After three episodes of much-awaited preamble, tonight’s episode sets in motion this season’s paradigm. Pandora’s Box gets a boost of energy from showing Wankru, Spacekru, and Clarke all in the same episode, for the first time this season. The mechanics are out of the way: most everyone is back on earth and out of the bunker. Clarke is reunited with her people. The prison ship people have some mysterious other motives, and they’ve shown that, like the 100 before them, they’re more than willing to rachet up the violence to get whatever they feel entitled to. Welcome to Season 5.
Don’t take that to mean that the previous episodes were unnecessary or overly long. On the contrary, so many time jumps are bungled by an unwillingness to both show what we’ve missed and take real risks with character changes. Instead, the time jump has rejuvenated The 100 with a chance to show off the daring gauntlets, strong visuals, and character-driven mayhem that it did best, once upon a time. The first few episodes have been some of the best of the series thus far. It’s clear that this season has a character-driven trajectory and some tight plotting it needs to get to on a schedule.
This episode is reminiscent of Kill Box and some of the other great strategic, tension-building episodes. Lots of chess pieces on the board, but just like in chess, every piece is hampered by restrictions. Octavia must rule her people, Charmaine needs to take what she can to help her people survive, Clarke cares for her daughter and mother above all else, and Bellamy still thinks he’s in charge. But every move sets countermoves in order, and before long everyone has a gun to their head. Mutually assured destruction for the last remaining humans on earth.