Friday, May 4, 2018

The 100, Season Five, Episode Two: The Red Queen

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I must admit to being somewhat fascinated by how The 100 has chosen to open it's fifth season.  Eden, episode one, was largely about Clarke, and how she survived after Primefiya.  Eden focused largely on what Clarke became when she no longer had her people to protect.  The protection of Skaikru has fallen on Octavia, since she is the one who won the challenge and decided that each Kru would be represented in the bunker rather than just Skaikru. Things are extremely tense from the beginning and though Octavia is the de facto leader, she has no real experience in that role, having spent her time on earth largely training to be a warrior.  

Things come to a head pretty quickly when the people in the bunker are alerted by Clarke's attempts to reach them that the entirety of Polis has collapsed on the escape hatch, thus trapping them in the place that they sought refuge.  Being trapped doesn't present an immediate danger; however, the bunker cannot support as many people who have taken up residence and it certainly cannot do so past the five years they had all planned to be underground; effectively turning the bunker into an underground version of the Arc. It becomes clear very quickly that in order for the majority to survive, some will have to be culled - an outcome that Octavia is extremely resistant to. If that were not enough, Indra is busy trying to turn Octavia into a commander that the Grounders will follow, even as Gaia pushes back on this idea because being red blooded makes Octavia only a pale shadow and a cheap imitation in her eyes. It is in this moment we can see some similarities between Skaikru and the Grounders because it's clear that both societies have developed harsh punishments because  the business of subsistence rests on a thin thread. 

Running in the background is Abby's apparent drug addiction and survivors guilt.  Abby knows that the only person who could have knocked on that bunker door is Clarke and her inability to reunite with her daughter is deeply troubling to her. Abby is also disturbed that Kane didn't leave her to die, even though he makes it clear that he wouldn't have the strength to do that because he loves her. Given the limited resources in the bunker, Abby's drug addiction is absolutely going to be a problem. On the Arc, a doctor was only allowed to use a limited amount of resources to save someone's life so I don't believe for one second that Abby using drugs to feed her addiction is going to go over well at all. 

Kara, who is in charge of the farm has already lost so much in the culling of Skaikru that she is unwilling to lose anyone else and to that end, she locks the grounders out of the farm, leaving them to starve.  Abby argues that starving is a hard way to go but that the ones who die first are lucky because they won't have to debate whether or not to eat their friends.  It seems that floating on the Arc was started to stop cannibalism. As far as Kara is concerned, since the people left behind to die were largely Grounders, it's something she is willing to live with.

It doesn't take long for the situation to become critical when the Grounders learn about what Kara initiated.  Jaha is the only engineer on the outside, and so Octavia leans on him to find a way to open the doors that Kara is closed to lock out everyone.  Jaha studies the blueprints and comes up with a plan but he is adamant that only those responsible for putting everyone else at risk be punished.  Jaha brings up the fact that he had to float Octavia's mother for putting the Arc in jeopardy by having a second child and explains that in a situation like this, only harsh punishments will keep everyone safe and on task. Octavia rises to the challenge, forcing people to choose whether they are Onekru or Nokru. We get another glorious Octavia battle where she kills everyone who refuses to accept her determination that they cannot be separate anymore. Once Octavia is covered in the blood of the vanquished, the few remaining decide that it's better to surrender than to risk her blade. Octavia orders Jaha to open the door and tosses her knife at Kara to stop Kara from using her gun.

The capture of the farming area puts Octavia squarely at a crossroads.  Octavia knows first hand what this harsh subsistence life looks like because her birth is the reason her mother Aurora was floated. It's Aurora's death that Jaha invokes to make Octavia face the reality of the situation she's in as a leader and while it angers Octavia, it makes her realise that because of how percarious their survival is, that she's going to have to take a hard line. In homage to ancient Rome, Octavia orders all of the offending Skaikru members into a ring to fight to the death. In the flash forward six years later we see Octavia presiding over a gladiatorial battle with Kane being thrust into the ring.  Things have clearly gone off the rails.

The Red Queen is an interesting juxtapostion to Eden. Unlike Clarke, the change in Octavia's circumstances didn't make her soft or reflective, it reduced Octavia to her baser self. It's also worth noting that Clarke taking on a parental role made her soft whereas; it made Octavia far more stern. Corrupt, authoritarian leadership is an ongoing theme on The 100 and each and every time it is justified by privations. Any interrogation into this leadership style is always short lived because there's always some looming crises which must be dealt with. It's why The 100 cannot simply get down to the business of living as a storyline because it would have to tell a completely different type of story and examine ideas it doesn't seem comfortable exploring in depth at all.

In other news, this episode we finally got confirmation that Miller and Jackson are indeed a couple. Because they are side characters, I don't expect them to get a lot of attention on The 100The 100 has been pretty good at portraying women in same sex relationships but have shied away from depicting men. The Red Queen, as far as I am aware depicts the first kiss between men. If anyone remembers an earlier one, feel free to share in the comments.  As aforementioned, I don't expect to see much about Miller and Jackson but I do hope that if and when they have a sex scene, it is as detailed and graphic as the scenes between two women .i.e. no fading to black.

We now are officially set up for season two.  We have the people on the Arc trying to get back to earth, Clarke who is about to be on the run with her adopted daughter and of course, the people in the bunker who have gone all Mad Max.  It should be a somewhat interesting story, even if it is in many ways a callback to all that we've already seen. I don't know how much longer The 100 can keep recycling themes without any kind of growth but I hope that when we finally move away from this, it will get onto the business of creating a lasting civilisation.