The 100 5x13 “Damocles Pt 2” Review
Here we are, at the end of another season of the CW’s sci-fi drama The 100. As is tradition for the show, the finale laid the groundwork for the season to come, this time in bigger fashion than ever before: the 400 odd remaining people on Earth went into cryo sleep, where they remained for 125 years; Bellamy and Clarke were awoken by the son of Harper and Monty, who had given their entire lives to the problem of saving the human race; and they have left not only the Earth but the entire solar system behind, and now find themselves looking down on a new planet.
A habitable planet, one that was discovered and colonized by Eligius III some two hundred years before. A planet with two suns.
It’s a little strange to have our characters end up so far away physically from where they began the episode, but still have so many of the emotional plot threads left open and dangling. Are Murphy and Emori on the way to reconciliation? Will Octavia ever actually truly earn her redemption, and will Bellamy accept her again if she does? Will Bellamy and Clarke ever talk about how much they mean to each other or is the one reference to the radio calls and the one sentence about forgiveness going to be all we get?
Will Kane survive the wounds inflicted on him by Vinson? Will Diyoza ever get around to having her baby? How will Abby recover from the things she encouraged in the bunker? Will the rest of Clarke’s friends forgive her for her betrayal?
All these questions will have to wait until Season 6. I can only hope that they will be answered in Season 6, and that the “long sleep” between seasons won’t be used as an excuse to drop them entirely.
There was one plot thread that was wrapped up: the war for Eden, which had been simmering under the surface since episode 5x04 and finally burst into reality in 5x12, was over before the halfway mark of the episode. Madi accepted her position as commander, Octavia kneeled to her and the rest of Wonkru followed suit, they took out the enemy’s guns, and Eligius was forced to surrender.
McCreary, in a fit of poor sportsmanship, launched a missile aptly named “Damocles” to destroy the valley and didn’t live to see the end result of his destruction, as Clarke and Raven teamed up to take him out. But in one moment, McCreary effectively undid an entire season’s worth of plot, while dooming humanity to an almost beat-by-beat repeat of what happened in the Season 4 finale.
The only difference? This time, everyone made it onboard the ship.
Let’s get into it.
The sword of Damocles falls
Usually, literary references on this show aren’t so...literal.
When the title for the two-part finale was first released some months ago, there was plenty of speculation about who would be Damocles, and who would be Dionysius.
For those of you who need a quick refresher: “the Sword of Damocles” is a moral anecdote in which Damocles, a courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, is jealous of Dionysius’ position of power, authority, and wealth. Dionysius offered to switch positions with Damocles for a day, but hung a huge sword above the throne, suspended by a single thread. Damocles realized that the fortune Dionysius had did not come without great danger and constant fear.
In this case, the Sword of Damocles is the hythylodium payload which had been hanging over the heads of humanity in the Eligius mothership, attached by the single thread of the launch code which Diyoza had written in her book.
Does that make humanity the naive and unwitting Damocles, thinking that the wealth we receive from nature comes without a price? Temporarily taking a seat upon a throne which was not ours to hold?
On a less abstract scale, perhaps Octavia is Damocles, breaking the cycle of the commanders to take temporary reign as a red-blooded queen. Before she became a leader herself Octavia was quick to judge those who led, but within months in the bunker she realized that it wasn’t easy. For six years, she lived in the fear that comes with keeping what she believed to be the last of the human race alive, and becoming corrupted by her power along the way.
At the moment of her reckoning, Octavia is ushered off her throne by the next commander, Madi, and she, finally, willingly gives up her power. The Octavia we see in the finale is a broken one, meek, left out of the final meeting of the leaders, and when she goes into cryo she’s dressed in white, cleaned of all her facepaint and blood.
Are we to witness yet another rebirth for Octavia? What version of her will emerge from the cryo pod, 125 years into the future? If Octavia is to be handed a redemption (which I have an unfortunate feeling she will be), I can only hope it is given the attention and care it needs in order to feel authentic. The things Octavia did this season can’t just be swept under the rug — after all, she bears as much responsibility as McCreary (by setting fire to the farm and ruining Monty’s hope of revegetating the planet) in destroying humanity’s last chance of survival on Earth.
We do better today than we did yesterday
The 100 has always been a grim story about the cycle of war that humanity inevitably ends up sucked into, but for all that, since the beginning, there has also always been a whisper of hope.
Break the cycle.
Be the good guys.
Although Season 5 followed a similar pattern as all those that came before — a new group of people is discovered; those people are labelled the enemy; attempts at peace talks fail; a war is started and hundreds of people die — it’s the first to acknowledge so textually and so frequently that there is a cycle, one in which they are willingly participating, and one in which they will have to work hard to break.
It’s easy to believe that there are no good guys, and use that to justify the fact that you yourself are not a good guy. It’s easy to say “who we are and who we need to be to survive are very different things” and use that to tell yourself that the things you do to survive don’t define you.
It’s much, much harder to accept that being good isn’t impossible but it is a choice, and it’s one that must be consciously made in the face of all else: in the face of threats, genocide, cannibalism, and war. And it’s harder to accept that the bad things you do are just as much a part of you as the good, no matter the reasons why you did them.
Over the course of the series, several characters have realized this, from Jasper’s nihilistic view that the terrible things humanity had done meant that they didn’t deserve to survive, to Monty’s hopeful final message that they have a chance to start over, and to get it right this time.
Although both Jasper and Monty are gone now (Jasper chose to die with the world and Monty chose to live until they found a new one, both a manifestation of their beliefs), their ideals still live on, especially in Bellamy.
Because I think this has been Bellamy’s journey from the very beginning. Bellamy was the one who first stated the “who we are and who we need to be to survive” mantra that defined the first seasons of the show, and Bellamy never saw himself as a good guy. In fact, Bellamy saw himself so much as the monster that he was willing to do horrible things for the sake of other people (most notably, joining Pike in killing the grounder army) because he already believed he was lost.
In Season 4, Bellamy began the long process of forgiving himself, and in Season 5 he returns to Earth a healed man, a more complete leader, and someone who was unwilling to repeat the mistakes of the past, not when they’ve been given a second chance. And Bellamy, because of all he’s taken upon himself and how much his experiences have become a fundamental part of him, is uniquely positioned to pass the lessons he’s learned onto others.
Warning Finn in Season 2 that there are some lines you can’t uncross, after he tortured Lincoln for the antidote to the poison. Telling Riley in Season 4 the same thing as he levels his gun at a king, on the brink of starting another war.
Or telling Madi that that’s enough, that they will not kill those that oppose them, simply because they took the land that is hers. He’d been there before, too, on the other side of that war, trying to stop a hundred children from getting slaughtered by an army of warriors who were better fighters than them.
One of the many reasons Season 5 was difficult to watch was because, despite numerous attempts to stop it — to surrender for peace, to revitalize the bunker farm — the war proceeds anyway. A war being fought over land that was big enough for all of them, only for that land to ultimately be destroyed. Bellamy put his sister’s life on the line, he put his relationship with Clarke on the line to stop this war, and yet in the end he finds himself marching as part of the army anyway.
Nothing he does seems to make any difference at all, until. Until he stands in front of his own army and shouts down Madi’s orders to kill all the miners. Because this is one thing they can do differently; this time, they can extend the hand for peace.
It’s the first spoke broken on the wheel of violence and it may be small, but I’m hopeful that it means that things are truly changing. And if they do choose to pursue a path of peace in the future, I’m certain that Bellamy Blake will be the one leading the way.
A fairytale ending
In a season that featured the Red Queen, sleeping giants, and a hero who fell from the sky, it’s both fitting that at least two characters got their happy ending and ironic that those characters happen to be Monty and Harper, the only two who refused to play a part in the chess match for possession of the valley between the titan leaders of each warring group.
And Monty and Harper’s eventual end, while utterly heartbreaking, was also entirely unique for the show and also probably the best any of the characters can hope for.
All Monty ever wanted, especially after six years back in space after the horrors he went through on the ground, was peace. And all Harper ever wanted was for Monty to find that peace.
A lot of criticism can (and should) be leveled at how Harper’s story was handled this season, especially given that it’s her last. From the outset, she was given little to do except support Monty (and, briefly, Emori) and appeared as a background character with no lines in too many consecutive episodes. It marked a drastic change from last season, when Harper was finally given her own storyline and allowed to make her own choices.
Monty, too, was severely underutilized this season, for a character who’s been part of the main cast since Season 1 and essential to the group’s survival from the outset. The storyline he did get, while sparsely woven, was perhaps the most impactful of the entire season, to an audience who — like Monty, like Harper, like Jasper, like Bellamy — was sick and tired of the constant call to war.
For two characters who essentially ended up being the “cosmic Adam and Eve” referenced by Kane in the show’s pilot episode, for two characters who single-handedly saved the human race (or the part of the human race that lived on Earth, anyway) and played such a monumental role in what’s to come, whose mantra of “algae not war” provided a much needed balance to the war-thirsty motives of the others, it seems odd that their storyline would be pushed to the background in a season filled with storylines that didn’t need to happen. Or, at the very least, didn’t need to be given as much screen time as they were.
(This is directly a callout to Abby’s addiction storyline, in particular.)
Regardless of all that though, this was a beautiful end to both Monty and Harper’s stories — an end that was foreshadowed back in 5x01, when Monty expressed his wish to stay in space with his algae.
He got his wish. He got to be just a simple farmer again. And, contrary to Octavia’s words in 5x10, the farmers did save the world.
It was an ending that wouldn’t have worked for any other pair of characters; to spend the rest of their lives on a spaceship, with no one but each other for company and, eventually, a son (and then, eventually, without that son, as they put him into cryo, too) and growing an algae farm. But for Monty and Harper, who actively chose to remove themselves from the conflict in 5x08, who refused to fight even as they marched to war, who chose each other when they had lost everything else, and who wanted nothing else but to grow the food that would feed humanity, this was as close to a happily-ever-after as they could have hoped for.
And they were happy.
It’s also the first time, on a show which deals so heavily in loss, that an actual endgame has been reached: they spent their entire lives together, drama-free; they brought their progeny into the world; and, when the time came, Monty chose to stay behind with Harper rather than venture into a new world without her.
May we meet again, Monty Green and Harper McIntyre.
A new day dawns (twice)
Whatever else your thoughts on the Season 5 finale, there’s no doubt that the final shot of the season — Bellamy and Clarke holding each other as they look out over a new planet with two red suns rising above it — is one of the most visually stunning shots of the entire series.
It’s also one of the most hopeful, despite the tear tracks on Bellamy’s and Clarke’s faces. Every previous season has left off with facing a new threat: Mount Weather in Season 1, ALIE in Season 2, the end of the world in Season 3, and the arrival of Eligius in Season 4. For the first time, Bellamy and Clarke are — together — looking into the face of something that can save them.
Will it? Will they let it? Or is the point of this story that humanity takes destruction with them wherever they go?
This story is one that makes several heavy references to our current global environmental crisis. The Earth was destroyed not once, not twice, but three times, and each time humanity refused to learn from their mistakes; they went right back to fighting each other, to squandering their resources instead of working together to survive.
Is this our destiny? Is it impossible that humanity can live in balance with its environment and other peoples? We know now that Eligius left Earth in search of other resources after the planet was sucked dry of oil. One of those resources that they brought back, hythylodium, was used to the destroy the Earth for the third time. We don’t yet know what Eligius III found on this mysterious new planet, but it’s entirely possible that they’re well into the process of destroying it the way humanity destroyed Earth.
That’s the pessimistic view of it. I desperately want to believe, like Monty did, that humanity can choose to be good, and choose to be conscious of their impact. That’s the story I want to see in Season 6: not giving in to the instinct to survive, but fighting to rise above it. The groundwork has been laid for them to take this path, more so than any other previous season, but that’s what I thought after the Season 4 finale, too.
As for Bellamy and Clarke, what does this ending mean for them? They’re the two people trusted by Monty and Harper to usher in this (hopefully) new era for humanity; physically they’re together, and looking forward into the future. From a purely cinematographic standpoint, it’s one of the best endings I could have ever hoped for them.
Except that there still a lot of unanswered questions and undiscussed feelings between them, and for the season to end on this note — after the two main protagonists hardly spoke, and never about anything of substance — feels weak, cheap, and vindictive towards fans who watch the show primarily for their relationship.
And their relationship is the core of the show, however you want to spin it. So to spare only the barest acknowledgement that they were each other’s driving forces for six years (a single line from Madi about the radio calls, and a single line from Bellamy about how he can’t leave someone behind to die again) or to have their big betrayals wrapped up in a single-sentence forgiveness is dishonest to both the characters and the audience.
I hope the show finds time for this relationship again in Season 6. I hope the conversations Bellamy and Clarke desperately needed to have in Season 5 somehow still materialize. Whichever way the writers want to take this relationship — to make it romantic, as has been hinted at for five seasons now, or to keep it a strictly platonic partnership — they need to put the time and energy into it to make the audience invest in it, feel something for it. Because without Bellamy and Clarke as the strong centre of this show, so much around them falls flat.
“First we save their lives, then we let them prove they deserve it.” What a GREAT twist on “First we survive, then we find our humanity again.”
Watching the emotions flicker over Bellamy’s face as he waits for Murphy, Monty, and Emori and relives his trauma from six years ago his absolutely heartbreaking. Bob Morley is a master.
There’s no doubt this show needs to significantly trim its cast, but I was still extremely glad that my new faves (Zeke, Gaia, and Diyoza) all made it through the finale.
Poor Diyoza has been pregnant for somewhere around 230 years now.
Jordan Jasper Green. What a beautiful way for three of our original delinquents to be remembered in the story going forward. I loved our first introduction to Jordan, and can’t wait to see what he brings to the story next season.
So...new planet, new people, no more commander, right? RIGHT?
One final question: do the two suns this planet has have anything to do with the cult called Second Dawn?
The 100 returns for a sixth season in 2019.