The 100: Season 03, Episode 16, “Perverse Instantiation – Part Two”

Cold open to Abby, with rope burns on her neck, jolting upright in Clarke’s arms in a classic example of Waking Up To Realize You Did A Horrible Thing. The acting nails it, though. Some of these stories don’t deserve the acting they’re getting, but the actors are giving their all.

That cold open is effective viscerally and emotionally, but it also serves to distract us for a moment from lot of details which have been skipped. Because so much has to happen in this finale, they need to skip / narrate a lot of intermediary actions, thus Bellamy walks in and he and Clarke have a discussion to fill the audience in on plot points. This isn’t criticism; it’s executed pretty well, and these details – they tied up Jaha and the other chipped ALIEbots, Clarke is making unilateral decisions again, etc – are mostly either boring or a foregone conclusion anyways. There’s a difference between economy in storytelling and blowing by interesting plot points: this opening sequence is the former.

Immediately following this, we are given our Raised Stakes Complete With Timetable when Pike announces “They’re climbing.” Pike is the perfect choice of character, as his voice could make “I’m going to make a sandwich” sound ominous. But coupled with the visuals of running ALIEdrones, it’s quite effective. Plus, I’m a sucker for siege action! Climbing walls with swords in your teeth, swinging battering rams, rapidly putting heavy objects in front of doors, this is great stuff. It could have used a little boiling oil to pour down on the attacking hoards, but I guess they didn’t have any of those old-school medieval movies on the Ark.

Then we go from this scene to Jasper jerking Harper around, reminding us she and her sexual proactivity have been used as pawns. Then she is an active participant in her own rescue, which is cool and back in character. This scene, just like this episode, just like this entire season, jerks both characters and my emotions around, everything fluctuating from good to horrifying and back again.

This, I mean as a criticism.

3.16 Bellamy

Meanwhile, back at the tower, turns out we’re getting the answer to what happens when you put both chips in one person. This is accomplished by one quick narrative shortcut of “I don’t know how I know this complicated etherial thing, but I’mma stake my life on it!” There are a lot of narrative shortcuts in this episode, and while some (like the cold open) work well, others run the gamut from cheeky to eye-rolling. Any plot points which would be too inconvenient are simply ignored or taken on faith.

For example, why is there half a foot of standing water at the top of a tower? I hope they didn’t think the Electricuting Conduction of Pools would be an actual surprise to the audience; it’s not only obvious, it’s the Most Convenient Evar, like the random red smoke bombs in the CoL. But, I will forgive a lot of ridiculous when something looks as pretty as these two things, or as cool as that literally black Ontari heart.

They are by no means sure Ontari is braindead, yet they must take care to pump Clarke’s blood into her to keep her breathing long enough to keep Clarke alive. I’m actually really down with the different sort of darkness this exemplifies, except nobody acknowledges how royally fucked up it is. Murphy – who has made his ascension to Flamekeeper, and has way better facial expressions than Titus, and has to stick his hand into Ontari’s chest cavity to keep her heart pumping – would seem the perfect character to note how weird and horrifying it is, but everyone seems to blithely accept Ontari is a vegetable.

They don’t ignore all the plot gaps, some they try to explain away. For example, Clarke’s IRL body should not be affecting her ability to move through the CoL, because they’ve established bodily pain doesn’t affect the part of the person/brain which is uploaded into the CoL. Raven’s “Clarke is running a different program” is supposed to cover that, but it still feels like it’s a complication which doesn’t fit what we’ve been told before, but merely serves to Make Things As Complicated As Possible. Speaking of, dad’s watch counting down is a potentially cool twist on the narrative device, but feels weirdly out of nowhere. And when we’re told ALIE is updating her code and Clarke needs to pull the lever before the update is complete, it feels like we’re getting a play on a classic trope, one where we’re supposed to root AGAINST the update status bar. But then, we don’t get a status bar.

3.16 Jasper

In everything – the watch, the update, the philosophical babble, the 42 minutes we as an audience know they have to wrap everything up in – time is the crux of this episode. Of course, time is relative; I don’t care how much time Clarke is wasting by hugging Lexa, because of course she is, it’s a natural reaction. Time doesn’t necessarily matter on TV, it can bend and stretch to accommodate the plot, though as blatant as it happens here stretches our willing suspension of disbelief to its breaking point. They literally have characters read dictionary definitions during an age-old philosophical battle, all while the clock is running, but make sure the climactic decision happens at the exact moment before Kane chokes out Bellamy, Abby shoots Jackson, and Murphy becomes unable to keep manually pumping that black heart.

The philosophical battle covers Free Will v Predestination, ALIEJasper condemning torture while ALIEKane is casually mentioning crucifixions, and the like. It’s all too blatant and spelled out to be really gripping, especially when we’re more fixated on the literal stakes, like the aforementioned Grounders climbing the wall carrying swords, and Clarke needing blood transfusions to continue.

It was always going to come down to this choice: Clarke killing chipped people to save the world. The big grand penalty of pulling the plug while the chipped people were still chipped is . . . nothing. Seriously? After all that? After continually trying to establish people would die if the ALIE plug was yanked? Season 2’s end actually followed through on its horrible consequences. This one copped out in a big way by pushing deadly consequences, chipping important characters, and then backing off at the last minute.

The 100 -- "Perverse Instantiation - Part Two" -- Image HU316b_0004 -- Pictured: Eliza Taylor as Clarke -- Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Not only did the consequences cop out, but the actual choice presented to Clarke is never as wrenching as it should have been. ALIE offers Clarke relief from pain, and an abdication of guilt which Clarke has finally come to terms with. But all she had to offer Clarke was the chance to be with Lexa. That’s it. THAT is Clarke’s Garden of Gethsemane. The fact the writers didn’t even have ALIE push that as an option, moments after Clarke had finally seen Lexa again, shows they don’t understand the power of their own story.

Underestimating the power of your own story is possibly the worst sin in television. You can dislike how some storytellers such as Joss Whedon always think their metaphors are the biggest, most important, life-and-death things ever [and I, personally, do not dislike it at all], but it’s always a better choice than underselling the power of your own damn narrative. How the hell do you expect the audience to buy it when you don’t?

Of course, if you don’t buy its power, it follows that you can cavalierly destroy it without understanding what the fuck you’re doing.

Speaking of which. The fact the camera lingers on kiss soon after Clarke and Lexa reunite telegraphs that they won’t get another one. The sound mixing during their conversation is a bit weird, the laboured breathing is over-emphasized, and I’d bet all the money the “I love you” scene was heavily modified in post. Between the mixing, the way Clarke’s face is off-screen during important sentences, and how the actresses’ facial reactions don’t always make sense as a reaction to what’s been said, it’s quite blatant they recorded lines not in the original script and shoe-horned them in. Either re-shoot it, or don’t bother.

3.16 alie

ALIE versus ALIE is a cool idea, and taking it to the spaceship helps visually drive home their attempted correlation between Clarke’s current choice and original ALIE’s HAL-like processes about saving Mankind. They even have a succinct nutshell bit about “ALIE can’t give the chipped people a choice because her core command is to make life better for mankind [as a whole], and she thinks she’s doing that” which highlights the tragedy of deeply held false beliefs.

But, in the end, I gave a resounding meh. The final Big Twist was so arbitrary and pales so much in comparison to what could have been, and has so few actual consequences, I just can’t care. Like Person of Interest, it’s toying with the human creators’ responsibility to teach an ASI morality. Only, POI takes the time to do it right. Basically, you should go watch Person of Interest if you want an actual thoughtful, thorough treatment of what our future in the hands of ArtificialSuperIntelligences what look like, and how philosophy and moral codes apply. If you’ve gotten this far in The 100, you’re perfectly okay with a few terrible episodes and acting as a show finds its footing. And trust me, when POI gets good, it gets goddamn great.

Ahem. Back to The 100. What haunts this episode is one of the biggest problems it’s had all season. Manipulating and destroying prior organic character and story development to service a plot point you value above everything else ruins not only your story, but your audience’s trust and interest. The two final scenes exemplify how frustrating this whole season has been in its handling of situations from one moment to the next.

We get a scene where Monty and Jasper reunite. There are apologies, and tears, and reconciliation, and an acknowledgement that life is brutal and hard and they can’t unsee the horrors they’ve seen. There is also humor and pathos and love and an acknowledgement of their deep bond, and they will share each others’ joys and burdens. It’s a beautiful final scene which doesn’t ignore the trauma and PTSD and pain they’ve experienced, and stays true to them as characters.

Immediately following that, Octavia murders Pike in front of everyone and strolls out of the tower.

3.16 Octavia

Let’s back up a bit. Octavia has been simmering the whole time she’s had to work with Pike, and began the episode pointedly sharpening her murder weapon in Pike’s line of sight. She then attempted to let the Grounders kill Pike and pretend it was a casualty of battle, which was very biblical of her but didn’t work. Then Bellamy and Pike had a little shouting match where Pike held onto his “I DID THE RIGHT THING” mantra and Bellamy told Octavia to not act unilaterally. Twenty minutes later, Octavia murders Pike in full view of a dozen witnesses.

After trying to be sneaky, after realising her emotions had jeopardised her friends, and most importantly after being told Indra was alive in a desperate situation, Octavia decides the most important thing in her life isn’t peace, isn’t abiding by what Lincoln would have wanted, isn’t running get Indra off the cross. This smart, loyal character chooses revenge not just over her dead lovers’ memory – which does fit where she is right now mentally, after the heat of battle, after being indoctrinated into the idea of blood-must-have-blood by Indra – but over her own self interest and most importantly over the life of her friend? No. The timing, coupled with the false start near the beginning of the episode, doesn’t work.

If Octavia had had closure with justice, or had thought of Indra first, maybe. If it had happened to kick off next season, with the space to examine her feelings and pain and fallout, okay. But they jammed it in because they wanted to feel the season had an Edgy Ending which could potentially lead to Stuff Next Season, so they ignore the situation, context, the relationship of two wounded warrior women, and Indra entirely, to get that audience gasp. Now that The 100 has a Season 4, I’ll place my bets right now that Octavia killing Pike – a war criminal, the murderer of her lover, and a despotic xenophobic warmonger – is going to be put on par with Bellamy killing the Grounders, Clarke killing Mountain people and allowing the missile to launch at the Grounders’ camp in “Rubicon”, Finn letting loose on a village, etc. The subtle shading of Season 2 is gone.

This episode had plenty of good: some good setpieces, beautiful production value, suspense driven by good editing and well-executed tropes. But the bad parts of this episode were badly hamfisted, convenience-driven, or flat-out horrific, and they perfectly encapsulate all that went wrong with this season: twists, shock value, and reaching for cleverness were unfortunately prized over consistency, character development, legitimate moral quandaries, and plain old storytelling.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 18.26.51 

Stray Observations

– Yay Bryan still being alive, but that wound got infected rapidly.

– How did they know when to put the chip in Clarke? Felt like they jumped the gun a bit, but it would have been pretty anticlimactic if she just died after all that, so.

– The CoL street scenes were apparently shot in downtown Vancouver, no small feat to close off. Shooting at an upward angle helps hide some of their lack-of-total-closure, assuming there had to be some.

– It’s kind of heartbreaking to see Happy Jasper, knowing what he’s been through and is about to go back to. The fact he immediately sees Monty is the first shimmer of hope he’s really had this season.

– Clarke in the CoL is very Inception-esque, and though it’s a pretty straightforward survival maze sequence, how can you not like badass, sword-wielding Lexa to the rescue?

– It’s always so awkward when footage has to be carefully edited not to show lady-nipples, even in medical contexts like ‘cracking someone’s chest open’. Meanwhile, CoL Clarke can have makeup-accentuated cleavage, because boobs are totally okay for those purposes. Hypocrisy, thy name is TV rating standards.

5 Responses to “The 100: Season 03, Episode 16, “Perverse Instantiation – Part Two””
  1. jt kom ozkru says:

    I tend to agree with you though I must say this is probably the first episode I’ve actually enjoyed in a long long time that I was willing to overlook the bad parts.
    As much as I adore Clarke and Lexa and having Lexa defend Clarke, some of their scenes seemed rushed, felt like lines were cut for time, and the obvious ADR I love you, while lovely, just didn’t fit with Lexa’s response. Think it was probably more likely Clarke said something along the lines of “Don’t leave me” or “I can’t lose you again”. I like that it’s left open that Lexa could return in S4.

    The stuff with Bellamy realising the error of his ways, while good, made me roll my eyes so hard. I find it impossible to sympathise with him now. Yeah he’s lost Octavia but still gets a free pass. There’s no Commander to answer to for his crimes but whatever, he’s redeemed now. Ugh.

    I think Alie saying Clarke will kill everyone is referring to the impending nuclear meltdown and loss of the minds uploded to the CoL that don’t have a body to return to. I wouldn’t be surprised if they write it that Alie had some sort of back up on the Ark ring that lets her start again. I doubt it but you never know. It’s hard not to compare Alie to The Machine and Samaritan and every other AI ever invented. I loved that little reference. POI does it a million times better.

    While I’m excited for S4 and hope for more Clarke leading the way with Raven and her genius tech mind at her side working out how to save humanity, after the disaster that was S3 I just don’t know if they’ll do it justice.
    I really don’t understand what happened with the writing. S2 was so great and I can’t figure out if it’s solely the writing team or if higher ups interfered and pushed for the stupidity that abounded.

    • Melanie says:

      I actually did enjoy most of it; the opening sequence, and the way the attack on the tower gave their attempt an extra urgency and made it feel like a real finale with all the Big Stakes Fighting, started it off on the right foot. They did some things really well in terms of suspense and roadblocks and setpieces. How certain things devolved from there, even when there was also plenty to like, still end up making my review quite negative. (And the way the Lexa/Clarke scenes were butchered as far as editing, mixing, and ADR were egregious.)

      Someone pinned me down over a disagreement on Octavia; this person had a very strong argument for why she thought Octavia’s actions in that case did still make sense. And ultimately, I think she has some very good points, but I disagree about Octavia’s doing that, then. And even if I didn’t disagree, it’s the *vibe* of it all, which of course is a difficult thing to pull out in a written review.

      What I think ties the above two paragraphs/thoughts together for me and how I reviewed this season and finale is this: for a show and characters I enjoyed very much last year to be so desperately jerked around in service of some really specific plot fetishes is just too much. This entire season spun so out of control specifically in how it picked various Endgames big and small – Octavia killing Pike, Bellamy getting another Redemption Arc, Lexa dying and it being revealed the AI was a chip – and either contorted or simply ignored character and sensible plot throughlines to get to those endgames. How bad that was trumped how good anything else was, even my hoard enjoyment. Everyone’s mileage of enjoyability may vary.

      Take the example of ALIE’s conversation with Clarke. The fact an AI offers a tired human leader various things to tempt her is super interesting on its face, and the manifestation of two versions of the same program warring over Clarke’s soul could also have been interesting had it not come so out of nowhere. The problem is, they [and by they I think it may come down to one or two people, but it’s hard to tell for sure because of how collaborative TV shows are] . . . they are so bloody wrapped up in how interesting and clever and great it is, they ignore the character element. The things they offer to Clarke, they could have offered to ANY OTHER CHARACTER ON THE SHOW. The speech wouldn’t really have to change much if it were Bellamy standing there, or Abby, etc. If they really respected what makes Clarke’s character interesting and unique and what has made her journey to this point so fraught and difficult, they would 1. mention not just abstract guilt but specific events 2. mention Lexa, for the love of all that’s holy. The fact they don’t tells me they respect the cool concept more than they care about the characters engaging with the concept.

      Hell, even if I’m wrong, there’s nothing in the text of this episode itself which refutes what I’m saying: maybe the creators of this season don’t actually think characters are interchangeable, malleable servants of plotlines, but this episode speaks loudly that they do.

      The whole season really, Bellamy being a great example. if he’d only provided weapons to Pike, and Pike did what he did, Bellamy could have that exact shouting match and it’d be effective and all. But they wanted so badly to have a character do a big unredeemable thing [totally off-camera, though, unlike anything Finn or Lexa or prior-Bellamy had done], but then actually redeem them. Because they liked the idea of talking about slaughtering your allies, and because they needed something to create a real rift between Octavia and Bellamy, so character development prior to this season went by the wayside.

      “I think Alie saying Clarke will kill everyone is referring to the impending nuclear meltdown and loss of the minds uploded to the CoL that don’t have a body to return to.” Ah. Hmm. I thought either she meant something else – Clarke would be saving the few but dooming mankind, which is what ALIE seems to ‘believe’ – or she was bluffing about the minds uploaded being deleted entirely when Clarke pulled the plug. You may be right, though in that case Clarke would argue they had already died and were being artificially ‘faked’ by ALIE, anyways. [I’m not actually entirely clear what Arkers believe about the afterlife, but there doesn’t seem to be reason to think they would think the CoL was purgatory and preventing souls from reaching a sort of heaven.] Again, it’d be a better execution if the show had told us what it meant . . . Which brings us back to POI, and how even though I’m very angry CBS is treating it like the figurative red-headed stepchild, I’m very glad I will have so much of it on my screen so soon.

      You may be right about ALIE having saved some of herself on an ark part somewhere, but I think S4 will try to make a separate arc, who knows about what. I’m not going to be reviewing it, but I shall probably watch.

  2. jt kom ozkru says:

    If only we could put you in the writers room to keep things from going pear shaped.
    Ikm hoping they’ve learnt from their mistakes, if they indeed think they’ve made any, which I’m not sure they do.

    While I was all for Octavia exacting her revenge, I agree with you about that whole scene. And it also really annoys me that the season closes with the focus on Bellamy. That felt wrong to me when Clarke is the lead and the focus and the driving force.

    I am curious to know if Alie was actually stretching the truth about the nuclear meltdowns to get Clarke to do what she wanted. I tend think she wasn’t but I can’t shake the Qn.
    I agree with you about them building a new Ark or even a new Mt Weather and I also am entertaining the idea of Raven creating a new virtual world they could upload their consciousness’ to should all else fail. Mostly I just hate the idea of them going back to space even if it would be like going full circle. Clarke is the new Becca, Raven’s her assistant… seems too obvious.

    I love your comments on the show not knowing the power of Clarke and Lexa’s story. I think they might now. Shame it’s probably too late.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] offers Clarke freedom from her pain, she refuses, of course. She is completely numb already. As Melanie cleverly suggests, if ALIE wanted to get a reaction from Clarke, she didn’t need to offer her an […]

  2. […] offers Clarke freedom from her pain, she refuses, of course. She is completely numb already. As Melanie cleverly suggests, if ALIE wanted to get a reaction from Clarke, she didn’t need to offer her an […]

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