The 100: Season 03, Episode 01, Wanheda Part 1
Starting the episode off exactly where it left of in S2, and with Murphy – whose story was mostly ancillary the last couple seasons and whose ending was not really crucial to any plots so far – felt like quite the bold move.
Murphy putting the gun to his chin immediately followed by something life-saving is unnecessary. It feels like they’re trying to lean a bit on the shock value of a teenager contemplating suicide, slash the object lesson about not committing suicide, and it might work better if the show didn’t already use that sort of last-second-reprieve far too much. If we later find out that A.L.I.E was actually experimenting on Murphy to see how to break humans down [maybe the same way s/he did with the kid in the video], in other words if there was external purpose to the situation, I may amend my annoyance, but I will not amend how very much that whole bunker is reminiscent of LOST. They need to keep Kane (IE Henry Ian Cusack) far, far away from that set.
Right after the opening credits is a lot of wish fulfilment in one scene, with sweaty shirtless Bellamy throwing himself at sweaty shirtless Lincoln. Aside from my utter lack of complaint, this is doing double duty as much as the opening scene. The first scene is a combination of Murphy going mad, and a way to clearly skim over three months and tell us where we are in relation to the timeline without a bottom third delineating THREE MONTHS LATER. The second scene is wish fulfilment plus a compressed explanation of events as Bellamy and Lincoln exchange terse sentences (both of their preferred method of communication) about the uneasy peace and current role of the Guards.
Following scenes give us an idea where our favourite characters are now, while also giving mini-rundowns on the interpersonal and global situations. Jaha uses first-person plural to refer to himself and A.L.I.E., which if both telling and terrifying. The Arkadians are mostly building up a society behind the wall, but also making some ventures out. There’s a tentative peace established. Raven’s leg is not magically better. The writers make all the scenes do double duty, which is typical for a dramatic premiere – especially with a time jump – but nicely executed here.
By necessity, The 100 establishes a few large sets every season, such as the Ark, the first primitive Hundred compound, the Mountain, etc. So far we’ve seen and seemingly abandoned two sets from last season (the Hatch and the Great Hall, as I now dub them) and started off with one primary set (the Arkadian compound). I’m guessing we’ll get at least two primary Grounder sets: the Tree People and the Ice Nation. We may also see another Jaha/A.L.I.E compound established, perhaps after he duplicates his Long Journey Over the Desert with a boat journey, which will be more visually interesting (and more difficult to shoot, by nature).
When they’re all established along with their visual trademarks and filter colours, it will be easy to break the action down to those four or five primary sets, and then the rest a lot of action takes place in them, in the woods, in a couple open spaces (which are harder to ‘re-set’ – check out all the prior tracks for the jeep showing how many takes it took for that final riding-off scene), and a few smaller sets such as the butcher’s shop.
The diegetic pop music played while Bellamy et al go out in their Jeep-esque vehicle is effectively evocative of soldiers bonding and blasting music while riding tanks around. It’s also, so far as music goes, a much better (subjectively) and less 00s teenager (objectively) choice than the majority of the non-instrumental music used in the series so far. As a third point, however, the way they introduce the music immediately worried me. The way they play it via in-scene headphones and speakers, then moving over to full high-quality soundtrack as the camera went wide on the scene, felt like sure setup for this season to use more and more pop music to underscore scenes, and much of that usage so far in the seasons prior have been . . . less good. This suspicion was confirmed just a few scenes later when kid steps up to the piano (very reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica) and starts singing, and that song carries over to scenes happening elsewhere.
Jasper was involved in both music scenes, and his arc this season remains a bit up in the air. I see a few directions it could go. Legitimate exploration of PTSD? An attempt to become the sort of leader he thinks people need when they’re threatened by an authoritarian leader-soldier as seen in the trailer? Or just a lot of Man Pain? The dumbass move and gleeful embrace of throat-slicing hints more towards ‘manpain,’ but the scene near the end showing all the reminders of his traumatic time in the Mountain and Maya’s gruesome death helps us be a little more understanding. Taking items such as a piano and tables from Mount Weather is necessary for physical and mental survival of the group, but it’s also psychologically wearing. There are bound to be more choices like that this season, and their ramifications, like Raven’s leg, aren’t magically cured, and the show is better for it, so long as it doesn’t veer into melodrama. Whatever the case, Jasper is in a tailspin. Monty is bearing the brunt of the pain, and is soon going to be Jasper’s only sympathetic ear.
Speaking of going slightly off their rockers: Clarke. In between becoming one of Death’s main nemeses, killing panthers, and surviving alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, she apparently took hours if not days of time out of her busy schedule to collect berries and die her hair the only natural colour that could make it stand out more than blonde. Whatever her reasons, this bounty hunter guy (also in Black Sails; I’m guessing typecast off his own hair) couldn’t have well missed her. We all knew he wasn’t going to have simply left, though I rather assumed he’d break in on the sex scene. His waiting outside gives us more lady-loving, and for that we thank him. Looks like next week Clarke will get a rough re-introduction to her old Ark people.
In addition to spooling out what are going to be some of the major themes and story arcs this season, we got a little furtherance in character development. This show does pretty well keeping said development up with most of their massive cast.
Octavia and Lincoln are at odds philosophically, though it does make sense considering how both have always felt so isolated from their respective people. Lincoln speaks more words than he has in the entire two preceding seasons to convince Octavia that the new society is worth assimilating into, but when she can’t be convinced, he still chooses to stay with her.
Murphy still distrusts Jaha, and with plenty of reason, but after his stint in the hatch, Murphy is looking for any excuse not to be left alone again. When given the choice between Jaha and striking out alone on a rowboat, he plays tough, but then plays the “Oh wait. You somehow made an alliance with the murderous chick who betrayed us in the desert / pointed me north? Now we’re cool. Because, I want to hit that.” card.
I miss Wick, Raven’s man-candy. I’m guessing the actor got something else, and thus was written off the show (in just one line, too), but that still doesn’t make me happy about it. And, while Kane and Abby are all “we’re like the only sane over-40s main characters left, let’s merge naughty bits,” . . . well, between Abby helping Raven off the horse, and Raven telling Abby “shut up and drink,” the Rabby (or as Google tells me, “Dr. Mechanic”) shippers are gonna have a field day.
Sector 8 / the Ice Nation still has a queen, presumably the same one who tortured and killed Lexa’s old girlfriend. The plot, it thickens, and it gives us more complex female characters, which we can always use. Even before meeting her, we get the impression this queen is ruthless and will do pretty terrible things not to save her people but to consolidate power; she tortured a woman to death just to get information on a rival, and now she’s after murdering Clarke just to absorb her powers.
In all, the episode had massive amounts of ground to cover, and manages to touch on everyone we know (except Lexa; surely an intentional tease) and a couple new characters, while giving us a little sex, violence, music, shirtless grappling, arc establishment, the dim blue of the Ark, the washed-out white of the desert, the deep green of the forest – basically, a little of everything. Not much more one can ask for in a season premiere of such a dense show.
– Jaha carrying Murphy: such mystical leader. so guru. much terrify. Also, who is that creeper who just . . . randomly appears with Jaha in the darkness? Where did he come from?
– I mentioned they don’t go the easy route of hand-waving Raven’s bum leg away. Thank heavens, because in a show which is great about representing women characters, pretty great about queer characters (Bellamy mentions Miller’s boyfriend, who I hope to meet soon), and better than most about minority characters, it’s nice to have a main character with a disability as well.
– If you’re going to pick a sport for random extras kids to be playing, soccer makes the most sense. All you need is a ball and a line in the sand.
Predictions . . . and a couple far-out theories
The fact the butcher referred to “you always come when my father is gone” rather than, like “you always come after hours when my other customers are gone” means that 100% chance daddy comes into play this season.
Lexa will have a bounty out on Clarke, but a ‘capture don’t kill’ thing, to save Clarke from all the other bounties. Whether because she still has feelings, or because she feels guilty, or both.
Jackson says to Abby, “we have 12 people waiting, including four contraceptive implant removals.”
This can’t be a throwaway; now they don’t have to artificially keep their numbers down, people are going to attempt to repopulate the earth. I think a select few will try to force the issue, and we will probably get echoes of baby farms, raising an army, manifest destiny, etc.
Relatedly-ish, more and more Sky People are sleeping with Grounders. Is there going to be a faction who pushes for ‘purity’? It may not be this season, but I think it has to come up at some point.
“No pain, no hate, no envy” if Murphy takes what Jaha offers? Sounds like industrial-grade MDMA, or some sort of superdrug. Now, when Jaha is meditating, can we assume he has taken said pill? Is he imagining himself in a different, better world? What would be the point of that? Is A.L.I.E. hoping that if s/he can take all the humans and put them in some sort of stasis (think The Matrix, only possibly without the ‘feeding on’ element and more like the idea that they take fewer resources), s/he can ‘save the earth’ without outright killing humans this time? That would be more benevolent on its face than the Matrix feeding off humans, but it brings up more issues around ethics.
Every season has examined, specifically, leadership and ethics and choices from different angles, and I think we’re about to get the angle involving AI making those calls. It seems this or a related AI already made a call about sacrificing humans to save the world at some point; how may that decision reflect other choices made on the Ark or by the Mountain Presidents or by Lexa in relation to killing some to save others? See also: The Ice Queen’s decisions. At what point does trying to save and/or better the lives of your people excuse or explain disadvantaging, torturing, killing, displacing others? Or are those things carried to their logical conclusions always explicable, or always inexcusable? This show may be a ‘teen drama’, but it’s obviously quite willing to wrestle with these questions, in far more visceral – and let’s face it, way prettier with its shirt off – than college philosophy classes.