By the end of “DNR,” only five days remain until the arrival of prime fiya, the radioactive storm that will wipe out humanity and leave much of the Earth uninhabitable. With death and destruction so near, The 100 takes some time to contemplate mortality, control, and choice. The episode’s title refers to “do not resuscitate,” the legal order that gives patients control over their own life. Clarke and the gang have done the impossible by finding a viable solution to surviving the end of the world, but not everyone wants to wait out the apocalypse in a bunker for five years.
The bunker isn’t without its complications, either. Abby sets the power struggle of “DNR” in motion by revealing to Clarke that Indra struck a deal with Skaikru upon the discovery of the bunker in the temple: Trikru and Skaikru will share it. This violates the deal Clarke previously struck with Azgeda and effectively betrays Roan, who has become an on-and-off-but-mostly-on ally to Clarke in recent episodes. It’s too late: Skaikru and Trikru attempt to apprehend Roan only to be thwarted by Echo, who sends in Azgeda reinforcements to save the king and lock up the Skairkru leaders. Roan still trusts Clarke, believing her when she tells him she didn’t know about the impending betrayal, and he agrees to meet with Indra and the war chiefs of the Trikru alliance to talk. Of course, no one wants to compromise. Azgeda has spilled too much Trikru blood. Even though the bunker has enough room for all of the clans, Indra wants a war. Clarke points out that Lexa would want the clans to come together, and Indra points out that Lexa isn’t here. Without a commander to unite the clans through faith and leadership, there’s little incentive to compromise.
The second Clarke went through the bone-marrow-transplant process with Luna in order to become a nightblood in the last episode before The 100’s month-long hiatus, I figured it would only be a matter of time before she tried to ascend to commander. The threat of war pushes her to make the power move, and she goes to Gaia and asks her to oversee her ascension. Roan intervenes, revealing to everyone that Clarke became a nightblood through science, not religion, accusing her of mocking their traditions and treating them like savages in need of saving. On top of some commentary of Skaikru’s colonialist attitudes, this scene also reexamines an ongoing interplay between science and religion, which are inextricably bound together by the show’s mythology.
Illian also explicates on faith in bed with Octavia, who is doing her best to put down her warrior ways for most of the episode, settling not-so-smoothly into the quiet farm life with Illian. He brings up the possibility of resurrection and is remarkably calm in the face of prime fiya. But it’s not just a belief in resurrection that drives Illian’s acceptance: He sees power in knowledge. Most people do not know when they are going to die. They do, and Illian sees that as something to treasure rather than fear. He’s planting crops not for himself, but for the people who come next.
Raven, meanwhile, sees no point in continuing to live when her brain is rapidly deteriorating. Hallucinations of Becca convince her to go to space. It doesn’t matter that she can’t come back. She wants to use the last of her brainpower to build a suit so that she can space-walk, bringing Raven’s arc full circle. Now, I am hoping the writers find a way to save Raven without dismissing this development in her journey altogether. But her reconciliation with Murphy is very cathartic, and her insistence that she isn’t doing this because of her leg keeps The 100 from turning her disability into a tragedy.
I’m less convinced by Harper’s arc, which hinges on that moment when she decided not to save someone during the black rainstorm. Harper’s struggles on the ground began long ago, but she hasn’t previously shown signs of the self-destructive and reckless behavior that Jasper emboldens in some of the more damaged young people of Skaikru. Jasper, Riley, and Harper lead an angry brigade of people fed up with listening to Jaha. Bellamy points out that Jaha was more than willing to send many of these kids to the ground to die; this time, they’re choosing to die on their own terms. This is a very natural fit for Jasper in the face of prime fiya, but getting Harper involved feels hasty and clumsy. If nothing else, it gives Monty even more reason to feel pulled in two directions. By the end, he stays behind with the group, but not because he’s choosing to die himself — it’s because he’s hoping they’ll change their minds.
All of the characters are grasping for control over their own mortality. All of the politics and talk of war in Polis come from the same place: People want a hand in their own fate. Roan and Indra and Clarke all want their people to survive. That’s why Clarke took the flame, but in doing so, she undermined the others. So Indra and Roan propose a new solution: a final conclave. Each clan will put forth one warrior to battle until there is only one standing, the champion’s clan winning the bunker. The entire city of Polis will be the battle arena, with no time limits, and no guns allowed, promising a rather Hunger Games setup for the next episode.
“Will you fight, or will you burn?” Roan asks, summing up the episode’s central question. Some, simply, are tired of fighting. Skaikru looks like the underdog in this conclave, until Octavia arrives on her horse, ready to fight. Her attempts to change who she is didn’t last long: When a group of Grounders corners her at Illian’s, she kills them all. Octavia isn’t necessarily afraid of dying, but she doesn’t want to stand around like Illian. The only death she wants is that of a warrior. The threat of prime fiya touches all the characters in different ways, and survival isn’t as simple as Clarke and Roan sometimes think it is. These underlying stakes for the characters when it comes to their own mortality buoys “DNR,” which otherwise gets mired in dense plotting as it lines up all the pieces for what’s to come.