The Other Side
Chris Larkin as Monty.
What once seemed like a strength of this season might become its downfall. The 100 is so adamant about making the impending apocalypse cyclical, forcing its characters to make the same decisions they faced in the past, that it has become redundant.
For a while, The 100 kept this cyclical storyline fresh, putting characters on different sides of the equation. Clarke became the person deciding who lives and dies instead of being one of those sent to die so that others may live, as she was in season one when she was a part of the original 100. But in the last few episodes, the show has run out of ways to make the repetition of history mean something deeper for the characters. There are only so many times a character can say, “Hey, this is exactly like when we were on the Ark!” before it starts to sound heavy-handed and tedious. Where last week’s episode collapsed all of the interconnected conflicts of the season into one high-stakes battle, “The Other Side” spreads the narrative too thin yet again.
Octavia, Abby, and Bellamy are the only three people making any damn sense. The episode begins where we left off, as Bellamy finds out that Clarke and Jaha have kidnapped him as part of their plan to seize the bunker for Skaikru regardless of the conclave’s outcome. Clarke attempts to explain herself, but Bellamy interjects, “You did what you think you had to do, like always.” I don’t typically find myself siding with Bellamy, but he offers a succinct critique of Clarke here. She has been particularly frustrating this season, acting like she knows what’s best for her people while really just making bad decisions that she defends with a sweeping “I’m doing what I have to do” explanation. Her arc isn’t necessarily incoherent: She is becoming the type of leader she once despised, the type of leader who would abandon an alliance at a critical juncture in the fight against Mount Weather, the type of leader who would send 100 teens to the ground to die. The Jaha-ification of Clarke, however, has made the character somewhat insufferable.
One of The 100’s strengths has always been that when its characters make terrible choices, those choices still make sense given who they are. That’s becoming less true for Clarke, who has developed a one-track mind in her quest to make sure her people survive. She tells Niylah, who’s far from a fully realized character in this story, that she is doing this to save the human race, that the people on the other side will kill Skaikru for their betrayal and no one will be left to run all the technology that makes life sustainable in the bunker. She’s assuming that the other clans don’t also want the human race to survive prime fiya, which is far from the case. Clarke’s seemingly noble foresight is all just a lie she’s telling herself. By taking the bunker, she isn’t saving the human race — she’s merely saving her people. Maybe it’s time for everyone to admit that Clarke may not be a great leader.
At least Abby and Bellamy understand that saving the human race means saving more than just Skaikru — or, at least, it should. Abby has been seeking salvation all season, desperately hanging onto her humanity in the face of the death wave. She proves herself in “The Other Side” by allying with Bellamy, who is willing to die in the process of opening the bunker’s door, driven by his love for his sister. Thanks to the black rain, the clans are distracted enough to not yet know about Skaikru’s betrayal. Echo overhears Indra and Octavia talking about the problem, but Octavia leverages the fact that she knows Echo cheated in the conclave and was banished by Roan to make sure she won’t talk. Octavia has faith that her brother will come through, and Echo does, too. She knows how much Bellamy loves his sister.
This main plot line would feel much more compelling and nuanced if this episode only had the bunker conflict to grapple with, but no, there’s also Raven back in the lab and Jasper and his DNR buddies back at the Ark. Raven comes close to figuring out how to fling herself into space, but has another seizure in the process, which awakens a new hallucination: Sinclair. Sinclair and Becca argue back and forth about what’s best for Raven, but of course, it’s just Raven arguing with herself. Sinclair represents her willingness to live, and Becca represents her desire to die. In the end, her will to live wins out, and “Sinclair” helps her figure out a way to reboot her brain. She can’t make her pain go away, but that doesn’t matter; Raven’s desire to live trumps the pain. It’s an uplifting narrative to be sure, one that eschews typical stories about disabilities by letting Raven realize her pain isn’t a reason to end her life. But it undercuts Raven as a character by being too corny and predictable. The emotions come off as insincere and clunky. The second the script explicitly acknowledges that Raven was just fighting with herself the whole time (“It was in you all along,” Sinclair explains), it all becomes obtuse, killing the poignancy by explaining far too much.
Jasper’s suicide similarly squashes the emotional potency of his arc with weak writing. In a way, The 100’s writers backed themselves into a corner by setting Jasper on a self-destructive path devoid of hope. He dies by his own hands, convincing the others who stayed behind to overdose on the hallucinogenic tea that has fueled their end of the world party for the past few episodes. Monty and Jasper’s good-bye is devastating, and both actors give heartrending performances, but his death just doesn’t resonate in the way that it should. Still, it’s a bit more sincere than Harper’s arc, which yet again doesn’t quite click. In the end, Harper chooses life, just like Raven. She goes through the motions of telling Monty she doesn’t love him, telling him she isn’t worth dying for. But that’s her guilt speaking: She ultimately joins Monty and the two head for Polis together. The emotional release of their reconnection remains weirdly lifeless.
Bellamy comes through by episode’s end, just like Octavia and Echo knew he would. Clarke tries to stop him at the last second, but he makes it clear that she’ll have to kill him in order to stop him. (At least he figured out one thing she isn’t willing to do to save her people.) Clarke lowers her gun, letting him go. Bellamy also thankfully points out that refusing to open the door is not the same as the tough decisions Clarke made in the past, like when they pulled the lever at Mount Weather. Back then, they knew exactly what the outcome would be. This time, there’s uncertainty. Octavia’s vision of one clan could work; it could be the key to saving the human race while also preserving their humanity. Octavia declares that each clan will get 100 spots, and Skaikru is the only one yet to pick their survivors, setting up the next problem for Clarke, Jaha, Bellamy, Abby, and Kane to solve.
“The Other Side” is too sweeping in the way it handles its central conflict, referencing the past without delving deeper into what those connections really mean for these characters and the present stakes at hand. With the exception of Abby, Bellamy, and Octavia, many characters loosely represent those ideas instead of fully embodying them with emotional foundation. Clarke’s actions are hollow until the end, when she can’t bring herself to kill Bellamy. Unfortunately, the episode has to move on from that impossible choice too quickly. The weight of the moment never settles in, and we’re left to ponder the same old story.