Saturday, June 22, 2024

Arkadian Idiot Ball and Ilian the Telepathic Incendiary

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The 100 Review Season 4, Episode 5 “The Tinder Box”

Good news, everyone! Clarke didn’t get yelled at today! Bellamy wasn’t told he did nothing wrong!

Sadly, there is also bad news. The Arkadian guard played an episode long game of idiot ball and plot things happened for plot reasons but no other. Oh, and Raven is suffering again. And Abby.

What Happened

At the Not-Mansion on ALIE’s island, Raven is doing computer-y things. Jackson explains that nightblood was created to protect the body from radiation emitted from the AI, but he and Abby can’t figure out how Becca created it. Raven has brain pain and starts floating like she’s in zero-G. Abby and Jackson don’t notice, so it’s clear this is some kind of seizure. The plot soon tells us this is so. She’s bleeding from her mouth during her seizure for some reason (did she bite her tongue?). Jackson gets an injection to stop it. In the woods, Octavia falls off her horse, which conveniently stops and doesn’t step on her. In her haze, she sees someone approaching. Ilian?

At Arkadia, Monty is helping pack up plot convenient moonshine with Niylah’s help (yay! she’s on screen!). She and Clarke hug and there’s kind of an awkward tension there. Ilian brings Octavia to Arkadia. Clarke resuscitates her, and she manages to whisper out that Azgeda is coming with war. Clarke goes to start surgery on Octavia with Niylah’s help, delegates contacting Kane to Monty, and getting the guard ready to Miller’s Dad (David) via Harper. Ilian looks around Arkadia for… obscure reasons. David wants to light a fire outside of the ship to kill the Grounder army. Clarke comes into the meeting just in time to suggest meeting Roan on the ‘one path from Arkadia to Polis’ (okay…). Monty says it might work, using surprise just like Pike/Bellamy did killing the 300 (only conveniently Bellamy isn’t mentioned).

The Grounder army is marching through a heretofore unseen, serendipitously located rocky vale on the ‘one path from Arkadia to Polis’, when they meet up with Clarke alone. Roan doesn’t understand how Skaikru knew, Echo doesn’t understand how Octavia survived. Roan starts to order a kill on Clarke when Echo points out the green dots from sniper rifles all over his chest. Echo brings Kane and Bellamy forward and threatens to kill them. Clarke asks for 10 minutes and Roan agrees because he knows they’re outnumbered in this trap. Clarke takes Roan to a cave to talk.

Looks like Riley is the new Pike/Bellamy this season, because he doesn’t remove his sight off of Roan like everyone else once he agreed to talk to Clarke. Monty talks him down while Harper (correctly) points out Riley should not be here given Azgeda enslaved him. (Why did no one think of this sooner?). Bellamy has the shortest grieving cycle ever as he realizes Octavia must have survived the fall in order for this trap to have been set. Speaking of his sister, Octavia wakes up in Arkadia to Niylah taking care of her and figures out Ilian brought her there. Ilian wanders the halls with the cart of alcohol. (Why is no one watching him?)

Raven wakes up in Becca’s lab. Abby tells her she had a seizure, and they need to do a scan. Raven says her neurons were firing faster than her conscious brain could process, which led to the seizure. Raven then asks Abby about her problem synthesizing nightblood. She figures out, based on her special brain seizure/vision that you can only make nightblood in space (idk how weightlessness effects RNA, but okay). Abby says that doesn’t help because they can’t go back to space to make it. Raven asks the computer to open the interior blast doors and hooray! There’s a conveniently heretofore unknown space ship for her to fly!

In the rocky vale, Monty and Harper are worried about how long the parley is taking when David figures out that Riley has gone rogue. (Seriously? Why did no one keep an eye on him after the last incident?). Monty goes after Riley, who he’s certain went to the cave to kill the king. In the cave, Roan and Clarke bicker over who broke the alliance. Roan confronts Clarke about the ship; she says it’s a back up plan and tries to convince him about the nightblood solution. Roan says it sounds like she’s trying to raise the next commander (a reasonable conclusion). Clarke says the flame is gone (?). Roan tells her she’s learned nothing from Lexa, who rose above clan ideology to help everyone. She offers to share Arkadia with him while they work on the nightblood solution.

Monty gets caught sneaking through the rocky vale by Azgeda. He explains the assassination attempt he’s trying to stop. Echo says she’ll deal with Riley, but Monty warns if she kills him, Arkadia will open fire. Bellamy offers to go with her to talk Riley down, while Kane and Monty stay as hostages.

Back in the lab, Abby looks at Raven’s brain scan and says ‘she’s using such a large percentage of her brain’ (I hate this specific piece of neurological bs). Jackson sees something on the screen that could be a stroke. Raven figures out that ALIE is still kind of in her brain somehow from the EMP, which is why she was ‘upgraded’ and knew about the rocket. Abby warns her about the stroke. Raven remembers ALIE warning her about brain damage (3×11) , but is resigned to dying if it means saving everyone. Jackson pulls Abby aside to ask her for a scan since she was hit by an EMP, too (3×16). She says she’s fine.

Echo and Bellamy are now walking through woods that we didn’t see Clarke and Roan walk through. Bellamy is trying to convince Echo to work together because the apocalypse won’t discriminate. In the cave, Roan and Clarke reach an agreement to split Arkadia 50/50 (not a bad idea for genetic diversity) and bind it with blood. Bellamy and Echo find Riley, and Bellamy tries to talk him down before Echo kills them both (why not just push Riley over?). Riley backs down just in time and starts crying.

Octavia and Niylah search Arkadia for Ilian who is there to destroy tech. Niylah asks where Octavia would go to do the most damage, and she says the server room. Because a Grounder would know where to find that…but that’s what they’re going with because he did.

The next scene jumps between the woods and Arkadia. Echo lies to Roan about Riley trying to kill him. Ilian is about to set the server room on fire, but Octavia tries to talk him down (matching Blake sibling interventions! How cute). Roan and Clarke explain they’re going to share Arkadia. Ilian succeeds in blowing up the server room, which in turn blows the engine room and destroys the ship, but not so much that most of the survivors can’t get out. Ilian saves Octavia and Niylah (so…now he cares about people not dying?). Team Roan/Clarke arrive to find the burning ship. Blake sibling reunion! Clarke immediately goes to Niylah, who tells her to help Octavia, who in turn tells Clarke it was Ilian. They all watch the ship blow up for 2 minutes while emotional music plays.

In the final scene, Abby has her own seizure/vision and sees Clarke all covered with radiation sores telling her she’s running out of time.


Ngl, this is probably the strongest episode this season, mostly because: 1) No Jaha or Jasper, 2) no Bellamy ‘redemption arc’, 3) no yelling at Clarke or Raven for making reasonable decisions. That doesn’t mean it’s a good episode, just not as awful as the past few weeks in certain ways. It still had flaws, like the epic game of idiot ball that infected two of the three arcs.

The ‘tinder box’ arc suffers the most because of the nonsensical inclusion of Riley on the mission. Riley had to be talked down, twice, for the exact same thing on a mission he should not have even been on. Harper asking that question does no more than lampshade a real narrative flaw: Riley had no place being there and only an idiot would have done so. Who in their right mind would put a former slave on Azgeda on a mission they hope will end peaceably? It’s asking for trouble, which is precisely what they got.

Even if we argue technical oversight, that does not explain not just Monty, but Harper and the entire rest of the team losing track of Riley after they had to talk him down from shooting Roan. He’s proved he wants to kill Roan. That should have gotten him pulled aside and his gun removed. He was a threat to the mission at that point, but no one blinks. They let him keep his rifle trained on the King they all want to protect and ignore him.

But that’s not the end. Monty warns Echo that if she kills Riley, Skaikru will fire on Azgeda. But we see Echo and Bellamy confront Riley in the woods way out of sight range of the vale. Which begs the question: if a Grounder shoots an Arkadian in the woods and no one’s around to see it, why would Monty even bother warning Echo since Arkadia wouldn’t be able to retaliate? This is either an epic bluff, or Monty is an idiot. Thankfully, Echo is also an idiot because she doesn’t question his ‘logic’.

This brings me to Bellamy confronting Riley. Leaving aside the redundancy of having two of the exact same scene (friend talks Riley down from killing Roan), why doesn’t Bellamy just push Riley out of the way? He’s all up in Riley’s face, like, literally inches away. Riley has a rifle, not a pistol, so he won’t be able to bring it to bear against Bellamy. If Roan hears, they could just say they thought they saw a threat or something. Or that they tried to shoot at much needed game that got away.

Roan is not immune to the idiot ball either, sad to say. He’s always been such a reasonable, pragmatic leader, up until last episode when it was plot convenient for him to be rash (an idiot) about how best to confront Skaikru. Why couldn’t he have gone nicely with a cadre of guards to talk to Clark in Arkadia about the ship without declaring war? Or summoned her to Polis instead? What about listening to Kane? Or asking to have this conversation via radio with Clarke? Given how rushed/stupid his march on Arkadia seems the reasonable about-face during his conversation with Clarke feels unearned. Maybe he needs Abby to scan his head; he may have had a war-inducing brain aneurysm last episode and those things can come back at the worst moments. Just ask Bellamy.

I think the Skaikru guard got tired of hogging the idiot ball in the Strategic Rocky Vale of Extreme Plot Contrivance, because they lobbed it over to Ilian and Arkadia. This arc also begins with a contrivance: Ilian just ‘happening’ to find a severely wounded Arya Todd of the Canals Octavia in the large forest between Arkadia and Polis. Even if it can be traveled in a day (as some episodes imply, but others contradict), the chances of him ‘happening’ upon her like that are astronomical. It also assumes Octavia hasn’t bled out by now, like another character would have. But Octavia has +75 Armor of Plot Survival, so perhaps Ilian has a +50 Shirt Ties of Finding.

Shirt Ties of Finding (source).

Not only do the Arkadians let Ilian in alongside Octavia (instead of taking Octavia from him since they don’t know him), they leave him to wander unsupervised. Between 100-500 (or more) people live in Arkadia and not a single one of them kept eyes on Ilian when Octavia went into surgery. What?? They let a stranger, and a Grounder one, just wander the halls of Arkadia on his own? And why did no one else stumble upon him while he dragged around his cart filled with alcohol? Just…how does this happen.

But we’re not done. I think Ilian absorbed everyone else’s intelligence this episode. Think about it. Ilian is a young man from Trishanakru. Now, we don’t know where Trishanakru exists vis-à-vis Arkadia or Polis, but somehow he both knows about Arkadia specifically and that it is filled with tech for him to destroy in his luddite revenge ‘arc’. How? I’ll be generous and say he’s heard about it in Polis. Still, he also magically knows both what a server room is and where to find it in the maze of halls in Arkadia, a space station he has never been in before in his life. He also knows that the engine room is below the server room, and that blowing the server room will blow the engine room, which will blow up the ship.

Um. Is he telepathic? Did ALIE foresee he would want to do this and download the schematics to Arkadia into his brain along with the information that a server room is a great place to start a space-station destroying fire? How does he know any of this. He should not even know what a ‘server’ is. None of this makes sense.

Which brings me to pacing. I do not understand this season’s pacing. This episode and last had some good tension in some of the arcs, but also swift resolutions. Compare that to the holding pattern of the first 3 episodes, where the Polis arc went nowhere, Bellamy went on two dead-end day trips in the Rover. I suppose one isn’t really a dead end, since it gave us Riley to threaten Roan this episode, even if it did take a game of idiot ball to make it an actual plot point. Still, why couldn’t someone else have filled this role? Are there no other Skaikru people with grudges against Azgeda? Riley could have been bffs with a survivor of Farm Station that was killed when Azgeda blew up Mt. Weather.

Ilian’s ‘arc’ was completely rushed in a way that created a giant plot hole. Bellamy’s grief was resolved in like, a second, because heaven forbid he feel negative emotions for longer than a quarter of an episode. And for god’s sake, did we need two whole minutes of people watching the Ark burn? We could have had a scene of Ilian asking a nice young Arkadian girl to show him around, maybe even show him the coolest parts of the ship (like the server room), which would then seed how he knows where this is.

The destruction of the ship only makes the nightblood solution that much more inevitable, which it was looking like already. So the whole ‘list’ plot is pointless now, and wasted a lot of time. Could that arc have maybe been wrapped up sooner and with less yell-at-Clarke-but-make-Bellamy-feel-good time? It would have made more space for Ilian to wander around, or even to explain why he decided to go there. As it is, they spent three whole episodes yelling at Clarke for making decisions about something that was only going to end in an inferno. Screw this. Seriously. Screw this show for spending so much time on the differential treatment of men and women in power in such a sexist way. Only to make it utterly unnecessary and pointless.

Speaking of gendered treatment, gendered suffering! It’s one of the other major issues with this show that I pointed out in my piece two weeks ago. The past two seasons, physical and emotional suffering has been gendered in problematic ways. On the one hand, women have disproportionately suffered from physical traumas like torture (Raven, Luna, Clarke, Indra), self-harm (Raven, Abby), and extreme physical pain (Raven, Clarke, Ontari). Male characters did not suffer the same traumas or in the same numbers as their female counterparts.

Emotional suffering, on the other hand was given more thematic weight with male characters than with female characters. Jasper spent all of last season mourning his girlfriend. Bellamy killed 300 people out of grief. Even Monty’s grief about his mother had more space than, say, Clarke’s loss of her lover, which was hardly mentioned at all. Octavia, likewise, was not given much on-screen time to mourn that did not involve physical or verbal lashing out at Bellamy, who was given more space to be upset at her treatment of him than she was her pain. Yes, Clarke had a moment to mourn Lexa…a whole 10 seconds, maybe. Female characters manage to ‘get over’ and ‘compartmentalize’ their grief but the men do not.

Now, I might be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this was an attempt to be more feminist. That maybe they were trying to not overly emotionalize their women or stoicize their men. Fair enough.

It hasn’t translated well though. Not when Jasper’s entire identity is his grief (and now grief induced nihilism and self-destruction) but multiple female characters are rarely given screen time to even mention their former romantic partners with whom they had longer standing relationships (like Octavia x Lincoln). It doesn’t look good, especially when Bellamy’s grief over the supposed loss of Octavia was resolved so swiftly as to look like the writers were protecting him from feeling bad. A pattern this season with the insistent message that he not feel guilty any more for the 300 innocent people he murdered.

But most of all? Just screw this show for giving Raven yet more physical trauma. Every season she has physical pain as a significant part her arc. She has a bullet in her spine, suffered nerve damage and severe pain in her leg from the bullet wound, tried to kill herself twice, went back to having leg pain, and now this. “What should we do with Raven this season? More physical trauma!”

But this time, it’s okay that Raven is suffering because her brain is magic! Raven suffers physical trauma and still manages to save everyone is basically ever plot every season. Protect Raven Reyes 2k5ever.

Speaking of brain seizures, I wonder why Abby didn’t get any of the cool/smart ALIE upgrades that Raven got. Just getting the seizures/visions sucks. She could have used some of those smarts to figure out the nightblood issue herself.

I will admit, the whole RNA nightblood problem is pretty cool sounding. So someone did their homework to come up with nice sounding science technobabble. But since I’m me, I couldn’t help but ask myself if zero gravity actually affect how RNA interacts with DNA to create an entirely new enzyme in blood. My conclusion: maybe? I did some digging and while this hasn’t been studied specifically, it’s not out of the realm of believability. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s within the realm of plausibility. At least it’s better than “a swallowed chip magically ends up in the base of the neck”. And it does explain why Becca went to space. That’s pretty fair.

BUT. I will call bs on the “[Raven’s] using such a large percentage of her brain” thing. It’s a staple in sci-fi land, but complete and utter nonsense. I’ll let an actual neurologist explain why:

“[“It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time”—Barry Gordon, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

There are ways Raven could have been shown to have an enhanced brain without falling back on this lazy myth about brain use. But no, they went full lazy. Which frustrates me because the nightblood arc is the only interesting arc this season, and it’s mixed up with lazy storytelling and gendered suffering. Everything else requires so much idiot ball to work, it’s barely worth the screen time.

One final note: Raven says the rocket need hydrazine to run that they can get from Arkadia. Only, Arkadia just blew up, and I assume this highly flammable material (which we’ve heard about before in this season) would have combusted.

Psych! Next episode has Monty/Clarke/Roan talking about how to transport it from Arkadia to the Island….wtf?

Tonight’s Pseudo-Profound Assertion: “War makes murderers of us all.” Thanks Echo.

Bits & Bobs

  • The Flame Mentions: 1
  • Lexa Mentions: 1
  • “Ain’t we a pair” – Roan x Clarke?
  • Raven x Abby is definitely skirting my level of comfort with flirting on this show, same with Clarke x Niylah, though I’m holding my judgment on the latter b/c we could still get an actual relationship.
  • It’s nice to see Raven’s sense of humor is back, even if she’s slowly dying and will likely face immense physical pain in the process.
  • Bellamy admitted he’s a murderer, so that’s nice. Does this mean he rejects Jaha’s “you only made a mistake” tripe?
  • I wonder what Luna and the rest of the Island team is doing while the doctor team play in the lab.
  • Jackson’s shot arm seems better now.
  • This episode confirms it, Abby & Co are at neither the mansion nor the bunker Murphy holed up in. This is some new, third building on the island. Raven and her magic ALIE-brain connection must have known about it because the audience sure didn’t.
  • Clarke has zero pain in her voice when she mentions the flame being gone. 1) How does she even know it was “destroyed”? 2) Why does Roan not correct her?
  • Monty sure got over how mad he was at Clarke for the list rather quickly.

Working Theories

Come to the forum! We have great crack theories.

Could Be Cool: Clarke will actually become the final commander once she gets the nightblood cure and finds out Roan still has the flame.

Wouldn’t Surprise Me: Raven and/or Abby are going to die working on the nightblood cure. It all depends on how much they want Clarke to suffer.

Total Crack: If Raven and Abby survive to get to space, they have a fling but decide that ‘what happens in space stays in space.’

Images Courtesy of The CW

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