There’s something that happens when faced with an enemy, something that often arises quickly and surprisingly, without some even realizing that it’s taken place. This enemy becomes less than human, more animal which makes them easier to hurt and to kill. By erasing the humanity of a group of people, it becomes easier to take extreme and violent action, to experiment on them, to abuse them, to terrorize them. In many ways The 100 is a commentary on lots of things (once again reminding me of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica reboot), a big one being war. The lengths people go to for survival is at the top of its list of things in need of exploration, and whether or not these lengths mean that they become the monsters rather than the people they’re fighting.
We seem to know who are heroes are, and designating them heroes means there are some things they just do not do. The first season had people making all kinds of complicated and questionable choices, sending friends out of airlocks, torturing prisoners, planting bombs on bridges, etc. But we still knew who they were. They did these things out of necessity, or at least some perceived necessity. But we haven’t seen any of our so-called heroes go on a shooting spree, killing several Grounders all rounded up in a pen and trying to escape.
“Human Trials” is an episode that shines a light on the dehumanizing nature of the conflict our characters find themselves in. Finn and Murphy still look for Clarke and the others, finding their way to Lincoln’s village where they put everyone in a holding likely reserved for animals and hold them captive before Finn kills most of them. Then there’s Lincoln at Mount Weather, referred to as a “thoroughbred”, injected with a serum that gives him great pain but also brings him under Mount Weather’s control so he can become a soldier. Then they watch him fight to the death with another Grounder over this very serum. Also at Mount Weather, Dr. Singh does her first “human trial”, using Jasper’s blood to heal Maya.
For all the Grounders’ cruelty and violence against our main characters, this is an episode that shows just how vulnerable they are to other people who see them as nothing less than animals to be hunted and used. Anya’s dead, shot by the Camp Jaha’s security, and the other Grounders are at this point merely fighting for their lives against Mount Weather who have no problem using them for their blood and now the 100, targeting them for all the wrong reasons. It’s the 47 at Mount Weather who are referred to as “human”, enough so that Wallace scolds Singh for experimenting with Jasper’s blood at all, so it’s clear that Mount Weather doesn’t hold the Grounders in the same esteem.
The lines are getting blurrier with each passing episode. As Kane tries for peace, trying a new strategy of actually treating their prisoner like a person, there’s a chance it may actually work. We’ve met Grounders before who are more interested in peace than fighting so surely there are more, but how long can we expect the Grounders to compromise when the 100, and now Camp Jaha, keep turning against them? Anya and Clarke had a chance of an alliance (before she was killed), and they may have still had that chance if Finn hadn’t murdered dozens of people in Lincoln’s village. Despite Kane’s attempts, it’s not hard to see why the Grounders loathe Sky People, why they toss Kane into a prison along with Jaha with nothing good planned for either of them.
The Grounders were the first “monsters” we met, but if the show’s done anything it’s proven how their monstrosity has come on the heels of various misunderstandings and missteps on the part of a bunch of kids and how those kids are in danger of becoming monsters themselves. Finn’s likely already there. His descent into something resembling madness has been ongoing since they hit the road, and it’s only going faster. He doesn’t even blink at killing the Grounders even as Murphy (Murphy!) tries to make him see reason. And Clarke comes out of the trees (being the reason Finn’s used for his exceedingly brutal actions), horrified at the many bodies strewn around, all Finn can think about is that he’s “found” her. Nevermind that Finn didn’t actually find Clarke so much as she found him, Finn doesn’t care. Whether he was consumed with finding Clarke or just consumed with bloodlust after all that’s happened, does the reason really matter when there are innocent people dead all around them?
The 100 hasn’t backed away from its characters doing morally questionable things. It’s a staple of the show, but there’s always been some reason for debate. There’s always been ways for people to disagree, to see both sides, but this is one of the first times we’ve seen how starkly wrong something like this is. The Ark did its own dirty work, but you knew what the thought process was. It was even justified from time to time. We know what Bellamy and Clarke are thinking when they turn to torturing Lincoln and what Octavia’s thinking when she threatens Lincoln’s old friend. But we have no idea what Finn’s thinking about when he slaughters the Grounders. It can’t be survival, against a group that poses no threat, and it can’t be their missing friends because their missing friends aren’t there.It’s mindless and pointless, taking aggression out on an enemy that he’s lost all empathy for.
It’s startling, in an episode that has Clarke still haunted by her decision to close the dropship door. She left the remaining 100 to their fate, including Bellamy and Finn (who she’s relieved to hear are alive). But Bellamy tells her it was necessary, that she made the right call. Her actions saved most of them, and that’s what mattered. The 100‘s always been able to make a case for survival and what people have to do to do it, but what Finn does isn’t for survival.
And while Finn is the most extreme case, he’s not the only one this is happening to. Everyone’s losing pieces of themselves on Earth, and even Abby isn’t immune. With Clarke back, she doesn’t care much what happens to the others, refusing to allow anyone to go retrieve Finn and Murphy. When Raven helps them get past the electric fence, slapping her for her actions. This is a shocking moment in an episode full of them, even more so because we’ve seen a lot of good things between Raven and Abby, who’s taken on a maternal role in Raven’s life. From what we know of Raven’s own mother, that relationship wasn’t a good one, and Abby striking her is beyond terrible knowing this information.
It only gets worse when Abby tearfully justifies herself, grieving over Clarke throwing herself back into danger as if she’s not still a child. To which Raven responds that Clarke stopped being one when Abby sent her to Earth to die. It’s notable that Abby is also the reason Raven ended up on Earth, enlisting her in her plan to go there and knowing Raven would love to reunite with Finn. There are plenty of similarities in Abby and Raven’s relationship, now including the strain that comes with Abby choosing duties over these two girls, in this case it’s Abby’s duty to her actual daughter.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of Abby and Raven’s interaction is that Abby never apologizes for hitting her, even when she sits back down and crumples into tears. Her justification completely ignores that Raven is also a child, stuck in a very adult situation, and coping with some very huge personal issues at the moment. It’s as if Abby’s dropped Raven completely now that Clarke is back and she has no need for the surrogate.
“Human Trials” proves just how far removed Raven is from everything at the moment.She can’t accompany others to find Finn and Murphy, and she can’t even walk with Clarke to reunite with Bellamy and Octavia. The whole episode has her mostly isolated, kept out of Clarke’s tent while she’s resting, and then she’s left to deal with the aftermath of their leaving.
- Kane has his moments, okay? He plants his mother’s tree on the ground as promised, and it’s very sweet.
- I told you the reunions were going to be amazing. Clarke with Bellamy, Octavia and Raven was as precious as can be. But I almost cried when Kane and Jaha saw each other in their new prison.
- Monty should be doing more things, Jasper should be quiet. Also, where’s Miller?
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