The 100 season 5 episode 5 review: Shifting Sands

episode 5 review

This review contains spoilers.

5.5 Shifting Sands

This episode relied on the usual strategy ploys and shifting dynamics that make The 100’s conflicts so satisfying. It’s still early enough in the game that the pieces are shifting drastically to get all the teams aligned, though I have a feeling the days are numbered for many of these alliances. The show continues to call to mind its own past, with secret defectors and the torture of captives. And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s some Alien-style body horror, chestburster and all.

Following in the footsteps of all past colonialism, Diyoza sees all grounders as trained to kill, without an ounce of introspection about what her own people do. Once again the invaders have superior technology and see indigenous people as violent animals, paving the way for their own entitlement to scarce natural resources.

So far Madi is the most effective comic relief on the show – sorry Murphy. She’s also an interesting way for us to see inside Clarke’s head, since at some point Clarke essentially told her everything, assuming no one would ever be around to hear her very honest perspectives on her friends, including how funny she finds Murphy, and the fact that Octavia is her favourite.

Murphy and Raven’s isolation in space was incredibly short-lived, though I am hoping for more screentime with this duo, one of the show’s best. It seems when the chips are on the table, the rift between Emori and John is still no match for their longstanding loyalty. And Raven is still one of the show’s greatest assets, both for how much fun she is to watch, and her realistic yet uncanny ability to find a third way out of trouble. It seems like only a matter of time before Shaw gives in to some programmer-on-programmer action, given how he speaks of her with admiration.

Deepening the Eligius characters beyond being evil and violent is much-needed. The more time we spend with the prisoners, the better drawn their characters have to be. The Grounder stories that have been the most interesting have always been the ones where The 100 put in the time to give characters distinct personalities and understandable belief systems – the same goes for this new foe. That said, having Diyoza’s people be into death metal seems a bit too on the nose.

Diyoza has had the most characterisation thus far, and her time with Kane should only increase that. Then there’s Shaw, who openly struggles with the morality of the things he has to do to keep himself alive. Will he eventually defect to Spacekru/Wonkru? It certainly seems like a natural fit, and it will get harder to justify his loyalty the longer he has viable alternatives.

But I was most excited this episode to see McCreary gain some motivation of his own – a diagnosis and an apparent past with Diyoza. In his brief exchange with Abby, I saw a glimmer of an interesting partnership forming. There’s a mercenary side to Abby, like when she thought she had to take out one Grounder after another to save Clarke, or when she effectively sentenced her own husband to death.

I haven’t been too confident in The 100’s ability to pull of an addiction storyline, but this episode did one thing very well, which is to illustrate the reality of dependence. By all accounts, Abby’s substance use isn’t recreational – that is to say, she’s not getting high. Instead we see that she is dependent on the pills: withdrawal makes her vomit and gives her the shakes, and she and Kane allude to the idea that things will get worse and she won’t be able to continue working. While Kane would presumably like her to quit cold turkey, when faced with withdrawal or maintaining her ability to function, Abby chooses the later. This context, which is largely divorced of guilt, makes a clear case for addiction as a medical problem rather than a moral failure.

Kane is ultimately concerned for Abby’s long-term health, but he seems to have a clear understanding of the situation as well as her choice. It is, however, unclear what negative affects the pills have on her, other than the problem of their scarcity and her needs being deemed illegal within the world of Wonkru. I’d like to see a clearer picture of that. Since Abby is going to be focused on medical innovation this season as she tries to save her captors, I would love to see her find time on the side to create a post-apocalyptic version of MAT (medication assisted therapy), so that she can get off the pills and go on a low dosage of something that’s not actively harmful.

It’s not surprising that Octavia has been drawn in by a philosophy that sees love as weakness. Almost everyone she’s ever loved – her mother, Lincoln – has died. It was lovely to see Indra disarm her with love, a role I hope she will continue to play, hopefully with Gaia on hand as well, to add to the fraught dynamic. We’ve seen O seduced by darkness before, and at its less-inspire moments, this feels a bit like a re-tread of last season’s Skairipa storyline. I’m more interested in how Grounder culture has evolved to accommodate their new reality, and the heightened tension of Blake sibling disagreements now that O leads a civilisation and Bel leads most of the remaining humans.

In that vein, this episode brought some of the fractures to the forefront. I expect that Octavia’s yes-woman and Indra will continue to have beef, and that O’s order to leave the bodies of the dead behind is just the beginning of unrest among Wonkru. It’s fascinating how distrustful of Clarke and Bellamy Wonkru is, even after they’ve come to see Miller, Jackson, and other non-Octavia Skaikru as their own. How will they see Echo and Madi, two Grounders who will likely side with their Skaikru counterparts’ new factions? I can’t imagine Echo having been cast out by Azgeda and having attempted to kill Blodreina will help her case.

Miller’s caution to Clarke that’s he can’t simply do whatever the hell she wants anymore is a good point – inspite of the phrase being associated with Bellamy, Clarke is the one who has long defied all forms of authority, and even the concerns of her friends, whenever it suits her. Finally, Clarke and Madi present a specific threat to Blodreina, one that has yet to be explored: they are nightbloods. As much as our friends have to face a new threat in the form of the Eligius prisoners, they still have so much to fight about internally, and the environment is presenting new and different challenges, in much the same way it did in seasons one and four.

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