The 100 S4E1: "Echoes" Review
The 100’s fourth season premiere, ‘Echoes’, picks up right where the season three finale left off, catapulting the audience into a fast-paced thirty-six hours in which Clarke, Bellamy, and company not only reckon with the coming apocalypse but also use their wits to survive Polis, where danger lurks at every turn.
IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT
...Come on. I had to.
A quick note on the style of these reviews: as a fan of the show, I like to both review the show as well as pick apart the themes that interest me. So there will be light recapping, critique, interpretation, and maybe even some theories thrown in. So let’s get started!
After eight months of hiatus, the fourth season of The 100 is finally here, and the season premiere is, I’m so happy to say, everything that I could have wanted from a premiere for The 100. In true The 100 fashion, ‘Echoes’ tore through plot, but unlike last year where that breakneck pace caused a lot of trouble, this time, they decide to connect the action with character moments both sweet and melancholy. Those moments serve to re-establish connections between friends, partners, parents (and adoptive parents, I see you Kane, Abby, and the Blakes), lovers, and enemies. Add in the rich thematic material The 100 excels at, cool cinematography, and a confidence that gives me hope that they learned from the mistakes of last season, and I’m very excited to see what’s next.
Let’s start with Echo, the namesake of this episode. ‘Echoes’ brings Echo, a complicated character from seasons two and three, back into the fold in a major way. In season 3, Echo was an accomplice to an assassin who killed Gina, Bellamy’s girlfriend, and blew up Mount Weather, killing 49 Skaikru. That explosion was one factor in leading Bellamy to join Pike, and ultimately, to the massacre of a grounder army outside of Arkadia’s walls.
These intersections of politics, war, and grief are played with fantastic push-pull in Echo and Bellamy’s scenes together. Both of them have done horrible things in the name of their people, and Echo clearly feels that is enough to excuse her actions. Bellamy, on the other hand, does not feel that way about her or himself. At the end of the episode, Echo asks Bellamy if he’ll ever trust her again. Bellamy’s answer? I doubt it, underscored with anger and contempt.
But The 100 has a way of writing shifts in alliances that will certainly bring these two together, again and again, to force each other to think harder about who their people are and why they do what they do. I cannot wait for the dynamic between Echo and Bellamy to play out, for two characters who prize loyalty above all else to act as oppositional forces and sometimes, perhaps, uneasy allies.
FROM THE ASHES WE WILL RISE: DEATH AND METAMORPHOSIS
The tagline for this season of The 100 is ‘from the ashes, we rise’, and watching the themes inherent in that statement—death, rebirth, change, metamorphosis—are instantly apparent. Not only have most of the citizenry of Polis been kicked out of a fake heaven, essentially ‘waking’ up from death, several of our main characters are dealing with the very present pain of those recently lost.
Octavia, having just committed murder—or was it justice?—is instantly put to work as an assassin to enable Clarke and Abby to save Roan’s life. The Girl Under the Floor, the one who lives between worlds and in between clans, gets access to Azgeda’s throne room by playing dead and then, once the guards are distracted, cutting herself out of a cocoon-like shroud. This imagery for Octavia directly recalls her past, the girl who chased butterflies in season one. Octavia isn’t that girl any longer though and she’s emerged from the events of the past three seasons determined to be hardened and deadly. Any trace of vulnerability, especially that she might share with Lincoln, has vanished.
Octavia rises from the shroud, curved and deadly blade ripping through the fabric, her eyes cold and focused on the mission at hand. She quickly (and almost silently) kills three guards, making way for Clarke and Abby to try and heal Roan. Left for dead in the mud, Roan’s chances of survival are slim unless Abby and Clarke can get to him. They do, thanks to the coordinated efforts of Jaha, Octavia, Kane, Indra, and Bellamy, and immediately begin work. The prognosis is dire, but true to being Griffin women they don’t give up until Echo arrests all of Skaikru and brings them to the Azgeda embassy just in time to see—what looks like to her—an assassination attempt by Clarke. Just as Echo rears back to behead Clarke, Roan sputters awake, a bandage on his chest, and rises. He spares Clarke’s life but jails them all until he can figure out what to do with them.
And finally, Clarke, the phoenix. Having survived both death and the flame, which should have by all rights killed her, Clarke is very much in the present, bereft and unsure, determined to save her people, but obviously struggling. Clarke finally breaks down to her mother in the jail cell and they share a sweet, sad moment, before Echo storms in to take Clarke to the newly risen Roan.
The next sequence evokes the end of ‘Wanheda Part Two’ (Season 3.2) when Roan himself kidnaps Clarke and brings her to Lexa, bag over her head, to kneel in front of Lexa’s throne. This time, even though Clarke is captured, she’s put on equal footing with Roan. Roan tells Echo to leave, and Roan and Clarke share a fantastic scene as two leaders, uncertain of their future, whose survival seems to hinge on how they work together—or not.
In this scene, there are glimpses of who both Roan and Clarke will become. Roan is the Lazarus King, left for dead but saved, who faces a kingdom seething with unrest. Clarke has awakened from both the City of Light and the flame with the foreknowledge that the end of the world is at hand, unsure of how to continue but with the knowledge that she survived. Both have the burdens of their past trailing them—Roan is an exile who has no consensus to rule, while the death of Lexa and the past six months on the ground has irrevocably changed Clarke—but when Clarke hands over the Flame to consolidate Roan’s rule (for now) both of them seem to accept that they will have to move forward, move on, be stronger and craftier and smarter to outwit what’s to come—both politically and existentially.
WE SURVIVE TOGETHER
While the twisty plot and fast pacing were all well and good, the best part of the episode was seeing character connections. Unlike last season where these connections broke down (both on purpose and because of poor writing—making the episodes difficult to parse), this season starts with a strong we remember vibe. The past is called on both explicitly—with Echo calling Gina ‘the girl’ to Bellamy, Indra asking Octavia about Pike’s fate (“I waited until it was over [to kill him]”, Octavia says)—and implicitly, several scenes evoking (echoing, if you will…) past episodes and situations.
As Clarke’s return to the Azgeda throne room, particularly with her head covered, evokes ‘Wanheda Pt. 2’, Abby working to save Roan serves as a call back to ‘Long Into the Abyss’ in season two when she resuscitates Lincoln. Most importantly, the entire situation that Clarke and Bellamy find themselves in—having secret foreknowledge of the world ending—is reminiscent of the beginning of The 100 itself. In season one, we learn that Jake, Clarke’s father, discovers that the Ark is dying due to lack of oxygen. The decisions that Jake and Abby make start the entire plot of the show, and it’s hard not to recall that as season four moves towards a literal end of the world scenario.
All of these characters have been through so much, both in their relationships with each other and since landing on the ground, that it’s miraculous that they can cooperate, much less are friends, lovers, and trusted confidants. But they are, and it’s these relationships that set The 100 apart in the grimdark/post-apocalyptic/sci-fi genre. Kane and Abby are on the cusp of realizing a beautiful relationship. Harper and Monty solidify their own romantic relationship, as do Murphy and Emori (even if they solidify it by running away together). Octavia and Indra work together as mentor/mentee. Kane takes on a fatherly/guidance role to Bellamy, a dynamic I hope they will fully flesh out this season. Clarke and Abby are reaffirming their familial bond to each other, and Clarke and Raven seem to be on the road to reestablishing their friendship. And, importantly for the show and obvious throughout this episode, Bellamy and Clarke have returned as partners and confidants, symbolized by his wry use of Clarke’s season one nickname ‘Princess’ as they stride out of Polis, together.
The one notable exception is Jasper, who is alone once again, contemplating suicide. It’s another hat-tip to the themes of the season, namely, what do we do in the face of death and destruction—and the news of imminent death seems to release him of his burdens. He strolls out of the control room, by himself, to watch the sunset, leaving behind Monty, Harper, and Raven. I suspect his relief will be temporary, at best, but in a season that is emphasizing togetherness, Jasper’s arc seems particularly full of challenges.
Whew! What a premiere! If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it. It was cracky, twisty, plotty fun built on deep thematic material and fantastic character moments. There are so many character moments and dynamics that were spot on perfect—the episode was filled to the brim with them.
One of my favorite aspects of the show is the cinematography, and this episode was aces for it. That, along with the direction and set decoration, gave the episode an ominous and claustrophobic vibe, where mystery, danger, and surprising beauty (the fountain with the Grecian statue) might lurk around any corner. It seems to me that they’ve traded the opulence of season three Polis for something more gritty and shadowy, making the city itself much more interesting to me as a set than it was last season.
The show’s theme from last year—we survive together—is fully realized in this episode as they all work together to save each other, rescue Roan, and to stabilize Polis so saving the world can begin. But at the end of the episode, they must separate to continue that work, and Octavia, Indra, Kane, and Abby watch as Bellamy and Clarke leave Polis to go back to Arkadia. We are left heartened that our heroes are working together, but with the Cassandra-esque knowledge that nothing good on The 100 lasts for long.
On a whole, ‘Echoes’ was an assured step in the right direction for season four of The 100.
Tune in next Wednesday for episode two, ‘Heavy Lies the Crown’ on the CW at 9 EST/8