Monday, July 15, 2024

The 100 Review: Season 3 Episode 12 “Demons”

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“The demons are still there. The little voice saying, ‘You’re garbage, you’re nothing, you hear me, yeah’…”—Robin Williams

Beware, salt levels are high tonight. I’ve been eating a lot of cured meats lately, so that’s probably why. Or just that this show is getting so predictable that I don’t have patience for it. Nah, it’s probably the meat. Moving on.

This would be scarier if it weren’t so predictable.

We open with Miller telling a scary story to Bryan and Harper in the cave. Bryan isn’t having it. Thankfully Harper wants to hear, so Miller gets to tell the audience her all about how a guy went crazy, saw his dead family as demons in his waking moments and killed a bunch of people with a metal hook. It comes complete with a thunderstorm guys, so spooky. Lightning flashes at all the right moments. After the story, Miller goes out to pee, but wait, there’s a Suspicious Noise™, so Bryan must go check on his boyfriend. After another Suspicious Noise™, Harper gets suspicious and goes looking for them. She sees a creepy Skeleton Faced Man and screams.

At Polis, we see Ontari walking through the town being touched and revered as heda. Emori shows up, for some reason. She’d been looking for Murphy and heard that the new heda had a “handsome new skaikru flamekeeper” and knew it had to be him. She thinks Ontari is a mark, and wants to team back up with Murphy. He agrees to meet her later and let her into the tower. Ontari is suspicious, but once Murphy buys some rat meat from Emori and promises not to fall behind again, Ontari is soothed.

The Delinquents are on their way to Arkadia in the Rover, and Raven provides useful exposition about ALIE and 2.0 from Becca’s journal (when did they get this again?). ALIE can access the human mind, but 2.0 merges with the human mind, making it a part of humanity rather than above or outside of it. She explains that Becca used gene therapy to alter herself to merge with the chip. Clarke connects this with the natblida. Monty hopes that this means his mom could somehow still be alive if her mind pathway was uploaded to the City of Light, but Raven wouldn’t consider it being “alive.” Monty looks pained.

Bellamy interrupts the exposition strategizing in the backseat to tell them they’re almost to Arkadia. He tries to radio Miller, Harper, and Bryan but no one answers. Ominous music plays.

Clarke: “We left two days ago, why haven’t they fixed the gate?”

Jasper: “Maybe because there’s nobody left to fix it.”

Clarke: “Like a ghost town.”

They all wander into the ‘ghost town’ that is Arkadia while creepy half western, half horror music continues to play. Raven explains that the Arkadians left because ALIE had already taken it over and wants to move on to get more people; though we don’t know where they all went (yet). They split up and they’re smart enough to not let anyone go alone: Jasper and Octavia to get Lincoln’s journal, which hopefully has directions to Luna, the rest load gear.

Octavia enters Lincoln’s cabin, picks up his jacket, smells it, and cries. Jasper tells her its okay to fall apart since she loved him, but she’s a warrior, warriors don’t mourn until the war is over, so she sucks up her grief and finds the notebook they want with a map to Luna. Jasper, sporting a new bloody wound on his head, stumbles into the room and falls unconscious on the floor. Skeleton Face attacks Octavia and the woman who had just proclaimed herself a warrior is once again overpowered.

Cut to Polis, where Murphy sneaks Emori into the tower. They get frisky in the flamekeeper’s sanctuary after Emori stares at a banner with the phrase “seek higher things” emblazoned on it (remember this, it will be important later).

Back at Arkadia, Bellamy wants them all to meet him at the armory (he’s found lots of bullets). Raven asks Clarke how to activate the AI, since Becca’s journal mentions a verbal passphrase that Lexa probably knew.

Clarke: “Lexa didn’t even know she was AI.”

Raven: “She wasn’t AI, her mind was just enhanced by one.”

Clarke, Monty, and Sinclair all take turns guessing what the phrase might be. Raven says it would be something Lexa said a lot, but it turns out to be an obscure Latin phrase meaning “seek higher things,” the phrase on the cover of Becca’s journal (and was embroidered on the banner Emori stared at). I don’t think we ever heard Lexa say this, but that’s beside the point, as it works and the chip activates. Raven leans in, but Clarke pulls her back. When someone without the blood takes the flame, the flame takes their life (remember this, it will be important later).

Clarke and Monty go to meet up with Bellamy and they are interrupted with a music box playing creepy music in the hallway. Monty says it’s a bad idea to follow it, but they do anyway. Clarke picks it up and reads a name on the bottom: Aaron (remember this, it will be important later). Skeleton Face throws a smoke bomb, tinged red of course, and Monty and Clarke faint. Skeleton Face is now wearing a gas mask and he creeps up on Clarke, but surprise! She was faking being knocked out. She pulls off his mas Scooby Doo style and surprise! It’s Emerson, because why not. She gets away, so Emerson has to content himself with kidnapping Monty.

At Polis, Murphy tells Emori to leave; she’s all “Stop it with your protective paternalism, Murphy. I got this” (not really, but kind of). She praises his survival skills (and modesty?). He replies, no really, you gots to go.

Murphy: “Ontari is crazy, and that’s coming from me.”

At least he has a level of self-awareness. (Side Note: hello darkness my old friend).

He confesses to Emori that Ontari isn’t the real heda because she doesn’t have 2.0 and that he’s only alive because he said he could make her the commander anyway. Emori asks what he does for her, and he all but admits he’s being used as a sex toy/slave. He tells Emori not to leave, because a grifter/con-man who just found out the commander isn’t really the commander is just going to sit on that information.

At Arkadia, Bellamy and Clarke go back for Monty, but he’s gone. In a shocking twist Clarke blames herself for Monty (and Miller, Bryan, and Harper) being missing because she let Emerson live. Bellamy just kind of stares at her. They radio for Sinclair and Raven to lock down the hanger bay, but its too late. The lights go out. Emerson (complete with night vision goggles) starts attacking. Sinclair goes to open the outer doors for Bellamy and Clarke to get to them while Raven gets herself into the Rover. When the bay doors open, we see Sinclair has been mortally wounded and as he dies in Raven’s arms, she’s dragged away by Emerson.

Bellamy and Clarke find dead Sinclair and realize Emerson must have taken their friends elsewhere, alive. She radios Emerson and says she’ll meet him at the airlock so he can kill her she can rescue her friends. She’s going to go it alone, like a true hero because this is All Her Fault™ for being merciful and letting Emerson live, but Bellamy won’t let her do that.

Clarke: “I’m not letting anyone else die for my mistake.”

Bellamy calls her plan stupid (I think that’s twice she or her plans have been called stupid this episode, both times by men), and tells her his “better plan”: distract him and shoot him.

Back in Polis, Ontari is holding court and a hooded man walks in. Surprise! It’s Jaha. He tells her he can make her more than a false commander. Turns out Emori was working for Jaha this entire episode time and had been chipped prior to meeting up with Murphy (no wonder she was so interested in the tech/banner in the sanctuary). Ontari is pissed that Murphy betrayed her, so she threatens to kill him. Jaha says he won’t help her if she does, so she has Murphy arrested. Jaha offers her a chip.

During the final showdown at Arkadia, Clarke meets Emerson at the airlock, Bellamy close behind (not really being very sneaky, tbh). She says she’s alone, but Emerson calls out Bellamy by threatening Octavia with a knife to her throat. After Emerson gives Octavia a shallow cut that still bleeds all over, Bellamy surrenders, handcuffing himself willingly to the wall. Emerson leaves, locks the airlock, and shoves Clarke up against it so she can watch her friends suffocate.

The red lighting is better than dim lighting. At least I can see facial expressions! Also, why does she have to be so brutally attacked again?

With a gun to her head, Emerson tells her to beg (because Clarke is the one who needs to be begging and humiliated for all the horrible things she’s done, like everything she could to save her people). She begs, but then counters that Aaron (did you remember the name from the music box?) wouldn’t want him to do this. Emerson yells at her, and in the ensuing struggle, he chokes her out, but then changes his mind. She has to watch her friends die first. He asks if she has last words. She gasps out “ascende superiorus” (spelling?), activating Lexa 2.0 and jabs it into his throat. It wiggles its way to his neck a la the scarabs in The Mummy and he dies. Clarke (and Lexa!) saves the day!

Lincoln gets a proper Grounder funeral; Octavia gets almost a full minute of grief before she’s back to sucking it up like a good warrior and telling them all they have work to do. Raven and Monty decide to stay behind and find a backdoor into ALIE via the Ark mainframe, Miller, Bryan, and Harper stay to protect them. Bellamy, Clarke, Jasper, and Octavia head off to find Luna.

The closing shot brings us back to Polis. Emori enters the throne room, where Jaha and Ontari flank an empty throne, and says the gates to Polis are open. The camera slides, and we see ALIE on the throne, proclaiming it is time to fill the City of Light.

Kane is going to have a very unwelcoming party when he arrives.

Okay, so apparently we needed a tribute to horror, because that’s what we got, complete with an on pointe ghost story at the beginning (a man who is haunted by his dead family and driven to kill? a little too on the nose), people disappearing, dim and short-circuiting lighting, a creepy music box in the middle of the hallway, and teenagers making conveniently idiotic decisions. I get what the writers were going for, but with just how trope driven the horror genre is these days, especially teen horror, it was too predictable to work how I think they wanted it to. What were meant to be head nods came off as predictable at best, boring at worst. The foreshadowing lacked subtlety and the ‘hints’ might as well have been neon signs. Again, I get what they were going for, it didn’t work.

Thankfully, no one got punished for sex in this horror story, but we did lose another person of color from Team Delinquent: Sinclair. That’s three people of color in almost as many weeks and four named minority (POC and LGBT) characters this season: Lincoln, Lexa, Hannah Green, and Sinclair. That’s more than any other season and all within 5 episodes of each other. Maybe Jason Rothenberg is trying to pare down his primary and secondary characters since he realized he had more than he could feasibly follow at the start of this season. Maybe he just likes to see Raven/women (and Monty) suffer. Maybe he doesn’t think killing off so many POC is a problem, or maybe he doesn’t think about the implications at all. Given how he treated Lexa’s and Lincoln’s deaths, it’s probably a bit of both. If he were still on twitter, he would probably say some nonsense (source) about how they weren’t actually people of color to him; they were badass characters whose lives were cut short tragically because on The 100, anyone can die.

I could talk about plot holes and other nonsense. Why does ALIE need to hear that Ontari isn’t the real heda from Murphy via Emori? She’s already seen that Clarke has 2.0. And why would she even know about the Grounder mythology of the heda reincarnation at this point? From Emori? I have no idea why she knows or is interested in Ontari given that she already knows Clarke has 2.0. Or, how close is the cave that Harper, Miller, and Bryan are supposed to be at from Arkadia? It seems that if they’re close enough for Bellamy to be radioing them when they’re approaching Arkadia, the Arkadians would have found them by now. Does Bellamy think they’re at Arkadia? Why would he? They should be at the cave.

While we’re on Arkadia, why leave Arkadia completely abandoned? Wouldn’t you leave at least a token guard force just in case the Delinquents came back? When I saw the preview last week, I actually assumed that ALIE had planted a trap for them, assuming that Octavia would come back for Lincoln’s body. That would seem a very reasonable contingency.

“What is this thing on the ground? I think I’ll pick it up and hope it isn’t a bomb or tripwire.”

More importantly though, I want to talk about Clarke, whose character this episode was all over the place. She’s conveniently stoopid enough to follow the creepy music or think that going at Emerson alone is the best way to get him, yet also clever enough to figure out that Emerson is in the airlock, you know, so he can kill them in it like she killed his family in Mt. Weather.

She’s also back to flagellating herself for other people’s horrible actions and blaming herself for being a good person. What was supposed to be the lesson of this episode? That being merciful really is a bad idea? Seriously. The whole Polis arc with Lexa from S2-S3 was about mercy, peace, and compassion being a better way, a higher way that ultimately does good for all people in the end. Jus no drein jus daun. That was the point, wasn’t it? That mercy triumphs over revenge and eye-for-an-eye. Clarke’s obsessive fixation on how this is all her fault for showing mercy toward Emerson completely undermines that message. She ought to have killed him. She ought to have being cold, heartless, devoid of compassion, and chosen revenge.

And let’s compare this to how Bellamy has not once truly felt even an ounce of the same kind of guilt or shame, much less verbally expressed it repeatedly, for killing 300 innocent people in their sleep. Clarke shows mercy on one man, who then chooses to be a dick and kidnap/kill a bunch of people, and she beats herself up over it. Bellamy never disagrees with her. When she blames herself, he just…stares at her, as if silently agreeing that this is, in fact, all her fault. Bellamy, on the other hand, has shown little to no remorse for being actually responsible for killing 300 innocent people and the narrative does not condemn him for his lack of remorse. Rather, his quick acceptance back amongst the protagonists (see for example, Clarke’s failure last episode to confront him about betraying her), pushes the audience to perceive him as being on a redemption arc and having earned forgiveness for what he did.

This is compounded by Clarke’s humiliation and suffering at Emerson’s hands, which I argue is equal to, if not more than what Bellamy got at Octavia’s hands. Octavia beat up Bellamy; it was problematic in many ways and the more I reflect on it, the more it didn’t work. Both because of the Unfortunate Implications of a white woman beating a man of color repeatedly and her being depicted as savage and out of control because of her links to the Grounder culture.

Lesson: Don’t be merciful. You know, the opposite of what this season’s message started out being.

In this episode, Clarke is not only physically dominated, humiliated, and forced to beg for her life, she also has yet more violence done to people she cares about all while being blamed and blaming herself for everything that is happening to them. She does not deserve this kind of punishment, especially not for showing mercy to Emerson by not killing him. Perhaps the writers were going for “this is her punishment for Mt. Weather”, but since Clarke herself repeatedly states that this is her fault for not killing Emerson, the message is that mercy gets you brutalized and your friends almost killed.

Then there’s Clarke’s reference to Lexa as an AI. Clarke more than anyone would know that Lexa was not the actual AI. Not only did she spend the most time with her, enough to know her as a person with real feelings, Titus actually flat out told her that the AI only enhanced her personality rather than supplanting it.

Titus: “I have served 4 commanders. None of them half as wise or as strong as Lexa kom Trikru. The truth is she was all those things even before ascension. The flame deepens what is already there.” (“Stealing Fire”)

You know what Raven had to repeat to Clarke after she stupidly referred to Lexa as the AI. Let’s remember that Raven wanted Lexa dead for Finn’s death and here she is defending Lexa’s feelings and, hell, her personhood, to the woman who was in love with her. In what world does this make any kind of sense other than one in which Clarke’s feelings for Lexa are being erased? It’s a great moment for Raven’s character development, a poor (and patently ridiculous) one for Clarke’s.

I suppose you could say that in her grief she’s lost perspective? But not 24 hours ago (in universe), she screamed at Jasper that the chip was Lexa when he went to smash it. She’s gone from referring to the chip as Lexa (she says, literally, “It’s Lexa!”) to referring to Lexa as AI. That’s a 180 degree difference. In less than 24 hours. Who is writing this?

Honestly, it just reads as an attempt to invalidate Clarke and Lexa’s relationship. It wasn’t ‘real’ because it was just a relationship with an AI. This coming out of Clarke’s mouth, makes the implication worse. Not only was Clarke not allowed to grieve, she’s now speaking as if Lexa wasn’t a real person. It implies a correlation between ALIE and Lexa that is uncomfortable at best, and more than a bit dehumanizing, especially coming from someone who loved Lexa and had an intimate relationship with her. Yes, Raven corrected her, but the implication stands. Clarke is distancing herself from Lexa in a way that implies Lexa wasn’t ‘real’, nor, by extension, was their relationship. A year old tweet from Rothenberg to the same effect only heightens this implication.

I will admit, I might be over-reading it, given my attachment to Lexa as a character and Clexa as a relationship. I do think that at the very least, Clarke quite literally knew better, given Titus’ statement to her, and this line makes no sense coming from her of all characters. Anyone other than her (or Raven)? Yes, I’d buy it. But not from Clarke. What could have been a really emotional moment for Clarke on screen (seeing the living/moving chip for the first time since it was removed from Lexa), is robbed of its emotive power because she refers to Lexa as an AI rather than a person and, again, isn’t allowed to express her grief other than in poignant looks on Eliza Taylor’s brilliantly expressive face.

Speaking of women not being allowed to grieve, or even really have feelings, Octavia. She’s gotten maybe 5 full minutes of screen time to grieve since Lincoln died. Jasper got 10 episodes, Bellamy got to slaughter hundreds of innocent people. She got 5 minutes. Granted her smelling Lincoln’s jacket was one of the most evocative scenes I’ve seen this entire season (right up there with Clarke sobbing over Lexa), as was her sobbing over his dead body, but it wasn’t enough for me. Linctavia was the longest on-screen relationship in the history of this show. It deserves more than 5 minutes and Octavia repeatedly chastising herself for feeling pain and grief at his loss.

I am also thankful that Jasper reached out to her in her grief rather than telling her to get over it, though he kind of did when he said, “Octavia, you know how you told me it gets better?” Again, it’s sweet, but not enough. I want the women on this show to be able to grieve the way the men get to and so far this season, that’s just not happening.

Overall, this felt like the episode where all women suffer. Raven loses her father figure and the last person in the world that she truly loves. Great. Awesome. Raven suffering. Again. Ugh. Leave her alone. Clarke flagellates herself for being merciful, is brutalized, and forced to watch her friends suffer because she was merciful. Octavia is allowed to grieve for 5 minutes and then has to suck up her feelings and bear her suffering “like a warrior” (which sounds suspiciously like the phrase deal with it “like a man”). How long must Raven suffer? How long must Octavia stuff her grief and suck it up? How many times must Clarke apologize for, well, anything and everything that happens to everybody?

In conclusion, Steven King’s tweet is more relevant than ever it seems.

Tune in next week for Pike getting lynched maybe? Because that’s not problematic in any way whatsoever. *Note: this preview did not air after the episode, but is available to watch on the CW website.*

Random Thoughts

  • Why, why, why must Raven suffer so much? Need I remind you Sinclair is the only thing she had left that was anywhere close to family? For heaven’s sake, protect Raven Reyes 2k5ever.
  • “The natblida, somehow it became hereditary”. “Somehow” is right, Clarke. Good lord, the handwaving here is so obvious.
  • Clarke has showered off-screen and has new clothes. She’s no longer a Grounder, just like Octavia. (I do like her new duds, though. I covet that jacket and corset.)
  • Clarke is smart enough to figure out where Emerson is hiding their friends but still needs men to tell her that her plans are stupid.
  • Women cannot feel, they must suck it up and move on. No feelz for the ladies.
  • I’m fairly positive now that Ontari has fewer and different scars again, or at the very least, they’re less visible. They’re prettying up her face every episode it seems.
  • Did the key look bigger than before or is that just me? The camera angle?
  • How did 2.0 get in and out of Emerson like it did? Lexa’s body was mutilated and the chip delicately removed from the base of her skull with tweezers, but all Clarke has to do is say the magic words and the chip can use its wispy little tendril legs to force its way through muscle and skin into a man’s head? What? There’s no way Clark’s open handed slap had enough force to get a chip with rounded edges through Emerson’s neck. Why does nothing about how the chips work make any kind of sense at all? This is what Lexa died for?
  • Did Octavia have any kind of dressing for her neck wound? I didn’t see it during the funeral scene.
  • Speaking of the funeral scene: it doesn’t make sense to have any Delinquents other than Clarke and Octavia speaking trigedasleng for Lincoln’s funeral because they couldn’t be bothered to learn it (or respect his culture) while he was alive.
  • At least we had moments of sunlight where we could see the entire screen this episode!
  • Why hasn’t Kane arrived at Polis yet? How did Jaha beat him if he and the other Grounders left for Polis first and were already closer?
  • When will Abby and Clarke get to be reunited? I want them to hug and be on the same team and be in each other’s presence for longer than 10 minutes. Please. They’re the only parent/child dynamic left on this show.
  • Clarke still didn’t mention that Bellamy betrayed her the last time they hung out. Looks like this isn’t ever going to get addressed.

Images Courtesy of The CW.

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