For the second time this season, I felt like I was watching a Fast & Furious movie while watching The 100. The season-four finale, which finally delivers the radioactive death wave that has loomed over the show ever since A.L.I.E. told Clarke about it, hits the ground running with high-velocity action. An unlikely team of lovers, friends, and even enemies races against the clock to achieve a seemingly impossible task made up of many other seemingly impossible tasks. It’s a classic action-movie setup, and for the most part, The 100 keeps the suspense going all the way up to the final twist.
As with the Fast & Furious movies (the good ones, at least), The 100 blends character drama with the action, making the stakes so much higher because we genuinely care about these characters. Clarke, Bellamy, Raven, Murphy, Emori, Echo, Harper, and Monty all throw themselves into the new survival plan, concocted and largely executed by Raven. Sprinkled throughout the fast-paced mania of all of them trying to get the shuttle ready for launch in just 90 minutes are little character moments that bring their pasts and relationships to the surface. Bellamy saves Echo from killing herself, calling to mind their first encounter, when they helped each other out at Mount Weather. Murphy and Emori know full well that they aren’t exactly popular with the rest of the crew, but the only thing that trumps their individual drive to survive is their love for one another. The relationship dynamics at play keep “Praimfaya” from devolving into a vacuous shouting match as the characters scramble to complete their mission.
The finale moves away from the bunker early on, showing us only a glimpse of Octavia’s new leadership role there. As much as I would have liked to see more of Octavia and Indra in “Praimfaya,” it’s the right move to focus more on the rest of the characters as they plan their exodus. The 100 falters when pulled in too many directions, and the finale keeps the story tight and focused. The opening scene between Bellamy and Octavia as they say their good-byes sufficiently kicks off the apocalyptic vibrations. Both characters allude to their history, to the deep familial love that always brings them back to one another. “You’re Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and giving it back to the human race,” Bellamy tells her. Octavia’s arc this season merits such a grand comparison.
Clarke misses out on an opportunity to say good-bye to her mom when the radio goes silent, and she’s instead left to contemplate her own mortality with Bellamy. Clarke believes her mother’s vision of her death will come true. But as we’ve learned from the past few episodes, she’s willing to sacrifice herself if it means humanity can live. The scenes between Bellamy and Clarke, with her insisting that he needs to start thinking with his head and not his heart (and him insisting that he has her for that) slice open all the complex and intimate feelings between these two. They don’t always agree, but there has been an inextricable bond between them and their fates. That connection is shattered, however, when Clarke does indeed decide to sacrifice herself, having to manually activate a satellite tower in order to turn electricity back on at the ring, the portion of the Ark that Raven and the gang are heading to. They leave Clarke behind, which distresses everyone. Even Emori wants to wait. But Raven knows they’ll all die if they do, so they close the door and blast off, Bellamy’s eyes searching for one last possible glimpse of Clarke that never comes.
While it is definitely a thrilling finale with a decent amount of smaller, quieter character moments that ground the action, “Praimfaya” is so frenzied that it can feel rushed. For all the things that go wrong, they eventually do go right. The conflict is all too external rather than internal. They’re fighting against physics and science and radiation. It’s a neat conclusion to the season — too neat, I’d say — even though it seems messy on the surface.
The finale does end with some uncertainty, jumping forward six years to show Clarke alive and well (with shorter hair — a flash-forward requirement on TV) in a small green patch of Earth, now livable. There has been no contact with the bunker, which is buried under rubble, and no contact with the ship, even though Clarke attempts to make radio contact with Bellamy every day and hasn’t given up hope. When she and the young nightblood she’s training hear a blast, they excitedly assume it’s the others returning from the ring only to learn it’s a new threat entirely: a prison ship hovers over Clarke, promising new conflict. It’s the only real surprise of the episode, which despite loads of suspense ultimately fizzles out with easy solutions and predictable outcomes. It does feel like the end of the world, yet nothing major really happens onscreen. The 100 has hit the reset button yet again, and hopefully it’ll build something great this time. For all of the season’s highs, the show is still chasing the brilliance of its second season.