The 100 “Red Queen’ (RQ) is the second episode of the fifth season and it was surprising. I consider myself a Bellarke enthusiast, so imagine how gobsmacked I was after viewing the first 4 episodes of the season and declaring that this one, which had nothing to do with them, as my favorite. Another surprising thing is the relief it brought me. Spending almost a year hastily scrolling past the chatter of a gleeful fandom predicting that Jaha’s demise would be a bacchanal of cannibalism got into my head a bit. I felt certain that this tragic yet flawed figure would be disrespected and dehumanized based solely on fandoms thirst for it to happen. I am so overjoyed that the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, he was sent off in a way befitting his arc. Octavia and Jaha’s story in TRQ honored this man and so many of the themes of the show. Thank you, Jason Rothenberg, for that.
At Octavia’s core, there is a sense of adventure, loyalty, and love. But the circumstances of her life, from being locked away, to losing Lincoln warped her natural instincts. At the beginning of RQ, the idea of population reduction is repellent. She is in no way prepared to deal with the very real situation they find themselves in but after running a gauntlet literally and figuratively she is able to use the brutal lessons of her life and the tools at her disposal to solidify and unify a society despite a woeful lack of confidence.
Octavia has a molten core of rage inside of her and embracing the grounder way as early as the first season was the bellows stoking it. When she had Lincoln it was a way to show her love and fierceness, but as much as she talked about what it meant to be a warrior, what she really wanted was to live a peaceful, honorable life on Luna’s rig. That all changed when Lincoln was killed. Her grieving process had her give over completely to the thrill of bloodshed and death. In my opinion, I saw it not just as a lashing out but as the ultimate show of agency. “I may not have been born into a life where I get to control what happens to me but now that I’ve lost 2/3 of my tether to this world (Arora and Lincoln), I can enact my will taking lives with brutal precision.”
Octavia is not well, never has been, never had the chance to be. She was able to build on her sense of compassion and empathy due to Bellamy’s love as Atom suggested in S1, but ultimately she has always had the capacity to go to a deeply disturbing place even when she’s trying her best not to. There’s nothing stopping her now and actually every reason she should continue down this path if she wants to keep the fidelity of her people.
The performances. — Everyone hits it out of the park.
Marie Avgeropoulos holds the entire thing up on her toned shoulders. Even her physicality changes after the 6 year jump. She goes from flinging herself on the floor across from Jaha ready to give up, pouting miserably over not being a leader to fully inhabiting her latest title of Blodreina. We don’t actually get much of present-day Blodreina but she is poised, still, and commanding. In later episodes make note of how she moves and speaks. It is a fantastic transformation on Marie’s part. In that small bit at the end, we see the extent of her power. Her people look to her completely. A small raising of the hand sends her subjects into a rapturous frenzy and affirms the freedom of the colosseum victor. The reason it works is we saw the bloody penance she had to pay to get that kind of obedience, and we saw the toll it took on her spirit as she lay like a child on her book, crying blank-eyed until she’s’ joined by Gaia and Indra.
Adina Porter‘s subtle facial expressions and delivery of pointed dialogue like, “Your real commanders would’ve let you burn.” build on my already enormous esteem for the character and the actress. I can’t get enough of her and her conflict. She shows the struggle between honoring tradition and making something that works in the present. She demonstrates Indra’s frustration with Gaia’s rigidity, her desire to protect and honor and nurture Octavia’s leadership, and her own adherence to tradition as the only thing she knows, which has a proven track record of working to unify the clans. Such complexity. I can’t wait to see more.
Isaiah Washington is always intense and riveting as Thelonious Jaha. I loved the sharp and watchful but non-challenging look he has in all his scenes with Bunker leadership. You can almost see the wheels turning in his head when Jaha is saying goodbye to Ethan in the bunk room. Jaha knows he’s mortally wounded but he has to save his people one last time so he hatches a plan to do just that. The character of Jaha has run its course and I’m so happy that he died surrounded by his loved ones on his own terms. May we meet again, Isaiah.
Odds and Ends
- Mackson! (More on them after S4)
- Kara is Kane and Abby’s consequences.
- Kane and Abby’s relationship is not one that moves me normally but they had some great scenes in this episode
- I love an episode where basically everyone is right from their own PoV and it’s handled well
- Way to honor the history and themes of this show to the fullest