This was originally meant to be a "Why everyone should watch The 100" post, after I accidentally marathoned the entire thing over the weekend. But then the mid-season finale was so good that I couldn't possibly write about anything else. So -- let's pretend I've been blogging about The 100 all along, don't read if you don't want to be severely spoiled, and an intro "why this show is amazing" post will be coming soon!
Because, wow. That was intense.
I don't think I can speak about any element except the tension, because it was all I felt, getting worse and worse as the episode progressed. By halfway through, I felt almost sick with nerves. I almost wanted to look up how it ended, just to relieve the dread and fear in my gut.
It was inevitable that Finn would die, or that a horrific massacre would occur. It was clear from the beginning that there was no real way out. And the episode's build up to that moment of judgement built that sense of being trapped, transferring that panic felt by the characters straight onto the viewer. Even as someone who never really cared much about Finn, I thought it was incredibly well done.
The episode did misstep, I think, in having so many named characters declare unequivocally that Finn deserved to live. Yes, he was their ally and friend, but he killed eighteen innocent people. Some characters should have considered his death to be justice, or at least a worthwhile sacrifice. Probably Murphy. Perhaps Bellamy. Even those who desperately wanted to protect him, like Clarke, could have expressed some doubt, to give the episode greater moral complexity.
But the show did present some fantastic explorations of the psychology behind each character's reactions, including Finn's, and really dug into the pain and terror of the situation.
The flashbacks worked really well to give us a different spin on Fin's character, one that was sympathetic but not too sympathetic, that helped to explain how he reached this point without any clear judgement on whether that was his true nature, or just him acting to survive. In his and Raven's eyes, he was never really a criminal. He took the fall for Raven's space walk in order to save her life, putting his own life at risk in the process. But even though he wasn't the one to put on the spacesuit and leave the Ark, he was the one who arranged the space walk, the one who encouraged Raven to do it, and potentially the one who screwed up and wasted the oxygen. He loved Raven passionately enough to "sacrifice" himself to save her life, but it was more than partly his fault. His recklessness for love lost 3 months of oxygen, essentially causing the deaths of the 300 people who sacrificed themselves last season to extend life support a little bit longer. And in this story arc, under must more stressful conditions, he showed a "one I love above all others" attitude again, framing his mistakes as heroism and self-sacrifice. It was incredibly brave for him to give himself up, knowing what would happen. But he also led himself there, and emotionally destroyed Clarke in the process by telling her he did it all for her sake -- just as he did Raven with her own guilt.
So, was he a good person reacting under terrible pressure? A selfish person who didn't think of consequences? The show doesn't say in the end. It just shows that he was a consistent person, and suggests how "positive" traits can become dangerous under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Should he be sacrificed to save every other person from the Ark? Probably. Was he someone who deserved that fate? That is less clear.
Of course, the episode was as much about those reacting to Finn and his situation as it was Finn himself. The 100 really showed the strength of its female cast, and demonstrated its willingness to develop and push its female characters in fascinating, complicated and not always "likeable" ways.
We saw Raven trying to send Murphy to a painful death in Finn's place -- an action that was horrific, but understandable, considering her love for Finn and Murphy's past. She saw Finn as "good" and Murphy as a murderer, and so decided Murphy could suffer in his place. Can we judge her for that? Is she a "bad" person for her attempt? The show doesn't try to say. It just allows her to be emotional, and complicated, and desperate in a dangerous way.
We saw Abby showing extreme courage, but unable to make the hard decisions when the full weight was on her. She was shown as a hypocrite who can send 100 kids to die of probably radiation poisoning to potentially save the Ark, but who won't send one kid to die to definitely save everyone else who remains. She was shown as a brave leader who faces down potential death to help her people, but who was still ineffective in the end.
And of course we saw Clarke, who became one of my favorite characters ever in this episode. When I started The 100 (a whole seven days ago), I considered her something of a "Katniss-lite," but her strength of character over the course of the show, and especially this week, has been astounding. She's a female character with grit and strength, and also kindness and vulnerability and fear. The inevitability of Finn's death was pressing down on her this week, as she was faced with a mass murderer who told her that he did it for her, who declared that he loved her as a way to justify eighteen deaths. Eliza Taylor did an absolutely stunning job this week, as she portrayed all of Clarke's panic and confusion, her desperation to protect her friend from a horrific death and her horror at what he had done, all messed up with the idea that if he did it for her, it had to be her own fault. She had to protect Finn to protect herself from guilt too.
And her final moments with the Grounders... marching among them, knowing they were out for blood. Walking into Indra's spear to show that she would not back down. Bargaining like she was not terrified for the torturous death of someone she loved. Offering herself as a sacrifice in part last-ditch moment of heroism, part agonized declaration of her own feelings of guilt in this war. And then recognizing what needed to be done, and killing Finn with her own hand, out of mercy, without so much as a flinch.
The 100 is a show of fascinating, well-developed, diverse, deeply compelling female characters, and Clarke is right at the center of that. She's a stunning character, and I can't wait to see where her emotional arc goes from here -- even though I suspect it will be incredibly difficult to watch.