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The 100 - Season 5 Premiere Review: "Taming The Beasts"

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Eleven months to the day since its fourth season finale, The CW's The 100 hit the ground running with a barnstorming fifth season premiere. My expectations were reasonably high, but Eden, written by Jason Rothenberg and with Dean White delivering series best direction, comfortably surpassed those.

There were many ways Rothenberg and White could have constructed this premiere, but the avenue they chose was not what I expected. It favored a 60%-40% split in favor of telling Clarke's story of solitude and survival, before reintroducing the survivors aboard the Ark. On the whole, Clarke's segment was very well done, with superb direction and cinematography alongside accomplished SFX and VFX conveying without doubt the sheer devastation Earth's landscape suffered at the hands of Praimfaya.

Much of Clarke's story was told in the months following her emergence from the bunker that she had just made it to before Praimfaya consumed all that surrounded it, and from which Bellamy, Raven, Monty, Harper, Murphy, Emori and Echo had escaped to the Ark from in the rocket (herein the Ark Seven). Clarke came very close to death, both from her own hand and her surroundings. A stroke of luck was coming across the Rover which was completely covered in sand. This discovery could have been handled better, but that's probably being a bit picky. The Rover has been essential over the past few seasons, and as the last surviving piece of machinery from Skaikru, it makes sense for it to be a part of the series going forward.

How the hell am I gonna make it five years?
Clarke's visits to both Polis and Arkadia were excellent inclusions, and were matched with superb set design. She had no success breaking into the bunker inhabited by Wonkru in Polis - though the dying seconds of the premiere confirmed life did exist below. Arkadia was a complete writeoff, as was to be expected, but it was fantastic to have that confirmed, and that chapter closed.

Eden Valley was teased in the fourth season finale, but looking back after the premiere, I'm wondering if that was a mistake. We always knew Clarke would end up there eventually as a result of that teaser, but removing Madi from the equation and showing Clarke exploring the wastelands could have been a better move.

That's in the past now, but the story of how Madi came to be was another really good aspect of the premiere. Clarke happened across the remnants of her Shallow Valley clan, and was presented with a room containing several dozen bodies of villagers whose dwelling was spared the fire part of Praimfaya, but still hit with radiation. Being a Nightblood, Madi, like Clarke, was less susceptible to the effects of radiation, and she had been sustaining herself through fishing and foraging. Clarke's introduction with her was less than ideal, but the connections back to past storylines such as the Nightbloods, the Flame, and Clarke's use of art to tell stories similar to the ancient rock drawings seen in many parts of the world - and in her cell on board the Ark - were very well done.

The subsequent jump to six years post Praimfaya felt about right without drastically over-complicating things in the premiere. There's loads of potential to add depth later on through flashbacks, much like what was done in Season 1. This is currently lacking for the Ark Seven, where the inhabitants didn't get any detail in past tense. The good news is that all six are sustaining themselves on Monty's algae, and while tensions are somewhat elevated thanks to Murphy's antics and the edgy behaviors of Echo and Emori, everyone's still alive and relatively mission-focused. If the creative team had this storyline penciled down somewhere before the conclusion of Season 4, you can clearly see that the deceased Jasper wouldn't fit in with any of the new settings, so his departure has allowed things to progress much further than they would have should he have been present.

That's very much a sidenote, however. What isn't is what came next. Another station appeared over the horizon without warning and launched the transport seen in the Season 4 finale towards Earth. The ship's landing was rightly skipped over because it had already been seen, but the disembarking of its occupants was another callback to Season 1. Again, it seems as if these guys and girls are hardened criminals - though on the next level compared to the juvenile delinquents sent to the ground in Season 1. It's early days yet, but I'm struggling to see a point of difference between this lot compared to the menace that was the Grounders early on in the series, other than the fact that they came from space.

Minor clues were ushered, including that they had been asleep, and had also spent some time looking for a place on Earth to land. That drop ship was big, and it looked tiny alongside the Eligius station it deployed from, so the station is clearly a significant size. Further, they don't know what happened to Earth to cause its destruction, which means they either don't know what Praimfaya was when they witnessed it from space, or they didn't even see Earth be destroyed by Praimfaya at all. The latter may be more likely considering the station can't have made a notable appearance to the Ark Seven in the past six years, so where the Eligius ship came from will be the next big question to answer.

I haven't read any reaction online about the premiere yet, but no doubt there will be some furious fans out there after it was revealed that Bellamy and Echo were an item. I've got no issue with this at all. Six years with no proof of life is an awfully long time to hold onto hope that Clarke may still be alive, so Bellamy moving on is the right thing to do. I was also stoked to see Monty and Harper remain a strong item, and not surprised to see Emori and Monty not seeing eye to eye. The former seems to have built a closer relationship with Raven in terms of technical knowledge and decision-making, which is a good move also.

For now, however, Clarke has to tame the beasts that have landed in her patch of tranquility. She's tamed the environment, but her next challenge will focus on people. I can hear alarm bells in the distance warning whether this is the right move, especially seeing as the creative team are reinventing the wheel in some ways despite wanting to create connections to The 100's origin. It's not quite original enough, and a well designed story detailing the re-establishment of a civilization on Earth and in space was where I was hoping things might point towards, but another marauding army of unpleasant people isn't making that look likely at present.

That being said, what is likely - and what I'm optimistic about - is the Ark Seven rendezvousing with the Eligius station while Clarke and Madi do the same with its new Earth-based members. The negotiations there will be interesting because both parties have things the other wants. For Clarke and Madi, a way to reach space just landed on their doorstep, and they have years of experience from living off the land that would be handy knowledge for Eligius, and up in space, knowledge about Earth and space could be exchanged for travel between the two as well.

The premiere's dying seconds and next week's episode promo also concern me somewhat. In what I initially thought was the Eligius drop ship, we witnessed a gladiatorial fight to the death among the inhabitants of Wonkru, with Octavia in charge. No doubt there's an interesting story to be told of their six years in the bunker, and if that brief scene was a flashback then Wonkru numbers could have dwindled significantly. This is clearly another callback to the early days on the Ark, and it's one that makes more sense, but at the same time it's somewhat surprising - and some might say disappointing - to see that all the leadership experience of Abby, Jaha and Kane couldn't prevent a reincarnation of Gladiator inside the bunker when manpower is surely a vital element to survival and the ability to rebuild.

With little else to go on, this is mostly speculation, but next week's episode press release strongly indicates Wonkru will be the primary focus. In a way its a second premiere episode which is an exciting concept to think about.

In all, the Season 5 premiere of The 100 had an awful lot to like. It's got all it needs to build a fantastic season from, and the essentially blank canvas along with four previous seasons of experience mean that the creative team have more possibilities open to them than ever before, but that also means they only have themselves to blame should they fail to deliver. All the behind the scenes stuff was superb, with excellent VFX and SFX. Dean White's directing is probably the highlight of the premiere for me, with innovative camera angles, stunning cinematography, and loads of visual storytelling with minimal dialog early on. The acting was solid, with Madi's introduction being handled well. I'm very much looking forward to next week, and to whatever else this fifth season brings.

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you've enjoyed what I've had to say about this premiere of The 100. If you have (or haven't), please do feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below. I'm really interested in what you have to say!

Finally, keep an eye on the site over the next few days for my interview with newly promoted series regular actor, Tasya Teles, who plays Echo. It will be a fascinating read. See you all back here next week!

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