Every moment of this finale is pitch-perfect: the choreography of the fight scenes, the plotting and pacing, and the stunning way in which the episode finally reaches it apex. "Perverse Instantiation: Part Two" elevates the season's themes and pulls together its disparate story lines, setting us up nicely for season four.
For the better part of season three, we've been hurtling towards these conclusions. In almost every episode, The 100 has asked difficult questions: Is pain necessary for growth? Do we ever get shortcuts when it comes to emotional healing? How vital is revenge, especially if it comes at the cost of a person's soul? As Becca explains to A.L.I.E. in one of the show's most powerful scenes to date, how you reach a goal matters as much as the goal itself. "Perverse Instantiation" does an incredible job of helping us reach those answers.
For a finale that's so complex, though, the actual plot is fairly straightforward. After realizing that Ontari is brain dead, Clarke does the only thing she can think of: She uses her EMP to shock Abby, then hooks herself up to a blood transfusion. Once she has enough Nightblood in her system, she takes the Flame. Moments after the AI is embedded in Clarke's brain, she learns that she must go to the City of Light to find A.L.I.E.'s kill switch. Once there, she realizes that the Flame can only get her so far. It's the help of her allies, working from outside the City of Light, that finishes the job. Raven, who's working on the code in Arkadia, helps Clarke cut through the firewall. In Polis, Bellamy, Octavia, and the others slowly fight off the residents of the City of Light as they try to thwart their plan.
Once Clarke does reach the kill switch, the episode slows down. Clarke finds herself back in space, hearing someone say, "Airlock closed." When she turns around, she sees the first commander, Becca. Unlike A.L.I.E., who wears her hair in a complicated knot and walks around in a red dress and heels, Becca is dressed in a simple outfit. It's a great setup to the contrast between the two character. When A.L.I.E. walks into the room to deter Clarke from using the kill switch, we see Becca's lingering pain and resignation about her creation. As she speaks almost pleadingly to Clarke about how to save everyone, A.L.I.E.'s robotic, passionless tone seems all the more eerie. And when A.L.I.E. finally reveals that Earth is still dying — that nuclear plants are burning and radiation is about to make the planet even more uninhabitable, it's easy to see why Clarke hesitates.
This is the best moment of the season: Clarke's hesitation to make a decision as A.L.I.E. explains that in the City of Light, she would never have to be responsible for these kinds of choices. Unlike the ghost story episode, where Clarke had to re-reconnect with Emerson to confront her pain and suffering over the events of Mount Weather, this scene brings us back to the burden Clarke bears. In spite of A.L.I.E.'s tempting offer, Clarke still manages to recognize the value of free will, ultimately deciding that there's no fix to pain other than to overcome it. She pulls the kill switch.
If you've been reading these recaps, you'll know that one of my major complaints has been that The 100's feminist undertones stalled and sputtered through most of season three. However, this finale manages to reboot the show to a place where the female characters can really shine again. After losing her agency, Abby returns to her former self and regains her free will. She's able to act as the trained medical professional she is, while Paige Turco imbues her performance with the tender emotional connection Abby shares with her daughter. Raven, who's somewhat recovered from her stint in the City of Light, is able to take her newfound knowledge and assist Clarke as she makes her way through A.L.I.E's safe haven. Octavia grapples with her anger toward her brother and Pike, almost sacrificing their battlefield advantage because she finds it so hard to work with the man who killed Lincoln.
And even though Alycia Debnam Carey revealed that she would return for the season finale, I wasn't prepared for her truly awe-inspiring performance. Lexa's death has been rightly criticized, but the show brings her back in a way that feels organic and appropriate — not only do we get to witness Lexa as she fights on behalf of Clarke, we get to see the care, strategy, and intelligence that made her such a great commander. Even as the episode heavily implies that Lexa and the other manifestations in the City of Light are Clarke's hallucinations, it's nice to see Lexa again. Personally, I felt that the ending was ambiguous. Is Lexa truly gone forever? This might be wishful thinking on my part, but one thing is absolutely clear: The version of Lexa's exit, with swords swinging and battle makeup, as she fights for what she believes and the woman she loves? That's the kind of exit her character deserves, far more than a stray bullet.
Of course, the setup for next season is already in the works. Earth might be dying. Everyone who took the chip has to reckon with the decisions they made while in the City of Light. Murphy has been restored from sociopathic bully to upstanding, intelligent gentleman. Jaha may have a harder time getting forgiveness. Despite the season's missteps, the interplay established in "Perverse Instantiation" is compelling enough to keep me hooked. May we meet again.
- The final scene in which Octavia finally kills Pike is perfect. Letting Pike off the hook was a story line I wasn't looking forward to explore. Pay careful attention to the way Michael Beach stands, as Pike allows Octavia to do the thing that she's been wanting to do. His understanding of his end made the moment all the more powerful. Will this specific death haunt Octavia, though?
- I thought Monty, Raven, and Harper were almost too quick to forgive Jasper for taking the chip. I hope this issue reemerges next season, and also that we don't lose Monty's impressive character development.
- Were you comforted by Clarke's assurance that they'd figure out how to solve the nuclear radiation problem? I'm glad she flipped the kill switch, but I'm not sure how they'll tackle such an overwhelming threat.
- Thanks for following along with me this season!