The 100’s eighth episode, and backdoor pilot for a potential prequel series, has a lot of pressure right out of the gate. With a considerable amount of hype, both from press and creator/showrunner Jason Rothenberg, there’s an extra amount of expectation for this episode to be good. Not only does “Anaconda” need to set up a strong foundation for a potential new series, but it also needs to answer questions regarding the mysteries The 100’s seventh season, all while continuing the emotional devastation of yet another reveal that Bellamy Blake is “dead.”
Rothenberg’s strength as a writer here shines in his skill of putting out an engaging pilot episode. While “Anaconda” introduces the audience to the world of the bombs, it spends most of its time fleshing out its protagonist Callie Cadogan. Unlike The 100, however, less time is spent fleshing out other characters and story elements.
While “Anaconda” is a strong introduction to a world mentioned before, the episode doesn’t give much of an insight into what a prequel series would actually look like, as the story told doesn’t progress into the central dilemmas of what could be titled The 100: Second Dawn. “Anaconda” shows us what this show could be like, and it’s very similar to what the original premise of The 100 was. While I would have liked a taste of how this new series would actually look like, there’s still value in the story and conflicts “Anaconda” presents.
“Anaconda” offers a little bit of everything: Grounder origins, sibling relationships and possibly slow-burn romantic dynamics, and world-building all are present. Still, one has to wonder if using the same recipe with a few tweaks is a good idea. After all, most of the problems and dissatisfaction that The 100 struggles with have occurred the longer it aired, with none of these issues being present in The 100’s pilot episode. So, without viewers’ trust, it is difficult to sell a new series, despite how strong the pilot or characters may be. After all, The 100 showed these same strengths in its beginnings as well.
The same problems could arise here. The prequel is a solid piece of work but does very little to convince people who weren’t planning on watching the new series to watch it, while not convincing others who were interested in the new series to tune out, either. “Anaconda” maintains the status quo. With its close connection to The 100, a new series may also struggle with picking up a new audience, unfamiliar to the world of this show.
Still, the most intriguing parts of this episode are it’s connections to the story of season seven, which isn’t surprising since the mysteries reign large. “Anaconda” verifies many fan theories, all the while opening more doors for more questions. Despite potential issues down the line, “Anaconda” is one of the better episodes in a season that doesn’t quite know where its focus is. Hopefully, with a newfound emphasis on Clarke (which is an ironic sentence within itself), it can launch The 100’s final season into something more satisfying.
Leaving where we previously left off, Clarke still attempts to process the news of her lost partner and best friend. It’s noteworthy to mention that the cinematography first focuses on Clarke, centering her pain and shock at the loss of Bellamy. The camera focuses on her before she’s forced to move forward, still deep behind enemy lines.
The slow-motion is a stylistic choice that emphasizes every micro-reaction Clarke has and, while her reaction isn’t on the level of Echo’s response, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ignoring the fact that creators at the helm of The 100 don’t believe that Clarke and Bellamy’s bond warrants Clarke dropping to her knees in grief (which doesn’t make sense to begin with as Bellamy left behind his entire family, including his girlfriend to prioritize Clarke’s life), part of this leveled response may exist to prop up Echo’s arc. Octavia and Clarke were not given the time to grieve, react, or let their pain exist while Echo’s entire story revolves around the dark path Bellamy’s death sends her on.
While Clarke isn’t exactly known for her dramatic reactions to her loved ones dying (in fact, it’s generally the opposite), this is probably the best anyone could have hoped for. In fact, it’s a good reaction, all things considered. Clarke’s pain is evident and it’s clear her world is turning upside down. It’s a relief to see her more engaged in Bellamy’s fate after the snafu that was The 100’s fifth season.
Even as Raven, Clarke, and Miller are the ones most impacted by the news, it’s a nice additional touch to have Miller step in as a general of sorts. As one of Bellamy’s closer friends, he’s clearly aware of Bellamy’s deep meaning to Clarke, and steps in while she wrestles with the news. With Raven also looking to Clarke at the tail end of “The Queen’s Gambit,” their connection is clear.
But, even if I would like to see 43 minutes of Clarke grappling with this news and her friends acknowledging the strongest and most developed relationship of The 100, the plot always takes precedence on this show. Clarke’s slo-mo ceases and she moves to Raven, her face wet with tears, and she vows they will rescue their friends for Bellamy.
It’s interesting how time and time again, when Clarke thinks Bellamy is gone, she always moves to honor his memory, whereas his girlfriend lets her emotions and blind rage consume her, not honoring his memory in the slightest.
Clarke and co. quickly put their game face on, as Anders and Cadogan appear at the door to the Stone Room. Cadogan proceeds into the room and Clarke, beginning to recognize him, allows his people to leave the room in this tense situation. Gabriel, showing his true allegiances, doesn’t leave. Even if they hadn’t had much time together, Gabriel and Clarke make a good team. And he proves that, unlike Echo’s accusations, he’s not just after knowledge. Or maybe he’s disappointed in the processes used to study something that had been a fixation for him for so long. Either way, he’s team Clarke, which makes him all the more lovable.
Clarke, moving through the stages of grief and now exuding anger, recognizes Cadogan, but not for the reasons he assumes. Jaha showed Clarke and Bellamy a video of him when they were looking for shelter from the second Praimfaya, but Cadogan thinks it’s much deeper than that. Another surprise: Cadogan knows trigedasleng and he foils the outdated language that now exists purely as code. But don’t worry, it’ll become relevant again soon, at least in the prequel content. Cadogan, having a revelation as his daughter created the Grounder language, asks if Callie is in the key.
This confuses Clarke and the others and Gabriel swoops in to save them coyly, similar to the way he covered for Clarke in the season six finale. Again, Gabriel and Clarke have such an interesting dynamic, and I love the small parallels these episodes give us, reinforcing Gabriel’s intelligent way of solving problems, juxtaposed to more violent methods of some of the other lead characters.
“Is your daughter in the where?” – Jordan
“The AI in Clarke’s head. What you call The Flame, they call The Key.” – Gabriel
With a pointed look, Gabriel knows that Clarke no longer has The Flame. Once again, it reinforces his allegiances and willingness to help Clarke and the others. It’s a great addition to the scene. Clarke remains cautious, but willing to trust Gabriel, even if he looks like what is now the enemy.
Gabriel is such an effective character, working with the protagonists of The 100 but often coming from a different perspective with different methods. In the end, he has good morals, even if these aren’t commonly understood, Gabriel is a character continually improving, actually embodying the sentiment of doing better.
Cadogan is insistent on figuring out if his daughter is somehow still alive through The Flame. Short answer: no. But Clarke can save face and gain the upper hand thanks to Gabriel’s subtle explanation. Clarke lies, manipulating Cadogan, and she’s good at it. Too bad Bellamy’s “dead,” forcing Clarke not to be agreeable in helping him with his war.
“Well, you killed my best friend, so I’m not sure I want to help you.” – Clarke
It’s a powerful admission, one the show has strayed from explicitly stating so far. Nobody would argue against Bellamy’s role in Clarke’s life. While their feelings lie deep with one another, and many might argue that Bellamy should mean more after six seasons of romantic tropes and loaded feelings, this doesn’t take anything away from that. If anything, this admission and her aversion to helping Cadogan is a massive step up from the way she behaved in season five, leaving Bellamy behind to the whims of his sister.
Clarke demands to see her friends and, in a chilling moment, three Disciples step into the room, removing their helmets to reveal Echo, Octavia, and Diyoza, stone-faced. Where is Hope? What happened to them? Are they actually on Team Bardo, or are they playing the long game? More questions arise in a well-executed cliffhanger, although the score doesn’t quite work as it’s leftover from the previous final scene of the backdoor pilot content.
All in all, this was a well-executed continuation of last week’s cliffhanger. Clarke’s silence, her shock-turned-anger, and a desire to honor the person (aside from Madi) closest to her heart is heartbreaking to watch. My only hope is that when Bellamy is revealed alive, their reunion will reach the level of intimacy and love that binds Bellamy and Clarke together, in a display similar to that of Bellamy bringing Clarke back to life previously.
The relationships and payoff are the most critical part of arcs like this. As The 100 had avoided emotional payoff after the time-jump preceding season five, The 100 should have learned its lesson on what to focus on. However, this season so far has proved that The 100 is disconnected, so this may be the most we get. It’s better than nothing, but not worthy of a final season.
While these scenes focus on Clarke, it’s worth mentioning that other characters also deserve satisfactory reunions. But, as that’s not the focus, there’s not much to say. Raven spent six years in space with Bellamy, Miller was Bellamy’s righthand man, and Jordan grew up on stories of Bellamy, so they all deserve payoff as well. But, as the narrative centers on Clarke and her grief, we’re led to believe this could be the dynamic that garners focus moving forward. It’s as it should be, at least, when Echo isn’t taking up all the space that Clarke and Octavia also deserve to exist in.
Callie is the daughter of Bill Cadogan, but they’re not on great terms. Callie is an activist, and she belongs to a group called Tree Crew. Yeah, that. Meanwhile, her father doesn’t believe in saving the world but surviving the death of this one and possibly going to a new one.
After Callie and her friend return from a protest that became violent, Callie fixes her friend up using medic skills learned from her mother. They have a cute dynamic, but some of the framing seems to indicate that Callie might end up being a queer character. That should give anyone pause considering the sometimes problematic ways The 100 has treated LGBT characters in the past.
But, this is The 100, and this episode takes place on the day of the apocalypse. Even the television makes references to prior knowledge. ALIE set off the bombs on the day the eleventh billion person was born, and while news report references Becca’s seclusion on her space station as she works on a new project, which we know to be ALIE II or The Flame.
Before Callie can make it back to the protest, she has a brief conversation with her brother, Reese, who is supportive of their father’s cult, The Second Dawn. Callie is not, to the point where she dropped out of MIT because of its fascism.
“Calling dropping out of MIT to join a protest movement dedicated to solving and unsolvable problem a bad choice is an insult to bad choices.” – Bill Cadogan
This conversation is indicative of their differences that will later be highlighted. Callie wants to solve the problems in front of her. She wants to change the world. Callie has hope. Cadogan has decided Earth is hopeless, and instead opts to leave the problems behind, believing starting anew will solve humanity’s problems.
However, in the middle of Cadogan’s parental scolding, ALIE sets off the bombs, prompting Anaconda, their plan to survive the end of the world. Callie and her mother gather their doomsday bags and get on a helicopter. Callie’s struggle is evident as her mother forces her to leave her best friend behind. She isn’t a level 12, and only 12th levels are allowed inside the bunker. Foreshadowing Callie’s want to save everybody, the mood is dark as they watch the bombs fall as they head to the bunker, leaving everyone else to perish.
THE SECOND DAWN
Chaos reigns as scared survivors enter the bunker and it’s not unlike the chaos that occurred when the bunker filled up at the end of season four. A man we learn is August enters, but his girlfriend isn’t allowed entrance. She’s not a level twelve. As the bombs land above the bunker, Callie bids the majority of the human race goodbye, murmuring, “Yu gonplei ste odon.” Callie had conveniently created what would become trigedasleng as a child.
Meanwhile, Cadogan is experimenting with his anomaly stone he had found at Machu Pichu. He believes it was sent to save the human race. Figuring out that the code is meant for space travel (seven points are needed to chart a course), Cadogan attempts to open the anomaly, but he can’t hack it.
With 92% of the bunker filled, the family discusses using that extra space as reserves, Callie returns to the bunker door, committed to saving more people. She meets up with August and proposes a plan to save more people. Attempting to enact their plan, the two begin to bond, figuring out they both are protesters. This is sure to be the Bellarke dynamic if the series is picked up.
“I left my best friend to die when there’s room in this bunker. I say we fill it up. Sound good?” – Callie
The two’s plan is interrupted and, after an emotional conversation between estranged brother and sister, Callie’s plan is foiled. Reese desperately wants to impress his father, guiding him not to let anyone else inside, solidifying the cracks in the two sibling’s relationships.
“This won’t make him love you anymore.” – Callie
THE COMMANDER’S DESCENT
Two years later, we pick up with Callie and Reese on a ground team, scavenging. Callie looks for supplies to help the mentally ill, heavily implying that the morale among those in the bunker is low. Becca’s pod descends upon Earth before they make it back to the bunker. Reese wants to ignore it as their existence is a secret (interesting), but Callie mentions Cadogan had friends on the space stations. Much to Callie’s delight, Becca emerges from the pod, able to breathe the air.
A quick refresher: Becca first developed nightblood and Mind Drives to assist the Eligius teams. Thereafter, she created ALIE. That project didn’t go as planned, as ALIE’s solution to humanity’s problems was population reduction. This caused Becca to retreat to her space station, Polaris, where she worked on The Flame and eventually turned herself into a Nightblood, giving her radiation immunity. She was forced to return to Earth when the other unified stations destroyed her space station, later to be known as The Ark.
After retrieving Becca, she secretly injects Tristan with her serum, which Callie later deems “Nightblood” for her language. The problem is Cadogan is a dictator, according to Callie, and Becca’s existence threatens his power. When Becca goes to meet Cadogan, however, she begins hearing a sonic-type noise emitted from the anomaly stone. The Flame allows Becca to understand the stone in a way others can’t, allowing her to open up the anomaly.
Becca and Callie think things through, which cannot be said for when Clarke and her friends passed through the anomaly, having no idea what the other side would hold for them. While Becca and Callie want to inoculate the bunker population, primarily due to the mental health and high rate of suicide within the community, Cadogan, Gemma, and Reese believe the stone is the answer to their prayers, and opts not to give the bunker the serum. This encapsulates the major conflict between Cadogan and Becca.
Becca studies the stone further, going as far as to hide her notes from Cadogan, and discovers a unique code on the stone that sucks her into it. Callie helps her come to this revelation and watches her as this all happens.
By the time Becca returns, Cadogan and Reese have entered the room, enamored by the stone’s new glowing state. Becca is shaken and has a new lease on the stone, as it granted her a vision when it sucked her inside it.
“If you saw what I saw, you would let me shut it down.” – Becca
“Tell me what you saw, and I might.” – Cadogan
“Judgement day.” – Becca
Apocalypses must come in threes. At this point, Cadogan’s more psychotic side comes into play, as he shuts Becca away.
Days later, Callie breaks into Becca’s cell. Reese found her notes about The Flame, so there’s no more hiding her connection to the stone. Becca knows her death is impending, so she informs Callie about its properties. She tells her about the backdoor exit for its removal without death and she reiterates what the audience has heard before about The Flame needing to find the right mind.
“In the right mind, I believe with all my heart, it can save the world.” – Becca
But, it’s too late. Becca is burned at the stake and Reese collects The Flame.
After Reese returns with The Flame, Callie is angry. She blames him, her mother, her father, for letting this happen. She trusted Becca, even as a child, so she does whatever is necessary to retrieve it and keep it from falling into the wrong hands, her father’s hands. Callie stops a scuffle between the people following her (who are now Nightbloods) and Reese’s people (interestingly, now called Disciples) by prompting a fight, just between the two of them. It looks like the bunker was always supposed to be a fighting pit of sorts.
In one of the best moments of the episode, Callie whips out a gun and shoots Reese, non-lethally, to take The Flame and lead her people out from the bunker. Her mother stays behind, to hold off Cadogan, a sacrificial move that reminded me of Miller’s father giving his life so his son would have a chance.
“It’s okay. I’ve been to Earth, I rather see what’s behind door number two.” – Gemma
Callie (and August, who has been acting as her right-hand) manage to make it to the door, but the outer door won’t open until the inner door is closed. Gemma rushes to close it, foiling Cadogan’s wishes. In an act of revenge, Cadogan locks Gemma out of the bunker before commanding Reese to get the AI.
In the last minutes of the episode, Callie leads what will become the grounders on the surface, while Cadogan leads his flock through the anomaly, to start a new society on Bardo.
AS A NEW SERIES
As a backdoor pilot episode, “Anaconda” was largely successful at setting up a new world. That’s not to say there weren’t problems either.
“Anaconda” does a great job at fleshing out a potential new series’ lead character, although she does seem to be a mix of The 100’s lead characters, Bellamy and Clarke. Callie is highly likable and Iola Evans has the talent to carry a new series. Callie is intelligent, passionate, and caring, yet cutthroat and intense. At the same time, the other characters that will likely be present if the series is picked up weren’t fleshed out to the same degree. August and Reese were undoubtedly present, but there’s not a lot of introspection or development there yet. Many of these character dynamics also seem like dynamics from The 100, just slightly altered, embellished, or exaggerated. Co-leaders? Been there. Siblings at each other’s throats? Done that.
Not to mention the potential plot set-up for what would be the new series. As “Anaconda” ends, it leaves a group of young people trying to forge their way and create their own society on a ravaged Earth. Except, this time, they have a Flame. With what was learned in the final moments of this episode, it essentially seems like a copy of the original, except we know where they end up, which is odd. This episode clarifies that this group of kids (who will likely turn into found-family) are essentially a privileged section of society who later become what the Grounders are: a society torn by clan lines who use violence to set their leaders and solve their conflicts. How will The 100: Second Dawn rationalize that choice?
Another negative mark on the prequel is the fact that the reveal of the origins of trigedasleng seems more like a way to silence critiques of its quick origination of grounders and the unlikelihood of a language sprouting in less than one hundred years.
“Anaconda” also doesn’t give insight to what the new series will look like. Like the anomaly, this episode is ultimately a bridge instead of a taste of a new show. We can guess at what this new series will look like, but really, all there is are assumptions.
All in all, though, “Anaconda” does what Jason Rothenberg wants it to do. It was an entertaining episode, but nothing groundbreaking. However, it also doesn’t do anything to deter fans who are already interested in this prequel. This episode purely exists, and unless viewers want to watch another version of the same show all over again, it’s hard to see The 100: Second Dawn garnering a fanbase comparable to the following that the original series gained throughout its run.
AS A SEASON SEVEN EPISODE
The best parts of “Anaconda” actually relate to the current season, as that’s where the primary investment lies. Probably the biggest shame of the newly introduced elements of The 100 in season seven is that they seem like a convenient bridge to gap the series in which interest lies. The anomaly information is intriguing, but that’s not the point of the episode. It’s a shame that the anomaly is used primarily in this fashion, as it would have made for an interesting multiple seasons-long arc that could bring together plot and character development and relationships, which the show frequently has issues balancing.
This new “judgment day” is fascinating and opens up a lot of new opportunities and arcs for the remaining eight episodes of The 100. Will they be able to recreate a version of The Flame that can communicate with the stone? If so, my money is on Raven, considering her experience with Becca’s technology and her enhancements leftover from ALIE’s past residence inside her brain. While The Flame’s existence as the key isn’t unpredictable, it’s a good tie-in, and now that The Flame is finally dead, I don’t mind a story related to the AI technology.
While some questions are answered, many more questions arise. What happened to the stone? Did Cadogan just leave it there? “Anaconda” gives further insight to Cadogan, who will surely be the main antagonist for the second half of the season, but his callousness towards Callie, yet his desperation to meet her again in the current-day events is questionable.
Overall, “Anaconda” is one of the strongest episodes of the season, but it’s still not comparable to episodes like “Welcome to Bardo,” which narrows its focus on the series-long protagonist instead of introducing us to new ones or focusing on supporting characters. Still, “Anaconda” successfully executed what it was built to do, and in an entertaining fashion, with strong performances and concise world-building choices.
What did you think of the episode? Are you going to tune into the prequel? Let us know! And don’t forget to catch The 100 next week at 8/7c on The CW.