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The 100 - Red Queen - Review: "Choose"

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I theorized in my review of last week's fifth season premiere of The 100 that last night's second episode would effectively be a second premiere episode. Given what went down, I don't believe I was wrong. This episode, fittingly titled "Red Queen" was written by Terri Hughes with P.J. Pesce directing.

Following a similar timeline to last week's premiere, this episode began around 46 days after Praimfaya, with Octavia ruling the Wonkru roost inside Second Dawn. As is typical of pretty much everything to do with Grounders in this series, politics had a lot to do with this episode's outcomes, and it was no great surprise to see a faction of former Skaikru members attempt to break Wonkru apart by occupying Second Dawn's most important area: the farm.

The overall narrative of this episode was decent, but far from the strongest we've seen during the series. What this episode did excel at was giving Marie Avgeropoulos some superb material to work with, giving her character, Octavia, massive room to grow and forge her own path and legacy.

Octavia had to prove herself very rapidly given how quick the takeover took place. She had to convince the numerous former Grounders to back off and let justice be done, rather than bash their way inside and kill people. This was a new concept for many of them, but Octavia's black and white approach was quite clear, and although a good dozen or so took her on over the matter, she came through and managed to restore order.

You are Wonkru, or you are the enemy of Wonkru. Choose.
Jaha's death had long been suspected during the offseason, and unfortunately this came to fruition last night. Jaha appeared a changed man in many respects, and I thought Isaiah Washington delivered a superb final performance. He suffered a deadly wound in the hour's early stages, and in the end his final act was to restore order to Wonkru by opening the door sealing the faction off from the others. He challenged Octavia's opinions throughout, and his insights into the decisions he made as Chancellor of the Ark were fascinating to hear.
On the Ark, we made death the enemy.
Despite the above quote, Jaha and Octavia were very much pro-life, which was very pleasing to see, and reflects a much more intelligent piece of storytelling and character development than what I feared may be coming in my review last week. What didn't happen on board the Ark was the Roman-inspired methodology of dealing with the faction's leaders. Octavia tossed her sword into the ring, with the survivor to be spared. I guess that's a tad more exciting than a simple execution or float, especially for a bloodthirsty population. It's still counter-intuitive when you consider that manpower in general is very much limited, but I'll reserve further judgement for now.

Kane and Abby featured reasonably prominently, but things deteriorated quickly after a strong opening scene when the pair fought to open the bunker's hatch when they heard banging coming from above. Abby's instincts were correct, but she was never able to confirm them because the rubble from the Polis tower couldn't be shifted. The rest of their chats as they were handcuffed while being held as assets by the takeover faction tended to waffle a bit, and the love and affection between the pair was very much one-sided.

With Octavia very much at the forefront, the other more prominent Grounder characters, Indra and Gaia, hung in the background where they belonged, but rightly encouraged Octavia to take charge. Niylah surprisingly featured again - someone I had pretty much forgotten existed during the off-season. We'll be seeing her again most likely, along with Ethan, the young boy who clung to Jaha early on, and who Jaha told Octavia to look after in his absence.

Like those who chose to support or betray Wonkru, I guess I also have a choice whether to like this episode or not, but the thing that's dawned on me while writing this review is that the Second Dawn story doesn't feel nearly as complete as it probably should be. We saw what went down over the course of a few hours just weeks into a six year stint in the bunker, and the hour's final seconds only showed that the gladiatorial fighting still existed, and somehow Kane was next in the ring. We witnessed Octavia transform, but next to nothing else about how the six years passed. I didn't feel any of this after the premiere. With hundreds of people in the bunker, I want to see more of the day-to-day instead of the infighting and politics. I hope the creative team don't let that slide, but come back to it later on. I don't like my odds with that though.

Some final odds and ends before I wrap things up. I'm pleased Kara will be seen again - she was alongside Octavia in the episode's dying moments, having instigated the faction years earlier. Jackson and Miller's relationship was rather forced. Putting two characters together all of a sudden when no one has any vested interest in either just makes things awkward. I'm pleased Jaha died with honor and respect. He wasn't perfect, but his discovery of Second Dawn is the reason everyone in there is alive today, and his heart has always been in the right place. Last, but not least, another really good job by the SFX and stunt teams in this episode. New ground is being broken in terms of quality and realism, and it's making a difference. Great stuff.

That's all from me. This second episode of The 100 was pretty good, but lacked the answers I was hoping to get. Kudos to Marie Avgeropoulos and Isaiah Washington for their strong performances. Hopefully the next Second Dawn focused episode does a wee bit better. It likely won't be next week if the promo and press release are anything to go by.

Thanks as always for reading. Make sure you share your thoughts and theories on the episode in the comments below, and don't forget to have a read of my interview with Tasya Teles, who plays Echo. Click here to check that out.

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