After a controversial season that saw the deaths of major lesbian and black male characters, season three of the CW’s apocateen drama, The 100, ended with torture, sacrifice, and the start of another nuclear apocalypse. Surprisingly low on mass murder, though! The 100 is a regular subject of complaints—and sometimes compliments!—in WWAC’s Slack, so I thought I’d check in with three of my colleagues, now that the latest season has wrapped.
Spoiler Warning: This discussion will be full of spoilers for the whole season, but especially for the finale.
So after numerous deaths, torture, rape, and mass murder, the people of Earth are once again threatened with a nuclear apocalypse. Was this a necessary upping of the ante or just too much?
Melinda B. Pierce: I understand the reasoning behind having Allie be more than just the out of control AI, and the nuclear threat gave her a deeper purpose other than humanity doesn’t deserve to live, but I never once doubted Clarke was going to pull the kill switch. All I could think was aren’t things bad enough? There is no leader for the Grounders, some of the City of Light followers were happy and now have to once again deal with their pain, and everything everyone believed on all sides has been turned upside down with the revelation of how the
Alenka Figa: I laughed a LOT during the season finale; it was an hour of unintentional comedy that made my very emotionally invested friend shake her head at me and tell me to shush. At this point, I’m pretty much just watching for the ridiculous trashfire that is most of the storylines, but this was the first time I just sat and laughed it up, so I’m gonna go ahead and say we’re all broken and this is too much.
Angel Cruz: I think I’m okay with this ante being upped, because this time there’s nowhere for them to run. Six months isn’t enough time to create another space colony, and I’m looking forward to seeing other places besides Arkadia and Polis.
Megan Purdy: I have no idea how they’re going to deal with this development. But surely there are other bunkers full of survivors they could contact for resources now that the killer AI is out of the way?
Although it took me awhile to warm to the ALIE character and storyline, I eventually came to appreciate how well ALIE and Becca’s actions reflect those of every other leader on this show. From the Ark to the 100 to the Grounders, this show is full of people “doing the right thing” in the most awful of ways. How well do you think it handled the moral and political questions stuff this year? I.e., political expediency, pacifism, free will, various forms of leadership, the good of the many versus the good of your crew versus the good of the one.
Melinda: Murphy says, “Just another day on the ground, right?” and I think that sums up the entire season for me. Nobody learns from prior mistakes.
Alenka: I enjoyed the storyline surrounding the Flame as I can enjoy anything on The 100. I loved that Luna said no to leadership and that Clarke had to confront her own desire to violate another person’s free will. Fighting for a moral belief means fighting consistently for that belief and not engaging with it solely when it’s convenient for you. In general, the politics didn’t feel very complicated. ALIE was an obvious, black top-hat wearing kind of villain—although I LOVE Erica Cerra—and Pike’s storyline was redundant. Jaha’s storyline could be really good next season, but I don’t have a lot of faith.
Angel: Luna was my favorite new character and subplot. I think that it was the right time to introduce her into the show, because as you’ve described, every leader thus far has made terrible, terrible choices in the name of “saving” their people. Sometimes, the only thing to do is acknowledge that leaving, pulling away from a toxic situation is the only thing you can do. ALIE was an incredibly frustrating plotline for me as a viewer and as a storyteller. I never really got the “no more pain” philosophy she espoused, and Jaha’s leadership there always felt off to me. He hadn’t shied away from making hard choices before, and I didn’t feel like his choices there justified. I didn’t need them to be the right choices; I just needed to understand the motivation for them, and I don’t think the show managed that.
Megan: Jaha’s storyline will make sense to me if it’s explained next season as at least in part due to ALIE’s influence. He’s made all sorts of questionable decisions since the start of the series, but also demonstrated guilt, grief, and the willingness to sacrifice for his people. His quest for the City of Light worked for me because he wanted, at that point, an out. He wanted there to be a solution to his people’s problems that wasn’t just more struggle and pain. And he found and embraced that solution. Of course, Jaha is ruthless and arrogant as much as he is empathetic and spiritual, but his behaviour as ALIE’s, well, prophet, was on a whole new level. I suspect he’ll have a lot to sort through in season four. How much of that was purely Jaha, and how much of it was ALIE?
One thing I liked was seeing ALIE sitting on the Heda’s throne. It’s what I came back to when she was trying to talk Clarke out of using the kill switch. ALIE likes to present herself as egoless, as merely fulfilling her core command of making life better. But despite the flat affect, doesn’t she have a bit more personality than that?
When ALIE takes the throne with her most important followers by her side, it’s a conscious overturning of Lexa’s command of the throne room. An ALIE twist on the way Lexa, the last leader of the Grounders and host for the rival AI, The Flame, occupied space and projected authority.
ALIE is capable of spite and cruelty. Yet, like all the other leaders on The 100, she presents her every decision as being the only way to serve the greater good. Well, how much of what she told Clarke is true? How do we know there aren’t already tools in place to save the species a different way?
Lincoln and Lexa were killed. Monty had to kill his own mother. Murphy was raped by Ontari. Abby was forced to torture her own child. There were more than a few standout moments of shock and terror this year. How did these go over with you, and did you think some/all were gratuitous or exploitative? If some worked, which ones and why?
Alenka: As more and more ridiculous, awful shit happened to Monty, I just got angrier and angrier. Being caught between what he believed morally and politically wrong and wanting to maintain a relationship with a mother he thought dead was mildly compelling, but they didn’t give it valuable air time for most of the season, unless you count shots of him looking down and feeling conflicted. Then when he does rebel, he has to murder his mom TWICE, and after finally getting a semblance of a romantic storyline, we get this cliffhanger episode ending where he faces ANOTHER conundrum involving the death of another person he loves/likes, with possessed Jasper holding Harper hostage. Sorry, but what? Monty’s mom was basically there to fuck Monty up enough that Jasper would be his friend again. She got fridged for an incredibly poorly written storyline.
Angel: Part of me—okay, most of me—is just happy that Monty survived. I don’t believe his mother’s death was warranted. Monty’s story arc was strong enough as he tried to help Jasper through grief, and I loved the romantic relationship he had with Harper. His mother’s death felt like the writers just wanted viewers to hurt. Also, I’m not happy with the way Lincoln was killed off. I can’t explain much further without swearing, but it really all boils down to dignity. He has always been one of the most dignified characters on the show, and while I get that he died as a martyr, I don’t think it was necessary. The scene of him standing in front of Pike’s gun waiting to die absolutely gutted me.
Megan: I have to agree with you both. Monty’s storyline was farcial and Lincoln’s was almost nonexistent. Monty is effectively tortured by circumstance this season: first the screws are put to him and with each episode they’re tightened and tightened a bit more. And for what exactly? Does more screen time on The 100 necessarily have to come with pain? (I mean …) Meanwhile, Lincoln is summarily erased from the show, living on only as Octavia’s motivation. That his death lacked dignity is so emblematic of his treatment throughout the past three seasons: from dangerous other, to mere bridge for Octavia accessing Grounder culture, to a martyr. While Richard Whittle worked hard to make Lincoln a nuanced and thoughtful character, the writers heaped racist trope after racist trope on him—and then fridged him.
Melinda: I usually don’t care too much about the science of a show, but the only way I can see them moving forward is if they spend six months collecting every person left alive on the planet and putting them all in Mount Weather. Realistically, what else could work? I’ll watch for the brother/sister dynamic of Bellamy and O. I need to see what happens to their relationship after O got her much deserved justice.
Alenka: I’m here for Murphy. I loved Murphy so much this season; amidst the trash heap of uninteresting storylines and gratuitous shock-value death and torture, Murphy was constantly there with his “why the fuck is this even happening?” face on. I identified with him so much. We are all Murphy.
Angel: I really really need Raven to continue having good storylines. There was a point in this season where you could tell she was being sidelined, and I did feel that the framing was getting a bit exploitative when she was taken over by ALIE. But Raven is honestly one of the best characters on the show and half of the reason I keep watching. The other half is Monty. Keep Monty alive, The 100, or lose me as a viewer forever.
Megan: Realistically, I know I’ll come back for next season no matter what direction they take the plot. The 100 and Game of Thrones are my favourite mass murdering soap operas right now. But what I want to see next year is some forward movement in the ethics department. I want to see characters like Jaha and Abby confront themselves fully. Characters like Clarke and Bellamy spend less time wallowing in their hurts and fears and more on using their positions to create sustainable, meaningful relationships with other factions. And characters like Raven and Monty get their due, and characters like Miller, Bryan, and Monroe step forward into the ensemble, from the supporting cast. And, you know, a not scientifically absurd resolution to the new crisis.