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The 100 - Anaconda - Review: "A Good Kick Up The Backside"

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The 100's final season has been in cruise control for the most part. It's been neither here nor there in my book, with some stuff being quite decent, and other stuff not piquing my interest at all. The season needed a good kick up the backside, and I think last night's eighth episode seems to have done just that. "Anaconda" was written by Jason Rothenberg, with Ed Fraiman directing.

Beginning the episode with the title sequence was an immediate way to telegraph that this episode was something different. Immediately following that, we revisited the aftermath of Gabriel telling Clarke, along with Raven, Jordan and Niylah, that Bellamy was dead. Raven and Clarke took a moment to steel themselves before Bill Cadogan made his grand entrance, and allowed his followers to escape.

From then on except for the final minute or two, the episode moved back in time, and introduced us to the wider Cadogan family. We're familiar with patriarch Bill, but new on the block are his ex-wife Grace, their daughter Callie and brother Reese. Callie and Reese were the primary focus of the flashback, with Callie being a rebellious and driven teenager, and Reese more or less battling to be seen from under the shadow of his sister.

After a tense hologram call in which the father/daughter relationship was fleshed out a tad more, Bill said a word to Callie and her mother that neither could believe they were hearing:

That was literally the code word for a nuclear apocalypse. Bill had dispatched a helicopter to retrieve the pair, and they had mere minutes to pack before the world as they knew it would be annihilated. But Callie had to leave her friend behind, and that will likely be very important if this backdoor pilot gets ordered to series. More on that later on.

We're then reintroduced to the Second Dawn bunker, last seen in season 4. This was where just over 1100 people managed to reach before the apocalypse. Supposedly these inhabitants were "a collection of great minds" in Bill Cadogan's words, but they looked more like a pandemonium waiting to happen than a group of people who were focused on preserving the human species - in other words, a plain and simple cult.

Later, it's revealed that Bill has the anomaly stone, and apparently discovered it hidden under the Temple of the Sun in Machu Picchu. That's a strange way to connect the Incan civilization to the events in The 100, so that's a connection to watch closely going forward. However, Bill's knowledge about the stone was far more primitive than what we've seen in present day. It took Becca's welcome reintroduction to unravel its mysteries.

Becca landed on Earth from her Polaris space station two years after the planet was destroyed. She brought with her the knowhow to make someone a Nightblood, and also the knowhow to activate the anomaly stone. Fast forward slightly and Callie confirms Becca's connection to artificial intelligence, and the Flame. With Callie creating her own language for fun before the apocalypse, we now understand that Becca and Callie were, in simple terms, the origin of the Grounders, which we are familiar with from early seasons. After Becca was burned alive by Bill primarily because he didn't believe what she told him when she used the stone to witness the so-called Judgment Day, Callie sought to deploy Becca's Nightblood technology, and abandon the bunker with some loyalists to start what would later become the Grounder race on the surface of the Earth, while Bill ended up using the stone to take his people to Bardo, where they would begin a new life.

There's of course a little more to it than that, but in the broader context of The 100's story, that's what we need to know. We now understand how Bill Cadogan and his Disciples came to be, and there's now a firm connection between Becca via Callie to the Grounders, which flows through the seasons to where the series and its characters find themselves today. With Becca being the inaugural Commander, and Callie the second, in present day Clarke was able to tell Bill that daughter Callie's mind still lives on, because Clarke recognized him immediately. That poses the question of whether there isn't any so-called war that is being waged - rather the entire purpose of Bill's cult at this point is to find out the whereabouts of the Flame so he can reunite in some capacity with his long-lost daughter, and the war is merely a way to keep his followers motivated and in line. How much everyone knows about Judgment Day will likely make that answer more definitive.

Considering the main plot points I've discussed, you'd be surprised that it took an entire episode for them to be unraveled, and that can be blamed solely on the fact that this was a backdoor pilot episode for a potential spin-off. It was announced in early February, but the world has changed a lot since then, so whether it gets ordered to series is now a more difficult question to answer than it perhaps was. But my point is that the final season's most important and most climactic episode to date had to double as a pilot, and therefore the wastage that comes with that does have its downsides. If these characters were throwaways, a lot could have been cut back or cut out entirely - particularly character development - and a deeper and more convincing story could have been told that better relates to The 100. Though we know a lot about Becca, she hasn't featured in any real capacity since the fifth season, and I think many viewers - myself included - would have wanted a decent recap or additional flashbacks to better place her in the story, along with the likes of Polaris and A.L.I.E. I'm unsure we'll see her again before the series ends, and given her importance in the series as a whole, I'd be disappointed to think this was her swansong.

The end of the episode, in present day, saw Bill let Clarke see her other missing friends, Octavia, Echo, and Diyoza. Hope wasn't among the trio that took their Disciple helmets off, which was a surprise, and will surely be explained next week. Though Clarke and the others with her would have known Diyoza is pregnant, they wouldn't have met Hope before, so that's something that's yet to be developed. In addition to this, remember that Gaia has been unseen for five episodes now, after also being kidnapped by the Disciples. I think it's likely that with her knowledge of the Flame, she may return and be leveraged by Bill to help reunite him with Callie. Recall that no one knows she's missing yet, so she may well be Bill's ace up his sleeve. Remember that the Flame was merely buried by her and Clarke, not destroyed. It would come as no surprise to me that the Flame might find its way back into nefarious hands.

This episode is a difficult one to wrap up nicely. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of decent content which told a relatively cohesive story about how the world was obliterated. However, could that story have been improved without being hindered by the obligations a backdoor pilot brings? I believe the answer is yes. It degraded the storytelling that I care about right now, which is what's happening in The 100, not this prequel. Put simply, I think it will all depend on how heavily the wider Cadogan family - Callie in particular - impact the present day storytelling in The 100. It's not the time to be introducing a raft of new characters that will magically explain how the series ends because that's a cop-out which destroys the fans' ability to speculate and predict. The characters we've come to know and love over several years need to be the absolute cornerstone. I do believe The 100's showrunners are taking this route, but there's a lot of water to pass under the bridge just yet, and I think the key is what the hell Judgment Day ends up being. All this being said, this episode did succeed in giving this season the kick up the backside that it needs to push through to a conclusion in a few short weeks.

As for the potential for this spin-off? I think there's a bit to work with, but if Jason Rothenberg uses the storytelling methodologies he's used with The 100, it won't do overly well. Given the multitude of conflicts and disagreements the various Grounder clans have had in The 100, no doubt we'll just see more of the same. In addition, if he wants to preserve his series leads over multiple seasons, that significantly reduces the timespan that a series could take place across, which in turn leads to more unanswered questions because there's 97 odd years - plus whatever happened before the apocalypse - to be covered off. I'm no showrunner, but it's hard to deny that without some pretty radical sci-fi thinking, a population living in a nuclear wasteland might be pretty difficult to make a show about. I'm definitely not writing it off at this point, but I had more confidence that The 100 would turn into something fairly decent when I had a screener of its pilot than I had when watching this backdoor pilot.

I'll leave things there for now because I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode, as well as the viability of a spin-off from this backdoor pilot. Do be sure to share your thoughts and theories in the comments below, and I'll see you back here for the ninth episode of The 100's final season next week.

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