The following review contains full spoilers for The 100 “Echoes” and some preceding episodes
The 100’s first episode of Season 4, Echoes, was a mixed affair. Attempting to bridge the events of Season 3 with the upcoming events of Season 4, the episode got as much wrong as it did right – messily handling elements such as the fallout from Octavia murdering Pike and the destruction of the City of Light, but offering some strong content for Echo and Roan, doing an effective job of setting them both up as key players for the season going forward.
Echoes suffered a lot from trying to move on from the events of Season 3 so as to focus more on events that are to come this season, yet squandering the potential that those events had. The most obvious (and clumsy) example of this is how Echoes deals with Octavia having murdered Pike at the very end of Season 3. While no-one loved Pike, and some may even feel like he deserved his fate, it’s clear that Octavia had crossed a line. Yet with a simple line from Clarke to Bellamy, this is brushed under the carpet as if it never happened. Octavia shows no remorse or inner-conflict at having killed someone in cold blood, no one seems to care that they just witnessed a murder, and no one approaches Octavia to discuss the event with her. It’s a jarring and irrational response from the characters and blatantly screams; ‘we don’t have time to cover this in 45 minutes so we’ll leave it for another episode’.
Early on in the episode, we saw many of the Grounders getting back their pain after ALIE took it away during Season 3 and interestingly, the Grounders that Lexa had killed while escorting Clarke through the City of Light, were now dead in real life too. However, despite the initial promise of this being an interesting theme to be explored during Echoes – especially with Clarke and Belmay debating whether they should tell everyone that the world was ending in six months while they were still in the process of getting their pain back – the episode quickly moved on to resolving the power vacuum left by the deaths of Lexa and then Ontari. The only powerful scenes involving this thread surrounded Jasper, with his attempt to commit suicide after remembering the death of Maya. Whereas Season 3’s depiction of Jasper’s depression turned him into an annoying nuisance, this scene was powerful and invoked sympathy for the character. Equally powerful was the scene were Jasper found a reason to live; that reason not being hope for a better tomorrow, but rather, if the world is going to end in six months time anyway, why not make the most of those months? The end result for Jasper will still be what he wants, that is to die.
The aforementioned power-vacuum, which became the main focus of the episode, was a mixed affair. It offered great content for Echo, Roan, and the Ice Nation, but also served to further diminish the importance of the other Grounder clans. In Season 3 we were introduced to the concept of the twelve clans properly for the first time. The problem here is that there are ten other clans and they don’t seem to even exist. What is their stance on Skaikru being the thirteenth clan, how do they react to the Ice Nation seizing control of Polis, where was the clan of that poor ambassador who Echo murdered? Sure, Indra had a passing line about which of the clans would follow Trikru into a battle against the Ice Nation, but there was the opportunity for so much more here. One of The 100‘s most interesting elements has always been the laws, traditions, and politics of the show’s semi-primitive clans, and yet both Season 3 and the start of Season 4 have squandered much of this innate potential. It is likely that future episodes will revisit elements such as people having their pain returned to them, and Octavia murdering Pike, but that doesn’t excuse the cack-handed way they were handled in this episode.
However, now let’s move onto some of the episode’s more successful elements. Echo is a character we are vaguely familiar with from her brief appearances in past seasons, but Echoes served to establish the character as a prominent and powerful force moving into Season 4. With Ontari dead and Roan dying, she seizes control and imposes her will on those around her. Echo is a reflection of what the Ice Queen has made her and is still striving to create the future Nia was working to establish. However, she is also her own woman, releasing Clarke out of gratitude for destroying the City of Light. She also displays some residual attachment to Bellamy when she apologises for Gina’s death, and when she asks Bellamy if they’ll ever be able to trust one another again. Conversely, she actively attempts to push Roan into a war with Skikru and has no reservations about killing even Bellamy towards that end. Also, while her murdering that (again poor) ambassador created problems for Echoes elsewhere, it was at the very least both intimidating and bad-ass. It’s this mix of being a forcible opposition to our heroes, whilst also still harbouring a sense of humanity towards them, that makes her so compelling. I can’t wait to see where her character will go in the coming season, and what conflicts she will be at the heart of.
There was also some great content for Roan once he awakened for the final quarter of the episode. What I love about his character (aside from Zack McGowan’s captivating performance) is how I can’t really determine if he is a hero or a villain. While he certainly has villainous traits – he has a desire to, as Echo suggested, “rule everything” – he is open and honest with Clarke. Frank moments, like when he tells Clarke that if he doesn’t kill her he won’t last six days, suggests that he is a villain by necessity, not choice, doing what his people demand of him as prince – now king. Furthermore, he displays a similar perception to that of Lexa, realising that there are bigger things in play than just the politics and traditions of the Grounders. This creates a sense that he can be ‘redeemed’, carving out his own path rather than the one laid before him. Additionally, there were some strong scenes between Clarke and Roan, especially with her handing over the flame to him, and Eliza Taylor continues to do a great job with her character. Even so, Clarke’s continued role as the hero of The 100 doesn’t quite work four seasons in. The balancing act between the different characters, such that they all felt important, was effectively achieved in the first two seasons, but now that there are so many different characters in play, for Clarke to be the center of everyone’s orbit – especially since she is the only one at the center – seems a little preposterous.
The 100 is still a damaged show, suffering from a number of poor decisions made by the writers in Season 3. Echoes was an attempt to draw a line under Season 3, rather than deal directly with some of its fallout. It was an attempt to look to the (hopefully) positive future of the show, rather than dwell on the negative past. Echoes also served to ‘set up the board’ so to speak, aligning characters for where they need to be in the coming episodes, and while the episode did this efficiently, Echoes felt more like a poorly written prologue than a good first chapter. There were some strong moments, particularly with Jasper, Roan, and Echo, but overall the episode failed to both provide closure on the events of Season 3, or create enough excitement for the upcoming events of Season 4.