Sunday, May 26, 2024

A Lie Guarded Gives Octavia Arya Levels of Plot Armor

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The 100 Season 4 Episode 4 Review, “A Lie Guarded”

“A Lie Guarded”, in other words, an excuse to yell at Clarke again and make her apologize for things. Not that this show needs excuses. We’re now just about a quarter of the way through the season, and things are not looking up, both for the characters or the storytelling. I’d say this was a nuanced exploration of the hazards of leaders failing to tell their people the whole truth, but I would be lying. *ba dum tiss*

Let’s get started shall we?

Content Warning: This review mentions and discusses faked attempted suicide as depicted on the show.


What Happened

We open on Jaha floating in a lake while Jasper and the rest of the Delinquents make fun of him for getting ‘floated’. Clarke wants everyone to get back to work, and is worried that Bellamy hasn’t returned from a hunting trip (foreshadowing). Guess what? Riley is back! And he’s helping supervise the repairs. So glad Bellamy saved him so that he could fill the role of any other tertiary character! Clarke sees rain on the horizon and thinks that it’s black rain. Jasper decides to stay outside and play in the possibly radioactive rain (he’s a nihilist remember?). He pretends to choke and die before laughing at everyone for being horrified at his ‘joke’. He thinks they’ve lost their sense of humor. I think he’s being a dick.

In Polis, Kabby talk over radio about their jobs and staying safe (they’re genuinely cute). Pre-emptively pissy, Octavia comes to talk to Kane, who is mad that people are finding out about the destruction of the flame (how is this her fault or problem?). He also doesn’t want her to kill anymore because it’s making the political situation worse (receipts?), so he’s sending her back to Arkadia. Octavia wants to see Indra first.

Meanwhile, Abby & Co arrive at Becca’s island. Raven calls Murphy a dick and kind of flirts with Jackson? Luna doesn’t trust them (why would she after ALIE?), but Nyko does. They come across a conveniently placed boundary marker, and Emori says she can’t cross ‘the line’ because she’s a mutant. Murphy’s a rebel, so he crosses anyway. Unfortunately, there are still somehow working drones on the island that start shooting at them. Random Arkadian Guard #1 gets shot in the head, and Nyko dies protecting Luna. The rest of the team shoot down a couple drones, and Miller wants to know why they are still working (you and me both, Miller). Abby realizes Luna is missing.

Miller says they need to split up to find Luna, but Raven isn’t happy about it. Emori tells Murphy there are scarier things on the island than drones (Wait…did they teleport to Lost? Please tell me there’s a smoke monster).

In Polis, Roan summons Kane to tell him the survival plan because it’s been 3 weeks without an update. Kane tries to demur, but Echo brings in Bellamy and Random Arkadian Guard #2, the latter of whom has told them about bunkered Arkadia. Kane explains the ‘cure’ they’re cooking up that will turn everyone into nightbloods. Echo calls the plan “blasphemy”, to which Kane replies sagely, “It’s not blasphemy; it’s science” (Goddammit). Echo kills Random Arkadian Guard #2 because she feels really strongly that true knights warriors should never reveal state secrets. Lying, betrayal, and murder are fine, but a warrior never blabs. A woman has to have Principles, right?

Anyway, Roan, who knows his WWI propaganda, says “truth is the first casualty of war” before breaking off the alliance with Skaikru, with Trikru thrown in for funsies. Or maybe just because he hates those guys. He then charges Echo with hunting down both Indra and Octavia.

In Arkadia, Monty and Jasper break into the chancellor’s office to play a prank on Clarke, who has done a really terrible job ‘hiding’ the list of 100 survivors, because Jasper sees it poking out in plain sight. Jasper demands to know what it means and looks mad, so Monty asks him why he cares since he wants to die anyway. It’s a legitimate question, but Jasper gives the most bs answer, claiming that only he can decide to let himself die. He’s also mad because he can’t distinguish between Clarke’s and Bellamy’s handwriting and thinks Clarke “wrote her own name on the list”.

Pictured: Clarke’s name in obviously different handwriting that no one this entire episode seems to notice.

Jasper tells Monty he’s not on the list either just as Clarke walks in and gets sprayed with fire retardant (the prank), which sets a weird tone for the rest of the scene as she’s angry, but covered in white foamy goo. Jasper wants to tell everyone about the list (why does he care about everyone else if he’s a nihilist?). Guards enter because the fire alarm went off. Clarke uses the shock baton on Jasper and orders him locked up for breaking into the chancellor’s office. Monty leaves upset. Back in Polis, Octavia finds a bunch of dead Trikru. The one sole survivor warns her about Roan, tells her Indra went to warn Trikru, and dies.

Cut back to Arkadia, where Clarke explains to Monty her reasoning behind not putting him on the list. He actually agrees with her, but still tells her she’s a ‘different person’ because she had Jasper locked up and shock batoned him. Monty then yells at her about once again doing things “to protect her people” (why is this an accusation?). He also pushes her about telling the truth. He ends this tirade with, “Jasper was right, you’re not god.” Then, he gets on the PA system from the jeep and reads off the list (that Clarke let him take from her office?) to everyone.

On the island, Raven comes up with a plan to hack the drones (clever girl) but gets shot at. She sees Luna heading for the boat, informs everyone, and then tries to run after her, barely escaping to the other side of the conveniently placed boundary marker in time. Raven tries to ‘talk’ Luna into helping while waving a gun in her face. Luna goes full Grimdark Nihilism.

“Do you really think you deserve to be saved?…What if the fight is all we are? We torture, kill, betray, we pretend we’re more than that just to make ourselves feel better. But it’s a lie.”

Raven puts down the gun and asks Luna to make a choice for all the ‘good’ people out there, like Adria. Luna relents. Elsewhere on the island, Jackson is wounded and everyone else under fire so they can’t make it to help Raven and Luna. Luna snatches the downed drone for Raven to hack. Abby goes to help Jackson and just as the drone is about to shoot her, it drops. Genius Hacker Raven ftw!

*sigh* Time for more yelling at Clarke. Riley is pissed that he’s not been chosen and compares himself to a female guard trainee who is less qualified but gets to survive. Clarke explains the need for young women of reproductive age, and some dude gets pissy because women surviving just because they can have babies ‘isn’t fair’ (STFU, you don’t seem to understand how small colonies work). Monty brings up Harper, who isn’t on the list, so Clarke mentions the medical condition that affected Harper’s dad. This reasonable decision is met with horror. They must really care about hipaa or something.

Jaha, who we learned last episode is a Bellarke shipper, defends Clarke and Bellamy being on the list because they need strong leaders (who will destroy hydrogenerators so fewer people survive? what?). But to appease the people, he gets rid of the list and suggests a lottery to decide who survives. But only if people do their work. This is a mostly bad idea, which Clarke points out. Jaha tells her that it’s somehow her fault that people interpreted the list as her saying they had no value. His sage advice? The list might be pragmatic, but people need to feel like they have a say in their fate (he’s not wrong it’s just…I’ll come back to this).

Octavia flees from Echo on horseback and ends up at the top of a cliff overlooking a river. Echo plans to take her alive, but Octavia is having none of that. She kills the two guards who are with Echo then they have a pretty cool sword fight. Unfortunately, she ends up stabbed all the way though the gut and out her back before falling at least 300 feet into the water below.

Clarke frees Jasper and apologizes (of course she does) for making what she believed was the best choice at the time. Jasper retorts: “it’s the only choice you gave yourself” (screw you, Jasper). Fortunately for Clarke, his nihilism hasn’t kept him from understanding leadership better than she does, even though he has little to no experience being in charge. He tells her she needs to convince people instead of deciding for them, otherwise she’s “Jaha lite”. Clarke admits Jaha may have had a point (???), and Jasper makes sense for the first time ever this season when he argues that if you’re calling Jaha reasonable, you’ve got problems.

On the island, Abby & Co head to Becca’s lab. Raven gives props to Murphy who decides it’s the time to be coy in front of his girlfriend? They find Becca’s lab, and every one stands around in awe at all the cool tech.

Across the pond/lake/ocean/whatever the island is situated in, Bellamy mopes about being in prison, although Kane is hopeful. Roan comes to take them to Arkadia so they can take it over. Kane still wants to talk things out, despite that never having been successful thus far in S4 (Hope springs eternal, I guess. You do you, Kane; your optimism is adorable). Bellamy argues that Octavia will warn Arkadia they’re coming, so Echo reluctantly drops Octavia’s sword at his feet. Roan says he’s truly sorry, and Echo calls it a good death. Bellamy is inconsolable (Bobby Morley nails this. He deserves so much better).

But wait! The final scene features Octavia’s horse finding its way down the cliff and to her body. Her finger twitches. She’s alive! She manages to climb aboard and command her horse to take her home.

Not at all actually.

Tune in next week for Roan learning the importance of guns when he tries to take Arkadia.


Let’s start with our resident Skairipa, because that’s what most people will be talking about anyway. But before I discuss her Shocking™ and Dramatically Satisfying™ survival, her conversation with Kane in Polis needs addressing. It’s no secret I’ve been a bit confused by the marketing on Octavia this season thus far. Based on promos and interview prior to the season, myself and others assumed that her Darkness was more of a bloodlust stemming from Lincoln’s death. Yet, what we’ve gotten is less Dark than, I don’t know, cold and pragmatic? Where is the Octavia covered in warpaint reminiscent of Lexa’s and Lincoln’s tattoos?

I’m not complaining so much as confused. Octavia is one of the few characters left I have any kind of feelings about, and I’ve rather enjoyed seeing her evolve into the Polis fixer. But again, this doesn’t really feel Dark™ to me. Bellamy has still killed more people than she has, and with less motivation. On a related note, am I supposed to be cheering for her since she’s been so successful in helping keep Polis’ political situation in order, or worried for her?

The show itself can’t quite decide either. Roan praises her skill and choices. She pretty much single-handedly kept him on the throne the past three episodes. Which, up until this episode, was a good thing for Skaikru. Roan would have been dead and Skaikru, screwed, if Octavia hadn’t killed Rafael and the Trishanakru boy she blamed the theft of the flame on. Yet Kane not only condemns her behavior, he calls it ‘dark’, which is a negative valuation in line with the promotional material. Kane actually says her methods are making the situation worse. But they don’t. They’ve made the situation better for Skaikru by keeping Roan on the throne! I mean, he’s allowed to disagree with her methods all he wants. But he’s fooling himself if he doesn’t realize she’s the only reason he and Roan are alive. Kane’s diplomacy accomplished nothing.

And the whole “justice and vengeance are not the same thing” line. On any other show, this could work. But not on a show that labels the murder of 300 people as a ‘mistake’, it’s hollow. Would Kane have prosecuted Pike for war crimes if Octavia hadn’t killed him? You know, the way he ought to prosecute Bellamy and Jaha who are still walking around and in charge of people? Because prosecuting Pike would have been justice. I’m not denying an element of revenge to Octavia killing Pike. But it could just as easily be called ‘vigilante justice’ because Pike deserved death for his crimes according to both Grounder and Arkadian law. What Kane says sounds deep, for sure, and Henry Ian Cusick certainly emotes well. But in the context of the show’s canon, it’s little more than pseudo-profundity masquerading as meaningful thematic content.

But Kane’s disappointment in Octavia’s life choices provides a convenient pretext for her to no longer be in his personal guard, which is what prevents her from getting imprisoned along with Kane and Bellamy. I’ll take this moment to point out that, as expected for this show, Trikru warriors get slaughtered, but Skaikru gets imprisoned because Grounder lives don’t matter either on this show. But I’m not bitter. Except I am bitter. Very bitter. They went to all the trouble of nuancing the Grounders in S2 only to turn a 180 and make them all ‘savages’ again.

Speaking of which, can I say how angry I was at Kane’s “It’s not blasphemy, it’s science!” remark? Creating a religion surrounding the flame is an interesting piece of worldbuilding. Turning the Grounders into science-denying religious fanatics who shout “blasmephy!” at technology they don’t understand is offensive. Especially given the layers of coding tying the Grounders to indigenous people groups. Every time I think The 100 can’t make the portrayal of the Grounders more problematic, it somehow manages to.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of Grounders, I’m so glad that the Trishanakru plot has been so useful in getting Octavia sent from Polis. We truly needed an entirely new character—complete with manpain!—and Grounder tribe to hate on Skaikru, only to be dropped once their ‘job’ in complicating the political narrative had been accomplished. But what really did it accomplish? The flame wasn’t actually destroyed (not that people knowing that did anything to undermine Roan’s power, despite all the talk). The coalition has been undone and Skaikru/Trikru kicked out. Octavia is now Dark and on the run. All of which were accomplished without Trishanakru at all. We could have cut the entire Polis plot from the first three episodes and still arrived where we are now. At least Gaia was a neat character? (If we’ll ever meet her again).

Alright, back to Octavia. Here’s where I address plot armor and why “anyone can die” is bs. I have to say, Kylie and Julia’s Arya retrospective could not have been more timely because I think Rothenberg was particularly inspired by that part of D&D’s Emmy winning writing. Arya Todd would be impressed with Octavia’s ability to survive a 300 foot drop into a roaring river with not one, but two open wounds to the gut/back. And I’m sure Octavia is just as likely to get an infection from the water filled with bacteria, animal fecal matter, and quite possibly radiation, as Arya had been from the dirty canals. Scrappy girls like Arya and Octavia have a way of taking care of foreign invaders in their blood stream. The microbes are probably so impressed by their plot armor that they flee of their own accord.

Granted, Octavia had the decency to crawl up to and on her horse instead of showing off her parkour. Still, her plot armor is incredibly hardy given she should not have survived the fall, much less being battered downstream in a river with white capped rapids (even small ones) while actively bleeding out of two open wounds, yet Lexa can’t survive a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Octavia’s absurdly contrived survival also proves the argument Elizabeth and I put forth last year that “anyone can die” is no more than a convenient way to avoid blame for killing off characters that are not white, straight, or male.

Next up in ‘not at all surprised this happened’, Clarke got blamed for being reasonable and apologized!

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, this season continues to push the likeness between Clarke and Jaha. The prior two episodes’ more ‘subtle’ allusions became blatant when Jasper called Clarke “Jaha lite”. What’s worse is that the narrative has Clarke agree with the assessment. She admits Jaha may have had a point in acting the way he did. Wait what? After everything he did? Clarke, honey, Jaha is a war criminal. He participated in and condoned the torture and murder of hundreds of people. He found and exploited the torture loophole for ALIE to use in the first place. And that somehow means he was “just trying to keep us all together”??

It’s one thing if you overlook someone’s crimes because he might be an asset to your survival. As awful as that is, Jaha’s newly acquired engineering expertise benefits Arkadia. Clarke’s pragmatism would very much lead her to overlook his crimes to help them have a better chance at survival. But to actually perceive herself and her actions as equivalent to his? Maybe it’s just a side effect of everyone telling her they’re the same even if they’re not. She’s given into the messaging and fully embraced that Jaha is Not That Bad and she is Really That Bad. It hurts to watch.

What also hurts to watch? How absurd and contrived everyone’s blame of her is. You’re telling me that no one noticed that Clarke’s name on the list was in a different handwriting? And that she forgot to tell them that Bellamy wrote it down when she didn’t want to? The Arkers may not have seen how difficult this decision was for Clarke, but we did. I had to watch her tortured expression as she wrote that list, nearly breaking down in tears. Everyone crapping on her for something that broke her to do is frustrating as hell, especially since I know the Arkers will never know or acknowledge the truth of how painful a decision it was.

I’m tired of Clarke being yelled at for making decisions that are both reasonable and have to be made. Every single choice behind who ends up on the list and who doesn’t is 100% logical and understandable. Jaha even acknowledges in canon that her list is pragmatic, but he says it like it’s a bad thing. Why? Why is making logical decisions bad? Clarke prioritizing child-bearing females is reasonable and fair for the survival of the human race. Clarke was sorting through how many people for each role are necessary and not including ‘extraneous’ members; she went through medical records to find who is the healthiest and least likely to be a drain on resources. She’s doing everything she ought to do in that situation, ffs.

Honestly? Screw Jaha and his “people need to feel like they’re in control”. I mean fine, that’s a reasonable point. And using the concept of a lottery to motivate people to work is genius. But only if the lottery isn’t real. Because Clarke is 100% right, a lottery is a really bad way to found a colony. It’s almost a guaranteed disaster.

All of the other criticisms fall flat, too. How is Clarke being any ‘different’ than Monty has ever seen her before? Does he not remember when Clarke almost let Murphy get hanged for killing Wells? Or when she mercy killed Finn? Or when she tried to force the flame on Luna? Locking up Jasper is entirely in character for Clarke. And suddenly “protecting her people” is some bs excuse that Monty can blame her for? Don’t get me wrong, I love Monty, but his dialogue makes zero sense. The kicker is Jasper’s “it’s the only choice you gave yourself,” a criticism that more accurately applies to Bellamy’s decision making process than to Clarke’s.

The thing is, the legitimate criticism of her decision to not tell everyone the truth gets mixed in with all these other nonsensical accusations. If it were just about her obfuscating, the constant blame would bother me slightly less (though I’d still be just as pissed about the disparity between her getting yelled at and Bellamy being told not to feel bad). There are ways to confront Clarke about lying without berating her or undermining/questioning her intelligence in the decision making process. Because that’s all that this amounts to deep down. The long list of “why”s and “how could you”s, and “that’s not fair”s does not actually make Clarke’s decisions wrong. But it does weaken the audience’s perception of her authority and intelligence.

And this isn’t the only time on the show that a female leader’s authority is undermined by male characters while elsewhere in the narrative, men are being absolved. It happened with Abby, Lexa, Clarke, and Raven last season. It has happened to Clarke and Raven this season already. Bellamy ‘makes mistakes’; Clarke ‘plays god’. Jaha has ‘pure motives’ when he protected his people, but Clarke protecting her people is worthy of blame. In other words, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it might be sexism.

And can we just…not with Jasper’s faked and or actually attempted suicides? That’s twice this season. We get it. He’s an extreme nihilist. Make it stop. Suicide jokes are not funny.

And that’s not to mention my lingering plot questions about how and why the drones are still working—a question Miller raised but was never answered. If they attack everyone on sight, why did Emori specifically mention that mutants were not allowed past that point? I don’t even know how that would work anyway. And Roan’s ‘plan’ to take the ship better include keeping some Arkadians alive otherwise how are they going to control the technology? This is a culture that worships tech (or smashes it if you’re Trishanakru), but does not know how it works (“It’s science!”). How are they going to know how to survive in Arkadia by themselves?

It’s deeply disappointing because there are genuinely good elements to this story. The pacing of the action on the Island was excellent. The scene with Raven and Luna working together had good tension (even if it was a bit weird that Raven, who was raised in space, had to explain how to use trees to avoid a drone to a Grounder raised in the woods). Raven’s “It’s not your blood that defines you, it’s your heart,” line was good. She’s written well and consistently this season, which is a pleasure. I really hope they’re not seeding a brain problem with Raven. She looked genuinely pained as she started hacking the drone, and perhaps not just from her leg. Stop Raven Reyes from suffering 2k5ever.

The nightblood cure plot with Luna is likewise interesting, even if it does lessen the argument Rothenberg made that Lexa “had to die” for ALIE. Could not she or even Ontari been sources of the nightblood this season? I’m beginning to think that, like his muses, Rothenberg doesn’t really plan ahead for more than one season at a time.

Bits & Bobs

  • Lincoln mention: 1
  • The Flame mentions: 1 (maybe 2?)
  • Lexa mentions: 0
  • Death Toll: 20ish, Nyko, guard on the Island, guy with Bellamy (these two might be ‘Taggart’ and ‘Hayes’ but I can’t find confirmation), a room full of dead Trikru (at least 15) but we only focus on the one black woman and the dude who survives, two Azgeda guards.
  • Wounded Toll: 1, Jackson
  • The giant desert Jaha had to cross to get to the Island is still magically missing. Good to know they’re at least consistent in their inconsistency (seriously, the geography of this show makes no sense).
  • Why are there suddenly only young people in Arkadia? I saw very few adults.
  • “I never met a line I wouldn’t cross”. Murphy might be a dick, but I appreciate his snark.
  • I didn’t think anything could be better than Kabby onscreen, then I found Paige Turco/Henry Ian Cusick on Twitter.>>
  • Um did they not realize how racist it looks for Octavia to find the one black woman in the room and think it’s Indra? I guess all dead black women look the same? If they’d just cut this it would have played better.
  • Was it just me or did the mansion look really different? Was that even the mansion?

Working Theories

At least I’m enjoying myself, even if no one is joining me.

Could Be Cool: Wounded Octavia is going to find her way to Niylah, who will fix up her wound like she did with Clarke, quite possibly leading to a second round of sexy times.

Wouldn’t Surprise Me: Gaia is going to meet up with Luna and Co, and Luna will end up taking the chip anyway even though she rejected it last season.

Total Crack: Nightblood actually means you’re Daxamite, which is the real reason why Lexa died of her gunshot wound despite Octavia and Monty surviving stabbing injuries to the same parts of their bodies: she was allergic to the lead.

Images Courtesy of The CW

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