The 100 Season 5 Roundtable Review
Welcome back, fans of The 100. Now that we've had a couple of days to process the Season 5 finale, we thought it was time to do a roundtable discussion and review of the season's final episode, as well as the season as a whole, and spend some time looking forward to what we can expect out of Season 6.
Season 5 was certainly a rollercoaster (although perhaps not in the way creator Jason Rothenberg intended), with outstanding acting, breakthrough characters, and a thrilling end mixed in with stagnant plot, too much telling over showing, and some decisions that left most of the audience scratching their heads.
Joining Truth Bee Told authors Sam, April, and Gina for this roundtable are special guests Yana (@yanawrites) of TV Fanatic, freelance writer Crystal (@wordyblerd), and previous guest contributor Rory (@revolutionarvie).
What are your initial thoughts on the season finale?
Crystal: I was pretty neutral. It didn’t have the emotional impact because I knew the end and I was foolishly waiting for a deep and important Bellamy/Clarke conversation that was teased all through SDCC that never materialized. I really liked Bellamy bringing the whole business full circle while counseling Madi. I thought that was a smart way to really encapsulate the shift in perspective needed to continue the human race.
Gina: It was one of the strongest episodes of the season, like always! But it was definitely not as perfect as 4x13 or 2x16 in my opinion. Its weak points were the same weak points the season as a whole has had: all tell, no show and the inconsistency of the commander plot. I LOVED Bellamy telling Madi to break the cycle (listen to your own words, writers) and that she listened! I wish they would’ve allotted time to explore Bellamy and Clarke’s reconnection and gave it some genuine confrontation (a la “Hakeldama”), but this time a healing one.
THE ENDING, boy was Bob right! I cried; the Monty and Harper story is probably the best ending any characters on this show will ever get. It was beautiful...sad, but beautiful. Jordan is already my new fave! The end shot of Bellamy pulling Clarke into him is one of the most beautiful shots this show has ever done, while they cry at the loss of their old friends but also at the gain of a NEW HOPE, literally seeing a new day dawning! And it’s a world with two suns so a double dawning of a new era?! We can only hope they listen to Monty and will be “the good guys.” Also, A+ special effects for that beautiful shot.
Sam: Having managed to avoid the spoilers going around, I was hit fully by the emotional impact of the final act...although I also thought the big Bellamy/Clarke scene teased at SDCC would be more than what we got. There were large parts of the finale I was fully invested in (the showdown with McCreary and Clarke, Bellamy counselling Madi, Bellamy and Clarke waiting for Murphy, Monty, and Emori to show up as the seconds ticked down) and other things I wish they’d handled differently for sure — the continuation of the commander plot being one.
April: Like Crystal, I left the season not feeling much of anything, but in a very odd way. While the episode was airing, I was enthralled — because if The 100 does anything well, it’s finales. However, once the episode was over and I had time to process what really happened I realized that, outside of that huge reveal at the end, our heroes are essentially in the exact same place they were as the season begun, which is a disappointing realization for a season that started on such a high note.
Rory: Outside the ending and a few individual moments here and there, such as Monty carrying Murphy Samwise Gamgee-style to the ship or Bellamy's 'break the cycle' moment with Madi, this season finale felt a little lackluster to me. I'm not entirely sure what I expected out of it, but so many of the major beats felt like things a lot of people had predicted would happen, which definitely made it feel like a paint-by-numbers finale overall.
Yana: Coming to terms with the fact that Season 5 was disappointing in many ways made the finale easier to watch. It lined up with everything that I was predicting and comparing it to the first part definitely helped this settle better for me. The first half I truly didn’t like, mostly because it was really obvious where this was going and the fact that at the end it was McCreary who did all this? It only made it more obvious how ridiculous everyone was acting, only to get their acts together in the eleventh hour when it did nothing productive. But accepting that a finale wasn’t going to fix all the problems that the season set up made me appreciate things like the slower pace and the fact that it wasn’t a heartbreaking blood bath. That would have taken away even more from the finale for me and it was easier to just experience the finale for what it was, a conclusion to a book I really was ready to finish.
Did it do a good job of wrapping up all the loose ends? Is there anything more you would have liked to see out of it?
Crystal: There was very little resolution on display but most folks didn’t die and Monty/Harper were sent off the perfect way.
Gina: HA! This is a loaded question! The resolution to Monty and Harper’s story was perfect, but basically no other loose ends were tied up. Bellamy and Clarke didn’t even get a full conversation — WHAT ABOUT THE RADIO CALLS, BELLAMY!? Are John and Emori back together? Is Shaw’s leg okay? Octavia is suddenly wanting her brother’s love? And things that did get “resolved” were filler (ie. the whole Octavia/Abby scene, what was that even for? Other characters deserved to “hash it out” more than those two). Besides the “Marper” at the end, it was an underwhelming job of any kind of closure.
Sam: A surprising number of things weren’t resolved before everyone went into cryo sleep, as Gina mentioned above, and I hope they take the time for those things in Season 6. Specifically, I would have liked for Clarke and Bellamy to discuss what it meant that she radioed him every day for six years, instead of it being a throwaway line from Madi. You can't just hang something like that over our heads for a full season and not follow through on it!
April: *Laughs* I’m going to have to give it a “no.” Just doing a basic rundown of where our characters are as compared to where they were at the beginning of the season makes that clear, and that’s largely because the characters who really needed to have conversations weren’t allowed to, and when they did speak with one another they carefully avoided discussing the elephants in the many, many rooms. This phenom is most evident when it comes to our main characters, Bellamy and Clarke. It’s absurd that, after not seeing each for six years, with Bellamy believing Clarke to be dead (and to save HIS life at that), the characters who make up the relationship at the center of the show (according to Jason Rothenberg) don’t discuss it — or even seem to process what that means for them.
Even after Clarke and Bellamy both betray each other, there’s no actual resolution. Instead they have conversations with other characters (Echo forces a realization for Clarke and Madi does the same for Bellamy in 5x12 and 5x13 respectively) and magically reach forgiveness, and as a result the “forgiveness” we see between them later in the season feels hollow and flat — because it wasn’t earned. Bellamy and Clarke aren’t the only ones who suffer from this; even outside of simple conversations there are major plot points that need to be resolved, and this is the only reason I’m willing to give Rothenberg a bit of leeway, because there’s so much left open-ended I can only assume that the characters will be carrying this with them into Season 6 where we’ll finally have real character-driven plot development, instead of characters being driven by the plot.
Rory: Some things seem to be wrapped up, such as the Abby addiction storyline, but for the most part they just put the loose ends into cryosleep.
Yana: My biggest issue with 5x12 was how large issues that the season spent so much time on were just magically fixed. Abby’s addiction suddenly was no longer an issue, Octavia’s dark path reached a conclusion and she swerved in the other direction, and Clarke finally let Madi go be Commander in the battlefield. Season 5 initially spent the majority of time on these plotlines, with the results that everything else got sidetracked. Now those big plotlines get resolved just in time for the finale, but everything else is left feeling unfinished, so that to me wasn’t the best approach. And of course the finale wouldn’t have the room to then go back and handle character conflict and relationship gaps that deserved the whole season.
It was upsetting until it was made clear that they are circling back to that in the beginning of Season 6, something I am curious about when considering the setup that was then created for this. Madi didn’t need to drop the radio call bombshell, it could have just gotten buried in the rush to the new planet. But she said it and then Bellamy reflected on it when you consider his conversation about Clarke joining their strategy session. So I will be interested to see if Season 6 will improvement on where Season 5 fell flat. It also really helped to hear that they aren’t aiming for Season 6 to have such a reboot of a finale, for now they are settled where they are and that should be the focus from here on out. The biggest mistakes seem to be aiming for the next chaotic finale twist on The 100.
How do you rate this finale compared to the finales of previous seasons, and how does it rank among the episodes of Season 5?
Crystal: It was the worst finale for me because it didn’t justify 5B at all, in my opinion. Nothing happened but gratuitous violence, bad choices, and sudden unexplained reversals of character position this season.
Gina: I addressed this a little above, but this finale didn’t touch the perfection of 3 out of 4 of the previous finales (my least favorite finale is still 3x16), EXCEPT the last 15 minutes with the Jordan/Monty/Harper reveal and the beautiful scene of our leads staring down at their new home together, that may end up being the best 15 minutes of the entire series. We could’ve gotten to this episode directly after 5x05 so what, pray tell, was all the drama of 5B for? To bring back the glorified ancient flash drive so a 12-year-old could become humanity’s leader for five minutes? I just have a lot of “salty” questions. But I did love a lot of small moments.
Sam: Squarely in the middle for me — didn’t live up to the emotional impact delivered by the Seasons 2 and 4 finales, but delivered more than the Seasons 1 and 3 finales. I think most of the problems it had were an extension of the larger problems Season 5 had as a whole, and the ending left me (probably naively) hopeful for Season 6. It was definitely one of the stronger episodes of Season 5, but would have landed better if it didn’t come on the tail of two of the most disappointing episodes of the season.
April: As an individual episode, I’d say it was well-done and fun. There were really good actions scenes, high stakes and tension. If I was not an avid viewer of the show I’d be pleased. Because I am an avid viewer of the show it falls flat as a finale as it doesn’t resolve any of the open plots, doesn’t further any character development and relies on two fan favorite deaths and what it hoped would be two big reveals. And I’ll admit — Shannon Kook’s Jordan was definitely a huge surprise, but as we’d all guessed that they’d be going off planet at the end of the season the final reveal, while beautiful, didn’t have the impact I imagine they’d expected it to. It’s definitely in my bottom two when it comes to finales, but one of the better episodes of the season, taken individually.
Rory: When it comes to the other episodes of the season, I'd say it's somewhere in the high middle. Not the best episode of the season, but nowhere near the worst. Despite my mentioning it being lackluster earlier there was nothing in it that made me mad or roll my eyes the way a lot of the back half of the season did. Also, I would be lying if I said I didn't love the introduction to Shannon Kook's character, didn't immediately tear up when he said his name was Jordan, or pretty much just sit in my feels for the entire ending. In comparison to the other finales it's probably my least favorite.
Yana: Maybe because the preceding episode was so unsatisfying for me or maybe because the second half of 5x13 flowed well, but I was fine with the finale. It was in no way my favorite, in fact I think that goes to 4x13 because it was almost a direct parallel, but it was clear that this was a huge shakeup. Season 5 misstepped with delivering on that reboot so setting up this next big shift felt like putting faith in something else that might not be handled as it should.
But then I think about that last shot. When considering how this season made me feel, it was the idea of how it would all end that was the deciding factor for me. So having Bellamy and Clarke together facing the next big thing that is coming their way, that was the constant that I was very happy to see them honor. This is Bellamy and Clarke’s story, this is about how they work together and how they lean on each other to figure stuff out. This is why I was almost more easily swayed to appreciate the finale, that parting shot was everything to me. And as for Jordan’s introduction? It was obvious who he was and then Shannon Kook proved why even being predictable doesn’t mean he couldn’t steal our hearts in under five minutes. I love him and I love that he ended the finale with our heroes. It was a quiet build up to a heavy next season, so this calm before the storm was exactly what I enjoyed about it.
The Season 5 finale left a number of loose ends. Do you think Octavia will be given a redemption in Season 6? Do you think she deserves one?
Crystal: Sure, why not? It was Abby that convinced her stealing the bunker captives’ body autonomy was the “only way” which it certainly wasn’t. Then she threw it back in Octavia’s face that Marcus forgave her, which paints both she and Marcus as a McCreary-level villian in my book. He betrayed his people to McCreary, a mass murderer, because he had a giant hate on for Octavia even though he KNEW the woman he loved was the devil whispering in her ear. That’s truly diabolical.
Sam: I have no doubt they’ll give Octavia a redemption, and a lot of doubt I’ll be satisfied by it. To me, Octavia committed some truly horrific crimes in Season 5 for which there can be no redemption, and the worst of them — the fighting pits and burning down the farm — were fully her idea. Already I’m bemoaning the loss of “dark” Octavia, who I’ve fully enjoyed watching, and dreading the return of “good” Octavia, who I’ve always hated.
April: It’s pretty clear that they plan on redeeming Octavia; in fact they’ve started taking her down that road as of episode 5x12 (Damocles, Pt. 1), the problem is she hasn’t earned even the smallest bit of forgiveness or trust. Nothing about her grand “sacrifice” in 5x12, realizing that Wonkru is broken because of her own actions and being willing to die for it works, because it’s clear that for Octavia, death is a release, and that’s not heroic for me. Not after forcing people to eat human meat instead of letting them choose how they live or die, not after forcing people to fight for crimes, not after burning down their people’s sustenance and forcing them to walk into a battle that left 300 of them dead in the gorge. I feel compelled to point out that Octavia’s insistence on taking Eden instead of allowing Monty’s algae to work its magic is in part responsible for McCreary dropping Damocles on the Earth. Is it possible that McCreary would have found some other reason to drop the bombs? Absolutely. But what matters is that in this moment, at this time, Octavia taking away her people’s choice (once again) leads to the (apparently) permanent destruction of the last piece of Earth. Does Octavia deserve her redemption? After her Season 5 actions? Absolutely not.
Rory: They've already set up that she's going to be given a redemption in Season 6. I'm not exactly sure how I feel on this because on the one hand it can be argued that everyone should have a shot at redemption, but on the other hand she's done some stuff this season that I'm not sure is forgivable because it was done with the goal of keeping her power and control over her people. It really comes down to how they go about doing her redemption arc. Are they going treat it the way they've treated Bellamy's when he's gone through them, or the overly rushed way they handled Lexa's? My money is on the latter, and that, in my opinion, is not a good thing.
Gina: As the ladies above have mentioned, they pretty much set Octavia up in the finale for a Season 6 redemption, which isn’t the worst thing, and the real life me is a firm believer that no one is beyond hope and redemption, if they are willing to grow and change. But TV watching, story loving me? Not impressed. I don’t like the fact that we are basically going to be force fed a (most likely) unearned redemption for Octavia because she is a “badass” character and has been broken her entire life. But the issue is Octavia and at times the writers — blame anyone and anything for Octavia's horrible choices, say it with me, CHOICES. No one made her start the fighting pits, shoot the people that wouldn’t eat their dead friends, she literally burned Monty’s garden to the ground out of spite. So any redemption they give her will probably not feel like enough to me.
Yana: Yep. I agree with everything above. Octavia was either going to die a hero or she was going to head into the next season as a villain that will be redeemed. It was nice to see her relationship with Bellamy not wrapped up in a bow, especially with how he said he was okay with her dying in 5x12. There was question how much of that he meant and how much he didn’t. Seeing him still in that place and not just handing Octavia his trust over again was great for me. He has been forgiving her since before she even saw that she was making mistakes. Even now the blame falls on other people and I am glad that Bellamy is at least no longer taking any of that from her. He knows his truth and his worth, and it was important for that not to be just forgotten because of a finale.
It is also interesting to compare how he forgave Clarke, and there is a lot more to discuss there. But at the end of the day Madi at least shifted his view of who Clarke was this season and the headspace she must have been in. While Bellamy finding out about the Dark Year might shift something, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this was his sister and there is no secret hack that will show a different side to her. She let power become an addiction and she needs to reflect on that because it mattered more to her than Bellamy at one point.
Are you satisfied with how the show left Bellamy and Clarke’s relationship? What do you wish they had done differently? How do you see this relationship progressing in Season 6?
Crystal: Thinking about Bellamy and Clarke makes me feel silly and stupid for believing all the anvil-style hints the show had been throwing all season about the nature and depth of their relationship. I’m not really interested in dissecting their relationship anymore since all it warrants is an easy-peasy reset quip and they’re all good. Every other contentious duo got to talk about what transpired between them. Clarke/Abby, Kane/Abby, Emori/John (earlier in the season and throughout), even McCreary/Diyoza growled and licked their chops at each other a few times. The supposed center of the show got two quick quips and it was over.
Gina: Buckle up for this one kiddos — I love that they got to talk about how much they care about each other to other people, don’t get me wrong, but could they not have said this kind of thing to each other in person!?!? Just two minutes of deep heartfelt words is all we needed to know where they are with each other. All the other pairs got to have moments like that throughout the season and the LEAD CHARACTERS didn’t? It’s odd. They did however heart-eye each other the whole episode and the ending scene was so lovely — the new “cosmic Adam and Eve” taking on the torch from Monty and Harper.
Season 6 could give us great content with these two as friends, co leaders, and if I’m being honest — the loves of each other’s lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love every version of Bellamy and Clarke, but these two deserve the love each of them have for the other. It’s a beautiful healing, forgiving bond that gives each a little more courage and a lot more heart. I WANT IT. If the first 30 minutes of 6x01 are nothing but Bellamy and Clarke talking and grieving and fawning over Jordan? That alone will satisfy me for 6 episodes. Let them just exist in each other’s sphere.
I’ve seen some of the “non-romantic soulmates” comments from interviews but I just don’t buy it because everything in Season 5 was romantic setup for them, and it wasn’t just in the subtext, we got textual, canon comments linking them romantically. But I still love them as platonic soulmates! The trick is either option requires them to actually TALK and hang out, and the writers have to commit to giving them that time. I am cautiously hopeful for their relationship in any iteration getting some serious attention in Season 6.
Sam: Bellamy and Clarke is the unresolved thing that rankles the most. The reveal about the radio calls should have come earlier, and from Clarke herself. They should have had a chance to talk about how they were each other’s driving force for six years. Clarke’s betrayal of Bellamy in Polis, too, warranted a longer conversation. Maybe we’ll still get it.
As for how the relationship progresses, I still think the seeds are sown for it to become romantic. There were too many moments in Season 5 for it to be truly non-romantic, as JR claims. However, if it does stay platonic I can be happy with that, as long as they still give the relationship the respect it deserves.
April: With the way this season ended? I’m in the (absolute minority) when I say yes. Because they didn’t have the opportunity to actually speak to each other, to deal with Clarke’s return from the dead and Bellamy’s return from space and, later, the absolute betrayals they inflicted on each other, anything other than their return to co-leaders and friends would have felt undeserved at this time. With that being said, I do think that there were altogether too many moments laid out over the course of this season that clearly establish Bellamy and Clarke as something more than platonic.
I’m even willing to accept (and I actually prefer this scenario) that they just weren’t ready to have the conversations they needed to have because they’d both forgotten how to interact with one another — in fact, I’d argue that the moments in the finale are the first time the duo actually feel like the Clarke and Bellamy we’ve known previously, and, now that Madi has informed Bellamy that he has “no idea how much she cares about you” and Clarke knows she is forgiven we can enter Season 6 with them finally getting the chance to begin to rebuild their relationship and progress into something more. Yes, yes I’m aware that Jason has said that he doesn’t see the romance and to that I’m going to have to say he’s fibbing.
No showrunner worth their salt would throw in lines like “The hostage taker and his girlfriend” and scenes like Clarke staring at Bellamy and Echo embracing and the explicit comparison of Clarke’s love for Lexa to her love for Bellamy or have Clarke call Bellamy for six years straight and not have an eventual plan for that. If he truly doesn’t, Jason might be the biggest villain The 100 has ever seen, because he’s clearly baiting the Bellarke fandom in order to keep viewership and that’s inexcusable.
Yana: I mentioned my thoughts before but April addresses it even better. If Bellarke was the only portion of this season that was disappointing then maybe I would be worried. But after 5x05 nothing worked the way it could have, and almost every plot felt useless in the end. This was a general season issue and not just a relationship being ignored or walked back on. In fact, for a season this difficult, the Bellarke content was actually subtle but with a huge impact.
There were never this many mentions of romance between them or of continued jealousy or comparing them to canon romantic couples or the worth that they have for one another. Clarke called him for six years straight and he poisoned his sister to keep Clarke alive because he loves her. None of that disappears just because the season got distracted by stagnant plot over character development. I’d argue that almost all the pairings suffered in a way as well, so Bellamy and Clarke delivering the way they did is a lot.
Now it needs to be handled between them and not them in reference to one another.
And I get the expectation for Jason to say something else but he always says this. He will say it until the episode where Bellarke gets together airs, that’s just how this will be handled. To me nothing that was said walked back on anything, and there was promise of actual conversations going forward that I want to see. Plus that parting shot, that is my shot.
How do you feel about the ending Harper and Monty received?
Gina: It’s what they deserved, although I wish Monty didn’t have to be alone at the end. He was the true moral compass of all of our characters, he was faithful to his friends to the very end. They will always have to best ending of any characters in this show, I can just about guarantee that. They chose their path and never wavered. As Harper said, “Everybody dies, Monty. Let’s show them how to live” and by George, they did.
Sam: About the best ending anyone on this show could hope for, and especially fitting for them, given their commitment to peace in Season 5.
April: Absolutely perfect. If any couple on this show deserved a happily ever after it was Monty and Harper, who have thus far been the only people to choose to be the good guys. While everyone else persists in the belief that every action is excusable no matter what the cost as long as it ensures their survival, Monty and Harper continually strove to rise above, to be better, to do better and they did just that. And in choosing to be good, they saved the human race.
Rory: I could not have asked for a better ending for them. They got to live out their lives in peace, have a son whom they loved, and eventually grow old together.
Yana: It makes me cry. I said they didn’t deserve this but they were the only ones who might have. They were good until the end and while it is upsetting that they didn’t get a bigger role, I appreciated the ending they got. And this is why I was happy about there not being constant death for the shock of it in the finale, it would have removed the value and the legacy that Monty and Harper’s choices had.
Now that the season is done, which parts were your favourite?
Crystal: My favorite parts were the acting performances by everyone. They really stepped their game up. I also liked the addition of Shaw and Diyoza. The transformation of “Whatever the hell we want” Bellamy into the one who convinces Madi to break the cycle was beautiful and a fitting use of his character.
Sam: The Bellamy/Gaia/Indra team up was something I never knew I needed and desperately wanted more of. The new characters introduced were the best ever — especially Diyoza and Shaw, but I really enjoyed Madi too, before she put the chip in her head. Loved Bellamy finally standing up to and distancing himself from his sister. And this season didn’t give me Bellarke but they did give me Zaven, for which I’ll always be grateful.
April: Miles Ezekial (Zeke) Shaw. Shaw! And one more time, just in case you didn’t get it the first time: S.H.A.W! When we received the initial character description, it was immediately evident that this new fly boy was made for our resident genius Raven Reyes and I’ll admit I was a bit concerned that was all he would be, but Jordan Bolger truly brings life to this character. He’s smart, he doesn’t back down from a fight, he’s courageous and kind and he cares. I am more than excited to see what develops for Shaw as an individual and for Zaven together as we enter Season 6.
If you know me, you know I can’t not mention Bellamy Blake. I know a lot of people struggled to connect with him this season, but the Bellamy that we meet in Season 5 is mature, has gone through some pretty serious emotional healing, is more confident in his ability to both love and be loved and has truly learned from and internalized the hard lessons that their year on the ground taught them. Like Monty and Harper, it seems Bellamy is finally reaching a point where doing whatever it takes to survive isn’t acceptable and that they can and must find another way. Bellamy, like Monty and Jasper before him, wants to break the cycle, and I am very much so here for matured, confident, unquestionable leader Bellamy Blake, who still maintains the heart he was known for in Seasons 1 through 4, a perfect mix. This is who I always knew he could be and I am so proud.
Gina: First of all, Diyoza is my fave non-evil “villain” this show’s ever given me! I want her forever. Miles Zeke Shaw, soft!pilot boy who will kill you over Raven Reyes. I will defend Season 5 Bellamy with my last breath, I love that he has come full circle from telling Clarke “who we are and who we need to be to survive are very different things” to telling Madi “be better than them, be better than us, break the cycle.” He’s mature, and reflective on the good and bad decisions he and his people have made the past 6 years. On that note I love that Madi tells him about the radio calls. Clarke and Bellamy's exchange at the ship when she tells him they have to go and he responds, “I’m not leaving my friends, I can’t do that again” and then their long stares? It made me feel more than most of this season. Bellamy threatening to kill 283 people for Clarke Griffin? And his proof is a ‘best dad in the universe’ mug? May be the highlight of the season! Lastly the closing chapter of Monty and Harper, they got their peaceful farm life and it was worth this whole messy season to see — closing out with my fave Season 6 character, Jordan Jasper Green, the sweetest, softest thing to come from the legacy of the original 100.
Rory: All the new characters, especially Diyoza. They all brought something great to the season, and I'm glad that most of them survived to next season. The Bellamy, Gaia, and Indra team up I didn't know I needed. Seeing how much Emori has grown over the time jump, and seeing her become an integral part of the team. Murphy's one liners and love for his boom boom gun. Monty Green.
Yana: For me it was the little stuff. It was also character specific because that is what I love about this show. Bellamy and Clarke and Raven and Zeke and Jordan and Emori and Monty and Harper. Also I stand by those first five episodes of the season being amazing and my favorite.
And what do you think could have been improved upon?
Crystal: There was no real consistent theme or productive story. People’s motivations were either murky or downright incomprehendable. Why did Clarke shock collar Madi and leave Bellamy to die but can’t take out and break the computer in Mad’s head? What possible calculus did Marcus do to come up with McCreary being preferable to Octavia when he knew Wonkru were mostly victims and they’d get slaughtered? Why did Vinson even exist when you literally showed none of Spacekru’s flashbacks? They needed them. It was a harder sell that Bellamy and Echo would get together than Octavia would become a murderous tyrant. She was already a very angry assassin to begin with.
Sam: The season, especially the back half, seemed more like a first draft than a finished product. A lot of motivations weren’t explored fully, a lot of scenes didn’t get the emotional payout they deserved, some arcs were given far more screen time than they necessitated. Too often, characters (especially Clarke) were sacrificed for plot points when it should be the other way around. A full 5 or 6 episodes were spent in Polis trying to avoid going to war, only to go to war anyway. And I’ll never get over how the war was entirely unnecessary — and that the plot for the entire season was wiped out as soon as McCreary launched Damocles.
April: I mentioned it on Twitter, but I’ll say it again here: almost every episode after 5 and until 10 was filler. We spent weeks in real time watching our characters sit stagnant, not discuss their issues, not actually move the plot, argue about the same things in five different ways and just generally not do anything. In a show that has 13 episode seasons, that’s unacceptable. More, the absolute refusal to let certain plots die makes absolutely no sense. I hope it’s clear here that I mean the Flame. At this point we should just rename the plot device known as a “MacGuffin” to a “Flame”. What can’t that thing do? Every episode this season we discover more and more tricks and tips.
The Flame’s ability to predict outcomes was explained in Season 3 by Becca herself and is perhaps the most consistent part about it. How is it that Madi can commune directly with other Commanders and even allow them to speak through her, when Lexa was only able to speak to them via “dreams” and had no clear understanding of what they were trying to tell her? How exactly is a piece of technology that is, before the finale, over 100 years old, and as of the finale approximately 231 years old, still functioning effectively, if at all? Why would a group of non-Grounder adults (who don’t have any cultural connection to the Flame) continue to defer to a child? How will the Flame still be relevant now that they no longer live on Earth and are hopefully landing on a planet that has been inhabited for over 200 years by people who were technologically advanced enough to realize that life was possible on other planets, seek it out and capitalize on it?
Gina: Episodes 1-5 of this season may have been the best five episode run of the series since Season 1, but alas it felt like after Episode 5 they didn’t know how to get to the finale and tried to create conflict for the rest of the season, the “war” storyline ramped up to a whole lot of nothing. WHY were the sandworms a thing? We alllllll knew cannibalism was what happened during the shocking “dark year.” It was fragmented storytelling, and nothing better showcases that than 2 things:
ECHO — she had no development; we were just told she changed, but we didn’t get a single flashback to prove that. Remember, this show made me and a lot of other people love John Murphy after Season 1 so this was just lazy. Bellamy Blake is too amazing of a lead character to have a romance (if it’s NOT supposed to be ‘a flash in the pan’) this weak.
THE FLAME — this story is all over the place. Season 3 painstakingly took us through Becca’s journal via Raven to explain how it worked and that it had degraded over time and that’s why Lexa didn’t know it was an AI instead of a spiritual encounter. And they basically retconned their own canon rules for the flame this season for no plot altering reason? HOW are they gonna land on ‘Second Dawn’ or whatever the planet will be called and pop out of the ship and say “ Hey guys! We have come to your planet you’ve been on for 300 years and this is now your new leader Commander Madi, she’s 12ish years old and has a flashdrive of dead minds in her brain telling her what to do. So you can close your democracy now.” (If they have one.) I am hoping this planet DOESN’T have a dictator or cult leader for once, okay?
Yana: Stop using the characters to move the plot instead of using the plot to move the characters. Break the cycle of leaning on the same plot lines that have not only been covered, but that are now holding the story back from something more and that are removing agency that remarkable characters have in the show. Consider not structuring each episode to have a big shocking twist, because it loses all value the third time in. It also removes any worth that a twist could have, because then it is never addressed while the focus is on the next twist. It also affected the characters, there were life and death stakes and it was almost like some of the characters knew nothing would happen so there was no emotion. If you know you won’t kill someone off, then consider how the character seems to give off that vibe too.
In fact, focus more on emotions in general because they are what connect the audience to the story and if there is no time for conversations or feelings, the plot becomes your worst enemy. The show is what it is because of the characters and how they work off each other, not finding time for that is not finding time for a story. And please don’t focus on what big twist your season finale will have, which turns into not delivering on the first big reboot you had for the show, which turns into spending too much time with a plot to pass the time, which then doesn’t matter as much when it all gets fixed magically before the big event.
Rory: I think the pacing of the back half of the season could have been handled better. The Dark Year episode should have come earlier in the season, or the flashbacks been intertwined with a different episode. Part of me even thinks it could have been more interesting not to have it at all, and just have the Dark Year be a mystery, though we pretty much all called cannibalism. They could have dropped the worms storyline completely because it ultimately lead to nothing. Why did we have an entire flashback episode for the bunker plus the Dark Year flashbacks and none of Spacekru? What was with Diyoza suddenly thinking they should surrender to McCreary and that he would take the peaceful surrender from Wonkru? She knows him better than anyone, she'd know he wouldn't go for it. It was having a character make an out of character decision to move the plot along, and it was annoying. Another issue I have, that has been an issue in the past as well, is cutting down or almost completely erasing characters from the story when the plan is for them to be dead by the end of the season.
Which character arcs were the most impactful of Season 5, and which could have been handled better?
Crystal: I suddenly realized why Octavia filled me with such hatred this year. In the past, even when she was murderous I liked watching her character. This year she became a tyrant with a sense of ownership that made the phrase “my people” a sick parody of what it’s always meant on this show. Octavia is not relatable because the entire existence (historically and present) of me and my folks is being cut down by inhuman rulers much like Kahlan and Anamay kom Singedakru were cut down by Octavia.
Indra’s arc was beautiful this season. I hope she becomes a leader again and can reconnect with Gaia fully. Seeing her as the forever-second to horrifically less qualified teens and tweens is a dead concept to me now.
Sam: I will staunchly defend Season 5 Bellamy with my dying breath — I truly think he became the best version of himself, and his speech to Madi in the finale really cemented that for me. Monty was great, although he deserved more screen time, and both Indra and Gaia really stepped up their game.
Clarke could have been handled a lot better. The insistence that she was just a “mama bear” really ruined her actions for a lot of people; if her bond with Madi had been explored as toxic and codependent instead, it would have made more sense from the beginning. Echo was...I can’t even really put into words what went wrong with Echo’s arc for me this season (except for her being determined to kill Zeke), but nothing she did felt authentic. It felt like they were handing her lines and roles in order to prove she wasn’t useless, when we were shown nothing on screen as to why she deserved them.
April: Indra!!!! My queen! Until this season I was not a fan. I hated the way she was portrayed as angry (Angry Black Woman stereotype, anyone?) and even more so how someone of her years and experience was constantly forced to defer to teenagers, the most obvious example of this (Octavia) being a teenager not even from her own culture! This season she was really given the opportunity to come into her own and it made a world of difference. I’m so excited to see where her journey, and her daughter’s, goes this season. Bellamy Blake being (and being recognized as) a clear and undisputed leader by everyone — both in story and out of it (because he’s always been a leader but there was an odd idea that he wasn’t) was a big moment for me. I’m especially proud of the moment where Madi recognizes that listening to Bellamy is better than listening to The Flame.
What could have been handled better: Clarke “Mama Bear” Griffin. If you read my review of 5x09 then you already know how I feel about that whole deal, but I feel the need to repeat: mothers don’t behave the way Clarke did this season, but people who have spent six years with only one other person for contact would absolutely do so. They should have leaned more into the fact that Clarke’s trauma because of the unique situation she was in created a single minded focus on Madi that made her dangerous to any and everyone, including Madi herself and so much more of her journey would have made sense this season.
Echo: If we were meant to feel anything but antagonism for this woman Space Squad Seven should have gotten flashbacks (I mean — they should have gotten them anyway because 5 out of 7 were core members of the cast for 4 seasons, two of whom died in this season, but I digress). We are repeatedly told that Echo has “proven” herself, but none of her actions or interactions on screen show us this. In fact, she spends much of the season at odds with everyone, even the very people she spent six years in space with. In her case, and in the case of any new additions to the cast or existing characters that receive expanded arcs: please, I can not beg enough: Show us, don’t tell us.
Gina: Bellamy! Space dad, leader, true friend, loving. I will never not stan this man. INDRA! Queen mother and she and Gaia have the healthiest mother/daughter relationship on this show. She also flat out had enough of Octavia and chose to try and be a good guy. Shaw, I loved his little callbacks to motorcycles and fun, watching him soften his heart towards Raven and the rest of humanity was a pure treat.
Murphy’s arc was spotty but him dealing with depression and feeling like he was worthless compared to the rest of his space family, coming to earth feeling isolated and alone but then being carried back to safety on the back of a friend he’s hurt more than once, with his girlfriend he’d been snappy and mean to recently, and to then see Bellamy waiting for them. He can’t ever say he doesn’t have people that love him. I hope he remembers.
What arcs could’ve been handled better:
ECHO — I literally felt NOTHING for her, good or bad? It’s like she’s made of wax. Bob Morley can make any dynamic work and I couldn’t even buy Bellamy's love for Echo. it’s because we were just TOLD to like Echo, to trust her, etc., but we didn’t have anything to go off of on our screens to back that up.
CLARKE GRIFFIN — they could’ve done so much more to either explore her unhealthy obsessive parenting with Madi, or just toned down some of her choices (the shock collar guys, that was just a BIG NO); motherhood does not make you unhinged. Also you can love more than one person at a time, guys. Again she was isolated and not even a leader this season, I was just constantly confused by her arc — not ideal for your lead character.
Abby Griffin — this whole storyline was a complete waste of time and quite frankly ruined what was left of Abby Griffin I actually liked. Paige is a fantastic actress but even she couldn’t make that storyline compelling or relevant, all that time was needed for more important things. Also her ugly betrayal of Raven, turning on her shock collar to keep her pills, it was just not a good look for her. We now know where Clarke gets her not-so-great parenting skills from, I guess.
Yana: I am going to agree about Indra and also mention Bellamy. I liked Madi’s arc in the beginning and wish that was where the focus stayed. I wish Raven and Zeke got more of their own stories. Charmaine won the season as a new character as well, but she was really used mostly in scenes with Kane and I wouldn’t have minded more interactions with others. I also hope Clarke becomes the lead again and that her trauma is given more attention then it was, because it did become just a way to halt Madi becoming Commander more than anything else.
Rory: Like the others I'm going to say that Bellamy and Indra had really good arcs this season. I also agree with Gina about Murphy's arc, which I think he has one of the best overall arcs when we look at the entire run of the show.
In addition to them I would also have to say I really loved Emori's arc this season. We got to see her circle extend past Murphy, and even if we didn't see Raven teaching her, we saw the results of this when it came to Emori's tech skills. She was the one who was able to land the rocket. She was the one who first figured out how to remove the shock collars. Even her arc when it comes to her and Murphy was nice. She didn't take any of his bs, and even when she realized she still wanted him she was able to take a step back and realize that until he is able to be okay with who he is in peace time she can't let herself be with him again.
Speaking on a moment that was a culmination of both Murphy and Emori's arcs this season, when she was willing to stay behind to die with him, and he tells her he can't do that to her felt like they had come full circle from that moment in "God Complex" when they were handcuffed to the rocket and Emori tells him "Survive, please."
Despite the lack of screen time I'd say that Monty's arc was handled pretty well this season. I could go on forever about Monty Green this season, but I'll keep things short here and just say that he went from not wanting to return to Earth to spending the rest of his life trying to find a new way for his humanity to survive when it became clear that the Earth wasn't going to be survivable again. Monty Green is a hero and a legend and you can never convince me otherwise.
When it comes to arcs that could have been improved upon I will also have to agree with Clarke and Echo.
Miller could have been handled better. Why was he so gung-ho when it came to Blodreina? There has to be a reason. Did she save or spare his or Jackson's life at some point? I was hoping we'd see get an answer in the dark year flashbacks, but nope.
While I do think the ending was beautifully done, the almost complete erasure of Harper from the show this season is also something that could have been done better. A lot better actually.
How does Season 5 as a whole rank compared to the other seasons?
Crystal: My rank is 1, 4, 2, 3, 5. Season 5 was a holding pattern. A lot of things got blown up. Blood was everywhere, but it lacked in substance like past seasons. It had a lot of potential but squandered it, I was expecting a commiserating conversation from Diyoza or Shaw about their apartments and the joy of porterhouse steak or anything honoring that they are our contemporaries. I know I couldn’t just up and know how to live off the land like criminalkru seemed to pick up immediately. They were far too unfazed by their circumstances. They overdeveloped wonkru and underdeveloped every other aspect and faction. I wish it was balanced.
Sam: I’ll have to complete my rewatch of the season in full before I can say for sure. I truly enjoyed the first five episodes of the season and then scattered episodes in the back half, but the back-to-back disappointments of 5x11 and 5x12 really sapped any enthusiasm I had for it. Right now it probably ranks behind every other season but Season 3 for me.
April: It changed nothing for my current ranking system which was, and still is, as follows: Season 2, Season 1, Season 4, Season 3 and now Season 5. If you ask me why it’s last, it’s because they refuse to move on from the past. The season was full of overused and overtired parallels, no important character interactions, just a lot of...nothing. In fact, it’s a story that we’ve seen over and over and over again on this show: A group lands in a place, the locals are unhappy, they all go to war over a piece of land instead of, I don’t know, finding a way to share the space like reasonable adults; the land is tired of people going to war and sends a death wave, destroying everything and having to start over. It’s the plot of Season 1, Season 2, Season 4 and now Season 5. Do something different!
Gina: Ranking actually didn’t change for me: Season 2, Season 1, Season 3, Season 4, and now Season 5. This season needed a lot more personal moments to bump any of the previous seasons. Also this season suffered the same issue season 3A did — separating all the characters and giving them isolating storylines. Season 6, please give us something fresh.
Yana: This is actually hard. I know Season 5 was my least favorite but I loved Season 4 more than most. I think Season 5 just highlighted for me why other seasons worked better than I thought. So I will just leave that there.
Rory: Only going off of a first viewing of the entire season, Season 5 is my least favorite. My current ranking is 2, 1, 3, 4, 5. I watch the show for the characters and their relationships, and aside from a few, the season felt like it was extremely lacking in that department. There were too many groups split up, one of the things that really worked with the first two seasons is that we only really had two or three groups and storylines to focus on. Here it was like they had so many that were just two or three characters being isolated in their own storyline for episodes at a time. Madi and Clarke, Kane and Diyoza, Abby and Vinson, Emori, Murphy and McCreary, that's only four and that's probably not even the half of it.
Looking ahead to Season 6 — what are your hopes going into the season? What would you like to see more or less of?
Crystal: The most exciting thing is the new planet. Space-based sci-fi is my true jam. I’m interested in Shaw and Diyoza working with all the others. I’m interested in Raven/Shaw. I’m interested in seeing Indra grow and evolve even more. One thing in the exit interview I did like was the mention that “be the good guys” resonates with Clarke because I need her to return to the righteous Type A leader I fell in love with. Please craft the real hard choices from Season 1 like the culling. Don’t rely on “hard choices” from Season 5 like “You have to eat your brother” when he really didn't. It was just totalitarians taking their free will and justifying it as “we had to.”
Sam: I hope that Season 6 will be about actually breaking the cycle. They need to find a different form of conflict than two groups of people going to war with each other, it’s exhausting and unimaginative. I want more natural plot movement forward, instead of obvious manhandling of characters to get them to an endpoint. More genuine character interactions. A more complex central conflict. LESS OF THE COMMANDERS. Get that Flame out of Madi’s head and destroy it.
April: I hope that they find a way to par the main cast down. Although many of our characters have die-hard fans, the show isn’t really built in a manner that it can successfully support this many stories (lots of which barely have any real overlap until the final episode). I too need the Flame gone. It’s unnecessary. Unless it also contains hidden files on Eligius III that will become useful at some point in the future when the inhabitants of Eligius turn out to be some form of alien hybrid creature, it serves no real purpose any longer. Let Grounderism die. We’ve left Earth behind, maybe it’s time that the people, places and things that were left behind on her (both dead and alive).
As it relates to the characters: I need to see them actually interact with one another in a meaningful way, to begin tackling the aftermath of their experiences with each other in Season 5. I want to see real emotion, fights, making up, love and more.
Gina: I want more episodes like 3x11’s “Nevermore,” fewer episodes like 5x09, please just let people talk! I am most excited by having a new planet to explore and the addition of Jordan Jasper Green! He is going to enrich character dynamics SO much! Are the people on the planet all from Cadogan’s cult, too? Will they be tech savvy and peaceful, like an inverted parallel of grounder culture? I want great one on one time for Bellamy and Clarke, please.
I want less commander culture, please just die. I hope the flame gets destroyed. I want less recycling of lines and parallels — like we don’t need a parallel of a parallel with the same line uttered for the 29th time. Echo, if she isn’t actually going to be interesting, or grow as a character can they just make her a background prop like they did to Harper this season? Calm down on Mommy Dearest Clarke Griffin, let her be soft, and playful with Madi again, let Clarke Griffin be with her friends! Let her sing a song with Bellamy on a road trip, jump in a river again, get drunk with Murphy, just let her have fun with other humans. PLEASE.
Yana: My hope is that they figure out the things that needed to happen in Season 5, like crucial interactions, and deliver on those. I also hope we move out of this place where they made heroes almost villains and didn’t have us want to root for anyone. It can be a morally grey character but if everyone is no longer just easy to even follow, who am I even hoping will be okay in all this? Basically I want them to take Monty’s advice and be better. Which goes back to breaking this cycle of a cycle, because it isn’t working for them and this concept that no one changes is getting dark and without hope for many. Nothing good will come of taking what made Earth struggle and dropping it on this new planet instead.
And focus on characters, especially Clarke and Bellamy. They are the leads, and especially Clarke is almost easily used to drive plots now or to support other arcs and not have any of her own. Let her feel for once because it was like she developed emotion when it was needed for the plot and when it wasn’t she was unfeeling and it wasn’t consistent for me.
Rory: Going into Season 6, I'm hoping they are able to find a balance of focusing on characters and progressing the plot. I've said it all over social media even before the finale episode that Shannon Kook's character was what I was most excited for this season and in Season 6, and that only increased after we got to meet Jordan. I am here for them being on a new planet and all the cool things that can come with that. What kind of plant life is there? Are there animals? What is the equivalent of a dog on this planet? Is there one? Will Bellamy have an alien-dog pet? Someone let Bellamy have an alien-dog pet.
I, too, am tired of the flame. If they are going to explore the more tech side of the flame that could be interesting, but right now it feels like it's only there because of the Commanders. They are going to be on a new planet and I think that means we need a new start.
The show has closed the chapter on one book and opened up another, jumping 125 years into the future and travelling to another planet. Do you have any speculation for what they could be up against in Season 6? Any questions you need answered?
Crystal: I almost don’t want to speculate. I hope it’s inventive. I’m going to avoid spoilers and speculation. Since I’m so lukewarm this year, my desire to seek things out will be low. A good trailer could change that.
Sam: Personally, I’m hoping for some really cool alien flora and fauna. The worldbuilding possibilities with this one are really endless and I hope they take full advantage of that (with whatever budget they have). The colony Eligius III founded could have developed entirely differently to Earth in the 200 years since they settled it.
The main questions I need answered are: does Eligius III have any connection to Cadogan’s Second Dawn cult? Is there maybe a reason they needed to get the Flame intact to another planet? How will having two suns (two shadows) affect how they film outdoors? Will we need to see everyone turned into a Nightblood to survive?
April: I’m in agreement with Sam here. I’m a science nerd, so I am really, really excited about seeing an entirely different world. I’d also be interested in our characters having actual homes! With the addition of a former Expanse writer (Georgia Lee), I’m put in mind of the absolutely beautiful homes the people in The Expanse live in. I also want to see the characters being exposed to skyscrapers and perhaps even vehicles (outside of the Rover) for the first time, especially as most of them have absolutely no experience with that sort of thing — save for their time in the City of Light. I’ve got my fingers crossed for better lighting now that they’re on a planet with two suns.
Gina: I agree with April and Sam, I want that “wow, it’s a new world” feeling — like giant flowers or wild looking animals. I too want good lighting! We now have two suns so there shouldn’t be any more scenes of “what am I actually looking at right now?” I want to know if they know anything about the Second Dawn cult on this planet. Give me REAL sci-fi feels — I don’t want any grounder culture influence at all, give me shiny futuristic life that isn’t a VR world an AI built. My main hope is lots of fanboying from Jordan as he gets to meet and interact with all the people his parents told him so much about. Give me alllll those moments please.
I think we will have some Season 5 questions answered. Talks that characters need to have will happen, etc. I also think we will see a shake up of some kind between characters, anger towards Clarke by some, a tense Clarke/Echo frenemy dynamic. I expect Bellamy/Echo relationship problems. And of course a death or two (Kane may be getting the Jaha exit depending on his new show’s schedule). Also I know Clarke “killed” McCreary BUT I didn’t see him draw a last breath, and I didn’t see his body. I don’t trust that.
Yana: I want to say themselves and doing right by Monty and Harper. But obviously the world won’t be empty and there will be threats from the planet. I am super curious about the worldbuilding and the potential to try something new there, I am really about that. All these new sets and locations and even outfits are at their disposal, I hope it delivers. I would also love for it to be a bit like Season 1 again, because that was a great season.
In terms of not having as many characters, it sounds like they won’t wake everyone up right away, which could possible solve the issue with contracts and too many characters if an actor might have obligations? This would work around just the obvious death that we expected and it could leave room for not so many people all coming at this planet. It does make me wonder how much travel could happen between space and this new planet. Will they move around like they did this season or will they break off and stick to exploring their new home?
Rory: Going to agree with Sam, April, and Gina about them being on a whole new world to explore. I'm curious if the Eligius 3 members or their descendents are there, and will we actually have a season where the people coming from the sky and the 'grounders', for lack of a better term, are actually able to start off on a civil note. Maybe we'll have character conflicts that are central to characters as individuals and not because of a whole us vs them mentality.
Every season has been about destruction in some way or another. Let Season 6 be about building something new. Don’t let Monty and Harper’s decision to stay awake and find a way for them all to survive to have been in vain.
Season 6 of The 100 airs in 2019.