The 100: Season 03, Episode 04, Watch the Thrones

So, exactly how many of our fictional TV rulers do we want to be women? To quote the Notorious RBG: ALL OF THEM.

This episode has women doing most of the deciding, fighting, conniving, leading, talking, and general badassing. We kick off at the coalition, where Clarke looks over her head, but Nia is all treason and overconfidence. Lexa coolly states “Let her make her move . . . Issue your challenge and get on with it.” She’s seen this coming. Roan, on the other hand, looks surprised and less than thrilled about the fact he’s being volunteered to fight, and Lexa throws mad shade over it: “I fight my own battle” implies Nia won’t, and therefore wouldn’t make a good Commander.

Clarke then tries to Fix Everything, a stereotypical male role, because The 100 doesn’t give a damn about your cliches’ usual gender proscriptions. Though we know Clarke is going to attempt something, we’re not sure what; when she thrusts the knife back into the table, it seems she’s missed her opportunity. The music in the antechamber scene helps heighten the tension, as Untari plays more like a taste-tester in the background than a ninja-bodyguard until she springs into action. Then there are murderous glances and cool threats and nightblood, and it’s fantastic.

This would generally be a scene with three men, or at the most two men and one woman (it’d be Nia), but here it’s all women. I made this point last episode, but I can’t make it enough: seeing women in every role possible is huge. Plus, by the virtue of The 100 being futuristic, it doesn’t have to do the lampshading bit where characters exposit about women doing all the things. It simply acts as though that’s the way the world should be, and carries on.

the 100 3.04 Lexa

The fight scene with Lexa and Roan acknowledges Lexa is smaller, but makes up for it by having her be quicker and utilizing techniques relying on size and speed, just like any fight should.

This fight is great and all, [many kudos to ADC for doing her own stunts], but has far too many cuts and angles. Sometimes the angle change and slo-mo works, but using it the whole fight ends up making it more choppy than anything, especially since the camera is also moving for some of the 2-second clips. I’m not sure if they’re going for a style they don’t quite nail, or it if it’s to cover some TV-budget choreography, or if it’s an attempt to up the intensity, but it’s wildly distracting. It’s a good move to end on the biggest ‘ohshit’ moment of the whole episode, though: Lexa hurling a spear through the evil queen who killed her girlfriend.

Clarke is really, really turned on by the way Lexa wields a spear, and also basically everything else about Lexa. She doesn’t make a move when Lexa comes to see her, but she’s definitely thinking about it. While obviously I’m always in favor of more attractive-people-sex on my TV screen, the slow burn is best. Clarke is still wrapping her head around Lexa’s decisions. She’s still coming to terms with the style of Lexa’s leadership, and the way Lexa holds death as a central a part of her life. Not for nothing does this scene feature physical wounds which are going to take quite a lot of time to heal; Clarke may have All The Feels, but she needs time to finish coming to grips with her forgiveness of Lexa and acceptance of Lexa’s ways. Meanwhile, Lexa is being wonderfully respectful of that. Now there’s not threat of imminent death, they can take that time. (Though it would have been totes believable, when death was imminent, to have one of those KISS ME NOW BEFORE I FIGHT! scenes.)

In the midst of literal, physical healing, they both process recent events. Lexa shows she understands many of her coalition were doing what they thought was right. The phrase “what’s right for my people” is pointedly used four times in this episode, sometimes for political gain and sometimes in earnest. Some use it as a power play (Nia). Some use it to exclude others and be racist (Pike). Some are lashing out in pain (Jasper, Anna). Some are honestly unsure what’s best, and are attempting to navigate what’s right (Abby, some in the coalition). Lexa can differentiate the types, and she understands sometimes wrong actions have good motivations, and she has sympathy for that.

Part of the point here is contrasting Lexa (seen by most Arkers* as a backwards barbarian), with Pike (seen by most Arkers* as enlightened and futuristic). The ‘enlightened’ guy is going to murder 300 people even when it means endangering his people by starting a war he can’t hope to win. The ‘savage’ is the one with high morals, a codified law system, and more, alongside a belief in spirits.

The Grounders’ ethical framework is the signpost of a civilization, more than an ability to produce agriculture. Underscoring this heavily is Lexa teaching these ethics to the next generation. (It’s also a bit of foreshadowing, along with Clarke voicing trepidation at a child commander, and the camera showing Aden as Lexa triumphs. But that’s another story.)

the 100 3.04 aden

Pike refuses to treat the Grounders as civilized, equals, or even fully human. He refuses to acknowledge the Grounders can ‘govern themselves,’ even though the Arkers have done just that. His words and actions show he thinks of the Grounders as ‘less than.’ Anna, Monte’s mom, murmurs “so much for one good grounder,” a pointedly racist statement. Pike’s is a very imperialistic, manifest destiny attitude. Plus, the Arker compound screams ‘futuristic pilgrim.’ We couldn’t be getting a stronger image of history not-being-learned-from-thus-repeating itself: this is the second colonization of America.

The thing with the forced colonization of America and the extermination of many Native peoples is, it took time. Whereas here, Pike goes from ranting soldier to chancellor immediately. It beggars belief that:

Kane and Abby hadn’t even mentioned the whole “oh we’re a 13th clan now and this brand represents that” OR “oh there’s going to be a peacekeeping force coming,” both of which come back to bite them

a whole group chanted in unison with minimal prompting (have you ever tried to start a chant at a soccer game, outside the supporter’s section?)

without putting forth any plan or speech, with 12 key votes imprisoned and only about 15 from farm station out voting, Pike took the election from incumbent leaders

this all happens within about 10 hours.

Plus, the writers throw away a huge potentially dramatic side story. They could have wrung a whole episode B-plot out of the election. Last week I was impressed by how quickly the plots fell into place and were carried out, but those were converging stories on a tight timeline, a race against various clocks. This episode doesn’t have to rush, but still stages not one but two political coups. We understand the coalition leaders have been talking amongst themselves and pondering for a long time (and to boot, none of them are meant to be major players for the rest of the season). With Pike, there’s no tension earned through buildup, there’s no time to really see him work other than cozying up to Bellamy and holding a memorial. He basically strolls up, says some racist things, and is handed the keys to genocide, literally overnight. It’s so quick it’s absurd.

Speaking of overnight changes: Oh, Bellamy.

Unless it comes about in the next few episodes that Bellamy is actually playing the inside man in Pike’s group – and it would be a hard sell – his actions here are inexcusable. It’s a pretty poor inside man who is as wildly successful as Bellamy is here, but you could read his asking the guards to trust him, and telling Kane he’s chosen ‘the right side,’ as code that he’s working another angle. If not, he’s merely relapsing for the sake of plot expediency.

Look, when they landed, Bellamy was a ruthless jerk: asserting himself, hurting and threatening the lives of everyone just to cover up a few things he’d done on the ark. You could argue this regression shows just how fragile his progress has been, and narratively, it would explain why Octavia would break ties without necessitating his killing Lincoln (which I theorized about here), but the speed at which it happens doesn’t fit. Do people regress on lessons they’ve learned and backtrack on their real-life character development? Of course. But Bellamy unlearns practically everything which took him two seasons in two weeks. [ETA: the more I think about it, the more I agree with this post about Bellamy’s actions. I still think the show itself needed to do a much, much better job of delineating this, instead of leaning on the Gina angle.]

Not to mention, in this very episode, Bellamy is wracked with doubt and guilt over having made a colossal error in judgement when attempting to decide ‘what was best’ for the Arkers . . . then mere hours later, he’s soooooo fucking sure he knows what’s right he tells Lincoln “I have ALWAYS done what is best for us” and shows he’s willing to slaughter hundreds of people, (including Indra, someone who has stuck up for him before)? No. Uh-uh. Don’t buy it.

Adding insult to injury, we as an audience can’t accept Bellamy’s motivation for unlearning. It’s hard for us to see past the writers’ attempts to leverage Gina’s death as a plot machination because it’s, well, nothing but a plot machination. It’s both blatantly obvious and one-dimensional. Finn was a character who had a purpose besides being killed, thus his death (and Clarke’s reaction, and Jasper’s stealing his ashes as his own memorial, etc) carry narrative weight. Gina’s narrative weight is mostly the – admittedly very cool – countdown clock reflection in her eyeball before she was blown to bits. She was the character we knew the most in the whole mountain, and she’d had all of three lines. We understand how the murder of loved ones and ‘my people’ can create extremism, but there’s no actual emotional connection for us to hang onto. Her purpose was to be fridged.

Now poor Gina has turned into a martyr for a cause. Pike definitely led the memorial as a political ploy. Leveraging deaths by terrorism in order to win an election and start a war is a familiar recent real-world theme.

Just like last week, there’s not only heavy political allegory, but references to biblical stories. When Nia growled “I want her head” to her son, I couldn’t help seeing the whole arc as a queering and gender-bending of the Salome / Herodias / Herod / John the Baptist story.

Shakespearian ruler struggles, gender-swapping everything from cliches to power arcs, a fight scene, political allegories, these are a few of my favorite things, but they’d be better for less rushing and transparently manipulating the plot and characters. Everything which worked this week was great, but the things which didn’t work could have, by properly drawing them out over a couple episodes, or having different characters perform certain actions. We know The 100 can set the pieces up and knock them down, but if the setup is sloppy, everything that follows will be unbelievable. Take your time, show. We’re OK delaying the City of Light storyline while you do.

Stray Observations

– *The Arkers were the first people we the audience imprinted on, and we were with solely them for the whole first season, and that matters to how we process a lot of episode events. I plan to address that further in upcoming reviews.

– Is the coalition flame like the Olympic Torch? As long as it burns, the coalition is on?

– Clarke’s red is washing out of her hair. The show does well with HMU nursing along certain wounds, looks, facepaint, facial hair, etc.

– Such a great Hero Shot of Lincoln. Now they have me wondering if the warrior will die of random head trauma, not something action-y.

– Gotta give it to Titus. He isn’t a fan of Wanheda / Sky Crew, but he’s loyal. He and Clarke are melding into a best-friend-and-the-girlfriend relationship; still tense, but softening, and they’re willing to team together for what’s best for Lexa.

– Bellamy, Pike, Anna, etc are taking pain out on the wrong people. At least Jasper’s breakdown affects mostly himself and Monte. Monte points out he too is struggling, suffering, but it doesn’t always look like drinking or lashing out, and that’s both lovely and heartbreaking.

– When Bellamy was being asked for the guns, I thought maybe he would provide them and step back. You can’t draw exact IranContra parallels, but we can definitely talk about how many political leaders have provided arms for something and ‘allowed’ it to happen and walked away with ‘clean’ hands. In addition, Pike (preying on Bellamy’s youth and feelings of helplessness to enlist him as a soldier) said something like ‘you did the best you could with the information you had,’ a phrase used to excuse basing a war on WMDs. The idea of ‘collateral damage in someone else’s war’ is tied into the way a lot of countries treat Middle Eastern wars and politics. And taking ten men with machine guns to wipe out an enclave of 300 is extremely Vietnam. They’re not going to reference one war, they’re going to reference all of them.

– ‘Go float yourself’ works when Clarke says it, especially with a bit of a sneer. ‘Float you’ doesn’t carry the same weight, and actually breaks what was an effective scene between Jasper and Monty.

– With all the crossing, double crossing, and tense moments, I really want the Jane the Virgin narrator to do this episode.

– Also, since we’re asking for absurd things, and considering the title, I’d like Jay-Z and Kanye to do a concept album based on the Grounders’ philosophy and code of ethics. 

Comments
7 Responses to “The 100: Season 03, Episode 04, Watch the Thrones”
  1. Emily Mills says:

    I think your compliments and criticisms are pretty spot on here (but you already knew that). And as much as I am EXTREMELY KEEN to see Clarke and Lexa finally hook up (and probably cause Tumblr to actually melt down) I really appreciate how they’re playing out that arc. It’s realistic and heartfelt and both characters feel like they’re being done justice by the writing. Certainly the acting is phenomenal. There’s so much that’s conveyed just in how they look at each other – or don’t. I see Clarke’s conversation with Lexa at the end partially as her trying to focus on practical matters while fighting off her obvious Feels, but also her trying to draw out an answer from Lexa about what motivates her to do what she does. “I did what was best for my people.” You can see Lexa is a bit stung by that, hoping for a less pragmatic response to her thanks. But I think her response to the question about the ambassadors’ betrayal – “They were doing what they thought was best for their people” may have been the final nail in the coffin of Clarke allowing herself to forgive Lexa. She gets it now.

    So now they should probably consummate that shit, is all I’m saying.

    • Melanie says:

      I think both actresses are perfectly executing it, which is not the easiest arc to act right now. Lexa is in the role of a commander who was fervently against letting emotions into her decision algorithms, as she’d been hurt by that before. Clarke had a lot of anger, hatred even, for Lexa for the choice at Mt Weather, and what that choice forced her to do, and all the emotional aftermath. And now, they’re having to come to a middle ground, with Lexa acknowledging and apologizing even as she tries to explain to Clarke how what she did was inevitable, and Clarke forgiving Lexa even as she insists she wouldn’t have made the same choice. All that, plus never ceasing to convey both attracting and a blazing strength of conviction, all while both are navigating fraught political waters, is quite the task. But they’re nailing it.

      And yes, now they should nail each other.

  2. jt kom ozkru says:

    Like you said all the things that worked, really worked well. Polis, Nia, Roan, Lexa and Clarke, everythung not Arkadia was wonderful.
    I don’t buy into Gina’s death being the catalyst for Bellamy’s regression. We never saw them together enough to be invested. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but to do this to him, I just don’t understand. I was hoping too, that hje was going the whole inside man route siding with Pike but after seeing next weeks trailer that seems less and less likely and I’m so disappointed. I don’t know how Bellamy could possibly atone for his actions. Lexa will surely demand justice, Clarke too hopefully. I can’t see her letting this slide. This is gonna get ugly.
    I have to disagree about the fight scene, I really enjoyed the way they shot it.

    I also didn’t buy into Arkadia suddenly jumping on Pike’s bandwagon and supporting them after everything that passed before he came along. It really was unbelievable. I agree, it was odd that Abby and Kane never addressed Arkadia and told them what was going on re becoming the 13th clan.

    The foreshadowing with Aiden is worrisome. The obvious outcome is Lexa’s death, which for the show would be a huge mistake I think. Maybe the less obvious outcome which I’ve entertained is that Aiden himself will die. I’ve yet to come up with a reason for why I think that but I can’t seem to shake it so I’m putting it out there.

    I agree about Lincoln too. I can see him dying quietly, maybe from a brain hemorrhage or something relates to his head injury and it’ll be fucking heartbreaking.

    One of the things that I do find problematic about this show is the large cast and their multiple arcs. Sometimes they try to fit too much in to accomadate that and it just doesn’t work, makes it feel rushed.
    So happy we had another Jaha free episode tbh. The amount of fucks I give about that entire story arc amount to zero. I’m intrigued how the city of light works but really, if they never brought it up again I wouldn’t miss it.

    • Melanie says:

      I haven’t watched the trailer; I’ve made a concentrated effort to avoid all trailers, tumblr posts, and spoilers, because I think their trailers show far too much and have ruined a couple scenes for me [more on that here – http://tvquila.tumblr.com/post/139028224677/speculation-on-the-100-s3-episodes-4-and-after ]. But if Bellamy really does go through with it, I don’t think there’s any atonement he could make. He messed up big time in the beginning, and he also acted atrociously. You can chalk some of that up to stupidity, and some to the impossibility of his situation, and some to things he has worked to atone for. But wilfully attempting to slaughter allies, including people he knows (and knows were not involved with Gina’s death), based on Grounder affiliation . . . nope. That’s even far worse than what I predicted he might do regarding Lincoln this season.

      Now, I think Lincoln may die of basically undiagnosed concussion byproduct, and that will be both awful, and a really brilliant move on the writers’ part. It would add to their commentary on the traumatic effects of war, even after the battles. It would point out no matter how strong, or valiant, or upstanding you are, a little thing can kill you. It could (should! in a BSG-esque court scene, perhaps, brining up the need of a judicial system in this new civilization) bring into question manslaughter charges against the man who struck him. It would be the sort of wrenching, unexpected moment The Wire so successfully pulled off with Omar’s death, where you expect the fighter to go out in a blaze of violence or glory, but his end is altogether different. In short, I both hate it and love it.

      I liked the way they shot the scene, but not how they ended up putting it together. You could at least follow what was happening (ie it wasn’t the sort of shaky-cam chase-style editing that’s become so popular since Bourne 2, in which you often can’t tell who is where when) and they didn’t use closups without first establishing why the closeup was important. So, some of it may be personal taste. I like hearing whether a lot of other people did or didn’t like it; so I’ll put you in the ‘like’ column.

      I hadn’t really considered them killing Aiden . . . you should definitely check back in to do a victory lap if that happens.

      • jt kom ozkru says:

        A victory lap. LOL. Having pondered the Aiden thing a little more, I do wonder if Ontari will attempt to kill all the Nightbloods. Perhaps she’s grieving for Nia and still wants to become Heda. Next step challenge Lexa? I definitely don’t think we’ve seen the last of her.

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  1. […] playing intermediary here points out a crucial plotting flaw from a few episodes ago. Why could she not have run messages from the Arkers/resistance to grounders about to be […]

  2. […] atonement, this is not something Bellamy could come back from. Why use Bellamy, then. I’ve discussed why their giving him a girlfriend to fridge her doesn’t work. Why not develop another […]



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