Well, we’re getting there. Part one of The 100‘s season three finale, ‘Perverse Instantiation’, purports that this episode will contain strange or abstract intimations of reality and maybe even coming to the realization that what we’ve been shown isn’t all that it seems. In what has become the unfortunate truth of the season, this is all a shiny intellectual facade over a reality that has lost its way.
Part one begins by trying to place its characters in their final positions for ‘Perverse Instantiation: Part Two’ and the ending of this episode brought us to that point with very few detours or surprises that would grip an audience. Now, I say this understanding that…
… we found out that Jasper has been chipped and Ontari winds up braindead on the top floor of Polis, leaving our heroes with no cognizant Nightblood to accept The Flame. But are those really surprises? Sure, maybe Jasper’s turn will stun many (including me) but there absolutely had to be a road block in Raven and Monty’s path toward helping Clarke and co. at Polis. That’s how this season has worked: one step forward, three steps sideways, fall down. All I’m saying is that the surprises came at expected moments. It’s an algebraic equation at this point and we’re starting to figure out the value of ‘x’.
Roan even makes an unsurprising return, saving a helpless Clarke and immediately relieving her of The Flame and her firearm (seriously, Clarke? Just give it to him, why don’t you?). Bellamy then saves the day and they take Roan hostage and hatch the brilliant plan to infiltrate Polis and excise the chip from Ontari and implant The Flame in her spine.
Except A.L.I.E. has a spy in their midst. We’re led to believe it’s Roan only to be stabbed in the stomach just like Monty as we see it’s truly Jasper who has taken the chip. It was a sincerely touching moment to see Jasper and Monty bro it out again and to feel like Jasper had finally come full circle from his grief. This would have been a nice conclusion to his season arc but it’s stripped from us as he’ll now have to deal with City of Light postpartum disorder assuming he survives. It’s actually a nice story touch and was the most earnestly surprising moment of the episode, even if it was structurally telegraphed a mile away.
Jasper ruins the plan for Raven to receive the kill code from Ontari once she’s been implanted with The Flame by destroying their communications.
Except this was a stupid f*&#ing plan in the first place. Clarke, Bellamy, Roan, Octavia, Miller and Bryan enter Polis already figured out by the enemy but would it have been any different if they weren’t? The episode sets up the disconnected communication like so many episodes in the past but completely fumbles the necessity of the communication in the first place. Why would Clarke and Roan believe they’ll be led right to Ontari in the first place, able to get the drop on her and do their business? How would Bellamy and co. have been able to help from the shadows?
In another strange choice, once Clarke is kidnapped and Roan is shot by Kane (The City of Light’s version of The Winter Soldier, apparently), A.L.I.E. thinks the wisest decision is to physically torture Clarke to get the entry code for The Flame. All of the chipped characters know by now that torture isn’t the way to get to the root of the problem. All they would need to do is threaten a loved one and voila! Immediate acquiescence. Instead of threatening Abbey like before*, they go after Bellamy, who isn’t even in the room with Clarke, Abbey, Jaha and A.L.I.E. In the end, this thread actually goes nowhere as they end up threatening Abbey when the abduction of Bellamy ultimately fails when Murphy, Indra and Pike show up to save the day. In what was a cool rescue, it all felt like plot events that needed to happen instead of events that would’ve happened.
Either way, this brings me to one of my larger points regarding the episode and the larger season as a whole: the problem with displaying grand gestures whenever a problem arises is that it opens Pandora’s Box for audience expectation. Not only are we numb to the idea of sacrifice here, we’re now searching for the seems because our expectations have already been set in previous episodes when this exact situation has occurred. Then, because Abbey tells A.L.I.E. they arbitrarily need Bellamy, it is actually the plot forcibly stalling movement. Everyone isn’t in motion. A.L.I.E. is waiting for the guards to return with Bellamy. Tension comes from each piece moving independently of each other. I hate always referring to season two but the writers perfected the art there, using the lack of and miscommunication as the device to create tension but keep everything moving forward.
In ‘Perverse Instantiation: Part One”, all other plot threads seemingly stop to allow the others to move forward. It’s not the worst sin, but it makes for a really boring episode of TV. Especially considering we know this is only the first half of the season’s conclusion.
All this said, I can’t hate on every bit of the episode. The 100 truly shows its increase in budget in its production design. All of these sets are gorgeous and are allowed to be photographed without a million lens flares and a sheen of smoke hiding the creases in the frame. There are some truly gorgeous shots and I was taken aback by the level of detail present in every setting.
It was also a lot of fun getting Bellamy and Murphy back together again. Bellamy is also allowed to go all the way in protecting Murphy by killing a chipped soldier when he didn’t need to. Yeah, Murphy was being choked out, but Bellamy has found more creative solutions around killing folks before.
At the end of it all, we’re left with a braindead Ontari and no Nightblood in which to place the chip. Will we see Pike’s death at the hands of a vengeful Indra or Octavia? Will Clarke become Wanheda and Heda through some strange twist? Will Monty have the balls to step out in the hallway and face Jasper mano e mano before he kills Harper?
I’m hoping ‘Perverse Instantiation: Part Two’ provides us with at least an entertaining send off for season three. Let’s just have some fun guys. Please?
“It’s a Unix system, I know this!” – Raven
*And maybe this had something to do with it. Was there a fear of going back to the well with that one?
Check out my reviews of previous episodes of ‘The 100’ here: