Another episode of The 100, another week without Clarke Griffin, Bellamy Blake, or any of the other characters we actually care about.
Well, technically that's not true. We do spend quite a bit of time watching Octavia, Hope, Diyoza, and Echo undergo Bardo's reconditioning program before jumping to the chaos in Sanctum with Murphy, Emori, and Indra. But still. No Griffin. No Blake. No idea why.
We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse and we're trying to manage our own emotions during this strangely disappointing final season of our most beloved sci-fi series.
Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 7, Episode 9 of The 100.
A Rough Reconditioning
Alyssa: Well, we've definitely reached a point where I don't even recognize The 100 anymore, but I didn't hate the Bardo parts of this episode. Hope, Diyoza, Echo, and Octavia get thrust into training and let's just say that these people are big on the brainwashing. Anders shows them what lies outside of the oxygen farm — a wasteland that leaves anyone who ventures into it calcified from the inside out. That feels like an extremely terrible way to die, so our crew is left with only one viable option: joining the war effort. They are still rather vague on what exactly the last enemy is, but if it can wipe out an entire race of 10-foot aliens, puny humans seem like a step down in terms of firepower to me.
Jessica: I have to say, I did not see the "extra-terrestrial Avatars" plot point coming. Maybe that's my own naivety — kind of makes sense that a group of humans led by a narcissistic doomsdayer didn't invent all this fun futuristic technology we've been seeing — but now I'm more confused than ever as to how Clarke is going to make any kind of difference in this war. I love our WanHeda, but at best, she can kick a bit of ass and wield a firearm. She's not toppling giant aliens. Still, putting that weird pivot on the backburner, I, too, enjoyed watching the new core four assimilate in Bardo. Echo is a star pupil — probably because she carved her face up in her grief over Bellamy's death and is suppressing all of her emotions at the moment — but Hope is having a hard time falling in line. She's studied under two disciples, she knows the ways these people try to control and manipulate. She is not having it.
Alyssa: Yeah, the group gets an in-depth tour of what goes on at Bardo, including birth pods so that no one has to be "laid up for extended periods of time" and classrooms where they learn about their history and chant about the Shepherd. There is this semblance of order, but really it's just control. Hope can see that better than anyone, I think, but they really don't have a ton of options, do they? Echo likes taking orders again, Diyoza likes having a cause, and Octavia… likes Levitt? Hope doesn't have anything like that because Bardo has taken more from her than any of the others at this point. She remembers what they did to her mom, she remembers what they did to Dev. I don't see her ever getting on board.
Jessica: Why should she? Everyone else just spent a few minutes in Bardo. Hope spent decades on Sky Ring. The sacrifice and loss just aren't comparable. But I do think that while the group might see some benefits to this particular way of life, they're also playing the long game. They're smart enough to know that right now, they don't have much power. Better to go along until they can either find a way out or find a way to buy some leverage. But let's talk about happier things, like our girl Octavia finally getting some strange. It's been a while since Lincoln, and no one will replace him, but I don't mind Levitt showing our baby Blodreina a good time. She deserves it.
Alyssa: For sure. Who am I to yuck someone's yum when the universe is at stake? Echo, Octavia, and Diyoza encourage Hope to bury her love and her anger down deeper so they can't take it from her because if they fail the final test, they are sent to Penance. There doesn't seem to be a second option. Keeping Hope's emotions under control is really the only way to survive at this point, and Echo at least makes it very clear that she isn't going to let anyone stand in her way to succeeding. Not in the training sessions, not in the new war she's fighting. It's pretty safe to say that Echo is not handling losing Bellamy (remember him? The former male lead of the show?) very well at all.
Jessica: Are any of us? At this point, you could put Bob Morley in a line-up, maybe shave off his facial hair, and I'd have serious trouble picking him out. That's how long it's been. Speaking of staying cool and collected under pressure, that's what Emori's forced to do back in Sanctum. The last we saw her, she was being held hostage by Nikki and Nelson and it looks like things haven't gotten much better. Nikki announces her terms over Sanctum's impressive city-spanning speaker system — she wants Russell, Raven, and Murphy to give themselves up or she starts shooting people. Murphy's ready to go in half-cocked, but thankfully, Indra shows up, bemoaning how she can't leave for five minutes without these overgrown toddlers messing s*** up, and crafting her own plan for diffusing the tension.
Alyssa: ONCE AGAIN, everyone seems REAL CHILL with the fact that Indra returns with the news that all they found at Gabriel's camp was "bodies and blood" and that all their people were missing. I get that they are dealing with a powder keg situation in Sanctum, but c'mon. They really breezed past that information. Obviously Raven isn't here, so they can't meet Nikki's demands, but Murphy suggests that he and Russell turn themselves in to buy Indra some time. Unfortunately, this kind of opportunity is exactly what Sheidheda has been waiting for. Indra attempts to broker a deal with him and promises to protect him from the faithful, as long as he returns to his cell whenever she demands. He asks for someone to play chess with, and they make a deal. Indra, I love you, but you had to know this was going to go badly.
Jessica: For some so suspicious of Sheidheda's motives, she was very quick to just go along with this plan he conveniently had at the ready. Everyone in Sanctum needs to step up their game. It's almost like we haven't spent seven seasons surviving hostile takeovers and cannibalism and two apocalypses. Still, Sheidheda and Murphy head into the lion's den, telling Nikki that Raven's on her way — she most definitely is not — and buying time for Indra and WonKru to navigate the tunnel system under the banquet hall. Of course, the buying time bit means both he and Emori must come clean about their Godly identity-theft scheme and Russell does the same. The Prime groupies do not take this news well.
Alyssa: Yeah… these groupies may not have been the brightest bunch to begin with, but finding out that your gods are dead would probably ruin anyone's grip on reality. Now that the Primes and their fake proxies are exposed and gone, these sheep are without a shepherd (quite a theme of this season). Indra seemingly gets control of the crowd and removes Nikki, Nelson, and the other instigators, but she leaves the remaining faithful to a terrible fate: alone, locked in the throne room with Sheidheda. I am curious if things are going to turn sour for Emori and Murphy, though. She is fine with Indra's decision to abandon these people, but Murphy feels that pang of guilt. They've been sowing these seeds all season about their differences in opinion, so I am curious if there is going to be any payoff. With the end of the world happening again on a grand scale, I want to see more of these smaller relationship moments to balance things out.
Jessica: I've always felt Murphy was the more compassionate of the two. Emori certainly cares when she sees someone suffering in a similar way she once did — the whole reuniting Nelson with his parents bit was very cathartic for her — but Murphy was raised on the ark. He had to rely on others to survive on the ground when the group was first sent there. Despite how much he bristles at playing the hero, that sacrificial part of his nature was there from the start. He's just tapping into it more in this final season. Unfortunately, he's a little too late in helping the people stuck in that room with Sheidheda. I know Indra hoped they'd be the ones to dispose of her Russell problem but it was just a stupid move all-around to not pull the trigger herself. He didn't have followers to martyr themselves for him after the truth came out, and WonKru still didn't know he was actually Sheidheda just masquerading as Russell. It would've been the cleanest solution. But then, we wouldn't have had the drama of watching the guy massacre a group of people with a candelabra and how terrible would that have been? (That's sarcasm, Alyssa. I couldn't care less about this Sheidheda plot right now.)
Penance & Plots
Alyssa: Yeah, Sanctum lost me a while ago too. Things on Bardo are also brutal, but at least the bloodshed is simulated. Hope gets ahold of the flamethrower that Levitt showed them during training, and she recruits Echo to go and torch the oxygen farm, effectively damning all of Bardo to death. Echo follows her but tries to talk her out of it. Hope will not be swayed, despite Echo's pleas. Echo, ever the pragmatist, stabs her in the leg in an attempt to save her from herself. When that doesn't work, she knifes Hope in the throat, killing her. I will admit that I forgot about their final test and audibly gasped at this moment. But, SIKE, it's all a part of the simulation and Echo passed.
Jessica: Are we really surprised? She's always been a good soldier. Octavia and Diyoza perform similarly in the same simulation but Hope, once she finds out her "mother" has already insured Octavia and Echo's safety, actually encourages her to burn it all down in the sim which means she failed and she's not getting a face tattoo. So sad. Instead, Anders leaves it up to his best student, Echo, to decide Hope's fate and she chooses to sentence her to another five years on Penance. Is it just me or was that unnecessarily harsh? Is Echo playing the game still or has she gone full-blown Manson girl?
Alyssa: OK, so I know that we're playing around with time again with these flashbacks, but Hope was with Echo, Diyoza, and Octavia when Clarke showed up, right? I thought she was suited up with the rest of them in that moment, but I could be mistaken. I really think that Echo is playing the long game here, perhaps seeing the opportunity to spare Hope from the life of a soldier. Penance alone would be awful, but she's survived there before. She can do it again. Right? Or is Echo hopelessly lost to the dark side?
Jessica: No, I think it was just Echo, Octavia, and Diyoza with Clarke. Perhaps Hope hasn't been sent off yet? We didn't actually see her go through the Stone. And maybe Echo chose to send Hope to Penance because she knew she'd be safe there and this has all been some kind fo ruse — I mean, Hope felt like a liability at best. But still, you never know with Echo, which makes her a fascinating character to watch but a really difficult one to root for.
Alyssa: Yeah, it's a good thing she's interesting because they certainly have decided to focus on her this season. We've seen more of Echo than we have of Clarke, and she is the show's lead. Like I said earlier, Bardo is working for me more than Sanctum is at the moment, but I still can't help but feel continuously let down by this season. If you were going to introduce an alien genocide and war that only Clarke can stop (if she was ever onscreen), the time was not the final season. It just wasn't.
Jessica: It certainly wasn't as part of a B-plot while you devote hours to third-tier level character development. All of this Bardo stuff would've worked much better if that had been the main focus, but we're constantly jumping back to Sanctum and, sometimes, back to events that happened before this show got started, and that kind of whiplash is doing nothing to get me invested in any of the drama — no matter how juicy or deadly. This show works when its core cast is working together to prevent some terrible thing from happening. If The 100 wants to save itself, it needs to tap into that vibe again. It needs Clarke Griffin and Bellamy Blake.