Here at the beginning of the second act of season three of The 100, we’ve come to the next natural step in our characters’ healing process:
“I just don’t hurt anymore.” – Raven
Dealing with pain is a universal human experience and in The 100 it is inevitably a feeling that all characters will come to understand and seek a cure for. So many big decisions have already been made and so many events out of the control of our heroes have occurred that the long term wear and tear has began to take a real toll on their psyches. In ‘Bitter Harvest’, our characters are finally presented with likely solutions to this pain. Whether it’s committing mass genocide for the safety of your own (Clarke and Bellamy), dealing with the death of your one true love (Jasper), being a prisoner of your own disability (Raven) or understanding that you need the pain as reminder (Murphy), these characters have come to a crossroads when deciding how to use this feeling going forward.
The reality that I think most viewers are aware of is that pain is something that never goes away. This is why we feel frustration over how Jaha has accepted The City of Light and A.L.I.E. into his life. We want to be able to find an easy way out but understand that there is no way out, only reconciliation. But, of course, we must also make mistakes on the path to reconcile our pasts. Jaha has accepted The City of Light as his salvation after his survival of many trials seemingly put in his way via what he deems as divine obstruction. This is his reward for his acceptance of pain.
Problem is, A.L.I.E. represents exactly what The 100 doesn’t subscribe to: divine hope. She was the utter destruction of the world before and will do whatever and corrupt whoever in trying to regain power in a world that has forgotten her. And she has an easily susceptible cast of people to appeal to!
We finally get to see Raven smile again after having accepted The City of Light which is a bright moment that lets us understand immediately why she would do so. She sees herself as an invalid and, though her leg still doesn’t work like it used to, she doesn’t have a constant reminder in the form of pain. This clues the viewer in immediately that what is going on with The City of Light is nefarious. Pain relief without cure is no doubt a signal for eventual destruction. We also get to see the extent of The City of Light’s power as it comes to numbing the pain as Jaha FORGETS HE EVER HAD A SON. This also lets us believe Raven’s nonplussed reaction earlier when Jasper brings up how he scattered (more or less) Finn’s ashes over the field in front of the original drop pod.
The City of Light doesn’t just erase pain, it erases anything that ever reminds us of pain. DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER! RED ALERT! YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT!
Over at Polis, Clarke gets her own comeuppance in pain as Roan delivers Emerson as a gift, knowing Clarke will want to take her revenge. Not only do we get to see Clarke deal with her pain in this instance but also practice what she preaches as it comes to “blood must not have blood.” Lexa, having already called off a retaliation to the Skaikru’s Grounder massacre, is entirely dependent on Clarke’s decision here as if she decides to take Emerson’s life it will leave Lexa entirely vulnerable to a coup for letting this act of vengeance occur. She trusts Clarke, or at the very least trusts the human emotional process. Clarke initially feels that Emerson should die and, conveniently enough, Emerson almost goads her into committing the act.
Emerson is also dealing with his own pain for having lost friends and family (children, two of them) in the destruction Clarke and Bellamy placed upon Mt. Weather. He wants to die in this case and wants to see Clarke succumb to her base needs. Clarke makes the more mature decision when, at the last minute, choosing to spare Emerson’s life and not forsaking Lexa’s rule. Emerson is destroyed by this decision and, although he’s been banished from the lands by Lexa, we can’t have seen the last of him.
The last interesting wrench thrown into this episode is our realization that Murphy has been captured by Titus of Lexa’s court. Jaha previously stated that Murphy was immune to their form of pain prevention because he knows exactly what A.L.I.E. represents. I think this actually is a little deeper than Jaha intimates as Murphy has been the cause of so much pain to others that he’s actually come around as a human and understands how important remembering pain is. If he forgets just what kind of harm he can wantonly do upon others, he’ll revert to that madman we saw early in season one. The 100 gives us characters nuanced enough to have multiple dimensions and are able to be fully-thinking instruments.
John Murphy will represent the vanguard of everyone’s eventual pushback against A.L.I.E. and The City of Light. Once again, this is excellent character arcing from the show’s writers and is the kind of heart punching that doesn’t feel as immediate upon impact but has a lasting blow when everything finally comes to fruition.
Also in ‘Bitter Harvest’, we see the loss of one of our original 100 on the ground in Monroe. As Pike’s people (now including Monty, having followed in his mother’s footsteps) have now found their Farm Station roots useful by discovering fertile land to grow crops, they decide to take this land, occupied by a Grounder tribe, by force. Octavia, with the help of Kane, helps curtail this tribe’s destruction and also discovers a form of poisonous tree sap that the Grounders use to amazing effect in defending against Pike’s attack. Not only is the sap acidic upon touch, its burning also emits a poisonous fume which ends up taking our beloved (though, let’s be honest, kinda forgettable) Monroe from us once and for all. Above all else, we get to see Monty’s true colors as he runs into a poisonous fume to try to rescue Monroe, coming up just short.
As I’m sure The City of Light will continue its stronghold upon this world, the politics between Skaikru and the Grounders grow increasingly volatile by the day. Now that we know some of the earth is fertile, I’m sure the quest for resources doesn’t end here. ‘Bitter Harvest’ represents another wonderful step forward and backward for our beloved characters and the writing has never been more crisp on the show than it is here. This season has found its footing amongst some very tough material and this writing team has further earned my trust and entertainment dollar moving forward.
“My pain ends today. Yours is just begun.” – Emerson