Once upon a time, The 100 reminded me of SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot. It had all the political and social trappings that made the show so successful but gave it a twist by dropping its characters in unfamiliar territory and forcing them to contend with the people there. Struggles for leadership and hard choices were a staple of BSG that The 100 seemed primed to replicate. For most of its two seasons it did so, but season three is looking like an unasked for retread. “Watch the Thrones” starts off well enough, as Lexa fights to maintain leadership of the Coalition, but Arkadia’s approaching election quickly devolves into an absolute mess.
Whereas The 100 once had a steady method of conveying differences in leadership, “Watch the Thrones” tosses that all out the window. There’s no nuance, no subtlety, no sense. The election Abby and Kane suggested barely counts as one. You’d think a show so obsessed with leadership (and in the midst of presidential election season in the U.S) would have had the bright idea to treat the election of its next chancellor with something resembling finesse, but that’s not the case. It all happens in the span of one episode, all offscreen, with not a single indication of how the camp is leaning aside from some sloppy exposition (“You should be on the ballot tomorrow”) before Pike is elected Chancellor.
It’s kind of easy to see where Pike is coming from, but Grounders vs. Sky People is something we’ve seen before. I don’t doubt that there are people in Arkadia who don’t agree with yet another alliance with the Grounders, but I’m surprised that Abby and Kane are so caught off guard by it. They made a decision to ally with them without consulting anyone but each other (and Clarke), and everyone was forced to go along with it. But there’s always the chance Abby and Kane have been privy only to the Arkadia we’ve seen: where no one but our main characters is allowed opinions. Are Abby and Kane so centered on the rest of the first billed cast that they couldn’t detect even a hint of anti-Grounder sentiment? Maybe so, but it feels more like The 100 trying and failing at being shocking with this new turn of events.
Most insulting is Bellamy’s role in the whole thing. His own hatred of the Grounders is been there, done that. He wants to turn in his uniform, guilty about Mount Weather’s destruction, and somehow reaches the point where he’s arming Farm Station and accompanying them into the forest to kill the Grounder army sent to protect them. It’s an abrupt turn in Bellamy’s character, who up until now has been one of the show’s best characters. Even when he was turning everyone against him in season one, we understood where he was coming from, and now we don’t have that benefit. We assume it’s because of Mount Weather and its sudden bombing, but like Jasper I find it hard to care. The 100 is basing this entire premise upon the deaths of 49 people we never knew. Gina’s nonexistent characterization doesn’t count as “knowing”, and her fridging is a cheap and ineffective way of drawing sympathy for Pike and Bellamy’s cause.
The only thing remotely interesting about Pike and Bellamy’s new stance is the role Lincoln and Octavia might play in it. Lincoln’s already returning to his role as hated Grounder, and Octavia’s once again at odds with her brother over his position on them. This, too is repetitive, but Ricky Whittle’s casting as the lead in American Gods may mean something more definitive for Lincoln this season. The 100 has a whole season remaining to do a course correction, but this interview with showrunner Jason Rothenberg isn’t very encouraging.
At this point the Grounders are feeling like the only people worth watching, as hamfisted as everything else is. When the Ice Queen, Nia (Brenda Strong) is brought to face judgment for her attack on Mount Weather, Lexa scrambles to secure her place as Commander through single combat with Roan. The only pitfall here is everyone’s assumption that Lexa will be killed. The 100 is far too invested in Lexa, and especially Clarke and Lexa to kill her off so soon, and then there’s the matter of Lexa being the Commander. Do the Grounders usually entrust the position to people they believe will be easily felled in a fight? I don’t think so. Yet everyone’s convinced this will be the end of Lexa, which makes it all the more apparent that it won’t be.
While there’s no trace of political maneuvering, the Capital is full of it. Clarke goes to Roan to make a deal: he kills his mother and becomes king. But that won’t work. It’s much better if Clarke feigns interest in an alliance with Nia and poisons her, but that doesn’t work, and we’re back to single combat. Lexa and Roan have a pretty thrilling fight sequence, which makes all the handwringing feel earned. It’s still easy to parse how it will all end up.
Just as Lexa has become too important to the show’s current plan to die, Zach McGowan is too charismatic an actor to be set aside when his role could be expanded upon with a promotion to king of the Ice Nation. The hope is that he’ll be a more helpful leader than his mother, but we’ve got nothing to go on besides Roan hating her enough to conspire to assassinate her, and it’s likely this will end up being another complicated addition to Grounder politics.
The 100 airs at 8 PM CT on The CW.
Chelsea is a writer and blogger who recently received a BA in English from the University of Missouri. Besides television, she also loves chocolate chip cookies, puppies and Dragon Age. In between episodes of her favorite shows, Chelsea’s hard at work on a young adult novel. You can read more of her writing on The Chelsea Review and follow her on Twitter@ChelseaBigBang.