[This is a review of The 100 season 3 premiere. There will be SPOILERS]
After two seasons on Earth, The 100 has managed to develop a complex political world with high stakes and massive consequences. At the end of season 2, Clarke (Eliza Taylor) poisoned the residents of the nuclear bunker called Mount Weather with radiation in an effort to save her fellow teenaged delinquents. Though everyone else returned to the settlement built by the survivors of the Ark space station, she decided to go her own way in an effort to deal with her guilt.
The season 3 premiere of The 100, 'Wanheda: Part One' written by creator/showrunner Jason Rothenberg, essentially picks up three months after the events in Mount Weather. The Ark survivors have established a much more permanent settlement, renamed Arkadia, with security teams made up of the teenagers who were first sent down to Earth. Bellamy (Bob Morley) leads a team that includes his sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), Monty (Christopher Larkin), Jasper (Devon Bostick), Raven (Lindsey Morgan), and Miller (Jarod Joseph). Elsewhere, Clarke finds a brief moment of respite from her time alone in the wild at a trading post while Indra (Adina Porter) informs Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) that the Grounders have put a bounty on Clarke.
'Wanheda: Part One' picks up immediately after the cliffhanger from the season 2 finale that saw Murphy (Richard Harmon) find an abandoned lighthouse, only to watch a video of its previous inhabitant shoot himself. Murphy is trapped in the lighthouse for 86 days and through a montage that works to pass time and reveal information, we learn through various video recordings that the inhabitant, Chris, created an artificial intelligence named A.L.I.E. (Erica Cerra) who got out of control and launched the nuclear apocalypse that killed the vast majority of Earth's residents. Although this twist helps The 100 back into the realm of science fiction - with advanced technology as seen on the Ark in season 1 - the fact that an A.I. is responsible for the nuclear apocalypse feels out of place on a show about the lengths people are willing to go to in order to survive, and the toll that takes on their humanity.
When Murphy is ready to kill himself from being trapped for too long, he's freed from the lighthouse and follows a drone to the same mansion that Jaha (Isaiah Washington) found in the season 2 finale. There, Jaha tells Murphy that he has found the City of Light - which seems to be a metaphorical place rather than a physical location - and understands why A.L.I.E. launched the nuclear warheads. In an effort to guide Murphy to the City of Light, Jaha gives him a chip. Both A.L.I.E. and the City of Light feel reminiscent of other, more well-known, sci-fi fare in recent memory such as Transcendence and The Matrix. Given The 100's previous track record in establishing its own voice amid other genre shows, it seems safe to say this storyline will be unique as well, but the set up in 'Wanheda: Part One' shares its premise with many other movies and television series.
As for Clarke, she receives the best reintroduction in the season 3 premiere as she lures a panther into a trap and fights the beast before killing it. Clarke brings the panther to a trading post where Niylah (Jessica Harmon) helps her hide from a Grounder, Roan (Zach McGowan). Niylah attempts to get Clarke to talk about what happened in Mount Weather, but Clarke is still carrying too much guilt over her decision and the hundreds of people whose deaths she feels responsible for. As in previous seasons, Taylor brings a complex maturity to Clarke that has helped elevate The 100 past the stereotype of a show geared toward teens - even when Clarke makes the decision to avoid talking about her problems by having sex with Niylah.
The majority of the episode is spent with the residents of Arkadia and establishing what has happened with the colony since the Mount Weather massacre. Most of this is accomplished through expositional dialogue, such as a scene in which Kane reminds Bellamy that their peace with the Grounders is tentative at best. However, Indra later reveals that the Ice Nation Grounders are looking for Clarke - who they have named Wanheda, a commander of death - because they believe whoever kills Clarke steals her power and the Ice Nation commander wishes to steal Clarke's power so that she can lead her people to war. Although 'Wanheda: Part One' largely sets up this storyline to be explored in the remainder of the season, it does offer an exciting return to previous conflicts of The 100 which saw the Sky People fighting the Grounders for a piece of land, a conflict that has roots in history. This conflict is also illustrated on a smaller level between Octavia and Lincoln (Ricky Little) who have differing views on whether the Grounders and Sky People can ever truly live together peacefully - something that seems to be the theme of the season.
'Wanheda: Part One' also catches viewers up on how certain characters are handling the fallout from the season 2 finale. Jasper, especially, has not dealt with the deaths of Mount Weather, including Maya (Eve Harlow) very well. Instead, we're shown that he's turned into a drunk, and those closest to him like Bellamy and Monty aren't sure how to handle Jasper's emotional devolution. They bring him on a mission where they meet a group of Ice Nation Grounders who Jasper proceeds to antagonize. Although Jasper's dark turn also receives the treatment of too much exposition - with the characters talking just as much about how damaged he is as it's shown to the viewer - it could certainly provide a much more complex arc for the character in season 3.
Raven also receives a great deal of focus in 'Wanheda: Part One' as she has been dealing with pain in her leg since the explosion in the season 2 finale. In an effort to keep it a secret, Raven has been pushing people away, with Abby (Paige Turco) offering Raven company as a friend. Though not much comes of this subplot, it does give the episode a chance to include guest star Shawn Mendes as an Ark survivor, putting his musical talents to use in the background of the scene singing a piano cover of Violent Femmes' "Add It Up". This is a callback to earlier in the episode when Bellamy's team listened to the song in the jeep and an effective way to show how the characters have evolved from fun-loving teenagers to more complex characters.
All in all, The 100 season 3 premiere was mostly tasked with reintroducing viewers to the main characters following the three month time jump and fallout from the Mount Weather massacre. Though much of the premiere utilizes exposition to accomplish these two tasks, 'Wanheda: Part One' does employ the action and tension fans of The 100 have come to expect from the show - whether when Jasper is held at knifepoint by an Ice Nation Grounder or when Clarke fights the panther.
The majority of characters are a bit underserved by the premiere episode, with too much focus placed on setting up certain season long story and character arcs to provide much more than a cursory explanation of what they've been doing for the past three months. But, that being said, 'Wanheda: Part One' sets up some exciting conflicts, both between the Sky People and the Grounders as well as among the main characters, that are sure to provide more compelling sci-fi/action drama throughout The 100 season 3.
The 100 continues Thursday, January 28th with 'Wanheda: Part Two' at 9pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: