In the weeks since Lexa's death, I've been eagerly wondering how The 100 would handle the Conclave process. The reveal in "Thirteen" that the first commander was A.L.I.E.'s creator and that each commander is embedded with a piece of AI she created has elevated the Grounder's mythology to another level. Would the Conclave help tether the more confusing aspects of that mythology back to the Sky People?
In "Stealing Fire," we don't really get to see the Conclave, dig deeper into the selection process, or even witness how the AI, known as the Flame, would choose its next commander. In other words, we're deprived of watching an important piece of world-building. Though the showrunners did a great job of trying to fill in the holes with dialogue, their decision to make Ontari a cold-blooded killer still seems iffy. If the rules of initiation involve literally murdering every other person in your class, why have Ontari start her tenure by chopping off the heads of sleeping children? And why does The 100 insist on showing us that the fastest, cruelest way to get things done is to kill people while they sleep?
Two major things happen in "Stealing Fire." In Polis, both Clarke and Titus grapple with Lexa's death. While Ontari, the Ice Nation's isolated Nightblood, eliminates all of her competition, Clarke and Titus try to find a way to prevent her from becoming the next Commander. Titus explains to Clarke a little about how the Flame works, and Clarke asks about the eighth initiate during Lexa's Conclave. After realizing that there's another living Nightblood out there, Titus gives Clarke the AI, bestowing her with the title of "Flame Keeper." He tells Ontari that Clarke's escaped with the Flame, then literally runs himself into Roan's knife, gurgling up blood before dying.
In Arkadia, the Delinquents rush to save the three men sentenced to death. Both Monty and Bellamy try to convince Miller and Harper that they've switched sides and don't want Kane, Sinclair, or Lincoln to be executed. Miller and Harper are skeptical; Bellamy shrugs this off, confident that he can at least win his sister over to his side. He asks them to tell Octavia to meet him at the drop ship. Instead of bonding with her brother, though, Octavia injects him with a sedative and hauls him into a cave with Indra. She then works with Miller and Harper to lead an escape of the rest of the prisoners. Monty shows some independent thinking and spirit, too, and briefly assists them. The escape mostly works, but Pike catches wind and radios in a threat: If the prisoners don't return, he'll kill the Grounders still imprisoned in Arkadia. This obviously distresses Lincoln, who quickly returns to Pike. Bad idea. Though The 100 demonstrated real restraint by not showing us the decapitated head of a Nightblood child, it draws out Lincoln's execution in stunning, graphic detail. And the range of expressions on Octavia's face as she watches? Heartbreaking.
Here's another question that "Stealing Fire" raises: Why do all of the characters in Polis feel better developed than most of the characters in Arkadia? The difference has never been more stark than in these last two episodes. Take Ontari, for example. In her first appearance, she stood in a corner, mostly invisible, before coming to life by reacting to a poisoned knife in Clarke's hand. Watching her respond to Queen Nia's power and pride in that scene — coupled with Lexa, Clarke, and Titus's realization that Nia was harboring a Nightblood — quickly fleshed out her character. When Ontari returns for the Conclave, her haughty power and confidence seem appropriate. The way she sits on the throne, her face covered in blood, ostensibly holding Aden's head? It makes perfect sense for the character.
That's definitely not true of Miller's boyfriend. Though his character was teased briefly in the season premiere, the first real suggestion that Bryan would become a compelling character came in "Terms and Conditions." We watched a prolonged scene where he "betrays" his boyfriend by planting a bug in his coat, but it didn't exactly work. This week, we spend a little more time with both of them, but the writers still haven't laid enough groundwork for their relationship — or even given us a sense of Miller's character, independent of his boyfriend. As a result, they feel like walking, talking accessories. It's a weird choice to give such underdeveloped characters so much screen time.
Nevertheless, there were a few standout moments in the episode. Every scene in which Richard Harmon's Murphy shares a space with Eliza Taylor's Clarke is wonderful. In this particular case, not having them speak about what they've been up to pays off in an incredible way. Murphy and Clarke have had a difficult relationship since season one; we've watched both characters for long enough that their camaraderie now works. We see as much in my favorite part of the episode, which takes place right as Clarke and Murphy were about to escape from Polis. When Clarke pauses, Murphy sardonically asks her, "We're not leaving, are we?" He truly understands Clarke well enough to stick behind with her.
And then there's the great scene between Bellamy and Indra. Look, I'm going to love any scene with Indra. That's a guarantee. She's a brilliant character, and I always want to see more of her — even though the show can only give us small snippets. I've especially loved her interactions with the women she guides and mentors. And this week, watching her talk about her feelings about Octavia with Bellamy? That was an all-around terrific decision by the writers. It leaves no ambiguity as to where Octavia fits in with Trikru and sort of unearths a more beloved version of Bellamy. He's always easier to root for when he's using his patented brand of recklessness with Octavia in mind.
- Anybody else having trouble with the decision to drug Octavia? For starters, there's the optics of a man taking agency away from a woman by tranquilizing her. That's very messy. I know that Lincoln wanted to protect her, but I don't know if that excuses the narrative choice. I wanted to see the two of them talk things out. I wanted to see Octavia understand his sacrifice, weigh in, and be a part of that process. Do I think that Octavia would have listened? Not really, but an extra few minutes of dialogue would have really solidified the murky problems in their relationship. For Octavia, will next week's episode bring grief or anger?
- Octavia's escape plan involves hiding under the floorboards while Pike storms in and searches for them. This doesn't exactly make sense, but it's a nice little throwback to Octavia's origin story. She dispassionately reminds Kane as much, too: Try living under the floor for more than a decade.
- Right before killing Lincoln, Pike takes a moment to assure him that the Grounder prisoners will be cared for. Frankly, the empathy that Pike shows in that moment makes a ton of sense for the character he could be. However, the very rough sketches we've seen of Pike haven't allowed this kind of nuance. If this is the start to Pike becoming less of a caricature, I'm here for it.
- Abby mysteriously returns in this episode, helping out in the escape plan and saying a sweet good-bye to Kane as he flees. I don't really have any problems with Kane and Abby's relationship — it seemed like an inevitability, if we're being honest. Still, I wonder what The 100 would have done if they'd squeezed two extra episodes into this season. Would they have spent a little more time developing these relationships?