The main reason why The 100 can’t quite replicate the magic of its first two seasons is the sheer vastness of its narrative. Discovering more clans and expanding the physical setting of the show was crucial to its development and sustainability, but the sprawling narrative makes it harder to deliver the tight, exciting episodes that defined the first season. The 100 is juggling a lot, and it isn’t always so graceful about it. But the premise of “Die All, Die Merrily” harks back to simpler times, with all the action unfolding in one place and all the complex politics and conflicts boiling down to one straightforward story line: a fight to the death.
Of course, while the plot mechanics are simple, there’s actually a lot going on beneath the surface of the final conclave, the solution proposed at the end of last episode. The champions from each clan will fight until only one is left standing, and their clan will control the bunker. From the start, the stakes are high. Octavia prepares to represent Skaikru in the battle, unfazed in the face of death. She falters only slightly when Ilian steps forward to represent his clan. Then Luna raises the stakes even higher, showing up as the sole survivor of her clan and promising that when she wins, no one will be allowed in the bunker.
The final conclave allows for spectacular action sequences, and the episode delivers more of The 100’s frenetic hand-to-hand combat than usual, not holding back on the slow-motion and stylization. Octavia and Roan’s fight with Luna is particularly thrilling. But this conclave isn’t just all death and games. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Rather, “Die All, Die Merrily” gathers up the ongoing interclan conflicts and throws them into one battle arena. The warriors bring their histories and grudges to the battlefield.
Before the conclave, Indra goes to Octavia and gives her a sword. Even though they aren’t from the same clan, they are bound together. “You are my people,” Indra says, bringing forth their rich history. The episode makes sure real emotions are at stake when it comes to the battle, infusing each character’s actions with real emotional weight. When Trikru’s warrior is killed almost instantly, Indra’s daughter tries to console her mother, knowing that her clan is everything to her.
Even though the narrative structure of The 100 has changed a lot, it remains anchored to its past, its characters constantly referencing what has happened to contextualize the present. Before battle, Bellamy tells Octavia to hide and let the rest of the warriors thin the pool. She doesn’t have to kill all 12; she just has to be the last one standing. And no one can hide better than Octavia — after all, she lived under floorboards for 16 years. Echo’s life as a spy becomes significant in the conclave, too. Against Roan’s wishes, she inserts herself in the battlefield, cheating on behalf of Azgeda. Bellamy figures it out and tries to take her out. He’s exposed by Roan, who banishes Echo but lets them both go despite breaking the rules of the conclave. While Bellamy and Roan share some final words about Octavia, he says he’s lucky to have her in his life. Octavia overhears it all, letting his words embolden her, hinting at real reconciliation for the Blake siblings.
Lincoln also resurfaces when Octavia and Luna meet on the battlefield. Both women invoke his beliefs: Octavia thinks he would be ashamed of Luna, and Luna thinks he would be ashamed of Octavia. Lincoln saw the good in people, and Luna says she no longer believes the same after seeing how far Skaikru was willing to go to survive prime fiya. When Jaha doubts that other clans will honor a Skaikru victory should Octavia emerge victorious, Kane knows that this tradition runs deep. “Like it or not, we’re all Grounders now,” he says. His words suggest that “us versus them” doesn’t matter so much at the end of the world, and yet that’s exactly what this battle hinges on. It’s every clan for itself. Octavia and Roan team up to fight Luna, thinking that they’re doing so to save humanity, but Luna feels that she’s also saving humanity from itself by disrupting the conclave.
Ilian proposes an alliance with Octavia early on in the fight, but she rejects him, knowing that one of them will have to die and unwilling to pretend for even a moment that an alliance could mean any other outcome. The 100 thankfully doesn’t give Octavia and Ilian a Katniss-Peeta-type ending on the battlefield. In fact, moments after Ilian saves Octavia and she asks him what will happen if they’re both standing at the end, that hypothetical situation is cut short by Echo’s arrow plunging Ilian’s throat. The final conclave delivers the death toll it promises, and there’s barely any time to process all the killings, which is exactly how these characters feel. The fast pace and high stakes of the conclave don’t allow much time for grief or contemplation, but all the human emotions are still present. We see it in little ways, like the look on people’s faces as the flamekeeper extinguishes each candle representing a warrior’s life. When black rain hits as Octavia and Roan fight Luna, Octavia takes cover but Roan does not, leading to his painful death by Luna’s hands. The death and destruction that marks the episode isn’t empty or only for shock value, though. “Die All Merrily” finds a balance between action thrills and more intimate character moments, making for a battle that means more than blood.
In the end, only Luna and Octavia stand. Their journeys this season have been building up to this final moment. They both fear what they are, what they’ve become. Luna has been trying to escape her past, escape her guilt over killing her own brother in her first conclave. But her life of pacifism is over. She believes people are violent and bad at their core, that she’s saving humanity by destroying it. Of course, that’s where she and Octavia diverge. “There are people worth saving,” Octavia says as she runs her sword through Luna, ending the conclave.
When Skaikru is ultimately declared the champion, Octavia enacts Lincoln’s vision of unity, declaring that they are all one clan and will all share the bunker. It’s not a surprising twist by any means, but it nevertheless resonates because of its emotional honesty. Like Lincoln, Octavia is less concerned with lines between clans. Octavia’s arc this season has been dark and doomed, her ongoing tension with Ilian hinting at the fact that she’s losing the goodness within herself. But Octavia is boldly selfless at the end of the conclave, and she uses yet another meaningful reference to the past when Kane points out that there won’t be enough room for everyone: “It’s Unity Day, Kane.”
Her efforts at unity, however, are undermined by Clarke and Jaha, who used the distraction of the conclave to take over the bunker. Octavia likens them to the Mountain Men, and Indra doubles-down by saying, “Skaikru betrayed us all.” In that moment, Skaikru becomes the enemy they once fought. Like the Mountain Men, they’ve prioritized their survival above everyone else’s, proving to be the selfish, violent people Luna warned against. Humanity’s fight is not over yet.