The 100 Redeems the Bellamy Plotline-But Not Bellamy-In a Stellar Episode
Spoilers for The 100 season three follow!
When TV writers start to make mistakes, they often tell fans to "trust them," that their controversial decisions will pay off in the end, and it's almost always bullshit (or, at the very least, mistaken). But in the case of The 100, we might have done well to take that advice, because in Thursday's episode, "Fallen," several questionable decisions paid off in a big way, most notably Bellamy's seemingly out-of-left-field character arc.
The 100 has been praised for its propulsive storytelling, but this season that has led to several important developments being a little too rushed, with Bellamy as the biggest casualty. I would argue that his susceptibility to Pike's influence was never as outlandish as many claimed, but his plotline moved a little too quickly to be as poignant or understandable as it could have been. But this episode reminded us that The 100 is capable of downright beautiful things when it slows down, especially in that heartbreaking, brutal cold open. Bob Morley and Marie Avgeropoulos were both at the top of their games, and managed to express all of the characters' complex feelings about Lincoln's tragic death with very little dialogue. I complained last week re: the Nightbloods and the Grounder massacre that the show was losing its grip its portrayal of violence, but this scene was staged in a humanistic, empathetic way, as it made the viewer feel every punch and blow that Bellamy received. He probably deserves it, but the scene was so well-done that you just feel terrible for everyone involved.
I was also concerned that Bellamy would be redeemed far too quickly, that after taking part in horrific atrocities, his apologies would be accepted by the other characters (and by extension, the show) way too easily. But this episode managed to dispatch Pike and make Bellamy a little more sympathetic, while also making it clear that he has a long way to go before he's fully atoned for what he's done. I was frustrated when Bellamy only turned on Pike when Octavia was in danger, because that nearsightedness and limited loyalty led to all of his mistakes to begin with. But the writers demonstrated that they're fully aware of that character flaw when Kane took him aside and called him out for his selfish motivations. Bellamy may be back on the "good side," but he still hasn't fully learned his lesson, and I'm glad that Octavia, Kane, and co. are going to make him work for forgiveness. I wish there had been more scenes that slowed down and explored the characters' motivations throughout the season, but these two scenes went a long way towards improving this plotline upon rewatch.
Similarly, at the beginning of the season, the A.L.I.E. plotline seemed to be somewhat ridiculous and cliched, but after a slow-burning, thoughtful development of the arc that's occurred mostly in the background, it's become the most consistently well-written plotline of the season. This episode was particularly strong on that front, eerily showing A.L.I.E.'s quiet ascent to power while everyone was distracted with Pike's shenanigans (which might make an apt meta-commentary on this season in general), and allowed for a powerful performance from Lindsey Morgan, whose imitations of Erica Cerra's mannerisms were spot-fucking-on. And then the last shot of A.L.I.E., Abby, and Jaha serenely watching Jasper and Clarke's futile attempt at escape was terrifying, and very reminiscent of Jasmine from Angel, one of my favorite villains of all time.
Even smaller complaints of this season were mollified by this episode; Jasper has mostly acted like an emo idiot all season, but my previous annoyance with him has made his subtle transition into the voice of reason all the more satisfying. And although it still seems somewhat contrived for Clarke to be away from her people for so long, simply because the Pike plotline wouldn't have gone the same way if she were around, it was pretty exciting to see her reunite with Jasper and Raven right when everything is going to hell.
If I had one significant complaint about this episode, it's Ontari. I love Murphy, and their scenes together have added some much-needed levity to the proceedings, but she's just not a well-developed or compelling character. It's difficult to justify this extended arc when she is reprehensible enough to kill children in her sleep, and hasn't been interesting enough to offset that unlikability. (Not to mention that that last scene with Murphy was treated far too lightly, considering that he was essentially being coerced into sex under threat of death.) But that being said, I'll reserve judgment until the end of the season, because this episode has proven that the writers have earned the benefit of the doubt.