Adam Gopnik is a respected writer for The New Yorker, one of the most hallowed institutions of journalism (that has a notoriously rigorous fact-checking department). This week he wrote an article about how the Oscar Best Picture mishap could prove we’re living in some kind of Matrix. He concluded, “Whether we are at the mercy of an omniscient adolescent prankster or suddenly the subjects of a more harrowing experiment than any we have been subject to before… we can now expect nothing remotely normal to take place for a long time to come.”
This, my friends, is stressful. It’s also similar to a theory I presented offhandedly about the TV show The 100 in last week’s recap. When real life is so turbulent — the freakin’ Oscars are even weird, everything is just weird now — it feels so unsettling to watch a show like The 100. It’s not like the show’s writers could’ve know that they would legitimately move the doomsday clock up right before season 4 premiered, but with everything feeling so chaotic in real life, how are you supposed to respond to the chaos of this show?
I’ve decided that instead of giving into the bleakness of each episode, I’m just going to laugh at all the chaos and assume that there’s gonna be some big reveal at the end that saves them all. I know they did simulated reality last season too, but this show does like to repeat itself. So I’m choosing to see every new despair as just a prelude to some final Tech Ex Machina. I’m Marion Cotillard and you think you’re in the real world but you’re top is still spinning, Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m Katniss eating those berries, knowing the Gamemakers won’t let me die. I’m… the optimistic Jasper? I don’t want to survive I want to live! Let’s get to it!
Our crew is still working to prepare the Ark for radiation and Niylah’s helping by drying the meat they catch. How sweet was it that Clarke told Niylah to charge her radio? Maybe they’ll get another love scene! We get maybe a few seconds of a nice, sweet moment before boom, Ilian brings a broken Octavia back to camp in need of major medical help. Clarke revives her and Octavia is able to warn “war is here” and that Roan is coming with an army. It kind of seems weird that they’re playing it off like that fall would’ve just badly injured Octavia, not ended her life, right? I hope we get a better explanation! (Like… they’re in a glitching Matrix and falls don’t matter??? Hmmmmm….)
For now, Clarke has to expertly take charge and tell everyone what to do to prepare for Roan. And she’s pretty thorough, expect she forgets maybe the most important person: Ilian. He’s an unknown variable that she should’ve accounted for. Of course it’s understandable that she didn’t but we viewers can instantly tell he’s up to no good with all this tech around.
But for now the most pressing issue is the army coming. The Skaikru troops think they can use hydrazine to start a fire and light up the Grounders. Clarke vetoes this plan because it’s too close to the ship they’ve been fixing up. Then Monty says that since they have the element of surprise they should go try to head off the troops so that Clarke can try to talk to Roan.
So that’s what they do. Azgeda points arrows at Clarke, Skaikru point guns at Roan. It’s a standstill so Clarke and Roan decide to try to negotiate. Their conversation rehashes a lot of what we already know. Roan says that if Clarke is so sure about Nightblood then she should give his people the ship and focus her energy on that. But instead they arrive at a deal: 50 Azgeda people will survive, 50 Skaikru. So, basically, this whole Ark plan just got way way worse for Clarke. There is no way Skaikru would go for this plan!
Since this is a very volatile situation, true fans of the show have got to be wondering “What Skaikru guy is going to try to mess this all up?” The answer is new-guy Riley. Man Riley, you’ve been a pain since you were introduced! You better have some secret weapon of knowledge you haven’t told anyone yet. He wants to shoot Roan and goes rogue to do it.
I promise there’s a reason I’m telling this a little out of order, so let’s jump back to the beginning of the episode at Becca’s perfectly intact laboratory that our team found last week. Abby and Jackson are stuck and can’t figure out how to replicate Nightblood. Raven on the other hand seems to be having an epiphany, and then she starts floating around like she’s weightless. Except, she’s not really floating around, it’s her imagination, she’s actually having a stroke. Her brain is firing super-fast, her upgrade she got from A.L.I.E. is kicking in. We already know that she is able to intuit more and know more now because some of the technology that was in her head stayed with her. But what we learn is that the reason it’s causing her to have a stroke is because she was pulled out of the City of Light incorrectly (by Clarke). Raven’s explanation is a little more technical, but I saw it as kind of like when you unplug your phone from your computer without disconnecting it. At the end of the episode we learn that Abby’s having problems with her brain too when she sees Clarke covered in lesions from the radiation. They showed us this moment in the trailer to freak us out, but we should’ve all known it was just a hallucination.
These negative affects aside, the positive effects of the technology just keep on coming with Raven realizing that they have to be in zero gravity to create Nightblood and that there is an intact ship in this lab. How exciting was that reveal?
OK, So now that I’ve set this all up we can talk about the real vs. the fake tension of this episode and how this show handles tension in general. So the tension between Azgeda and Skaikru means that any false move can escalate the war (they say “start” a lot, but let’s face it, their peace is so volatile they’re basically already at war). Any stray bullet or arrow could mean a bloodbath. That’s why the title of the episode is “The Tinder Box.” Tension builds as we learn that there’s a loose variable, Riley. And again, we’ve been here before with The 100 in regards to “men who can’t put aside their grudges with the Grounders for the good of their people and ruin everything with bullets.” We all watched last season. And the season before. There are real stakes, but because it’s been done before I found myself getting a little exhausted with all the tension around Riley. Why are these people doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again? Is that just what life is? If so then why am I watching this TV show about it?
But then, this show gave us some incredible pile-on, by reminding us about Ilian. So now, as viewers, we were being attacked on all fronts. Imagine this being every waking moment of your life! Even if they were able to stop Riley from shooting Roan, are they (being Octavia and Niylah) also going to be able to stop Ilian from blowing up the Ark? There’s just no relief anywhere, except the lab. Then the show dropped the biggest bomb of all, casual enough that you might’ve missed it (but I assume not), which I hope gave you all a good 20 minutes or so to prepare for exactly what was going to happen. Raven says that the rocket to space is out of fuel… but they have tons of hydrazine back at the Ark. I mean… come on. How cruel can these malicious Gods/Aliens/Creatures/Writers be?
So Riley doesn’t shoot. Roan and Clarke make a deal. Raven has a plan. And then Ilian blows up the Ark. Holy smokes was this depressing! Even though I knew it was coming! Their plan B is gone and presumably their plan A is in jeopardy because of the hydrazine. Oh, and Raven and Abby, two of our smartest and most resourceful characters, are slowly dying as their brains fight against them. So look closely, people who have decided to keep watching this bleak af show, watch all hope burn to the ground. Watch Clarke have to see her one tangible solution go up in flames. All that work, all that time, just lost. You can accept the darkness or you can do what I do and laugh and laugh and laugh at how far this show will go to screw over its own characters.
And then you can decide to end on a positive note, like I am. The best moment in this episode came from Roan reminding Clarke about Lexa. Roan said that even though Lexa was born Trikru she rose above that to lead all the people. And Clarke hasn’t really done that yet, she’s still riding for Skaikru. So I hope that’s where this next part of the season wants us to go: with Clarke realizing she has to lead everyone, not just her people. Maybe this huge act of destruction will be the one thing that will bind all these people together! Maybe they are all sick of sides. They’re all citizens of planet Earth now, right? They’re all stuck with this planet on the verge of destruction and equally screwed! So they’ve got to stick together! That’s the only way. From the ashes they will rise!
With that I tell you all to take a break and do something nice next week because there’s no new episode. See you soon!