Remember when we used to love that character we now hate? Remember when we used to hate that character we now love? ‘Join or Die’ puts things into perspective when paralleling an Ark flashback scene with current events.
Here’s the thing about storytelling: you can have the most interesting, exciting story ever created, but if you don’t make your audience care about the characters, the chances of it succeeding are very slim. If there is one thing that The 100 has been able to do (which is also the reason why it took a while for viewers to get hooked up) is creating multidimensional, compelling characters that make viewers constantly change sides. There are characters who have had amazing lineal character development (Clarke, Octavia, Jasper…) and others who have been all over the morality spectrum (Bellamy, Murphy…). Pike is a character that so far has only been played as plain evil and, while the flashback does little to make us sympathize with his character (his educative methods were quite questionable), it does shine some new light to the character and adds some context to his actions and the situation he finds himself in.
As a matter of fact, and as if he had seen the flashback as well, Murphy stops Indra from getting her revenge on Pike (for now) because he realizes that Pike had a point in saying that you have to keep fighting in order to see another day. Murphy helps Indra realize that getting revenge for people who are already gone is pointless, and that one must fight to save those who are still alive (hopefully Octavia will soon realize this as well). In an episode that was all about doing everything you can to survive, the show asks the question of what does “keep fighting at all costs” actually imply. In fact, ‘Join or Die’ contradicts (or challenges) its own message in several occasions: Pike says no one will come to save them, but Kane does break into the classroom to stop the fight. The title of the episode is also quite ironic: Kane is given the choice to either join the City of Light or die. He chooses to die, but he ends up joining anyway after they threaten to kill Abie. Ironically, Abie was also forced to join when they threatened to kill Raven. The question now is: is it possible to fight against Alie when you’ve got people you care about? Or, is it even possible to keep your morals when you’re trying to survive?
As the adults have all succumbed to Alie, it’s interesting that “The 100” (who are now “The 4”) could be the ones to save the day. For now, their hands are already full: Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia and Jasper have finally found Luna (Nadia Hilker), the last Nightblood to become the next Commander. However, big surprise: she refuses (why would she say ‘yes’ to an offer from a stranger who just appeared to tell her that her friends are dead?). On top of that, Luna’s base seems to be on some kind of off-shore oil rig. As per the group dynamics, while it’s still sad that Octavia and Bellamy’s relationship seems irreparable at this point, we did get some touching moments between Bellamy and Clarke, and Jasper’s humor is back, which I believe we all can be thankful for.
‘Join or Die’ does an excellent job in putting things into perspective and inviting the audience to reflect on the character’s actions by constantly presenting different problematic options. The episode ends with an excellent, award-worthy montage of Kane taking the pill being paralleled with the criminals arriving to Earth, which at the same time merges into the four of them waking up at Luna’s base with a haunting cover of Radioactive in the background. The “keep fighting” message does certainly seem hopeless now: one should use their attributes the best they can to see another day, but at what price?