The 100 Is Now Dead

The 100 just wrapped up its seven year run with its one hundredth episode! Who would’ve expected a network mash-up of The Hunger Games & Battlestar Galactica would’ve endured this long? I don’t normally cover this series, but I went to the trouble of making a tag for it last year. The end of a long-running series is a big deal, & I’m gonna write about it in abnormal detail to catch everyone up. If you’re not ready, go look at the Firefly custom I spent months making. (Diyoza & The Mountain King guest starred in Gotham season three!) Or you could just read Toni Maggio’s much more insightful & entertaining recaps. (Thanks to a pact with a witch, she made them lightning fast too! Her other photo recaps are delightful as well.) So go float yourself to the SPOILERS. (There may also be some slight spoilers for the end of Game of Thrones.) Does The 100 pass The Final Test to win The Last War?

The100

It’s fortuitous the series was able to finish filming before The CW shut down all its productions. They didn’t even get a farewell wrap party! Much like Gotham’s last season, The CW still insisted on stretching out its airing span with random breaks. The 100 is still not to be confused with the gang on Black Lightning.

Any overview about The 100 needs to start off with some discussion about the mutated gorilla in the room that is season three’s two big deaths. The CW means The Content Warning! Skip the next four paragraphs if you’ve already got your fill of that discourse & just want to read about season seven.

I understand why fans are upset that Lexa the badass lesbian warrior got killed. On the other hand, her tragic death made sense for the story. The Clexa power couple was too stable & influential to last since the series hinged upon political drama amidst disaster. Her death created a chaotic power vacuum that upped the stakes for successive seasons. Because Lexa was proven to be indomitable in battle, her being killed in an accident was was more believable than if she’d been bested in combat. The only way characters depart this show is through the morgue, so it’s not as if there was a less terminal way to write her out. Putting her in a coma they were never going to rouse her from would’ve been functionally the same.

Heda Lexa died because Alycia Debnam-Carey accepted the offer to star in Fear The Walking Dead between seasons. I very rarely see her shoulder any of the furor even though it was within her power to refuse the better job offer to continue being an inspiration to lesbians. (Maybe they could’ve recast?) While there is a disproportionately large amount of dead gay characters in fiction overall, this felt like an instance where it was appropriate within the context of this series since it’s been callously killing teens from the get-go.

The outcry over Lincoln’s death in season three should’ve been bigger. Debnam-Carey’s controversial departure appears to have been amicable & planned out, whereas Ricky Whittle’s most definitely wasn’t. Whittle alleges that showrunner Jason Rothenberg bullied him off the show by scrapping Lincoln’s storylines. Both Whittle & his character were treated terribly. Unlike Lexa, Lincoln did not get a triumphant posthumous sendoff scene in the City of Light.

The writers did listen to the season three outcry. The series eased off on major character deaths. (While losing half of the series’ explicit lesbians is dire, it’s even statistically worse for black men. Nate Miller is only named one left standing out of a larger pool.) Granted protagonists still died, but they did so in ways that were less grisly & without gunfire (until the final season). At times it seemed like it was a little too reticent to kill anyone during dire circumstances. It went from a show where nobody was safe to one which received a huge restock on plot armor. (While it avoided sexual violence for the most part, nobody talks about the time Ontari raped Murphy whilst she was Heda for a day.)

Okay, now onto season seven! Are Clarke, Octavia, Murphy, & Miller the last surviving of the original hundred? (Bellamy wasn’t supposed to be among the delinquents, while Raven & Jackson were latecomers to Earth.) Or are there a still a bunch out there that avoided both death & the main characters ever interacting with them? You’d think that a series named after them would’ve at least provide a full running list of the potential fatalities. Is dream boat Tim Bartlett still out there minding his own beeswax on Sanctum?

As much as I love Blodreina, season five showed that fighting over Earth had grown stale. I appreciate the last two seasons doing all the kooky sci-fi stuff it previously rationed out. The Flame was extrapolated into a whole Altered Carbon society run by false Gods. The show got its own unique Stargate art installations called Anomaly Stones. An unborn daughter debuts as an expository adult via time travel. Zealots kill squads with Predator invisibility & pop-out arm-knives are no match for our protagonists. Characters who’ve spent a decade on a time dilated prison planet don’t appear to have visibly aged as if they’re in an X-Men prequel. The Adventure Squad teleported from inside a giant space slug’s rectum! This show certainly knows how to reinvent itself each season to keep things fresh!

Unlike the meandering of the final seasons of Agents of SHIELD & Arrow, this felt like there was enough plot momentum to fill out a final season. It often felt like there was too much plot. (I’m both relieved & disappointed they wouldn’t be fighting the crystal giants of Steven Universe.) Shorter seasons used to be one of the show’s strengths, but this could’ve used more room to flesh things out. It still managed to throw in a backdoor pilot made of wild retcons, though I’m not interested in it or Green Arrow & The Canaries.

The final Big Bad is Bill Cadogan. As introduced by iPadicus, he’s the Second Dawn cult leader who built the bunker Wonkru was squatting in. Yeah, I didn’t remember him either. Turns out there was an Anomaly Stone in the bunker that teleported his cult to Bardo centuries ago, so that’s a good enough explanation why it was empty of even corpses. (Was this planned since season four?) I’ve been a fan of John Pyper Ferguson since The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., so it’s nice that they didn’t completely squander him on a cameo. He built a cult based on the needs of many outweighing the few whose members still worship him. Despite his Star Trek manifesto, Bill is obsessed with getting memories of his dead daughter (whom created the Grounder language before ALIE nuked the Earth?), unconvincingly claiming that they’re the key to winning humanity’s war to end all wars. This hypocrite is refreshingly not a moustache-twirler, though he definitely sucks for burning Becca Franko at the stake. Neal McDonough plays his top lackey, whose name doesn’t begin with D!

Did Clarke Griffin get character assassinated this season or was this the natural progression of her pulling so many morally gray levers? I prefer to see it as Clarke having a breakdown from just having been bodysnatched & her mom being killed. Each season she has to save everybody from catastrophe & she’s tired of it. So she’s now unilaterally making terrible choices for everyone instead of good ones. It’s less infuriating than what happened to Daenerys Targaryen because it’s not a betrayal of her lifelong goals. It is important to show that even the strongest people can crumble without turning them outright villainous. The problem is that they had to devote so much space to Bardo shenanigans that you don’t necessarily notice Clarke’s PTSD arc. Fans who were more invested on her being reliably suited to surmounting any obstacle, however, feel betrayed by this.

Her overwhelming need to protect Madi is crucial to this. Clarke’s stepdaughter, Madi, has the memories of her ex-lover, Lexa. (Does nobody else find that creepy or awkward?) The audience has only seen Clarke with Madi for the past three seasons, but she’d been raising her alone for an additional six years in the narrative. You have to infer that she’s grown more attached to her adopted daughter than her compatriots (whom she still sent daily podcasts during this period). I don’t actually need to see all those missing years to understand the bond the Eliza Taylor & Lola Flanery deftly convey, but maybe the balance of show & tell is still off.

Shiedheda’s conscious escaped The Flame to hijack Russell Lightbourne’s latest body & ruin everything on Sanctum. He sure does love having binocular vision! Oh, he ain’t pretty no more! Shiedrussell builds a throne of Primes’ skulls, which looks most impressive but is probably most uncomfortable. Indra really should’ve killed Shiedheda when she had the chance instead of expecting him to die ignominiously. If she watched television, she would’ve known that a mortal wound wouldn’t keep him from throwing a spite spanner in the works later.

Jordan, the son of the beloved Monty & Harper, has been largely irrelevant. His most notable contribution has been pointing out Bill’s translation error. No offense to the actor, but Indra, Emori, Jackson, Miller, Madi, Gaia, Diozya, & Niylah deserved to have their real names in the opening credits much more. Meanwhile Hope (please stop naming babies this in sci-fi) is a later addition who manages to click. The episodes with her interacting with assorted characters on Penance were among the best. Dr. Gabriel Santiago is also more fascinating & plot relevant. Jordan’s nascent romance with Hope is cute, although perhaps the series could’ve used another lesbian more.

Rothenberg promised the final season would show that there was more to the struggle for survival than nihilism. As much as I enjoy media that doesn’t get moralistic (One of my big problems with how GOT ended, aside from throwing Daenerys under the bus, is that it gave gave the “good guys” happy endings that didn’t feel tonally in step.), I would’ve liked to see more of humanity rebuilding. Each outpost free from war turns out to be maintaining its peace through oppression. Every time civilization is on the mend, something upends it. Then it’s chaotic business as usual until the finale. Rothenberg must have a different definition of optimism.

Bob Morley didn’t want to be in that much of the final season despite being its male lead, but the way they handled this was extremely awkward. He gets kidnapped by Bill’s flock in the season premiere. A few episodes later, we see that he accidentally got blown up upon arriving at Bardo. Of course nobody in the audience believed he’d get such a dumb death, which undercut Echo’s long con genocide revenge scheme. (Echo’s & Bellamy’s relationship never felt developed either.) Bellamy & another dude actually got teleported to a Misty Mountains planet where he had a religious epiphany. All of his supposed friends & lovers turn on him when he returned to join Bill’s cult even though he wasn’t behaving villainous. To Clarke’s chagrin, he was going to give Madi’s sketchbook containing images from lives of earlier Commanders to Bill. Because Clarke doesn’t know how to shoot to wound, she shot him through the heart. Bellamy spent last season getting Clarke’s body un-hijacked, whereas she didn’t even try to deprogram him. Bill gets the sketchbook anyway. Bellamy’s actual death was dumb! (Everything preceding this in “Blood Giant” was fantastic, but everyone focuses on the lousy ending.)

Bellamy’s conversion could’ve worked well to show the Bardoans aren’t complete nutters. Through him we see there is something genuine about Transcendence, of which Cadogan somehow got a fairly good understanding. Bill’s teachings of abnegation aren’t wrong but his militarization is. Echo, Hope, & Clarke kinda prove Bill’s point about the evils of attachment. Instead of using Bellamy to unite the disparate factions, his friends call him a loony for wearing white after Labor Day (which was somehow still a thing on The Ark), & he’s arbitrarily killed soon thereafter. It just reeks of missed opportunity. It merely allows Bellarke shippers to grok what Clexa shippers felt. (Just like Wells Jaha, Bellamy’s love being unrequited didn’t spare his life. Niylah survives to be the exception to “all of Clark’s love interests die horribly” rule.)

There were at least two better ways to handle this. The first would be to have Bill’s disciples really kill Bellamy early. Then the moral could be that it’s wrong to genocide a whole planet even if some of them actually killed your buddy. (Maybe Jordan could’ve taken his convert role?) The other is to not have a fake-out death & show Bellamy’s spiritual journey much earlier. This way if it still is necessary for the plot for Clarke to shoot him, it can happen sooner & we’d have more time to devote to everyone’s reactions. This tragedy feels perfunctory because there wasn’t more time left to mourn him. Whether the bullet killed him could be left ambiguous to so this murder could be walked back in the finale.

It’s fascinating to see how how polarized the show’s fandom have become. As the series progressed, viewers became more attached to characters & deeply resented the writers for putting them through the wringer. It was as if their expectations shifted to the series becoming a more standard tale of heroes triumphing while the series remained focused on Pyhrric victories amidst extreme adversity. A reverse death of the author theory, wherein showrunner Jason Rothenberg has become a character within the series itself whom audiences can hold as the villain, has been posited.

Octavia & Echo, the two who loved Bellamy the most, instantly embrace Clarke when she confesses to his murder. Either they were written out of character or already drained their wells of murderous vengeance. With all the named protagonists in the bunker, Clarke also decides to sabotage efforts to locate its Anomaly Stone. Not only is she done with trying to save the Sanctumites, she also forgot the cloaked Bardoans can still teleport to them. Other characters, particularly Madi, still aren’t cool with Clarke’s suddenly poor decisions.

There’s lot’s of wasted effort. Echo tries to annihilate the Bardoans for a murder they didn’t commit. When Hope tries to complete her plan, she only succeeds in her mom sacrificing herself to save everyone else. Emori’s great strides in suturing Sanctum’s society together are screwed over by Sheidheda. Clarke kills Bellamy to keep Madi’s sketchbook from Bill, but he gets it anyway. It turns out Monty didn’t have to take everyone to Sanctum since the Earth is eventually habitable again. I actually don’t mind the futility since fate wrecking seemingly sensible plans is a series hallmark. Viewers expecting more positive forward momentum, however, are frustrated.

Clarke & Bellamy, its metaphorical head & heart, weren’t well served by this final year. (I’ve heard their was likewise some unsavory drama with the real life married couple regarding his ex-girlfriend that recently surfaced, but 2020 is already stressful enough without me investigating the details.) Meanwhile there’s some great beats for assorted supporting characters. It definitely became an ensemble series by the end. Can you believe it took us this long to finally get a quality Mackson scene? Echo & Niylah got bonus backstory. Octavia & Diyoza went from bitter enemies to co-parenting in domestic peace. In addition to getting more opportunities to shine as a leader, Indra reconnected with her biological & surrogate daughters. Raven wrestles with guilt over knowingly sending someone to die to repair a reactor that endangered everyone. Hope & Echo get rad haircuts! Emori used her glamorous position pretending to be a Prime pretending to be a Goddess to try to heal schismed families. Dioyza’s Interpol escape montage is the best cold open!

Beautiful cinamon roll Levitt abandons everything he was raised in once he watches Octavia’s memories & becomes smitten. This is understandable! Getting his lights punched out so she can escape is his kink.

 Murphy, Raven, & Jackson hammering through the floor to save Emori is the good stuff. I just have a fondness for sledgehammers. (It’s gonna be a bummer when Luisa D’Oliveira & her scene partners get snubbed at the next Emmy’s.) Emori & Raven give each other loving pep talks once they find her impaled by rebar. Them being unable to save her over two episodes was brutal, especially as Memori was the longest running romance. Murphy insists on having Emori’s mind-drive inserted into him so he see her again even though it’ll kill him. Their final Mindspace dance (as Miller & Jackson dance in Meatspace) was bittersweet. The Beautiful Creepster & the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle are couples goals.

In order to speedily suck the hidden Anomaly Test Code out of Madi’s subconscious Flame memories, Bill ruthlessly inflicts total paralysis upon her. (Why does Shiedrussell not possess the memories too? Or did Bill just forget to check?) The potential Madi euthanasia scene escalated quickly. Not only did Clarke not get her daughter’s consent (This is why living wills are vital!), she didn’t even consider that the advanced medical technology could ameliorate Madi’s condition? She learned nothing of jumping to rash decisions.

“The Last War” is Rothenberg’s directorial debut, & he does a solid job juggling everything he foisted upon himself as its writer. Before Bill can finish being tested on a lovely space-pier, Clarke unloads a full clip into him with a badass one-liner. (She had to improvise since there isn’t a literal lever to pull). The test continues with Clarke’s Anomaly Judge taking on Lexa’s form. (Debnem-Carey’s appearance in the SDCC video essentially confirmed she’d be returning.) Transcendence is a cosmic  version of ALIE’s City of Light where worthy species are assimilated without relinquishing their free will. Clarke rails against The Judge for dooming species to extinction for not measuring up to its unknown standards. This is a salient point! It counters that interrupting a test with murder unfortunately disqualifies humanity from Transcendence so they have to be be crystallized. WHOOPSIE!

It’s up to Raven & Octavia to rescue Homo sapiens from the jaws of extinction! (Bill definitely would’ve gotten humanity flunked, so Clarke helped set it up for them. I just appreciate that it was a team effort rather than the de facto heroine single-handedly winning.) Raven implores The Judge to give humanity more time to prove their worth as Shiedhedda tries to foment war between the stalemated armies. (Jordan had deactivated the Bardoans’ advanced tech with an EMP so both sides are evenly matched.) Indra vaporizing Shiedheda with a sonic cannon was immensely satisfying! Octavia throws down her sword betwixt the armies & gives a Wonkru meets War Games speech. Peace is reached although Levitt & Echo are mortally wounded. (Clarke’s, Raven’s, & Octavia’s lovers all have a habit of dying.) This convinces The Judge to let everyone’s consciousness transcend as their bodies either become glowing inflatable tube people or the catnip from Cats. Everyone acts the Hell out of this goofy resolution for maximum cognitive dissonance.

The Anomaly Judge transcending everyone is literally a deus ex machina. I didn’t dislike it per se, but it would’ve felt more organic had it been seeded in years earlier. It might’ve felt less abrupt if Raven (her dramatic hair-bouncy close-up walk juxtaposed with Bill’s foreshadowed her as the real savior) convinced The Judge to let humanity retake the test later. Then we could finally see the factions actually uniting. There’s no proof that humans would form a stable society that wasn’t rooted in tyranny. Some fans are going to think Transcendence is a sappy cop-out while others will see it as a reward for everyone being constantly tortured.

Clarke is not allowed to transcend on account of the mid-test murder. This sin-eater travels between planets with Picasso, whom didn’t transcend because dogs haven’t been tested yet. They’re not alone for long as some of her pals de-transcend to keep them company. They chose to return & support her because they’re not selfish. They apparently need not worry about repopulating Earth since their new bodies are sterile. Cadogan was wrong about the dead not transcending because Emori does despite being just a mind-drive by then. (If mind-drives are a loop-hole, Gabe & any undamaged mind-drives should’ve transcended too.) Bellamy doesn’t reappear for the U2-scored beach reunion epilogue though. (There must’ve been some really bad blood behind the scenes!) I would’ve liked to have seen Monty, Harper, & many more dead from seasons past appear too. This bit is sort of like the finale of Lost with Clarke as Ben Linus except I didn’t hate it.

While it’s going to be divisive, “The Last War” was a still a somewhat better finale that than the infuriating conclusions to BSG, GOT, & Lost. (Ask me it the future if I still think this.) It’s not exactly a great one though. Not only was this not the ending from the books I haven’t read yet, it’s not one that anyone would’ve expected based on the first season. Much like the disappointing endings of those other series, the story became too large to effectively wrap up. Its big message about humanity doing better wasn’t effectively executed. So maybe it is just as bad? So far I remain nonplussed by ambivalence, but I want to be optimistic.

The series excelled at not keeping characters stagnant. Its approach to redemption arcs was uniquely pragmatic, given there’s no objective way to measure amends. Richard Harmon had one of the most dynamic arcs on the show as John Murphy, eclipsed only by Marie Avgeropoulos as Octavia Blake. It was a bold move to make its lead, Clarke, miss out on the conclusory moral. Anti-heroes are popular now but not so much tragic heroes. While she arguably became a villain, her compatriots picked up the slack based on the example she set in prior seasons when she was a positive role model. Even though she failed in the end, her allies didn’t discard her. Saving the day was no longer her responsibility to bear alone like a martyr.  They paid her back for all the times she’d saved them. Ending the series so unconventionally embodies the series’ Humanism more than its sketchy literal metaphor.

The 100 really is a problematic fave. It’s easy to point out where it blundered, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend it for its consistently high quality across seven seasons. The series quickly diverged from Kass Morgan’s novels yet avoided growing exponentially more disappointing like when Game of Thrones did likewise. There is so much good stuff (even in just this season, like Lindsey Morgan’s fantastic directorial debut) that it counteracts the bad in the series overall. While some may say it jumped the shark, kudos to The 100 for at least doing so with reckless abandon! 

 Yu gonplei ste odon, The 100. Mebi oso na hit choda op nodotaim.

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