The 100: Season 03, Episode 09, Stealing Fire
I’m always curious what sorts of changes are made while shooting, versus in the editing room, and even what may be tweaked after picture lock whether because the network insists or something big happens between finished product and airing. For example, last week’s The Walking Dead featured a line right as the episode cut to black which was speculated to have been added much later via ADR, after the furor of a certain dumpster incident in the earlier half of the season.
I think it’s fairly safe to assume nothing about this episode was changed since 3.07 aired, because everything’s as blissfully problematic as it could be. It was probably locked and with the network, which might explain why the sex-to-gut-shot sequence was clearly sequenced during the ‘previously on.’ But, what about Aden’s head? The way that scene is framed and cut, it easily could have been filmed, then worked around later. Did they decide in the edit it would be too much? Did network producers see it and balk? Was it really always shot to avoid showing the severed head because it was a child, or because the CW has certain violence guidelines which HBO doesn’t? These are the things I want to know.
A line they should have cut – especially after the furor and controversy, even if they hadn’t seen its issues prior – is Titus ranting and yelling that Lexa’s death was Clarke’s fault. “You killed her. I pulled the trigger, but it was you.” The spitting-furious father figure blaming Lexa’s lover for HIS murderous act is utterly tone-deaf.
Titus continues to be the actual worst this episode. He locks Clarke in the room where she watched Lexa die. He kowtows to Ontari. He gets a sacrificial death. He’s allowed to do all this because superstition and tradition mean he’s the only one who can perform a ceremony which . . .
Okay let’s back up here. First. HOW IS THERE NOT A BACKUP FLAMEKEEPER!? What if Titus had been accidentally killed by a stray bullet?
I mean, he’s not a lesbian, so that wouldn’t happen, but he could have been intentionally shot. He could have been defenestrated. He could have died when someone tried to stab Lexa and he jumped between them. If he and Lexa had both been killed, the clans didn’t have a shred of a plan for passing on the Commander’s Spirit, the single most important thing to both their religion and their government and presumably their survival? Come on.
Clarke herself hangs a lampshade on another weak point in this whole setup: “If nightbloods are so rare why do you let them kill each other? That has to be the dumbest succession plan I have ever heard.”
Let’s back up even further. I’m not getting into the external consequences of Lexa’s shooting scene [I did that here]. But for a moment, let’s talk about the logic.
Titus showed himself to be a smart, if often manipulative and undermining, advisor. He concocts a plan to kill Clarke and blame it on Murphy.
This plan involves him dragging a tied-up Murphy from the sex-and-rituals-dungeon to Lexa’s antechamber, presumably without being seeing by any guards. Okay, maybe only being seen by guards loyal to him who he could rely on not to tell. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here: he is pretty strong, maybe has secret tunnels, that sort of thing.
Titus brings with him a Skaikru weapon, which he could have obtained through various illegal channels. Maybe he snuck into the Grounder evidence vault, maybe he paid someone on the black market to obtain it (and then likely killed the obtainer). It’s against his religion to have, let alone fire, the weapon, but obviously he’s decided to commit this grave sin. Machiavellianism and all that.
Titus plops Murphy down, hides behind a curtain or whatever, and hopes Clarke exits the bedroom first. Um, okaaaaaay.
First, it’s creepy he knew Clarke was in the bedchamber, but he’s well established his creepiness. Second, though, on what basis does Titus assume Lexa won’t come out first!? Why might not they come out together? If Lexa sees a bound Murphy, let alone Titus in the same room, it’s all over. His entire plan hinges on dumb luck.
Even supposing this utterly absurd ‘plan’ works, and Clarke comes out alone, what Titus proposes to do is: fire a loud weapon multiple times (he’d need to make sure Clarke died immediately), unchain and ungag a barely-conscious Murphy, hide the chair and restraints, plant the gun, and disappear or pretend to have apprehended Murphy, all before Lexa and/or guards respond to the gunshots and come running. The catch is, of course: he is literally only feet away from Lexa and guards.
Lexa has shown she’s no dummy. If Titus were to have planned this murder in a deserted hallway far on Clarke’s path to meet Octavia, this might make a modicum more sense. But it didn’t, because absurd plot required he be the deus ex murdera [TM] of Lexa.
This stupid, ridiculous plan never had hope of fooling Lexa, and is supposed to’ve been hatched by someone who’s been cunning the whole time we’ve known him. Once the stupid, ridiculous plan resulted in the death of their Commander, the clans let the killer assert his authority over the ceremony for the new Heda because . . . there’s nobody else. That’s it. The whole reason Titus still has power is: the 12 Clans don’t bother to have a backup for one of the most important jobs in their entire world. It’s not so much a plot hole as it is a convenient lack of plot, because it means the writers can maneuver certain things that logic or world development would get in the way of.
It’s not the only thing like that this episode, or this season: like the plot surrounding freeing Kane and Lincoln, like the election, like Bellamy’s reverting to Pike yes-man, the explanation of the flame and how it works is rushed through or off-screened because they didn’t want to have to wait and lay the groundwork. The groundwork would get in the way of Big Events and Big Endgame. You can argue these plot points are technically unecessary, but that’s the point: they may be unecessary to a specific endgame, but they are vital to the story. They should have been thought through, and should have been more interesting. The show is currently just jamming things into tiny amounts of space to get to Bigger Things. It feels like starting around episode 4 of this season, they took all the wrong time on all the wrong things. They got too focused on whatever their end goal is and rushed through all of the actual development.
Think of how the tension surrounding the will-they-or-won’t-they-succeed-in-plotting worked last episode, or in the final episodes of S2 in freeing the Skaikru from the Mountain, and how we didn’t get any of that this week. They could have wrung so much tension over actually following Octavia in, or showing how she incapacitated those two guards, or how Bryan incapacitated that other soldier and himself . . .
Case in point. Can we clarify what happened with Bryan? First I thought they were setting Bryan up as Good Guy when he volunteered to stand watch, that he would drug the other guard and then stab himself with a drugpen, or get stabbed by Abby to look innocent and stay the Resistance’s inside man. Then, since nothing was ever established, I thought ‘oh, next week Bryan could be a Pike man through and through.’ Then, I realized he was the one walking next to Miller leading Kane and Octavia on the horse. Maybe he and Miller had a whole conversation and resolved their relationship and plotted together? Apparently. This sort of murkiness is sloppy; it’s lack of clarity for plot expediency. Jerking your audience around will tire them quickly.
Speaking of whiplash. After Bellamy helping spray bullets into 300 sleeping grounder allies, now he’s arguing to save some imprisoned who conspired with Lincoln to break out and overthrow Pike? I hope the writers don’t think this counts as atonement, because it doesn’t. It comes at no actual cost to him, and it shows no actual understanding of his wrongdoings. That Bellamy doesn’t truly understand the weight of his wrongs is underscored when he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions when talking to Indra, saying only “maybe” it’s his fault Lincoln, Kane, et al are in their precarious position. Thankfully, Indra refuses to accept any of his excuses; if looks could kill, she would have slain him on the spot. Let’s be clear, Bellamy admitting he will still do anything for Octavia does NOT excuse his slaughter of 299 people, or any of his actions after. And, his motivations for it being ‘Kane is going to be executed for treason’ are, again, mere plot convenience, and not well enough developed.
Anna’s doubts and choices are handled better. She would do anything . . . Except let Monty get killed. Even then, she still serves Pike’s cause while saving Monty’s hide. She doesn’t change her whole trajectory because her loyalty budges when faced with Monty’s death, she merely compromises a tiny bit to keep Monty safe. Her small choices make more character sense than Bellamy’s total 180 after weeks of commitment to slaughter and Pike’s plan. No matter what Bellamy wants to believe, his choices and actions enabled the dictatorship of Pike. Bellamy’s actions set up the circumstances of Lincoln’s death. He can’t just come back from that unscathed, no matter how they seem to be trying.
barely recovered haven’t recovered at all from Lexa’s death, before bang: death hits the Grounders again. This is certainly better executed, but it’s still oh so not great.
The way Lincoln is framed as he sacrifices himself adds Christ Figure imagery to the literal sacrifice he’s making. His selfless offering to a cruel leader to pay a price for his people is a truly beautiful moment. The problems I have with offing him do not take away from that.
I knew this was coming, you knew this was coming, we all knew. Ricky Whittle has been as vocal as one can be in his position about feeling disrespected and mistreated as an actor, and he was cast (to my great excitement) as the lead in the upcoming American Gods. There are rumors his scenes were significantly cut down this season after it was determined he would exit the show, and while that could have happened for a number of reasons – time, network demands, story and continuity, retribution – having less of him in this whole season is both sad in and of itself, and served to mildly soften his impact on the story here. No matter the reason or amount of necessity, it’s always awful to see a story or actor shortchanged.
After Lincoln as a POC has been beaten, reviled, tied up, and mistreated for three seasons [mostly by bad guys, and there’s probably an arguement to be made about intentional representation of negative treatment of Native Americans, though I’m not sure anyone thinks the show was operating on all cylinders back in S1], he gets both one of the most noble deaths in the show, and one of the most explicit. Good and bad are mixed thoroughly here.
The idea that Skaikru is a colonizing force is both great and wildly problematic. It’s important in that the Mountain settlers, and now Pike as xenophibic murderer, represent a terrible colonizing force. They show how a society could be brought along with such evil as in our recent history, and get away with it. It’s great in that first the Mountain men, and hopefully soon others, will be punished thoroughly for their ways. But that doesn’t change the fact all the POC and native/Grounder representations are getting slaughtered left and right, while characters like Bryan and Bellamy and Kane get to skate by. It’s the bigger picture which this murderous ending adds to which is the problem.
I’d be willing to bet a lot of money Pike won’t skate long, though, because Octavia is going to crush him. Marie Avgeropoulos is not in this episode much, but she’s absolutely brilliant. I love how Octavia’s face gets all soft as she runs to Bellamy, presumably to embrace him, then she stabs him with the tranqpen. When Octavia watches Pike murder her lover, the look on her face clearly shifts from utter heartbreak to a resolve to bring Pike to justice herself. Goddamn, that face.
Clarke is on a different sort of mission, which is just . . . I mean, it’s awkward. What is she gonna say? “Hey. I know we’ve never met. But lemme put this thing from my just-murdered lover into you. Oh and, by ‘my just murdered lover’ I mean ‘your ex.'” The way I read it, the two were together, and Lexa let Luna run from the conclave to save her. I doubt any of the Grounders are going to be happy about this, but I’m not sure Clarke knows what she’s getting into, either.
There is, to some extent, a numbness which sets in. After seeing Indra weeping over her lost position; after observing Jasper lose his grip while blaming his best friend for his girlfriend’s death; after helplessly watching Bellamy fall into traps from the Ice Nation and then Pike; after watching an obvious Dead Lesbian trope play out in an obvious way; after a large bunch of children are slaughtered; after seeing Lincoln get mercilessly executed after months of being beat and beat down; after characters are changed with the wind to produce whatever twist the writers need to fit the plot they’ve preetermined; after several jarring deaths in a small amount of screen time, one feels spent. Not in a good way.
There is a viewer exhaustion and rage buildup you want to avoid, especially when you still have seven episodes to go. While I’m still excited for many things (such as Octavia’s revenge arc) and curious how others will play out (such as Raven’s journey), there are some I dreading, having lost much of my former stubborn hope.For a show which had such derivative and awful beginnings, which developed its glimmers of promise to create fascinating stories and powerful moral quandaries and standout performances, The 100 still has its good points, but is quickly regressing to its worst components.
– Lots of pretty lights, particularly in the cave with Bellamy and Indra, and blues around the Grounder tower which still allowed a decent view of the action.
– Now Titus is dead, may I suggest Murphy as our new Flamekeeper? It’s perfect. Murphy is a utility character: his loyalty is for sale, he floats between worlds, he shows up when and wherever they need someone exposit or be exposited to. He is a punching bag, a comic relief, smarmy and a quick thinker, with some sociopathic and Machiavellian tendencies in common with Titus. Plus, that reading of “purification is a process” is such fun. I enjoy Richard Harmon’s take on Murphy, and I think he could bring the perfect amount of irreverence to his role; a 180 on Titus’s rabid religiousity which only resulted in fear and death.
– “Why would I start listening to you now?” Yes, Abby, WHY. Kane has also been retooled to fit whatever the plot needs. They reworked him a lot from the first half of Season 1, and I have to say, I’m just not feeling that Abby would fall for him after all that. But she definitely doesn’t deserve Kane’s backhanded ‘romantic’ dickish move before he goes to supposedly face his death.
– “Does your mom know you’re here, Monty?” Buuuuuuuuuuurn, Harper. Relatedly, I would like more Harper, please.
– Not of fan of reverting to the more overt score intrusion a la Season 1.
– Is the chip like an organ? You have 48 hours to get it in someone or it expires?
– Releasing smoke and sounding a horn when the new Heda is mysteriously chosen by the Spirit of the Commander is all pretty darn Catholic.