Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The 100 Review: Season 3, Episode 16: “Perverse Instantiation, Part Two”

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Part two. This is it folks. The end of Season 3. Don’t worry, it’s not that bad, at least not from a violence or trigger-y perspective. The only thing this episode murdered was the plot. *badum tiss* I’ll be here all night folks. No really. It’s almost 2 am, and I’m still up. Wheee!


Griffin ladies reunion. I can die happy.

We start in Polis, where Clarke zaps her mom in the head with the EMP meant for Ontari. We get a very touching reunion between them where Abby sobs and apologizes to Clarke for hurting her. It’s exactly what I want from them at this point in their journey, and I wish other characters would learn from this. (I’m looking at you Bellamy). Speaking of Bellamy, he busts in and aims a gun at the touching reunion because aiming a gun at a mother and child hugging is totally legit and not at all dickish. Sure, he didn’t know Clarke had used the EMP yet, but Clarke is literally hugging her mom. You’d think that would be a clue to the tenor of their interactions. Then again, he’s not S3 Bellamy if he’s not pointing guns at things, so, there’s that.

Once everyone is informed that Abby is safe and all the ways up to the tower are dispatched (leaving them with no way down), Clarke announces that she’s going to do what she could have done in 3.07 and have the flame put in her head. It’s a good thing Abby has a complete transfusion med kit in her bag because that’s just what Clarke needs right now! They best hurry though because the Grounders are climbing the tower from the outside.

In Arkadia, Jasper has found a new door to pound on in his attempts to get at Monty, Raven, and the machine she built. He’s gonna shoot Harper if they don’t let him in. Oh, and ALIE has added some code to mess with Raven. But oh snap! Here comes Monty from behind to shoot Jasper in the leg and free Harper.

Raven: “Good thing there’s no pain in the City of Light.”

Back in Polis, Pike and Co. have coated the ledges in grease so the climbing zombies have to bottleneck at the commander’s chambers. Everyone but Abby, Clarke, and Bellamy head that direction, and Bellamy snarks that at least Clarke doesn’t have to hang upside down for her dialysis transfusion. Murphy speaks the magic words and 2.0 bores into Clarke’s neck like a drill on a mission. Clarke then wakes from a brief nap with the announcement that she knows how to defeat ALIE: she has to take the key and find the kill switch in the CoL herself. Abby warns her not to be seen, otherwise ALIE will know she’s there.

We’re reminded that mind death in the CoL = real death, but Clarke says Lexa the flame will protect her. And yay, Bellamy believes in Clarke (about damn time jerkface). Clarke swallows the key all communion style and wakes up in Vancouver! She sees Jasper, but he can’t see her. I guess they were worried about her being seen for nothing! She is also hearing someone whisper her name and infinity symbols everywhere, so she can’t be distracted by Jasper looking happy and eating ice cream for too long.

Outside, ALIE zombies continue to climb the tower and Bryan proves that LGBT couples can’t be happy when there are bullets flying by developing an infection in his wound (don’t worry though, he doesn’t die). Pike tries to get chummy with Octavia, but she’s having none of it. She sharpens her sword in an ominous way instead.

Pike: “Damn that was fast.”

The first wave of climbers reaches Pike and Octavia, whereupon he reminds the audience her that Bellamy is totes in favor of non-lethal force now. Too bad for him that she’s not because she slashes Pike and lets the climbers have at him. But Bellamy ruins her revenge and saves Pike after shooting the bad dudes. There’s some bsing about Octavia controlling her emotions better and Bellamy warning her about the Dark Side. You know, because he’s totes redeemed now. He doesn’t want to shoot people anymore. Bellamy even admits that he wanted Pike to be right because painting the Grounders as evil was easier, but he’s done with that. He has to live with his choices now yo. #forgiveyourself

Meanwhile, Ontari is twitching on her slab and Clarke is bleeding from the nose. ALIE has discovered the intrusion all thanks to Ontari’s twitching, which apparently means she’s crashing. Clarke wasn’t getting enough blood, so her body started to reject the flame. Murphy has to manually stimulate Ontari’s heart via chest compressions; otherwise Clarke will die.

In Arkadia, Raven, Monty, and Harper figure out that Clarke is in the CoL with the flame. As we cut to scenes of a couple people beating up on Clarke. Jasper tells Raven and the others that because of Clarke, ALIE is updating herself to version 2.0 of her code, which will allow her to delete the kill switch. Now we finally know what she wanted from 2.0, though why the script to delete the kill switch would even be on a upgraded version of the ALIE code is beyond me.

Back in the CoL, Lexa busts in like a badass and my shipper heart explodes with joy as she starts killing all the people attacking Clarke while flashing her love a secret smile. Music swells as Lexa defeats the final enemy and Clarke, wounded, reaches out to Lexa. They embrace. There is face touching and hugging and crying and rain and beautiful music and and… *sigh* It’s beautiful okay!

Lexa: “Our fight is not over.”

Excuse me while I clean my brain off the walls.

Lexa carries Clarke away from the baddies and when they’re safe, they have a moment to reconnect. Lexa gives Clarke an “I told you so” speech about her spirit choosing wisely, but all is not right. ALIE is changing the code via the flame in Clarke’s head and the world literally spins around them, but not in a good way. Clarke starts seizing.

In the real world, Abby realizes they need to increase Ontari’s fake heart rate. Thankfully Abby also has a rib-cracker in her med kit, so we’re golden. It’s kind of gross, but actually mostly fake looking. It’s obviously a chest plate and not the actor’s body because it jiggles when Murphy pumps her heart. No joke.

Back to Clexa kissing in the City of Light. Lexa warns Clarke that the protection the flame offers is wearing down as ALIE uploads version two of her code, so they have to find the kill switch soon. Becca sends them a message in the form of a girl on a bike with an infinity symbol on her jacket to lead them to the citadel.

Back in the commander’s chambers in the tower, the climbers are trying to break the barricade set up by Pike and Co. Bryan says they should switch to guns, but Pike is now team non-lethal force too and recommends using the element of surprise.

Octavia leads Kane, Emori, and the others to a hallway with standing water and pretends to give up. Her companions throw a handful of shock lashes into the water and all the climbers are electrocuted, but not dead. The water magically becomes uncharged in time for Bellamy and the rest to take their weapons.

In the City of Light, Clarke and Lexa chase the girl on the bike to an abandoned building, but a chain link fence firewall stands in their way. Um, Lexa? I love you darling and imma let you finish, but how do you know what a firewall is?

Jasper saunters up to them and Clarke gives him a speech about free will, choice, and ALIE using torture to take away people’s consent (even though Octavia said ALIE gives people a choice in 3.13). Jasper replies with his own monologue about how terrible humans are to each other. See, ALIE just wants to protect humanity from itself! That’s why she tortures people. So they won’t torture each other. It’s so simple, really.

Just as Jaha, Jasper, and a horde of other zombies approach, Raven creates a back door for Clarke. Lexa stays to fight the zombies off while swinging her two swords like a badass warrior queen.

Clarke: “Lexa, I love you.”

Lexa: “I’ll always be with you.”

Warrior queen of my heart.

Clarke steps into the citadel—the Polaris station—and Becca greets her. She explains that while Clarke has merged with 2.0, Clarke is still in control and only the mind in control can use the kill switch. Becca then leads Clarke to her workstation, where she sees…a giant white switch. You know, a kill switch.

ALIE shows up and tells Clarke that pulling the switch means she’ll kill everyone. You see, unbeknownst to literally everyone (including the audience), the nuclear power plants destroyed by the bombs 100 years ago are only now starting to meltdown (I’m not kidding). No, no wait I know what you’re thinking. This is not the writers pulling something out of their butts to suddenly turn a malevolent character into a ‘nuanced’ one with good intentions. Nope. Not at all. You see, ALIE detected this all four months ago, conveniently just before Jaha arrived at her mansion. This is why she wanted to get everyone into the CoL and was willing to torture them to get there. Lots of the power plants are burning and soon, the radiation will be so high as to make 96% of the earth uninhabitable. ALIE is such a nuanced character now!

Back in the tower, more zombies are now gathered outside the throne room and trying to bust in. Bellamy states the obvious about protecting Clarke and blah blah blah non-violence. He’s so redeemed guys.

Abby hovers like a momma bear—albeit one with a with a gun—over sleeping Clarke (I’m so happy she’s a good guy again, you don’t even know), while ALIE stalls for time in the CoL by detailing all the horrible things that will happen once the power stations melt down. There’s lots of fighting in the tower, Murphy keeps his hand pumping Ontari’s heart, and Abby hovers some more.

Clarke confronts ALIE about the nuclear meltdown, demanding to know why she chose torture over communicating the concern like a reasonable artificial intelligence. ALIE counters that the last time she warned Becca of a threat to humanity (there being too many people on earth I guess?), Becca locked her away and went to space to work on ALIE’s replacement. We’re then treated to the definition of the title of this episode.

ALIE: “Perverse Instantiation, the implementation of a benign final goal, through deleterious methods unforeseen by human programmer.”

Becca gets time to talk about how the ends don’t justify the means and apologizes for not teaching an AI how to be a human being. Clarke has to choose between being a free person who can make the decision to destroy the CoL or not living with the emotional consequences of the choices she’s made. Given Clarke has just treated Jasper to a spiel about the importance of free will, it’s not really a tense moment.

Clarke asks ALIE to let the people choose whether or not to keep their pain, but ALIE can’t because she’s programmed to make life better and still believes she is by keeping their memories of pain from them. Wait. ALIE has programming confines? Since when? Whatever. Clarke’s having none of that ALIE nonsense.

Clarke: “You don’t ease pain, you overcome it.”

It’s the finale! Make important assertions!

There’s lots of fighting in the tower while this is happening. Pike saves Octavia’s life, but then Jaha come in and starts punching Pike. Bellamy gets choked by Kane for a bit and Emori tries to attack Murphy. But it all comes to an end when *gasp* Clarke flips the kill switch! But don’t worry, they’ll figure something to do about the nuclear power plants. They always do.

In another twist, no one dies from the CoL! ALIE is such a liar. Clarke wakes up and removes the flame, which Abby then presses lovingly into her hand because she knows what’s up. There are apologies and hugs all around. Jasper’s supes sad again and Monty comforts him.

Jasper: “I’m sorry I stabbed you.”

Monty: “I’m sorry I shot you.”

Clarke then has to deliver the bad news to Bellamy that the earth isn’t safe, but before she can, Octavia stabs Pike in the belly and walks away.

The end. (Seriously).

Alright, so, overall, this was kind of a let down. On the one hand, I’d rather have an anti-climactic ending than more triggering content, torture, and a second Lexa death. On the other, what we got was gibberish mixed with regression and some lovely, heartfelt, endearing scenes thrown in for happy feels. Again, I’m not bemoaning the lack of torture. I’m bemoaning the lack of logic and coherence.

For example, why does Clarke have to be seen in the CoL for ALIE to know she’s in it? Wasn’t it established earlier that ALIE knows instantaneously when people appear in the CoL? It’s her damn code, she would know if it is modified in any way, including adding a new person to the matrix code. The given reason is that the flame provides some protection. Sure, let’s go with that.

This only raises the question of why everyone was so concerned about Ontari getting the flame when she was chipped. I wonder if the order of consumption affects how 2.0 interacts with the CoL, then? For example, if one swallows the key and then get’s the flame, like Ontari would have, 2.0 would be completely exposed to ALIE. With Clarke, she took the flame first, so the flame shielded her from 2.0. Maybe? I might just be honeypotting.

On to the transfusion. My first question—other than why Abby had the equipment in the first place—is why make this a whole dialysis situation rather than a direct transfusion? The only answer I have is to ramp up a non-existent ‘tension’. We all knew Clarke would accomplish her goals, so why make this needlessly complicated and gross? Maybe it’s more Dramatically Satisfying™ this way.

I do love this image, though. No one messes with Momma Bear Griffin.

Accepting that they ‘needed’ to do it dialysis method, why didn’t they move Clarke to the floor once there were issues with the blood flow? Trying to pump blood up a tube is much more difficult than allowing gravity to do it for you. Why not move Clarke to be the same or slightly lower elevation as Ontari’s body to make the transfusion easier? Oh, right, because then we wouldn’t get the shot of Clarke on heda’s throne. Which is cool, I’ll admit, but not at the expense of actual logic.

Then you have the shoddy attempt at retconning ALIE, or was that a redemption arc? Can you redeem an AI? Regardless, giving ALIE a suddenly benign reason for wanting to migrate everyone to the CoL with literally zero set up is as unsatisfying as you can get other than having it all be a dream. The malevolent AI that’s been torturing everyone for most of this season—Raven slit her wrists, Luna was waterboarded, Abby hung herself, Jasper stabbed his best friend, Kane and Indra (off screen) were crucified—this AI, is actually not the bad guy after all. She’s misguided, untrained. It’s Becca’s fault for not teaching her that the ends don’t justify the means. No. This is failure to follow through and failure to commit to Jaha and ALIE as true villains. It’s sloppy and lazy writing at its finest (poorest?).

See all it took for ALIE to understand that the ends don’t justify the means was being told by the right person (Clarke) in the right context (the season finale). All the other times that characters condemned her and Jaha for the torture didn’t make it clear to her that this was wrong. Witnessing human beings in visible pain and suffering was not enough for her to understand it was wrong.

Which leads me to the question of how she was able to torture humans in the first place. I’ll get to this more fully in my retrospective next week (Elizabeth will be joining me!), but the long and short of it is that ALIE’s programming confines only exist as the plot needs them to. She’s programmed to help humanity by minimizing pain and suffering, right? Becca tells Clarke that ALIE can’t return people’s memories because that would cause them pain. The only problem is that ALIE did precisely that to Raven in 3.10. That and torture actively causes human pain and suffering so…what is Becca talking about again?


A lot of the let down comes from what seems like poor editing choices. Earlier this week Eliza Taylor confirmed there were two possible endings, and there were rumors in the Tumblr rumor mill that Rothenberg edited the finale due to backlash from 3.07. Regardless of whether the latter is true, there were definite cracks in the seams that hint at editing. The camera work and dialogue don’t always line up correctly, an obvious sign of dialogue replacement, such as when Clarke confesses her love to Lexa and Lexa replies with “I’ll always be with you”. Not only is Lexa’s response um, weird and out of character, but Clarke’s confession focuses on Lexa’s face rather than Clarke’s, which is the opposite of what you expect from a cinematic perspective.

Additionally, the impending nuclear holocaust as ALIE’s raison d’être this season feels like a poorly written retcon, perhaps a sign of this being an alternate ending. There’s no way the nuclear plants would have survived 100 years after a nuclear holocaust and not melted down already. No way. And they definitely don’t explode the way ALIE showed Clarke.

Also, the threat of a nuclear holocaust has been done before. On this show. It’s the reason everyone was in space. And was worried about going back to earth. You know, in season one. God. Hooray for plot regression.

Deja vu.

Ugh. I’m done picking apart this plot until next week. I’m exhausted. So I’ll just briefly point out how unsatisfying Clarke’s and Bellamy’s character arcs were. Bellamy’s ‘redemption’ boiled down to him realizing he needed to forgive himself and ‘live with what he’s done.’ The former is trite and doesn’t actually address the problem. It’s okay to be a mass murderer as long as you forgive yourself for it?

The latter is also trite, and doesn’t reflect what we’ve seen out of Bellamy this season at all, even in the last few episodes where he’s been supposedly ‘redeemed.’ Again, more next week, but for now, suffice it to say that blaming everyone, never showing remorse, and not apologizing to the people you’ve hurt is not really ‘living with what you’ve done.’

Clarke’s arc fared little better. Sure, we got some lovely Clexa reunion scenes—*hearteyes*—for which I am thankful. At the same time, her big revelation is that she’s done running from her pain and her people, as if her choice to stay in Polis to help her people by keeping Lexa from betraying them (her stated reason in 3.04) really was an act of abandonment as Bellamy claims it was. As if her trying to save everyone with the flame for the entire second half of this season wasn’t her taking charge and leading. Anyway, now she’s really ready to take the lead and responsibility…and doom more people to dying from radiation, like she did in Mt. Weather. But this time, she’ll do it without regrets? Sure.

Basically she and Bellamy are at the same places they were when this season started, but without regrets or grief for their choices. At least Jasper chose healing and is back to being BFFs with Monty. And Pike is dead. Small victories.

I will say, there was lots of love to go around this episode, and I’m so happy for that. I’d rather watch Clarke and Lexa making out than Abby hanging herself any day. Clarke getting to admit her feelings for Lexa is huge. Even if it was edited in post, I don’t care. A lead female character in a network sci-fi show just got to admit she loved another female character. 😀

Also, we got Abby and Clarke reconciling after a truly heartfelt apology from Abby. Then at the end, we got hugs for everyone and general well-being and reconciliation: Abby and Kane, Emori and Murphy, Jasper and Monty, Monty and Harper. Seeing everyone reuniting with their loved ones warmed the cockles of my salty heart. Now if you could just unkill Lincoln and Lexa I might forgive you for whatever the hell this season was.

Random Thoughts

  • They moved Jasper from the hall to a mechanical bay(?) in the opening Arkadia scene for…reasons
  • Raven’s hip is all better after getting free of ALIE in 3.11!
  • Has Bellamy ever called Octavia “O” before? It took me a few seconds to realize what he’d said.
  • It’s a superficial nitpick, but I wanted Clarke to have cooler clothes in the CoL
  • Why did Becca have to slit (and then suture) a hole in the back of her head if she could have just put the chip up to the back of her head and have it burrow in?
  • That transfusion worked SUPES fast. The blood got from Clarke’s arm to her head in, like, 30 seconds. Granted, the body cycles blood about once a minute, but still, seemed awfully quick to me. Maybe I’m just looking for issues 😉
  • Damn it, I wanted to see the other commanders! What a wasted opportunity. Imagine the scene where Clarke pulls the switch but with this cadre of commanders behind her, helping her not be alone in her decision like with Bellamy and Monty at Mt. Weather.
  • Do people who have sudden cardiac arrest really visibly twitch as much as Ontari did?
  • Did you notice that they got as much of Ontari’s boobs in Abby’s scalpel shot as possible?
  • Has the rover always been green and I didn’t notice? I thought it was black
  • How did Abby get Ontari’s chest open so quickly? What kind of tools does she carry in her med kit that she could saw through bone in 15 seconds?

  • Anyone else distracted by how much technical jargon Lexa is spouting? I know she needs to, to communicate with Clarke, and it’s also really jarring.
  • While I totally ship Clarke and Lexa being together in 2.0 forever, I’m kind of relieved it didn’t go that route. I know, I know! Don’t kill me. See, if they had, it would have made Clarke a white savior of a kind: foreigner comes into a new culture, falls in love with a native, takes over culture as their new, enlightened leader and saves them from themselves. I don’t want that.
  • I feel slightly guilty for how happy Pike’s death made me. Like, he’s another dead poc and that is genuinely upsetting given how many others we’ve lost this season. And…he was a horrible xenophobic jerk who murdered Grounders and justified it to himself and others. I’m happy at a Watsonian level and also horrified at a Doylist level.
  • They established in the opening 5 minutes that all the ways down to the ground are blocked. So how are they (including huffy Octavia) going to get down? Will S4 just be them waiting to die in the throne room while they gripe about all the candles and Kabby and Memori awkwardly have sex in opposite corners? Because I’m here for that.
  • If this does get a S4 (and it isn’t cancelled) and everyones starts blaming Clarke, I’m seriously going to punch everyone.
  • No Bellarke what?
  • <3 Also, Clexa forever <3

Images Courtesy of The CW. 

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