Thursday, July 18, 2024

Red Queen Makes Sense Until it Doesn’t

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After the last minute of last week’s episode hinted that Octavia had become far darker in her six years in the bunker, I knew we were in for a doozy this week. After what we witness in the bunker this week, I think it’s safe to say that my concerns were justified. Note to The 100 writers: this is why time skips rarely work.

What Happened

As with last week, we begin 46 days after praimfaya, only this time in the bunker. Indra wants Octavia to wear Lexa’s gear as she speaks to the Grounders to prove she’s the new heda. She also wants her daughter, and thus the flamekeepers, to support Octavia. The clans each have their own way of justice, but Marcus and Octavia attempt to find a way that’s fair and less punitive. While they’re in council, they hear the sounds of Clarke digging from above. Abby and Marcus suit up to go find her and are kind of snippy about it. We learned last week that Clarke couldn’t get in, this week we learn they can’t get out.

Jaha confirms that they can’t get out. When Marcus reminds them that they have 5 years to find a way out, Kara, the head of the hydroponics farm tells them all that food will run out after 5 years. Jaha urges population reduction, but Octavia tells him to get lost. Octavia then makes the choice to go to half rations, even if it means some people might starve. Marcus regrets he survived.

At dinner, most of the Arkers seem to be being whiny jerks about the Grounders. Abby is still having headaches, and she gets upset when Jackson asks about it, especially because he’s talking to her boyfriend Marcus about her health. Yeah, what a jerk. Next thing you know, Kara takes over the dining hall, killing the guards, and locking out the remaining Grounders. She’s angry because her father and husband died in the cull to bring the Grounders into the bunker. When Abby explains what starvation means for Skaikru members locked outside, Kara blames the deaths on her and Marcus for opening the door. Good to know Skaikru is still a bunch of selfish jerks.

Grounders bust into the barracks and forcibly remove all of Skaikru. Octavia and Miller prevent them from killing Jaha and Niylah; she also refuses to kill the Grounders who attacked, promising to find a better way and take back the farm. Her solution: have Jaha break into the farm.

Jaha plans to short out the locking mechanism with a jolt from a massive amount of electricity, but the level it’s on is ‘no man’s land.’ Niylah dresses him up as a Grounder and Octavia removes the trappings of her office so she can pass unnoticed. Gaia, Niylah, and Indra draw off a group of Grounders so that Octavia and Jaha can break in. Unfortunately, Jaha seems to be pretty severely injured and is too weak to do all the work himself. Abby and Marcus have a tough talk about him saving her life (?); apparently, she’s bitter about surviving, especially since he was willing to kill her on the Ark.

Below, Jaha has a heart to heart with Octavia and reminds her that Skaikru is her people too, despite the fact that they all, and him in particular, treated her like dirt all her life. He tells her he won’t enact his plan unless she makes the Grounders stand down. He doesn’t want the Grounders to kill all of Skaikru once they enter the farm. She says she’s not a leader. Jaha tells her that her mother made herself the enemy by pushing the Arkers closer to death, and death was their enemy. Her anger only gives him the space to opine, “now you know what it takes to lead.” She then agrees to get the Grounders to stand down.

Marcus tells Abby that he saved her life because he didn’t want to lose her, and she admits that she didn’t believe she deserved to survive or to be happy in their relationship. When she further admits to never regretting saving his life, they seem to resolve whatever differences had come between them offscreen.

I mean, this is metal af.

Outside the farm, the Grounders fashioned a battering ram to try to bust into the farm. Octavia confronts them, telling each warrior she fights, “You are Wonkru, or you are the enemy of Wonkru. Choose” before killing them. It’s honestly pretty badass. She kills about a dozen before the rest submit to her authority. She tells Jaha she’s pacified them, and he opens the door. Before Kara can kill Abby and Marcus, Octavia busts in and disables her.

Abby, Marcus, Jackson, and Octavia find Jaha, but he’s too badly wounded for Abby to save him. He gets Octavia to promise to take care of Ethan, a little boy he’d been watching over, and dies, Wells’ name on his lips.

Indra brings Gaia to help prepare Octavia to stand before the united clans. Gaia now believes Octavia to be the one to deliver them all safety to the ground, despite the fact that their faith believes only a natblida can truly lead them. Octavia stands before the assembly and instantiates a new law: no floating, no ‘blood must have blood,’ only a new kind of coliseum in the vein of the conclave. She throws a sword into a ring and tells those accused of betraying Wonkru that they can fight for their freedom.

Cut to 6 years later and the ring is soaked in blood, Octavia sports the red forehead paint we saw at the end of last week, and everyone else sports new haircuts. After one battle where the victor presumably wins his freedom (given the cheers from the crowds), Gaia announces the arrival of new combatants. This group includes Marcus Kane.


First off, Jackson and Miller are officially a thing. There were definitely hints last season, but I honestly did not expect the show to pull the trigger after Bryan just kind of…disappeared. It feels kind of sudden given how little interaction they had last season, but it’s nice. I hope they get more development than Bryan and Miller got.


As with Murphy and Emori, I don’t buy Marcus and Abby fighting. I get survivor’s guilt is a thing, but once again, the time skip makes it feel like little more than manufactured drama. I don’t like seeing the most stable, supporting relationships torn apart offscreen for no reason. At least with Marcus and Abby it wasn’t long-lasting?

Seeing Octavia in Lexa’s robe and bindi gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, any reference to Lexa on the show is going to feel like a mild slap in the face, especially seeing someone else wearing her iconic armor and jewelry. On the other, I kind of ship Clarketavia, so ngl, Octavia dressed up like Lexa gave me…feelings. Shipper feelings. And I don’t trust femslash shipper feelings with this show just yet.

They did handle the decision to have her give up those symbols in place of her own relatively well, though. Gaia’s commentary was a bit heavy handed, and I still think the whole “only a black blooded commander can lead us” feels a bit too strong given that this is only 100 years of worldbuilding they’re going on. But overall, they did fine. They didn’t barf all over Lexa’s legacy and they made space for Octavia to become her own kind of leader with her own traditions.

So, let’s talk about Octavia. For most of the episode, she seemed pretty in character. She was balanced, fair, and focused on protecting the Grounders and keeping Skaikru from being the jerks she (understandably) assumes them to be. Even when Jaha convinced her to take charge of the Grounders by whatever leadership means necessary, she did it in her own badass way. She understands how to communicate with the Grounder culture, however problematic its depiction might be, and finds a solution that does maximum good and prevents the slaughter of Skaikru.

If we hadn’t seen the final minute of last week’s episode or the promo, everything seemed set for the creation of a reasonable, fair leader of Wonkru who only uses violence when necessary.

Then the jump cut happens and it all goes to hell.

Seriously, what the heck was that? How did it go from one event as a reasonable punishment for acting against the best interests of the whole—one could argue mutiny deserves death—to a bloodsoaked coliseum? Is this how crimes were always punished in the six intervening years? If so, we have to assume that new crimes are being invented by Octavia and her regime in order for this to make sense. Who would dare to commit a crime if they knew they were going to end up in the arena? An escalation from a singular punishment to a seemingly regular occurrence asks a lot in terms of suspension of disbelief.

I get what they’re going for thematically. The ironic tragedy of Octavia becoming what she most hated about Jaha and the Arkers is pretty delicious. But you have to earn that in order for it to land with the power that kind of tragedy deserves. It can’t when we don’t get to see how this happened or why. We have to fill in a lot of blanks to get to where the ending of this episode makes sense. Based on what we saw in most of this episode—Octavia being pretty reasonable and only resorting to violence when absolutely necessary and only to act as a deterrent—the appearance of Red Queen makes no sense. I have no faith that the show will attempt to explain how at any point further down the line. We’re meant to accept this as the new normal and move on.

This is one of the reasons why I hate time skips. Such deviations from established character require strong narratives, and usually a slow build up, to create coherence. As was an issue last week and in the opening of S3, this episode took shortcuts with character changes, assuming we were along for the ride without bothering to fully explain how we got where we end up. None of Octavia’s actions this episode would lead me to expect Red Queen without further explanation.

“The blood of our enemies is her armor,” is awesome, but how do we get from there to Red Queen?

The narrative also chooses to double down the pseudo-philosophical “people are just savages” bs from last week. In the premiere, Clarke argued that humans are no better than animals, killing and being killed to survive. This week, Gaia argues that without someone to lead them, the Grounders are little more than violent brutes.

Niylah: When hell breaks loose, it breaks loose fast

Gaia: It isn’t hell, it’s who we are…Without a commander we are just warring clans.

Look, I know this show has been pretty pessimistic about human nature in the past, but this is getting absurd. I guess it’s nice that Skaikru and Clarke are included in the “everyone is just an animal” mentality, but such a philosophy makes cheering for anybody impossible.

If we’re no more than animals killing to survive, who cares who lives or dies? It’s moot. There are no ethics, there’s nothing moral or immoral about anything; it’s just lives dying for someone else’s benefit, like a lion killing a gazelle. Who cares? Why should we worry for a bloodthirsty, Red Queen Octavia, like the show seems to want us to? Why should we give af about the prison ship filled with murderers? If they’re the stronger group, we should cheer for them. That’s where this “there are no good guys” philosophy actually leads, yet The 100 insists on trying to both being nihilistic and having actual protagonists.

Because I’m forever cranky about how the Grounders are depicted, I also have to say that, given what we know of Becca, the implication of Gaia’s words is that without an ‘enlightened’ leader, the Grounders are brutal savages who would kill each other out of existence. Octavia turning full savage once she becomes head of the new Wonkru reinforces that idea. She’s a ‘redblood’ and therefore can’t escape becoming as violent as they are without the flame to preserve her. Fun. Yay for continued icky colonialism.

Finally, I’m not all that sad Jaha died. The scene had the right amount of gravity to it, and yeah, another dead person of color, but still. He’s been a sanctimonious jerk for 2.5 seasons and the cause of so much needless, empty philosophizing and being awful on Clarke, his death feels like a release. As a person of color on this show, I mourn the loss of what could have been a truly interesting character if he’d been written well. As the character we had the last few seasons, good riddance.

Now, give us an interesting man of color who doesn’t become a villain or get killed of early. Or is that too much to ask?

Bits & Bobs

  • The guitar music was nice, especially as a change of pace from the more commonly used contemporary pop music.
  • Niylah bringing Octavia the book was a nice touch. Not sure it means anything, but it was thoughtful.
  • Octavia is fast becoming the queen of epithets. She has a new one: bloodreina, which I assume means Red (Bloody) Queen since that’s the name of this episode. The 100 is pretty literal that way.
  • Where is Gaia getting the bleach for her hair? Does no one think of the practicalities of living in a dystopian apocalypse?

Working Theories

Could be Cool: Octavia has developed a dual persona: a cruel public figure used to keep the worst instincts of Wonkru in line but deep down, she’s still the girl under the floorboards. She’s riddled with guilt and struggles to maintain her façade of the Red Queen every day because of the toll the deaths have taken on her. Rather than hardened and bloodthirsty, she’s wracked with guilt and only holding it together because of the promise that someday, it will be over and she can rest from the level of ruthlessness required of her. She only confides this to Indra and Gaia, her most trusted confidantes.

Pretty Sure: Marcus’ ‘crime’ was trying to be reasonable with his new, violent leader. His desire for peace always gets shat on.

Total Crack: Clarketavia. I know, I know. I know. I can’t help it, though. I’ve low key shipped them since S1 when Clarke admired Octavia’s booty. Seeing Octavia all done up in Lexa’s gear and then becoming a new kind of warrior heda just makes it worse. I want it.

Images courtesy of the CW

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