After the drama of last month's mid-season finale, The 100 faced a massive test. Plenty of shows manage the shocking, dramatic plot twist, but far few shows are able to follow through with the twist in the episodes that follow. Truly shocking plots are going to have severe emotional consequences for the characters and will color everything that follows, but this key story development is often handwaved away for more twists or for a return to the status quo.
Luckily, The 100 passed the test.
Remember Me picks up immediately after Spacewalker, with Clarke in the Grounder camp, staring at her bloodstained hands. But she has no time to panic or grieve --Lexa wants them to leave immediately, to cement their alliance before they plan an attack on Mount Weather. The other Grounders are less trusting of Clarke and her Skypeople, and when it seems that the people of the Ark have attempted to poison Lexa at their celebratory feast, it looks like the alliance will fall apart before it has begun,meaning Finn would have died for nothing.
Although this was a very tense episode, with plot developments and moments that were difficult to watch (Raven!!), its main focus was on Clarke and the emotional repercussions of her decisions. She has to figure out how to live with herself after killing the guy she loved, and she has to decide how to be a leader when everything she loves is at risk.
I really love how complex Clarke is, as a protagonist and as a leader. It's rare enough to see female characters in positions of power and authority in fiction. It's even rarer to see the difficulties of a female leader's position explored in depth -- the question is not can she be a leader, but how should she be a leader, and Clarke has two different women to look to for advice. Her mother and Lexa both offer Clarke their insight this week (multiple scenes where female characters talk about leadership! Where they present many different perspectives!), and Clarke has to decide which one she believes: her mother's words about compassion and self-forgiveness, or Lexa's words about love being a weakness that will be used against you.
Although it was heartbreaking to see Clarke decide to close off her heart and become more ruthless, the development made perfect sense from a character and plot perspective. Clarke has been gradually learning to be more ruthless throughout the series, and the need to kill Fin understandably pushed her over the edge and made her question everything she has done so far and will do in the future. It also makes sense that she would choose to listen to Lexa, her once enemy, over her mother. Lexa is, in many ways, a mirror of Clarke -- a young leader of a sometimes blood-thirsty group who has to prove her worth and make the difficult decisions, regardless of her own feelings. She understands how tough Clarke has to be to survive, and unlike Abby, who Clarke still sees as her father's murderer, she is a role model of someone who is tough but fair. Continuing its impressive dedication to diversity, the show also revealed Lexa's tragic backstory -- her girlfriend was torture and killed because of her relationship with her. Although I think Lexa's lost love is more tragic, since she didn't kill 18 innocent people before her death, this connection between Clarke and Lexa definitely creates an interesting dynamic that I'm looking forward to seeing more of in the future.
Meanwhile, the adults finally accepted that Clarke is basically their leader now, which was a relief to see. An exploration of this unexpected dynamic is going to be far more interesting than the previous tension between the two groups, with the adults claiming power but having no idea how to survive.
Of course, the episode wasn't perfect. I wasn't keen on the Finn's ghost/hallucination element, which felt like an unnecessary cliche. Eliza Taylor's acting was more than good enough to convey Clarke's trauma and guilt, without showing her talking to an imaginary Finn out loud.
In fact, Eliza Taylor's acting here made me really appreciate this new presentation of the traumatized female protagonist. Like Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss in Mockingjay, Eliza Taylor's exploration of Clarke's trauma here was in stark contrast to the traditional "mad girl" in genre fiction, who are usually waif-like and rambling, like River Tam. Clarke's struggles in this episode came from a deep and believable place, and I love the idea that "strong" female characters don't have to always be strong. Part of believable characterization is having weakness and emotional repercussions for your actions, and it's really important that stories show that even "strong" women can suffer from mental trauma.
I also thought that some plot elements wrapped up too quickly in this episode, with the show's fast pace working against it for once. It's good that Raven isn't going to go on hating Clarke for killing Finn, but I wish we'd had more than one episode to work through those feelings, or at least one quiet moment between the two of them after Raven realized how Clarke had saved Finn. And although we can't stay in the struggles of Grounder/Skypeople forever, the events of this episode don't feel like enough to make even a semi-stable alliance for the weeks to come.
Overall, though, Remember Me was a fantastic episode, keeping the tension high while taking the time to properly explore the consequences of the mid-season finale's horrific twist. It really bodes well for the episodes to come.
As long as nothing bad actually happens to Monty, of course. Because that would really be unacceptable.