The 100 S3E6: "Bitter Harvest" Review
Bitter Harvest is an episode that sets the chessboard for the upcoming conflicts. Most of the plotlines work well to advance and strengthen the internal structure of the story. However, the village clearing scene, and the motivations behind it, are a mess.
WHO WILL BE STRONG AND STAND WITH ME: RESISTANCE IN ARKADIA
One of the most delightful aspects of this season has been watching this evolution of Kane’s development. In season one, Kane is portrayed as a villain. A righteous villain perhaps, but the bad guy nonetheless. He politically maneuvers for and orders the Culling, where 320 members of the Ark were sacrificed for oxygen. He plays for Jaha’s power and makes it no secret that he thinks he’d be a better Chancellor.
After the Culling, however, and the revelation that the 100 were alive on the Ground, Kane started to come to terms with the human cost of his actions. Over the rest of season one and two, he has struggled with power, made mistakes with it, and evolved to become a leader who wanted democratic peace. It’s idealistic, but an evolution comes naturally from his experiences. Kane has done the hard work, and now we’re being treated to the fruit of thorough development.
So it is a joy to see him fomenting a rebellion against Pike using the delinquents that he had jailed previously on the Ark. Miller is his thief and sneak. Octavia is his eyes and ears in the field. This isn’t easy for any of them. Both Miller and Octavia have conflicting loyalties. Miller’s boyfriend is with Pike and so is Bellamy, Octavia’s brother. But Miller and Octavia push forward with their convictions, even though it takes an obvious toll. The underlying tension of loyalties is palpable in a scene where Miller tries to figure out how to say goodbye to Bryan who is going to “clear” (read: massacre) a village for Pike. Miller himself just got back from taking a horse to Octavia so she could warn that village, and he lies to Bryan about it as they have a tense, awkward goodbye. That small moment illustrates how civil wars tear relationships and families apart, even in ways that are seemingly, at the time, minor.
Likewise, Octavia loves her brother but can’t abide what he is doing to her chosen people, the TriKru clan. Octavia’s choice in this scene directly parallels Clarke’s choice to let a bomb fall on TonDC in season 2, episode 13. Bellamy, as the inside man in Mount Weather, overhears plans for Cage Wallace to bomb the village. He relays this information to Clarke, who rides out to the village to try and evacuate it. Lexa stops her, saying that if they evacuate then the Mountain will know that there is a spy. Clarke consents to this, even while knowing that Octavia, Lincoln, and hundreds of villagers will probably die. The bomb falls, hundreds of villagers die, but Bellamy is safe.
In this scenario, Octavia makes the opposite choice. Her moral conscience will absolutely not let her stand by while more Grounders are slaughtered for Pike’s mission. She saves the Grounders, who then set a trap that kills Monroe. The Grounders also capture her in the process. Those that survive the mission now know that there is a traitor—and that the traitor is Kane.
Kane struggles with his decisions as well, particularly using Miller and Octavia for these dangerous missions, people he still regards as kids. They’re not kids anymore, Abby tells him, echoing what Raven said to her in early season 2. They haven’t been kids since the Ark—since Jaha, Kane, and Abby—sent them down to earth to die.
Kane is clearly struggling with this burden when Abby leans down to kiss him on the cheek. "What was that?" he asks.
"Let's call it hope."
DON'T YOU EVER TAME YOUR DEMONS/BUT ALWAYS KEEP THEM ON A LEASH
—-Arsonist's Lullaby by Hozier
The return of Emerson offered huge payoff this week, mainly in Toby Levin’s raw performance as a demon coming back to torment Clarke. Emerson, the last living Mountain Man, supplied the now-deceased Ice Queen with information on how to blow up Mount Weather. The explosion killed 49 Sky People. King Roan had him captured, and then sent to Wanheda as a gift.
Interesting to note, that Roan sent Emerson to Clarke, not Lexa. I think that showed clearly where his loyalties lie if (and let’s be real, when) the Council fractures.
Shackled, bloody, and feral, with a voice edging on diabolical, Emerson was clearly the metaphor for the demons Clarke has been hiding from as well as the monster she unleashed within herself. When Clarke tries to turn that guilt back on him for blowing up Mt. Weather, Emerson locks into Clarke’s eyes and spits the accusation back at her. “I didn’t destroy Mount Weather, you did. Three hundred and eight-one people. One hundred and eighty-one men, 173 women, 26 children…two of them were mine.”
“If you want mercy, you’ll have to ask me for it,” Clarke says, trying to reestablish the upper hand.
“Mercy?!” Emerson laughs at her. “I don’t want mercy. I want revenge. I want you to suffer the same way that I have suffered. You can kill me, Clarke. But you can never escape what you did. My pain ends today, but yours has just begun!”
If words could physically tear apart a person, the little sense of self Clarke has left would be in tatters.
Lexa gives Clarke both a choice and a test: to kill him or show mercy. When Clarke chooses to kill him, Lexa calls her out on her hypocrisy. “So blood must not have blood applies only when it is my people who bleed?” Lexa is clearly pissed, and it’s gratifying to see her challenge Clarke. At this point, Lexa might be the only one left Clarke will listen to.
In the end, despite wanting to kill Emerson to further hide from her own shame, Clarke decides to let him live. She knows better than anyone now that having to live with your guilt and loss is worse than being able to die. “May you live forever,” Clarke says, knowing full well the curse she has put on him. Thus, Emerson is banished, sure to pop-up when the story needs a good dose of chaotic evil.
Even though Clarke’s decision is a strong symbol for ending constant retaliation and vengeance wars, one has to question whether it puts another mark against Lexa in the eyes of the Coalition. With Titus trying to plot behind her back and opposing her in public, and her Council losing faith in her leadership, Lexa doesn’t seem long for this world.
ALIE AND RAVEN...AND TITUS AND MURPHY!
It says something about the depth of The 100 can reach that the third most interesting story in an episode is one of the biggest reveals of the series, as well as a callback to season one. The best, most chilling scene of Bitter Harvest is when Abby questions whether or not Jaha would give the ALIE-chip to Wells, his son who died.
"Wells?" Jaha asks, having clearly forgotten his son, the son who once drove his will to survive. Goosebumps!
But ALIE has other plans in Arkadia than just giving people City of Light communion wafers. She has a mission for Raven: patch ALIE into the Ark’s mainframe so she can search for some old code, code that might be an upgrade. ALIE believes that Becca, her creator, went into space to get away from her (and that makes me chuckle). Which station was Becca on? The fabled thirteenth station that was shot out of the sky so as to encourage the remaining twelve to join together. It’s an awful story, and Jaha tells Raven and ALIE that the records of thirteen—named Polaris—were scrubbed. So ALIE didn’t find her code, but…
In the last scene of the episode, a well-done scene interweaving of Jaha relaying the story of the thirteenth station, and Titus beating Murphy with a cat-o-nine-cable-cords (OUCH) while interrogating him about Clarke and the ALIE chip. As the camera moves away from the scene, a piece of space wreckage reads P-O-L——I-S, the A and R burnt away by re-entry. Polaris = Polis. Boom.
PIKE, BELLAMY, HANNAH & MONTY
After the progress made last week in Hakeldama, the Pike and Bellamy story is back to faltering. It doesn’t seem like the confrontation with Clarke had any effect on Bellamy, and while he still struggles with Pike’s decisions, he follows them.
More surprising is how on-board Monty is with all of this killing, and it’s another instance where the speed of the pacing and the load of this particular plot continues to leach credibility from this storyline. The audience can intuit that Monty would be with Hannah, the mother he just reunited with, despite having reservations about her and Pike’s methods. However, this is never vocalized within the story, nor is it shown on screen. That not only robs the story of validity, but also the audience of narrative cohesion and character development. Also, don’t you want to see those scenes? I do! I especially want more time with Hannah (Donna Yamamoto) to understand her and her relationship with Monty. By pushing this pace, and forgetting these moments, the story forgets that it’s about characters, not plot.
Also, the village scene in its entirety was botched. For a show that normally has such precise direction and editing, it was a total surprise. The placement of the dialog, the blocking of the squad, and the cutting/editing of the shots made for a messy, chaotic scene. Because of that, some of the continuity between between that scene and others in the show’s history was lost. For one, the repercussions of Octavia’s decision to warn the village needed to be clearly shown since they were going for a parallel (which I talked about above). Second, the Grounders essentially created acid-fog by setting logs full of acid-sap on fire. Acid fog was an essential weapon of the Mountain Men to deter the Grounders and the Sky People from encroaching on their lands. In an episode where Emerson’s fate is decided this is a crucial dot to connect.
When the team arrives back to Arkadia, Pike and Bellamy debrief. Pike wants to talk about Octavia and the fact that her warning the Grounders led to an attack on the clearing team. Seeing this is a no-go with Bellamy, Pike switches to prodding about who gave Octavia the information. Ready for a redirect away from his sister, Bellamy says, “We all know who.”
“Kane,” Pike agrees.
Bitter Harvest was a mostly enjoyable episode that set chess pieces in place and gave us the necessary information to understand what might happen next. The revelations of the interconnectedness of Becca, ALIE, Polis, Polaris, the infinity sign, and Titus are catnip to a theory-nut like myself. Emerson playing the literal demon to all of Clarke’s worst nightmares was rewarding, and a nice call back to the themes of guilt, forgiveness and shame set up since Day Trip in season one. I’m actually glad he’s not dead. Carl Emerson, Mount Weather Security Detail, unleashed and broken, is the kind of chaos that can prove interesting at the edge of a story.
The episode suffered under the Pike/Bellamy/Hannah and now Monty story. There’s just too much plot load for too little scaffolding. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that no matter the payoff in the latter episodes, the platforming was botched. None of the dots are being connected with character’s internal motivations, nor their external relationships. The motivations are not strong enough, and though characters in other storylines are given nice moments of signposting and continuity, for some reason, there is none of that here. Do I still think it recoverable though? Yes, emphatically, mostly due to the fact that Michael Beach (Pike), Bob Morley (Bellamy), and Christopher Larkin (Monty) are turning in fabulous performances.
The MVP of Bitter Harvest is Kane and Henry Ian Cusick. Kane has been a work in progress since day one, and to see the confident, sleazy villain turn (believably!) into a man wrecked by the burden he is placing on his ‘soldiers’ is a testament to the power of The 100 when it puts characterization first. Cusick’s performance here is masterful, and in the scene where he confesses his fears to Abby you can see the history of his character in his face, in his eyes, in his body language. This is a man who has worked hard to become better, who wants to BE better, and the only way to do that is to put young people into harm’s way for the greater good. Such great development, and such a worthy storyline for Kane and Cusick.