This review contains spoilers.
Clarkes sins came back to haunt her as she fought Josephine to stay alive in her mind palace, with the help of some old familiar faces.
This episode managed to feel like it was rushing to cram everything in while also somehow leaving the viewer with the viewer with the feeling of, 'oh, that was it?' After all that, the ball barely advanced down the field. Yes, we got to revisit some of the good old days and it was satisfying to watch Clarke kick Josephine’s ass, but in the end it seems our only reward was Bellamy knowing Clarke is alive. To what extent will Clarke internalise any of the very legitimate concerns she seemed to wrestle with about her role in so much death and destruction?
That’s not to say she was always wrong or shouldn’t have made some of these choices, but The 100 has far too easily given her a pass and even allowed her to let herself off the hook during previous bouts of introspection. So far this season has given Clarke a few opportunities to examine her choices as she considers what it means to do better, but it’s still unclear whether she’ll take that to heart or if characters like Raven, Murphy, and Octavia will simply be made to apologise because of Clarke’s apparent death, and then all will be forgiven until the next genocide. I firmly believe Clarke and The 100 are capable of better, of grappling with their heroine’s culpability in a meaningful way rather than writing it off as though everyone else is a short-sighting hater, which is frankly a very Josephine outlook.
On that note, the parallels between Josephine and Clarke are startling, and I hope the writing on The 100 makes more of that moving forward. This episode made their physicality clearer, since we finally got to see them side by side. Even their hair was styled in a nearly identical fashion! It’s not that difficult to see how a Clarke who pulled the lever in Mount Weather or made so many disastrous, inconsistent calls last season could make some version of Josephine’s choices, with no Bellamy, Raven, Octavia, Murphy and the others to keep her in check, and another couple hundred years to winnow away at her humanity.
A few of the nostalgic highlights from Clarke’s past were Finn, Lincoln being tortured, the deer with two heads, Clarke in her cell on the Ark, Madi, Octavia’s “we’re back bitches moment” (which Josie co-opted), and the multiple drawings of Lexa. It was great to see Monty again, and it’s good to have Blodreina able to give a voice to her very legitimate gripes with Clarke. It’s easy to let her be a whipping boy for the whole group, but the reality is that every, “I bear it so they don’t have to,” that Clarke uses to justify her actions, could apply to Octavia as well – it’s just not her show, something the writers have unfortunately made all too clear.
These memories were rather light on Bellamy, though it makes a certain amount of sense to keep Clarke’s deepest shame with everyone dead. The shrine in the woods was particularly affecting, with Jasper’s goggles, the dagger she mercy-killed Finn with and the pole he was tied to at the time, Lexa’s throne, and her father’s video message. It was nice to see Maya again, especially since Jasper’s death meant that her memory has largely fallen by the wayside.
Josephine’s deepest memory was likely meant to complicate our understanding of her, but I’m not so sure it did the trick. It was fun to see some of the earth just before destruction, like Diyoza on trial and Becca on a magazine cover, but it felt like a rushed attempt at a tragic backstory for Josephine. Having a Nice Guy ™ die by suicide right in front of you is deeply disturbing and traumatic, but we blew right past it – hopefully future episodes will unpack that a bit, or show us more of her over time. Josie helping Abby solve the puzzle of Kane’s medical condition, even briefly, felt more temporarily redemptive.
Josephine’s memory offers insight into “oblation,” the ominous way Sanctum keeps a steady supply of bodies for the Primes. It seems they’re even more dastardly than they seemed, sacrificing unworthy babies as offerings to the woods. It’s unclear if the Primes actually think the woods need the offering, or if they’re fully aware it’s horrible and just part of the Prime razzle dazzle. Either way, it totally makes sense why someone would join Gabriel. It seems Josephine killed Isaac, Kaylee’s null paramour, as much out of annoyance at “LeeLee’s” behavior as out of retaliation for his saving babies. Now we know why those two frenemies were killing one another.
If there are nulls, Primes, and people with royal blood (AKA pre-Primes), are there any other kinds of people? There just seems to be way more people running around Sanctum who aren’t “janitors or guards” but also aren’t Primes. Are nulls perhaps people who aren’t even carriers of royal blood, so they let others with recessive royal blood hang out in Sanctum too, on the off-chance it yields more hosts down the line? I need more answers about this cult, please.
Read Delia's review of the previous episode, Memento Mori, here.