The 100, Season 03, Episode 03, Ye Who Enter Here
This episode opens a week after last episode, practically in real time. And then everything escalates quickly.
At the beginning of the episode, I guessed Bellamy’s girlfriend would be dead within three episodes. I overestimated. All four major arcs here (Clarke/Lexa, Bellamy/Octavia/Echo/Pike, the summit including Abby and Marcus, and the newly established Arkers in the Mountain), move along at a rapid clip, intersecting at various crucial points.
Where something like The Expanse takes three episodes setting up one clash (and for a certain kind of television that’s great and all, and I do recommend The Expanse), this episode is all plot and intrigue and action, with several clashes, promises, interpersonal development, and double-crosses. It’s dense both in actual plot movement and setup for the future. Thank heavens we weren’t cutting away to Jaha or other B-plots, because this episode was perfect in its self-sustainability and its building of tension.
It’s great to see two powerful women leaders arguing about genocide and what is best for their people. This is why sci-fi is not just unique, but important. Even when such things happen in the real world, they’re rare, and not highly visible. If it were a ‘modern day political drama’ with two women Presidents, for example, nobody would buy it. Or write it. Or approve it. We’d have people getting paid to write reviews decrying the ‘lack of realism.’ But in more highly stylized/fictionalized shows, you can model that behavior without much pushback, and modeling in fiction helps shape reality. #representationmatters.
Speaking of modern politics, we have commentary in abundance here. Setting aside Lexa and the 12-now-13 clans for a minute to focus on the Arkers; Abby and Marcus are attempting a democratic vote, and presumably this ‘election’ is where Pike puts himself in the mix. Something was needed to ensconce Pike’s distrust of grounders while giving him backing from a decent group of the Arkers. I was waiting for that shoe to drop, and Echo was the shoe. Pike will use the actions of a small radical group to get away with fearmongering, saying racist things, and promoting ‘making the Ark great again’.
The more I think about it the more Pike is the Trump character. “I say what you’re all thinking! Deport the Grounders before they rape your children! You can’t let Clarke lead you, she’s a child; and a female child at that!”
Or maybe he’s the Cruz character; less buffoonish, more terrifying. Either way, this political commentary mirroring specific election rhetoric and moves is definitely intentional: the Ice Nation claims their military crossing boundary lines and threatening other clans is quote “just military exercises,” which is the exact phrase another icy nation (ie Russia) recently used to shrug off its forays into other countries. Damn but this show knows what it’s doing, pulling on both historical and immediate political drama.
It pulls on plenty of other literature and film and TV, too. This whole episode is very Lord of the Rings. Between the One Giant Tower to Rule Them All, the singing, the costuming, the summit and its attendees’s clothing and face paint, the sweeping vistas, there’s a lot of comparison. There’s also a lot of greenscreen, which of course is more noticeable on a TV budget than on a Lord of the Rings budget (also factoring, I’m sure, is the Canadian landscape versus New Zealand).
This season is toying with transitions and moving-camera opens a lot more than before. The camera-following-the-moving-cart-then-kid-taking-fish-and-camera-following-moving-kid-to-Marcus is a nice open. When Clarke is attempting to figure out where her loyalties lie, her face is crossfaded onto Octavia’s face as Octavia is pondering the same thing.
The climax of the episode hinges on a different sort of juxtaposition and redirect. The whole time we see the assassin prepping, the show uses conventional shooting and editing to insinuate he is getting ready to barge into the summit to kill Lexa and/or the Arkers. Nothing is explicit, it simply relies on the tropes of “When you shoot these characters meeting in a stone room, and cut immediately to a closeup to another character in a stone room ceremonially readying himself with knives, it is understood that Assassin A is about to interrupt Important Event A.”
Now, it does telegraph the twist with Echo acting all super-sketch, and the way the Mountain Arkers are stressing over their subplot, and other signposts of Treachery and Double Cross. Though it’s a nice move, it’s easy to suss out Bellamy is being manipulated into an act of aggression against the summit. The real twist is how it completely subverts presuppositions about the ‘analog’ assassination and the backwardness of the Ice Nation. The assassin with ceremonial blood on his face doesn’t use the knives to slash anyone’s throat, he uses a high-tech bomb and code to ensure a war in case the manoeuvred aggression doesn’t work. The theoretically ‘caveman’ assassin was actually using technology, while the Ice Nation queen who may have been assumed barbaric is deploying complex war strategy. It may have been a little unnecessary to have Sinclair dialogue about “analog versus digital” methods a few scenes before, but it was still really, really nicely played.
This entire episode is about juxtaposition and duality: analog/digital, enemies/allies, Abby/Marcus, Lexa/Clarke, leading/bowing, strength/weakness, daytime/nighttime, dark/light, and of course, life/death (Octavia: you didn’t have to kill them. Bellamy: yes I did).
Check out the way this show has always visually contrasted Lexa and Clarke. Inherent in their relationship is all of the dualism above, which this episode parses both in their conversations and actions. Part of Lexa’s role as Commander involves training the children and her seconds; she obviously puts a lot of thought into both displays of strength and maintaining the future generations, and that informed her choices at the Mountain last season.
She also obviously feels responsibility toward Clarke. Last season, Lexa believed she was modeling the sort of leadership which was needed to survive this world; a different sort of leadership than Clarke was enacting (which you could argue was because of how the authoritarianism on the Ark killed Clarke’s father and affected her entire life). Lexa was working with this dynamic of multiple distinct tribes and factions and traditions, and thought her way of governance was the only way it would work. She tried to show Clarke how to eschew weakness, and unify through fear and strength.
In defense of that theory of governing, Lexa attempts to justify her prior actions. While doing so, Lexa realizes she actually succeeded at turning Clarke into a leader after her own model. Lexa walking away from Mount Weather pushed Clarke over the edge towards ruthlessness. As Roan notes, Clarke became intent on revenge and doing what is needed for her people ‘no matter what,’ and she’s lost some of what Lexa valued in her as a person. So now, Lexa must cede some things. Though she keeps some merciless aspects – defenestrating a man is hardly the least ruthless sort of leadership – Lexa is going to attempt to be closer to the type of leader Clarke was originally. This is demonstrated by her being advised to kill Clarke as a sign of strength, and her rejecting that to find another way.
The 100 is doing a great job letting characters grow and change, while avoiding easy binary and all-or-nothing solutions. There’s complexity and range to everything and (nearly) everyone. The show is essentially philosophy class with practical problems, and as the characters try to ‘solve’ the problems they – and we – realize morality and justice and situational necessity of horrific deeds can be complicated, and have to be grappled with for a long time. The characters are allowed space to sort it out and make grave mistakes while doing so, and as Lexa points out to Clarke: even if you’ve done what needed to, that doesn’t alleviate your psychic toll. It’s a price you pay for being a leader in impossible times.
There could not be more fucking symbolism / biblical reference / sexual metaphor in this Clarke & Lexa arc, including kneeling, pledging, merging their respective clans, and how much Bellamy’s barging in felt like someone stumbling through chapel doors interrupting a wedding. “I want your people to be my people” is so Ruth and Naomi, you expect it to be followed by “Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” I don’t think Clarke has at all forgiven Lexa for what happened at the Mountain yet, but I think she understands it a bit more. Now they’re working together they’ll have plenty of time to come around a bit more to each others’ views.
Last week I wondered if they would suggest 1. the Mountain really does exacerbate evil 2. eventually peoples’ fear, unchecked, will turned them into what the original Mountain gang became. One of the most explicit uses of a place as inherently evil is in The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel, built on sacred Indian burial grounds. There’s plenty of history in the US of sacred Native American sites being built over, and though I’m not quite clear where the Mountain is meant to be geographically, check out the establishing shot around 21:20, and compare it to the famous opening of The Shining. I’ve screencapped them here, but the camera movement and angle, as well as the proximity to water (not pictured here by the Overlook) really make it. I think the 100 establishing shot is short because of CGI and budget, but I also think the homage is intentional.
In short: this episode was fantastic, tightly paced and edited, with metaphors and character interactions coming at just the right places to break up the plot tension while building on everything that’s come before. It’s technically setup, but such great, effective setup with fleshed-out stories and characterisation. If only all shows set things up so well.
– “go float yourself.”
– Is it still defenestration if there’s no windowpane?
– I imagine the pre-pro conversation went something like: “OK, we’re not going to be able to show the body spattering. But we want to be dramatic. How about . . . a table! Yes. We’ll hide a dramatic death just like some shows hide baby bumps.”
– Speaking of production conversations, I think the writers used Clarke’s apology to Bellamy as a stand-in for their apology to the Bellarke fandom. “Sorry, kind of, but for right now, it’s Clarke and Lexa. (and also sorry for giving you a girlfriend just to give some weight to her death. But we gave her a heroic end and a cool countdown reflection on her eyeball.)”
– It makes no sense that only a few strategic strands of Clarke’s hair stayed red. But, fashion.
– Indra pulls Octavia aside to say ‘I hope you kept up her training,’ because Octavia finally belongs to the Grounders in every way: with her choices, and with Lincoln, and with the Sky people being the 13th clan.