Considering the actual horrors that the Delinquents have faced on Earth, it's odd that "Demons" opens with an old-school ghost story. Miller, Bryan, and Harper — three supporting characters we've never really spent enough time with — sit around in a cave, waiting for the rest of the Delinquents to show up. Miller tells a ghost story about a Brazilian captain who went insane on the Ark, hacking people up because the demons of his dead wife and children asked him to. It's a weird premise, and it sets the tone for the rest of this weird episode.
It's unclear if "Demons" is actually trying to be meta. Is this what it looks like when The 100 attempts to wink at its own campiness? This episode takes the grim aspects of Miller's ghost story and runs with them, adding an unintended levity to a premise that otherwise makes little sense.
For instance, after hearing both Miller and Bryan make suspicious noises in the opening scene, Harper still thinks that they're joking around. And later, while walking around the ghost town of the Ark, Clarke hears some creepy, tinny music. Although Monty warns her that investigating the creepy music makes no sense at all, she moves toward it anyway.
Are we really supposed to believe that these characters wouldn't recognize immediate threats? On The 100, there's no way that anyone who has spent more than three days on Earth would ever become complacent, especially in a weirdly abandoned Arkadia.
We soon find out that the person stalking the Delinquents is a real-life ghost. Emerson, the last mountain man, has returned to Arkadia. Stunningly, he's managed to sit around and wait for the Delinquents and Clarke to show up, biding his time just so he can make Clarke watch her friends die. He kills Sinclair, stabbing him through the abdomen, then traps almost everyone in the airlock. Clarke and Bellamy come up with the worst of bad plans to rescue everyone: She'll try to distract Emerson while Bellamy shoots him. Both Bellamy and Clarke conveniently forget that Emerson would quickly realize that Bellamy was missing — and truly, this is the first thing that happens when Clarke shows up, unarmed to save her friends.
Though it's unclear how Emerson knows that Octavia is Bellamy's weak point, he uses her as a pawn to get Bellamy to back down quickly, then traps him in the airlock as well. He shuts off the power and makes Clarke watch as her friends begin to suffocate. Emerson's return was all but inevitable: It's unlike The 100 to let characters disappear for too long, but he doesn't really do much to advance any of the characters' story lines here. We already know that Clarke struggled deeply with the deaths at Mount Weather, and we'd watched a more nuanced and emotionally gutting version of this same story when the Ice King sent Emerson to Polis. Clarke's pain and Emerson's guttural anger served both characters well in that episode, and told a story about tolerance, punishment, and guilt. What's the endgame supposed to be this time?
To make matters worse, Bellamy and Clarke's haphazard plan to save everyone undercuts much of their relationship. Clarke is supposed to have the wherewithal to look at a battle and calculate the costs, while Bellamy fills in the holes with his brash thinking; that's always been their strength as a team. To bring that setup back so quickly after their reunion — and with such a badly conceived plan — didn't really work.
Of course, the hostage situation ends with Clarke using her brain and a tiny bit of luck. After pouring through Becca's journals, Raven learns that the Flame responds to auditory commands. Sinclair, using his high-school Latin, stumbles across the phrase that unlocks the AI: "Seek higher things." Clarke warns everyone that taking the Flame without the genetic code necessary to host it will mean certain death. While being choked by Emerson, though, Clarke utters the phrase that activates the Flame, then jabs it into Emerson's neck. The AI attaches itself to his brain and slowly kills him.
Meanwhile in Polis, Murphy has a hard day of a different sort. He's duped into sharing vital information with his girlfriend, Emori, who has suddenly reappeared. Their reunion is cute — I'm such a fan of Richard Harmon that I'll take any scenes with him — but weird. Emori's too smiley. She seems enthralled by the mural of Becca as first commander. She seems weirdly accepting of the fact that Murphy's caught the interest of the new, fake commander. And she seems way too happy to let Murphy call all of the shots. We haven't spent much time with Emori, but these warning signs are pretty obvious as they appear. While working her way down the list of patrons coming to her with grievances, Ontari is addressed by Jaha. Murphy's reaction? "Son of a bitch." Jaha reveals how much he really knows about Ontari and her lies about ascending as commander, and Murphy finally clues in to the fact that Emori has taken the chip. Murphy is arrested for his betrayal while Ontari takes the chip. The episode ends with A.L.I.E. sitting on the throne, flanked by Jaha, Ontari, and Emori.
- We've seen characters take the chip orally, but in this episode, Jaha finally clears up a lingering question: You have to swallow that giant horse pill whole. Uncomfortable to say the least.
- I'm sad to see Sinclair go, although the writing was on the wall. When Raven conveniently rattled off that one of the side effects of having had A.L.I.E. inside her brain was super-intelligence, I knew that Sinclair would be gone. It was an lazy bit of writing — it felt too pat, too easy for such a large chunk of their plan to have occurred so conveniently.
- Rather than draw out the ghost story, I wish "Demons" had spent time actually carving out more details about A.L.I.E. — how does it affect your brain when she leaves you? A cute moment between Sinclair and Raven just wasn't enough.
- Has anyone else noticed the bizarre similarities between the throne on Game of Thrones and the one that Ontari sits on?
- The bit about the Nightbloods and the Flame was mentioned again without any further explanation to how the genes get passed down. If the ascension is actually based on the most promising Nightblood killing every other member of their class, wouldn't the Nightbloods keep getting reduced? How are they able to continue passing on their black blood if they're dead? I also want to know who came up with this particularly gruesome way of picking a commander. It couldn't possibly have been Becca, who created A.L.I.E. 2.0 to not be a crazy, murderous lady.
- Other unintended comical moments: When Raven asks Clarke to come up with phrases she's heard Lexa say most frequently, the best that Clarke can do is come up with "blood must have blood," while intensely staring at the Flame. I actually wondered if the writers were trolling us. Do they realize how sad it is that Clarke only remembers a depressing phrase used to justify traditional, senseless violence?