Here I am, days after Perverse Instantiation: Part 1 premiered, and I am still in awe, playing it on loop in my mind. From start to finish, my heart was in my throat, pounding far too fast and far too loudly. By the end, I was speechless, felt like the wind was knocked out of me, and it was a good hour before I could even change the channel.
To be fair, I’ve always been impressed with the writing on this show. The second half of this season, especially, has been their best work, and not only was the writing astounding, but every single actor on this show has been on their A game. It has been some of the best television I’ve seen in quite some time.
Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre knocked this one way, way out of the park, exceeding all my expectations in the best ways. Almost every line was a punch to my gut, and so much happened in an hour without it feeling raced through or cheapened. Every single time I thought it couldn’t kill me more, it did. It was dark, and gutting, and beautiful, and my hat is off to the storytelling done in this episode, which has left me with nothing but anxiety and dread for Thursday’s finale.
The episode opened with Jasper, Octavia, Bellamy, and Clarke waiting for the rover to charge and debating their next move after the disappointment they found with Luna. Their playbook was limited to begin with–now, it’s only down to one move, really. Clarke is desperate, having the most emotional investment in this and the least rationality left. She wants to keep moving, wants to find some other way, but as Jasper points out, “What do you expect us to do Clarke? Walk into random villages asking for their nightbloods?”
“If that’s what it takes.” She’s not ready to give up, and to be fair, neither are they–but they’d prefer to go to Arkadia, regroup with the others and come up with a plan together, one they can all agree on.
Clarke walks away to cool off when she realizes no one is agreeing with her, needing a minute. Bellamy looks like he wants to chase after her, but Jasper tells him to just give her some space–yet another odd moment that had me convinced, more so than last week, that Jasper was the one chipped.
In a particularly beautiful shot in the forest, alone and feeling defeated, Clarke pulls the flame from her pocket, and just lets out a broken, “I’m sorry.” Interpret is as you may (the beauty of television shows!), but to me, it felt poignant, and heartbreaking. It was a rare moment of vulnerability and raw emotion from Clarke, which she so seldom allows herself time for. It felt like more than just one apology–it felt like an apology for Lexa’s legacy, which Clarke felt she was entrusted with, and maybe, just maybe, Clarke is carrying guilt (as she so often does) for Lexa’s death.
I think mostly, she’s just sorry she can’t save everyone. Again. (In her eyes, anyway.)
The moment doesn’t last long, naturally. ALIE appears right behind her, telling one of her chipped minions to bring Clarke to her, and he sneaks up behind her, ready to strike a blow to her head–before he’s promptly taken out by an arrow, and the long, long-awaited return of King Roan has arrived. The camera pans to our Azgeda king, looking like a regal elven warrior straight out of a Tolkien adventure.
(As a not so former major, major Lord of the Rings nerd, I ate it up.)
Roan rips the flame from Clarke’s hands, on a mission to get it to Ontari to help her ascend and to have their Ice Nation Commander. Clarke finally gets on board with having Ontari take the flame, knowing it’s, really, their last and only hope. Bellamy comes by in the meantime, making sure Clarke is okay (classic) and shooting Roan “to make sure he isn’t chipped.” (I’m thinking it was more of a get even for kidnapping Clarke and stabbing him in the leg move but, you say potato, I say…)
They tie up Roan and drag him back to Arkadia with them. Back in dynamic duo, co-leader mode, Bellamy and Clarke approach him in lock-up, letting him know what they need from him and just how dire this has all become. Clarke and Bellamy want to save everyone, seeing as ALIE doesn’t discriminate–grounders, sky people…she wants them all, and she can and will destroy them. Roan, in the end, just wants an Ice Nation Commander out of Ontari–and seeing as she’s Clarke’s last ditch attempt at getting the information off the flame, she’s willing to put the flame in her head once they unchip her. They come to an agreement.
Get in Polis. Give Ontari the flame. Save the world. Figure the rest out later.
The team starts gearing up and going through the plan one last time–what weapons they have, especially the last wristband that Raven could put together so they can fry the chip to remove it from Ontari before giving her the flame. (When Jasper starts asking questions about Jaha destroying the last one, I was more or less dead convinced at this point that he was chipped, clue after clue after clue.)
Raven, Jasper, Monty and Harper say their goodbyes to Clarke, Bellamy, Roan, Octavia, Bryan and Miller–and just as they’re driving off, ALIE appears to be waiting over it all, letting us know that they’re good and royally screwed, seeing as she’s watching it all and just overheard their plans. She lets Ontari and company know back in Polis that they’re headed right to them with Roan and the flame in tow, just as they’d all hoped.
(This was the first and far from the last moment my heart sank this episode.)
They ride most of the way to Polis through the woods, and stop a few miles before, knowing they can’t ride any further. Roan asks for the flame, knowing Ontari will come out and won’t buy it unless he’s got the bait. Clarke agrees–but she’s not willing to let it out of her sight, and insists she’s coming with him (as the only one with the passcode), looking like his prisoner.
We’ve come full circle.
Unsurprisingly, Bellamy isn’t a fan of this plan.
You’re really willing to trust that guy with your life?
No. But you’ll be covering us the entire time. And I trust you.
For so many reasons, it was a beautifully important moment. Clarke has trusted Bellamy for a long time now, and that’s always been clear–but not always so clear to him. She’s told scores of others that she trusts him–Finn, Lexa, Raven, Abby, etc.–but she’s never so explicitly told him, not in so many words. His face softens when she says as much, and once again, I’m awestruck by the chemistry between Taylor and Morley. Like their characters, both are so talented on their own, their faces and body language always just as devastating as their delivery, but together? They feed off each other so, so well, and kudos to them for not just saying, but showing the deep level to which these co-leaders depend on each other and trust each other, unconditionally.
Of course, it hurt all the more, knowing that once they got to Polis, it’d all go to hell, anyway.
You Know What They Say. If It Seems Too Good To Be True…
Back in Arkadia, Monty and Jasper are searching for a motherboard for Raven so she can hack back into the City of Light and be ready when Clarke calls in with the kill code she gets from Ontari. Jasper is asking entirely too many questions about why, and what it looks like, and that sick feeling in my stomach just kept growing.
Him and Monty end up sharing a long, long overdue moment, wherein Jasper finally tells him he’s done being angry. He’s happy for Monty and Harper, he’s happy for his friend, and he wants to be done blaming everyone–everything Monty’s wanted to hear since that fateful finale in Mount Weather. They hug it out, something we’ve been waiting for all damn season.
And it’s complete, total, utter bullshit prompted by ALIE, which we find out mere seconds later when Monty finds the motherboard, and Jasper stabs him in the stomach with a screwdriver. (Told you Jasper was chipped and no, I’m not happy to be right. Just heartbroken.)
They scuffle, and Monty gets away, bleeding from the gut with the motherboard in hand. He makes it to Raven, and locks the door behind him, while Jasper knocks on the outside, going full creepy minion mode and leaving his friends to realize they’re truly and totally screwed. ALIE heard everything–and Jasper broke the radio, making it impossible for them to communicate this serious issue to their friends who are walking right into the trap.
In Polis, Roan walks in with Clarke tied up, reassuring her that once this is over, he’ll make sure of it that Ontari knows what they did to help her, once again convincing me that Roan may be one of the best on this show, and has the potential to be so vital in the future. An alliance between Clarke/Skaikru with Roan/Ice Nation is exactly the kind of powerful peace I’d like to see.
Bellamy, Octavia, Bryan, and Miller set up in the tunnels, out of sight, watching out over what will transpire in the eerily empty square. No more victims on crucifixes, just blood in the streets. Bryan and Miller, while they’re setting up, have a wrenching conversation, with Bryan asking if they’ll ever be done fighting, and Miller assuring him.
We’re gonna build a house on a lake. And you’re gonna plant corn.
And raise chickens.
Yeah. And grow old.
The Blakes listen in, both of them looking harrowed with far away looks in their eyes, maybe pitying their friends, maybe pitying themselves.
Knowing they’re in a trap makes me pity them all.
Bellamy reiterates that they’re to use non-lethal force, they’re only here to kill ALIE–no one else, none of her minions who are not at fault, they’re just mind controlled, showing just how far he’s come back around. He doesn’t want any more death, no more high body counts. He just wants to save lives, not take them.
But it quickly goes to hell, when a hoard of minions and Jaha come out to meet Clarke and Roan, letting them know that the jig is up–they know they’re together, they know about their friends in the tunnel, and they know that they need Clarke alive, but not Roan. Bellamy, Octavia, Bryan, and Miller are captured in the tunnels, Clarke is captured and dragged away, Kane shoots Roan, I screamed, it’s all pretty much downhill from here.
(If King Roan dies and we’ve lost the insanely talented Zach McGowan gracing our screens, I just don’t think I can handle it. There’s so much potential, and I need more of Roan’s sass, more of his muscle, more of his elf-like royalty on my damn screen. Please. I’m begging all the TV gods, here.)
Meanwhile, Jasper is taunting Raven and Monty through the door, and Monty is trying to keep him talking, realizing that Harper is stuck out there with him, and she doesn’t know he’s chipped, yet. If he keeps Jasper talking, he’s not looking for her, and at least then she’s somewhat safe. Monty tells Jasper he doesn’t blame him for taking the chip after what he’d been through, and Jasper ends up delivering one of the most harrowing lines when Monty asks him how he could do this to them.
They sent us all down here to see if the ground was survivable. From what I’ve seen, it’s not.
I feel hollow and empty, and the worst part is–how can anyone blame him for saying it?
But the next scene? I thought I felt broken before, but it was nothing compared to a chipped Abby Griffin torturing her own daughter while she screams and cries, but stubborn as ever, still refusing to give up the passphrase. She’ll take all the torture in the world.
But Abby knows that. She tells ALIEand Jaha as much, that Clarke’s weakness is her friends–that’s what’ll break her. Abby stares straight at Clarke, telling ALIE, “Start with Bellamy Blake.” And you can see the blow landed–Clarke’s tear tracks, trembling lip, frantic eyes and racing heart rate tells us just how much it landed.
Lexa’s words of the past come echoing: “Love is weakness.” Clarke has always, always valued the lives of others, especially her friends, more than herself. She’ll always bear it, so they don’t have to. Torture her, beat her, stick a damn scalpel in her chest–she’ll go down fighting, she’ll take it all. She’s fierce like that.
But the second her friends are threatened, the second someone else’s life is in jeopardy for hers? That, she can’t take.
And let us not downplay this. You can’t deny the significance of this knowing moment. Abby looks her dead in the eye, all-knowing, and tells them her friends are her weakness–and to start with Bellamy. Just like ALIE threatened Abby’s life to break Kane. Because “love is weakness”, and she loves Bellamy, romantically or not–it’s just beyond clear at this point. She cares for him more, she trusts him, he’s her partner.
Hurt him, and destroy Clarke.
The guards get the message, and grab Bellamy, with a frantic Octavia asking where they’re taking him. A guard hits her, and Bellamy yells not to touch her–and then, kill me more, Bellamy tells her it’s okay, it will be okay. Because yet again, the Blake siblings’ lives are in danger, and yet again, we see that despite whatever the hell happened, they love each other fiercely, and that will never change.
I was going numb, at this point. I swear, I’m not built for all the feelings that were so intensely taking me over, Jesus.
But just in the nick of time, the least likely hero team shows up: Murphy, Pike and Indra mow down the guards, save the Blakes, Bryan, and Miller, and from here, it seems like the smart plan is to run. It’s what Murphy is advocating for.
But Bellamy isn’t leaving without Clarke, and hell, it’s probably a suicide mission–but they took her, and he isn’t leaving without her. It’s as simple as that.
Clarke is in trouble.
Clarke’s always in trouble.
(Murphy may have a point).
Even from a practical standpoint, though, they took her (knowing the passphrase), they took the flame, and Ontari is up in the tower with them, presumably–this is their one shot, it’s all there in one room. Octavia will have to deal with working with Pike, they need everyone they can get, because if they can’t kill ALIE, this is it. It’s more or less a suicide mission.
Desperate times, and all.
They head for the tower, and along the way, Pike shoots some of the guards in their way, and Bellamy snaps at him, letting him know this is not how they’re doing this. They’re mind controlled, they’re not the enemy–stop killing. Bellamy’s arc has finally come around fully, and him telling off Pike gave me life. We’ve only been waiting, what, all season? It was long overdue, and an underrated moment in the episode.
Because the Bellamy Blake we know and love never wanted senseless deaths, and he’s done getting blood on his hands. He’s back.
Bryan, Miller, Pike, Indra and Octavia stay on the lower level, lifting the elevator shaft with Bellamy and Murphy up to the tower. Bellamy asks Murphy what he’s doing here, sticking around and helping them, and Murphy shrugs it off at first: “Just trying to survive.”
One look from Bellamy, he knows he didn’t buy it. “You’re not the only one here trying to save someone you care about.”
Add Murphy to the long and ever-growing list of people who know just how much Clarke Griffin means to Bellamy Blake, and also, let’s just all cry together for a moment at the fact that John Murphy, who has only ever claimed to care about himself and himself only, is now admitting to going on a suicide mission for someone he cares about.
(Leave me be, I’ll just be in the fetal position over here in the corner for a few days, it’s fine.)
On the ground floor, Octavia asks Indra why Pike is still alive, after what he did and what he did to Lincoln, and Indra tells her, simply: “Because the dead can’t help us.” And with tears falling down her cheeks, Octavia tells her, “He was my home.”
Indra puts her hand to Octavia’s heart, telling her in Trigsladeng*, “Your home is here.”
(My heart hurts. It physically hurts.)
Chipped Kane comes down the hallway, shooting at them and hitting Bryan in the leg and Pike in his stomach before Indra and Octavia knock him unconscious. In the meantime, the elevator has stopped and guards are breaking in to get to Murphy and Bellamy, who fight them off, almost without having to kill any of them.
Almost. One gets into the elevator, and while Bellamy was determined not to kill anyone who was mind controlled, when it comes down to the guard or Murphy, he shoots the guard in the head.
The boys have come a long way from hanging each other, and I could write a whole book about the phenomenal character development both of them have seen over the years, but especially this season.
Back in Arkadia, Raven successfully gets back into the City of Light while Jasper is chattering away, listing every death since they’ve gotten to the ground–Mbege, Roma, Finn…it goes on. At least, until Harper comes along. Jasper knocks her out, giving Monty and Raven an ultimatum–destroy the motherboard, or he’ll kill her.
It couldn’t be too easy, now could it?
Knowing Bellamy and Murphy are getting closer, ALIE takes everything up a notch, a few last attempts at getting the passphrase out of Clarke. They string up a noose, and Abby tells Clarke not to be afraid, it isn’t for her.
It’s for Abby.
Clarke screams and cries while watching her mother hang herself, apologizing through sobs while she watches another parent die in front of her eyes. As Murphy and Bellamy break through the elevator guards and onto the throne room, ALIE knows she’d rather let Ontari die than risk them getting to her–and Jaha delivers a blow to her head, seconds before Murphy and Bellamy burst through the doors, Bellamy shooting Jaha just in time (another parallel, and don’t I love it).
Bellamy rushes to Clarke, and Murphy rushes to cut down Abby–who is still just barely breathing, but is alive nonetheless.
Ontari isn’t quite so lucky. Despite her best efforts to quickly save her, Clarke finds her brain-dead.
It’s too late. And now, they’re trapped in Polis–no nightblood, no army, and for me, no heartbeat.