The 100 Discussion: 'The Dark Year' provides some much needed backstory

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Jul 25, 2018, 12:00 PM EDT

The 100 has been pushing its viewers to reconsider what they thought they knew about their favorites all season, and "The Dark Year" sheds some light on what it's taken for WonKru to survive this long. Is it horrific? Oh, most certainly. But it does offer some important explanations about character motivations that may have seemed murky to some viewers. Nothing ever comes easy on The 100, and now we're in the cannibal phase. We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer, and we're here to hold your hand through ever emotional moment on The 100.

Alyssa: We knew it was coming. The panicked, hushed tones in the face of starvation and mob rule can really only mean one thing in the post-apocalypse: cannibalism. We’ve finally gotten the deets of the Dark Year, and honestly, I wish I could bleach my brain.

Jessica: If ever a show has launched a better subliminal campaign for veganism than The 100, I know not of it. Seriously, I doubt I’ll ever be able to order sashimi again. You’re right. We knew cannibalism was coming, or at least, I hope all of us knew, but knowing and then seeing those poor people shove cubes of raw human flesh into their mouths are just two different things. As disgusting as Blodreina’s #RawMeat diet was, I think it was necessary for us to revisit the Dark Year to understand not only her storyline but Abby’s addiction arc as well. It’s been frustrating to watch both of them spiral without any true cause and now I can confidently say, I get it. It may be organic, cage-free people protein but it’s still people. Your amount of cray is justified.

Alyssa: Yeah, I agree. As deeply upsetting as this episode was, it did an excellent job of adding nuance to where our characters are now and why they’ve made a lot of the choices that they have. Before we dive in, I’ve got to ask the writers, the universe, whoever is listening: WHY WAS IT RAW? A little time on the grill may have made it slightly more palatable. Eh, maybe not. People meat is people meat no matter which way you slice it.

Jessica: I am so glad this bothered you too. The whole cannibalism thing aside, raw meat just sounds so unappealing. I’m assuming, being underground, waiting out a radiation-soaked Earth means you can’t grill — where would the smoke go? — but could we use infrared tech? Toss it in some herbs and olive oil. Cover it in salt? Something? I guess the moral the writers are trying to push is that human meat is bad and we shouldn’t eat it, which … fair enough.


The Dark Year Explained

Alyssa: Yeah, I guess they couldn’t really salt and store it, Laura Ingalls Wilder-style. But Jesus, what a dark episode. They really delivered on the dread they’ve been building all season, and I feel like I finally understand how Octavia got into the Blodreina state of mind now. She was so young and was thrust into a position of power, and this is how things turned out. This was the option that the adults in the room chose. That would f*ck anyone up, I think.

Jessica: I think it’s important to remember just how young Octavia and the rest of the delinquents are. These aren’t hardened leaders with decades of experience under their belts. They’re kids trying to make the best out of a bleak, apocalyptic world. If this season felt like one of those millennial-blaming articles baby-boomers love to RT on Twitter, tonight’s episode was the younger generation’s hashtag rebellion. Sure, things may be shit, but we’re not the only ones responsible for this poop tornado.

Alyssa: Millennials are killing the cannibalism industry! I think this episode also really, really explained Abby. She has always been a very pragmatic leader, so it made sense to me that she would be the one to bring up cannibalism as an option — nay, a necessity — but as seemingly necessary as this decision was, that kind of depravity is bound to take its toll on her psyche and her relationship with Kane. I have been the first mate of the good ship Kabby for seasons, but I don’t think you can come back from manipulating your partner into cannibalism by pushing your tumultuous teen leader into murder. And I don’t think you bounce back from that at a personal level either. Even if she believes that all that she did was justified, the fact remains that she still ate people, forced others to eat people, and did horrible things to keep them all alive. That comes at a cost.

Jessica: Yeah, if this episode proved anything, it’s that Kabby is on life-support at the moment. I’m not sure what’s worse for Abby: eating people, or taking that survival choice away from WonKru and forcing them to eat people. The whole Kane dilemma felt eerily reminiscent of Season 4 when Kane took Abby’s agency away by refusing to let her die. They’re not on the same level, but both of these people regularly choose to ignore the others’ wishes. That’s not a solid foundation in any relationship. Speaking of Kane … I hate to say this because you know I love my half-up-hair-done dreamer, but after seeing the lengths Abby and Octavia went to in order to save WonKru, and then to see Kane clinging to his ideals while enabling the suffering of others … it left me feeling some kind of way. I know this is a commentary on Kane’s arc — he began this show by being willing to murder hundreds of people for the good of the Ark, now he’s championing people’s right to choose — but as someone who also has Abby’s knowledge and experience with starvation and trying to keep people alive, I thought he might be a bit more accepting of her decision. There’s morality and then there’s self-righteousness and I can’t seem to pin down which side Kane’s repping right now.

Alyssa: The 100: The show where you might think someone against cannibalism is on the wrong side! Kane, as much as I love him and would climb him like a ladder out of the bunker, has always had a touch of the self-righteous about him. And by touch, I mean he is often a self-righteous bastard. I guess at this point, WonKru was put in a situation that no one could have predicted. When you’re studying ethics and building your worldview, I can’t imagine that most people consider “what if it’s humanity’s last hope and we’re out of options in our murderbunker so I guess we have to start eating people? Check yes or no.” It really comes down to an end justifies the means situation — how far is too far to keep humanity going? For me, I think cannibalism in a bleak bunker would be where I would probably tap out. I think Kane thinks better in the long term — how can their people retain their souls so that life is worth fighting for at all? — but the Dark Year situation required short-term action. They’ll just have to pick up the pieces when they’re back on the surface.

Jessica: True. But it feels like Octavia’s still in that mindset. For some, like Indra and Kane, moving past the dark year has been easier. For Abby and Octavia, that trauma, the horror of what they were forced to do, has fundamentally altered them. Octavia is existing in a mode I’m assuming she had to adopt for an entire year while she forced her people to cannibalism. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to just flip that switch again and be a normal human being. Although I’ll be honest, I began this season fully expecting Octavia to die a gruesome death, possibly making amends for her terrible leadership decisions by sacrificing herself for her people. Now I’m starting to think we’re slowly watching Blodreina’s redemption arc emerge. Digging into the Dark Year, and the leadership style she was basically forced to adopt because of circumstances beyond her control, has left me wondering if she can actually be redeemed. Then again, that’s a question I’ve had about nearly every major character on this show. Having Madi refer to Octavia using the same words Clarke used to justify her crimes in seasons past was about as subtle as a Reddit thread, but it felt significant in a way I think we have yet to see. Maybe Octavia can be lured from the Dark Side?

Alyssa: I am so torn! Octavia has been one of my very favorites since Season 1, so I sincerely hope that we see her redemption and that we can watch her adapt to life in the valley as a less bloodthirsty ruler. However, part of me still thinks that she is not making it out of the season alive. The total splintering of her relationship with Bellamy makes me think that her redemption will come in the form of saving his life. I feel like this two-part finale is going to be a brutal one, and I just don’t know if Octavia can survive that. Or honestly, if she even wants to. But speaking of badass ladies who are making questionable but maybe necessary choices, Clarke may have mishandled things a bit by allying herself with McCreary. And by a bit, I mean YOU IN DANGER, GIRL.


Choosing Sides

Jessica: Clarke, my darling, I understand those motherly instincts are really screwing with your pragmatic thinking abilities right now, but in what world is McCreary and his group of incompetent, terminally ill mass murderers better than Kane, Indra, Echo, and the rest of WonKru? Octavia’s descent into darkness aside, better the enemy you know and all that, right?

Alyssa: I think they’re really trying to drive home the similarities between the Griffin women once again: they are both willing to make very difficult decisions to mixed results. Clarke is really being blinded to the bigger picture by her desire to keep Madi alive and not the commander. I get it, she’s her mother and obviously her child is her number one priority, but again, at what cost? She basically sold out her friends to McCreary. I guess six years really does change your perspective. I’ve really, really enjoyed her interactions with Madi this season, though. It brings out an interesting side of Clarke that we haven’t seen (even if her decisions are foolish), and while I am usually not in favor of children being added later in a show’s run, Madi has been a great addition. This is definitely not a Dawn Summers situation.

Jessica: Thank the Goddess for that. But, and I say this with love, Madi is like the Shame Nun from Game of Thrones right now. I get the kid has the consciousness of every commander crawling around in her underdeveloped brain, but damn girl, give your mom a break from all that shade. I think the real issue with Clarke’s decision-making is that it’s completely different from what she would’ve done just one season ago. Again, this time jump rears its ugly head.

We’ve gotten a much-needed flashback to the Dark Year in order to understand Octavia, Abby, and WonKru’s changed personalities but, let’s be honest here — cannibalism, no matter how gross, is a much more interesting subplot to explore than six years of mother-daughter bonding in Eden or even time spent munching on algae and learning Trig on the Ark. Seeing is believing and because we’ll never get the chance to watch those bonds formed, it’s hard to fully grasp just how much our faves have changed over the years. For nearly a decade Clarke has only had to worry about one person. Now, she’s stuck between two warring factions, both filled with murdering lunatics, and she’s emotionally compromised to boot. Not a good combo.

Alyssa: It’s true. I do believe that the time jump was necessary to move the plot along and because these actors are pushing 30, so playing teens just isn’t plausible long term, but I am a little bummed that we missed out on more time with Clarke on the ground and SpaceKru on the Ark. We’ve now gotten to see how human tartare broke Octavia and Abby, but we need to see a little more to explain why Clarke would throw her lot in with McCreary. That felt out of character, and a little too on the nose with her “there are no good guys” proclamation at the beginning of the series. I’m worried that Madi is going to become desperate and do something rash.

Jessica: Yes, the teen angst is strong with this one, and now that she’s got background on Clarke’s life before Eden thanks to the commanders in her head, I can see her going into full problem-child mode. She’s not okay with abandoning WonKru as she now views them as her people and she’s also not okay with Clarke making bad decisions in her name. There’s obviously going to be a bigger, bloodier showdown before the finale, but I think these two will have a coming-to-Jesus meeting of their own soon and it’s probably going to break my heart.


SpaceKru Adventure Squad Activated

Alyssa: Also breaking my heart? Bellamy and Octavia. Those two are permanently broken, I think. Bellamy telling her that “he isn’t fighting with her, he’s fighting to get back to his family” was something that I knew in my heart was true, but felt like a slap in the face when said aloud. He’s justified, but ouch. Fighting Blakes will always hurt my feelings. But I definitely think it’s time to reunite Space Daddy with his Space Family. Are you ready for an impending Becho reunion? Because it’s coming.

Jessica: I think you know the answer to that, Alyssa. I’d watch WonKru eat human flesh every episode and still not feel as nauseous as I do when I see Echo and Bellamy try to convince us they’re “in love.” But you’re right, Bellamy needs his Space Family right now. Dude is bugging me with these ice-cold digs towards Octavia. I know he only sees the crazed dictator she’s become, but we know that the Blake siblings had two very different experiences during those six years so Bellamy’s aghast reactions towards Octavia’s behavior just deserve a slow, performative eye-roll. Algae is not as bad as cannibalism, bro. Check yourself.

Alyssa: It’s true. This is the same Bellamy that massacred hundreds of grounders in the name of protecting his people, so he can check his self-righteousness at the door. But, as one bae falls from grace, another ascends. Jess, I cannot handle how much I love Murphy this season. There has been a monumental shift in my fandom. I love him, I love his hair, I want him to be happy. John Murphy is one of the only bright spots in this episode, and I am here for it. Give him a gun. Make out with his face, Emori. You both deserve it.

Jessica: He’s beauty. He’s grace. He’s the only character on this show who can be counted on. I know what I’m getting with John Murphy. I’m getting sass. I’m getting snark. Now, I’m also getting some feels, a killer haircut, and a brief, humorous respite from the bleakness that is The 100. Murphy is a godsend this season and I never, ever thought those words would come from this fan. Of course, there’s an opposite side to this Murp-onaissance. You know who I’m talking about. She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Alyssa: Here is where we differ. While I do not ship Becho, I don’t have a problem with Echo herself. Honestly, I really hope she isn’t reduced just to an inevitable roadblock to Bellarke, because I think she deserves better than that. However, her declaration that she’ll take care of Clarke does not bode well for her. Sure, she and Bellamy are basically common law married after their time on the Ark, but Bellamy just poisoned HIS SISTER to protect Clarke. Even if he’s upset with her for breaking with their plan, that kind of dedication does not go away. I don’t think that this is going to go the way that Echo thinks it will.

Jessica: I also have no ill will towards Echo — her relationship with Bellamy aside. I’ve actually enjoyed seeing Echo shoulder her own storyline this season. Her time away from Bellamy, those first few episodes where she played spy in the Eligius camp and went up against Diyoza, were delicious to watch. Sadly, tonight felt like a regression for the former Azgeda warrior. Not only is she back to her old, radical ways, distrusting Shaw, Kane, and pretty much everyone who isn’t SpaceKru, she’s also serving as more of a prop to Bellamy’s storyline. This entire episode was about her trying to keep Bellamy safe, to wrestle with her feelings for him after seeing Shaw and Raven grow close. And that decision to pit her against Clarke after the group discovered Clarke had sided with McCreary? Echo doesn’t have to be a likable character, but she has more potential than just the-girl-we-love-to-hate on this show.

Alyssa: Agreed. I think that Clarke and Echo have a lot in common, so I would have liked to see them become allies. Maybe there’s still a chance for that in the eleventh hour, but I’m not so sure. Gotta pit ladies against one another, even in the apocalypse. (cue eyeroll) However, in the midst of all of this strife, we got one very good thing. As the captain of this ship, would you like to do the honors and squee first?

Jessica: I am not deserving of this honor, Alyssa, but I’ll do my best for you. Pilot Mechanic, our pure hacker babies, their ship has officially left port and sailed into the cannon-verse. We could only survive on fanfiction for so long before a Shaw and Raven coupling became real and between cannibalism flashbacks and a monumentally stupid march to war, the writers gifted us a true gem. There was angst. There were sparks. There were heart-eyes galore. And finally, Zaven — the ship that will fulfill this empty, bottomless pit of a soul for years to come — launched. It was everything we dreamed of.

Alyssa: It was an amazing moment. Something good happened for Raven! Someone truly appreciates her awesomeness! FINALLY! However, with the war coming and the season ending, I have absolutely zero confidence that these two cuties will have the good time that they deserve.


Where Do We Go From Here?

Alyssa: So, we’re looking down the barrel of the two-part finale. The references to Damocles do not give me a lot of hope.

Jessica: I would think not. The threat of impending doom is ever-present on this show but even after a second apocalypse, this battle over Eden feels like a game changer. I just don’t envision a way for this war to be over, the valley to still be habitable, and these people to find peace together. I know I’m pushing this space adventure plot hard, but after Murphy’s rando Eligius III dig at Raven this episode, and a mystery character still yet to be seen, I think some cryosleep and off-worlding would do our faves some good.

Alyssa: I could get down with some space adventuring, as long as it doesn’t devolve into algae smoothies and nonstop philosophizing. But I think you’re right, this war is going to damage the valley in an irreversible way, and Octavia really needs to realize that. I’m also expecting some major deaths on the horizon; my money is on Abby, Octavia, and possibly Kane. Just as long as it isn’t Diyoza. I need that woman to rule.

Jessica: Just rule? I need her to start her own dynasty, create an intergalactic empire, become a god. But for now, I’ll settle for making it out of this season alive.

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