Monday, July 15, 2024

Bellamy Feels But Octavia Doesn’t Because She Had Sex

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The 100 Review Season 4 Episode 7 “Gimme Shelter”

Can you believe we’re over halfway through the season? And only now is the show actually starting to makes some sense. It’s still not free of troubling implications (I’m not sure it ever will be at this point). But, wonder of wonders, two of the top three scenes with the most pathos belonged to Bellamy Blake. Now that’s shocking!

Content Warning: This review discusses physical beating, trauma, and attempted suicide, as depicted on the show.

What Happened

Ilian follows Octavia into the woods because he wants to help her survive…for reasons? He apparently owes her for saving his life (after she tried to kill him?). She tells him to go away, but then pulls him onto her horse to escape incoming black rain. Bellamy returns from transporting Clarke to the island just in time for the black rain to start falling (again?). Everyone (once again?) rushes into Arkadia to escape the black rain. Taggert(?) is knocked down by the mob. Harper tries to help him, but is swept up in the crowd. Thankfully, Bellamy and Kane are there to save him. Bellamy asks about Octavia, only to discover she left hours ago (what?). A few Arkadians are trapped outside the walls and radio Kane to help them.

Octavia and Ilian find fresh water in a cave to wash in. She snarks at him about starting a fire. Jackson welcomes Clarke to Becca’s lab, where she reunites with her mom. Emori overhears Clarke and Abby talking about injecting everyone with Luna’s bone marrow to help their bodies create their own nightblood (what?). But, to test it would require exposing someone to massive amounts of radiation, possibly killing them. Emori heads out to Becca’s mansion with Clarke to get supplies and for Clarke to shower (yay, showering!).

In Arkadia, Harper feels bad about not helping Taggert(?), and Kane encourages her to help make the dude comfortable as he dies. Jaha, Monty, and their group of Arkadian peeps are safe ‘in Sector 5’, so Bellamy suits up to go after the two people unaccounted for. Unfortunately, the suit is compromised from the fire. He heads out anyway.

On the island, Emori deflects Clarke’s questions about her past life, creating space for Clarke to say she’s trying to save everybody, not just her people. They arrive at the mansion to find Murphy cooking and dancing along to music (adorbs). Emori tells Murphy she wants to get out of dodge because she’s afraid she will be the Griffin nightblood sacrifice. Clarke gets turned on by the fancy bed and shower (not really, but kind of. Heck I would if I were in her situation; she’s never seen a real bed in her life).

Just as she’s about to nap, she hears a sound. Someone has broken into the mansion through an office window! Random Grounder Dude attacks Emori in the kitchen (sacrifice for the nightblood anyone?). Emori claims he’s some guy named Baylis who hurt her and her brother at some point. She wants the kill after he rats out the fellow thieves she says came with him.

Bellamy arrives at factory station to save the missing Arkadians, but the wheels of the rover get stuck in the mud. Kane tells him to wait out the storm and tell the missing Arkadians he can’t make it. Bellamy has to listen to Mark and his son Peter die. It’s actually quite moving.

At the mansion, Clarke fixes up Emori, who tells her she’s going to kill Baylis out of revenge. When Clarke tries to talk her down, Emori replies that Clarke doesn’t know what it’s like to live her whole life knowing she was unwanted for being a mutant and having to fight to survive. Clarke tries to relate to feeling forced to kill, but Emori’s not having it. In the living room, Murphy isn’t buying Baylis’s claims to not have hurt Emori. Emori starts to beat him (because Grounders are Savages), but Clarke intervenes to save him for the nightblood cure.

Back in the woods, Ilian doesn’t understand Octavia’s desire for silence, so he begins to describe, in detail, how he killed his family. (Again, why does he care?) He tries to get her to talk about Lincoln, and stops her from killing herself when she tries to run out into the acid rain. She decides, as all the women on this show do, that sex is the way to process her feelings. They have sex.

In the lab, Abby has tremors in her hand. Kane calls her to tell her that they’re out of drinking water after the black rain. Abby asks if taking a life to find a cure makes her a murderer. He doesn’t have answers, so he philosophizes a bit instead. In the background, dude Harper ‘failed to save’ dies. Bellamy feels totes guilty about Octavia going off the deep end. Kane tells him not to feel bad about Octavia, because she’s making her own choices. Kane also tells Bellamy that his mom would be proud of him. Bellamy retorts that Kane floated his mother. There is a Cello of Emotional Significance (this is also actually a moving sequence, I just think the music is a bit heavy handed).

In the woods, Octavia tries to be totes chill about her one night stand. Ilian heads home and tells her she can come with him. She refuses, but changes her mind at the last second. Because having sex cures all trauma. Yay. Bellamy returns to Arkadia and admits he can’t save Octavia. In Becca’s lab, the team strap Baylis into the radiation chamber for the nightblood test. Only, psych! It isn’t actually Baylis. Emori confesses to Murphy that the dude really is a nobody, and she lied so that the team would use him as a test subject instead. Murphy is proud of her.

Tonight’s Pseudo-Profound Assertion: “Sometimes we need a different kind of strength. We need to survive, and then we can all find our humanity again.”—Marcus Kane (It kind of makes sense? But, it also undermines what Luna and Raven discussed two weeks ago.)

Mid-Season Retrospective-ish

It’s halfway through the season, and I’ve been pretty cynical about the plot, themes, and implications thus far. I’ve been pretty bitter about a few of the character arcs as well, mostly the mishandling of Bellamy and mistreatment of Clarke in the first four episodes. But at the midway point, it’s worth looking back and seeing if anything positive has stood out to me in the midst of this mess. A poorly paced, but still sometimes exciting mess that against my better judgment has got me interested in how they’re going to resolve the nightblood issue.

Since I wasn’t reviewing the show for S2, you all never got to hear me gush about how much I love the characters on The 100. In case anyone has forgotten, my saltiness stems from love. I stuck through S1’s rough patches because I fell in love with some of the characters (and I had a friend who told me the show got better in S2). S3 dropped the ball in so many ways, and this season still hasn’t addressed my major concerns related to themes and implications. But I still have deep attachments to many of the characters. I’m so grumpy about Raven suffering (still) because she’s a fave. The lack of sense in Octavia’s arc bothers me because she’s one of the characters that’s evinced the most growth over the past 3 seasons. And because she’s my child.

You know that post that goes around Tumblr about liking the version of a show in your head more than the real thing?

That’s me about The 100. So, before I dissect the hell out of tonight’s episode, I offer my positive takeaways.

Murphy continues to grow and mature in ways I never expected of him in S1. I hated him for a whole season, especially after he hurt Raven (protect her!). But Elizabeth and I pointed out in our retrospectives for S3 that he might actually have been the protagonist of the season. He evinced the most growth. In fact, he might actually have the most character growth over all 4 seasons thus far, closely followed by Kane and Octavia. The show has managed to take a despised character and nuance him organically to the point that he’s one of my favorites now. And I adore his relationship with Emori. At first, Memori felt like a poor Skaikru/Grounder substitute for Linctavia, but I unironically ship them.

Speaking of ships, my list of crack ships have actually grown this season despite the flaws. I could wholeheartedly get behind making Becho (Bellamy x Echo) canon. I have a feeling she might die to save his life at some point, but I enjoy the dynamic between them. Raven has always been my fandom bicycle, so it should come as no surprise that I like Sea Mechanic (Luna x Raven) and Doctor Mechanic (Abby x Raven). Raven is probably the only character I can ship with both a mother or a daughter (Princess Mechanic, i.e., Clarke x Raven), which is weird but it works. As my friend Lisa said, “That’s just so Raven”.

I absolutely hate the thematic implications for most of the female characters this season. As with last season, The 100 struggles to create space for women processing trauma and persistently uses the suffering of female bodies and psyches for Drama™ while protecting male characters from the same level of trauma. Nevertheless, they have still created a lineup of powerful female characters who are all strong in their own ways.

And I want better for them. I’d find them even more powerful if there weren’t troubling implications attached to all of them in some way or other. Clarke’s willingness to consider a path akin to S2’s Mt. Weather would be more compelling if they hadn’t already compared her to Jaha for nothing more than making a list that ended up being moot. The muddied ethical stance of the show undercuts the power of her dark pragmatism. They’ve already created a storytelling world in which anything the protagonists do is ‘the right thing’ merely because they’re protagonists.

Likewise with Raven. As much as I adore her, the fact that she’s been physically suffering almost since her first appearance on the show not only has gross implications for her as a woman of color, but also undercuts the power of her physical struggle this season. We’ve done this before, and it’s harder to emotionally invest in it the third or fourth time. I just want her to be happy with a caring, compassionate girlfriend like Luna who will sing her to sleep when she has nightmares and massage her leg when it hurts.

Anyway, pretty much the only things I enjoy about this show are the characters and the glimpses I get into them that fit with my self-indulgent mental version of them that I created when S3 went off the rails. So keep that in mind as I pick this episode apart. I love my babies, and want better storytelling for them. I’ve just have talked myself into fanfic, haven’t I?


The episode begins and ends with plot holes, and so shall this review. If you recall, last episode ended with Monty, Octavia, Kane, and Ilian in the mud after the alarm for black rain had sounded. Everyone else has already run to take shelter inside. We even see the first couple of drops fall on them as Kane tries to talk down Octavia from killing Ilian in the worst way possible.

So…that must have been a false alarm because the black rain has only just now begun to fall. According to Kane, Octavia fled Arkadia “several hours” ago. Um. What. There is zero explanation for this, just a random jump forward in time for plot convenience. Because it means Octavia is too far away for Bellamy to reach in time. It also means that Harper gets to suffer for her ‘failure’ to help Random Arkadian even though she was literally swept away by the crowd. Who cares about continuity if there’s angst amirite?

I’ll go ahead and get my biggest gripe out the way now, too: Octavia screwing away her trauma. For one brief second, when she was raging against Ilian, I thought she might actually get to process her trauma in a meaningful way. As uncomfortable as the suicide attempt made me given how the show has handled suicide attempts in the past (i.e., for Shock™ and Drama™), it at least made sense of how desperate she is. She had to listen to Kane compare her to the war criminal who brutally murdered Lincoln while she (and the audience) relived Lincoln’s murder. Self-destructiveness fits within her psychology, so it at least felt like a raw, honest moment for her.

And then the screwing. Just like so many of the female characters on this show, Octavia screwed away her trauma. Because why take the time to show your female characters processing grief, PTSD, and pain when you can give them a good roll in the hay? Because a good bout of the horizontal tango substitutes for actual processing. The Oxycontin makes all the negative emotions go away.

I’m not entirely certain that the show has realized how big of a pattern this is. Raven and Bellamy (S1), Clarke and Finn (S1), Clarke and Niylah (S3 and S4), Raven and Wick (S2). Heck, even Abby sleeping with Kane this season at some level is a response to the pain and trauma after being ALIE’s tool. She hung herself, almost died, and tortured her own daughter. But now she’s fine and dandy because she has a cute bf (and they are cute, don’t get me wrong. I like Kabby). It’s a pattern. The female protagonists grieve through sex, the male protagonists get to have prolonged (more than season-long) grief arcs. Oh, and they get to be drunk, nihilistic jerks or murder people (Bellamy, Jasper, Jaha, Pike, Finn).

And it’s not like the context of Octavia having sex with Ilian is in any way new or inspirational. It’s literally “just help me feel something other than sad/that I want to kill myself” sex. How is this a story worth telling? Wouldn’t Octavia opening up about her grief over Lincoln have been more meaningful to her? Like, bonding with a dude who killed his family, that she almost killed, because they’re both traumatized children of a brutal world that have seen and done terrible, terrible things? Couldn’t they have just talked?

It’s just…tired. And has icky implications. Maybe they think that they’re ‘subverting gender norms’ by giving us strong women who have sex on their own terms and are the initiators. But is it really a message of female sexual agency to make so much of the sex on the show contingent upon female trauma? It sends the message that sex is some kind of magical cure for pain. And when taken alongside the failure to allow female characters to actually process their trauma in any other way…it’s icky.

What’s also icky? Having yet another character played by a woman of color beat up another (potentially white) male character. Raven took her anger out on Murphy last episode; Emori beat up Not!Baylis this episode. It’s not even Empowering™ so much as it is a shortcut to depicting rage and/or frustration. Yes, this is a brutal society. And, we now have a pattern of primary and secondary female characters taking their pain out on male characters using physical violence (Octavia, Raven, and Emori, at the very least).

Two of these female characters are played by women of color, which plays into our society’s bigoted stereotypes about people of color. That Emori is also a Grounder, which in the show are coded as indigenous peoples, only reinforces the “All Grounders are savages” narrative that the show has been dancing with since S1. They’d gone to lengths to subvert it in S2, but S3 and S4 have doubled down on it with the persistent depiction of all Grounders but the few ‘good’ ones as inherently violent. We’ve been seeing the message for a while, but it doesn’t get any better.

On the positive side, this one episode did more to humanize Bellamy than all of 3B and the first 5 episodes of this season. This is how you do a redemption arc. Not by forcing it down our throats with multiple heavy handed speeches from Jaha about how Bellamy actually did what was right and shouldn’t feel bad at all for what he did. Nor with absurdly forced field trips whose only point is to make Bellamy look ‘better’. Not in a forced way, or with over-the-top ‘freeing slaves and hugging children’ moments that are all too transparent in their intention.

Redemption occurs when you show us Bellamy making choices to help others despite the risk to himself as an organic outgrowth of his fear for his sister. Some of Bellamy’s best moments in the past have been when a misplaced sense of responsibility for Octavia has led him to extend that protectiveness to others. It sounds kind of bad when I put it that way, but it works really well for Bellamy. He was forced as a child to be his sister’s keeper. He’s had so much pressure on him to guard and protect. It makes sense that would be a strong motivator for him, even if it stems from a messed up place.

Bellamy desperately trying to save people and failing is gut wrenching in this episode. I was more moved by him tonight than I have been in literally years. Not since S2 when he offered himself up to protect Echo have I felt more like I wanted to hug him. Seriously. I admit it. I wanted to hug Bellamy. Because his scenes tonight tore me in pieces.

More than anything it confirms my suspicion that the first four episodes of this season (if not five) were utterly useless. The plot went nowhere. They’ve been the worst offenders in terms of yelling at Clarke versus propping up Bellamy. The character arcs were off tonally, and don’t quite fit with where the characters are now. I said it with Octavia last week and I’ll say it with Bellamy now. Where these characters are right now in the season makes far more sense if the first 4-5 episodes either hadn’t happened, or if they’d been condensed into 15 minutes of screen time.

Speaking of character arcs, I’m digging the Griffin mother/daughter pragmatism about nightblood. Clarke has become more and more like her mother than her father as the seasons have progressed. It’s been interesting to see. I only wish that the narrative were more willing to commit to exploring the darkness underneath this pragmatism. But, as I mentioned earlier, the show has already undercut any power in the exploration of their amoral pragmatism by now.

Last season had already established that what makes any action ‘good’ is if a protagonist is doing it, and this season doubled down with that with Bellamy. The use of false equivalency to compare Clarke making a list to Jaha using torture and Octavia wanting to kill one person (or at most, 5 people) with Pike’s mass murder render any moral point meaningless.

They’re trying to eat their cake and have it too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this isn’t morally ambiguous, it’s morally backward.

Another show that knows all about ‘ambiguity’.

To round it all out, I close with the final plot hole: the nightblood bone marrow transplant. Because holy plot holes, batman. How does this even work? Do they even know if Random Grounder Dude is a close genetic match to Luna? In the real world, a bone marrow graft has to be as close to a perfect match as possible. If not, best case best case scenario is a rejection, meaning dude dies from radiation poisoning. Worse case, graft versus host disease as the body fights what it perceives as an invasion and then death by radiation poisoning. Basically, every single person still surviving has a high chance of death unless they’re a close genetic match to Luna.

I admit this was an issue in S2 when Mt. Weather was attempting to harvest blood and bone marrow from Grounders and Skaikru to survive. Only then, it wasn’t the hinge point of the protagonists’ survival, so I had an easier time letting it go. Besides, Skaikru interrupted the process so we never had to actually deal with whether or not it would have worked. I can forgive a gaping plot hole if it never comes to fruition, but not when it’s literally how everyone is meant to survive.

I lied. There’s one more thing I have to say: GEE, I’M SO GLAD RAVEN HAD TO SUFFER ALL THAT FOR NOTHING.

Bits & Bobs

  • Lexa Count: 0
  • The Flame Count: 0
  • Lincoln Count: 0
  • Death Toll: 3 extras, all Arkadians
  • How did Random Grounder Dude get to the island?
  • I hope Luna being absent means she’s off cuddling with Raven.
  • At least they saved us the horror of watching bone marrow harvesting again.
  • So…Abby seems to be getting worse.
  • Are we ever going to see Indra again? Or her daughter Gaia?
  • Memori is everything. I <3 my amoral survivalist children.
  • EMORI. That is all.

Tune in next week for more dead bodies!

*unenthused* yay.

Working Theories

Could Be Cool: Cryogenic chambers to save everyone, foreshadowed by Abby’s “we’ll all be sleeping one way or another” remark.

Wouldn’t Surprise Me: The bone marrow transplant issues will never be addressed. This is the S4 version of ALIE’s magical migrating chip.

Total Crack: Octavia will actually get a chance to process her trauma. (I’m really salty about this okay?)

Cover Image Courtesy of The CW

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