Monday, April 15, 2024

The 100 Review: Season 3 Episode 11 “Nevermore”

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Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

—Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”

Trigger warnings for violence, self harm, and verbal abuse.

As implied by the title of tonight’s episode, “Nevermore”, it’s all about Raven Reyes.

We open with Clarke and Jasper driving Raven to the others. She’s upset about her mother being a villain now; he grumbles about saving her life. Octavia, in the meantime, says she’s going back for Lincoln’s body so that she can give him a proper Grounder burial. Bellamy is concerned for her well being and wants to prove he’s on her side.

Octavia: “Turning Pike in does not make you one of the good guys, Bellamy.”

On seeing Raven, Octavia decides to stay and help. Jasper explains what’s going on with ALIE and project wristband leading Clarke to show them all 2.0 and ask if the other chips are the same. ALIE/Raven (let’s call her “Ralie” when ALIE is controlling her, shall we?) flips out when she sees the chip, but Clarke says she can get them to a wristband to replace the ones Jaha destroyed.

One rover ride later, Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia, Jasper, Monty, Sinclair, and a sedated Raven arrive at Niylah’s. Niylah, upset because she remembers Bellamy was there when Skaikru killed her father, refuses to let them in. Clarke lies about Bellamy being there, but Bellamy whips out a gun anyway and threatens his way into Niylah’s home. Raven wakes up and tries to escape. They tie her down to the bed while she thrashes wildly, ALIE watching impassively from the sidelines. Knowing that if Raven sees Niylah ALIE will know where they are, Clarke tells her she needs to stay away from Raven.

Once they have the wristband, Sinclair is confident he can build the targeted EMP to disrupt ALIE, but he needs an electromagnent, which Octavia and Monty volunteer to go get from the drop ship. Ralie, meanwhile, is gnawing at her wrist like an animal and reopens her sutures while Jasper stares and screams for help. Bellamy and Clarke come to the rescue while Jasper stands around looking helpless. Concerned for her welfare, Bellamy says they have to keep an eye on her (apparently Jasper wasn’t enough), so Clarke offers to take the first watch. Jasper leaves in a huff and Ralie mocks Clarke for murdering his girlfriend. Jasper rants to Bellamy about Clarke for a while, who defends her.

Bellamy: “Get yourself together Jasper, you can’t let your anger get in the way”

Jasper: “That’s funny coming from you; when you’re angry, people die.”

This scene broke me.

Jasper has a sincerely moving scene of grief, then we cut to Ralie’s first round of verbal abuse, this time aimed at Clarke. She calls Clarke poison, a bringer of death to all she loves. When she blames Clarke for Lexa’s death, Clarke slaps Raven and says they’re going to fry ALIE out of her. From this, ALIE discerns they’re headed to the dropship for an electromagnet. Bellamy bandages a wound Clarke got from Raven and offers to switch and take Ralie’s verbal abuse for a while. When he leaves, Clarke tries to apologize to Jasper for what happened with Maia, but he tells her to shove it (literally).

At the dropship, Monty tries to convince Octavia to stay with them. She counters that she doesn’t belong anywhere but with Lincoln, and now that he’s dead, she doesn’t have a home. Monty does his thing and gets them the part they need, but he hears rustling in the woods. Hannah pops out, seemingly desperate to find him and get rid of the “others” who were tailing her. Suspicious, he asks her a question about his dad that she can’t answer. With her cover blown, ALIE tells Hannah to get Monty to take the key, so Hannah physically attacks her own son. Octavia has to step in, but Hannah quickly turns on her and in the ensuing fight, Monty shoots and kills his own mother. On the drive back Octavia reaches out to him, but Monty holds himself together by telling himself that he didn’t actually kill his mom, he killed ALIE.

At Niylah’s, Sinclair tells Clarke he’s worried that he’ll destroy Raven in the attempt to save her, but that won’t keep him from trying.

Clarke: “I’m not sure about anything, but this is our only choice.”

Every time she says something like this, someone blames her for the decision later.

In the bedroom, Ralie begins round two of verbal abuse, bullying Jasper this time. She calls him a junkie and a coward who would be better off dead because he couldn’t save his girlfriend, who she repeatedly refuses to call by her name just to piss him off more. Bellamy sends Jasper away and Ralie turns on him instead. She baits him about not getting credit for Mt. Weather; Clarke saves the day, he gets the blame. She mocks him for being a follower because he lets Clarke take the lead instead of being a leader himself and taunts him, loudly, about killing Niylah’s father when they were searching for Clarke. Overhearing, Niylah burts in and hits him. They try to rush her out, but it is too late, ALIE has seen her and now knows where they are.

Needing to let off some steam, Bellamy goes outside to punch something. Niylah follows and confronts him. He says he wanted to protect his people, she retorts that he did it by destroying hers. He apologizes, she brushes it off, “People like you always are.” They are interrupted by Monty and Octavia returning with the electromagnet. ALIE, recognizing that the Arkers will not get to Niylah’s in time to rescue Raven and unwilling to let Raven go free, has Raven try to commit suicide a second time by bashing her head against the metal bed frame.

To stop her, Clarke whips out 2.0 and promises to let ALIE have it if she stops trying to kill Raven. ALIE falls for it, and they slap the wristband on Raven while she screams at Clarke for lying to her. The wristband needs more power for it to work properly, luckily there is a stray drone of plot convenience outside that Bellamy expertly shoots down so they don’t have to cannibalize the rover.

This is what convenience looks like. Or doesn’t, because it’s too freaking dark.

The wristband works, but Raven won’t wake up after they fried ALIE. Jasper, convinced it didn’t work, goes to destroy 2.0 in a fit of rage, but Clarke stops him when she explains that Lexa is inside. She realizes that ALIE’s chips might work the same way as 2.0 and opens up the back of Raven’s neck with a scalpel. Blood tinged with other fluid oozes out, and Raven wakes up. Relieved, Jasper says he could never do what Clarke did and hands her back 2.0. Monty realizes sadly that he could have saved his mom instead of killing her.

Clarke takes a final moment to apologize to Niylah for lying to her about Bellamy and urge her to get out before the Arkers come looking for them. She then reassures Bellamy that he’ll recover from the horrible things he’s done.

Bellamy: “What do you do when you realize you might not be the good guy?”

Clarke: “Maybe there are no good guys.”

On their way out, Raven explains that she knows 2.0 is the only thing that can stop ALIE, which is why ALIE tried to kill her. Convinced they need each other, Octavia decides to stick with Clarke, Bellamy, Raven, and the others.

Octavia: “We survive together”

Back in the City of Light, ALIE tells Jaha that Raven is too smart and will figure out that 2.0 can stop her, so their only choice is to kill them all.

On the one hand, this was a far less violent and upsetting episode than I expected from the previews. I’m not as fussed with the psychological warfare angle ALIE/Raven try to pull on Clarke, Bellamy, and Jasper, as it is a reasonable tactic in the situation, and the audience knows every word from Ralie’s mouth is a lie meant to goad her captors into making a mistake. I have seen it called verbal abuse by fans, and they’re correct. I can imagine it being very triggering to some people, too and that is a reasonable reaction to what was blatant verbal and psychological warfare.

I’ve never been happier to see a character smiling.

Nevertheless, the continued physical violence against Raven Reyes bothered me more. Clarke tries to forcibly gag her when taunted about Lexa (why no one else does this is beyond me). For the second time, ALIE tried to get Raven to kill herself, this time by bashing her head against the metal bed frame. Raven broke open her sutures from the last time ALIE tried to have her kill herself. She’s put through the ringer and every episode has to live through more and more physical and psychological violence.

Granted, I’m biased because I love Raven Reyes and want to protect her with my life, but still. She’s a woman of color who has been constantly victimized this entire season, and I’m done with that bs. Thankfully, that seems to be over with the end of this episode. ALIE’s fear of Raven’s intelligence points to greater involvement and leadership from Raven, which I am desperately looking forward to. I’m hoping Raven takes charge of the traitors in the future rather than Clarke/Bellamy. I want a break from him for a while, and Clarke still needs to find Luna.

On the other hand, ALIE’s heckling of Bellamy and Clarke was one sided (and revealing). Clarke got dragged: every single decision she’s ever made, every person who has ever died around her, she got blamed for all that. Even Lexa. Clarke is poison. She’s the one people need saving from. Everything she touches gets destroyed no matter how hard she tries, and it’s all her fault. Bellamy? The guy who also mass murdered everyone at Mt. Weather and then killed 300 innocent Grounders? He get’s taunted for not being man enough and not getting credit. I’m not even joking.

There was so much toxic masculinity bs. ALIE/Raven dismisses their sex (Season 1, Episode 11, funnily enough), taunts him about Clarke getting credit for Mt. Weather and saving everyone while he gets blamed, blames him for his Mom’s death (for being nice to Octavia), and for being a follower and letting Clarke take charge rather than be a leader himself. Clarke gets “you’re poison and kill everyone you love”; Bellamy gets “you’re not man enough.” For being a post-sexist society, ALIE/Raven’s jibes are remarkably sexist. Clarke being a strong female leader now indicates that Bellamy wasn’t a strong enough leader himself. He’s a man, he needs to lead, not be a “knight by his queen’s side” (ugh, vomit).

That doesn’t even touch on her bullying of Jasper, wherein she both mocks his grief (calling it self-pity) and tells him he is a junkie who ought to go kill himself. It’s not easy to sit through, especially given that Jasper does literally nothing useful this episode other than drive Clarke and Raven to the others, despite being given an opportunity to do something tangible when Raven is gnawing at her restraints.

Instead of trying to stop her, he stares and screams for help. Bellamy and Clarke have to outright say, “we need someone to watch her,” and by “someone” they mean one of them, since Jasper had been watching her and did nothing to help her when she was trying to escape. It’s frustrating because he could have done both. He could have rushed over and tried to stop her while also screaming for help. But no, Jasper stands by and lets Clarke and Bellamy do the real work. It’s a poor writing and characterization choice, in my opinion, because it felt like regression. Last episode, he saved Raven’s life by kidnapping her, but this episode, he stands by and lets her self-harm for no reason.

Speaking of inconsistent characterization, Bellamy and Clarke. There was a conversation in the comments section on last weeks episode about Bellamy’s redemption arc. Some argue that Bellamy ought to be executed for his crimes, others that he deserves a second chance. I don’t want to discuss whether he deserves a redemption arc or not, but rather the one he’s obviously getting. Bellamy has gone from an angry, racist bigot to self-righteously apologetic and firmly on the side of “good” (despite his protestations otherwise; I’ll get to this) in the space of an episode, with no real explanation for why.

Yes, he chose to save Octavia from Pike last episode, but as she points out, he still murdered Grounders because he was hurting (presumably after Gina’s death?). The fact that he defended his actions to her implies that he still thinks he was in the right and even though he apologized to Niylah, he again defended himself while doing it.

Yet even if we accept that during the course of this episode he has come to be truly sorry for having killed the 300 Grounders and Niylah’s family, that does not deal with the racist, colonial rhetoric/ideology he spouted freely for the first 8ish episodes of this season. He may be sorry he hurt Niylah specifically and killed the 300 Grounders more generally, but what about his xenophobia and colonial attitude toward the Grounders? Will they ever address this? Are we only going to deal with his violent actions and not his violent, hateful words?

The rest of his characterization is spotty as well. His interactions with Octavia put him firmly back into protective paternalism with her, and his wholesale defense of Clarke to Jasper doesn’t make sense given that his betrayal of her in episode 5 has yet to be discussed by either of them. That he’s back to being her ‘knight’ and defending her actions to other people doesn’t fit with where he’s at in his redemption arc. It doesn’t feel earned to me yet.

Why is she even letting him touch her after he HANDCUFFED HER TO A POLE?

Which leads me to Clarke and the fact that she never once mentioned that the last time she and Bellamy were in the same space, he emotionally manipulated her, lied to her face, and handcuffed her to a bed in preparation for handing her over to Pike. You’d think she’d show a bit of hesitancy that he’s even there, or ask if he is a spy. Hell, even just be wary about opening up to him emotionally given that the last time she did that, he betrayed her. But no, she accepts his presence without question and is back to trusting him implicitly. It isn’t that I don’t want them to repair their relationship; I do. But if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that there wasn’t anything to even rebuild based on how they interacted this episode. It was almost as if the entire betrayal didn’t even happen.

Clarke’s reassurance at the end of the episode that there were no good guys fell flat to me partly due to the miscues in their characterization. More than that, though, it was a moment where I ought to have felt a sense of agreement with her bleak assessment of their situation, but instead felt annoyed. The world is dark and gritty, I get it. There was an element of darkness induced apathy/acedia to my reaction, but mostly I hate being spoonfed lines like these. From Twitter, I gather that many people found the line powerful, but I prefer inferring that everyone is a shade of grey rather than being told.

Moreover, the line actually doesn’t fit with the story they’re telling, because Clarke, Bellamy, and the rest of the traitors are clearly the good guys, no matter what problematic decisions they’ve made in the past. When the next scene has your villain saying she needs to kill everyone, having your female protagonist say “there are no good guys” is misleading at best. Everyone might be a shade of grey, or even a shade of dark grey, but there’s clearly a right and wrong side to this conflict. I get what they were going for, but for me, it didn’t work.

What does the phrase even mean?

I made the mistake of going on Twitter, and the Bellamy x Clarke  fans are losing it about this episode. While I’m not a shipper of this pair myself, honestly, I can’t blame them for freaking out. With ALIE/Raven’s “good knight by his queen’s side” line, the wound bandaging, Clarke’s failure to even discuss his betrayal the last time they saw each other, his backing up every play she makes, it’s very easy to see what the writers are doing with them. There will be no fallout or backlash from his betrayal; they’re a united front now, on the same team. And with all the touching and eyeing each other—and ALIE/Raven’s blatant accusation that Bellamy is more loyal to Clarke than he ever was to his own girlfriend Gina (which he never denies)—they’re clearly setting up romantic undertones.

There are elements to love about this episode that were missing from others. Plotting and pacing wise, this episode was much stronger than the previous two. The writing team seems to do much better when they only have a single plot strand to tease out, as this allows for greater depth and exploration of character than when they try to deal with two or three arcs at once. Lindsey Morgan continues to shine as the powerful, nuanced, actress capable of portraying both a tortured victim and the amoral AI possessing her.

While Clark/Bellamy’s interaction fail to move me, there are other moments of emotional resonance. Jasper’s grief and anything involving Clarke’s reactions to Lexa’s death were well acted and moving. I touched on characterization issues above, but there were plot holes that need addressing, Hannah’s death being the most pressing, as it really didn’t need to happen.

Hannah and Monty’s relationship has never been compelling to me, as from the beginning it was always tinged with Hannah’s emotional manipulation of Monty and racist ideology. Her betrayal last episode only added another layer of distrust and distance between them that undercut the only genuine moment of human emotion between them. When you add her physical violence toward her own son and Octavia this episode, it becomes hard to actually feel sorry that she’s gone. I feel empathy for Monty for being the one to pull the trigger, definitely. But at the end of the episode, when he realizes he could have saved her instead of killing her, I reflected that in fact, he needn’t have killed her at all. He could have shot her in the leg or the arm to incapacitate her and given Octavia a chance to get away instead of killing her.

Once again, I felt like the writers chose death for shock value over a potentially less lethal, but still emotionally powerful, confrontation. Monty would have been just as psychologically scarred had he wounded his mother, especially if he thought he was leaving her there to die to go save his friends. Then he could have come back later and saved her. Or she could have been killed by Pike or ALIE for failing or, I don’t know, something other than death at her own son’s hands. I’m so tired of the non-white characters suffering so much on this show. I want to see one family that isn’t sacrificed for the sake of Realism™, especially when it means the death of the last asian female character on the show (making them 5/5 for asian women dying).

My only other gripe (and it’s a big one and consistent one) with the plot is that they still haven’t explained how in the hell the key gets from someone’s stomach to their brain stem. I mean, this is the major resolution of Raven’s torture/imprisonment arc and it makes. no. sense. Have any of the writers even read an anatomy textbook or studied human biology? Someone, please, dear god please explain to me how a chip that is swallowed ends up in the back of someone’s neck? There’s only one answer I’ve been able to come up with:

Random Thoughts

  • Who is Jasper explaining ALIE to? Bellamy, Monty, and Sinclair would all be aware of what’s going on. He’s pissed at Clarke, so why would he tell her? Is he talking to Octavia?
  • Niylah is understandably cautious around Skaikru other than Wanheda/Clarke. Her characterization actually makes sense. I’m glad she didn’t blame Clarke specifically, just Skaikru more generally.
  • When Lindsey switches to ALIE, she is so precise and amazing.
  • Why is the screen so dark. Honestly.
  • Anyone else get MAJOR “Exorcist” vibes when they first got Raven to Niylah’s?
  • I’m very, very glad Niylah is not dead, yes, she lost her father, but she’s the first wlw who hasn’t lost a lover or her life on this show and that makes me measurably pleased.
  • Serious Bellarke seeding with the wound bandaging. Even Bellamy can wrap a dirty rag around a wound folks! Look at him go. They must be Destined™ for each other.
  • Wait, is Sinclair Raven’s father??? I’m getting major father/daughter vibes from “she’s all I have left”
  • That drone was so very, very convenient, for the realz. Like, we hadn’t even seen a drone since Jaha left the island but here’s one they can use and still keep the jeep intact, yay!
  • Clarke can safely cut open Raven’s spine/neck but couldn’t save Lexa from a bullet wound to the stomach.
  • Lindsey Morgan continues to be a bamf.
  • How many minorities must suffer this season, srsly. Raven, Hannah, Monty, ugh.

Images Courtesy of The CW. 

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