As the final season of The 100 passes the half-way point, there doesn’t appear to be much potential for change. Any hope for the narrative to shift to center on the protagonists of past seasons — namely Clarke, Bellamy, and Octavia — is dwindling. Clarke has been absent or having only a few minutes of screen time in five out of nine episodes, Bellamy is still “dead,” and there are only a few glimpses of Octavia having her own agency while mostly informing Hope’s story. It’s looking bleak.
With each subsequent episode, any likelihood of the show returning to it’s past form dwindles. The absence of developed characters unfortunately detracts from the science-fiction elements of Bardo, an interesting plot that certainly should have been introduced in an earlier season to explore in its entirety.
And while Bardo is interesting, the potential it could have if focused on stronger characters like Clarke, Bellamy, and Raven is hard to miss. Instead, it focuses on Hope, a newbie, Echo, a character who is finally going on a journey and leaning into a characterization that was true and subtle onscreen while denied offscreen, and Octavia, another victim of growth too late.
It seems that despite the different avenues the creative team attempts, it always backfires. The disconnect between the show and the audience is more clear than ever. Not to mention the plot in Sanctum which is so uncompelling that it’s only saved by the acting prowess of Richard Harmon, Luisa D’Oliveira, Adina Porter, and JR Bourne.
While some plot elements are interesting, the character focus of this season continues with “The Flock,” making the episode somewhat complex. It furthers the story, but the narrative continues to advance with time-jumps, only to spend the next episode presenting flashbacks of these jumps, neglecting the new cliffhangers that are intriguing. Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell the story in a more linear fashion?
But this is The 100 season seven, where most everything is thrown out the window, and the audience is expected to accept this new story complete with new narrative mechanisms, new dynamics, and new protagonists.
Let’s Talk About Echo Again
Much like her name, somehow the conversation always leads back to this not-so-great spy. Perhaps she’s actually doing a better job now, though it’s quite difficult to discern.
In “The Flock,” we see the training of Diyoza, Octavia, Echo, and Hope that leaves the first three as Disciples when Clarke and co. finally make it to Bardo. Each of the characters take the training differently. Hope struggles with the training, the hatred of Bardo ingrained in her; her entire purpose was always to save her family from the Disciples. Diyoza handles the situation well, as does Octavia, as their survival instincts kick in.
Echo handles the training well, almost too well. In fact, not only does she succeed at integrating into the Bardo society, but she excels at it. To the point that raises a question: has she actually become a believer or is she simply trying to gain Anders’ trust at the expense of the people who are supposedly her friends? There’s evidence for both.
Echo has been heralded as a great spy in past seasons, even though her spy attempts fail most of the time, save perhaps for the one people hold against her the most: the destruction of Mt. Weather. However, Echo easily slips behind enemy lines and becoming one of them works for the past narrative of Echo’s purpose and strengths. With the death of Bellamy, this also makes sense, as revenge is a natural thing for such a volatile character to want. Echo provides plenty of shifty glances and suspect quotes to back this hypothesis up.
If this is true, this doesn’t paint Echo in the best light. Fitting in is one thing, but Echo goes over the top. She turns on her “friends” in order to gain an apparent favor with Anders by shooting them. But, when Gabriel shot the group he got a fair amount of flack for the apparent “betrayal.” Gabriel had no choice, but Echo uses this method to elevate herself above the others.
Speaking of betrayal, she all but betrays Hope when she sentences her to a full five years in Penance, knowing the effect and life it would take away from someone she just recently spent that amount of time with. This action is extreme and one that could indicate Echo’s need to rise to the top of the ranks in order to reach Anders and carry out her possibly unnamed plan. That said, this may not be the case either, as Diyoza and Octavia display shock at the decision.
Echo is clearly taking this several steps farther than Octavia and Diyoza, as their steps don’t put others in the group at harm. They may have passed the final test, but there’s no friendly fire. What if Echo actually subscribes to the philosophies and culture of Bardo? This scenario could likely be as possible as her acting as a spy.
What is more important to Echo, avenging Bellamy or replacing him? Before their connection, she had bounced from leader to leader. First, it was Nia, then Roan (although she stretched the bounds of her role in this relationship by betraying his honor), and then finally Bellamy. The thing is, Bardo provides everything Echo seeks for as a person.
You just like having someone give you orders again so you don’t have to think for yourself. – Hope
Echo searches for a leader and there aren’t a lot of leaders more convicted in their beliefs and certain in their goals than Anders is. He provides her a direct path, something that she searches and yearns for. Bellamy provided direction and, whenever that direction didn’t align with her gut instinct, Echo succumbed to Bellamy’s wishes. Not only that, but as The 100 has told its audience several times, Echo’s childhood was rough. Her parents were taken away from her and from then on she lived a life of servitude no matter the costs. Everything in Bardo is provided for her. A bed, food, and a purpose. As she sees the fetuses in artificial wombs, Echo looks amazed and later in the classroom she admits that their childhoods were better than hers.
These kids had it better than I ever did. – Echo
In the spy theory, Echo goes overboard in order to gain Anders’s trust. But, maybe she does these things because after all she’s seen, what Anders is telling her makes sense in her mind. This is not to say Echo’s mind won’t change later when she meets Clarke again or once Bellamy’s death is revealed to be misunderstood or a fabrication. For now, Bardo could be the answer to every problem Echo has ever had. There are no questions or doubts. Bardo is dedicated to a mission, much like Echo has tried to do but suppressed by others’ morality.
The latter theory fits in more consistently with the arc she’s moved along this season. Who is Echo without Bellamy? More importantly, who is Echo without a leader? Why can’t she form any relationships with anyone around her if they aren’t commanding her? It seems more likely that Echo really does believe in everything Bardo offers her, as it provides her a solid place that she has no reason to question. Whether she has to come to terms with that (most likely due to Chekov’s locked closet with a civilization-ending substance) by the end of the season is another question, but one that The 100 seems to want to answer as season seven takes the antagonist-turned-shoehorned-love-interest and turns her into a protagonist. As Jason Rothenberg stated, this season is much of her story, no matter how frustrating the space Echo’s arc takes up is and how too late this story comes about.
People in Bardo Who Are Not Echo
Several other things happen in Bardo and the plot revolves around both Echo and Hope’s actions. Anders gives the team a look at what happened to the people before them. In a moment that should have been more interesting, the first Disciple shows Hope and co. the surface, which brings Octavia to the realization that Gabriel saved them.
Gabriel saved us. – Octavia
Well, mostly. Levitt later clarifies that the surface is survivable for maybe an hour or two and he wanted time to come up with a new plan. He didn’t think this out at all. Since Gabriel adds heart and a unique perspective to an overall lackluster season, this small moment is very much appreciated, especially with how willing and quickly the others labeled him as a traitor.
In fact, Gabriel is the opposite of a traitor. While Echo doubles-down on actions that could harm her friends while possibly playing a double agent, Gabriel does the exact opposite, taking every moment while undercover to help Clarke and her friends whenever possible. (see: “Adjustment Protocol” and “Anaconda.”) He’s great.
But after showing them the battle they’re preparing to fight — which doesn’t go far enough into the lore for my taste and is also accompanied by subpar effects — and witnessing that Anders has four highly trained soldiers on his hand from the get-go, Anders comes to the realization that the main obstacle he faces is breaking them of their bonds.
This seems easy for Echo, but almost impossible for Hope. Hope struggles throughout the episode taking these changes in stride, unlike the rest of her fellow warriors. It’s probably the first time that the audience is able to sympathize with the young woman, especially as Echo sentences her to five years of isolation for basically being human.
You’ve got to bury your love and your anger and everything else so deep that they’ll never find it. – Diyoza
Hope is unable to put her feelings for Bardo aside, especially as Anders taunts her with her relationship with Dev. If anyone’s true motivations are evident, it’s Hope’s who confesses in her final test that she just wants to save her friends (including Gabriel, which is a nice surprise since she’s tended to put him lower on the totem pole than the rest in the past) and escape Bardo.
If anything, this proves to the others that they need to keep their game faces on and perhaps not just in front of the Disciples, but in front of Echo too, based on her harsh behavior and reactions.
Diyoza handles this situation pretty well. She’s played the most roles out of the ensemble, from Navy SEAL to freedom fighter, terrorist to convict and rebellion leader. Her greatest struggle is trying to keep Hope on the right path, probably to keep them together and to continue her goal of keeping her daughter safe.
Octavia is on a similar trajectory as Diyoza. The most interesting arc for her in “The Flock” is her romantic development with Levitt. However, their moment, while sultry, doesn’t seem very genuine on Octavia’s part. The entire perspective of Octavia feels like she’s playing the long-game. Her interest in Levitt certainly feels situational and it increases her safety in Bardo going forward. Not to mention, it does feel a little bit creepy, considering Levitt had access to her every memory up until when she stabbed Pike.
Levitt doesn’t seem totally on Bardo’s side or maybe he just cares about Octavia and wants her to become one of them. Whatever his core motivations are, this scene will offers Octavia some much-needed joy in her life (without it being ripped away from her).
This story is over-extended and could have been told in a shorter amount of time. Now that Clarke and co. have made it to Bardo, perhaps this whole flash-forward and flashback cycle can end and the main plot can finally get underway.
Still, it’s a crime that this season has such interesting lore, yet focuses on some of the most uninteresting characters. Octavia, Diyoza, and Anders carry the Bardo plot, and every opportunity the narrative receives to sideline Clarke, it tends to take. The 100 doesn’t feel like The 100 anymore and it’s lost a good portion of its heart.
As the season heads into its final stretch of episodes, it would be a massive mistake not to shift the focus onto characters that have a more developed and consistent storyline and characterization. Even Octavia deserves to come into her own. The only scene that truly feels focused on her perspective is the scene with Levitt, which many could take as a manipulative action. Octavia has grown, but it’s hard to see that when The 100 constantly hurtles Echo and Hope in front of the character more deserving of a resolution. Unfortunately, it’s what we’ve come to expect from this season.
Sheid Hits the Fan
There isn’t much to say about the Sanctum plot, other than its mostly not very character-driven. With Nikki threatening to kill Emori, she asks for Raven, Daniel (Murphy), and Russell (Sheidheda) to be delivered. The problem is Raven is off-world and Indra, having returned, has no clue to her whereabouts. But, with thanks to Russell (who is always plotting), they stall, and Indra uses a secret passage to access the hostage room, regaining order.
Do not open these doors. You might hear disturbing things, but these are my orders. – Indra
Not before all of the Primes’ real identities are revealed, which would’ve sent all of Sanctum into chaos even before Indra’s questionable decision to leave Russheda alone with all of his believers. Granted, she believed they would murder him after knowing his deception, but Indra should know better. After all, her own mother knelt to Sheidheda when he was commander. Of course, he’s powerful and the followers are no match for his skills.
There is an ancient saying. “What is a king without subjects?” But I ask: what are subjects without a king? They are but lost sheep. Confused and scared, needing guidance and protection from the wolf who delights in their slaughter. – Sheidheda
To make matters worse, Murphy doesn’t watch his mouth and blurts out to Wonkru members that Russell is Sheidheda, shifting their allegiance without a second’s delay.
This plot is less than desirable, only saved by the powerful performances of the characters leading this storyline. To this point, JR Bourne is powerful as Sheidheda. With season six airing a year ago, I wonder how he encompassed any other role besides that of The Dark Commander and whether his performance last season inspired his becoming his endgame character or whether that was always the intention. Whatever the case, this is the role he was meant to play in this universe.
Although Murphy’s comment seemed too convenient, Emori also holds strength as she resists against Nikki’s whims. Indra’s appearance was convenient as well, but at least the Sanctum characters finally know that their friends are missing. It will probably still taken them a few episodes to get to that corner of the plot, seeing as their in hot water now.
However, getting these characters, specifically Madi and Sheidheda, seems to be the endgame here. After all, they have much heavier connections to The Flame than Clarke does, most likely due to the amount of time The Flame was connected to their neural network. Sheidheda can access memories in The Flame that happened after he died, while Madi still draws images of memories. One of them is bound to access needed to perhaps create a new AI or memories that could connect Cadogan to Becca or Callie, although it’s unlikely she’s in the AI as she served more as the first Flamekeeper.
So, if it feels like Sanctum is recycling conflicts to embellish them and is stalling, odds are it’s because Sanctum is stalling until these characters are needed and The 100 cannot drop that location for five-plus episodes on end.
A Little Sacrifice
Approaching the tenth episode of The 100’s farewell season, there still remains a lot of hope. This entire season has been a case of baited breath. Waiting for Clarke to retake her role as protagonist. Holding out hope for Bellamy’s return from the dead and plot relevance beyond a reason for Echo to become her most Echo. Hoping that plots will converge and the extra episodes added to season will be utilized for resolution and catharsis.
Still, nine episodes into season seven and none of these things have come to fruition. The disconnect between the show and what it’s popular for has reached a level that there is no longer turning back from. Unless Bellamy can miraculously return, get with Clarke, and have a story of his own; unless Clarke can surprisingly end the show happy, in love, with a family, and unless Octavia has a chance to integrate back in with both of her families (the one with Bellamy and the delinquents and the one with the Diyozas), then this season doesn’t seem to have the capacity to offer much of anything to viewers.
There are other characters who deserve catharsis as well, but at least they have a presence this season, unlike the aforementioned characters. Murphy, Emori, Echo, and Raven all seem to have plot points of their own, but there’s no use in ignoring and failing to keep mentioning the way the show has failed some of its most prolific characters. But, The 100 falls in a similar trap that Game of Thrones had in its final season: an unfocused plot and characters who suffer as a result.
But the fat lady has not yet sung and, as two missing (and one hopefully still alive) characters have previously reminded us, as long as we’re still breathing, there still is hope.
As the next episode approaches, it feels like a big sacrifice to have invested in this show, only to be treated with indifference. It’s disingenuous to abandon a story in the way The 100 has in its final season and, arguably, in its final three seasons. Yet, here we are, holding onto the hope that such well-developed and intriguing characters will surface once more.
The 100 will be back with a new episode, titled “A Little Sacrifice, on August 5.