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The 100 - Damocles - Part One - Review: "Awful Start, Excellent End"

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If history has taught us anything about The 100, then it's taught us that pretty much anything, good or bad, can happen when a season finale rolls around. Last night's episode was the first of a two part season finale, and the twelfth episode of Season 5. "Damocles - Part One" was directed by the renowned Dean White and written by Justine Juel Gillmer.

I think the majority would agree with me when I say that this episode finished far better than it started. My eyes were rolling big time initially, especially through the gorge massacre phase, where the poor warfare tactics which have dogged this series throughout its time on the small screen reared their ugly heads once more. We knew in advance that the ambush was set, by why these armies walk straight down the middle of a primetime killing zone regardless of whether they believe it's safe or not is baffling to say the least.

I'll unload my criticisms regarding this scene now just to get them out of the way. The shock and awe the creative team were literally gunning for in this scene was totally lost on me. The shooting location was less than ideal as well - it was far from an imposing gorge that the armies simply had to pass through, with its walls measuring a mere handful of meters high, and a wide, flat floor is also not commonplace. By some sheer miracle, despite everyone around them being shredded by bullets, Bellamy, and Octavia especially - managed to avoid being hit at all. When a round from the ray gun landed at their feet, they escaped with barely a scratch, and despite flying apart in the blast, ended up beside each other in the subsequent scene. Finally a shred of realism came via Gaia's severe wounds, though Indra was also miraculously uninjured. Bellamy and Octavia finding better cover by avoiding the searchlights was slightly redeeming, but why none of the other survivors had the presence of mind to play dead instead of standing up and being shot stamped that redemption out.

The main problem with this sort of stuff is that it's really sloppy film-making. It's hard to take a series seriously when what are supposed to be big, season defining, climax moments are this poorly executed. It's inexcusable, and tarnishes a lot of excellent work seen in prior episodes.

Rant over. Now, onto some of the better things that went down.

There was some really good stuff that went down inside Shadow Valley, particularly between Clarke and Madi. In my review of last week's episode, I discussed how Madi being the Commander can impact Clarke, and this was on show in this episode which is fantastic. Among a splash of dialog between Abby and Clarke, Madi made a run for the Rover to join in the fight to take the gorge. Sensing she might do this, Clarke had removed another component which rendered the Rover useless. She also collared Madi to keep her from attempting to escape again.

I'm not a child any more, Clarke. I'm the Commander. And my people are dying.
Clarke wasn't having it that easy, however, because the remaining group hiding in the cave were aware they had to do something to help Wonkru push through the Eligius defenses. After radioing the triage location, it was decided that Echo, Raven and Shaw would go and get Madi to use her powers as Commander to get everyone to mount another assault. Consequently, the trio woke Madi in the dead of night while Clarke was elsewhere, however Clarke scuttled that plan, and left a radio open as a way of letting McCreary know that she was in trouble. Another dumb decision in this hour was for Shaw to go with Raven on this mission because the pair ended up being separated, while Echo, Clarke and Madi were placed under guard.

The resulting dialog between Echo and Clarke was one of the highlights of this episode for me. Though Clarke had the upper hand in that Echo was tied up and their guards had orders to execute her, Clarke didn't let this get to her head, and kept a rational, logical mindset during their conversation. Echo revealed to Clarke that Bellamy in fact survived the pit, and was marching with Wonkru. This was difficult for Clarke to stomach, however she kept her emotions in check and even went so far as to credit Echo and Bellamy's relationship.
You were good for him, and as far as I can tell, he was good for you, too.
Off the back of this was the hour's most impressive piece of dialog between Clarke and Madi, Madi recalled how she's reliving the memories of Lexa, the previous Commander, and explained that Lexa's biggest regret was betraying Clarke, and that she doesn't want Clarke effectively paying forward that betrayal.
You may be the Commander, but I am the Commander of Death, and I say we will meet again.
Clarke eventually comes to terms with this, but this is a bigger moment for her and Madi than that. After being a mother to Madi for six years, and loving her dearly, the time has come for Madi to leave the nest, so to speak. Clarke has done her utmost all season to protect Madi from the danger and evil that disrupted their once tranquil existence. Madi has tried several times to leave the nest, but this time Clarke was willing her to go, and that makes things far more real very suddenly. Madi must leave with Echo to rally the Wonkru soldiers who have fallen back, while Clarke continues on alone to sabotage the Eligius drop ship.
My brother, my responsibility.
Tidying up loose ends in the gorge, a moment of awakening finally comes over Octavia. After deciding no one will come for them, she must do something to enable her brother, Indra and Gaia to escape. After witnessing the abysmal failure of her plan to take Shadow Valley, she realizes and admits that she is responsible for it, and that she broke Wonkru. Boy was I happy to hear those words come out of her mouth. Finally she sees what we as viewers, and all those around her, have been seeing all season.

So, what does she do? She decides to make the ultimate sacrifice. She appears from behind the rocks they've used as cover and begins firing at the gun emplacements. In that moment, she's ready to accept death, but Madi, Murphy, Emori and Echo have other ideas as the Rover, complete with the minigun firing constantly, screeches to a halt. The Eligius soldiers are suppressed as everyone jumps in and gets the hell out of there. Octavia, along with everyone else, live to fight another day.

It wouldn't be a The 100 finale without a death or three among the main characters, and while we nearly got the triple, only one looks to be confirmed, and surprisingly, that's Kane. Even more surprising was how it eventuated, which was thanks to Vinson. He confronted Kane while Abby was out of the lab, they both lunged for a scalpel, Kane couldn't grab it, Vinson stabbed Kane in the abdomen with it, then bit his neck as we've seen him do previously, before Abby killed Vinson via his shock collar and rushed to Kane's aid. Last we saw of him, he wasn't far away from expiring.
First we survive, then we get our humanity back. You told me that, remember?
Gaia is welcome to die if she wants, and so is Octavia quite frankly, but Kane's all but confirmed death is quite surprising and unexpected. After Jaha's passing early this season, Abby could now be the only adult remaining from the council on board the Ark. He will also leave behind a love story that I would have enjoyed seeing the end of, in his romance with Abby. As the primary negotiator between Wonkru and Diyoza, who hardly featured in this episode at all, his death throws a spanner in the works in that area too.

All up, an impending trainwreck in this episode's opening half was thankfully derailed by a far superior second half, which featured some outstanding dialog and character interaction, particularly between Clarke, Madi and Echo, and between Bellamy and Octavia. Historically, one of the episodes in The 100's two part finales is average or below so hopefully the trend continues and next week's part two episode knocks it out of the park. If it doesn't feature a comically bad battle scene, then a tap-in on the golf course represents how easy that task should be.

Thanks as always for reading. As usual I'd love to hear your thoughts and theories on this episode so please do make yourself heard in the comments below. There's just one more episode until The 100 is done for the year, and I'll see you right back here with its review next week.

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