“We Are Grounders: Part 1” is perhaps the loudest and maddest episode of The 100 yet.
And not a minute too soon, seeing as we’re almost at the end of the season, as this and the next episode, “We Are Grounders: Part 2” form a ‘double’ finale. Of course, the titling is a simple marketing ploy, as the linking between episodes is no different from the season so far: Quick recap, followed by five minutes of setting up this episode’s stakes and main players, then followed by neatly edited jumps between the storylines, mandatory visits to the underdeveloped adults on the Ark, followed by ramping up the running, screaming and hitting/shooting/blowing up the
Goths Grounders, before (non-)wrapping it all up with a last-second cliffhanger.
It has all the structural elements of Lost, but has so far lacked the conviction to its narrative world and characters that Lost never lost sight of, even long after that show had lost the plot. Many things about The 100 have improved drastically from the pilot, such as the gradual abandonment of the high-schooler soapiness around the landing party’s camp and the adoption of an increasingly gritty aesthetic. But one crippling symptom of US network programming still remains; the aversion to doing something irreversible, either to the story or characters. It undermines the tension when we are supposed to fear for a character’s life, even those who we thought had been disposed of in the last episode. Those who do bite the dust aren’t (usually) central enough to make an impact, and those who are central to the show haven’t been pushed far enough… so far, at least.
Another ‘Murrican TV symptom is the constant play-by-play by the characters, as if they honestly feel the need to constantly analyze and quantify everything that’s happening to them. It may be endemic in TV today, but it still needs to stop. That and the inspirational, stake-defining speeches. We counted at least five of varying types and sizes in this episode. We’re not even mad. That’s amazing.
However, this penultimate episode does provide some genuine thrills, especially in separate scenes involving Clarke and Finn, and Bellamy and double-crossing Grounder convert Murphy, respectively. It’s a special delight to see Eliza Taylor now fully into her own as the battle-hardened Clarke, and it’s an equally positive treat to see some very gory Grounder activity, as well as a renewed glimpse of the criminally underused creature design in the series. Come on, people, a radiation-soaked Earth should have given us more two-headed deer and deformed horses than this. Here’s hoping for more of that.
And even though most of our Arksters are still drastically underwritten and underexposed (in more ways than one), there are finally some truly exciting orbit-bound events brewing, for the last episode of the series, just enough to sneak the episode up to the fourth star.
Of course, with another series around the corner, don’t expect any conclusions.
The 100 is airing now on E4 in the UK. For the latest US TV news, subscribe to SciFiNow and save 30% off the cover price.