“It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun
And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men:
But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never done,
Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.”
—Joyce Kilmer, “The Proud Poet” in Main Street and Other Poems (1917)
The title of this episode, “Stealing Fire,” references the Prometheus myth of Greek mythology. For those who are unfamiliar with it, here’s the rundown: in ancient times the Greek gods and men (literally only males at this point) met to determine how to divide up the flesh of sacrificial animals. Prometheus was a Titan, who were nemeses to Zeus and his cronies, so he sided with men and helped them trick Zeus into choosing the mostly inedible portions of the animal.
Angry, Zeus took the use of fire away from men, cursing them to shiver and suffer in the darkness and cold. Prometheus took pity on men and stole fire back from Zeus to give to the men. He was punished by being changed to a rock and having his liver pecked out every day by an eagle (it grew back at night because he was immortal; Heracles freed him later). Zeus gave men Pandora (literally, “all gifts” in Greek) the first female, who carried a jar with her that released every sickness, ill, and misery upon the world. (The Greeks were misogynists, what can I say). This myth shapes the Polis arc very obviously, but I think it shapes the Arkadia arc as well, which I’ll get back to later on. For now, just keep it in mind.
The episode opens where Ep7 left off: Murphy and Clarke are in Lexa’s bedchamber under lock and key awaiting the results of the conclave. The initiates, including the young boy Aden that Lexa was so proud of in “Watch the Thrones”, are elsewhere beginning a purification ritual. King Roan arrives with his own Natblida, Ontari—whom we saw in “Watch the Thrones” when Nia threatened Lexa. Clarke confronts Titus about Ontari, urging him to disqualify her because she wasn’t trained at Polis like the others. Murphy thinks the succession shouldn’t matter if Lexa truly is still inside the AI chip.Titus, of course, knows that Ontari will destroy Skaikru if she ascends as the next commander, so Clarke and Murphy want to help him make sure that Aden wins so that they can protect their people.
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. If the spirit of the commander should choose Ontari, the Ice Nation will control everything and Skaikru will face her wrath.”
Ominously, horns sound in the distance, “victory horns”. The trio enter the throne room to find Ontari covered in blood and seated on the throne, a bag of heads at her feet: she’s killed the other Natblida while they slept. Rather than leave, Clarke vows to take the flame rather than let it pass to Ontari and doom her people. Catching her in the act of stealing it, Titus blames Lexa’s death (and the current situation) on Clarke. She recalls that Lexa said there was an eighth initiate in her class, one not represented by the 7 circles tattooed on her back (for the 7 initiates killed when she ascended). Titus replies that the initiate fled, proving her a coward and not worthy of ascending, though he eventually admits that even a coward is better than Ontari. Ontari enters, demanding that they begin the ritual to make her the new heda. Having hidden Clarke, Titus sends Murphy to ‘cleanse’ Ontari while he tells Clarke the name of the young woman she must find: Luna.
Now, if you recall way back to S1 Ep. 10, Lincoln tells Octavia about a clan that might take them in when they were on the run from both the Grounders and the 100 (“I am Become Death”). When Lincoln frees Finn and Clarke from Anya in “We are Grounders” (Ep. 12), he tells them to flee to the sea where they would find a tribe led by a woman called Luna, someone he considered a friend. It is this selfsame woman that Clarke must now find to replace Ontari as the new commander.
Titus performs a brief ritual making Clarke a new flamekeeper and handing over the AI before sending her out of a back doorway. Clarke’s duty is now to the flame and she will serve the new heda as he served the previous 4 (how old is he anyway?). When Ontari and Roan find out, they are less than pleased. They spare Titus, as he is the only flamekeeper, but in one of the most badass and unexpected moves, Titus kills himself, “For Lexa.” Ontari proclaims herself the new heda despite lacking the AI, since no one knows but herself, Murphy, and Roan. Murphy survives, as always, but we’re left to wonder just how intimate he is willing to get with Ontari in order to save his own skin.
Meanwhile, Arkadia is dealing with the capture of the leaders of the rebellion against Pike: Kane, Lincoln, and Sinclair, who will be executed for their crimes at dawn. Bellamy and Monty confront Miller and Harper, telling them to send Octavia to the Dropship if she wants to help Lincoln. When Bellamy arrives, Octavia attacks him and takes him to Indra to discuss what to do with him. He wants to save Kane, Sinclair, and Lincoln and thinks that Octavia needs his help to do so.
Octavia: “You’re the reason they need saving.”
Without warning or explanation, Kane is taken to see Abby (seriously, where tf was she last episode??) who promises to help Kane and not get caught. On the way to the execution, Kane, Sinclair, and Lincoln pass Harper, who speaks into a walkie, but Hannah and Monty are listening in and warn Pike that Octavia is in the building looking to help the prisoners escape. They quickly stuff the three prisoners into a dorm room and head to one of the bays in search of Octavia. Pike realizes they were led astray and returns to an empty bunk room, livid that he and the guards were tricked. Pike punches something, leaves, and in a very nice callback, the floor panel moves to reveal that Octavia had hidden herself and the three prisoners in the floor.
Harper figures out that Pike is on the search for them and warns Octavia. Hannah and Monty overhear, but unable to allow his friends to possibly die, Monty tells Pike over the radio that they are headed for the main gate. When Pike comes to check on them, Hannah actually defends Monty, claiming that they’d heard a false report. Meanwhile, Octavia, Kane, Sinclair, Lincoln, and Abby are headed out with Harper and Miller. Abby, however, chooses to stay behind and ‘show them the way out of the dark’ since she hasn’t been outed as a conspirator yet. We finally get some Kane/Abby action as they part ways. Lincoln also chooses to stay, as Pike has threatened to kill the Grounder prisoners if they don’t turn themselves in. Octavia protests, Lincoln drugs her, and hands her over to Kane to keep her from staying with him.
Back in the cave, Indra hears the horn sounding Ontari’s ascension and leaves Bellamy chained up, presumably for the rest of the conspirators to find once they return, and heads to Polis. This despite the fact that she had just told Bellamy that Octavia was her people (it doesn’t make sense). In the last scene, Octavia wakes in the woods outside of Arkadia and looks on as Pike shoots Lincoln.
Now back to the Promethus myth I mentioned at the beginning. In Ep 7, Becca could be perceived as a kind of proto-Prometheus figure, stealing “fire” (the AI) from the hands of those who would destroy it/keep it from humanity and bringing it back down to Earth to help the remains of human (American, let’s not forget this is in North America) civilization. In this Episode, Clarke follows in her footsteps, stealing the metaphorical flame (the same AI), and going in search of a leader worthy of replacing Lexa. This is the obvious reference for the episode title “Stealing Fire”.
However, the Prometheus myth undergirds the Arkadia plotline as well inasmuch as Prometheus also represents noble sacrifice and a suffering for the sake of future civilization. If you take ‘flame’ to be a metaphor for enlightened leadership, such as ALIE 2.0 represents, then Pike has ‘hid’ this from Arkadia as well. His hate-fueled campaign of bigotry against the Grounders led to a metaphorical ‘dark’ time in Arkadia. Kane, Abby, Sinclair, and Lincoln’s rebellion is trying to return the light to the people of the Ark. Lincoln, like Prometheus, is willing to suffer the consequences for helping his people, ultimately leading to his death (same with Titus). So in a sense, Clark and Lincoln together represent the Prometheus myth for the entirety of human civilization as we know it: she is the literal thief of fire from Polis and he the one who suffers in the attempt to free (Arkadian) humanity from darkness and usher in a new enlightened future.
Perhaps unintentionally so, the passing of the ‘torch’ this episode went from men to women, thus upending the Prometheus myth where women were a punishment given to men for their trickery. Clarke is the flamekeeper in place of Titus, Abby takes on the mantle of saving the rest of the people in the Ark and leading a resistance instead of Kane, and Octavia is the one to finally save the conspirators, not Bellamy. I love that after the problematic pacing and characterization choices of Ep. 8 where the men were leading (and often failing), once again the powerful women of The 100 stepped in to save the day. No matter what else might happen, at least I have (most of) my strong female leaders to hold onto.
I get the need to trim down and not delve into the Raven/Jaha/ALIE 1.0 plot this episode and it seems like we’ll get more than our fair share of that next week based on the preview. However, I did miss Raven onscreen; Lindsey Morgan is such a great actress that I miss her presence. Nevertheless, trimming down did make the pacing feel a bit more reasonable this episode, and it felt more like what I’d come to expect from The 100 in S1 and S2. There were no glaring characterization problems, especially since Bellamy spent most of his screen time in a cave with Indra griping about being in a cave with Indra. It felt that once again, characters were driving the plot rather than vice versa.
There were some strange issues with magical teleporting ravens and a bit of human teleportation as well. If we assume that this episode starts on the same night that Lexa died, we run into problems at the very beginning. How did Ice Nation know she died? How did they manage to show up so conveniently timed after Lexa’s death sporting their own nightblood candidate? How far away do they live from Polis anyway? I assume at least a day’s travel on horseback, probably further given that they’re called “Ice” nation. And these problems don’t go away if you assume 24 or even 48 hours have passed. Who told Ice Nation about Lexa’s death? How do they communicate long distances? You have to factor travel time for messengers as well as King Roan with Ontari in order to make it work and it still doesn’t. It doesn’t explain what Murphy and Clarke have been doing in Lexa’s death room for this long either, as Titus seems to think they ought to be gone by now, picking up on the tension at the end of last episode about the blockade. And we still don’t know who the heck enforced the blockade on Arkadia with all the chaos in Polis.
Now to get to the elephant in the room: Lincoln’s death. On the one hand, I have been expecting it ever since Ricky Whittle came out (albeit subtly) about being bullied on set and got a job as the lead actor in American Gods. On the other hand, for a series regular since the very first episode, I think he deserved a more dignified death. Yes, his ‘Jesus pose/come on bring it pose’ when he decides to stay was classic Lincoln. When I saw this, I wanted to see Lincoln take Pike down with him or at least a few guards, but I can see how one could argue that would spell certain doom for the Grounders still in prison and that’s understandable. Still. Kneeling. In the mud. Seriously, let him stand and face his death like the fearless Grounder warrior that he is. This death was not worthy of Lincoln.
This is the one place where the narrative felt a bit rushed. We’ve seen so little of Lincoln this season that his death, while sad and somewhat predictable, didn’t have the kind of meaning that it ought to have had for a series regular who has had the longest running on-screen romantic relationship with another main character. If I seem a bit flat and unemotional, it’s because that’s how this season has left me feeling about Lincoln. In S1 and S2, he was easily one of my favorites. Then they ‘tamed’ him into Kane’s pet Grounder and threw him in jail for no reason and we barely saw him. I saw his death coming, but I felt more disappointed in its execution than furious that it happened because the last few weeks on this show have worn me down. They’ve now killed off the two Grounder characters with whom the audience has the most emotional attachment (one a lesbian, the other a black man), and I wonder how they’re going to be able to drum up the same appeal with Luna, no matter how intrigued I am by Clarke’s storyline.
Speaking of Clarke, despite previews and trailers mentioning that we would be dealing with the emotional aftermath of Lexa’s death, the fallout this episode was clearly more focused on the political process than Clarke’s grieving. Indeed, most of Clarke’s suffering came through in Eliza Taylor’s tremendous acting talent and ability to show deep emotion on her face when she’s not speaking. Eliza Taylor’s acting sold Clarke’s grief when the dialogue and fast paced action would seem to work against her and was one of the best aspects of this episode. Other genuinely good moments include Titus’ death, which was amazingly acted and a nice shock without being Shocking™, Monty standing up for his friends, and Hannah protecting her son instead of outing him as a traitor to Pike. The human element in this episode was a welcome relief from all the death and mayhem.
Overall, I’ll say that I was surprised that this episode was paced so much better than Ep. 8, and it gives me hope that they may have a better stride moving forward. Not a lot of hope, given that Lexa and Lincoln are dead and the number of amazing minority characters is swiftly diminishing, but some. Maybe. At least Bellamy isn’t being such a douche anymore?
Anyway, Ricky Whittle is a delight and now he can go on to better things; RIP Lincoln.
- How is Lincoln keeping his head so nicely shaved?
- I assume non-American humans survived (there was a hint of a boat tribe too, right?), I wonder what’s happening overseas?
- Aden totally looks like Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones)
- Aden’s “I hope the commander’s spirit choses me” line was a bit creepy in a room filled with the other Natblida children in a “I hope I have to kill you all” kind of way
- SO DARK. WHY DOES THIS ALL HAVE TO HAPPEN AT NIGHT
- Kabby: My fangirl heart skipped a beat. Finally some adult love. No replacement for Clexa, but I’ll take what I can get.
- Clarke’s comment about killing the Natblida is very on point. It seems stupid in a Watsonian way: what happens if the Commander dies really soon after ascension and all the nightbloods are dead? From a Doylist perspective, I have to question the genetics. If nightblood truly is a rare (recessive) trait and they’re killing off all but one of the ones with two recessive alleles, why hasn’t it completely died out of the population by now? Who is passing on the nightblood genes with enough consistency to get 9 initiates in Lexa’s ascension and 8ish including Aden in this round?
- So glad Kane respected Abby’s choice to stay and help others instead of trying to talk her out of it.
- Lincoln drugging Octavia was less infantilizing than it could have been, but I still wish he didn’t have to resort to that. It seemed so unlike him.
- Shaved legs on Ontari, I say no more.
- THEY BETTER NOT BE SEEDING ANY MURPHY/ONTARI NONSENSE.
- Obligatory shot of Ontari checking to see if Murphy is checking her out.
- Titus killing himself was, I’ll admit, BADASS.
- Clarke on a white horse, nice symbolism, little too obvious though. Seems a bad choice if you want to keep your travels secret.
- Did Indra know Lexa was dead? Did she get another magical teleporting raven? I suppose she would know Lexa must be dead if a new commander had arisen, but still.
- Don’t make him kneel you f*cker (by that I mean the writer of this episode)
- With Lincoln’s death, the only other ship I had really strong feelings about (Loctavia and Clexa) is gone. Kabby is nice, but no real replacement for these two teams of young, nuanced, powerful leaders who respect each other and are equally compelling on their own.
- There was a nice visual parallel of Clarke looking back at Polis/Octavia looking back at Arkadia: two women who had lost their Grounder lovers looking back on the societies that killed them
- I am so tired of good actors and amazing characters dying and the scripting being so very shoddy and poorly managed. I don’t know how much emotion I’m going to have left for this show after this week.