Monday, July 15, 2024

Indiana Jaha and the Temple of the Doomsday Cult

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The 100 Review Season 4 Episode 8 “God Complex”

Oh my god, you guys. Get ready for one heck of a trip tonight, and not just because Jasper decided to bring back the hallucinogenic mushrooms berries from S1. I don’t even know how to prepare you, so let’s just get started.

Content Warning: This review discusses gore and violent death, as depicted on the show.

What Happened

Not!Baylis must have been a near perfect genetic match for Luna, because he’s successfully making his own nightblood in Becca’s lab. The rest of the team talk Abby down from her sudden doubts about the experiment, and all seems to go well until they pass the point of black rain levels of radiation. Then, we’re treated to a full minute of Not!Baylis thrashing, screaming, spitting up blood, and covered in lesions. (Ah yes, the second half of the season gore. Lovely.) Also, there are now only 10 days left until world’s end.

In Arkadia, Jaha holds a funeral for the 18 people who died from black rain, fittingly accompanied by the sound of rain pattering…that no one is afraid of (what?). Jasper’s still feeling nihilistic and wants to take a jaunt in the forest without shelter; he ropes Bellamy into coming along with him to ‘keep him safe’. (Brotrip!) Niylah prays over the dead and part of her prayer reminds Jaha of the Dead End Second Dawn doomsday cult. He thinks they found a fake bunker earlier this season and wants to find Indra to ask her daughter about the prayer. He slams a McGuffin Medallion on the desk and says it’s not a coincidence that the Trikru symbol is an infinity symbol. Even though the symbol on the medallion is an upside down triangle… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Thus, the journey of Indiana Jaha begins.

“From the earth we will grow, from the ashes we will rise”—Trikru Prayer

Back in the lab, Jackson figures out the reason why Not!Baylis died and may have a solution. They’ll need another test subject to check, though. Raven objects. She’s only cool with sacrificing herself, not other people (I heart you, Raven). Roan and Clarke figure out that Not!Baylis was…not Baylis because he has stones that belong to a different clan (how convenient for them!). Oops! Poor Emori, looks like the punishment for lying is becoming the next science experiment. Meanwhile, Monty is going to go on the mission with Jaha and Kane to find the bunker, but before they leave, he and Harper have sex.

On the Brotrip, Jasper urges Bellamy not to feel bad because multiple episodes had passed since Bellamy heard that because the world is ending so what’s the point. He also harvests some psychedelic berries. In the lab, everyone but Raven and Luna is on board with locking Murphy and Emori up and using Emori as an experiment. Abby’s lost all of her hesitation, it seems. Roan blathers about it being a good death for Emori, while calling her a slur (that Raven calls him out for, because she’s the best). Luna tries to fight him, but her hip is injured from the bone marrow extraction (I assume?), and he knocks her out. Raven finally says the two words we’ve all been thinking since last week: Mount Weather.

Indiana Jaha and the rest of Team Doomsday head back to Polis to find Indra. She’s pretty pissed that Kane made an alliance with Azgeda after that clan attacked Trikru (fair point). Thankfully, Gaia is no longer roaming the world looking for natblida. She must have read the script and knew she would be needed in Polis. One of her giant tattoos matches the symbol on the McGuffin Medallion, so Indiana Jaha flips out. Adventure Music plays as Indiana Jaha asks where the symbol comes from. Gaia tells him it adorns the crypt of the first commander (what does Becca have to do with a doomsday cult?), which is in the temple currently controlled by Azgeda.

Heaviness lies on Becca’s lab as Raven once again reminds Abby of Mount Weather. Roan and Clarke commiserate about making tough choices as leaders. Team Doomsday get to the temple. Indra opens fire on the Azgeda guards even after they let them pass, seeding more conflict later if Roan thinks Skaikru did it. More Adventure Music plays as Indiana Jaha finds the crypt under the alter, adorned with the same symbol as on the McGuffin Medallion. He tries to use the medallion to open it, but it fails. Poor, Indiana Jaha.

Jasper takes the fruit to a rave (seriously, are there any adults in Arkadia? I’ve seen like, 5). Niylah plays Cool Mom and tells Jasper to make a tea instead of eating them whole. Bellamy agrees to dance and do drugs, but he doesn’t take his backpack off. What a nerd. In the lab, Emori tells John to pretend to side with Clarke so that they don’t kill him next if the experiment fails. John pleads with Clarke to not follow through with the next phase of Project Natblida. When that fails, he threatens to kill her if Emori dies. Abby can’t give Emori the injection, so Clarke does (because Clarke always has to be the one to blame!). Only psych! Clarke takes the injection herself.

Clarke must also be a perfect genetic match to Luna (how nice that all these random strangers are so closely matched) because she has nightblood now. Desperate to save her daughter, Abby admits that she saw Clarke dying like Raven saw the rocket. She then destroys the radiation chamber because she’s afraid of losing Clarke. Everyone seems oddly chill with their last hope of survival gone. Maybe it’s shock?

In the Temple of the Doomsday Cult, Kane tries to pry open the airtight bunker with a bar (you do you, Kane), while Azgeda guards pounds on the door. Jaha asks Gaia if she knows of a ‘key’ with the number 12 on it. Monty realizes that the McGuffin Medallion is actually the One Ring so he throws it into a brazier so it will reveal its secrets. The outer shell melts away to reveal a McGuffin Key that opens the vault. Dramatic Adventure Music plays as Indiana Jaha and Team Doomsday descend into the vault.

Tonight’s Pseudo-Profound Assertion: “What is the point of beating yourself up over all the crappy things you’ve done? You did them! And don’t say you had reasons. Because at the end of the day, at the end of the world, nobody gives a damn about your reasons, because they’re your reasons.”—Jasper


Not gonna lie folks, Indiana Jaha’s plot was weirder than the time they tried to do a ‘tribute’ to horror movies. The cheesy quasi-mystical sounding phrases with double meanings (“salvation lies within”, obvious much?), the melodramatic Adventure Music—I feel like I just sat through a bad C-movie ripoff of the Da Vinci Code. I have so many questions about this. Why? Who agreed to this? What does the Doomsday cult have to do with Becca and Polaris/Polis? If the doomsday vault is actually the grave of the first commander, how did they get her body/ashes in there and still have the medallion intact? What happened to the sacred Polaris pod from last season? Who decided to turn the flamekeepers into a secret cult spinoff of a doomsday cult with secret language codes and mystical tattoos? Most importantly: who asked for this?

I’m sure it’s supposed to feel like Shocking Twist™ that the first bunker was fake, but it feels lazy and retcon adjacent more than anything. Last week was an angst fest, but the ‘mythology arc’ (if that’s what this is) is more like a soap opera. This whole season has been a series of dead ends, backtracking, psych outs, and melodrama. Each episode has at least one moment of “Oh no, what will happen next????” Someone needs to tell this writing team that there’s a difference between problem solving after reasonable delay or an obstacle and everything being a dead end…until it’s not because everything else was a dead end and you need a new ‘solution’ that probably won’t be a solution anyway.

My best guess at what the writers room looks like.

At some point “she/he/this could be the one to save everything” feels like the boy who cried “Savior”. Everything has been the magic bullet this season, and in the end, none of them have been. It’s boring. I suppose you could call the season’s earlier scenes with Gaia and the Second Dawn doomsday cult ‘seeding’, but it’s sloppy. The writing is closer to S1 levels of clumsy plot devices, but even S1 didn’t have this level of gimmick to it.

What disappoints me most is that I like Grounder mythology. Gaia intrigued me, as did the hints we were getting about Grounder religious expression. But what we got tonight comes so far out of left field it might as well not have been the same ballpark. I worry the writers may have injured themselves stretching to connect Becca with the Doomsday cult. A connection that still doesn’t make any kind of logical sense by the way. It wasn’t even clumsily seeded. They just smashed together elements of the worldbuilding without any regard to whether they fit together naturally or logically at all.

Why would Becca, a scientist investigating AI as a means to save humanity from itself, be in any way connected to a doomsday cult? And if they weren’t connected, why would Grounders call the vault the grave of the first commander? And what did Jaha mean about the Polaris infinity symbol being connected to the Second Dawn symbol? They’re totally different! Sorry, I just really don’t understand how this works at all. It’s hilariously absurd. I reached Attack of the Clones levels of ironic enjoyment levels by the end of this arc. I can’t even begin to take this seriously.

This symbol is meaningless to me, and yet I’m supposed to think it’s the heart of some compelling treasure hunt mystery.

Project Natblida had stronger emotional beats. Murphy’s impassioned plea to Clarke to save Emori’s life was the only time this season that someone questioning Clarke’s choices actually landed. For once, an individual’s personal emotional stakes felt like they outweighed the greater good. Emori’s heartfelt wish for Murphy to renounce her to survive, and Murphy’s equally adamant refusal to even try, set the perfect tone for Murphy’s confrontation with Clarke. Emori is all Murphy has in this world; as with Lincoln and Octavia, they’re each other’s home because neither fit in society. It helps that Richard Harmon acts his butt off in the scene. Someone give him an Emmy for that performance because it gave me chills.

Clarke’s conversation with Roane about the travails of leadership and making sacrifices that their people will only thank them for later worked far better than Jaha’s condescending false moral equivalencies. Rather than justify the grim choice they’re making, the characters this episode more fully acknowledged the horrors they were willing to commit to save humanity. Their shoulders drooped, their spine curved with the weight of it. No one smiled or staunchly asserted platitudes. Even Clarke’s stolid pragmatism seemed blunted by the shadow. Aside from the gratuitous gore, the tone stayed predominantly somber rather than Grimdark™.

Unfortunately, the writers threw all of that character work out the window with the way they ‘resolved’ this arc. Clarke got a nice moment to sacrifice herself for the sake of her people, but without any real consequences. Abby’s reactions are all over the place. She has a doubt/determined switch that flips on and off as the plot demands. Paige Turco sells every single scene, but I can’t help but think that Abby’s final hesitation to inject Emori would have worked better if she’d had a stronger physical reaction to the mention of Mount Weather.

Logically, she ought to be triggered by what she’s doing, having been a victim of harvesting herself. If we’d seen her hands shaking, gripping the table, and a need to take a breath when she extracted the marrow from Luna, her inability to follow through would have ben even more powerful. As it stands, it’s a thinly veiled set up for Clarke to inject herself. And why does everyone just stand around not reacting when Abby destroys the machine? Miller had threatened Murphy when Emori urged him to do the same. But now everyone just stands around and watches her do it? Is it shock? You’d think someone would stop her after the first blow.

Because I’m me, I have to point out the bs science that once again crops up in the Project Natblida plot. Jackson specifically mentioned that it had been two hours, so Clarke should be set with her brand spanking new nightblood. Sorry, dude, not even close. It takes at least 7 days for a stem cell to transform into a red (or in this case black) blood cell, and that’s if it’s your own body making the blood. If the transformation follows a stem cell transplant (which is the case here), it takes 10-20 days. Two hours isn’t even close. There’s a simple solution, too. Just add a beat of dialogue about being grateful for an artificial accelerant given the immanent doom approaching. Fuzzy? Yes. But not as stupid as expecting the audience to believe two hours would replace every single red blood cell in Clarke’s body.

Thus, Project Natblida results in yet another dead end. Sad, because this was the only interesting, new, and creative solution to the apocalypse this whole season. Then again, maybe it will pull a Second Dawn and make a comeback! It would only be slightly less jarring than the cult showing up out of the blue.

Speaking of jarring, holy tonal whiplash tonight, Batman! The juxtaposition between the depth of emotion in the lab scenes and the absurd Illuminati-like treasure hunt made my head spin. The showrunners must have learned their tonal whiplash skills from Benioff and Weiss. This was Snake-Fu followed by Sansa’s wedding night levels of jarring (thanks Kylie). I mean, Rothenberg has said he wants The 100 to be the next Game of Thrones, so I guess it makes sense?

The discordant tones waste the few good moments (John and Clarke, Clarke taking the injection) we have. We lose sight of the somber weight of sacrificing two people to save everyone with the jump from melodramatic moment to melodramatic moment. Last week’s episode had similar pacing issues, only it felt more like emotional exhaustion at the end. There was too much Drama shoved into one episode for it all to be meaningful. The season thus far pretty much wasted 5 episodes with mostly filler (that could have been 15 minutes), and now it’s all angsty moments and melodrama thinly connected by plot necessity. It does not bode well for the rest of the season.

On to the expected: more ladies suffering to save the world! No on mentioned Raven’s stroke, so she’s by fine by all appearances. I appreciate that, even if I’m still bitter about her literally suffering for nothing. Luna, Emori, and Clarke were all set up to suffer instead of Raven. Emori and Clarke get off scot free, but Luna still has to undergo not one, but two painful extractions that will leave her crippled for a while. And again, for nothing, since Project Natblida seems all but done now (or will it come back like the Doomsday cult????).

Look, I agree both Raven and Luna having to suffer physical pain have a Watsonian explanation. Noble sacrifice, the things we do to survive, blah blah blah. But on a Doylist level, they fit into a pattern for this show in which female characters disproportionately suffer more mentally, physically, and emotionally than male characters. The pattern has existed since the show began, but after three and a half seasons, I expect improvement. Alas, only women can be martys for the cause on this show, because what even are gendered implications?

Speaking of which, Bellamy got another pep talk about not feeling bad. As tempting as it might be to dismiss Jasper as talking out of his nihilistic butthole, this has been said before. The show has been hammering home the point that Bellamy ought not to feel bad since last season. He’s already gotten multiple pep talks this season alone. We get it. The writer’s believe Bellamy should stop feeling guilty (but Clarke should totes still feel like crap for the decisions she makes, unless she’s talking to Roan).

We’re meant to side with Jasper, though why he suddenly cares about how Bellamy feels about himself is beyond me. Jasper’s nihilism conveniently only exists when he needs to be an dillweed, usually to Clarke. And now his nihilism disappears so that he can tell Bellamy that the apocalypse trumps guilt (and the desire to prove himself that stems from it?). The sentiment would annoy me no matter who said it, because of how it plays into the extreme inconsistency with how Bellamy and Clarke are treated by the narrative.

But why does Jasper care? It makes zero sense that he would be trying this hard to teach Bellamy to let go of his martyr complex. He really cares about how other people face their impending doom for some reason? People are only allowed to face death with a smile, I guess. Maybe this is all supposed to be about Maia. He’s created this nihilistic persona to convince himself that he shouldn’t feel grief over her death. That makes more sense, but it’s not been translated well on screen if one brief line tonight (“It’s not going to bring anyone back”) is the first glimpse we’re getting of this motivation for his entire character arc this season.

Bits & Bobs

  • Lexa Count: 1
  • The Flame Count: 1
  • Lincoln Count: 0
  • Death Toll: 19 (18 Arkadians who died in the black rain and Not!Baylis)
  • I like Gaia, even if she’s only a plot device. I wish we’d gotten more interesting worldbuilding from her.
  • Why doesn’t Not!Baylis have any effects from the radiation until he dies? Even Luna showed effects for at least a little while.
  • Roan is quite the king of unemotional pragmatism to Clarke’s tortured one; it’s a nice dynamic, especially since he’s not blaming her or yelling at her.
  • The speed with which Roan and Clarke put Emori up for testing proves Emori was right; she was always expendable to them, no matter what she means to Murphy.
  • What does Jasper add to the show? No one listens to him so it’s not like his hedonistic nihilism is a meaningful counterpoint.
  • The temple is officially on the ground floor now this season. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t last season, but I could be misremembering.
  • I wonder what Octavia’s doing now that she’s sexed her grief away.

Working Theories

Could Be Cool: Raven and Luna make out once they realize they were the only ones to stand up for Murphy and Emori. #SeaMechanic

Wouldn’t Surprise Me: Project Natblida was all a convoluted method to make Clarke a natblida so she could get the flame and be with Lexa (which will then be used to ‘justify’ killing her off and ‘mollify’ the wlw crowd even though there’s no way in hell they planned this from the beginning. If they had, they could have given it to her last season).

Total Crack: To ascend to the even deeper chamber within the Temple of the Doomsday cult, Jaha will have to rip Jasper’s beating heart out of his chest. But only after all the Delinquents feast upon monkey brains and eyeball soup.

The 100 is on hiatus for the next three weeks, but tune in April 26th for only having 6 days left! Looks like each episode is going to be a little over a day in the show timeline from here on out. Woo!

Images from The 100 Courtesy of The CW

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