Thursday, March 3, 2016

REVIEW: 'The 100' - A Surprising Death Promises to Be a Real Game-Changer for the Season in 'Thirteen'

The CW's The 100 - Episode 3.07 "Thirteen"

Lexa tries to maintain peace and order within the clans. Clarke uncovers a strange and game-changing truth. A flashback takes us into the darker chapter of humanity's past.

"Thirteen" is a very devastating episode of The 100. It's an hour that features the depiction of the entire world being destroyed by nuclear weapons. And yet, it's even more devastating than that because it features the death of Lexa. On one hand, it's very easy to understand why the show would kill off such a beloved character at this point in its run. Alycia Debnam-Carey is a series regular on AMC's Fear the Walking Dead which would have presented a production scheduling issue later on in the season. Lexa has been a far better and vastly more interesting role for her. But it's a matter of contracts. Lexa's death also promises a ton of interesting plot developments for the future as so many stories are colliding in surprising ways. "Thirteen" depicts just how connected the grounders and the Skaikru have been all along. But showing those connections also shows just how wildly different the two civilizations have been as well.

Alie ended the world because she couldn't connect with the human condition. All she saw was a world filled pain. She saw the world's biggest problem as there being too many people in it. The destruction of the world falls onto Alie's creator, Becca, though. Becca set out with an idealistic dream of helping move humanity forward with artificial intelligence that understood how to make society better. She fled to space unable to handle the monster that Alie became. And yet, she couldn't have predicted just how far Alie would go to correct the world's problems. Billions of people's lives are now on Becca's conscience. She destroyed the world. Moreover, she refuses to stop working on Alie 2. She still believes there is greatness in this project. The world in space can't understand that because they have the full knowledge of what Alie 1 has done. Becca flees to Earth having equipped herself with the Alie 2 chip. She returns to the ground in order to do good in the world that she had a part in creating.

To the people of the ground, Becca was a savior. She came from the sky like a god able to produce miracles for the radiation soaked world. She possessed the knowledge and technology to help save this world. She had the foresight to see what problems would arise before anyone else. This new artificial intelligence is embedded within her. She has become the human interface herself. Alie was just a computer program who chose to present herself to the world in the form of her creator. With Alie 2, Becca chose to be the carrier of the program in the hopes of bringing peace back to this world. Religion formed around her. She carried the sacred symbol to the grounders. To the people aboard the Ark, the symbol meant nothing. As Murphy puts it, it's just a company logo. He has had many troubles regarding this symbol. To him, it's a symbol for the crazy world that Jaha has become a part of. Alie is still out there trying to bring her radical idea of the world to its citizens. Murphy wants nothing to do with that. Bu regardless of the City of Light, the grounders celebrate this symbol because of the wisdom and peace it has brought over the years.

The grounders' idea of reincarnation has so much more significance now that it's known that there is a physical passing of the "soul." The chip made Becca into a god for the people on the ground. It's an A.I. that thrives based on the human spirit. It's a piece of technology that absorbs so much of the soul of the person it's attached to. When Lexa claimed to hear the words of past commanders haunting her in her sleep, it was hard to take it seriously. It was simply a religious belief Lexa and her people had such strong respect for. But now, it's very real. The chip is transferred from commander to commander. The spirit does live on even though the commander is dead. It's heartbreaking to Clarke as she watches Lexa die right in front of her and there is nothing she can do to save her. She can't believe that Lexa's spirit will live on in her successor. That's not something she can understand until she sees Titus pull the chip out of Lexa's neck.

Of course, Titus is the reason why Lexa is dead in the first place. The best storyline this season has been the growing focus on the grounder political world. The Skaikru were allowed into Lexa's coalition only for Pike to take over and break that deal. And now, Clarke has convinced Lexa that there may be a new way to lead. The grounders have lived under the oath of "blood must have blood" for so long. It's the way that they know how to survive. They need vengeance in order to make sense of the tragedies that they've experienced. Clarke has convinced Lexa that that doesn't have to be the case. Sure, most of that comes out of Clarke doing her best to save her people. Lexa doesn't owe them anything. And yet, the chip helps explain Lexa's actions and great foresight as well. Sure, it's frustrating to see Titus pull a gun on Clarke and know that it will eventually lead to Lexa getting shot. But it also doesn't feel like a twist that came out of nowhere - like Pike's meteoric rise to chancellor.

However, a lot of this episode does feel motivated by moving the plot forward in surprising ways for the audience. This hour emphasizes just how deeply connected the two civilizations have been. It treats the reveal of the chip in Lexa's neck as this big moment. It always felt like that was coming given the mentioning of the commander on Polaris before it was destroyed in space. Moreover, Lexa's death now means Clarke has lost her biggest ally in Polis. It's only because of Lexa that the 12 clans aren't fighting a war with the Skaikru right now. She has put out a kill order for anyone from the Skaikru who is found outside of a five mile radius of Arkadia. But she does so hoping that the Skaikru will rise up against their leadership and see just how much of a mistake it is having Pike in charge. That seems very problematic for the future. But it's not so much of a concern here. Clarke is just forced to decide if she wants to stay or go. Lexa's death keeps her at Polis which should be an interesting complication later on. But the grounder capital is in transition right now. A conclave will begin immediately to determine the next commander. That person will inherit the chip and determine the future of this war with the Skaikru. But it's still just a tad too bumpy with the plot getting to that point. It makes for a very thrilling adventure this week that isn't bogged down by the Pike and Bellamy of it all. But it still doesn't bring a whole lot of clarity to the future of the season. It's just more complicated while revealing some big connections and forcing Clarke through the emotional ringer yet again. And yet, the experience of watching this episode is still very rewarding. It's devastating and makes for an uncertain future but it continues to showcase the show's conviction to telling these stories in a very emotional wrought way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Thirteen" was written by Javier Grillo-Marxauch and directed by Dean White.
  • Again, Alycia Debnam-Carey has been so fantastic as Lexa. This is a terrific episode for her as well. She stands firm on her stance of blood not having blood in this war despite how passionate her people are about vengeance against the Skaikru. She is powerful with them and with Titus. But she's also very sensitive and thoughtful about Clarke as she is forced to make this incredible decision. May we meet again indeed.
  • However, Lexa's death could be really alienating to the Clarke-Lexa shippers out there. This isn't a show that takes shipping seriously at all. But it's still so devastating seeing Lexa die right after she and Clarke finally gave into their sexual desires. That was a great moment of two people connecting for what may be the last time - only for it to be confirmed as such a few minutes later.
  • Octavia is wandering around Polis freely as well. She's originally a prisoner of war but that doesn't amount to much after Titus kills her captor. She notices the life of luxury Clarke has been living. And yet, she still chooses to return to Arkadia in order to help free her people from the bad leadership they've fallen under.
  • However, Octavia is also being accompanied by Indra in her return to Arkadia. She is weakened but not dead yet. She wants vengeance for what Pike did to her. Yeah, this isn't going to end well at all.
  • And now, Clarke is trapped in Polis with Murphy and Titus as her only reluctant allies. That should be fun. Clarke and Murphy have changed so much since they last interacted. So, the two of them coming together again having been broken by this world should be compelling.