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Troublesome Implications on the Hydrazine Trail

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Gretchen

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.
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The 100 Review Season 4, Episode 6 “We Will Rise”

*sigh* I was hopeful after last week. The pacing and tension had ratcheted up due to the destruction of Arkadia. Jaha and Jasper had disappeared into the background. Much to my delight given that I want to scream at them to shut up whenever they start talking.

Absurd as it was, a game of idiot ball and telepathy annoyed me more than they angered me. This week, The 100 dropped the idiot ball but picked up the implication grenades. And boy do they have an arsenal.

Nope, they’re Racist and Sexist Implication Grenades.

Content Warning: This review discusses physical beating and previous major character death, as depicted on the show.

What Happened

This episode makes up for the dearth of Jaha and Jasper last week by opening up with a scene where both survey the wreckage of Arkadia. Jasper thinks Jaha needs to cheer up and embrace his nihilistic ways instead of being hopeful for humanity’s survival. Jasper quotes Dr. Seuss (yes, that Dr. Seuss) to prove his point. Ilian is in hiding (good choice, dude), but a mob of angry Skaikru rush in to beat him to death. Kane saves Ilian with his righteous rage. And a gun (oh, Kane, never change).

In Becca’s Lab, Raven runs simulations for getting the rocket to space while Murphy weighs in with snark since she keeps failing the mission. She has another headache, but refuses Murphy’s offer to get Abby. Apparently more of Arkadia survived the ginormous explosion than expected, because Clarke has a room with her drawings of Lexa on the wall that she can stare at (awww). Behind her Niylah lays in her (their?) bed. She tells Clarke she needs to rest, but also that Lexa would be proud of her. Clarke asks Niylah to stay in Arkadia to ensure she gets the nightblood cure; Niylah agrees. They kiss, followed by:

Clarke: (ʘ‿ʘ)ノ✿ “I need to save the world; hold my flower.”

Niylah: ✿\(。-_-。) “Kick ass, baby, I got yo flower.”

Clarke & Co plan to transport the remaining hydrazine to the island to fuel Raven’s rocket. Kane wants to go, but Clarke tells him he needs to stay and lead Arkadia. Octavia wakes up in the medical ward, and she’s back to being mad at Bellamy about Lincoln. In the yard, Monty expounds upon how volatile hydrazine is to reinforce the danger of their mission. (But it still doesn’t explain how the hydrazine survived Arkadia blowing up…)

Back at Becca’s lab, Raven takes her frustration with the failed simulations out on Murphy with her fists. Luna steps in and calms Raven with deep breathing and a soothing mantra. Sick of Raven’s temper, Murphy dubs Luna the new “Raven-sitter”.

On the Hydrazine Trail, Clarke reaches out to Bellamy about Octavia needing more time to forgive him. He doesn’t feel like talking. They come upon a group of Trikru refugees, and Clarke stops to help. Because she’s Clarke and that’s why I love her. Unfortunately, a wandering Trikru child spots Azgeda in the back of the truck, so Clarke, Bellamy, & Co have to make a getaway, only to be stymied by a river that Murphy failed to tell them about (uh, sure, because that makes sense). Bellamy and Roan take the rover to find a ford while Clarke stays behind to guard the cargo with Roan’s personal guard.

Back at Becca’s lab, Luna interrupts Murphy…practicing dirty Grounder pick up lines? She gets philosophical with Murphy about his self hatred, opening up about being a natblida and killing her own brother. She believes he can find peace like she did. He’s as dismissive as we expect from Murphy. In Arkadia, Niylah helps Octavia with physical therapy, then goes to find Ilian’s guards, leaving Octavia to threaten Ilian.

On the Hydrazine Trail, Roan and Bellamy can’t get in touch with Clarke. They head back to find a dead Azgeda guard and the truck missing. Thankfully, Roan has Plot Advancing Telepathy powers this episode so he knows that Trikru stole it to get to Polis.

Back in Arkadia, Niylah gets Monty’s help to protect Ilian while Jasper drinks and some Arkadian rando talks about Ilian committing ‘hate crimes’ against the Arkadians. Jaha joins Jasper in drinking. Monty urges him to intervene, since the people listen to him (WHY? HE’S A WAR CRIMINAL), and throws shade about how Wells would be disappointed in him. He then goes to get Kane. Good job, Monty.

Back to the lab again, where Raven can’t figure out how to land the rocket in the simulation. Luna and Murphy inspire her to control crash into the water.

Roan and Bellamy get ambushed by Trikru on the Hydrazine Trail, because Bellamy refuses to listen to Roan. Roan realized his previous Plot Advancing Telepathy was wrong, and has a new vision that tells him his men took the truck. Kane and Monty lock down the medical bay in Arkadia to protect Ilian. Embracing her darkness, Octavia lets the mob in and they drag Ilian away.

Roan and Bellamy happen upon the truck carrying the hydrazine in a conveniently placed large meadow. Turns out his men betrayed him to take the hydrazine for themselves and took Clarke hostage. Roan and one of his men have a battle on top of highly volatile rocket fuel barrels without blowing them up. Somehow… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Clarke just manages to stop the truck from running into the rover. Whew.

Octavia leads the mob out into the yard at Arkadia to kill Ilian. An alarm sounds for black rain, and Kane talks her down by graphically describing Lincoln’s death and comparing Octavia to Pike, while we have to rewatch Lincoln’s death in the background (fuck you). Octavia leaves in tears; Jaha cuts Ilian loose and tells him to run, leading to the weirdest non-sequitur ever as Jaha says the name of the episode (“From the ashes we will rise”).

What even is context?

Back on the Hydrazine Trail, Clarke builds up Roan’s self esteem as king of Azgeda, then encourages Bellamy about his sister. Do either of them ask Clarke how she’s doing leading everyone through all of this or how she might be feeling? Nope. Of course not. Because Clarke exists to make the menz feel better about their lives and take shit from them if they’re feeling upset. Anyway, they reach the ocean only for Roan to discover that one of the barrels of highly volatile rocket fuel was hit with a Trikru arrow and leaked out all over the road (and presumably the truck) but without blowing up.

Back in Becca’s lab, Raven finally succeeds in the simulation (even though it tells her she failed with only 15% damage…okay), but only by using every drop of rocket fuel. Her high is soon dampened when Murphy arrives with the news that Clarke and Co. lost a barrel on the way. Raven has a seizure.

So…

Let’s get the easy things out of the way. Arkadia is a mess and not just because it blew up last episode. Actually, it’s the fact that we watched it blow up that’s the problem. Arkadia was a literal inferno last week. Fire pouring out of the main doors, smoke everywhere. We watched part of the ring crash into the main building, ffs. Opening the episode with Ilian in Arkadia, then Clarke in her bedroom was jarring, to say the least. There’s so little interruption (and zero explanation at first), that it’s almost as if the raging inferno that lasted two on-screen minutes last week never happened.

Scratch that. Monty does explain that water, heat, and lights are either out or limited. But basically the giant explosion Octavia said would ‘blow up Arkadia’ actually only caused minor damage. Just enough damage, in fact, for it not to be a viable shelter from the apocalypse. But not enough to actually inconvenience the living situation or set design. Go figure.

I just can’t with the plot holes this season.

It’s still less absurd than hydrazine’s property of Plot Convenient Volatility. This substance is so volatile you can’t jostle without it blowing up in your face (as Raven has reminded us almost every week since 4×02). Yet somehow, 10 barrels of the stuff survived the massive Arkadian explosion.

Monty’s monologue about the dangers of Clarke and Bellamy’s mission to get the fuel to Raven may heighten the tension of the episode, but sound absurd when viewed with the Arkadian explosion in the background. That inferno last week really must have been mostly light and smoke, because the show would like us to believe that a fuel so explosive that a minor bump in a moving truck would cause it to go boom survived an explosion big enough to take out a significant chunk of Arkadia (though it didn’t actually…). Wouldn’t such an explosion shake the ground significantly more than a pot hole?

That’s not to mention how inconsistently the hydrazine was treated during the transportation process. Again, Monty tells Clarke that hitting too large of a rock could cause the barrels to explode. Yet Roan and a guard have a knife fight on top of them with zero problems. At the end of the episode, Roan finds an arrow sticking out of one of the barrels. How did it not explode when the arrow hit it?

How the hydrazine leaked at all is a quandary all its own. The arrow shaft is still sticking out of the barrel, meaning it’s jammed in there pretty tight. The hydrazine ought not to be able to leak out at all, much less at a fast enough rate to empty the entire barrel. And that’s assuming it can leak upward because that arrow was several inches above the bottom of the barrel. It should not have been entirely empty. Much less empty enough for Roan to chuck it around without it going boom. And if this leaked all over the truck and ground, why did it not explode at some point?

Hydrazine must be magical, because it’s ability to be both volatile and stable when necessary for the plot is astounding.

This gif is so useful.

Frustratingly, were it not for how inconsistently the Magical McGuffin were treated, this wouldn’t be a bad plot. The pacing is really good. In fact, the pacing of the last three episodes has been right up there with some of the best episodes in S2-3. Yes, it relied a bit too much upon plot convenience and Roan’s ever-changing telepathy, but at least it wasn’t idiot ball. Bellamy was a bit of a num-nuts, but not in a way that was inconsistent with his character. He’s not always the sharpest knife in the drawer where Grounders are concerned (to put it mildly).

Anyway, I will say that I appreciate the woman loving woman vibes this episode. They haven’t completely deleted Lexa from the show, which was a concern of mine entering this season. It doesn’t make up for or erase the terrible choices made last year, but it is a good deal better than the writers pretending that Clexa never happened, as they kind of did with 3B. We actually get to see Clarke grieving her lover while still trying to save the day! Good job. Extra points for Clarke saving the picture she drew and pinning it on the wall.

Niylarke was a delightful surprise. Too much so, in my opinion. I’m going to say something that some people may not like, which is that I don’t think the show set up the renewal of this relationship at all. Last week, we had a single scene of awkward tension. Clarke seemed to want to speak to Niylah, but couldn’t bring herself to. This week, they’ve clearly just had sex. Where is the build up? Are we supposed to assume they’ve been fucking this whole time? So why was Clarke so hesitant last episode, like she had a nervous crush and not a girlfriend? And if they just renewed their relationship, why did we not get to see the build? Did the writers not think it was important to give us a scene of them deciding to renew their relationship?

That being said, I do appreciate Niylah being supportive and honoring Clarke’s love for Lexa. She’s not needy, nor does she have any illusions about where Clarke is right now. Niylah recognizes Clarke’s grief and has no expectations of her. It’s great to see Clarke’s love for Lexa being honored even as the show makes space for Clarke to find comfort (and maybe something more, eventually) with someone else she already had an established relationship with.

I can’t help but feel a level of pandering, so I’m reserving judgment. But still, it was handled well for what we got even if it came way out of the blue based on their interactions last episode. At least it’s a supportive, known, seemingly healthy relationship for where Clarke is now. Also, Niylah is one of the few characters who doesn’t consistently yell at Clarke.

Nevertheless, the lack of buildup for Niylarke reinforces my impression from last week about how all over the place the writing is this season. What seems to make sense on the surface gives way with the slightest pressure. Characters assert things, events happen, but in hindsight, you can’t quite decipher how the show got from point A to point B other than it happened off screen. Or, in the case of character motivations and behavior, we have to assume explanations not in evidence.

Worse, the plot of most of the first five episodes is basically moot at this point. I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what 2×01-2×05 added to the plot other than spacing out the season (filler), and propping up Bellamy. The past 4 episodes could have been condensed to 10 minutes of screen time to establish the nightblood cure and nothing would have changed at all. Ilian’s plot serves only to destroy Arkadia as a viable shelter and push Octavia over the edge. Neither of which would have been necessary at the start of this season given where S3 ended. Cut Ilian’s entire plot and skip straight from S3 to this episode and you lose nothing.

Bellamy’s field trips and the rotating game of ‘let’s blame Clarke’ were likewise useless other than to continue the gendered implications inherent in how the show treats male and female leaders. The only plot worth telling thus far is the nightblood one, and it could have been done in less than half of an episode. Even Octavia’s ‘assassin arc’ amounted to little more than gratuitous fanservice. And an absurd display of plot armor. Other than some ‘cool’ murders and the nightblood cure arc, what would this season have missed if it had started with this episode? Very little, I think.

In fact, Octavia’s characterization suffers because of the Polis and Arkadia arcs this season. At the end of S3, she killed Pike out of revenge and was all set to rampage on out of Polis. It’s what I expected given the tease of her ‘dark arc’ this past summer. Only when this season opened, we instead get a cool, collected, and detached Octavia acting as Roan’s fixer. All her rage, her bitterness, her barely contained control over her violent impulses against Bellamy for participating in Lincoln’s death? Gone. She literally never even says Lincoln’s name. Instead, she kills random dudes to help Roan stay on the throne, as cool as a cucumber.

She’s dark yes, but chillingly so. She was detached, rational, and deadly efficient rather than the borderline berserker we saw in the S3 finale. She could have noped right on out of Polis in her grief and rage, but she chooses to stay and keep Roan in charge? Other than the plot, Octavia has little reason to stay in Polis in the premiere.

Hell, she even talked and worked with Bellamy in Polis without all the cold shoulder and barely concealed bitterness. Whence, then, this sudden renewal of her anger about Lincoln? Don’t get me wrong, I think it actually makes more sense than her cold, assassin arc. But why now? Where was this for 5 episodes? Her cold shoulder to Bellamy in the medical bay is what I expected in the premiere, not 5 episodes later after she’s demonstrated a much more level-headed and non-grief focused arc.

The most I can say is that losing Arkadia as a chance to survive after almost dying to save people made her snap. But I have to read between the lines to see that. And it doesn’t fully explain her sudden return to being fixated on her grief over Lincoln, at least not fully. Especially after her lover’s death was all but buried beneath her “Badass Skairipa Assassin arc”.

If the show had kept an element of grief as an undertone to her assassin arc, I would be more able to accept her behavior now as still connected to the near bloodlust from last season. But the assassin arc really doesn’t fit tonally given that Lincoln hasn’t been a focus of her psychology at all this season. Thus, the time gap actually diminishes the emotive power of her grief and darkness. Her behavior makes no sense after 5 episodes without Lincoln being mentioned. We have to assume reasons behind her behavior in Polis that aren’t fully explicated on screen.

And Kane comparing Octavia to Pike? Fuck that shit. Shut up Kane. His speech made yet another false equivalency between a female character and a male villain. Pike was a grown ass man, a war criminal, and a bigoted, colonialist assshole. Octavia is a grieving teenage girl who lost the love of her life in a gruesome way and then found out she, and every one else, probably won’t survive the apocalypse. One of these things is not like the other.

First Clarke/Jaha, now Octavia/Pike. What’s worse is that Kane is equating Octavia with the man who literally murdered the love of her life (who, again, is a war criminal). AND DID WE REALLY NEED TO REWATCH LINCOLN’S DEATH. Come on. That was a triggering death for a lot of people. Even if they decided to make the ridiculous correlation between Octavia and Pike, they could have done it without replaying Lincoln’s death in the background. Killing off a submissive black male character with a gun to the head as he kneeled, in chains, in the mud was gratuitous last season. Replaying it in the background while Kane compares a grieving teenage girl to a bigoted mass murderer? Fuck you.

Speaking of fuck you: Raven. Not fuck Raven, fuck the show for how it treats her. She’s having the same arc for the third time (or is it the fourth?). I’m disgusted with how the show reduces this powerful, intelligent, strong woman of color to physical suffering and taking her anger out on others. This is bullshit. Dear The 100 writers, your drama cannot be built on the backs of women and people of color like Lincoln and Raven. In a single episode they exploited an already problematic death of a person of color (Lincoln) and submitted a woman of color to yet more physical suffering. They also made her physically violent. I’m sick of it.

I’m also sick of jackhole Murphy (who I admittedly kind of love for his honest selfishness and snark) being the white boy victim of choice for violent/villanous people of color (Raven, Pike, Jaha) and characters like the Grounders who are coded as indigenous peoples. The implications are gross, especially since it’s a pattern.

It doesn’t have to be this way! This is a show that makes a decent attempt at diversity, and has since its inception. But, it fails to understand how their diverse characters’ arcs and interactions play out in the culture of the audience. A woman of color facing repeated physical suffering and turning violent has implications. As does the gruesome death of a man of color and the exploitation of that death to turn his grieving lover into the equivalent of a villain who slaughtered hundreds of people.

I’m not saying that characters from marginalized groups cannot suffer, die, or face hardships. But ffs, at least think about the racist and sexist implications for a character like Raven suffering even more physical pain and then beating up a white male character who has already been the victim of violence from another character of color. She could have screamed at him instead, or screamed and broken something. Or, I don’t know, just gotten angry without becoming violent?

That’s not the end of the problematic gendered implications for Raven either. Raven’s arc is also really infantilizing. Murphy’s snide “Raven-sitter” remark diminishes her to her violent emotional outbursts. Though probably unintentional, such an attitude toward a female character plays into gendered tropes about the irrationality of emotional women. It’s as bad in it’s own way as Eliza Taylor begging Rothenberg not to have her take her clothes off, only to have her once again half naked on our screens. Albeit brief, the scene still violates what were Taylor’s express wishes last summer. This show really doesn’t know how to treat it’s female characters with respect despite it’s loud proclamations of how ‘strong’ they are.

One final implication grenade; I hope they cool it with the hate crime language. Having a white male talking about a character played by a person of color (Chai Hanson, who plays Ilian, is mixed race Thai/Australian) also coded as indigenous, while using the term ‘hate crime’ is…icky. Please never show an angry mob of white people trying to kill a character of color for a ‘hate crime’ he supposedly committed that wasn’t a hate crime at all. Shows don’t exist in a vacuum, even if they do occur in space.

Tonight’s Pseudo-Profound Assertion: “I don’t think she hates you for that as much as you hate yourself”.—Sorry, Luna, I’m pretty sure Raven hates Murphy more than he hates himself.

Bits & Bobs

  • Lexa count: 1 (+ pictures)
  • Lincoln count: 2 (+ gratuitous use of death scene)
  • Death count: 2 Grounders, one played by a POC
  • “If you never did you should, these things are fun and fun is good.”– Thanks for making Dr. Seuss Grimdark, Jasper. How TF does Jasper even know Dr. Seuss? And why did Dr. Seuss need to be dragged into this mess?
  • Why didn’t Raven apologize to Murphy?
  • Niylarke! (called it)
  • Wanheda seems to be a term of endearment now? That’s cool.
  • The Desert of No Survivors from S2 is still missing. At least they’re consistent?
  • I’m starting to think that Raven can only have two handlers at once. Last week was Abby/Jackson (I accidentally called him Sinclair at first…my brain was tired), this week was Murphy/Luna.
  • Wait…where is Emori? And Echo?
  • Luna x Raven …I ship it. #SeaMechanic

Working Theories

Could Be Cool: Sea Mechanic. Man, Raven is clearly my fandom bicycle for this show.

Wouldn’t Surprise Me: Raven is totally going to die, you guys.

Total Crack: Raven gets a happy ending with someone she loves and never has physical pain or suffering ever again. She dies at a ripe old age of natural causes.

Have more theories? Head on over to the forum!


Images Courtesy of The CW
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Voted Thanks!
 
  • RH

    Instead of ranting yet again on this garbage shows treatment of women & the coding of Grounders as indigenous and the Skybrats being the colonizers heres this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdLVMrxuiZg&t=8s

    • rara

      Thanks for that!!!!

    • Oh my god. It’s not entirely wrong…

  • TrickyNicky
    • YEP. That’s my thought exactly. I kind of wonder if the lack of set up is to absolve themselves of the criticism they got last year if Niylarke isn’t endgame (or at least they think it will partially absolve them). Don’t went to invest too much energy building up a relationship that isn’t going to last, right? It sounds awful, but I’m cynical about this show.

      • TrickyNicky

        Everyone should be. They pander and pander and have their heads up their asses.

        • RH

          After last year everyone can see right through what they’re doing. All of a sudden Lexas coalition is being respected, all these people are talking about Clarkes love for Lexa, etc. It’s so obvious they’re trying really hard to put enough stuff in to shut down the criticism from their former LGBT viewership.

          • TrickyNicky

            And yet it renders it utterly incomprehensible from a plot standpoint!

          • RH

            Which just makes all this rather sad & pathetic.

          • Exactly! I mean, I’m all for course correction, but maybe try to be a bit more subtle and nuanced about it. And don’t do it at the expense of character arcs or plot coherence, please. If you’re going to correct, find a way to write it in a reasonable, consistent way.

            I find mentioning Lexa less annoying than the way the Coalition with Roan was dealt with. They spent all this time building up how they were keeping Lexa’s coalition intact now, only to break it at the drop of a hat for nonsense reasons (Roan being rash about going to war with Skaikru rather than his normal pragmatic self). And the, the Coalition basically dissolves (or might as well have) after the not-so-extensive-as-it-looked destruction of Arkadia and the news about the apocalypse coming out.

            So what was the point of the Polis arc again? Was it really just to pander to Lexa fans by focusing on Polis politics (which is what they loved about S3) and upholding her coalition for 4 episodes?

          • TrickyNicky

            Is that what Lexa fans loved about S3? Or did they love that someone that was like them was damn near a protagonist.

          • RH

            I think it’s safe to say having Lexa onscreen doing her thing as the Commander is what people loved about S3. Her sexuality was her X factor because how many lesbians are essentially the pope & the president at the same time?

          • RH

            Rothenberg would never not massacre a character arc or plot coherence because after all he’s the genius and it’s everyone else’s fault that they don’t see how genius he is. The point of all the coalition pandering is still a mystery because even he can’t be stupid enough to think it would help.

  • Darlss

    Oh someone who finally points out the problems with the whole hydranzine thing. If I remember correctly in s1 they had a plot with it too. And they were far more careful with the whole it’s gonna blow up at every little jolt.
    I feel as though every episode this season has been: we have to do this, we try to do it, something goes wrong, we’re back to square 1. Considering the interviews from actors saying there’s gonna be a lot of deaths I sense a really dark part 2 of the season.

    I wouldn’t mind niylarke if they left Clarke solo for a little while longer? It’s been what? a month and something since Lexa’s death? They continue the trend of women grievieng through sex, while men have whole solo separate arcs. Still Niylah is a nice sight on my screen, and at least one person who treats Clarke well.
    This continues to be a quite disappointing season.

    • You’re exactly right about the plot this season. Every time they try a new tack, they end up where they started, which is lazy storytelling. At least leave the team slightly further ahead, or in a different spot than they were before. Otherwise you leave the audience wondering what the point of that plot arc was (as I am for 5 episodes) since they’re literally back at the beginning.

      I’m not ready for deaths yet. Can we just…not with killing of lots of people? That isn’t the only way to build tension and drama!

      Excellent point about the difference between how the male and female characters grieve! Bellamy and Jasper have had solo arcs since the beginning of S3. I guess Raven has since Finn died, but her arc is full of other issues so I don’t think it counts. Plus, she slept with Bellamy when Finn left her for Clarke, so. Octavia hasn’t had sex yet, but again, her arc has so many other issues. Can they not just let a girl grieve in peace and alone for a while?

  • Stay Pressed

    I don’t think Raven will die, Octavia on the other hand……..

  • Lisa Powell

    Something I found even more troublesome in terms of implications re. Raven attacking Murphy was the overloaded/unstable state she was in at the time and that it was right after he called her a mental patient. That does not cast a good light at all on the mentally ill and people with brain injuries. I’m sure that was not the intent, it was probably just to give Raven something bad enough to lash out about so then Luna could come intervene, but I found it a little sketchy, especially when followed by Murphy repeatedly asking what’s wrong with her. She had just been trying to beat him up, so it’s not that I blame the character. Just, with it all taken together… not exactly flattering.