The 100: Season 03, Episode 13, “Join or Die”

This episode is a mess. It attempts to rectify and/or lampshade all the problems the show had in Seasons 1 and 3A. [Season 2 doesn’t really come into play in this episode, which is fitting.] It has some interesting ideas about how about this rectifying business, but it flubs the execution badly. No pun intended.

Screaming. Gray and blue color palette. Crucifixions. Knockoff orcs. “The City of Light” is all dark and grim. hashtag #irony. We get it, the CoL is ancient Rome, the people who refuse to accept the religion are the Christians, but lining the walkway with crucified martyrs is a bit much. It also serves to underscore or flat-out confirming everything Pike has said all season, and that internal contradiction – affirming someone who was set up as ‘bad’ as ‘actually right all along’ – is the main takeaway from this episode. Like last episode, this has possibly-unintentional, definitely-badly-structured messages.

Pike teaching survival skills in flashbacks helps explain how the 100 had any skills whatsoever when they were dropped from the sky, and serves to retcon how Pike knows Murphy and others who weren’t on his station. The story ends up humanizing Pike and adding a weird credence to his on-Earth actions, especially because his literal child abuse is justified. Yes, drastic times call for drastic measures, and this world is a dark place after nuclear annihilation, but in a show targeted to teenagers, a strapping adult man beating a boy ‘because he wants him to learn’ and ‘because he just wants to the best for him,’ and that being posited as something not just excusable but effective and laudible, is wildly problematic.

After beating Murphy, after slaughtering Grounders, after wilfully ignoring what was best for his own people, after being a tyrannical murderous despot, we the audience know Pike deserves death by Indra’s shank. If we followed the lessons of the past two-seasons-and-a-few-episodes, we’d know extemporaneously giving Pike ‘what he deserves’ still isn’t right. But this episode takes this message a different direction. Everything – the savage place Polis has turned into, Pike sneering in Indra’s face, and most especially what Pike says and does in the flashbacks turning out to be right in the long run – serves to prop up Pike and say “he’s unpopular and unconventional but ultimately right.” When Indra is cutting him, we’re supposed to sympathize with him suffering for his beliefs, for being right, for trying and failing to use harsh rule to prevent this whole CoL/Roman rule, suffering for trying to help Murphy and everyone else. The episode shows respect for Pike standing firm in his twisted convictions; after all we’ve seen him do this season, that’s not only an abrupt narrative shift, it’s pretty gross. 

3.13 Pike and Kane

Along with that, they flat-out rewrite history when it comes to Bellamy’s actions. Clarke says there “may be” blood on Bellamy’s hands. Um, no. That writing is clearly trying to sanitize things. It could have said “There is blood on all our hands” or “Yes you have blood on your hands, but not Lincoln’s” and at least been more believable. At this point, the narrative is not just stretching but misrepresenting everything that’s gone on before.

I’m not saying Bellamy can’t come to grips with his actions, and I’m not saying that his friends can’t accept him again (though, asking Octavia “how long” she’s going to hold it against him when it’s been maybe three days is ridiculous). As this episode points out, they need each other to survive; this whole show has shown the post-nuclear world is a hard place and you don’t always make the right decision, especially when PTSD and other factors are involved. But before Bellamy can ‘forgive himself’ he still has to acknowledge what he did was awful, and murder, and had disastrous consequences, and he can’t do it again. They’re working overtime to avoid saying that, and it’s laughably transparent, especially because “we can only survive this together, and survival is what matters. Never keep fighting” would still work in a context where everyone acknowledges the slaughter. 

When Bellamy says ‘if Octavia had trusted him, it would have been all right,’ nobody points out there was exactly zero reason to trust him. Refusing to have anyone acknowledge specifically what Bellamy did is egregious historical revision, and it also means they’re stuck in a weird purgatory of trying to ‘deal with what Bellamy did’ while simultaneously writing around it, which only prolongs our attention to what he did. They wanted to take Bellamy down an unredeemable path, but now they wanted to redeem him, and explicitly facing what he did would hamper that. So they just dance around it indefinitely. Storytelling doesn’t work that way, at least not effectively. 

Only Octavia really calls out Bellamy’s actions, and it’s rather written off as her being unreasonably upset her lover was collateral damage. Octavia calls Bellamy out, just as Murphy tells Pike “actually, you didn’t help me,” but both cases have one person stating a weakened protest to what the show is actually working overtime to tell us. It’s just poor storytelling, set up by plot choices at the beginning of the season, characters being forced to service plot, and really weird arc choices within this episode.

3.13 fire

The 100 started as a post-apocalyptic show in the lines of Battle Royale. As this season has developed with Artificial Intelligence and a constant reliance on chemicals, it’s strengthened its Slasher SciFi aspects. One of the strengths of scifi, one thing which makes it such an interesting genre to work within, is how it can use its imagery as metaphors and allegories and commentary. When it doesn’t work, though, it’s frustrating, and during this episode I kept going back to my earlier conversation about the show not committing to one metaphor in dealing with ALIE’s chip.

Some people say the chip makes Jaha a drug dealer, but the metaphor isn’t executed that way half the time. If the chip were a drug, couldn’t you just put it in peoples’ mouths and force them to swallow? Get them hooked on the product and then they’re all in. It’s not like ALIE is against coercion; she psychologically forced Abby to take it, and her body didn’t reject it, nor does Kane’s here. I don’t get why they haven’t resorted to blunt physical force, but the main problem is they haven’t established a firm, clean rule as to how ingesting the chip works. 

Actually, all the rules of how this pill works are still fuzzy. Abby remembers Clarke in her appeal to Kane, but shouldn’t that still be painful? The flashbacks in this very episode show Abby’s regret and anguish over what her actions have put Clarke through. Their relationship has been strained, Clarke is gone and could be dead. So how does Abby remember her? Does ALIE let people selectively remember? Or does ALIE just speak the words through the zombie-vessels? It feels like they’re playing fast and loose for plot convenience.

Speaking of, if Luna was part of the conclave, she should know about the Commander chip. But we don’t get an idea of what she knows, or what Clarke has told her friends, before Lune and Clarke are face to face and Clarke says “Oh hey everyone you knew is dead you gotta take this AI into you.” Of course Lune says no to that proposition, phrased like that. It’s rushed and from a total stranger and off-putting. If this episode had only spent more time with Bellamy, Clarke, Octavia, and Jasper’s journey; if only Clarke had had some time to grieve and process; if only the Original Four had truly been able to work through some things they were forced to face in Niylah’s cabin; if only Luna and Clarke’s first meeting weren’t so rushed and awkward. But all that went by the wayside in service to this flashback plot and Sympathy for Pike and gruesome edgy torture visuals.

The intercutting does set up some potentials; for example, the exchange between Kane and Abby over Clarke’s unconscious body being carried to the transport could give us reason why ALIE-possessed Abby would be okay with crucifying Kane, which is the scene it’s intercut with. That’s super interesting, but it’s undercut by Abby having fallen in love with Kane this season, after he shock-lashed her, and both their personalities being completely different than when that scene happened, etc. Potential is there, but not execution.

Unfortunately, the whole episode serves to remind us how much the show has jerked around characters – particularly Bellamy – in service of story, and also the message “despotic xenophobic leaders can be right and mean well and hey maybe just feel for them and their cause.”

The episode’s final shot does give us the boat peoples’ oil rig hideout though, and that’s pretty cool, so hopefully its execution is better next week.

The 100 -- "Join Or Die" -- Image HU313b_0054 -- Pictured: Eliza Taylor as Clarke -- Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Stray Observations

– It’s really [unintentionally, I think] amusing when ALIE says “Try harder” and Abby translates that into “make out fervently.”

– If Pike were really a survivalist, and he put together the fact the Ark was dying / running out of oxygen, why the hell did he let that fire keep burning?

– Someone on this show has very specific knowledge of high school teaching.

– Why on earth did they let Jasper keep those dumb goggles in prison? 

– Callback to Season 1 pop music! Take a drink.

– You used to be able to differentiate easily between flashbacks and current events by color palette – dark and blue for the Ark, green and yellow and more light on the ground. Now, it’s more on how clean everyone’s hair is.

Comments
5 Responses to “The 100: Season 03, Episode 13, “Join or Die””
  1. Lillie Mikesell says:

    Thank you for your insightful review as always. I am mystified by what the writers are doing this season. The early Polis episodes feel lighthearted in view of what has transpired since then. I felt the flashbacks, in addition to what you said about the Pike re-do, were also setting Abby and Kane up to be not quite worthy of saving in the end. That is one way to thin the actor roster, but it says that everything that has happened with character development up to this point should be discounted by the audience. Meanwhile, some of the audience is probably quite attached to these characters.h

    Is Clarke going to have to p ill the plug on her own mother?! Shades of Monty and just as ridiculous imo.

    Where do you think this is all headed and how, if at all, is it setting up Season 4?

    • Melanie says:

      Wow. I didn’t think of it, but going over the scenes with your suggestion in mind, I can see how it’d work as that setup. It does remind us 1. Kane especially used to be a very different person 2. they both committed pretty atrocious acts. And, they’re definitely thinning the ‘adult’ component of the cast.

      If I had to pick, my money would be on them killing Kane. Killing Abby loses ability to use a known character in crucial plots – political and medical as they ‘rebuild’ and also Angst Opportunities for Clarke. And speaking of the last point, Clarke has lost her dad and two of her lovers in the past two seasons, to lose and possibly have to kill her mother too would be incredibly harsh. (Not that I put it past the show at this point). I do think she’ll be faced with some sort of dilemma around killing Abby, though. only this time – unlike at Mount Weather, and unlike Monty, and partially because they managed to save Raven and they’ll use that experience and knowledge – they’ll manage to un-chip her without killing her.

      *That* said, maybe they’ll try and turn Clarke’s ‘having to kill her mother for the greater good to prevail’ as a way to bring home to Clarke what Abby thought she was doing when she allowed her husband / Clarke’s dad to be floated. But with the plotting and writing and way they’ve dealt with past happenings this season, I don’t have much faith they’d pull that off well.

      I think it’s headed to a CoL showdown, and ultimate destruction of ALIE, if not all the people within the City. I don’t think it’s explicitly setting up a Season 4, at least yet; I think if there’s a main S4 plot to be set up, it’ll be something that comes up in the last episode or so, and then the first few episodes of Season 4 would set up their own main conflicts. It’s how Season 2 worked here (Lexa creating an interpersonal and interclan conflict in the way she rescued her people, Murphy finding the bunker, then S3 playing those threads out while introducing us to Pike and the Ice Nation), and it’s just good planning since they didn’t know they had a Season 4 until after postproduction was done.

      As far as a plan to continue with the Grounders; even if wiping out the CoL doesn’t decimate them, we have no real connection to them other than Ontari / Roan and Luna. They’d need to build those relationships for the audience, and either figure out a way to restructure the 12 clans, or simply move us on to caring about / having a central conflict with the Boat People. If I were them, I’d definitely have the foursome of Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia and Jasper get to know some Boat People and introduce a few as new cast regulars, to be joined later by Miller, Bryan, and Harper. Then we have another little clan who could be in conflict with Ontari and her Orcs next season . . . again, assuming they’re not all destroyed by the CoL.

  2. Lillie Mikesell says:

    It is hard to say where this will end up. If the COL is destroyed, what happens with the “Flame?” Are the writers taking us further into the story terrain? Also, just despatched the end of this episode where Kane takes the chip. I may be wrong and the “science” of this whole chip story line has been somewhat confusing, but I wonder if that was the end of Kane right then. It seems that Alie controls the minds of those who take her chip; does she have access to their thoughts? If so, what she needed from Kane may have been available immediately. He certainly looked like his spirit was leaving his body at the end.

    Side note: really thought the slow mo playing of Radioactive in the background from Kane crucified to the Ark kids going on the drop ship to Clarke’s scared young girl face barreling down to earth to her emotionally and physically ravished appearance waking up on the oil rig super effective.

    Lots was packed into that sequence. And who is Luna?! Nice entrance.

    • Lillie Mikesell says:

      Oh boy. Autocorrect is working overtime. Meant rewatched the episode. And also writers taking us further into sci-fi terrain.

  3. Alex August says:

    Oh man, oh man, where to start. I guess I might as well do my own flashback to something I mentioned after ‘Thirteen’ aired – which was the writers had done a damn fine job of offering hope as a distraction from the inevitable end to the episode that had been looming since the end of Season 2.

    As much as I loathed Lexa’s end, and its leverage as little more than shock value to prove to a dedicated fan base that in fact no one was safe, at least the writers actually put something together that didn’t require a whole lot of retcon to make happen. Mile wide plot holes and abusive tropes? Sure, but Mr. “my religion is not based on reality and I’m going to torture you some more for suggesting it” didn’t suddenly develop an objection to Lexa’s new attitude and Clarke’s presence. It was there from beginning to his “look at me, not caring I killed Lexa” end.

    These days though no character that has done something horrific seems to be the character they were before and it’s sadly not because of character development either. We have one example that serves as solid proof that someone massacring a whole lot of grounders will in turn end with that someone getting cut and / or stabbed until dead. Not exactly turning the other cheek, or deciding the guilt by trial, but I can understand where killing someone with a knife who killed dozens of someones with a gun seems like a fair exchange.

    The second example we have where this should apply should have been happening with a third example as well. Pike getting cut on why Bellamy was spared made no sense. Bellamy isn’t owed a pass for any reason. He didn’t turn the gun on Pike and the others instead of the grounders. Hell he supplied the guns in the first place because no one was going to let Pike near the armory.

    Pike also gets a temporary stay of execution because fighting the currently zombies, but could be cured, folks that used to be the Arkers and a grounder population of a city apparently requires a guy whose suggestion for dealing with anything odd is to shoot it until it stops twitching – having worked his way up from the days of merely assaulting teenagers. There is no real explanation for why such a person is needed for the fight ahead, but “Isn’t Being Stabbed In the Face For Some Reason” Bellamy convinces a cell full of grounders they totally need both of them.

    By the end of the episode Clarke is also convinced, by Bellamy, that the group needs Bellamy and as such Octavia needs to stop with the whole dead Lincoln business. Mind you there is also no need for anyone to bring up Bellamy’s Finn-like idea of how to deal with stress, or his still not exactly gone xenophobia fueling an urge to kill more grounders, or the hundreds (thousands?) dead on the Ark, or the half of Mount Weather population that technically is on his hands as well.

    Sure Raven may have mentioned some stuff, but she was suffering from a bad AI trip and wasn’t herself because now that she is herself she is totally fine with Bellamy again and is sorry for mentioning that twice he has committed genocide because he felt like people were mean to him and that he likes to join in on the kicking Clarke why she’s down by dumping all of Mount Weather on her head. He of course does this all in the same redemption arc that includes rescuing the also misunderstood Pike and other people just need accept that the two of them don’t ever get punished for murdering other people.

    I was hoping at least Jasper, who seemed to be fine bringing up uncomfortable topics within the group because his girlfriend died before all of this, would at least join in with Octavia now given Bellamy pulled the death lever with Clarke, but no – it’s still all on Clarke when passing out blame and the only reason he is going to stop bringing it up is Lexa died.

    With Kane dying on the cross for some sins, and not agreeing to worship the right AI, it is sadly unlikely now that blood will have blood as Kane will be the honorable stand in that pays the price to save the souls of the unfortunate Bellamy and Pike because being a corrupt asshole who developed into a decent human being is the same as being an asshole who developed into a murderer with the writers now.

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