“That was amazing!...Am I horrible for feeling that?”
Making survival a dominant theme, nearly always, means making deprivation a theme as well—generally, characters struggle to survive because they are don’t have enough stuff to easily survive. Kinda the point, you might say, to examine the problems and solutions presented by deprivation. In theory, “survival” is one of the dominant themes of that other show, you know, The Walking Dead, in practice less so. Oh, sure, they’ve had scenes where all the characters share the same can of slop, and everyone is real dirty most of the time, but there are two things in particular that are quite plentiful—ammo and gas. Characters on that show seem to have an unlimited supply of bullets for their trusty guns and gas for their trucks, years after the society that made those things so easy to acquire has fallen apart. So it’s less “an examination of survival,” and more “Conservative porn,” when I’m feeling less than generous toward it, which, I won’t lie, is often. Eternally reliable on that show is the gun. For that reason, this pretty silly and pretty fun episode has one of my favorite single moments: after much build-up and bravado, when Bellamy pulls the trigger on the guns he and Clarke have found, it doesn’t work. The bullet is a dud.
Guns are quite unreliable on The 100, especially at this early stage. The climax of the episode is a great bit of farce, where any sort of over-blown skill at shooting takes a decided backseat to Bellamy, Clarke, and Dax all scrambling for bullets that actually work and guns that actually exist. I love it. Clarke even has to give up on the idea of getting a shot off and uses hers as a club (not very well). It’s hilarious and refreshing. In later episodes, it will be made clear that someone is making fresh bullets and everyone, characters and audience, will be reminded that ammunition is limited—signs the idea of “survival” is taken seriously.
Despite some obvious indications to the contrary, it’s taken seriously in this episode, too, despite the story being about all the kids inadvertently eating some psychoactive mold and tripping balls. It’s for the most part monumentally silly—for the most part, everyone’s high is overly theatrical in that very TV way, and the “brooms” bit does rather highlight that this show didn’t inherit Buffy’s facility for linguistic whimsy, but it doesn’t break anything. More important at the moment than that everyone but Finn, Raven, and Octavia (mostly) wants to give the ground a hug is how they came to be in that state, which is because they’re scrounging for food, and in the process eat a bunch of contaminated nuts. We get to this silly circumstance because of deprivation and the struggle to survive in a hostile environment, too.
The problem with the 100 engaging in the frivolity of a little harmless psycho freak out (besides the fact that few of them have the peace of mind for a good trip) is that their situation isn’t frivolous at all, in ways they have yet to grasp, and being of altered mind leaves them vulnerable to a myriad of dangers. Jasper’s non-existent Grounder speaks to where they think their biggest threat comes from, but true to form it’s not the Outsider and the Other that puts them at the most risk. Communication with the Ark has been restored, opening up a whole host of new problems—in particular, Bellamy has unwittingly made himself a very expendable pawn of a full-blown far-reaching conspiracy, and through the communicator, that reach now extends to the ground. Bell has similarly misjudged his own regrets and remorses, so his trip helpfully lets his subconscious set him straight. I’m not exactly a huge fan of the flourish of having visions of dead characters show up to showily symbolize guilt, but I’m willing to accept them here, both for Bellamy and Clarke, because the phantoms of Jake, Jaha, and the unquiet dead are unambiguously drug-induced (also both reveries are interrupted by blows to the head). Besides, Bell’s in particular is well-shot and evocative.
Along with Kane, Bellamy was very obviously an antagonist in the earlier episodes, and the culling represents something of a turning point for both of them. But while the actions Kane undertook to get to that event were driven by a genuine desire to limit the deaths circumstance cruelly demanded, Bellamy isn’t quite so lucky—everything he did came from a very selfish place, and his justification now hates him, so his reckoning requiring a bit of a goose to actually come out is sensible, and it appears to knock a bit of sensibility into him. Good timing, given all the guns they found.But, Christ, Finn, lay the fuck off the sanctimony.