Preface: I wrote 95% of this post back in June or July of 2017, not long after The 100 season 4 ended. I didn’t quite finish it and then I got busy with general life stuff, and never came back to finish the last couple sections. Life has been too crazy, but somehow in the torturous last couple weeks before season 5 finally starts, I’ve been feeling The Hundy fever and finishing this review is a decent way to give myself a little 100 entertainment while I wait. So when you read this, keep in mind that I wrote most of it a good 8 months ago, before we knew anything at all about season 5 other than what we got in the last couple minutes of the finale. Here goes:
When I reviewed season 3 of The 100, I had a lot to talk about. It was an extremely turbulent season for the series, to say the least. After building up a ton of critical attention, great buzz and new fans (including myself) following its stellar 2nd season, it got a little too big for its britches and bit off more than it could chew in its highly anticipated season 3. The show turned Bellamy into a psycho mass murderer in a poorly written turn for the character, killed Lexa in a way that was very cliched for lesbian TV characters, and even capped it all off by ruining Lincoln and then killing him off, while Ricky Whittle went around screaming to every publication who would listen what a terrible bully The 100‘s showrunner Jason Rothenberg was.
It was … Jesus. In all my years of TV fangirling, I have never witnessed a TV season so rife with discord. In a matter of just half a season, The 100 had managed to go from This is the Awesome SciFi Show Everyone Should be Watching buzz buzz critical praise top 10 lists frenzied hype for season 3, to This Show is the Poster Child for How To Skullfuck Your TV Series and Make Thousands of Teen Girls on the Internet Burn It to the Ground and Piss on Its Ashes. By S3’s midway point, half the show’s fanbase was in full riot & pitchfork mode and no TV critic wanted to touch it with a 10 foot pole. It was really a thing to behold.
But amidst all this chaos, the show’s OG fanbase laid low, quietly watching the show return to form – to its “Delinquents Save the World” roots – in season 3b and enjoying it thoroughly. You see, most of those fans who loved the show starting all the way back in season 1 loved Bellamy enough to refuse to give up on him (and knew the writers wouldn’t either), and maybe kinda sorta always preferred Anya to Lexa anyway. (R.I.P. and R.I.P.) Most of what happened in the much-improved season 3b flew under the radar as the news and chatter surrounding the show focused entirely on the badness of the LGBTQ trope and Ricky’s beef with Jason.
And then as S3 ended, with most of its buzz gone, The 100 had a quiet summer/fall hiatus. Gone was the hype, gone were the rankings on the “Best TV Shows of the Year” lists, and gone was its showrunner (Jason) from Twitter – scared off after his own missteps, which caused so much of the S3 uproar to begin with. Given that Jason had been the show’s most vocal hype machine, things suddenly got pretty dead in The 100‘s social media space. Don’t get me wrong, many fans were still out there tweeting and posting gifsets on Tumblr, there was still some buzz here and there from writers and cast members doing cons and such, Comic Con still happened, and hordes of angry teenagers were still going to Amazon and IMDB on a daily basis to give every ep of the show 1-star ratings. Hey, at least they were still passionate about it one way or another? But there was not a lot of organized push from the show’s PTB themselves for season 4 promotion.
During this time, we knew from the S3 finale that season 4 would be about the nuclear power plant meltdowns, with radiation taking over the planet. But beyond that, we really didn’t quite know what to expect. The cast and crew spent these months quietly filming the entire season, without much fanfare, and completed filming before the season even started airing. They all talked about how proud they were of the season, and we got a couple/few trailers and countdown pics from EP Aaron Ginsburg, but it just felt very different and far more muted than the frenzy of critical buzz and promotion we’d seen for season 3. It was all just very lowkey. I think it left a lot of us like “mmmoookkayyy … let’s see what we get here.” The trailer certainly looked dark as hell in that classic 100 way.
And then, after a season 3 of extreme highs and lows, it turned out that season 4 was – in a way that was completely fitting and a total relief in the wake of the all the S3 madness – steady and solid. It reminded me a lot of Covert Affairs season 5, which was a season that corrected a lot of the mistakes in the show’s very uneven and overly ambitious season 4. We never got any verbal acknowledgement from the Covert writers that they had awareness of their S4 mistakes, but S5 seemed to indicate that they did. And say what you will about The 100, its writers actually have verbally acknowledged that they took the criticisms of season 3a to heart. And season 4 shows that they did indeed learn from them.
And most importantly, The 100‘s season 4 had the right trajectory of quality: I don’t think I’ve ever watched a TV season with such a steady crescendo in quality from the start to the end of the season. I just checked my ep ratings and it was a pretty steady path upwards other than ep 4.06, which I didn’t like very much. But if you compare that to my season 3 reviews, they are all over the damn place until they finally find a smoother path in season 3b. My lowest season 4 grade was an 80%, and my two lowest S3 grades were a 68% and a 76%. Given the major ups and downs of S3, my review of it had “Bad Stuff” and “Good Stuff” sections. Since S4’s problems were not nearly so severe as S3, it doesn’t really make sense to split it this way. So instead I will simply split this review up into topic areas like I have for most of my S4 ep reviews:
The Season 4 Premiere: A Solid B Ep
If there’s one downside of such a solid season that moved steadily up in quality and excitement, it’s that the season 4 premiere was not a dazzling display of thrills and feels so much as it was an efficient and workmanlike set-up to the season’s premise and story arc. Some interesting and nice stuff happened: Octavia and Indra were adorbs, Kabby were back together and equally adorbs, Princess Mechanic was set up for a good partnership, Bellarke was thankfully re-established as a power couple of leadership (rather than being at odds like in season 3a), and Octavia thank god had not gone completely off the rails like I had feared. OH and Octavia had that really badass moment murdering those Azgeda dudes to get to Roan. That was basically the highlight of the ep when it came to action and excitement. But while some nice stuff happened, it was nothing compared to the flashiness of season 3’s premiere.
As I said in my review of the S4 premiere though, I would much rather have a solid serviceable premiere that the season builds upward from than an awesome flashy premiere that then falls to shit in the next episode. Which ep 3.02 totally did. And that’s where season 4 succeeded: It may have started at an 82/100 which I suppose is technically a B-, but it was basically all upward from there, steadily improving to a solid A by the last few eps of the season. I’ll take that over S3’s uneven craziness any day of the week.
Season 4’s Big Bad: A Bit Oppressive … But the Feels!
At one point in probably the first third of the season, my cousin told me that she was not super pumped about season 4’s overall premise, as it was a little too suffocating and unsexy. I definitely felt some of that too, and I went into this topic in the early part of my ep 4.12 review. I’ll refer you back there for details, but the overall gist of this point is that this was a bleak season even by The 100‘s standards, given that the Big Bad was something that we knew couldn’t be defeated no matter what the characters did. The best they could do was to attempt to survive it, with basically the entire planet being destroyed regardless. So one couldn’t be blamed for feeling like it put a bit of a damper on this fictional world, though my cousin’s enjoyment of the season went up as the season progressed, as I think it did for most of us.
And I think the reason our enjoyment of S4 increased as the season went on is that there was an upside to this unbeatable Big Bad: It forced all our favorite characters to man up and decide who they really are as people, and to admit to their loved ones how they really feel, at least to a further extent than they have in the past. We got the Blake siblings finally overcoming their major rift, both eventually admitting they love each other, we got Kabby fully getting into their romance and protecting each other, we got Monty and Harper professing their love, we got Murphy and Emori doing the same, we got Monty and Jasper’s heartbreakingly beautifully feel-o-riffic “say you love me” moment, and we got Bellarke being ridiculous and constantly walking right up against that line without crossing it because the writers are evil bastards who just want to torture us. But you see what I mean. This was definitely a better-than-usual season for moment-of-truth feels between the characters.
Surviving Praimfaya: A Journey of Trial and Error
I almost called this “a long journey of trial and error” because there was so much of it along the way, but I’m mad we only got 13 eps this season so I don’t want to imply that the season was long in any way, heh. I think this a large part of why my cousin was slightly bumming on it in the early eps too though: Going through so much trial and error to get to a solution is damn frustrating. I mean, let’s take a sec to review every solution our heroes came up with and how each one turned out for them:
- The Ark as a bunker with the hydrogenerator from Farm Station: Fail. The hydrogenerator was destroyed by the end of 4.02.
- Second Dawn Bunker #1: Fail. Jaha/Clarke/Bellamy went on a mission to find the bunker in ep 4.03 and discovered it had never been properly sealed, and thus failed its original occupants in the first nuclear disaster. Useless.
- The Ark as a bunker which can now only support 100 Skaikru, “chosen ones” from a list Clarke made based on everyone’s skills & qualifications to help the survival of the human race: Fail. Jasper & Monty broke into Clarke’s room, found the list, and ratted her out to everyone. The list had to be changed to a straight lottery instead to avoid a revolt. Not as effective for survival, but better than nothing.
- The Ark as a bunker which can only support 100 Skaikru, chosen by lottery: Fail. Azgeda got wind of it and threatened war against Skaikru, so Skaikru had to agree to split the bunker 50/50.
- The Ark as a bunker which can now support 50 Skaikru & 50 Azgeda: Fail. Ilian destroyed the Ark (structurally) by the end of ep 4.05.
- Manufacture nightblood in a zero G environment: Fail. We lost 1 barrel of fuel from a Trikru arrow in ep 4.06, just enough so that the rocket wouldn’t be able to safely get back to Earth.
- Nightblood taken from Luna’s bone marrow and ported into other people: Fail. The first test subject died a horrible death in ep 4.08.
- Nightblood taken from Luna’s bone marrow with the sodium polyanethole sulfonate removed: Fail. Clarke had to shoot the nightblood into herself to avoid subjecting anyone else to the risk, which then caused Abby to smash the radiation test chamber out of fear Clarke would suffer the same fate as test subject #1.
- Second Dawn Bunker #2, shared between Skaikru and Trikru: Fail. Azgeda got wind of it in ep 4.09 and declared war, refusing to share the bunker with Trikru (the feeling was mutual).
- Second Dawn Bunker #2, given to the clan who won the Conclave: Fail. Clarke and Jaha got impatient with the illogical antics of the other clans refusing to play nice with each other and only allowing one clan to survive. Faced with the likelihood of Luna winning the conclave and no one getting in the bunker, Clarke and Jaha stole it for Skaikru in 4.10.
- Second Dawn Bunker #2, used with plenty of room to stretch out and breath comfortably by Skaikru: Fail. There was no way in hell Bellamy was gonna let Octavia die outside that door. Plus stealing it had been an embarrassingly dirty move anyway. Bell did the right thing and opened the door in 4.11, causing Skaikru to now only get 100 spots and thus have to figure out how to kick out 360 of their people.
- Second Dawn Bunker #2, shared equally between all 12 clans (100 ppl each): Success! Finally, we found a solution in ep 4.12 for a large percentage of humanity to survive. But 360 Skaikru did have to die. R.I.P.
- Get the rocket up and running and back up to The Ark with an oxygen generator, allowing the 8 remaining Delinquents to survive: Partial Fail. Clarke got left behind.
- Get the rocket up and running and back up to The Ark with an oxygen generator, allowing everyone except Clarke to survive: Success! But Clarke dying kinda kills the mood.
- Survive Praimfaya with nightblood (Clarke alone): Success! But it looked like a gnarly process and I’m confused as to whether Becca’s lab was sealed well enough with enough food/water to survive the radiation wave, or if Clarke had to somehow get to the lighthouse bunker at some point shortly after getting radiated outside/in the lab. I’m not sure if we’ll get this answer in S5.
So, that is a LOT of trial and error. It’s a frustrating process for both the characters and the audience – By the end of ep 4.06, when Raven was jumping for joy about finally figuring out how to get the rocket up and back down to earth, only to find out that they lost one effing critical barrel of fuel, I was ready to smash my TV with a sledgehammer. The thing is though, that’s also the thing I like about The 100: With most movies and TV shows, you usually find yourself in slight disbelief of how things come together more easily than they would IRL. With the Hundy though, it’s the exact opposite: Not only do the trials and errors of this show feel realistic, they sometimes even feel worse and more challenging than they would in real life. But think about it, if you had to find a solution to save humanity from something this formiddable IRL, you’d have a LOT of failed experiments before you found the solution, if you ever found it at all.
There were times throughout season 4 where it felt like Octavia owned the entire season, especially because it was such a slog of a season for Clarke. In looking at my ep reviews above, I realized that this is the first season that a sizeable handful of my high episode grades were driven by Octavia’s storyline. That has never happened in any other season. I think anyone in their right mind would have to agree that Octavia was the character who really got to step up, grow and shine the most out of anyone this time around. A lot of that is because she wasn’t exactly super reliable or emotionally stable in the past, so she had a lot of room to improve, but holy shit did she do that by leaps and bounds.
I wrote a lot about this in my reviews of eps 4.04, 4.05, 4.07, 4.09, 4.10, 4.11, and 4.12, so I’ll point you to those for details. But the bottom line is that O became a powerhouse this season and I really never expected that from her at all. Which is great; I like to be pleasantly surprised. By the time season 5 starts, she’ll likely have far more leadership experience than even Clarke ever had, as Clarke has gotten a break from it for the past 6 years while O was thrust into it kinda by accident. That is, assuming there wasn’t a mutiny in the bunker on day 2 or anything. Fingers crossed.
While Octavia gets the “Most Improved” award, almost every one of these characters had huge amounts of growth this season. Raven, per usual, was tortured the entire time, because that’s what this show does with (to?) Raven. But it felt a bit like she turned a corner this season in not only finding a way to hack into her own brain to get the remnants of A.L.I.E. out, but also in becoming more of a leader than she ever has before. I talked about that in my S4 finale review.
But even beyond becoming more of a leader, it feels like Raven may have actually overcome some of her personal demons as well. She’s been on a journey of pain for … well for this entire series, really, if you count her emotional pain at discovering as soon as she got down to earth that her boyfriend had been cheating on her with, just like, zero hesitation whatsoever. It was more like, the second he came down to Earth he forgot about her and just moved on like it was nothing. The physical pain started when Murphy shot her at the end of S1, and she has basically been the Job of The 100 ever since.
But it does seem like, with all she’s been through, that she kind of reached a milestone of emotional recovery by the end of season 4. I think it was in part because she triumphed over A.L.I.E.’s residual affects in her brain and figured out how to get that drop ship into space basically all on her own. She proved to herself that she could overcome her hardships. She also made somewhat of a peace with the guy who sent her down the path of torture: Murphy. I think working through her anger with him and eventually forgiving him was another huge step in her kind of moving onto a new phase of her life. We’ll see in S5 if I’m just totally misinterpreting all this.
Murphy. Oh, sweet Murphy. This little bastard has experienced some level of growth in every season, even if it’s just from “selfish prick” to “wannabe psycho killer” to “somehow compared to Finn, Murphy now seems downright reasonable.” Season 3 was probably the first season that we really started to see actual potential for Murphy to become an ever so slightly less selfish person, when he helped Clarke get through the City of Light to save the world in the S3 finale. But even then, it felt like he was mostly doing it to save Emori. But an actual ability to love and care for just one other person was a step forward though.
In season 4, though he still was pretty driven by saving himself and Emori, he managed to also branch out in a few other ways:
- In ep 4.03, he steals pills from Raven to (try to) save a Grounder kid from dying of radiation poisoning. You can tell from my review of that ep that I still didn’t trust Murphy as far as I could throw him at that point, and thus I didn’t know what the hell to make of this plot development. But I’m now pretty sure that Murphy really did have some genuinely good intentions there.
- Murphy risks his life to save Raven in ep 4.04, and in 4.06 he expresses legit remorse for having permanently marred her in season 1 with his stray bullet. Then in ep 4.09 he basically makes amends with her, as much as anyone possibly can after all the terrible crap that has gone down in this series.
- In the season 4 finale, he makes himself quite useful in talking Monty through getting the oxygen generator back to the lab. One could argue that this is all motivated by the need to save himself and Emori, and a lot of it is, but he also makes an effort to go back and save Monty after he passes out in the woods. There’s no need to do that other than to legitimately save Monty.
I really can’t wait to see where the heck Murphy is as a character when season 5 picks up after 6 years. Will his relationship with Emori have survived? Will Murphamy and Murven be totally adorable? I hope so. I really hope so.
I covered Jasper’s story in my ep 4.11 review so you can read it here if you’re interested.
Emori, Abby, Kane, Kabby, Monty, Harper, Marper, Indra
Truth be told, I had originally planned sections to cover these characters, but I’m getting tired and this is the main section that keeps stopping me from finishing this review. I’m typing this sentence in April 2018, and I have a feeling that season 5 is gonna give us a lot more interesting stuff with these characters, so I’m going to hold off for the season to start. If you’re interested in what I had to say about these characters in S4, my individual ep reviews have plenty of my musings in them.
Season 4 made it extremely clear that the writers knew how much they fucked up with Bellamy last season, because this season Bell got to not only grow into his best self, but to be one of those characters you can rely on to do the right thing in any given situation. I’m still a bit miffed at him for how well he took Clarke’s advice in the season finale, but I’ll blame that on the writers having to squeeze a lot of plot and character development into a very short timeframe.
I was glad he put forth so much effort into successfully overcoming his rather condescendingly paternal attitude towards Octavia too. It’s not that I don’t get why he acted that way to begin with – I don’t think anyone would describe Octavia as a particularly stable person at most points of this series, and he was used to playing the big brother role to a kid sister. Though let’s not forget, O never lost her sense of right and wrong in season 3 even when Bellamy completely lost his marbles. But it was clearly a struggle for Bellamy to overcome his constant need to protect Octavia, and this was a particularly difficult season to have to overcome that considering how much peril O got herself into in S4. So you gotta respect Bell for making that major step considering how hard it must have been.
Using this pic for the Clarke section feels very fitting, as this was a miserable, tedious, frustrating season for Clarke. Most of it, at least. Season 4 was Clarke’s foray into all the most mundane, thankless, and soul-crushing aspects of leadership. It was the season in which she finally got a taste of what The Olds had to go through on The Ark. It’s not cute, it’s not fun, it’s not sexy, and no matter what choice you make in any given situation, at least half of your peeps will absolutely despise you for it. There is no way to get through these situations without coming out looking like Ebenezer Scrooge. Let’s look at the almost endless sea of shit that Clarke had to trudge through this season, from her perspective:
4.01: Get confirmation that the world is ending, try to convince Azgeda not to attack everyone and to make a deal with Skaikru instead.
4.02: Try to figure out a way to get Skaikru to patch up the Ark despite the fact that not all of them will be able to fit in there. Find out that thanks to Team Bellamy’s Farm Station mission, they now have even more people to accommodate, and less resources to accommodate them. Force yourself to lie to everyone about how many people the Ark can support in order to get them to patch it up without rioting.
4.03: Take a little road trip with Bellamy and Jaha to find Second Dawn’s bunker, which is actually kinda fun, only to find that the bunker is totally useless. Force yourself to make a list of 100 people who can stay in the Ark.
4.04: Oversee Ark patching, get your list swiped by Jasper and Monty, get called out in front of all ~460 Skaikru, try to stop them from breaking out into a total mutiny.
4.05: Save Octavia’s life, run to meet Roan & his Azgeda army before they make it to Arkadia, try to make sure Bellamy and Kane don’t die, negotiate for a compromise with Azgeda which involves even less Skaikru being able to stay in the Ark, watch the Ark blow up and then burn to the ground.
4.06: Go on an adventure with Bellamy and Roan to get the last remaining barrels of fuel on earth to Becca’s island, have fun for like 3 seconds, get kidnapped, lose a barrel of fuel that you couldn’t afford to lose, ruin Raven’s whole plan.
4.07: Try to find a human test subject for an experiment that will quite likely kill them. Try to salvage what’s left of your humanity.
4.08: Watch said test subject boil to death, spend the rest of the episode losing what’s left of your humanity by nearly forcing Emori to be the next test subject, sacrifice yourself in the end, watch mom smash the radiation testing machine so the test can’t be run anyway.
4.09: Try unsuccessfully to ascend with The Flame to convince the Grounder clans not to kill each other over who gets to go into the bunker, ultimately fail and wind up in a situation where you have to send Octavia into a stupid Conclave to decide who gets the bunker (only ONE clan). Be frustrated AF.
4.10: Continue to be frustrated AF over everyone’s ridiculous and illogical behavior, try to be the voice of reason to Roan and fail, give up and do something horrible and insane to keep humanity alive (steal the bunker for Skaikru behind everyone else’s back). Clarke is my favorite character, and it this point, even *I* hated her.
4:11: Try to keep Bellamy from opening the bunker door. Fail.
4.12: Finally. FINALLY!! It took until episode 12, out of only 13 episodes, before Clarke fiiiinnnnally got to jump out of the sea of shit and be awesome again – To do what she does best and lead the Delinquent Adventure Squad to Save the Goddamn World. O.k. well that might be a slight exaggeration in this case because the world was gonna do what it was gonna do regardless, and most everyone was in the bunker at this point, but at least she was able to lead her Delinquents to safety!
4.13: Growth for Clarke. Much-needed and much-appreciated growth. See the “Clarke” section in my S4 finale review for details.
Clarke’s journey this season somewhat paralleled Bellamy’s journey in S3. Bell went down his worst path in S3 and had to pull himself back from it, and Clarke basically did the same in S4, when she nearly used Emori as a human guinea pig and then stole the damn bunker when Octavia already had the shit covered. Ep 4.12 was when she pulled herself back and got her shit together, and this continued in 4.13. I’m hoping this 6 year break from leadership will have been a good thing for her to kind of find herself and decide who she want to be as a person. S5 will certainly thrust her back into the shit again, and I hope she can stay her best possible self now that she’s seen what the dark path looks like for her. It’s not cute.
You know, honestly, I have no clue anymore what this show is doing with these two kids. I really don’t. I’ve never seen a show drag out their most glaringly obvious OTP for this long. And I think what’s frustrating is that I’m not entirely sure the writers themselves know what the hell they’re doing with Bellarke. It feels like a lot of decisions on other previous plotlines have resulted in “Oh shit well we did this so now we can’t do this until this other thing happens, but even then we might need to give ourselves a time jump to move the characters forward, etc.” And trust me, there’s no fucking way with a 6 year time-jump that this pattern is not gonna continue the exact same way. We do know where Clarke is after the 6 years – there’s not a whole lot of social change you can undergo when you’ve had zero contact with any human adults the entire time.
But Bellamy is a different story. Once season 5 picks up, it’ll be back to the exact same pattern again: “Ohhh well Bellamy is with Echo now so we can’t … we have to first figure out how to …” uggh forget it. I’m already cancelling my season pass just thinking about how this is gonna go. I’m pretty damn sure Bellarke was the writers’ long game from the start when it came to ships, but it’s been SO damn long at this point that I have no idea if they decided it would be better just be all like “psych!!” and leave everyone with Bellarke blueballs by the end of the series. Which they very, very well could have already done if they didn’t get a season 5 renewal. The Live+SD ratings are not what they used to be, so they are honestly lucky they got a S5 at all. They really are playing fast and loose with this ship and it’s very odd to me, given how integral the Clarke/Bell dynamic is to the show.
So. I dunno dude. I know that by and large the finale centered around them, their impending separation, and how they could possibly survive without each other, as I talked about in my season finale review. But what that means … I mean the thing is, season 4 was geared around heaps of Bellarke goodness for the first half; more than the show has ever given us, by far. I think everyone assumed this meant that S4 would finally be “their season”, but everyone was wrong. So at this point I feel like I can’t interpret the Bellarke-centered finale as anything at all anymore, since the writers giveth and the writers yanketh away in favor of chasing other shiny objects instead. Season 5 may well be the last batch of shiny objects they get, so they’d better choose wisely. (Spoiler: They won’t.)
So there it is. Season 4 in a nutshell. One of the best things season 4 accomplished was to end in a development and cliffhanger that immediately got people super hyped for season 5 in a way that we probably haven’t seen since the end of season 1 set up the Mount Weather S2 storyline. Granted, there was a ton of hype for S3 as well, but that was much more due to building popularity and critical acclaim for the show than it was due to the way season 2 ended. Season 4 had virtually no hype at all, but (flash forward again) as of April 2018, which is when I’m typing this, I’m seeing far more buzz and excitement for season 5 than I have since before S3 started. Will Jason and the writing team completely shit the bed again like they did in season 3A? I sure as fuck hope not. Let’s cross our fingers and toes and pray to the old gods and the new for season 5 to be awesome. April 24th can’t come soon enough.