There are two distinct threads running through the sixth season of The 100. There’s the thematic thread, which is doing its best to deal with the murderous, morally complicated actions of The 100 that make up their past and define their time before coming to Sanctum, and the more action-packed, week-to-week thriller plotting that involves those same people trying to save one another and get rid of yet another group of outsiders that threaten their lives. Those threads are both interesting to some degree, but “Adjustment Protocol” underlines just how difficult it is to create television that muses on the depravity of violence while also necessitating it, for dramatic effect, from time to time. Not every show can be The Sopranos, you know?
There’s a tension that’s simply inherent in this season, as the show struggles to balance its meditative aspects with the kind of propulsive storytelling that this show excels at. On the one hand, Clarke, Bellamy, and the others are all grappling with how to proceed in the wake of Monty’s call to “do better”on this new planet. It’s a message they’ve taken to heart, and they’ve spent all season musing on what that message means and how best to apply it within Sanctum. On the other hand, there needs to be some dramatic thrust here, and that means that it’s important for the Primes to be villains and for everyone to want them dead. That’s a circle that’s tough to square.
Despite the thematic holes that come with questioning violence while also engaging in it, this season has been one of the most dramatically satisfying since season two. The threat of the Primes, who position themselves as Gods to steal the bodies of unknowing citizens so that a single family can live forever, is fascinating. The Primes allow The 100 to muse on ideas of inherited privilege, identity, social hierarchy, and the oppression of the masses by the powerful few. When, at the top of the episode, Russel says that “the revolution has reached a tipping point,” it reads as more of an inconvenience to him than anything else. He doesn’t give a damn about these people, unless they’re blindingly following his orders, and he’s more than happy to poison them with toxin to make sure his bloodline lives on, even if that means transporting the Primes to space.
“Adjustment Protocol” is filled with great plotting and dramatic stakes. There’s Abby not only reconciling with Raven, but then being surprisingly taken as a host for Simone. There’s Bellamy and Octavia slowly starting to reconstruct the bridge between them, as they storm Sanctum and hope to save their friends. There’s Gabriel returning to the place he left in protest 70 years earlier, hoping to foment a revolution and stop the Primes from killing people to keep themselves alive. This is an episode that pulses with activity, that sees The 100 spinning all of it wheels in tandem and really delivering. The Abby “sendoff” is emotional, and Clarke’s need to push down what she feels for Madi is equally traumatic. “Adjustment Protocol” makes you feel, and that’s never a bad thing.
In the long rung though, I’m not sure The 100 can pull off the balancing act. Next week’s season finale will be the judge, but I’m not convinced that the show can find a way to pass judgement on its main characters while also having them prevail in this precarious, deadly situation. I’d love to be wrong. I’d love for The 100 to get Clarke, Bellamy, Murphy, Echo, and everyone else out of this situation in a way that sees them living up to Monty’s directions, but “Adjustment Protocol” doesn’t give me a ton of hope. It’s a great episode; it’s exciting and twisty and plotted beautifully, with the heartbreaking moments fitting perfectly alongside the more nail-biting ones. And yet, that’s the knock on this season. From episode to episode it’s been fun, but what does it all amount to? There’s one more episode to find out.
- Gabriel is the true antidote to everyone’s propensity for violence in the name of survival. “I can’t sacrifice the few to save the many.”
- “Sometimes being a human sucks.” Amen, Raven.
- “We’re not here to fight, we’re here to liberate.” Again, I wonder how The 100 will deal with this in the season six finale. It’s one thing to talk about atoning for past sins, but it’s a whole other thing to construct an hour of television that grapples with such a weighty theme.