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The 100 - The Dark Year - Review: "Eat Or Be Eaten"

Unbelievably good.

That's the best way to sum up last night's episode of The 100 - the final regular season episode before the first of a two part finale kicks off next week.

So much of what was in "The Dark Year" - written by Heidi Cole McAdams and directed by Alex Kalymnios - was truly next level for the series. I expected this to be a pretty good episode that more or less answered some questions through flashbacks and moved the present day story forward somewhat, but my jaw was on the floor for a far greater duration than it has been previously this season - and possibly ever for the series. There's so much to dissect, so let's clear the present day events first before delving into the sublime flashbacks.

Present day events were spread across three locations. The first of those was deep inside Shadow Valley, where Clarke and Madi were trying frantically to save Abby, who they'd found on the edge of death thanks to an overdose. Clarke managed to revive her by inducing vomiting, but that was just the start of the journey, as a rapid but equally dangerous detox was next on the cards to finally pull Abby off her habit, and have her in a functioning state to meet McCreary's orders, otherwise all three would be killed.

If she still won't cure us, well I guess you'll both get to watch your daughters die.
We're yet to see Abby attempt to cure anyone not aligned with Diyoza, but fortunately Clarke was successful despite having to be revived during the procedure. There were some wonderful pieces of dialog thrown in here, with Abby devastated at Clarke seeing her in that state, and explaining why she turned to the pills thanks to PTSD from the events seen in the flashbacks, and Clarke refusing to be the slightest bit judgmental.

Not to be outdone in this episode was Madi. Eliza Taylor and Paige Turco turned things up a notch in this hour, but Lola Flanery wasn't going to be left behind. Perhaps the biggest silver lining about Madi becoming Heda is that she can now match or better Clarke on an intellectual level when choosing to channel her commander predecessors, enabling her to play a very capable devil's advocate role in the way she questioned Clarke's motives and decisions. What Clarke withheld about her past is, to Clarke's likely disdain, out there for Madi to analyse and exploit. She did so in this episode to superb effect, once when ordering Abby to behave herself during her withdrawal, and again when Clarke stopped her from attacking McCreary.
I never said I was a hero, Madi. Because I'm not one.
Clarke passed her test in this episode, but in order to test and develop both characters more, Madi has to play this role again going forward because their relationship is now truly unique, not just in The 100, but in the television landscape in general. In Clarke's case, too, the daughter she's been raising has suddenly turned into a teenager, perhaps with an adult's brain and a child's body. Clarke now has to teach Madi the wisdom she needs, and to do that now she will need to be more vulnerable and forthcoming about the things she's done in her past and why she did them. The creative team have created an absolute gem for themselves. I really hope they're good enough to make it work for them. It's simply too good to go to waste.

Next up in present day were those exiled from Shadow Valley, namely Murphy, Emori, Echo, Raven, Kane, Diyoza and Shaw. This group were once again hidden in the cave we've seen multiple times this season already.

This lot were playing a role similar to an underground resistance or guerrilla operation. Initially they scouted the area and found that McCreary was using Diyoza's strategic playbook to formulate a defense strategy - he'd heard that Wonkru were marching because Clarke had to tell him in order to stay alive. They very nearly got in strife when Murphy became tunnel-visioned and went to loot weapons from a campsite. Eligius members were there, but Shaw made his biggest play to date and pretended to turn himself in before seriously kicking some ass. The good news is that the group are now properly armed, and were able to feed intel to Octavia via Bellamy so their offenses will be somewhat coordinated.
I'm not mad at you for saving my life. I'm mad at you for making me care about yours.
In an episode that was otherwise very dark, it was heartwarming to see Shaw and Raven kiss. The timing was great, the chemistry was there, and another bonus is that it's less likely that Shaw will turn on Wonkru for any reason now that he has Raven to consider. Good stuff all round here.

Credit where it's due, Octavia probably had a rougher time leading Wonkru through those years in the bunker than I think many people expected.

Flashbacks from Abby's withdrawal told a gut-wrenching story that really has to be seen to be believed. A fungal infection rendered Wonkru's only protein source inedible, and even though there was enough food production otherwise, the population would starve anyway without a source of protein. What's surprising is Abby, and to an extent, Kane, had a major part to play in bringing cannibalism to the table as a way to solve this shortage. That brought with it its own challenges, because those who wouldn't eat the human-sourced protein wouldn't be suitable for harvest themselves. Octavia had to execute several Wonkru members in front of the population at meal times to force compliance.
What do you want me to do? Make it a crime not to be a cannibal?
It's fair to say that, by design, this season has depicted Octavia's leadership style as one-dimensional and tunnel-visioned. Thus, she's very much on her own in her approach and opinions to resolving the Shadow Valley situation. I think the question now is, does what happened in the bunker justify her approach now, at least three years after the dark year?

Honestly, my opinion is no. My basis for this is that the only grounds for this being the case is if Octavia was set upon securing a better food supply. Where this falls flat on its face is her act last week to destroy the hydrofarm. If this food shortage had scarred her deeply enough, there's no way she would have destroyed a viable source of food given that despite her determination, her quest to take Shadow Valley may not succeed. Secondly, Octavia would have sought alternatives to breeding the worms seen earlier in the season using human corpses.

There are many events in history that remain in the memories of those affected, and that guide the lives of their descendants often several generations later. For me, despite what happened in the dark year, unless there's much more to see (which is quite possibly the case), Octavia isn't leading her people into battle for the right reasons, and as Clarke so rightly said to Madi, Octavia has chosen to break her people's will to resist by leaving them with no other choice. If further information comes to light in future episodes I'd happily reconsider, but at present I still can't support Octavia's actions at the moment, even from a sympathetic standpoint.

Irrespective of my thoughts on Octavia, however, there's little doubt Marie Avergopolous delivered her season best performance in this hour. In addition, Alex Kalymnios delivered the best looking flashbacks from a technical standpoint, with his choice of wide angle lenses and unconventional angles being perfect for conveying the dire situations presented in the flashbacks, along with the fact that Abby was reliving them through a withdrawal. Top job here for sure.
This war that you're so anxious for is about to be fought on the last survivable land on Earth. That is monumentally stupid.
Bellamy was featured sparingly, but as they have been all season, his scenes with Octavia were superb to watch. He was in radio communication with Echo who was hiding out in Shadow Valley, and despite relaying the fact that McCreary knew they were coming, he still wasn't able to force his sister to change her mind.

Their most important scene came in the later stages of the episode, where he interrupted a strategy meeting Octavia was conducting, and ordering everyone else to leave. He again made his thoughts known that this war was a very bad idea, but he changed tack by making his sister promise real peace after the Eligius army surrendered.
I'm not fighting for you. I'm fighting to get back to my family.
After saying those words as he left the tent, Octavia looked visibly more shaken and lost than she has in past spats with her brother and Clarke. It might finally be hitting home that she's well and truly lost the support of the person that means more to her than anyone else. However, she's past the point of no return, with rations nearly out, so her people again have no choice but to continue toward Shadow Valley, whether they like it or not.

The hour's final sting in the tail is Diyoza and Kane turning themselves in to McCreary, in a move that could truly throw a spanner in the works because it's not clear what their motives are. Kane's words made it appear as if they're determined to not let Octavia enter the valley, so they've chosen to side with McCreary as the lesser of two evils. It was unquestionably Diyoza's idea to play this card, but how she and Kane intend to alter the outcome of this war is difficult to foresee at this point.

With that, the regular season comes to a close as a two part season 5 finale kicks off with part one next week. This episode really was something special, and I think it nudges a couple of the recent ones from the podium of best regular season episodes. I do actually wish we'd been given a glimpse of how Wonkru managed to create the small jelly-like cubes from the deceased. The sight of someone being carted from the arena, dismembered, butchered and rendered down to jelly, even if it was only foggy flashes over a couple of seconds, would have really made the severity of the situation hit home as a viewer.

On top of that, I can't end this review without once again emphasizing the gold field the creative team have constructed with the relationship between Madi and Clarke now. There's so much potential here for a completely new level of storytelling and character development, and the creative team simply cannot let this slip. If utilized to its potential, the relationship between Madi and Clarke would be a reason on its own for viewers to tune in for a sixth season.

Now that that's been said, now's the time to wrap this review. Thanks as always for reading - I'd love to hear your thoughts, theories and interpretations on what went on in this episode of The 100, so please do share them in the comments below. The end of the season is just about upon us, so I'll see you all right back here for a rundown of part 1 of the season finale.

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