Jason Rothenberg, creator of The 100 once said that this show is not one that’s about relationships, and that seems like quite a contradictory statement given what the show has ended up being about and what this week’s “Many Happy Returns” offered us. For all the mysteries and running around the wilderness, this one is a pretty steady episode. We don’t get too far in anything, the advances are relatively small. By the episode’s end we haven’t seen a bit of Mount Weather or anyone in it, we know nothing of Lincoln, Finn and Bellamy haven’t gotten anywhere near their destination, but there’s a bunch of character work in this one, particularly in relationships between these people, making it one of the The 100‘s best episodes yet.
But it’s also one of the worst for the sheer fact that the show has no idea when it has a good thing. It killed Wells, which was a phenomenal waste, and this week we say goodbye to Anya which is also pretty freaking wasteful. Besides the selfishness of just wanting Dichen Lachmann to spend some time on my television screen on a weekly basis, there was just a lot going for Anya as a character. She’s Clarke, in Grounder form. For all their differences, they share some key traits. They’re leaders, equally determined and almost as vengeful, and their trek through the forest is just as tense as expected. Clarke’s dragged around as they flee the Mountain Men, Anya bites her tracker out of her arm rather than let Clarke cut it out, and Clarke gains the upperhand by stabbing Anya with a tranquilizer dart.
The 100 doesn’t forget about Anya’s and Clarke’s natural animosity toward one another, even as Clarke’s trying to get Anya on the same page. There’s never a sense of Anya and Clarke being united other than spatially, Anya making Clarke her prisoner and then their positions being reversed. It’s lingering there obviously, the potential of the two of them becoming allies, but Anya deems Clarke too weak. She doesn’t know Clarke like we do, and it’s only when the two are engaged in a wonderfully shot fight sequence that Anya finds any worth in Clarke at all.
The fight is perhaps one of the most artful things the show has done so far. Anya and Clarke fight against a woodland backdrop, the setting sun breaking through the trees, and the fight itself is well choreographed. It’s enough to reveal Anya’s superior training, matched only by Clarke’s sheer desperation to survive. There are moments where it really is unclear who’s going to come out with the upperhand, despite knowing that it’s more likely to be Clarke since The 100‘s not about to kill off one of its mains in favor of a guest character. But its brutal enough that Clarke looks to be in a particularly rough spot, only getting the upperhand by taking advantage of Anya’s injury. And just when Clarke’s about to kill her, Clarke spots Raven’s beacon rising into the air.
Raven returns to work this episode, hobbling on crutches. Seeing her up and about it actually very comforting, considering how we last saw her. Raven’s still coping, but she’s relieved to get back to work and make herself useful on a beacon Sinclair hopes will draw other Ark survivors to them. That relief turns to depression when she’s reminded of how much her leg has limited her, but she’s reluctant to accept any kind of pity from other people, including Wick (Steve Talley).
The seams of this particular partnership are painfully apparent, as The 100 seems to be working some kind of angle with the two of them and their bantering, which doesn’t ring as genuine as it wants it to, perhaps because we don’t really know Wick and we really don’t know him in relation to Raven. But she’s otherwise (and quite conspicuously) isolated from the people she does know, like Abby, who is nowhere to be seen. So Wick is the only person we have at Raven’s side while she grits her teeth through her work, mentally willing her leg to cooperate. Raven adjusting to her new reality has the makings of something strong and internal, a different struggle from the ones we’ve been seeing thus far. Everyone’s been caught up in choosing who they are and who they can be in a situation like this one, but those conflicts have been deeply embedded in whatever external conflict is brewing. This one is purely Raven, and her glee at realizing that she’s still capable of great mechanical feats even with her disability is a nice feel-good moment.
In any case, the camp is put on high alert which means that when Clarke and Anya get close, they’re both shot. Of course this comes right after they’ve come to an agreement about allying together to fight Mount Weather, a huge step in the right direction for both these groups. Then Anya dies. And suddenly the entire episode has me in a bad mood, disappointed and irritated at the waste of one of its best recurring characters. And it’s particularly awful with Murphy still alive and kicking, pushing through his redemption arc like an annoying asshole champ.
On the road to that Grounder prison camp where none of their friends will actually be, Bellamy, Finn and Murphy stumble upon one of the Ark stations, its crash landing having killed everyone on board with the exception of one. Mel (jury’s still out on if she’ll become important down the road) dangles precariously from a branch on a cliffside, and Finn wants to keep going and leave her there (because of course she’ll still be hanging there when they swing back around). But a formerly nameless extra named Charlie (or was it Sterling?) wants to save his friend. Charlie/Sterling dies in the process (of course), not because we’re supposed to care about him or anything, but because we’re supposed to reminded of how treacherous their existence on Earth is. (Almost) Anyone can die at any time, and they will if they’re not careful.
But Bellamy, proving himself to be taking back his leadership role from Finn and Murphy, insists on finishing the job and offers to lower himself down. Since Bellamy is with Clarke The 100‘s importance roster, he also wasn’t going to die though the show at least makes a compelling case for why he and Mel would be. The rescue attempt is interrupted by Grounders and their arrows, and this is after one of their makeshift ropes breaks. Because we’re supposed to be liking Murphy these days, he essentially holds Bellamy and Mel on his own. But is this supposed to make up for the season’s worth of bad behavior on Murphy’s part? Are we all over it now? Bellamy’s over it enough to let Finn and Murphy head off without him but with a gun, now seemingly having reached an understanding.
Most of my annoyance at this particular plot point gets overshadowed by the happier occasion of Octavia and Bellamy suddenly reunited. Blowing Lincoln’s horn, Octavia draws away the attacking Grounders and saves all their butts. The reunions that are on their way are surely going to be one of the best parts of the show, seeing as how the show has committed so fully to keeping most of their characters on what seem to be opposite ends of the Earth. Octavia and Bellamy’s reunion is muted but still strong, and it comes at prime time to maintain Octavia’s place in the show’s narrative.
Octavia’s been motivated by Lincoln thus far, and now that she thinks he’s dead she has no reason to explore the wilderness in search of him. Now she has something to put her hands on and a project to take part in. Her people need her help, now more than ever now that Clarke’s back at camp and is going to tell them all about Mount Weather. The transformation Octavia’s gone through in even so short of time is apparent as soon as she reunites with the others. She’s Octavia of the Sky People, a girl whose gained the begrudging respect of at least a few Grounders, lost her boyfriend and taken on a bunch of Reapers, and it shows. Even hers and Bellamy’s interactions are tinged with new gravity. Bellamy no longer sees her as his helpless younger sister, but his partner in getting his injured people back to safety.
As wonderful as it is to see Bellamy and Octavia together again, it’s going to be even wilder whenever Jaha reunites with his people. Who knows when that will be since Jaha really does seem to be on the opposite end of the Earth. That’s not totally likely given that he lands in a place where Sky People have bounties on their heads, implying that there is some talk going around about them and these people are all close enough to actually be sharing these conversations. But Jaha’s not going to find his way to them anytime soon.
Taken in by a family, Jaha seems to be okay for now. Sienna (Luvia Petersen) feeds him while Jaha develops a friendship with her son Zoran disfigured by radiation. Everything Jaha does now is informed by Wells, a lingering specter in the show’s periphery. When Jaha is found all he has is the chess piece he brought down with him, and he gifts it to Zoran before he’s dragged off by “bad men” looking for Sky People. He’s not angry about being betrayed for the bounty, sympathetic to Sienna’s hope of finding a home for herself and her family, particularly Zoran. Jaha sacrificed his son because he was Chancellor and chose to be more of a leader than a father, a decision he’ll be forever have to live with now that Wells is gone. So he doesn’t fault Sienna for choosing her son and her family over a stranger like him, despite not knowing what’s coming for him.
- But really. Where is Jaha?
- Byrne is annoying, but she wasn’t wrong about the beacon. I certaily wondered if Grounders may come to investigate it.
- Abby’s absence really bothers me in this episode. She really should have been around considering what was going down in Camp Jaha.
- So what are Finn and Murphy actually going to find at this Grounder prison place? Because it’s not going to be anything good.
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