On this week’s The 100, Clarke takes command, Bellamy joins forces with Maya, Octavia straddles the line between Grounder and Sky Person, and Cage usurps his father.
“Coup de Grâce” is not only an astonishingly well-done episode of The 100, but also a brilliant piece of television. While the show is naturally concerned with the flow of its story–and the various pieces of its story falling gracefully into place–The 100‘s biggest concern lies with the characters and how being in this harsh, unforgiving landscape is transforming them. Some of them are broken by it, some of them adapt to survive, and some of them rise steadily to the challenge of living in such a dangerous, lawless place.
Clarke is unequivocally the latter, and this is most apparent the moment she confronts her mother over who’s in charge. While the adults of The 100 would like to be the leaders, it’s the children who seem to understand best how to navigate the world on the ground; they’ve learned how to cope with Grounders, Reapers, Mountain Men, and even gorillas while the adults are still clinging to the (possibly) arbitrary systems of power they held in the sky. This makes sense, as the original kids sent to the ground were kept locked in cages in the sky and then sent to experience trauma after trauma on Earth. They’ve adapted to survive, but the adults are still resisting the rules the Grounders and Mountain Men have created.
To a lesser extent, Octavia is further proof of the original 100’s capability for adaptation versus the adults. While Abby and Kane flounder in their attempts to impress or win the approval of the Grounders, Octavia and Clarke have repeatedly proven their worth. That’s not to say the adults are helpless, because they certainly aren’t; they just aren’t up to par with everyone who’s been on the ground already. Anyway, Clarke and Abby’s war is already just as intense and satisfying as the war brewing against the Mountain Men.
Speaking of the Mountain Men, their utter efficiency at rounding up men like cattle is highlighted during the episode’s brutal and strangely beautiful cold open. The sequence is both fascinating and traumatizing because Bellamy’s the one being poked and prodded and cleaned; it’s also an interesting parallel to the Mountain Men’s lifestyle. They pride themselves on appearance, on upholding relics and customs from the past, but the price of their survival hinges on the violent use of men and women as little more than animals. So, while the cold open is shot in a gorgeous way, it ends with a close-up of Bellamy’s mouth, screaming. In a nutshell, this is how the Mountain Men operate–all of their finery rests on the back of brutality.
Another well-done moment of the episode is when Bellamy realizes what the cost of the impending Grounders/Sky People/Mountain Men war will be. In a nicely horrifying twist, Bellamy runs into the very child whose father he’s killed so he can survive and help his friends. There’s no way he’ll leave the Mountain Men’s home unscathed. Again, The 100 cares very much about how the characters handle their day-to-day existence on the ground, and how this experience is affecting and changing them; this impending war against the Mountain Men is quickly intensifying, because the characters themselves are already undergoing transformations as a result. The stakes a very, very high, not just for everyone’s survival, but for their humanity, as well.
Most of “Coup de Grâce’s” excellence hinges on just how intelligently The 100 is handling multiple storylines while simultaneously leading everyone toward the steadily-brewing war and maintaining believable levels of character development. This is no small feat, and The 100 is clearly, and gloriously, in command of what it’s doing.