In truth, I've been putting writing this review off, and doing so now - when I'm groggy, irritable, and have a weird taste in my mouth - is maybe not my wisest idea. Like a lot of television this past season, I found The 100 really quite disappointing, and not just because it killed off a prominent, interesting lesbian character, and then immediately thereafter killed off one of its few black characters in a slightly grotesque execution scene.
No, even without those things, this still would have been a disappointing series of The 100.
Picking up some time after the end of series two, Clarke - now known as Wanheda, the Commander of Death - is at the centre of a conflict between Lexa and the queen of the Ice Nation, both of whom need her support. Back in Arkadia, an election is hijacked when Pike, a violent and jingoistic man who believes in wiping out the grounders, suddenly nominates himself and wins the election, beginning a new and brutal reign over the colony. There are worse things coming, though, as ALIE, an AI that destroyed the world nearly a century prior, sets out to take over the minds of everyone in Arkadia and Polis, with a brainwashed Jaha serving as her right hand.
|The Ice Queen seems like a lovely person.|
I really wanted to like this series, because if I'm being honest, I think the idea of ALIE has a lot of interesting potential: An AI brainwashing people to serve as extensions of itself is a genuinely intriguing idea, and can make for a pretty terrifying villain. The show seems to flipflop on whether her thralls retain their own personalities or if they basically become talking cultist zombies (and in the last few episodes, it's basically a string of zombie horror tropes every time the thralls turn up), and it was always more interesting when it was the former, with the thralls being essentially the same people with the same values and skillsets, just subtly altered to make them loyal to ALIE.
As it is, as the series goes on and the show pushes them further to the 'zombie cultist' side of the scale, they - and ALIE by extension - become not only less interesting, but also less intimidating. By the final episode, I didn't find ALIE even remotely intimidating or impressive as a villain, even though at that point she had basically decisively won, because the show had somehow managed to boil down her bag of tricks and strategies to 'throw bodies at a problem.'
(Oddly, Jaha always feels like a more intimidating villain than ALIE, because Isaiah Washington is apparently really good at playing earnest-seeming but slightly sinister prophet types.)
|I'm never sure whether ALIE is meant to seem robotic or smirkingly evil.|
The other problem with ALIE, of course, is that it means that every other plot gets the kibosh put on it. For the Ice Nation plot, this is fine, as the show manages to wrap that up before ALIE gets anywhere near Polis - this is not the case for the Pike plot.
I'll grant you, I did hate the Pike plot, not just because it felt very much like retreading the same old ground ('some of us want to stab the grounders and some of us don't' is a conflict that's been coming up since the first series), but also because for it to work, some characters had to act completely contrary to how they should. Why, exactly, are Bellamy and Monty, both of whom have at least one close grounder friend and who have had a fair amount of grounder allies, siding with Pike? How exactly are we meant to sympathise with Bellamy at all from now on when he's directly responsible for a massacre, and indirectly responsible for a much more likable character's death?
But if you're going to start a plot, even a terrible one, then for god's sake, finish it. Don't just brush it under the carpet because now everybody involved in it has been brainwashed. The show makes vague moves towards wrapping it up by having Bellamy (rather abruptly) sell Pike out to the grounders, but since the resultant power vacuum (and/or struggle between Pike loyalists and regular people) and Pike's punishment end up never happening for brainwashing reasons, the storyline feels rather incomplete. It'll never be completed either, as Octavia murders Pike at the end of the series - although I admit that that was a satisfying moment.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this series. Apart from all of its technical flaws, and apart from the - frankly creepy treatment of Lexa and Lincoln, it also feels like it's lost the spark it had in its first series. Everything about it feels more worn out, less vibrant, less engaging, and that's genuinely a shame, as I've lavished praise on this show before, and for good reason. It'll almost certainly be renewed for another series, but it's looking like it might be leaning towards series four being its last, and that might be a good idea.