‘The 100’ series finale review: Who wants to live forever? – Hypable

Posted: October 4, 2020 at 7:57 pm

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The 100 has concluded with its 100th episode, titled The Last War. Here is our review.

The 100s epic saga of humanity, told on over the course of seven seasons, spanning centuries and galaxies, ended with a proposal for how our species can ultimately break the cycle of violence and reach a new evolutionary stage.

The solution? Having an ancient alien race judge the actions of a random few people and invite 200+ nameless soldiers and a handful of children with to leave behind their mortal shells and join a hive-mind cosmic conscience.

Well we sure werent ready for that.

Before we dive into the discussion of The 100s series finale, I want to reiterate one last time that, to me, this was all about the journey. The ending was never going to change that.

My own journey with The 100 sure has been an interesting one. I started watching it by mistake, because I had gotten it mixed up with The Tomorrow People, which I had actually been assigned (and never did end up watching). I fell in love with it almost instantly and started covering it for Hypable, because I wanted to help others find it and fall in love with it too. I believe I succeeded in that. (Im sorry?)

I was a 20-something Danish girl just out of Journalism school, and I had no idea that picking up The 100 on a whim would take me as far as it did. I interviewed almost the entire cast. I visited the writers room. I started going to (and came to understand the point of) fan conventions. I even moderated panels at a handful of them.

I know I wasnt the only young female entertainment journalist trying to break into the industry by covering this show, only to encounter gatekeeper after gatekeeper who blatantly tried to shut the doors in my face. So it is important to thank all the people who didnt do this; who opened a door for me along the way, or vouched for me, or drew attention to my work. Most especially Jason and Joy Rothenberg, Kim Shumway, B.A. Johnson, Aaron Ginsburg, Richard Harmon, Jo Garfein, Tiffany Vogt, Sachin Sahel and Sabrina Hutchinson.

A story is a story, but the real human kindness you have shown me, and your willingness to let me into a space I was often made to feel I didnt belong to, gave me an invaluable sense of confidence that I have been able to use to advance my career, within and beyond entertainment journalism. That matters. And I only hope I was able to pay it forward, in whatever limited capacity I could.

Hypable also benefited immensely from the coverage and exclusives I was able to produce, largely because of these peoples kindness. And although my affiliation with the site effectively ends with this article, I hope you will all continue to visit Hypable for its insightful and passionate fandom coverage. Our slogan for fans, by fans, has guided every word I ever wrote about this show, be it praising or critical. I was always a fan first and I hope, wherever my career takes me, that I never stop being a fan first.

And I hope my coverage of the show has seemed fair and honest, regardless of how I have approached any given storyline. As a fan, that is all I ever had to offer.

With that, I submit to you my final review of The CWs The 100, a series I have followed through its many ups and downs, and which I am proud to see through, to whatever end.

Continuing from last week, Murphy, Raven and Jackson arrive on Sanctum with a flatlining Emori.

Although Raven initially refuses to leave Emoris side, she ends up accepting that she can do more good elsewhere (and in doing so, she ends up fulfilling her promise: she does save them all, Emori included).

Raven runs off to save the world, starting with some (unfortunately off-screen) rallying of the various scattered troops: Ravens former/current? arch-enemy Nikki and her Eligius friends, along with Wonkru, are apparently easily convinced to help, and they even agree to make a pit stop to pick up the wayward people on Earth before moving on to Bardo.

(Wasnt there something about a time difference? Who can say.)

As a nice little surprise, Miller chooses to go back to Sanctum to be with Jackson rather than go to war, which is great for me personally, and also a neat prelude to the speech Octavia makes towards the end of the episode.

As well get into later, The 100 has always been ambiguous about whether it considers love to be the solution to war or the cause of it, but in this case, it is definitely the former. Mackson is the key to breaking the cycle, didnt I always say so?

But then they experience a tiny little inconvenience in the form of Emori violently and horrifically dying.

Not to worry, however! Memori never dies! Unable and unwilling to live without her, Murphy puts her mind drive in his head, combining their life forces and marrying their bodies and souls together for however long Murphys heart continues to beat.

Not to undercut the beauty of this modern Shakespearean tragedy, but the only thing I could think when watching this scene was how this is just the ultimate expression of how over-the-top extra Murphy has always been about Emori.

Of course he would pull a Romeo and Juliet. Of course he wouldnt let a little obstacle like one of them dying stop them from being together forever. Of course. (Edward Cullen and Bella Swan look like a summer fling in comparison to these two.)

Im also surprised by how much I genuinely did love ending this for them (and honestly would have preferred it as their actual ending), because the last time I came across this type of storyline, I really didnt.

In the series finale of Dollhouse (spoiler alert), the main character Echo loses the man she loves. But because his mind had been copied onto a disk i.e. a mind drive she could insert it into her own head, and they could be together inside her mind.

I thought that was such a creepy, sad ending for them. But in this context, and for these characters, it works really well. Probably exactly because of how intense and extra this particular relationship has always been.

And the scene with Murphy and Emori in Murphys mindspace is just stunning. Far and away the best scene of the episode.

The acting by Richard Harmon and Luisa dOliveira is out of this world. These two have the kind of on-screen chemistry that comes across once in a lifetime, and it seems like an understatement to call them The 100s best couple.

The soft lighting and tranquil scenery are perfectly contrasted by the visceral horror Emori initially experiences when she realizes that Murphy is essentially killing herself for her, before she ultimately accepts his choice, and the pair share a very sweet dance before transcending.

While Murphys character this season has been washed out and hero-fied to an extent I think betrays the core of the character, I really like that his ending was ultimately one of sacrifice and reward: Murphy had to be ready to lay down his life for love, and only then could he and his love be saved by it. (Dumbledore would be proud.)

Its a worthy death, or would have been, and once again a nice little statement to make about the restorative and healing powers of love. Look at where Murphy started, and how motivated his violence was by hate and revenge. Look how love changed him.

And look how love changed Emori. It inspired a compassion and empathy and a willingness to self-sacrifice that, once upon a time, the story wanted us to associate with Clarke.

The 100 is in so many ways a study in how our experiences with having and losing love can shape our worldview and how we treat other people, and in a surprising (and welcome) twist, Emori and Clarke really ended up being the opposites that met in the middle and rose/fell to the others starting point over the course of the series.

(Maybe because Emori got to go to the ring, and Clarke didnt? Maybe that was where it split? Ugh, my heart.)

Luisa dOliveira may never have been officially made part of the main cast, but I think we all consider her a main anyway. Emori definitely ended up being one of the most important characters, emotionally and thematically. And its what they both deserve.

Bill Cadogan enters the test arena, where he finally gets to reunite with his beloved daughter Callie except it isnt Callie. It is a representative of the superior alien race standing by, ready to dole out judgement. For brevitys sake (yeah right), let us call this alien and the collective consciousness it represents the Entity.

The space Cadogan visualizes is conveniently similar to the mindspace created by the mind-drives. It represents an important location in the test-takers life, which in Cadogans case is a bridge where he and Callie went fishing. (JR+JR? Cute.)

Before Cadogan can complete the test, however, Clarke shoots him in the head. Good riddance. (Although its a bit of a copout that all of the actual villains are killed off before transcendence happens, so we dont get to see whether the Entity really was going to Helga Hufflepuff humanity and take the lot, but whatever.)

At first, it seems like Clarke is actually going to try to take the test in his stead, but Clarke must have dropped her once so character-defining cunning and intelligence during one of her wormhole jumps, so she can only focus on her immediate, self-centered anger and frustration.

But she is what humanity has made her, isnt she? This is a Clarke Griffin who has been broken by the world, standing before the dieu du jour in sharp and depressing contrast to the brazen, fierce, compassionate Clarke Griffin who went into the City of Light to shut down ALIE in season 3.

This is a Clarke Griffin who has lost everything, and whose losses have made her bitter and vengeful and self-righteous and (in this moment) unconcerned with the consequences of her actions.

This is a Clarke Griffin who fails the test.

While the Entity took the form of Callie to appear to Cadogan (and lingers in that shape just long enough for Eliza Taylor to transfer her protagonist mojo onto our new leading lady Iola Evans), it transforms for Clarke into her vision of a love, a teacher, and a great regret: Lexa.

My instant emotional reaction to seeing Lexa again was pure joy. Alycia Debnam-Carey slips so flawlessly back into the role that I thought it was old footage at first. I understand why people online, especially those who maybe dont care as much about the story as some of us still do, have trouble differentiating this imposter from the real Lexa, because she really acts and talks just like Lexa would have.

Much like Clarke runs to hug her, even knowing that it is not actually Lexa, but still taking comfort in the idea of her, I know Im not alone in taking a lot of comfort from the sheer symbolic value of her. Im glad Alycia Debnam-Carey agreed to come back for it, and Im glad it brought some people joy.

And, while I know a lot of the shows remaining fans dont see eye to eye with me on this, I genuinely also think Lexas finale appearance redeems what would otherwise have been an incessant and unnecessary refusal to just let Lexas memory rest.

Since her death, Lexa has been so infuriatingly almost-present (in the Flame, in Madis head, in the computer, in drawings, in conversations). Seeing her again somewhat makes up for them refusing to let Clarke and the audience move on, knowing that they always planned to revisit the character in a substantial way.

But. (You knew it was coming.)

They didnt actually revisit the character in a substantial way.

Seeing Lexa again may be all well and good, but because of the shows self-imposed rule about dead people not being able to transcend, Lexa is no less dead just because an alien judge wears her face. Her appearance here is very literally just for show, both in-story and outside of it.

And the million-dollar question for me, once the initial excitement wore off, was: why couldnt it just have been the actual Lexa? Since they already had Alycia Debnam-Carey for the finale, why not have Lexa show up on that beach? Why not have that be Clarkes reward? Hadnt she earned that? Hadnt they both? Hadnt we?

I would be more inclined to accept the explanation that they couldnt bring Lexa back because The 100 doesnt do resurrections if it wasnt for the facts that a) they didnt actually let Lexa truly die before the Flame was destroyed three episodes ago, b) Emori was literally resurrected in this episode through a mind drive and, oh yeah, c) the show ended with everyone turning into golden Groots and becoming one with the universe. Yall, literally nothing is off the table when you begin turning people into Groots.

It is hard to ignore the element of performativity here, of The 100 flaunting the powerful iconography of Lexa and reconnecting that iconography with the shows brand, even while putting the final nail in her coffin by smashing the Flame and excluding her from transcendence.

So while it is nice that people on Twitter are excited about Lexa returning and interacting with Clarke, it would be even nicer if those of us who actually watched the episode got to share in that excitement. The gifs sure are pretty though.

The Entity proceeds to judge Clarke, who judges it right back. Lo and behold, the Entity doesnt like to be judged (the uncomfortable implication here being that the species it absorbs are intended to serve it, not be its equals), so it fails Clarke, on behalf of the human race, and she is ejected from the arena.

Before this happened, I actually thought for a hot second that Clarke would manage to outsmart the all-knowing-alien-deity-thingy. She made some valid arguments, after all: How dare it assume the right to judge her? How dare it commit genocide upon genocide and then condemn her for doing the same?

Turns out the Entity really doesnt care about being a big stupid hypocrite (hey, just like Cadogan!), which means that Clarke essentially just gets to vocalize some glaring issues with the premise of transcendence that are never actually addressed or resolved, which is just well, its super weird, isnt it?

Clarkes arguments, along with Ravens later plea for the Entity to back off and give humanity more time (after which transcendence just happens immediately), are so dissonant from the rest of the finale that I almost wonder if there were two different endings for the show in play one in which they won transcendence and one in which judgement was deferred and humanity was left to improve on its own merit and they just ended up meshing them together.

Believe it or not, but Clarke failing the test is one of the things I like best about the finale. The past few episodes have, intentionally or not, worked very hard to prove that Clarke certainly is not (currently) worthy of representing all of humanity and winning transcendence in any form, and this cosmic rejection is, somewhat, a consequence for her horrific actions.

Yes, love made her do it, but love is an ambivalent concept. In Octavias case, love was what made her forgive. Once, love was what made Clarke self-sacrifice. Love is as destructive as it is redemptive depending on how it affects each individual person, and to The 100s credit, it has always (if sometimes clumsily) tried to explore the nuance of this all-consuming and self-contradictory force.

So while it would have felt truer to Clarkes overall arc and character to have her use her cunning and cleverness to actually beat the test, rather than get angry and emotional, and while it would have been more full-circley to have Clarke try to sacrifice herself for ~all mankind~ one last time, having the Entity just spit her back out feels right, under the circumstances.

It also feels right that Clarke should then pass the baton to Raven, who would have been a much more interesting choice to actually have taken the test, if the test had amounted to more than a conversation. This episode does right by Raven, certainly, giving her the space and importance she always deserved.

Raven Reyes, self-made champion of humanity, enters the now-red orb, and finds herself in her version of the test-mindspace: the Ark, on which she meets the Entity, now wearing the face of Abby Griffin.

Basically, instead of the source of all evil taking the shapes of all the former Big Bads in Buffy, the almighty here takes the shapes of some of the series greatest teachers. (It would have been cool if they had taken that idea even further, having more characters take and fail the test throughout the episode or even just having Clarke and Raven see more faces of people that had influenced them, but alas. No Sinclair for me.)

Even though this isnt in fact Abby, as with Alycia Debnam-Carey, it is simply wonderful to see Paige Turco again. It feels more like closure for the actors than anything else, but that in itself is a somewhat worthwhile use of your finale.

That the Entity puts on Abbys face for Raven, but not for Clarke, is a choice I would have liked to linger on a little bit more, but then I could say that about a lot of things this season. The choice is justified by saying that Raven always considered Abbys opinion of her the most important, which is certainly true. And relevant, seeing as the Entitys opinions seem to literally be the alpha and omega of the future of the universe.

Raven argues that humanity has in fact learned to do better, but the Entity takes her to Bardo, showing her the Bardoan and Sanctumnian armies poised to attack. It counters that, despite the fact that we keep trying to improve, something will always happen to ensure that we fail.

This time, the devil on humanitys shoulder is Sheidheda. A random wild card to prove the Entitys point, for sure, but maybe intentionally so: there will always be Sheidhedas, in one form or another, to throw us off the path of progress. The Entity isnt wrong about that.

What the Entity fails to account for, however, is that for every Sheidheda, there is an Octavia, stealing fire from the gods and giving the human race the power to evolve themselves.

(And this is where we take a beat to acknowledge the Bellamy-shaped hole in the story.)

While Raven argues humanitys case to the Entity, Octavia proves her words true by coming between the two armies and tl;dring her entire character arc: I let fear [of the other] drive me for too long Ive been to war, and I know that the only way to win is not to fight.

She also gives new meaning to one of the series most iconic statements, in one of the episodes only moments of properly paying homage to itself: Our fight is over.

That the armies are partially motivated to stand down because they know their god is watching unfortunately undercuts a lot of this scenes power in terms of proving anything about humanitys capacity for self-improvement, but Octavia, certainly, proves the individual humans ability to learn from experience and find a way to peace.

Octavia has always been the one character The 100 never lost sight of, and never dumbed down or de-complicated for the sake of pushing a certain plot. The greyer she got, the more real she felt, and her ultimately rising from the ashes to save the human race because of her entire history rather than in spite of it felt as epic as it was intended to.

She really is the embodiment of humanity, the way I believe humanity should be embodied: we are capable of so much destruction, but we are also capable of self-reflection and self-improvement, and ultimately the hope is that we will be able to overcome our instinct for violence and conflict by looking into the eyes of our enemies and acknowledging the humanity in them.

And there is also just a real beauty and poignancy to the fact that it ends up being Raven and Octavia the two secondary female leads, polar opposites involved in such separate storylines that theyve barely spoken two words to each other throughout the entire series who unwittingly join forces to do what Clarke had become too emotion-driven and tribal to do.

After Octavias demonstration and Ravens closing argument that humanity might not yet be worthy of transcendence but will keep working to improve itself if the Entity leaves them alone everyone begins glowing gold.

Ravens proposition, which incidentally would also have been my preferred endgame, seems to be ignored by the Entity, who doesnt seem inclined to wait around for the remainder of the human race to prove their ability to change their behavioral patterns. (Or maybe it just realized that if they didnt scoop what was left of humanity up now, the species would in fact eradicate itself before they got the chance.)

So everyone gets raptured, melding their minds to the mass of the Entity and leaving behind only imprints of light.

Everyone except Clarke, who encouraged Madi to let go of her body (that she wanted to cling onto, how about that, good thing nobody shot her without her consent, hm?), and Picasso, because in The 100, dogs do not in fact go to heaven.

Guys, not to be like whatever, but the Entity kind of sucks.

Clarke spends most of this episode the way she unfortunately ended up spending most of the series: alone, surrounded by all her ghosts. And her ultimate punishment for having the audacity to live and love at all is to be cast out of Eden, doomed to walk the world alone like Elronds vision of Arwen from Lord of the Rings.

But there is a silver lining: the friends she made along the way. Just as she has resigned herself to a life of solitude, the Lexabot shows up to monologue some more about how weird it is that humans can love, and how weird it is that all of Clarkes friends decided to abandon an eternal existence of bliss and togetherness to live a finite life with someone most of them barely knew.

And honestly, Im with the Lexabot on this one. That is pretty weird.

Because the writers decided that transcendence was only an option for people who were alive at the time it happened (youre telling me that Roan didnt get to transcend? Monty? Harper? Jane Fonda? Barack Obama? Anya?? Sounds fake but okay), none of the people Clarke might, in a version of the story that was more true to itself, actually be happy to spend her life with actually get to come back to her.

No Bellamy. No Lexa. No Abby. No Jake, Wells, Monty, Anya, or Barack Obama. Not even her best and truest friend Riley. Instead, the characters who return for Clarke are basically just everyone left who has a name, and aside from Raven and maybe Octavia, I cant help but imagine that Clarke would consider them consolation prizes at best.

The striking absence is Madi, who chose not to return because she allegedly didnt want Clarke to worry about her ending up alone.

On one hand, Madi peacing out into the cosmos rather than choosing to live out her mortal life with Clarke and her new BFF Luca is a satisfying choice that honors Madis autonomy (I wouldnt want to give up immortality for the woman who was ready to murder me for being immobilized either).

On the other, it is a super unsatisfying note to end on for Clarke, who literally spent the past three episodes proving herself willing to abandon and kill everyone and anyone who isnt Madi. It is hard to believe that Clarke should so easily find peace without her, after a season hell-bent on convincing us that she was nothing without her.

(For not to mention the fact that Clarke was so distrustful of and spiteful towards the Entity, so why would she believe that Madi is safe inside of it? Why are we taking anything the Entity says at face value? Oh whatever, the show is over.)

As for everyone else again, except Raven and Octavia, whom season 7 at least put (the bare minimum amount of) effort into re-forging Clarkes connections with it is very difficult to see anyone making the choice to forgo an eternity of bliss and togetherness for the sake of spending one finite lifetime with someone most of them were never actually close to.

In this very episode, Murphy/Emori and Miller/Jackson all seemed pretty set on just wanting to be together, wherever that was, which surely meant that transcendenceland was their best option. Indra would go where Gaia was, but Gaia surely didnt love Clarke enough to make such a leap (she barely knew her). Maybe Indra followed Octavia, and then Gaia followed Indra? Either way, why would Gaia leave Madi? And dont even get me started on Niylah.

(Unless transcendence was just super boring, which is a totally believable explanation tbh. Literally nobody would want to be a Golden Groot for all eternity. I would bail too.)

I think the closest well get to an actual explanation is a chain reaction of de-transcendence: Raven chose to stay with Clarke; Echo and Emori followed Raven; Murphy followed Emori. Octavia chose to stay with Clarke; Levitt and Hope followed Octavia; Jordan followed Hope.

But you know what would have made perfect sense? If Bellamy had chosen to stay with Clarke, and Octavia, SpaceKru, and Miller had all followed him. That would have been completely in character for everyone. (Except Niylah. There is no explanation for her.)

Because Clarke was repeatedly removed and isolated from the group, while Bellamys stories were always community-driven, Bellamy came to serve as the de-facto link between Clarke and the others. (That old quote about Bellamy inspiring the masses and Clarke inspiring Bellamy remained true for all of the six seasons where they were still written in-character.)

So even if we were to write off Bellamys own significance entirely (haha, but why, that would be ridiculous), cutting out the character that has been established as the main emotional anchor for Clarke, and then pretending like he was irrelevant to her relationships with everyone else, undermines the integrity of every single person on that beach.

And what is so ironic about all of this is that if any of the original main characters had been as unmoored and unimportant as theyre pretending Bellamy was, to the point where they could realistically be lifted out of the narrative without it creating a catastrophic ripple effect, that would be a failure of the story too.

Pretending like the relationships you wrote were so flimsy and arbitrary that you can have one lead character shoot another and then not reckon with that action in any meaningful way only serves to undermine your own abilities as a storyteller.

Knowing that the original plan was for Bellamy to be included in the final shot makes it even worse, because if the writers knew it made sense, then they should have made it happen. Use a standin. Splice him in. Have Clarke see someone come out of the woods and let the audience guess who it might be.

There were so many constructive ways to minimize the damage to the story caused by Bellamys absence rather than exacerbate it. Instead, the ending scene was much weaker than it could (should) have been, a lot of the emotional growth Clarke and Bellamy did separately and as a unit was rendered meaningless, Octavia and Echo didnt get the closure their arcs needed, and the shows legacy will suffer for it. And thats really all there is to it.

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'The 100' series finale review: Who wants to live forever? - Hypable

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October 4th, 2020 at 7:57 pm

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