‘Gimme Shelter’

The 100 wasted no time in getting stuck in this week, opening with a jumble of panic and chaos as the black rain storm hits and the apocalypse feels closer than ever. In an episode that circled back once again to this show’s favourite question – how far are you willing to go if it means giving people a chance to survive? – ‘Gimme Shelter’ delivered a lot of impossible situations and a lot of hard truths for some characters to swallow as the enforced confinement ensured some downtime to really reflect on their situation. And it truly is a hopeless situation, so this episode pulled together a lot of strong threads to really bring that point home.By and large, the strongest arc of this week’s episode was Bellamy’s desperate attempts to save the stranded Arkadians from the black rain in the latest example of his ‘we save who we can save today’ philosophy. With Octavia unaccounted for in Arkadia and Bellamy hoping to make amends with her before the end of the world, he transfers his protective instincts onto someone he thinks he can save, so the fact that Bellamy is ultimately left powerless at the last hurdle is particularly heartbreaking, especially when faced with the despairing replies of “you said you’d be here”.

Besides giving us some fantastic work from Bob Morley, what this entire storyline does, and does well, is drive home the point that even with the best of intentions you can’t save everyone, and sooner or later you have to accept that. It’s also given Bellamy the first real opportunity to realise he can’t protect Octavia from everything, and his heartbreaking conversation with Kane – a man Bellamy could very much have considered a father figure – as he laments his inability to protect his family ends with a real low blow of a rebuttal that brings their relationship into harsh perspective: Kane floated Bellamy’s mother, and she’s just another person in his life that Bellamy failed to save.Of course, Octavia can save herself and she does so, even as she is still trying to process the pain and grief she let herself finally feel in last week’s episode. While Ilian reflects with horror on what he did under ALIE’s control, Octavia continues to channel her ruthless, unfeeling skairipa persona – right up until her decision to try and feel something manifests in first trying to cause herself pain by walking into the black rain and second, somewhat inevitably, by hooking up with Ilian. It’s probably the biggest plot point we’ve seen so far that feels like a CW teen drama, but as far as character motivations go, it feels like Octavia needed to give into something primal to really access all of the emotions she’s been suppressing for so long.

It’s the same kind of baser instinct that Emori channelled this week, first in her fight or flight response when she overhears Abby and Clarke considering their latest only solution (using Luna’s bone marrow to make everyone into a nightblood, which would require exposing a human test subject to radiation), and later, when her survival instinct kicks in and she manipulates Clarke into choosing an innocent grounder as a test subject in order to save herself. It’s the most we’ve seen from Emori this season, if not ever before, but it gave us enough insight into her life that even though this is the first, prolonged episode we’ve seen with her, every moment of her irrational, violent, determined, crafty nature felt completely right.In fact, there were a lot of lovely character beats in this episode – Harper’s guilt after her survival instinct kicked in and inadvertently caused someone else’s death and Kane’s quiet admittance to her later that “the person you want to be doesn’t always win”, for example. But nowhere did this commitment to character feel more poignant than in the question of the human trials, giving us the other side of the Mount Weather debate two seasons on. Abby’s struggle to decide whether taking a life is justifiable if it saves a lot more people combined with Clarke’s pragmatic approach and the resigned reaction of Kane as the leader of a people pushed to breaking point by a lack of hope came together to result in a completely understandable answer to a completely impossible question.

‘Gimme Shelter’ pulled no punches, and the result was a heartbreaking, emotionally-driven episode that pushed the characters to the edge of what they thought they were capable of. Despite a few jarring moments in the form of Roan randomly popping up at the end (where was he through all the fighting?), this episode managed to tread familiar ground and still factor in an unexpected twist or two to leave the audience reeling.

★★★★

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