used to help them achieve their goal but for anyone that has it done to them it’s an intrusion into every fibre of their being as their every experience, thought and feeling is forcibly extracted. This episode offers a limited view of Bardo in the sense of how the people think and feel but details like this say a lot about what they have allowed themselves to become comfortable with. Anders (the always incredible Neal McDonough) is a great example of someone who has become comfortable with doing terrible things in the name of what he considers the greater good. The episode doesn’t have time to make his views or motivations entirely clear but there is a perverse pleasure that he takes from inflicting pain on others made apparent through how Neal McDonough plays the character. His speech about winning the upcoming War indicates that he’s someone who will do whatever it takes to achieve that and he definitely comes across as a less than moral cult leader. Neal McDonough is the perfect choice to play such a character and I can’t wait to see him properly sink his teeth into that role.
There are good people in Bardo like Levitt (Jason Diaz); the handler tasked with extracting Octavia’s memories. As he’s doing this he watches them and develops a deep admiration for how she handled everything she has been through to come out the other side a stronger person. Octavia’s perspective may be the central one for much of the episode but Levitt’s perception of her offers an alternate perspective. She find sit difficult to accept that he would admire her because self loathing is something she will never entirely shake. Despite the time spent with Diyoza and Hope where she found a particular sense of inner peace, this is something she still struggles with and reliving every experience that led her to that conclusion reopens the wound in a big way. Octavia insists she’s a killer because that’s what she sees when the memories play out in front of her but Levitt has a different perspective; he sees her as someone who has sacrificed a lot for those she cares about which means more to him than her losing her way.
This opinion comes from an incomplete picture of Octavia’s life experience so it’s not a fully informed perspective but pointing out that her sacrificial nature began with her hiding under the floor without making a sound to protect her family is a really interesting observation that does link in with the underlying motivation behind every decision Octavia makes. Rightly or wrongly she does what she does because she wants to protect others and that has been consistent throughout the entire run of the show. The M-Cap device is the perfect excuse to offer a deconstruction of characters and I suspect that this season will offer that for Octavia before she finds a new balance within her own life that builds on her experiences to inform the person she ends up as. The time spent on this deconstruction of Octavia with the suggestion of how she could progress helps ground the science fiction elements at play with the episode and offers yet another great opportunity for Marie Avgeropoulos to deliver an excellent performance.
It doesn’t quite add up that Levitt would risk so much after seeing a chunk of Octavia’s life play out before him but it’s a necessity to keep things moving and set up other aspects of the plot. With Levitt there is a man on the inside of Bardo that can help with the possibility of exploring how the society actually works through his eyes at a later date. The fact that he isn’t assigned to Octavia when she returns suggests that it’s not uncommon for people to become attached to their subjects so the fact that he isn’t explicitly punished for what he did says a great deal about the society by itself. Anders seems amoral but there are definite degrees to the severity of his punishment that I find compelling.
Another great Octavia moment is her brief reunion with Hope after being rescued by her. Octavia’s perspective is that it has been a fairly short time since she last saw Hope though still a number of days where Hope hasn’t seen her for months. Given the maternal connection Octavia has with Hope her reaction is spot on and the collection of emotions on display as Octavia processes that the child she was taken away from a few days ago is now an adult was really well performed. It’s a very quick between the two characters but no less powerful.
Octavia’s brief reunion with Bellamy was also really strong. Bellamy’s screen time this season so far surely amounts to less than five minutes but this was a good use of a very brief appearance. Mentioning him throughout the episode as someone who was present but unseen was a great way to build suspense before he actually did appear. Once he did he was holding a knife to someone’s throat in order to protect Octavia before being “killed” by an explosion. Given that the anomaly was open at the time and the framing of the sequence it’s pretty much a given that he went through the anomaly as a result of the blast. It’s a really tense stand-off moment with the Blake siblings doing what they can to defuse the situation while Anders stands observing the moment knowing that he is in control of it. His interest in Clarke is mentioned here as well as other parts of the episode so it’s even more clear that she has a pivotal role to play in whatever form this War takes. The more questions that are answered the more that are asked. Separating the Blake siblings after the smallest of reunions is a classic example of delayed gratification while also offering an opportunity for Bellamy to interact with other characters on different planets whether that be Sanctum, wherever Gaia ended up or wherever Clarke and friends ended up. Wherever he is I’m hopeful for some extended content involving him sooner rather than later.
There are some logistical factors that I don’t fully understand and hope will be clarified in future episodes. To point them out I’ll return to the bullet point approach so that we can all puzzle over them:
- Octavia appears on Bardo following her move from Sanctum to Penance last season
- In that time she lived a peaceful life with Diyoza and helped to raise Hope, forging a strong bond with her
- That happiness is upset when people from Bardo arrive and abduct her as well as Diyoza
- She has her memories proved over the course of a few weeks
- While this is happening years pass on Penance allowing Hope to grow into an adult
- Adult Hope loses Dev but makes it to Bardo and frees Octavia
- Octavia is sent back to Sanctum to arrive almost at the moment she left
- Her memory of everything that happened since leaving Sanctum is erased because she’s moving to a planet where time moves at a slower rate
- This doesn’t apply when moving to a planet where time is moving at a faster rate i.e. Sanctum to Penance or Bardo to Penance
- Logically this means that time on Sanctum passes more slowly than it does on Bardo
- It’s unclear what Octavia retains her memories when moving between Penance and Bardo as time moves at a far slower rate on Bardo in that scenario so her memories should be erased
- To get around this restriction, the high tech suits need to be worn
- Octavia returns to Bardo from Sanctum once Hope stabs/tags her which brings us pretty much to the present day where she’s concerned
- Hope has no memory of her life at this point
- When returning to Penance from Sanctum, Hope regains her memories of being brought up there and retains them on Bardo when she arrives there
- It’s worth noting that there is reference to Bardo’s original inhabitants that left behind technology. It will be important
The most confusing aspect for me is how the memory loss functions. If the rule is that moving to a planet where time passes at a slower rate than the one you’re currently on means that you lose all memories that were generated while in sync with that planet then it should be applied consistently. It’s unclear why memories are retained without suits when moving between Penance in Bardo. I had assumed before this point that Bardo and Sanctum were in sync with one another but it would seem that they aren’t though they are probably close enough so that there’s less of a disparity to worry about in the ongoing episodes. We are early in the season and there’s plenty of time to explain these things but for now it doesn’t feel like it entirely adds up. Part of the confusion may be coming from the sheer volume of the exposition and how rapidly its deployed.
Echo, Hope and Gabriel briefly appear in the present day on Bardo to mount a rescue mission. At this point Hope’s behaviour is concerning in terms of how little she values the lives of others. She is consumed by anger and seems to firmly believe that leaving Orlando behind was necessary. Her crazed approach to the situation fits in with her altered mindset and her and her near attempt to kill Anders when he was in the middle of giving a rousing speech highlights how reckless and dangerous her mindset currently is. It’ll be interesting to see how Diyoza reacts to seeing how violent her daughter has become.
Echo’s behaviour is also concerning as she appears to be more murderous than she typically has been. There has been a time skip and we didn’t see more of what was experienced during that time period but it feels out of character for Echo to act in this way, at least without justifying it by showing what caused her to become this. I feel that this exists for her and Hope to be on a similar wavelength with Gabriel on the outside worrying about them both and providing a moral compass but the groundwork isn’t there where Echo is concerned.
As I suggested in my previous review, dealing with Sheidheda and the general situation in Sanctum falls on Murphy, Emori and Indra. Trey (Tom Stevens) has taken charge of the faction loyal to Russell and has resolved to set fire to one of the faithful every hour until Russell is released. Naturally this is a situation that can’t be tolerated so quick action has to be taken. As a side note it’s significant that Nelson (Lee Majdoub) is very quick to try and extinguish the burning woman as it shows him as a worthy successor to Gabriel which is positive since he’s the current leader.
Indra takes charge initially and goes to Russell/Sheidheda to inform him that his followers are willing to die for his freedom. Predictably, Sheidheda isn’t exactly losing sleep over this and Indra doesn’t trust him to speak to the people on his own so the idea of sending in another Prime is suggested. Since they still believe that Murphy and Emori are Primes With Emori still weak from her radiation poisoning, Murphy is the only option but Murphy has never been good at deception so the situation declines about as quickly as you might expect. His interactions with the people, including Daniel’s former boyfriend, Zev (Miles Chalmers) -who almost immediately calls him out for being a fraud- are great with Murphy taking the moral high ground and condemning their behaviour with his usual lack of tact. There was no way that anyone who knew Daniel would believe Murphy because he makes no attempt to behave differently but it’s important in that it begins a dialogue that progresses the situation even if it doesn’t improve it.
Russell/Sheidheda’s subsequent arrival is excellent. JR Bourne is amazing in this role and takes every opportunity to chew the scenery. Slapping Trey and choking Zev are both strong actions and the less than flattering way he addresses Russell’s followers is brilliantly performed. The idea that Russell’s followers think that he doesn’t approve of the way they choose to demonstrate their loyalty to him has a lot of potential to create interesting complications. The approach to blind faith and the consequences of that being contested in some way is historically an idea this show handles really well which certainly seems to be the case here. Try is certainly a Zealot who believes that whatever he does is right because it’s in service to his faith so the idea that the person he worships is condemning him for what he’s doing will surely mess with him in some major way and perhaps make him feel all the more unstable.
In general the situation is a rocky one because Sheidheda has managed to manipulate the situation in such a way that his death will make him a martyr for Trey and his people. This means that he’s better left alive in order to preserve the fragile peace that currently exists but leaving him alive presents other complications because he is able to continue influencing people and there’s a strong chance that people will commit violent acts to try and free him. It’s certainly a position that Sheidheda enjoys.
Indra figures out that Russell is actually Sheidheda because he uses words and says them in a way that she’s familiar with. She wastes no time in testing her theory and opening herself up to the problems that his existence causes. It’s a great scene of recognition that is beautifully played and staged between two talented actors. If the former Grounders find out that Sheidheda is still alive then they will likely be divided over what to do about him. Some may want to follow him because of their devotion to the Commander no matter who that may be and some may call for his death because they feel that he deserves it. Equally if Indra keeps it a secret then they will likely turn against her when they find out because they’ve been told yet more lies. The road to a solution begins with the removal of the mind drive as Sheidheda maniacally stares at Indra while clearly enjoying the pain being inflicted on him but he’s still a problem and there’s no way the fragile peace will last much longer regardless of how good Indra might be at managing the situation.
A strong episode that meaningfully focuses on Octavia while offering a different perspective on her, delivers a solid if confusing introduction to Bardo and does a great job ramping up the Sheidheda driven tension. Using the memory capture technology to deconstruct Octavia with Levitt offering commentary on her life based on his observations through her memories is a great approach because it frames her as someone who lost her way at points but always acted to protect those she cared about. Calling back to hiding under the floor as a child for the genesis of that motivation was a really strong touch that reinforces how well developed her character is. Octavia was involved in some really strong moments such as her reunion with Hope when being rescued by her and her brief scene with Bellamy that was rife with tension while setting up possible next steps for him as a character. Bardo itself remains mysterious and confusing with lots of explanations as to how things work that don’t entirely add up. Once again it’s very much an exposition overload and it doesn’t seem that the rules are being applied consistently though there could be further explanations to come that will mean it all makes sense. Anders is a great character and is aided massively by the fact that he is played by the always excellent Neal McDonough. Hope’s growing desperation makes a lot of sense for her character and her violent attitude is something that will make her reunion with Diyoza interesting considering her peaceful upbringing. I feel that Echo is developing along those lines to support her with Gabriel acting as the moral compass but it makes less sense for Echo given what we have seen.
The Sanctum situation plays out really well with those loyal to Russell becoming far more militant to the point that dealing with them is an urgent problem. Murphy’s half baked attempt to solve the problem is hilarious and as expected given his characterisation but the real meat of the story comes when Sheidheda approaches Russell’s followers and makes his displeasure with them abundantly clear. Their blind faith has been compromised by the one they follow which only makes the situation more dangerous. Sheidheda engineering a scenario whereby Russell doesn’t face execution also creates problems as people may try to violently break him out of his imprisonment and his death will almost certainly make him a martyr. Further complications come when Indra realises that Russell is actually Sheidheda which only adds to the fragility of the ongoing situation as knowledge of this is likely to divide the Grounders who won’t appreciate being lied to should Indra choose to do that.
- Neal McDonough!
- Using the M-Cap technology to facilitate a deconstruction of Octavia
- Levitt offering an outsider perspective after viewing Octavia’s memories
- the excellent moment where Octavia and Hope reunite
- Octavia and Bellamy’s brief yet powerful reunion
- Hope’s growing desperation and it taking her further away from how she was raised
- JR Bourne continuing to do an excellent job playing Sheidheda
- the constantly escalating tension in Sanctum thanks to Russell’s followers
- Murphy’s hilariously half baked approach to diffuse the tension
- the beautifully presented moment of Indra realising that Russell is actually Sheidheda
- Echo’s current motivations not feeling entirely justified
- the rules around memory loss and travel between the various planets not entirely adding up
- a lot of exposition delivered very quickly
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