‘The Tinder Box’
If ever there was an episode of The 100 that had to live up to its title, it was this week’s – and ‘The Tinder Box’ really couldn’t have done it better. With Azgeda and Skaikru charging headfirst into battle for the Ark and landing in a temporary truce while Roan and Clarke cut a deal in private, one wrong move could mean war, meaning no one can be trusted, everyone’s on edge, and we’re presented with an exciting and intense episode in which anything can happen – and anything did. While Skaikru’s elite group of guards are focused on dousing the flames of a war with the Ice Nation – and drawing on Chancellor Pike’s ever-favourite tactic from season three in surprising the Grounders and threatening them with guns – the rest of Arkadia (and Niylah) are unaware they have their own spark about to blow in the form of Ilian, the Trishanakru farmer who aided in Octavia’s survival by bringing her back home to Arkadia, where he’s in an ideal place to continue on his mission to destroy all things tech after his experiences in the City of Light.
Both situations unfolding throughout the episode were handled extremely well, with Clarke and Roan speaking to each other as leaders, allies and almost-friends in their actually-quite-diplomatic discussion about how to share the Ark and ensure the human race’s survival playing out at the same time as that viable solution was being threatened. The discussion scene in particular was a strong one, and Roan was particularly brutal in quickly stripping away Clarke’s declarations of loyalty above clans and providing her with the kind of harsh observations only someone who knows her well can deliver.It was a dynamic that was carried on throughout the episode, with the reality of the relationship between Grounders and the Sky People, their experiences at war and their experiences under ALIE’s control all being acknowledged in some way in ‘The Tinder Box’. Bellamy and Echo’s history guarantees their intense distrust and dislike of one another, but the similarities are there too – as Echo said, war made murderers of them – and Bellamy is right in saying that Praimfiya doesn’t care about sides, meaning the massive divide between the two groups shouldn’t be what’s motivating their actions right now. It was also completely gratifying to see the role Bellamy played in season three’s massacre continue to play into his actions here, calling back Riley from making the same mistakes he did in making a decision that started a war and plagued him with guilt.
What was less exciting was how quickly Bellamy figured out that Octavia managed to survive her fight with Echo after all. With a reaction as strong as Bellamy’s was to finding out the news in last week’s episode, you’d expect to see his devastation causing some fallout and poor judgements for at least an episode or two. But, as ever with The 100, the show was a bit too quick to rush onto the next major plot point so the whole pay-off was lacking. If Octavia’s near-death fake-out counted for anything, though, it’s that it appears to have been pure set up for Ilian’s infiltration, and ultimate destruction of the Ark – taking away all the hope of humanity’s survival with it in one real gut-punch of a move that Octavia couldn’t talk him out of.So we move on to Raven, Abby and the people over at Becca’s lab for the only other long-shot chance at survival: creating Nightblood in a zero-G environment. Becca’s lab has become the true sci-fi twist we needed in The 100, and the revelation of the actual rocket that Raven finds to offer the show a chance to return to their roots in space was a really wonderful moment, not to mention the fact that it means humanity finding their solution to surviving the apocalypse in space once again. But of course, this group has their own ticking time bomb, and ALIE was right when she said that frying the chip with the EMP would cause brain damage in Raven – and, as we later learn, Abby too.
It’s a brilliantly dark way of explaining Raven’s self-termed ‘super-brain’, especially as it becomes clear that the more Raven taps into the code ALIE left behind, the worse it will make things for her. And as exasperating as it is to see Raven deal with yet another physical limitation – and yet more pain to cope with – the fact that Raven decides to push onwards and sacrifice herself if it means survival for others is the biggest step forward we’ve seen in Raven’s character so far this season, and it’s hard to be disappointed by that.Once again, this week covered a lot of ground, but it also gave us a lot of action and a lot of tension, making it one of the best episodes of season four so far. ‘The Tinder Box’ played out as a character developing, plot driving powerhouse of an episode, and finished with an explosion of problems that, in true The 100 style, only served to make a hopeless situation even worse – and makes great TV.