The 100 S3E12: "Demons" Review
Demons combines effective pop-up horror in a Mount Weather redux scenario to force Clarke to face her past.
Demons begins with a scenario that most of us are familiar with: sitting around a campfire, late at night, telling spooky stories. Lightening flashes and thunder rolls as Miller spins a yarn of Captain Fidalgo, from the first generation on the Ark, who saw demons in his sleep and started killing people with his hook.
(I’m going to squeal a bit about this mashup—a couple of popular urban legends like Drip Drip Drag and Hookman set in space? Yes please!)
In a classic horror movie scene, Miller steps outside to answer nature’s call and disappears. Bryan goes after him and Harper is left alone, afraid, to be faced with a demon.
THE GHOSTS OF MOUNT WEATHER
What are ghost stories, and why do we tell them? Why do we like to sit around campfires and invoke creatures from our nightmares? One explanation is simple: to work out our fears in fictional narratives, get a little adrenaline, and be told a good story.
But the other explanation is a bit deeper, and it’s something that Demons effectively uses in a number of ways. Ghost stories are cautionary tales of people who can’t let go of other people, of places, of the injustices that were done to them. These attachments bind them to repeating an endless cycle of pain.
It’s a twist on this season’s themes of forgiveness, reconciliation and atonement. By setting it in a horror-movie style confrontation allows us to see that Mount Weather not only haunts Emerson, it haunts Clarke as well. For Emerson, it turned him into a demon, a ghoul that stalks Arkadia reeking havoc for his revenge. For Clarke, the genocide at Mount Weather is the ultimate source of shame, and she can’t escape the emotional devastation it wrought on her nor the continued ramifications for both Grounders and Sky People. Even when she thinks she might be done, another consequence pops up like a jack-in-the-box in the face.
Horror movie tropes and homages are abundant in this episode: the ghost story at the beginning, the Silence of Lambs night-vision sequence (which was brilliant), the creepy toy playing creepy calliope music while the cautious friend (Monty) says, hey, let’s not follow the music. The blonde does, of course (love you Clarke.)
These trope-ish moments are intertwined with direct Mount Weather callbacks: Clarke talking to Emerson on the radio, Harper's scream, poison gas, the handcuffs on the wall, the use of the airlock, and his method of venting the oxygen to kill the Delinquents. This show goes hard for parallels in telling its story of consequences, and this time it worked, because all of these images? They haunt both Emerson and Clarke. Seeing it on screen let us know what plays on in their nightmares.
And it is a nightmare scenario for Clarke. Once again her friends are in fatal peril, and once again she doesn’t have a plan. This is another direct callback to Blood Must Have Blood, Pt. 2, after the Grounder army has left and she meets Bellamy at the cave entrances. “Tell me you have a plan,” she says.
“Not really,” he answers.
This time, Clarke’s “plan” is to give herself up for her friends. She doesn’t want anyone else to die for her mistakes—which seems to keep happening. I don’t think Clarke has a martyr mentality, but I do think that she is tired and lost. All of the leadership advice she’s ever been given by others has failed her. Her friends keep dying and being put in danger, and she keeps being on the hook for it. She's out of ideas at this point.
Enter Bellamy and another subset of parallels, directly linked to both Mount Weather and Bellamy and Clarke’s relationship as a whole.
“You’re out of your mind if you think I’m letting you do this alone,” Bellamy says when Clarke tries to hand him the Flame, indicating she’s giving herself up. It’s a double echo of episode 2.16. The first is after Monty has finished the logistics of reversing the vents in Mount Weather, and their friends are in the process of being killed, Clarke hesitates with her hand on the lever. This is not something she wants to do. Bellamy, given the last motivational push by seeing his sister forced to her knees, lays his hand on top and says, “Together.” And together, they pull the lever. That line also echoes his plea at the end of 2.16 when Clarke tells him she’s going to leave: “You don’t have to do this alone.” He wants her to come inside, so they can work out what they just did together. Clarke feels she needs to “bear it so they don’t have to”—and she walks off into the woods for three months.
Back in the Hangar, in the present, Bellamy is rebuffing Clarke’s plan to let Emerson kill her. “…I do know that letting him kill you here today is a stupid plan.”
“You got a better one?” She asks.
“Distract him? I shoot him?” It’s the only plan there is, really. They both know it’s only marginally better than a self-sacrificial gesture by Clarke. He knows that she let Emerson live and feels guilty about it. But Bellamy is, again, not letting Clarke bear the weight of her decisions alone.
By way of plans, even though their “distract and shoot” method isn’t tops and they know it, the very next frame shows Clarke thinking, scrutinizing the chip. She’s hatching a B-plan and not giving up. Bellamy won’t give up on her, and she’s not giving up anymore either—that’s what their relationship has always been about.
So she puts the chip in her pocket.
Clarke approaches the airlock, Bellamy hidden behind her, but Emerson is no fool. He calls out Bellamy, and then forces the situation by threatening Octavia. Bellamy puts down his gun and enters the airlock. The Blakes may be splintered, but Bellamy puts his sister first—and will for the foreseeable future.
Clarke is really, truly alone this time, as it should be. Even though she and Bellamy pulled the lever together, Clarke initiated that sequence of events, and what happened there haunts her in a way that it doesn’t for Bellamy. He regrets it (see Hakeldama), but Bellamy carries Mount Weather as something he had to do to save his sister and friends, something he did to help Clarke. All of that mitigates his burden somewhat (not totally), whereas it’s just not the same for Clarke. She had a plan—a pretty good one—and it was going to work, and on a twist of fate it failed utterly. Clarke's sense of self eroded throughout season two, then shattered when she killed all of those people. She can’t rebuild until she faces the past and puts it to rest.
So outside the airlock it’s just Emerson and Clarke, the haunted.
Emerson tells her to get on her knees. She does. The Delinquents are looking at her, crying and unbelieving (Octavia practically climbing the walls), when Emerson exits the airlock, presses a button, and the doors snap shut. Now—Clarke knows the truth about what is going to happen. She pleads, but this was Emerson’s plan all along: to make her watch her friends die, like his family did, and then kill her. He grabs her by her neck, presses her face against the glass.
He presses the red button,and the oxygen begins to vent. Bryan, Miller, Monty, Jasper, Raven, Octavia, and Bellamy begin to suffocate.
But Clarke? She’s fighting back this time. “Aaron wouldn’t want you do this,” she whispers the name she found on the bottom of the creepy-calliope carousel. Emerson freaks out, throws her to the ground, and starts choking her. But no—he’s not done. He pulls her to his knees to watch her friends die (and holy crap, because so many people have died this season it was the epitome of stressful TV viewing).
“First you’ll watch them die. You have any last words for your friends?”
Clarke pulls out the Flame-chip and chokes out, “Ascende Superius.” The chip is activated, she shoves it into his neck. Since he doesn’t have nightblood, it kills him in spectacular bloody gruesomeness.
After all of her running and passivity this season, after all of the hurt and the damage, Clarke found a way to keep fighting. She slayed a demon, and one can hope, is starting to put the ghosts that haunt her to rest.
YU GONPLEI STE ODON/MAY WE MEET AGAIN
The Ark, Camp Jaha, and Arkadia is a haunted place for all of these characters, now more than ever. Haunted by memories, by the spectre of lost parents, lovers, and friends. Now that Clarke killed the demon, the show pauses to let them burn their dead.
Sinclair died this episode trying to save Raven, in an utterly heartbreaking scene that followed the claustrophobic Silence of the Lambs homage.
Bellamy carries Lincoln’s body to Octavia, fulfilling her bitter request. “What more do I have to do to prove that I am on your side?” he asks in Nevermore. “Bring Lincoln back,” she says. And so he does, laying him gently down in front of her.
Props to Marie Avgeropolous here, who is always excellent as fierce, physical Octavia, but brings new depth with the rawness of her grief. The framing of this scene is important. Lincoln’s body is in the foreground, Octavia kneeling, wailing, over him, while Bellamy stands behind her. His hand moves out to comfort her, but he can’t. There’s a moment when she looks from Lincoln to Bellamy, tears in her eyes, grief and confusion on her face. She lost Lincoln. She and Bellamy almost died. Death is stalking this group of found-family, and there is no certainty that anyone will survive this task. Octavia is beginning to realize this, while also not being able to forgive her brother yet.
Sinclair dying is another death on the show, and though I knew it was coming as soon as he attached himself to the Delinquent group, it sucked. The 100 does an excellent job of filling out the secondary characters on the show, and Sinclair has always been a favorite of mine.
Something to consider when looking at all the death on the show this season is what is it for? Last week, when Hannah died, it served a few purposes. First and foremost, it has set Monty on a trajectory of grief, similar to Jasper, which he is struggling with. Second, it made Octavia see the sacrifices people go through to save her and complicates her perspective. Lastly, and most importantly for the overall arc of this season, it pushed the remaining core of Delinquents together.
This week with Sinclair dying the effect is similar, but even more dire: the Delinquents are truly alone for the first time since the Ark crashed to the ground. Except then there were a hundred of them. Now there are nine.
With the advent of the chipped army of both Grounder and Sky People, and what I expect is the forthcoming societal collapse of both the Grounder culture and Arkadia—well. It doesn’t bode well for any of the parent figures, since they are symbolically linked to the “old ways.” This is a story about The 100, and as beloved as the parent figures and secondary characters are, this isn’t their story. In the end it’s about the Delinquents.
The funeral itself is also an important symbol of the melding of Grounder and Sky People culture, and perhaps a glimpse into what the way forward in the future will be. Both yu gonplei ste odon and may we meet again were used to send off Lincoln and Sinclair, and they were burned Grounder-style. The group, save Bellamy, murmurs yu gonplei ste odon together. The camera lingers on Bellamy as the flames rise, and eventually he whispers it as well. Octavia watches from the other side of the fire pit, and her look is as conflicted as the previous one. There’s grief, confusion, longing, and anger. The Blakes love each other, but at this moment, neither of them know the way forward.
After the funeral, the Delinquents decide to split. Raven, accepting the limitations of her body but also the power of her brain, knows that ALIE downloaded herself into the Ark mainframe. There might be a way for her and Monty to retrieve it. They stay at Arkadia, guarded by Miller, Bryan, and Harper.
Bellamy, Clarke, Jasper, and Octavia head out on a road-trip to look for Luna and the Boat People. That’s going to be one hell of a ride with all of those busted relationships in one car on a dangerous mission (do I sound excited? I'm excited.)
THE MERGING OF THE SKY PEOPLE AND GROUNDERS
…But not in the way you expected.
There were glimpses of Polis interspersed in the horror flick. Emori finally returns to Murphy in the guise of a BBQ-rat vendor. They have a touching reunion, and it’s clear that Murphy is excited and relieved to see her.
Unfortunately, it turns out that Emori has been chipped since the beginning of the reunion. He tells her information about Ontari being a fake Commander, thinking Emori is just Emori, and later it comes around to bite him when it turns out that she’s one of Jaha’s army. Jaha comes into the throne room acting as a peasant and reveals Murphy and Ontari as fakes. Jaha offers her the chip, and Ontari readily takes it.
Some might say that’s out of character, but it’s not. Ever since Ontari has been on the screen she’s been angry and impulsive, as well as desperate to be the real Commander. The 100 has cut corners on characters this season, but this instance with Ontari isn’t one of them. She’d grab at anything that offered her legitimacy, and she does.
What the chip is doing just out of sight is also terrifying, and that's creating an army of Sky People and Grounders. Since season one, the trajectory of The 100 has seemed to be the inevitable integration of cultures, but I don’t think we imagined this is how it would happen (as per usual on The 100, honestly). To Bellamy, Clarke, and the Delinquents everyone who is chipped is one army, one enemy. No one cares about who is a Sky Person or Grounder when you’re facing a horde intent on killing you. Nor is it a distinction that ALIE cares about—she just wants to populate the City of Light. The coming showdown between the nine Delinquents and their allies (if they have any left by the end) against ALIE will be one for all of humanity, not just one faction over the other.
Demons revisited past trauma and layered it over with emotion and pathos to spare. Choosing to make this episode an horror homage added both urgency and poignancy to Clarke's struggle. Though the Polis B-plot slackened the tension in Arkadia, it still moved the overall plot of the season forward.
Toby Levins was excellent as always in his final turn as Carl Emerson, Mount Weather Security Detail. Emerson has always been a great antagonist, and he and Clarke always had great energy between them.
Sinclair dying brought tears to my eyes, and was harder to accept with each rewatch. Alessandro Juliani’s has always played Sinclair with empathy and intelligence, and his dying plea to save Raven was incredibly, chillingly tragic. Sinclair was important to both Raven and the fans. He will be remembered and missed.
PJ Pesce, Michael Blundell, and the technical crew did exceptional work. Every shot felt urgent and purposeful, full of information and gorgeously composed. Two of my favorites (out of a long, long list): the red gas and red airlock light reinforcing Miller's blood-everywhere demon story, and the combination of cinematography and exciting action elevated the night-vision scene from scary to harrowing. The night-vision scene also echoed Raven and Sinclair's fight against the assassin in episode three, Ye Who Enter Here, when they both barely escaped Mount Weather being blown up.
To Demons credit, it resolved on a minor note. Though our heroes found new direction and agency in the story, and Clarke closed out a chapter of her healing, so many relationships are twisted and tangled that it’s uncertain if they will heal. Raven and Monty have both just lost parent figures, and are now tasked with bringing down ALIE. Bellamy, Clarke, Octavia, and Jasper in the Rover are four people who are intensely conflicted about each other. The healthiest relationship in that car is Jasper and Octavia, and well. That’s not saying much.
This is the second episode that developed the bond between the delinquents, and specifically the teamwork of Bellamy and Clarke. Though the Adventure Squad is split up to perform different missions, they are united by one purpose. Yes, there’s still an ALIE-chip floating with them—Monty has it at the moment—and that’s dangerous, certainly. But they're in this together.