Tuesday, April 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'The 100' - Clarke Explores a Desolate Earth Searching for Supplies and Peace in 'Eden'

The CW's The 100 - Episode 5.01 "Eden"

Clarke struggles to survive on a desolate, scorched earth while her friends in space come across a long-awaited beacon of hope.

The 100 burned down its world at the end of its fourth season. It literally set the world on fire in a nuclear apocalypse. In the first few years, the drama was about the clashing of societies that rose up a hundred years after the world experienced a global apocalypse. It was a show about rich cultures and trying to understand even when the world seemed bound to turn the various groups against each other. It has been a very dark show that has morally compromised all of the main characters in so many different and brutal ways. Every season of the show expanded its world. New threats would be introduced that made it seem like the fate of the entire planet was at stake and not just the survival of one select group of people. The fourth season closed with the world compressing. It couldn't expand any further. In fact, the majority of civilization was about to be wiped out once again in a nuclear meltdown. Those facilities no longer had the power to keep their cores stable. And thus, those clouds of death plagued the planet until nothing was left in its wake. So, the people of this world split off to their various corners once more. One group went underground just like the mountain men before them. Another group went up to space just like the sky crew did. Meanwhile, there was a select group of people who survived the nuclear apocalypse and were able to roam around the planet without experiencing any side effects of the radiation. The numbers for these groups is much smaller the second time around. And now, the show's fifth season is starting by showing just how the world and these characters have changed because of the isolation they have endured in their confined spaces. It all starts with Clarke on the ground who believes herself to be the last woman standing on a desolate planet.

This premiere starts just 40-something days after the nuclear fire wiped out the entire planet. What was once lush forests and picturesque landscapes is now a barren wasteland. Clarke's immediate problem is finding the resources to stay alive. It's pure survival mode for her. She has survived for as long as she has because of her determination to live. And now, she lives knowing that her people have survived. She knows that Octavia rallied the grounders into one crew in the bunker and sealed the hatch before the wave of destruction hit. She knows that Bellamy, Raven and company made it back up to space. She knows that her friends will live. But now, there is no one left to fight. There's no one else around. All she has to do is live by herself with her own thoughts. They are the only thing to keep her company. In the beginning, she is able to scavenge through the wreckage hoping to find the tools necessary to stay alive. She is very fortunate in finding the rover and it still being completely operational. It somehow survived this blast as well. And yet, she can't get into the bunker and reunite with her mother. She can't communicate to anyone over the radio. There's nothing left for her in this world. It's such a dark headspace to open the season on. But it's completely truthful to the immediate new reality for Clarke. The audience knows that she survives based on the flash-forward that closed last season. We know that she manages to find a way to thrive in this new world while being confronted with a new threat to it. But it's still so harrowing to see her embark on this journey all by herself.

It's a journey that takes a very suicidal turn as well. That's such a depressing and grim moment. Clarke is the lead of the show and she is very helpless and defeated right now. The only source of food she has is the bugs that hit her windshield while driving. She still has to take shelter from the frequently appearing nuclear storms. And she has found no source of water at all. She just has to collect it whenever it rains and hope it'll last until it rains again. There's nothing substantive to keep her going in this world. She will die because there is nothing left. It would be her fulfilling the perception that the crew up in space has already bought into. There are operating under the idea that Clarke sacrificed herself in order to ensure they got to space. She didn't get back in time. And thus, she died from the radiation. Instead, she's still alive because of the nightblood. Her only glimmer of hope comes from a bird pecking at her seemingly lifeless body. It's upon seeing there's nothing beyond the first ridge that makes her feel defeated and ready to give up on life. She puts the gun to her head. But that bird saves her. It gives her the hope to keep looking for the fuel to survive. It's upon getting the strength to look over the second ridge that she discovers her new paradise. She finds a place in this world seemingly untouched by the nuclear apocalypse. It's a land that belonged to the Shallow Valley Crew. There are still dead bodies that plague this new home for Clarke. But it's a land of lush forests and water. It presents a way for her to continue to live.

It's glorious to see Clarke make this discovery. She adjusts to this new life before discovering she is not alone in this world. There is a young girl named Madi who has also found this paradise. In fact, she was here before Clarke and has been able to set up traps. She's a young grounder who sees the world as vicious. That's the world she has always known. One has to take in order to survive and thrive. That's the mentality she must apply now because she believes she's the only person left in the world. Even when Clarke shows up, it's not a perfect transition. They are still cold and distant to one enough. It's through time that a relationship starts to form. It becomes almost a motherly bond. They found each other and saved each other because of this apocalypse. Clarke is filled with new hope because she has a daughter in Madi whom she can share all of her dreams and stories of the world. It's an effective use of a time jump here to show the horrors of this world in the beginning and what they transition into just six years later. That's how long everyone has been in their current environments. The show only briefly teases what's going on in space and in the bunker. Both of them are startling realities as well. And yet, the show proves that the world is about to become very complicated once again. A war may be fought once more because this patch of paradise is the only visible land of growth on the planet. The world thrives in this little corner. It's clear even from space. As such, it will be so important to whomever controls it.

For six years, Clarke and Madi have been the only humans on the earth. This premiere is all about building up to that moment from the end of the finale where a new drop ship is landing on Earth. At first, Clarke believes it to be her friends from space. They have finally figured out a way to get back down to the ground. But it's not them at all. Raven is still struggling to come up with a solution while the various personal relationships have changed so much in that confined space. Instead, Clarke is able to quickly take note that it's a completely different ship that is apparently carrying a bunch of prisoners. It's a mirror image of the show way back in the series premiere. But now, Clarke is the grounder being visited by mysterious strangers from space who present as nothing more than criminals. Over time, Clarke has really struggled with her identity as the commander of death. She didn't want to believe that death followed her everywhere she went. Even when she tried leaving her friends behind, death still followed her and corrupted her life. She is very fortunate in this new world because there's nothing left to kill. The planet is already dead. But she has also accepted that there truly are no good guys in this world anymore. She has accepted that everyone is a deeply compromised person just doing their best to survive. In this situation, it just happens to be a case of us vs. them. These newcomers present a threat to the life Clarke has made with Madi. As such, she is willing to attack and take them out to protect it. It's just a daunting task because she is severely outnumbered and outgunned with weapons she hasn't even seen before. It's such an exciting way to start the season that makes me very intrigued about where the story will go next.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Eden" was written by Jason Rothenberg and directed by Dean White.
  • There is only a brief cutaway to the bunker at the very end of the premiere. That glimpse though is extremely brutal. It presents a world of intense fighting in cage matches where Octavia resides on top looking onward at the society that she rules. She went into the bunker with the ideal of creating one unified group of people. And now, it seems like it's still such a vicious world down there that has really compounded her morals.
  • A new couple has formed out in space. Bellamy and Echo are together romantically. That's not completely surprising. Most of the characters up there were already paired off - Murphy & Emori and Monty & Harper. Plus, Bellamy and Echo always had a very intense relationship. This seems like a natural development of what things have been in the past. It was probably easier for Bellamy to accept it because he believes Clarke is dead.
  • Of course, it's also incredibly foolish for Bellamy to believe that everything will remain as simple and united for his new family once they return to the ground. That has been their goal ever since they first came up to space. After five years, they were going to come back down. But now, it's been six and Raven doesn't have a solution. Instead, they are hopeful that these newcomers are friendly and will assist them in their journey to the ground. 
  • It appears that the people aboard the new drop ship are hardened criminals. Their leader notes that only two of them are non-lethal. All of this is a very ominous tease of what's to come. The show has painted a very bleak world that has forced these characters into valuing vicious tactics. But now, the depravity may be taken to a new level because of the crimes these people have committed.
  • Clarke has already exposed herself to these newcomers as well. No, no one has seen her face and lived to tell the tale. She goes to rescue Madi after she is discovered in her hiding place. She is very protective of her surrogate daughter. She continues to fire bullets to kill these invaders. But that will only increase the threat against them. Clarke can only fend them off for so long.