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TV Club: The 100 moves from sci-fi to slasher flick in the season’s best episode

As the longer story arc of this season of The 100 starts to become clearer, with only a few episodes left in the season, it’s obvious that the show was always going to shift away from the kind of storytelling that defined the second season. That doesn’t mean that the same elements aren’t there, but rather that storylines early in this season are clearly in place to help a tonal and storytelling shift later in the season. That doesn’t excuse the problems that made the first half of season three such a drag—see: repeating storylines, unceremoniously killing off beloved characters, painting in broad thematic strokes—but it does make the sudden shift seem more calculated.

The last few episodes of The 100 have shown that the show is capable of growing, of finding some semblance of purpose and vision after a fairly jumbled and lackluster first half. The main issue with the first part of this season was the fact that The 100 was repeating itself, telling a story of Grounders vs. Sky People that had already been told. Now that Pike is gone the show can move in a different direction, and it’s forging quite an intriguing path. The main difference is the focus on the City Of Light and A.L.I.E. and Jaha’s quest to chip everyone. The prominence of this storyline signals a definite shift in what type of story The 100 is interested in telling now that the war between the Grounders and Sky People is, for the most part, in the past.

There’s a more mythical, supernatural feeling to the City Of Light story that balances the show’s usual focus on war and destruction. Sure, A.L.I.E. still wants destruction, but the sci-fi elements are poking through here, and the show is making it happen in interesting ways. “Demons” sees the return of Emori, as she spots Murphy tagging along with Ontari. The two connect again, with Murphy sneaking her into the worship room so that they can have a little, ahem, alone time. For awhile it looks like Emori and Murphy might find a way to escape together, so Murphy shares that Ontari isn’t actually the Commander. That turns out to be a huge mistake, as it’s revealed that Emori took Jaha’s chip and has become a member of the City Of Light.

It’s a significant turn of events, and kudos to The 100 for really keeping it a surprise up until the moment a hooded Jaha speaks and calls out Ontari for being a false Commander. This reveal, followed by Jaha convincing Ontari to join forces with them, as A.L.I.E. takes her seat on the throne and opens the doors of Polis to wreak havoc, opens up a lot of interesting narrative possibilities. Jaha and Murphy have been on a collision course since last season, so seeing them once again come into conflict is exciting. More importantly though, allowing A.L.I.E. to grow her forces inside Polis creates an enemy for Clarke and the rest of the Sky People that isn’t the Grounders. It’s a relatively small thing, but it undeniably makes the conflict feel fresh and urgent, adjectives that couldn’t be used to describe the battle with Pike and his followers.

When “Demons” isn’t focusing on the City Of Light it’s basically crafting its own slasher flick, and believe me, that’s a good thing. “Demons” sees every member of the remaining main group—Harper, Miller, and Bryan to start, then Octavia, Jasper, Raven, and Sinclair—captured by a hooded figure. He lingers outside a cave and takes Miller, Bryan, and Harper. He attacks Octavia and Jasper when they momentarily separate from one another. He tries to capture Clarke and Bellamy, using a creepy music box to lure them into a hallway with malfunctioning lights. It’s a horror film on a smaller scale, and the show pulls it off. There’s tension coursing through the entire subplot, and the fact that The 100 has so casually killed characters this season serves to raise the stakes. And sure enough, another member of the Ark bites the dust. This time it’s Sinclair, who’s stabbed by the hooded figure after he and Raven lock themselves in the dock. The scene is haunting and violent, the camera switching between panicked Clarke and Bellamy and the killer’s POV, complete with glowing night vision. It’s a stunning sequence that ramps up the tension until it’s unbearable. It’s been awhile since The 100 has made me feel like that.

Ultimately, the story of the hooded killer is a self-contained one with relatively little consequence in the larger scheme of things. The killer is revealed to be Emerson, who’s out for revenge on Clarke. He kidnaps everyone she cares about and holds them hostage in an air lock, luring Clarke to him so that he can make her watch them all die. Just as things are looking dire Clarke activates the Flame and attaches it to Emerson, and since he doesn’t have Nightblood he dies, blood pouring from his eyes. Emerson’s death keeps this story self-contained. The fun can start now, as the group splits up after building a funeral pyre for Lincoln and Sinclair. Raven is staying in Arkadia with Miller, Bryan, Harper, and Monty to see if she can tap into A.L.I.E. while Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia, and Jasper set out to look for Luna, who they hope can host the Flame.

These new narrative opportunities represent a serious step forward for the third season of The 100. It’s starting to leave the problems from earlier this season behind, instead forging a new way forward. “Demons” is a compelling, tense, layered episode. It’s been awhile since The 100 boasted all of those qualities in a single episode. Here’s hoping it’s a sign of good things to come.

Stray observations

  • How good is Marie Avgeropoulos in this episode? Not only does she nail the heartbreak and anger of losing Lincoln, there are smaller moments that resonate. For instance, when Clarke shows up at the air lock Octavia is the only one fighting to get loose. Everyone else has accepted their fate, or at least accepted that they’re powerless to stop Emerson. Octavia is a fighter though. It’s who she is. So, she’s going to go down fighting until the very end.
  • I’m looking forward to Jasper and Octavia eventually starting a two-person support group for lost loves.
  • Sinclair apparently doesn’t know his horror movie tropes: speak Latin and you will almost certainly end up dead.
  • I have to say, I’m a little worried about how the show is going to use the death of Monty’s mother to create conflict down the road.
  • Clarke asks Bellamy if he has a better plan for going after Emerson: “Distract him? I’ll shoot him?”
  • “My brain is all kinds of awesome.” Yes it is, Raven. Don’t you forget.

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