Thursday, February 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'The 100' - Lexa and Roan Face Off in Combat While Arkadia Holds an Election in 'Watch the Thrones'

The CW's The 100 - Episode 3.04 "Watch the Thrones"

Clarke discovers the mastermind behind a devious plan. Kane struggles to keep the peace. Jasper's grief drives him to reckless behavior. 

"Watch the Thrones" is probably The 100's most frustrating episode in its third season. It does a number of really great and smart things. And then, there's Pike taking over Arkadia. That seems like such an ill-advised story that is rooted in very perfunctory storytelling beats. It drags down an otherwise great episode. And it only promises to get more intense in the future as well. It's exciting watching as Lexa battles to remain the commander of this coalition. It pulls the story with the Ice Nation in many interesting and complex directions. Sure, a lot of it is Clarke learning how grounder politics work. But it's also thrilling. The same cannot be said of the uprising within Arkadia because it's just really stupid and not rooted in any kind of emotional realism. It's so disappointing to see the show stumble like this. It's a problem that will only get worse this season. Or it could course correct within the next episode. Right now, it's a troubling development that has no purpose whatsoever.

It's easy to understand where Pike is coming from. Farm Station landed in the heart of the Ice Nation. This season has shown just how brutal and ruthless Queen Nia and her army can be. But Pike embodies nothing but qualities and viewpoints the show has deliberately pointed out as stupid and immature in the past. He wants anger to determine policy with every single decision. He's a loud figure who wants war. That stands directly opposed to what Abby and Kane are trying to create in this world. They are looking toward the future while Pike is a character stuck in the past. The adults have frequently ruined things on this show. Pike may be the worst one yet because he's foolishly corrupting the minds of the citizens of Arkadia. They had peace. But now, he has rallied up support against all grounders. He refuses to look at it any other way. He wants to reward violence because that's all he has seen in this world. It's how he wants to lead. But it's so frustrating to see this issue come up yet again on the show. The narrative has evolved past it. And yet, Pike comes along to show just how slow moving progress can really be.

However, Pike's words largely just still up support from extras. A mob forms within the community fueled by animosity against grounders. They don't want to look at the complexity of the situation. They just want to be angry. That's never a good way to derive action. Pike is grieving the people he lost at Mount Weather. He wants to kill in order to avenge those deaths. He stirs up hate speech in the community though. And frankly, it's just not interesting to see extras toss rocks at Lincoln and claim that he's not really a good grounder after all. But it's all completely meaningless. It's a story the show has done before when the kids first landed on Earth and needed to interact with the Grounders. But again, the show has evolved past that point.

More importantly though, Bellamy should know a whole lot better than this. He hides behind the facade that he's just doing what he believes will protect his people. But he has been on this journey for three seasons now. He understands the complexity of the situation. He shouldn't just mindlessly follow Pike because he's the only one who wants to take action for the destruction at Mount Weather. Bellamy only reacts this way because Gina was one of the dead. Gina was introduced this season solely to die and give this reaction to Bellamy. It's a horrible way to tell story. It's troubling because the show does female characters so well. She died fighting. But her entire purpose was getting Bellamy to this point where he would selfishly betray everything that his friends have been working for. And yet, this season didn't even do a good job explaining why Gina meant so much to Bellamy. They kissed twice. That was it. That's not enough to provoke this emotional reaction. But it's what happens nevertheless. Bellamy becomes Pike's biggest advocate. Pike is named the new chancellor and the group heads out to slaughter the grounder army outside the walls. The consequences of that action will be big. But is it worth all of this trouble?

The coup happening in Polis is much more engaging to watch because it is rooted in well-established characters doing whatever it takes to protect their way-of-life. That has been a hallmark quality of the narrative. The Ice Nation is the latest threat of destruction. They've already taken so much from the Sky crew. And now, punishment needs to come. Clarke finally comes face-to-face with Nia, the Queen who put all of this into action. It's a power play and nothing more than that. Lexa was an effective leader when she left Mount Weather. She saved many of her people's lives. But choosing not to fight didn't show off her strength - even though it was the smart move. It gave Nia the courage to strike. She doesn't stand accused of all of this violence for very long. When she's brought into the summit room, she's the one who is actually controlling the situation. This coalition is a complicated mess right now. Clarke's people have been welcomed. But that decision was quickly met with violence. Violence that has divided the tribes and forces Lexa into battle with Roan to determine the future of the coalition.

Lexa has proven herself as a strong and creative character and leader in the past. She can both fend for herself when the situation requires it and lead thousands of people who live under her protection. It's a lot of responsibility to be the commander. She has to do whatever is in her people's best interests. That now includes Clarke and her people from the Ark. She has welcomed them as the 13th clan. She has pledged her loyalty to protect them now as well. That means something to do her. Clarke is doing whatever it takes to stop this duel from happening. She cares about Lexa. But she also knows that Lexa is the commander who will protect her people. With Nia in charge, their future is very uncertain. Clarke even goes so far as to try to kill Nia. She hasn't changed at all from her three months alone in the woods. She's still doing whatever is necessary to protect her people. She still hasn't returned to Arkadia. But she's still doing her best to protect them. Nia is the threat right now. And she proves herself to be a formidable opponent.

Lexa and Roan face off in combat but Nia is the true enemy here. Lexa understands that well. She has no beef with Roan. He was banished and comes from the Ice Nation. And yet, both Clarke and Lexa trust that Roan can be more of an ally if he becomes the ruler of the Ice Nation. It's thrilling to watch as the two sides go toe-to-toe in combat. They are both very talented warriors. It's an exciting sequence to watch - easily the best thing in the entire episode. But it's also meaningful that Lexa decides to kill Nia instead of Roan. It cuts Brenda Strong's time on the show short. But it's crucial to the story of the season. With Nia now dead, the threat from the Ice Nation has been dealt with. Roan will now become king. He may be a concern to worry about in the future. But he's not actively working against the coalition just to get more power. He simply wants to return home. He's willing to work with Clarke to kill his mother. That shows just how susceptible to negotiations he really is. It's surprising that the show has already handled this latest outside threat. Now, the true threat will come from the change in leadership in Arkadia. Kane and Abby trusted that Clarke and Lexa would handle the situation in Polis. They've done just that. But Pike's need to retaliate may force their community to be the latest enemy to the society that the main characters want to build in this world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Watch the Thrones" was written by Dorothy Fortenberry and directed by Ed Fraiman.
  • It seems Jasper hasn't gotten any better since that return visit to Mount Weather. He's still not handling his grief well at all. And now, Monty discovers that Jasper is also carrying around Finn's ashes. But this story is largely about dividing the two friends and Jasper ultimately being alone in the end.
  • The Nightbloods are special because they have black blood instead of red. The grounder community has elevated them because of that difference. It's how they determine who becomes the next commander. It's Lexa's job to train them and pick which one will likely succeed her.
  • Lexa's not afraid to die because she believes her spirit will live on in the next commander who she has helped train. But that's not a certainly once Nia reveals she has a nightblood of her own. But again, Lexa wins so it's not a concern for right now.
  • Abby opens Arkadia up to a number of wounded grounder soldiers. That shows just how different Abby and Pike will be as chancellors. He looks at them with disgust and hatred while she sees people who need her help.
  • However, isn't it a tad surprising that Abby and Kane went through with this election even given the war currently happening around them? It seemed too precarious. They should have done it during the peace time. Because they didn't, Pike gets elected.