Episode 307 “Thirteen”
Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Directed by Dean White
[photos: Liane Hentscher/The CW]
Alright guys, this is the big one. The big big one. Fandom-entrenched viewers of the show know what I mean. Let’s venture forth into the belly of the beast, friends, and do our very best.
In King’s Landing Polis, there is a secret cave like thingy where our Dear John Murphy (Richard Harmon) is being held captive by Titus (Neil Sandilands). Hey, here’s a fun drinking game: re-watch the entire show and take a shot every time Murphy gets tortured. I guarantee that you will be absolutely trashed by the time you get back to this episode, which is good, because you’ll need to be. Titus is still trying to discover how Murphy came in possession of the breath strip of crazy, which has their most sacred symbol etched onto it. Murphy insists (again), that it’s a corporate logo, and is in a surprisingly truth-telling mood. Titus isn’t crazy about his answer, but Murphy doesn’t have any more.
But we do… FLASHBACK TIME!
97 years ago, a woman with fantastic eyebrows named Becca (Erica Cerra) is fiddling with a chip very similar to the ones Jaha (Isaiah Washington) is currently distributing. She and her kawaii lab assistant are distressed by their lack of progress with the neural interface, but they are interrupted by an incoming transmission. When video goes up, we see a semi-familiar face: the man Murphy saw in the bunker videos at the start of the season. He’s just as distressed now as he was then, and for good reason. It seems ALIE has “escaped” and is going live on the world wide web, cracking systems and generally wreaking havoc (which, considering what we currently know about ALIE, surprises literally no one). While they try to figure out ALIE’s intentions, Becca recalls her core command, and why she probably escaped into space in the first place: “Too many people.”
White guy has tried everything to stop her, but to no avail. Becca tells him to escape to the lighthouse bunker (and we all know how that turned out). Right after he signs off, the ship’s Commander (Roger Cross) struts in and informs them that 27 nuclear warheads have just launched from China, headed straight for the U.S. of A. They don’t seem nearly as concerned for their own safety as they should be, and we soon find out why: they aren’t in the US. They’re not even on earth. They’re aboard Polaris, the ill-fated thirteenth station. After an absolutely heart-exploding call from the commander to his family on the ground, Becca and her crew watch in horror as their entire planet is destroyed before their very eyes. Great time for credits.
Back to the future (present?), Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is addressing her Nightbloods on Ascension Day, a celebration of all the commanders before her and all who will come after. They, however, are also interrupted. In 97 years it appears that no one has learned manners. Their interruption is caused by Semet (Zak Santiago), the leader of the grounder village that Pike and Bellamy unsuccessfully tried to destroy last episode. He carries a bound and gagged Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), much to Clarke’s (Eliza Taylor) distress. He explains the whole sitch (albeit a little more vengeance-ey than Clexa would like), and begs for her to avenge their village. The surrounding crowd agrees, chanting “Death to Skaikru” and other such troubling phrases. Feeling as if they’ve lost control of the crowd, Lexa, Clarke, and Titus bounce.
In Clarke’s chambers, Lexa is next-level pissed that Titus allowed her Ascension Day party to be crashed by some very wet blankets. Titus is not sympathetic, claiming Lexa brought this on herself by not declaring war against Skaikru while she had the chance. Lexa tries to consult Clarke (heart eyes emoji), but Titus is having none of it, do you hear me? NONE OF IT. Clarke understands that she is not unbiased in this matter, but begs Lexa to give Skaikru time to turn on and assassinate Future-Trump.
Lexa presents her compromise to the coalition (we all know how much Lexa loves compromises). The 12 armies are to march on Arkadia and create a blockade, preventing their armies from attacking any more grounder villages. Any sky person caught across the line will be immediately killed. This does not please all of their visitors, and there is some rabble rabble rabble about it, but the drop kick is probably still fresh in everyone’s mind so no one objects except for Semet, who was not present for that. His botched assassination attempt ends in Titus actually pwning him, an expression I haven’t used since 2009, so you know it was real.
Murphy time! His attempt to escape is only marginally more successful than Semet’s attempt at assassinating Lexa. He is free of the chair, but not free of the room itself. He does get a chance to look around though, and once he sees the burnt remains of the escape pod, he puts two and two together. Good job, John. You’re now officially smarter than 30% of the characters on this show.
Back in the past, Becca is injecting herself with a suspicious looking black liquid. Nightbloods! Worldbuilding! Aah! Turns out she has a case full of the stuff. This does not please the ship’s commander or Becca’s assistant, who aren’t about to let her take her earth-nuking AI onto the newly created Ark. Becca objects to their objections. She’s convinced ALIE Two will not have the failings of ALIE One, as it’s designed to interface with humanity rather than serve it. It’s not enough for the commander however, determined to float the entire system. Becca ain’t here for that. She ain’t here for that at all. She locks her two compatriots out and barricades herself with ALIE, because the human race is already doomed anyway, right? Might as well go all in.
In the Polis of today (tomorrow?) Clarke and Octavia retreat to Clarke’s swanky quarters, basking in their own beauty and badassery. Actually, Octavia asks about the welfare of her old mentor Indra (Adina Porter), and how they’re going to finagle their way out of this clusterwhoop of a situation. Clarke tries to defend Lexa against Octavia’s character assassination (heart eye emoji), because tropes. She assures her that once she talks to Lexa everything will be fine, and to stay put. Utterly laughable. Telling Octavia not to escape from things is like telling Jasper not to do something stupid, or Monty not to be a majestic hero. It’s futile because it simply can’t be done.
Lexa is meditating when Clarke arrives, which she points out is rather inappropriate given their current situation. Lexa defends her kill order position, and looks hella fine doing it, before asking Clarke to stay on her side of the blockade. Eye banging ensues before Titus struts in. I would quickly like to point out that there are fifteen candles in this shot alone.
Titus subtly tries to kick Clarke to the curb by offering her their fastest horse to arrive in Arkadia before the blockade takes effect. Lexa is hot and objects. Titus is not hot and asks for a private conference with the commander. Titus entreats her to remember her mantra from last season, “Love is Weakness”, which apparently he taught her in the first place. He rubs salt in an old wound by bringing up Costia, Lexa’s old flame, which proves to be a mistake, as Lexa proceeds to go awf on him. “I am more than capable of separating my feelings from duty!” She cries, and Titus apologizes because he values his friggin life.
Outside the giant candle, Octavia Blake, master of escaping places she is not supposed to, tracks down her old master and mentor Indra. Indra is not too stoked to see her (obvy), and refuses Octavia’s proposal to go back to Arkadia and fight. This takes the form of punching her right in her gorgeous face. Space Warrior Halsey is not having any of it, and fights back in full. She succeeds in pinning her down, but it’s a trap! “Even someone as slow and as weak as you can put me on my back. I should have died on that field.” Quick aside: MVP of the episode goes to the ever-underrated Adrina Porter. You can literally see Indra’s pain when she’s forced to admit how frail she’s become; this is not a woman prone to weakness. Okay, we back. Octavia leaves after giving Indra a choice: die in her bed, alone and pathetic, or ride with her to Arkadia and seek her revenge. Oh, Octavia. Ever the scamp.
Titus returns to his torture hangout to find the empty chair where Murphy used to be, and promptly has a freakout. It’s short lived, as Murphy comes at him with a makeshift weapon and promptly has his bloody butt handed to him in a series of super cool choreographed stunts. For the second time this episode, Titus proves himself as a lowkey baller. Who knew? Murphy then begs for his life with the only bargaining chip he has: the story of the Polaris. He gives the whole story with the aid of the cave drawings depicting the arrival of the first commander. It appears to almost work, until Titus chucks him on the back of the head. That’s what you get for thinking you can ever catch a break, Murphy.
Back in the flashback, Becca’s crew is still pleading with her to realign and join the twelve stations of the Ark. They still can’t reach a compromise, as Becca won’t give up ALIE and the Commander won’t dock with it on board. Too bad Lexa’s not here; compromises are her jam. After some self-surgery we don’t see, Becca receives an ultimatum from Alpha Station: dock with the other ships or be blown out of the sky. She chooses the latter for her friends, and a third option for herself: taking the escape pod and fleeing with ALIE back to the scorched earth. A series of fantastic ideas.
Clarke is looking out the window reflectively, like the stone-cold protagonist badass that she is, when Octavia arrives. I like how Clarke doesn’t even reprimand her for not staying put, because she was never stupid enough to believe that she would in the first place. Octavia entreats her to come back to Arkadia with her and whip Pike all the way back into space, but Clarke is hesitant. Because girlfriends. Octavia takes her hand (!!!!! Moments!!! Between!!! Female friends!!!!! I am on my knees!!!) and gives her an hour to say her goodbye(s). As she walks away, she leaves with one last subtledrag: “If you’re not there, you’re not the person I thought you were.” There are forty candles in this shot.
Clarke does appear in Lexa’s room, with the intent of saying her goodbyes. No one actually believes that’s going to happen though, right? Right. The second Lexa comes out with her hair down is when you know. You freaking know. Even if it hadn’t been spoiled several weeks before via the internet, you’d still know. Clarke starts to apologize for leaving (heart eye emoji!), but Lexa doesn’t need it. “You have to go, they’re your people. That’s why I–”
At this point my heart actually stops, so I didn’t really hear the rest of the conversation as I was being resuscitated by my roommate. When I came back to life the light of the gods is actually shining down on their makeout session, and I pause literally 37 times in order to appreciate literally every single angle of this freaking work of art. My brain isn’t properly wired to describe this. It’s slow and meaningful, and when Lexa looks up into Clarke’s eyes the way she did when she swore her fealty, I am actually a human beyond repair. Bye guys. It was real.
I’ll hold on for a few more minutes to finish out the ep. Clarke and Lexa are cozied up in bed (!!!!!!! !! !!!!!!) while Clarke studies Lexa’s tattoos. The most intricate is the one on her back representing all seven Nightbloods who died on her own conclave. Clarke wonders why there isn’t one more, since Lexa mentioned (Offscreen) that there were nine total Nightbloods at her ascension. Lexa doesn’t want to talk about that, however. Lexa wants to make out with Clarke some more, and Clarke concurs. I couldn’t count the candles in this shot because my eyes literally don’t work anymore.
Get ready for a jarring transition, y’all. Clarke returns to her room after more sexytimes to find an unconscious Murphy gagged on one of her nicest chairs. Rude. Clarke rushes to his side because Doctor, but is interrupted, yet again, by Titus. However, this time he has a gun. Quite a bit more menacing. “I’m sorry it had to come to this, Clarke. Truly I am.” Somehow I find this incredibly hard to believe. Clarke tries to talk him down the good ol’ Abby Griffin way— logic!! – but it seems Titus is too far gone. He plans to pin Clarke’s death on Murphy (who I feel has been through enough this episode) and inspire Lexa to go to war. However, having never used a gun before, Titus is predictably terrible at it. Clarke manages to stave him off and almost escape before Titus gets off one more unruly shot that misses Clarke — but hits Lexa dead center.
Titus and Clarke frantically (and in Clarke’s case, heartbreakingly) rush to save Lexa’s life. However Clarke hasn’t used her doctor skills in quite some time, and it appears she’s rusty. Titus is distraught but still coherent enough to bring out a suspicious looking tool kit. He begs Lexa for forgiveness, and she gives it to him on the grounds that he never again attempts to harm Clarke. He agrees with only a little hesitation.
Our great Heda uses her struggling breaths to reassure Clarke that her spirit will live on and protect her in the next Commander. “I don’t want the next commander,” Clarke spits out fiercely but tearfully, “I want you.” It’s a perfect time to go to commercial, since all I hear is a big roaring ocean noise in my ears for the next several minutes..
Outside in King’s Landing Polis, Octavia stands disappointed as Clarke misses their deadline to leave. However her disappointment is dissipated when Indra calls out to her in her most badass voice. Looks like she decided to tag along and take her vengeance after all. They roll out looking like the epitome of squad goals, but inside the giant candle things are still a giant mess.
Titus begins a hella creepy ritual which starts off with rubbing Lexa’s black blood on his face and only gets worse from there. Lexa and Clarke are still exchanging last words, which includes Lexa telling Clarke she was right in what she told her last season. “Life is about more than just surviving,” she says with what looks like a smile. I honestly can’t see or breathe, so I’m not sure. Clarke, her hands covered in black blood, tearily recites the Arkadian equivalent of Ai gonplei ste odon, just a lot longer. You may remember Kane saying it in S1 to his dying mother. “In peace may you leave the shore. In love may you find the next. Safe passage on your travels, until our final journey on the ground. May we meet again.” At this point even Murphy looks like he’s about to shed a tear. I myself am dehydrated and will probably need to go to the hospital.
Titus still has a job to do. Clarke stays behind to witness the ritual, which may or may not be the best idea. Titus turns Lexa’s body over to reveal a scar and another tattoo on the back of her neck: the sacred symbol. While this is not a great time to smash to the flashback, we do anyway.
Becca’s pod seems to have landed safely on the ground. Despite her suit (which bears the label of Commander) being cracked and the radiation at critical levels, Becca seems unaffected. Could it have anything to do with the black goop and self-surgery performed earlier? Who cares? I’m dead inside. All we see is that Becca has landed directly in front of the structure that will one day become the giant candle, surrounded by nuclear survivors. “I’m here to help!” she cries, and as they approach her we see the exact same scar on the back of Becca’s neck that now exists on Lexa’s.
Titus completes the ritual by cutting into the scar, which opens up to reveal the exact chip Becca was working on and stole 97 years earlier. Murphy identifies it as an AI, while Titus describes it as the spirit of the commander. He takes Lexa’s body and commands that the conclave to chose her successor begin. The guards lock the door behind him, leaving Clarke to stare at the black bloodstain of the woman she loved, and continuing Murphy’s season-long streak of being locked up in places.
Alright, so let’s dive in to the heavy stuff.
I’m not going to talk about what I liked about this episode, which was a lot. I’m going to talk about the big ol’ elephant in the room. If you’ve been following the internet fandom at all, literally even the slightest bit, you’ll be familiar with the completely warranted outrage Lexa’s death has caused. LGBT fans of the show are justifiably upset and angry that they were egged on for months about finally having a semi-canon couple that represented them and their community, only to be let down the way they have dozens of times before.
Now, to my understanding (not being a part of the LGBT community I refuse to speak for it because they can speak for themselves, thank you very much, and have) it wasn’t Lexa’s death itself that was the major problem (It had been foreshadowed for months; Alycia’s contract with Fear the Walking Dead basically prevented her from doing any more episodes, and Clarke Griffin can never be happy ever), it was the manner in which it happened. If Lexa had died heroically in battle, or her death had in any way moved the plot forward, maybe the backlash wouldn’t be so intense. But she didn’t, and it didn’t, so it was.
While I do feel pity for the writers and crew who were not involved with the decision being violently attacked online, I am in no way going to say that these fans should simply quietly accept her death, nor suggest that they keep watching a show that so completely failed and betrayed them. The fact that a show that prided itself in defying tropes straight up nose-dived into one is a massive disappointment, and I’ll find it hard to trust these writers ever again, to be honest.
While I don’t support the movement of getting the show cancelled completely (which is almost fruitless now, as The CW has already renewed the show for a fourth season), I understand that these particular fans watched solely for Lexa and Clarke and their relationship. With that gone they have no more incentive to watch, and they are justified in that. I was not one of those people, so I will continue to watch, but take every decision from here on out with a grain of salt. I feel like I can’t say much more without venturing into territory that is not mine, but if you have any links to good articles or meta on how Lexa’s death had aftershocks outside the world of television, please do drop them in the comments section, I will thank you for it.
If we as viewers have learned anything about Lexa’s death, it’s that lazy writing at the expense of a vulnerable population should never, and will never go unchecked. Hopefully that is a lesson that other shows will take note of, if they have any sense at all.
The 100 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.