Before diving into “Terms And Conditions,” let’s outline a few of the problems that have plagued this season of The 100 so far, because it’ll help to better understand this episode and the direction that this season seems to be heading in. There have been issues on a macro character level, mostly involving Bellamy and Pike. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the story of soldiers taking over a camp and running things their way, but the way in which Bellamy’s character arc was abandoned in order to heighten the stakes of the conflict certainly left the storyline feeling rather contrived. Then, the show killed off a major character, one whom many identified as a strong representation of the LGBTQ community. That death couldn’t be avoided, and it was mostly handled well within the episode, but the speed with which the show blew through plot points to get there left a lot to be desired in terms of storytelling. Now, with “Terms And Conditions,” The 100 is chugging forward, trying its best to turn a corner after a rocky start to the season. The results are, to say the least, mixed.
After focusing solely on Lexa and Clarke last week, this week’s episode takes place exclusively within the walls of Arkadia. The Grounder blockade has been established, and a few Arkadia soldiers have already been killed for trying to push the Grounders back. It’s creating a culture of tension and potential violence within the camp, and things only get worse when two Grounders show up and tell the people of Arkadia that if they want peace all they have to do is give up Pike. It’s essentially the Finn deal all over again, except Pike is an even worse human being. Pike declines the offer, which isn’t shocking. However, Bellamy gunning down both Grounders in cold blood certainly is. Or maybe at this point it’s just par for the course, as Bellamy has been on a downward spiral this season. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Bellamy questioning Kane’s authority, or finding comfort in the rah-rah tactics of Pike, but the show put so little work into Bellamy’s change of heart early on this season that everything he does now feels out of whack. But more on that later.
Bellamy killing the Grounders leaves only two options: either Pike gives himself up to the Grounders, or everyone goes to war. Guess which one Pike chooses? Anyways, Pike choosing to go to war allows The 100 to do one of the things it does best, which is construct an elaborate game of cat and mouse. When Kane gets wind of Pike’s plan to lay waste to as many Grounders as he can, the former Chancellor goes on the offensive, bringing in Sinclair, Harper, and Miller as part of his plan to kidnap Pike and deliver him to the Grounders. Or, as Harper so wonderfully puts it: “We could just shock-lash Pike’s fascist ass.” Amen, girl. Amen.
The cat and mouse game that follows is undeniably entertaining, filled with great twists and turns. First, Sinclair is arrested by Bellamy and put in lockup, and it looks like Kane’s plan is doomed from the get-go. Then, it turns out Sinclair wanted to be in there so that he could deliver a message to Lincoln and the rest of the inmates. Then, Kane makes one last-ditch effort to get Bellamy on his side, but he refuses. Eventually, the plan is underway. Lincoln and Sinclair start a prison fight in order to get the doors open, rushing out and working to take down the guards, all while Kane takes Pike down, throws him in the back of a rover, and makes his way outside with the intention of delivering him to the Grounders. As he approaches the gate though, and Bellamy stands in his way along with a few other guards, he has a choice to make. He can either run him down or stop and hope Bellamy lets him go. He chooses to stop, to be better than Pike or Bellamy, and it of course leads to him being arrested for treason.
That’s where most of the fun stops because The 100 starts to cut corners and compress its story again. The story here revolves around Bellamy, who’s sided with Pike ever since he showed up at camp, only to secretly go against him at the end of the episode when Pike orders Kane to die. Apparently that’s too far for him? It doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense, and I think that’s because the show has been blowing through plot with reckless abandon. The story of Bellamy seeing the error in his allegiances and then revolting (we assume) against Pike is a sound story, but as its packed into so few episodes here, it can’t help but feel rushed and contrived.
Of course, there are troubling elements surrounding the main narrative arc involving Bellamy as well. For instance, just as the show finally gives significant screen time to Miller and Bryan, they’re showing them lying to and betraying each other. The problem isn’t that they’re betraying each other, but rather that The 100 has never explored their relationship dynamic, and hasn’t given us really any backstory at all. That means that the tension in their relationship feels like its there to bolster the conflict in the larger narrative, which is the same issue with Bellamy’s sudden turn to the dark side. The 100 is abandoning character in favor of story, and it’s often not working.
The 100 has a history of showing how character relationships (romantic or otherwise) change and adapt during times of crisis. The show has often done a great job of putting those relationships through meaningful conflicts because of the things happening in this post-apocalyptic world. And yet, this season has shifted thing, putting larger conflicts and story before the character moments, before the relationships. The result is that too many of the characters this season feel like shells of themselves—just look at how the characters focused on this week stand in stark contrast to the more nuanced portrayal of Clarke and Lexa from this season—and it’s robbing the story of tension and ingenuity. “Terms And Conditions” boasts a compelling, twisty cat and mouse game, but once again, too much is lost in the service of a larger, forced conflict.
- Raven is strong and independent and resistant to ALIE! Here’s hoping she’s free of the City of Light sometime soon. I need more badass Raven in my life.
- “The threat’s inside the wall.” Kane is not mincing words.
- Henry Ian Cusick continues to be electric this season. His final words about Pike being unable to recognize the world he lives in, that the old laws don’t apply anymore, is beautiful, stirring stuff, and certainly relevant to our current political climate.
- Jasper was having way too much fun being sneaky.
- So, Monty’s mom is the worst, right?
- Jasper musing on his past friendship with Monty was absolutely heartbreaking.
- Who missed Clarke and Octavia this week? I know I did!
- Another annoying Bellamy thing in service of the Pike story: he’s suddenly really worried about people obeying the Chancellor’s orders. Since when, dude?
- I still think a lot of the problems this season could have been avoided had the pace of the show been slowed down. It might not have fixed everything, but it would allow the character motivations time to grow organically.
- The 100 is off for a few weeks, folks. See you all on March 31!