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The 100 - Shifting Sands - Review: "More Characters, Less Story"

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The 100 continues to keep its episodes at a high level, with last night's fifth episode of Season 5 finally focusing less on the story and more on the shifting dynamics between the characters. Nick Bragg wrote his first episode of The 100, titled "Shifting Sands", with Omar Madha directing.

The pace of the storytelling thus far this season has bothered me somewhat, as I've mentioned in other reviews, but this was partially rectified in this hour because hardly anything happened on the story front, but plenty went on in the two rival camps. Octavia was hellbent on getting revenge and taking back the valley that the Eligius prisoners now occupy, and nothing - even common sense logic or reasoning - was going to stand in her way.

Fight or die. That's all that matters.
This was the first character dynamic that was portrayed. Octavia was almost completely dismissive of Clarke's objections to sending an army to the valley. It's fair to say Clarke has assumed leadership positions because she's naturally suited to it, but Octavia's 'fight or die' approach in this situation was doomed from the start, and a disappointing trait she's picked up after 6 years overseeing Wonkru in the bunker. Leaders need to be able to take advice, and I can't recall a time that Clarke has been more qualified to have a say in proceedings. She's lived in these parts for 6 years, knows all the routes, their positives and negatives, the conditions and the weather. Octavia saw the shortest route and said that would do, whereas a route that was longer carried less risks at the expense of time.

As I expected, Clarke would be proven correct, with Octavia ordering a retreat after being caught in a deadly sandstorm and losing a dozen members of her army to a mysterious parasite - herself nearly included. I'm not so sure I'm keen on yet another deadly something being introduced pretty much solely to showcase Clarke's medical skills and add some value and bragging rights to the character. We've seen that all before, and Clarke's environmental knowledge being tested would have stood fine on its own two feet.

The antagonists continue to earn my praise this season. In addition to Colonel Diyoza's continued character development, with the prisoners largely settled into their new home we were able to learn a little more about a couple of other members. Shaw, the pilot, takes the cake here. We learned that he wasn't in fact a prisoner but his life was spared because he could fly the ship. In an interesting interrogation scene he told Raven and Murphy that he had in fact locked the missile system aboard the drop ship, making it look as if Raven had done it. He wanted Raven to confess she'd done it so she would live, but Raven had a better plan in letting Murphy escape with the collar he was wearing as a decoy, with Raven being framed to Diyoza as if she had unlocked the missiles.

I don't trust traitors.

I was a tad disappointed in not actually seeing what went down on board the Eligius ship when the dozens of remaining prisoners were woken up, but that was made up for in seeing Monty, Echo, Harper, Emori and Madi appear. They had been observing the prisoners and were able to get Murphy away in the rover before his collar's geofence prevented him going any further. Murphy and Emori hopped out while the others continued toward the Wonkru army to warn them to retreat because missiles were trained on them.

This led to another major reunion late in the episode. All those in the rover hadn't seen anyone from the bunker at all this season, so this was their moment. Clarke and Madi were overjoyed to see each other, as were Bellamy and Echo, which drew an evil stare from Octavia and a look of surprise from Clarke.

The hour's other major subplot focused on Abby and Kane as they were tasked to diagnose a condition that several of the prisoners - former miners - were suffering from. Abby was able to pass Diyoza's first test by diagnosing the initial condition correctly, but she now has to find a cure. Her prize was to continue living, but also to get back the pills she's addicted to. In a surprise move, Kane was separated from Abby and taken to a private meeting with Diyoza. She was taking up an earlier offer from Kane to tell her more about Octavia, who is Diyoza's primary threat at this point. We don't hear the conversation, but it's safe to assume that Kane's intelligence will help Diyoza negotiate a peace settlement with Diyoza remaining in charge, or all out war using her resources most effectively. Diyoza's scarred body also told a few stories, and she recounted the time her father was killed, and she slashed her throat in a ruse to pretend she was dead. Again, top marks to the creative team here for creating a genuine 3-dimensional antagonist.

Other tidbits here and there include it being great to see Abby recognizing Clarke's art and that she lived with another person, Diyoza mistaking Kane as Abby's husband, Bellamy and Clarke's discussions and admiration for each others' survivability, and Octavia's threat to Bellamy that he would get no preferential treatment if he crossed her and Wonkru again.

All up, the fact that this episode of The 100 focused more on the characters than the storyline is its biggest selling point to me. Octavia in particular has changed significantly, but I don't think it's been conveyed more clearly than in this episode. Her current demeanor is not sustainable, however, so it's a race against time for those she's close to to force a change for the sake of everyone else. I loved the additional development of the antagonists, and the newly minted love square between Bellamy, Clarke, Echo and Octavia will be fascinating to watch unfold.

Thanks as always for reading! The 100 takes a week off, but will be back alive and kicking on June 5. In the meantime please do share your thoughts and theories on this episode in the comments below, and I'll see you right back here in a fortnight.

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