The 100: Season 03, Episode 06, Bitter Harvest
Clarke drawing for the first time in a while, and Lexa sleeping in her presence, signifies they’re comfortable with each other. When Lexa wakes up from a nightmare, they talk, the tension heightens . . . but Titus shows himself to have mad cockblocking skills.
Titus also has a gift from the Ice Nation. (Roan has beautiful eyes and great taste in presents, it’s amazing he doesn’t have a significant other yet.) Titus presents an angry, nearly-feral Emerson, who resembles nobody so much as Clarke from a few episodes ago. Let the Solomonic dilemma begin.
They both blame the other for killing ‘my people.’ Of course, it’s not quite that simple. On the one hand, Emerson and his people tortured and killed innocent Grounders to provide themselves a better quality of life, then Emerson blew up an enclave which was not actively hurting anyone. On the other, Clarke wiped out the Mountain People not as an act of revenge or an incendiary act, but a necessary kill-or-be-killed engagement on an active battlefield.
Despite the differences in situation, there is guilt and pain on both sides. Titus tries to directly compare situations and use their pain, the better to push his agenda of war. Beware anyone comparing different situations and acting as if they’re the same thing, because that person usually wants to manipulate you (for example, Pike does this a lot).
None of the apples-to-oranges comparisons negate the fact a now-calmed Clarke has to decide what punishment to mete out on Emerson. She has an opportunity to kill Emerson in exchange for the excruciating situation he put her in and in return for the pain she’s been in since. Clarke has been exhorting Lexa to ignore vengeance and choose peace, now she needs to decide if she’s willing to follow that same path.
At first, Clarke tries to justify it as an individual instance; not an act of war, but of capital punishment. Remember, though, she opposed capital punishment for Finn, who did something as horrendous as Emerson. Then, she maintains it’s different because it won’t lead to more bloodshed, but will be a final statement. This is not true, though Clarke may not realize it. Yes, Lexa’s taking action against the Arkers encampment would have necessarily brought about war. But if Clarke kills Emerson, she would be giving ammunition to all those looking for a reason to defy Lexa’s new path, one Lexa is still struggling with. No matter how much she tries to act as though it’s a matter of state, this is personal. By killing Emerson, Clarke would be giving up the ideals she espoused (and led Lexa to espouse) in order to pursue personal vengeance.
Lexa sees these contradictions, and she is fully aware of the ramifications if Clarke were to execute the blood-must-have-blood mantra. But Lexa needs Clarke to recognize and sort through the conundrum herself. The only stipulation Lexa gives, is Clarke must execute her choice with her own hand. Lexa specifically calls this “vengeance,” not justice, and she clearly wants Clarke to take the high ground, but she refuses to make the decision for Clarke.
When Clarke does decide, and forgoes killing Emerson in front of everyone, Lexa attempts to look impassive, but mostly succeeds in looking proud. Lexa clearly thinks standing by your principles is hot, and she’s also probably happy war has been averted so she can get down to the business of wooing.
Emerson’s punishment – to be banished to live a long life – is very biblical, as in the story of Cain and Abel. Clarke doesn’t exactly put ‘a mark’ upon him, but he does have some facial scarring and it will be clear to anyone who comes across him he is the last of the Mountain people. Everyone in this world is quite clear on who is from what clan. If you don’t fall strictly into one clan, you are rejected by all. Clarke and Lincoln have both felt that sting, and in this episode Octavia is in no-man’s land, untrusted by neither side. The Grounders call her Skaikru. The Arkers call her a Grounder. She’s clearly conflicted, attempting to save the Grounders while working with some Arkers, but as much as she’s being abused by both sides, she may well give up trying before it gets her killed.
Her 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 slaughtered before? Plot convenience, plain and simple. It was a shortcut to get Pike to rise, and it was a poor one. Shortcutting Pike’s rise to power / genocide plot is still shadowing the writers, their current choices only serving to point out how absurd their shortcuts were mere episodes ago.
It’s especially a shame when they rush things because of how well other character developments are usually handled. One of the best, subtle running bits this season has been Hannah’s role in Pike’s tyranny and her development into a cold-blooded killer. Bellamy and Hannah refer to grounders as “people who only understand war,” while their actions clearly show they are in fact people who only understand war. By blustering ‘nobody’s dying today’ they only mean themselves. They’re discounting the Grounders’ humanity, while they’ve become wanton murderers: the very thing they’ve accused the grounders of being.
Hannah especially exemplifies becoming the thing you hate. Her pain over seeing the children in her station killed has warped her into a child-killer, as well as someone who would coolly ask her own son use a machine gun on children (as Monty would have had to had Octavia not warned the Grounder village first). But the most chilling is watching Hannah call out to Gabrielle, clearly intending to execute this innocent child. It’s a loaded move to have the one woman in the party be the one to reach out: in theory, she represents the ‘maternal,’ but in reality she’s using her position as the one a child would be most likely to trust. She’s pretending to be sympathetic to trap the child, while simultaneously using her position of authority to authorize death by signaling to the soldier holding the gun.
Hannah has completely bought into Pike’s binary solution plan: die fighting for your home, or starve to death. Of course, this binary representation isn’t close to an accurate portrayal of their situation, which involves many complex and different options. Like Titus, Pike doesn’t care whether what he says is accurate, he cares about getting his desired results. He wants to eradicate the Grounders, and anyone who opposes him.
Kane goes his usual route of self-flaggelation, blaming himself for Pike’s rise even though it was a vote of the people. No, Kane wasn’t a great leader. He was part of the lack of stable leadership in space, he was obsessed with implementing authoritarian measures no matter what, and when he got to ground and over-corrected, his lack of establishing a system of proper checks and balances, then trying to run elections literally overnight, all while hiding facts from the rest of his society, all helped bring about Pike’s rise. At least he is recognizing some of his errors now. Abby echoes Lexa that ‘everybody always believes they’re doing the right thing,’ and Kane really has always believed that, only now he’s starting to accept he can be mistaken.
He needs to go a step further and start paying attention to the ‘kids’ who are telling him things, though. He still disregards the advice and insights of The 100. Abby points out: they aren’t children any more. The society they’re in, the choices made and actions they’ve taken, have taken that away. Hell, if you at any time can be locked up or blackmailed for actions as basic and human as sheltering your baby sister, one could argue many of these characters have never really been children. This is a society which has forced a lot of unspeakable things, and is now reaping consequences.
Jaha seems intent on erasing those consequences, along with pain in general, and the reasons above explain why he’s making inroads so quickly. Jaha is targeting a people who have been through terrible times, done terrible things, seen many of their loved ones die unnecessarily. It’s no wonder they want to escape all that. The problem is, not only does he not explain exactly how it works or where it leads, he’s not even giving them the full story of A.L.I.E. and his cause before they swallow his silicone disk. A politico-religious leader who believes he can’t trust his followers with the whole truth; geez, that’s never been a problem in human history – or you know, this very show – before.
I call it politico-religious because it’s both those things, and because “politico-religious/physio-psychosomatic” seemed too long a name. The religious overtones are most interesting at the moment. A.L.I.E. is created ‘in the image of’ Becca, with the body of Becca. The Eucharist being supposedly the literal body of Christ, symbolized by Jaha bestowing the silicone tab to the Arkers in line. Though the concept of their souls hasn’t been addressed as yet, these peoples’ bodies and minds are being affected, and their memories are fading. Jaha himself forgot his own son, presumably because Wells’s death was painful. It’s all quite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Of course, this makes Jasper and the rest of these hurting people want the pill even more.
It’s still unclear exactly what erasing memories and pain is going to accomplish, and the episode’s ending didn’t help tie it together for me. Though it’ll surely get cleared up soon, the last scenes are a little bang-bang-waitfornextweek. The scenes of Titus/Murphy in Titus’s sex-dungeon and Jaha/A.L.I.E./Raven poking around for old software are intercut for maximum tension, and the final shot and lines tell us (seemingly) the 13th Station is about to become another player. Or is currently a player, only we didn’t know they were Polaris many years ago. Dun dun dun.
But it feels a bit soon to reveal this big secret; we’ve still got plenty without that plot. Clarke and Lexa are creating all sorts of romantic tension. Pike is running wild. Jaha is seducing followers left and right. Bellamy is out to undermine Kane and Octavia. Abby is trying to ascertain what Jaha’s tablets are really doing. Raven needs to snap out of it and work her geek mojo. Is Bryan an inside man on Pike’s war council, or are he and Miller actually on opposite sides? Etc.
This episode was pretty solid, but I’m going to end on the Bryan/Miller thing, because I think it’s a big deal. I’m a little unsure what’s up with Bryan being in the war room while Miller is obviously Team Anti-Pike. What I AM sure of is the fact Bryan and Miller needed to kiss before Bryan left on a dangerous convoy. What the actual fuck. They aren’t baseball teammates, they’re long-term boyfriends. Two women had sex earlier this season, but established boyfriends don’t even peck each other on the lips before separating in a fraught war zone? I don’t know where that decision came from, or if there was network interference, but I call bullshit. There’s no reason to show women sexing women, but shy away from men showing affection to men. Or rather, there are a lot of reasons, like double standards, homophobia, machismo, fear, and other things without merit. Get over it, and give poor Miller some love.
– We have a grounder kid (of indeterminate / non-binary gender, it seems: androgynous looks, with a girl’s name, referred to by ‘his’ pronouns) who speaks up to save a hardened, war-criminal outsider woman from being beaten and killed. Who knows if they show up again or not, but: the kid’s name is Gabrielle, said kid saves Octavia, then attempts to follow Octavia on her horse: I am absolutely calling this a Xena homage.
– A.L.I.E.’s line reading “searching for scavenged technology” is very . . . automated. Most of her line readings in this scene are, actually. I found it effective.
– They continue cribbing from all major wars and conflicts: this marks the second time Pike specifically says not ‘prisoners’ but ‘interned,’ evoking WW2, while poison gas warfare evokes WW1.
– Kane has a bug in the war room, but doesn’t have someone monitoring it to overhear that Pike is onto him? He’s a bad spy. He’s kind of just bad at all of this.
-Addendum: I listed above some potential reasons Miller and Bryan didn’t kiss. It’s been pointed out to me on Twitter they may yet. But that doesn’t negate the fact it feels very awkward in this scene for Miller and Bryan *not* to. I’m not looking for tokenism, nor am I insisting on a big sex scene. I’m asking for normalization of basic, daily behaviors which are often avoided like the plague when the participants happen to be queer. Bellamy kissed his girlfriend briefly before leaving in 3.01, and much more thoroughly before leaving in 3.03, with an audience to boot. Other couples exchange kisses ranging from perfunctory to passionate to precoital. Even if Miller and Bryan kiss later, and I obviously hope they do, why skimp? Why drag it out? What is there, a quota of times they’re allowed to kiss (that’s not a wholly sarcastic query)? Why would they not have any sort of physically affectionate moment in a place and set of circumstances which is driving other couples into each others’ arms left and right? It feels very much like a special set of circumstances, and it’s not going to retroactively un-feel like that when and if they lock lips; that’s just not how it works.