The second season of The 100 finished last week with Blood Will Have Blood Part. A dramatic title for a dramatic end to a dramatic season, but sadly, the episode did not quite live up to its potential.
Ultimately, I found the season finale of The 100 dramatic but disappointing. Is this the natural result of falling head over heels while marathoning a show and then having to watch it week after week instead? Something felt off to me. All the right notes were there, but they didn't resonate as they should.
Part of the blame, I think, lies with the series' fast pace. Constant plot development and plot twists should mean that we never get chance to get bored, but it can also prevent scenes from having the emotional resonance that they should. While the story races ahead, our connection to the characters gets left behind. The strongest moment of the episode was when Clarke pulled a Buffy and left the camp, too horrified by what she had done to face her friends or act as a leader any longer. Dramatic plot moments only work if they have emotional consequences, and a promise that those consequences will create more drama in the future.
So part of my problem with this episode was that I wanted more time. I wanted a payoff -- either emotional or plotwise -- to Lexa's abandonment of Clarke. I wanted Clarke to be able to reflect on the lessons she took from Lexa about leadership, and what she thinks of them now. I wanted to be able to see more of Clarke's struggle as she threatened to shoot a mostly innocent man. I wanted a more clear thread, both plotwise and emotion-wise, from Clarke's decision to stab Finn through to the moment when she stands with her hand on a deadly lever in Mount Weather. I wanted to see how it all tied together, and although Eliza Taylor's acting continued to be amazing, I didn't feel the emotional build-up of all her tough decisions that I knew had to be there.
This isn't to say that Clarke's brutal decision here felt cheap. The 100 excels at presenting moral dilemmas that are actually dilemmas, and where the choice can't be handwaved as "it was the only way." Clarke and Bellamy chose to kill hundreds of innocent people in Mount Weather, including Maya, in order to save about 50 of their own people. They had to face the idea that they valued the lives of their own people far more than the lives of other innocents, and Clarke in particular had to deal with the realization that she might hate Lexa's ruthless decision to betray her, but that she would make similar choices to protect her own. The moment worked, and the aftermath worked too. But I found myself wanting more.
And honestly, much of my emotional disconnect from this finale came from the fact that I never cared much about Mount Weather. I'm just not a fan of bunker-type stories -- I never liked the Hatch much in LOST either -- and I'm not really buying the religious quest arc either. An entire episode focused on those plot, without much time for emotional contemplation and without a survival-in-the-wilderness type plotline to balance it, revealed to me how little I was invested in them. I cared about Monty and Jasper, but the rest of the characters trapped there felt like redshirts. I cared about Clarke's emotional reaction to her decision, but I didn't really care much about the struggle to save everyone itself.
So, to me, many parts of the episode felt gratuitous. Raven is tortured, and it's graphic and grim, but she isn't actually at risk -- it makes the audience scared for her, but otherwise doesn't serve much of a purpose. Clarke threatening the ex-president brought her emotional arc of the season to a climax, but her threat didn't seem to have much purpose, and actually killing him was even more pointless, as she threw her only bargaining chip away. A sign that Clarke was panicking and overwhelmed, perhaps, and a great opportunity to contrast how Clarke and Bellamy have both grown from their initial peaceful and "whatever the hell we want" stances, but one that didn't quite resonate.
The scenes that worked best for me were the ones where nothing much actually happened. Clarke and Bellamy talking at the gate of Camp Jaha. Octavia shouting at Clarke and telling her that "doing the best she can" isn't good enough if this is the result. Character reunions, character disagreements, quiet heart to hearts... The 100 excels when it allows its characters to breathe and drive the story, and some of that got lost this week in the fast pace and the drama. It was still good, but it wasn't quite all it could have been.