Thursday, April 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'The 100' - Clarke Tries to Save Raven from Alie While Monty Makes a Devastating Decision in 'Nevermore'

The CW's The 100 - Episode 3.11 "Nevermore"

Alie forces Raven's dark side to come out. Jasper's anger continues to grow. Octavia wrestles with her place in the world. Monty is forced to make a split second decision.

When the second season of The 100 ended on Jaha meeting Alie and learning of the City of Light, it was a tease for a third season that would be radically different from the first two. An embrace of a more science fiction concept to push the boundaries of the narrative. That was a good thing too because the show had already amply covered the cost and brutality of war and survival in this harsh landscape over the first two seasons. The tease of Alie and artificial intelligence would bring with it new questions and even more difficult and radical responses. A charge to the way the show operated while still being heavily invested in the main characters who've been here since the very beginning. The third season really hasn't lived up to that tease. It instead has found itself stuck in very familiar plotting while struggling with exploring character motivations as this universe only gets bigger.

"Nevermore" feels like the show is finally getting to the main story of the season. That's problematic because the season is already half over and most of that time was spent on Pike causing yet another war with the grounders. The show has willingly embraced a more expansive universe. It's been quite thrilling to see all the world building this show has accomplished over three seasons. But the need to juggle all of that plot has affected the momentum of the series. Various stories and character arcs would start and stop in weird positions. It kept moments and plot twists from truly landing because it felt like the show was doing the bare minimum with the emotional stuff in order to get to the next beat in the story. Bellamy betraying his friends and siding with Pike has been a massive misfire this season. It's not inherently a bad storytelling decision. The season just didn't have the time to actually explore what that decision actually meant.

And now, all of the characters are once again asking the same old questions they've asked a million times on the show. With all the death and destruction around them, how do they keep their humanity? It's a question the show frequently asks of the audience. Everyone has done horrible things in order to survive. Understanding their motivations is crucial to seeing their actions as just. Ever since the hundred landed on Earth, they've been at war. That has been the defining storytelling beat of the series. For two seasons, that was quite a compelling story because of how enriching and potent the themes were. This group of people who forced to survive in the harshest of circumstances which fundamentally changed them as people. Everyone has changed since they've landed on Earth. They've become more morally compromised. And yet, that has presented itself this season as Clarke continually feeling guilty over the massacre at Mount Weather. This season is at its eleventh episode and people are still whining to her about that with no emotional growth or nuance being added to the story whatsoever. It's gotten very tiring and doesn't make Bellamy questioning whether or not he's still a good guy land at all.

But again, this episode does a number of very smart and entertaining things that makes it feel like the season as a whole is getting back on track. So much of that is because of an intense focus on just one story. It's a very easy setup too. Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia, Jasper, Monty and Sinclair are trying to get the Alie chip out of Raven's brain. Most of these characters have had very little interactions with this storyline. It's been life-changing to Jasper and Raven - as well as Jaha and Abby who aren't really important in this hour. But Clarke, Bellamy and Octavia have been busy with other things to really care about it until now. But now, it demands attention. All of the other plot mechanics need to stop in order for the team to save Raven. It's a very compelling premise for the episode. It embraces some sci-fi and horror tropes that are really engaging to watch as everyone tries to get this thing out of Raven while she's forcing them to relive every horrible thing they've ever done.

"Nevermore" also works incredibly well because of the chilling and powerful performance Lindsey Morgan gives. She has always been a very impressive member of the ensemble. That has been meaningful too because she isn't given the amount of screen time that someone like Clarke or Bellamy has. And yet, she still feels like a fully realized character. It was understandable why she wanted to get rid of her pain. It was also devastating when she realized she no longer had any memories of Finn. And now, it's heartbreaking to watch as Alie forces her to push her body to its limits all in the hopes of discovering where she is. Alie needs the chip that Clark is carrying. It provides ample tension and thrills to this episode. The stakes are quite high while remaining very personal. This world has been riddled with death and no one wants that to happen to Raven. Alie knows all of the secrets and burdens Clarke, Bellamy and Jasper have been carrying in this world too. Not only is she able to contort her body to get out of her restraints but she's also able to use her words to hurt her captors.

That's where the show does run into a few problems. It's great that the series has such a strong memory of the past and everything that these characters have been through. But again, it feels like a rehashing of story and emotion that the show has already covered before. It doesn't really add a whole lot of new purpose to the dynamics. That also becomes quite problematic when Monty is forced to kill his mother after she's been chipped and tries to kill Octavia. It's not like she didn't deserve it. She has been so unlikable all season long. But it's a very rushed moment where Monty feels like she's already gone and he's just killing her body to hurt Alie. That makes it very heartbreaking when Clarke and Sinclair are successful in removing the chip from Raven. She returns to being her regular self. It's such a victory to close the episode on. But it doesn't feel like one because of the weight and emotion of the hour that preceded it. More personal destruction has ruined these characters' lives. Alie is simply the latest threat to their existence. They are pushing back but that's turning them into people they no longer recognize. A theme that has grown somewhat redundant even though it still frequently leads to exciting character moments.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Nevermore" was written by Kim Shumway and directed by Ed Fraiman.
  • Clarke clarifies that the chip she is carrying is similar to the one that Raven took early on. That establishes the stakes of this mission on both sides as Alie is desperately trying to get her hands on the second A.I. But it also makes it frustrating when it takes the entire episode until Clarke realizes that she knows how to remove this chip from someone because she saw Titus do it to Lexa.
  • All of the rehashing of the Mount Weather stuff between Clarke and Jasper isn't that great. But it still leads to that powerful moment where Jasper can't go through with destroying the commander chip because of it's personal significance to Clarke.
  • Bellamy only gave Pike over to the grounders in order to protect Octavia. He didn't do it because it was the right thing to do. And now, he has to face all the consequences of his actions - including Octavia refusing to forgive him and seeing the face of a family member of someone he killed.
  • Niylah makes her return after being absent for most of the season. She doesn't want to help Clarke and her people at all because Pike and Bellamy killed her father during the attack on the grounder's peace-keeping army. But they just push through anyway.
  • So many great and creeping visuals in this episode - from Raven popping her shoulder out to Raven biting Clarke and having blood all over her face.
  • Alie only wants the second A.I. because the program can destroy everything that she has built in the City of Light. And now, Raven knows that which gives the team a new and very exciting mission which should become complicated by Clarke's pursuit of finding Luna and crowning the next commander.
  • What happened to Miller, Bryan and Harper? They were with the rest of the group at the cave. But when everything else left in the rover, they were not along for the ride. That was weird.