Thursday, June 20, 2024

The 100 Review: Season 3, Episode 6, “Bitter Harvest”

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It may be called bitter harvest, but this episode was more like a bomb with a long slow fuse that explodes right at the end. For all that they hyped the Jaha/A.L.I.E. plotline in trailers and behind the scenes vids, it’s about more than the weird happy pill.  As we’ve come to expect from The 100, there are a lot of moving parts and multiple plot threads, so it is easy to get lost.

*heart eyes* You’re going to get sick of my Clexa shipping before long. To be fair, the writers foreground their relationship over every other, so for now they’re on my side.

We start, as with last episode, with Clexa (seriously, if Clexa isn’t endgame, I’m going to cut someone. Ahem). Clarke is sketching the sleeping Lexa when she awakens from a nightmare. She is worried that her new policy of jus no drein jus daun (blood must not have blood) will not go over well with the Coalition of Grounders. Their deep eye gazing is interrupted by Titus, who brings a gift from King Roan of Ice Nation: Emerson, the little twerp last survivor from Mt. Weather. Lexa then turns to Clarke and raises one of the central conflicts of this episode: will Clarke put her money where her mouth is and choose to practice the peace she tells Lexa is so necessary for the new future?

She spends the whole episode wrestling it, knowing all the while that her decision might affect how Lexa treats her people. Her anger over the destruction of Mt. Weather with the survivors from Farm Station (“Ye Who Enter Here”), pushes her to advocate for revenge, a choice shared by Titus—who believes Lexa’s mercy will get her killed. Emerson himself taunts Clarke, telling her that he had children who died in Mt. Weather and wants to see her suffer for her choice to eradiate level 5. The only one not pushing for his death is Lexa. She Clarke’s impulse for revenge, confronting her about how selfish it would be to kill Emerson yet also sue for peace for Arkadia while also opening up about her reasons for why she made peace her choice.

Lexa: “So blood must not have blood applies only when it is my people who bleed.”

Ultimately, Clarke chooses peace, condemning Emerson to live as an exile with his anger, his thirst for revenge, and his ghosts. This was my favorite part of this episode, not just because Clarke was not proved a hypocrite, also because the show framed this choice as one of power. Over and over again, compassion and mercy are not framed as weakness, but as demanding great courage and strength. Lexa’s people might perceive her as less powerful for choosing peace, but we, the audience, know they’re wrong. Unlike some shows currently running (ahem, Game of Thrones), the people who choose revenge on The 100 are consistently framed as problematic and ultimately wrong. Pike and Bellamy’s thirst for blood is hateful and myopic. Lexa’s mercy is proves how powerful she actually is. Compassion is never mocked and if at times, violence is necessary (or even when it is unnecessary), it always, always, harms the perpetrator.

Who is this person and what have you done with Raven?

In Arkadia, Jaha’s growing influence after winning over Raven to his way of seeing things at the end of last episode comes under Abby’s scrutiny. Despite her virulent skepticism last episode, Raven seems to be a true believer now that her pain is gone. My first impression of this was that it was a huge character shift that makes no sense whatsoever. Raven is pragmatic, no-nonsense, and far from sentimental. Yet here she is, grinning like an idiot at Abby, waxing lyrical about how her pain is gone and trying to recruit Jasper, among others. She’s not the least bit wary.

Before long, this made me deeply suspicious. My gal Abby was on the same page, and she eventually confronts Jaha, asking him point blank for the scientific explanation. The chips somehow send signals to the brain that inhibit pain receptors. Abby is (rightly) skeptical and takes the chips away from him until she can figure out how they work and what other damage they might be doing.

Meanwhile, Bellamy follows orders, believing and spouting the bile he hears from Pike. Pike wants to clear away a Grounder village so that Arkadia can use the land to plant crops. Bellamy has zero qualms about destroying yet another village. We are seeing more and more that wiping out Mt. Weather has inured him to the concept of genocide.

Bellamy: “I’m trying to make peace with people who only understand war.”

Keep telling yourself that yourself that Bellamy; some day it might be true.

In this episode more than last, we see that Bellamy’s choices have almost completely alienated Octavia. She was already working against him (she tazed him to help her and Clarke get away in “Hakeldama”), but his willing, nay eager, agreement to wipe out the Grounder village to make way for crop land solidified to her that he was beyond reasoning with. She tries to help the Grounders by warning the village, but the Grounders distrust her and choose to lay a trap for Bellamy and the task force instead of fleeing. Her actions have the unintended effect of tipping off Pike to the presence of a traitor. He now suspects Kane, but needs proof and asks Bellamy to get it for him. Will Bellamy try to spy on Kane? Will that lead him to turn again to the light?

True to its title, this is a bitter harvest: characters reaping the repercussions of choices made in previous episodes. Then, literally in the last minute, they drop a truth bomb: there were originally 13 stations bound for the Ark and the rest of the 12 blew up the 13th, named Polaris. It was where A.L.I.E. 2.0 probably was (called Becca), which is why A.L.I.E. can’t find it on the computer systems of the 12 stations. On the one hand, the truth bomb feels a bit unexpected and rushed for the last 5 minutes of an episode. Yet, I can’t decide whether or not this kind of unexpectedness is an excellent pacing choice or blindsiding. With everyone being on the ground, I haven’t thought about the Ark for almost a year, much less Unity Day. While there were hints that Unity Day was a farce at some level, its been too long since life on the Ark was in focus. It’s a great twist, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure they prepped the audience enough for this truth bomb for it to have its full impact.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued. I want to know why Becca is so important for A.L.I.E. to find, why such a program was sent up into space with the Ark, and what A.L.I.E. intends to do with the 2.0 AI once she finds it. For, regardless of Jaha’s statement, there must be a way to retrieve it somehow, despite the destruction, otherwise why mention it? Plus we got that shot of something from Polaris right at the end when Titus was torturing Murphy (Polaris > Polis??).

In minor subplot news, Emori was nowhere to be seen and Murphy barely got an honorable mention, showing up as he did in the last 2 minutes of the episode. All we saw of him was that he was at Polis (when? how?), had been tortured for information about Clarke, presumably by Titus, and that Titus now wants to know about the chip. Lincoln was absolutely nowhere. I was never fully invested in Emori/Murphy, so I don’t mind them getting short shrift, but with Lincoln, I hope that his absence will soon be remedied. I can’t remember an episode that he hasn’t been present at least on the fringes almost since the show started.

In sum, we’re left with more questions than we have answers, which makes sense in this point in the season. I’m still terrified for Lexa, more than ever now that I see Titus might be somehow working against her. I want to know more about A.L.I.E. and the chip and why Raven seems so suddenly on board when she’s always been so pragmatic. I especially want to know the real truth behind the chips. It’s clearly more than just a pain suppressor, since those who ingest it also see A.L.I.E.. War is still building; Bellamy is still reaping the consequences of his regression into hate and war-mongering; Pike is still sounding uncomfortably colonial (“let’s take their land for ourselves”?? *side-eye*); and the resistance against his policies seems to be getting slightly bigger, even if some unexpected characters seem to be helping him (Monty). It was a different kind of pacing this episode, one that I’m still not sure had the payoff it could have if they’d set it up better. Still, it made me yell “what?!” at the TV, which is no small feat.

Random Thoughts:

  • Jaha is still creepy af. God, he gives me the shivers. He’s the real villain this season, IMO, not Charles, “I’m here to keep us safe not to be liked” Pike.
  • Octavia was upgraded from walkie to earpiece offscreen. Kane must have stolen it, but you’d think someone would notice.
  • Have they told us the guard’s name? the one who is helping Kane and gave Lincoln medicine last week? Because if they have, I have completely forgotten it.
  • Speaking of which, where is Lincoln????????
  • I did NOT like the cinematography/camera work when Clarke interviewed Emerson, it was…too much. One spin would have been enough. That many made me dizzy.

    Well done Emerson. Chills.
  • The time and energy put into the linguistics (Trigesdasleng) never ceases to amaze me. As a linguist/student of language myself, this is impressive. I’m starting to pick up on the rhythms and grammar, and it actually makes sense as a descendent of English.
  • Emerson’s reaction to Clarke’s mercy, OH MY GOD. SO GOOD. >>
  • We had a bit of “magical teleportation” in this episode. I don’t mind it overall because The 100 uses it so rarely, but I wanted to point it out: Jasper/Monty back at Arkadia, Murphy at Polis.
  • Is King Roan of Azkeda just going to fade away into the background? I really like his acting and was hoping we’d get more of him.
  • ABBY AND KANE!! Yay! They like each other! I’m not surprised. I just hope that they actually give us an adult romance because it seems like only the young’uns are getting sexy times, and the grown ups deserve some action. They’ve been through hell, too.
  • “May you live forever,” is one of the most badass curses ever. Have I mentioned that I love Lexa?

All images courtesy of The CW

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