After a two week hiatus, The 100 forcefully announced its return with ‘Stealing Fire’. Forceful is an especially apt criticism of this episode as the events within were brutal and the delivery may have been even more so.
FULL SPOILERS AHEAD:
I’m going to veer a little off topic regarding the episode in this review but I believe what happens outside the walls of our beloved show are equally as important in the progression of season 3. Bear with me here…
Just two weeks after the death of Lexa, we are subjected to another major, more established character death: Lincoln. Killing off two gigantic characters so closely together might, to some, feel like The 100 being back up to its old, brilliant games which take no prisoners. Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel as gleefully insidious or deftly planned as the deaths of characters like Finn or Wells. Part of this reason is because they both simply had to happen.
The nature of making TV shows is a mercurial process. Writers change, showrunners get fired, cast members receive undeniable offers. All of this can happen in the middle of a season, or even before a single episode is aired (just ask The Walking Dead or Marvel’s Daredevil). The latter situation, I believe, is what pushed all of these recent in-show happenings to the forefront of this season’s plot. Put plainly, Alycia Debnam-Carey (Lexa) and Ricky Whittle (Lincoln) are working on two bigger and conflicting series. Debnam-Carey is a series regular on Fear the Walking Dead and Whittles has recently been cast in the lead role in Starz’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods. This is just life when working in TV and it all comes to the dismay of fans of The 100 and Jason Rothenberg and the writing staff.
Now, how a show deals with said events is rarely smooth but the circumstance isn’t an enviable one. When two essential characters are snatched out of the hands of a team of very smart writers, I can almost feel the blood run totally cold in their Room of Ideas. Some viewers might believe this is right up the alley of these particular writers as they’ve been so adept in the past at slyly killing off characters right under our noses. Believe me, those moves that look and feel sudden and 0f-the-moment are meticulously planned and incredibly difficult to pull-off. Some rare luck and fortune aside, these forced exits usually don’t pan out as well as the organic story the writers initially may have had planned.
This is the case here.
‘Stealing Fire’ is mired in so much plot and exposition while leaning on unestablished characters and relationships that it all feels as sticky as Teflon. So much is thrown at the viewer regarding conclaves and missing Nightbloods and random, child-murdering Ice-Nationers that I don’t know who to care or root for. This all feels super reactionary to Lexa’s death while Lincoln’s eventual demise seems, if not slightly more planned, also more anti-climactic.
Lincoln is a character who we’ve seen undergo arguably the most physical hardship on this show. From being a tortured prisoner to a bloodthirsty Reaper, Lincoln has seen some shit. Now, this doesn’t at all necessitate his demise to be an extravagant one and, in fact, the wiser move would be to make it a quieter moment, much like the one in ‘Stealing Fire’. But Lincoln’s arc this season has been noticeably unnoticeable. It seems as if the writers knew Whittle would be leaving and had little choice but to pen him up in a cell for almost all 9 episodes. One also has to wonder if the eventual sentencing of Kane and Sinclair were placed in order to draw attention away from Lincoln’s eventual execution.
The moment was handled nicely, with Lincoln going back to save his people and die nobly. Pike continues to earn his enemy cred with his actions here, though he does strangely promise to keep the other Grounder prisoners safe. Pike giving Lincoln respect like that doesn’t feel like something he would do. Also, he could probably have pressed Lincoln for some crucial information but we’re on a time table here so we have to get to the blood ASAP.
The best moment in the episode, which honestly gave me a chill, was Octavia’s reaction at seeing Lincoln’s execution. She’s understandably weepy leading up to the moment but once that bullet exits Lincoln’s skull, the look of frozen anger plastered on her face was fierce and intense and immediately had me worried for Pike’s health. This was one of Marie Avgeropoulos’ best moments, for sure.
All the plot contriving in Arkadia is lamentable, but almost tolerable because it deals with the characters we know and understand the most. It’s the stuff at Polis that really flies off the rails as all this new myth and circumstance is added to an already shambling plot. The writers clearly want to get a Lexa replacement as quickly as possible and their haste shows as Ontari is introduced, immediately decapitating a batch of children vying to be Heda.
Clarke and Murphy must bicker about staying, leaving, staying, leaving… no, staying in order to keep Ontari from ascending. In a whole bunch of other plotty moves, Clarke leaves Polis with the “Flame” (the AI sensor that was lodged at the top of Lexa’s spine), Titus forces his own throat open upon Prince (now King? He seems to be King, but must bow to the Nightblooded Ontari) Roan’s knife and dies in the cleansing tub and Murphy stays alive by being the ornery cuss that he’s always been. Ontari fakes to Grounder Nation as if she’s been ascended as Clarke sneaks away with the truth and in search of the lost disciple, Luna, who could rightfully stake claim to the Heda-ship.
All this aside, our characters are in good spots going forward. In Stephen King’s memoir-ish book On Writing, he calls story a fossil one has to excavate and plot being one of the tools used to do the excavating. There are many tools at one’s disposal to be used for many different purposes. Plot is your jackhammer. It gets the fossil out the quickest, but often leaves more crumbled rock than beautiful piece of history. Plot was the tool used in ‘Stealing Fire’ to get these characters to this point. Now, we’re looking ahead with much clearer direction and with the two characters gone who had no choice but to go. We can focus on the rest of the story at hand and put that bludgeoning weapon, Plot, back in our toolboxes for at least a few more episodes.
May we meet again, Lincoln. You and Mr. Whittle’s sensitively gruff performance will be missed.
“Death can be an act of unity, too. You don’t break, don’t show fear. The people will remember.” – Kane
Check out my reviews of previous episodes of ‘The 100’ here: