“God Complex” begins with the violent, ominous death of Abby’s radiation test subject, who coughs up black blood and deteriorates when the radiation levels in the chamber hit the point that they’ll soon reach on the entire planet. Shortly after, Emori’s lie about the test subject’s identity surfaces, and Abby’s fears are confirmed: She is a murderer. They all are. Their desperation to survive has pushed them even further than they realized.
By sentencing someone else to death in the last episode, Emori set in place a self-fulfilling prophecy. She believed Abby’s team would turn to her as a test subject, so she put forth an alternative, but her means of doing so led to the exact situation that she feared. Having betrayed everyone and tricked them into murdering an innocent man, Emori positioned herself as the next in line to be tested in the radiation chamber. But there’s something much more insidious going on through “God Complex.” What Emori did was no doubt terrible, but the quickness with which Roan and Clarke decide she should be tested next hint that they always found her expendable. Now they just have the justification to make themselves feel better about it.
When Luna refuses to give more of her bone marrow, they’re faced with an even larger ethical dilemma. Now they have to violate not just one person’s consent to conduct the experiment, but two. I have been waiting for someone to bring up the fact that this is all very reminiscent of Mount Weather, but the writers’ restraint in waiting to drop that bomb until this exact moment pays off. Raven puts the comparison in explicit terms, and it means all the more coming from her. Even though these characters (Murphy, Emori, Clarke, Abby, Jackson, Miller, Roan, Luna, and Raven) are confined to one place for the duration of this episode, the story line never feels static or flat. It’s intentionally suffocating. All these characters are crammed into the lab, and they bring along innumerable baggage. Luna’s refusal to cooperate stems from her well-established guilt and frustration over the fact that her blood is constantly used to kill or justify killing. As a last-ditch effort to get Clarke to change her mind, Murphy pointedly brings up the fact that when she was busy saving the world in the City of Light, he was busy saving her. The characters’ past experiences heighten the stakes of the present and give everyone a clear emotional purpose in the conflict.
I saw the twist that Clarke would volunteer herself for testing coming, but it still worked in the moment. It’s what Lexa would do, and the second Roan has a conversation with Clarke about leadership, Lexa, and making imperfect decisions, it becomes clear that this is the only path that makes sense. Clarke isn’t above sacrificing others for the greater good. We’ve seen her play God in that way plenty of times. But the only way to truly prove that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to save everyone is to sacrifice herself. It’s the only way to rescue her own humanity, too. “Salvation lies within,” as the Second Dawn doomsday cult put it — a phrase eventually adopted by the Grounder religion. The only issue with Clarke stepping up is that it takes some of the suspense out of the experiment. Still, The 100 manages to surprise: Instead of Clarke testing herself and the experiment working this time, she never makes it into the chamber. Abby destroys the machine to stop Clarke from risking her life; she does exactly what Emori almost does at the beginning of the episode to save herself and Murphy. Again, there’s a dark revelation just under the surface. Abby was willing to risk Emori’s life completely, but she isn’t willing to do the same thing when it’s her daughter on the line.
In Arkadia, Jasper and Bellamy share a simple little subplot when Jasper convinces Bellamy to join him out in the woods. While his reckless attitude comes from an emotionally honest place, Jasper has undoubtedly become a one-note character since season two. Losing Maia sent him down a dark path of grief and self-medicating, and some compelling moments have sprouted from that, but Jasper has started to feel more like an idea than a character. Even his conversation with Bellamy is full of broad statements. It’s all a play on a pretty common scenario: The fun one convinces the uptight one to loosen up a bit. And Jasper, as the “fun” one, is successful. By the episode’s end, Bellamy is dancing with a hot girl and drinking hallucinogenic tea with the rest of Arkadia’s end-of-the-world partiers.
The more significant story line in Arkadia unfolds when Jaha overhears Niylah saying “from the ashes, we will rise,” at the funeral for the 18 lives lost in the black rain. It’s another phrase borrowed from Second Dawn that has made its way into Grounder mythology. On The 100, religion and science are inextricably bound. Second Dawn and Becca’s scientific breakthroughs are linked, and both have been folded into the religion that has gradually become a more significant part of the show. Jaha convinces Kane to take him to Indra so they can speak to her daughter Gaia, the current flame-keeper. Together, they find a crypt beneath one of the Grounder temples — the bunker Jaha has been seeking.
But first, they have to get through Azgeda. And before that, they have to get through Indra. Kane and Indra’s friendship is one of the many compelling and complicated relationships on this show, and in “God Complex,” she shows him no kindness. Political conflicts become interpersonal conflicts, and Indra scorns Kane for Skaikru’s alliance with Azgeda. The reign of terror that Ice Nation has inflicted on Trikru is hard to ignore, and Kane comes face-to-face with the consequences of making selfish compromises for your people. They convince Indra to help them, but when Azgeda grants the Skaikru leaders safe passage to the temple, Indra seizes the opportunity to gun them down. No one ever thought they’d live to see the day Indra picks up a gun, but it’s a believable moment for the character. She’s angry enough to break her personal code. And by using a gun to do it, she takes stab at Skaikru for their betrayal, too. Roan will blame them for the attack.
“Salvation lies within,” Gaia repeats in her tongue. The bunker Jaha, Kane, Indra, Gaia, and Monty uncover in the final seconds of the episode represents a very literal interpretation of those words. But throughout the episode, there’s a sense that the repeated phrase also operates on a more personal, more spiritual level. The characters at the lab all have to look within themselves to determine if what they’re doing is worth it. The stakes of survival have corrupted them all. Even Luna once killed her own brother in order to survive. When Emori is brought out to be injected with Luna’s blood, all of the characters stand around waiting, lost in their own thoughts. Their physicality reveals their inner struggles. Even Roan, who initially seemed the most sure of testing Emori, looks less sure. A bunker, a medical cure — these solutions can’t provide real salvation in full. It can only come from within.