Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 100: Season 1, Episode 6

“How do I get home?”

Huzzah, Monroe has arrived! The 100 features a few reliable background or utility players, recognizable faces that show up from time to time, basically serving as “crew”—Sinclair and Jackson, for example—and Monroe is one of the best, notable for consistently joining adventuring crews, looking a shit-ton like Ygritte, and her amazing pompadour Mohawk. Is is a Pompadawk? A Mohawdour? Either way, for real, that thing is astounding. Roma attempts to rock the same look, but hers is nowhere near as impressive. And guess who ends up dead. Thus ever to fronters, Roma.
            A presence since the end of the first episode, the 100 finally lay eyes on a Grounder. Those of us familiar with the way the show develops, though, know that “Grounder,” the people living on the ground, is a much more complex term than it initially seems, encompassing the Tree-crew (I believe, technically, it’s spelled “Tricru,” but I’m not doing that), the Ice Nations, exiles and outcasts, the unnamed desert dwellers, the 10 currently unidentified tribes who form the Coalition, and even, really, both the Mountain Men and the Reapers, each with, in the manner of people, differences in ways, perspectives, and traditions.
            I noted previously that one reason the post-apocalyptic genre can be tough to take is because it often brushes pretty uncomfortably close to racism, and it does this because it tends to starkly delineate conflicts between Us and Them, where Us are moral and righteous and are the last bulwark of civilization, and Them are bad, and treat mass groups as homogenous (there’s a reason that “zombie” is used as a code-word on deranged right-wing forums). The kids call them all Grounders because they know no better, but the show already does, and rather than a simplistic divide between order and anarchy, it’s spinning a story of refugees and colonization and not moral conflict, but societal, and as such it’s simply a matter of communication and the lack thereof. To us and the Octavia Rescue Crew, there’s no discernable reason for the sudden Grounder attack except for the quickly assumed territorial reasons, but they have reasons for their aggression yet to be revealed.
            Also, the point is less that Grounders kill three, and more that three of those who followed Bellamy to rescue Octavia got killed, when she didn’t actually need rescuing—not that he or even she knew that, because, again, communication, because Lincoln (who has yet to reveal his name or much of anything about himself, but he’s Lincoln so I’ll call him that) also has reasons for keeping Octavia trapped in a cave, but he in turn has no idea how hellish that is for her and why.
            One of my trademark not-at-all-brief brief asides, another reason the post-apocalyptic genre can be hard to take is, and here I’ll call out The Walking Dead in specific, it can be really enamored with using the threat of sexual violence as a cheap and meaningless escalation of stakes. I’m pretty sure in the canon of that other show, being a sex offender makes one immune to zombie-ism, because there sure seem to be a lot of them running around. Just kidding, there are other, far more stupid justifications for why characters on that show run afoul of rapists so often I won’t go into now. Point here is, at no point in Octavia’s captivity is she menaced sexually. Of course she isn’t, it’s Lincoln, he’s the bad-ass supreme, one of our heroes. But to the show’s credit, it hasn’t played that card yet with any character, where many another similar show would have said “Wouldn’t it make this villain really villainous if he, like, raped too?” or still worse “What if we had our villain simulate a rape, but we make it clear this is happening over clothes and there’s no penetration, which standards and practices will be fine with for some reason, and since it’s not what a Republican congressman would consider ‘real,’ we won’t have to actually deal with it?” Seriously, fuck The Walking Dead. Anyway, it’s a non-factor on The 100. Octavia’s captor has a spooky mask and a red hot knife, and that’s more than enough of a threat. This is not to say ugly sexual politics aren’t an element of the show—we’re reminded of that this episode, point of fact—but threatening rape as a cheap provocation isn’t one of its plays.
            At the heart of the episode is the fraught and contentious relationship between Octavia and Bellamy, one that’s unique on in this setting, as siblings aren’t a thing that can exist on the Ark. Back before he inhaled a bunch of acid, Adam attributed O’s impressive sanity, all things considered, to Bell’s presence in her life, and given some of what we see in the flashbacks, he was probably right. Yes, it’s another judiciously used flashback, and it’s obvious to say but needs to be emphasized here, it’s one thing to hear an off-camera voice and Kane say Octavia lived for 16 years under the floor, and quite another to see the tiny quarters she never left, and the precariousness under which both she and Bellamy grew up.
            Here the show displays an eagerness to explore the ways in which Family can be limiting and constraining, or can compel us to do unwise, or even dangerous things, which is really refreshing, as many, especially in the post-apocalyptic genre tend to give carte blanche to characters acting to protect their loved ones. The 100 rankles against paternalism in many ways, and one of those ways is that Bellamy isn’t off the hook just because everything he’s done is so that he can protect Octavia—his impulse to protect her leads him to being manipulated (by political forces far vaster than what we thought the Ark might house, which we should keep an eye on), and here it leads him (he is the first to note) to get John, Diggs, and Roma killed, all so he can save Octavia, even though (admittedly, no one knows this) she is actually safest with Lincoln, only to drag her back to camp and get into an argument where she blames him for their mother’s death and he blames her for being born.
            Still, as ogre-like as Bellamy can be, the show isn’t without sympathy. We are given to understand him by witnessing Octavia’s traumatic and frightening birth, and while Mrs. Blake seems very nice and gentle, there is the faintest hint of her inflicting further trauma by burdening him to keep Octavia secret and safe lest they all be floated and die, and it’s pretty tragic that their downfall is the result of Bellamy simply wanting his little sister to step out of an 8 by 8 room for the first time in her life. Dude just wanted her to get to go to a dance. Good intentions, though, don’t tend to get rewarded.
            Like I said, Bellamy is the first to say he got three people killed, and while that’s true, it also isn’t necessarily. Roma, Diggs, and John aren’t exactly incredibly well-defined characters, they actually reek of red shirt well before the start getting spectacularly ganked, but Jasper wasn’t out in the woods with them just as Bellamy’s follower, he had his own reasons, and presumably so did they. This is a point the show will return to again and again: ultimately, you have to let everyone who isn’t you make their own decisions.

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