Over the course of nearly four seasons, The 100 has delivered some of the most emotional and heartbreaking narratives on television. Clarke stabbing Finn to protect him from Grounder torture, Octavia blaming her brother for Lincoln’s murder and beating him bloody, Raven’s excruciating struggle with disability, the genocide at Mount Weather, and the constant pain of loss and struggle… it’s all “just another day on the ground”. But never have we seen anything like “The Other Side”, episode 11 of season 4. This is arguably the best episode of the series to date.
It was the perfect episode for Henry Ian Cusak, who plays Marcus Kane, to make his directorial debut. All the action was heavily character and relationship driven, and having someone who plays one of these characters at the helm allowed for some much-needed depth and perspective.
Jasper Jordan has spent the last couple of seasons deep within the throes of PTSD, depression, and grief. This week saw the end of that struggle. Jasper, the skinny goggles-wearing dork, killed himself along with most of the DNR group by overdosing on jobi tea.
The ground was ruthless from the moment the dropship landed. Jasper’s very first day on Earth saw him taking a spear to the chest. Since then he has endured war, torture, imprisonment, and loss. But the truth is that Jasper has been doomed since season two’s Mount Weather genocide. When he held a dying Maya in his arms, knowing it was his friends who killed her, something inside him died, too. Most other shows would have let him struggle for a few weeks, and then would have written a big “snap out of it” scene. In fact, I fooled myself into believing that’s where the character was going. In season 3, and even at a couple points in season 4, there were brief moments where he emerged from the darkness. Tender moments with Monty or honest moments with Bellamy that hinted at a possible recovery. It offered such a ray of hope that we collectively chose to forget that Jasper was going to shoot himself in the head after A.L.I.E. was shut down. The only reason he didn’t go through with it was because the news from Polis came in that a radiation deathwave was coming, and he decided he might as well have some care-free fun for a couple months before the end of the world. We all assumed that this delay would be enough time for him to heal.
Following this episode was a massive outcry from fans who believe the story and character would have been better served by displaying that there is hope for those who are lost in depression. But that hope is normally found in seeking counsel from therapists, medicine, time to process and deal with the source of the pain, constant support from experts in dealing with PTSD… none of these were available to Jasper. Life on the ground means endless fighting. Having characters like Clarke and Bellamy who are equipped to deal with this harsh world and excel as leaders means that there also has to be the characters that simply cannot handle it. A show full of relentlessly brave and unwavering heroes would be entirely unrealistic to the story, and to life. The juxtaposition of Jasper choosing death while Raven and Harper chose life was nothing short of brilliant. It would have been nice for Jasper’s “death episode” to revolve around him, his life, and his relationship to our other core characters. But the hope everybody is looking for can be found in the fact that Jasper giving up was framed around Raven literally shocking herself back to life, and Harper letting her love for Monty be the thing that keeps her fighting. Sometimes people get better, and sometimes they don’t. Such is life. Such is The 100.
One of the show’s greatest strengths is that they let character development dictate the story and character choices. Decisions of who to love or hate are based on what is truthful to their journey up to that point, and gender is just happenstance. Allowing such freedom in romantic love results in the freedom of platonic love. In most film and television, expressions of love are exclusively between
heterosexual romantic partners and family members. But real love doesn’t know these boundaries, and neither does the brilliant writing team at The CW (“brilliant writing” and “The CW” are two phrases I never thought I’d use together).
Has there ever been a more tragic scene in the show than Jasper dying in Monty’s arms by his own hand? Monty had to face not only the fact that his friend was dying, but that he wasn’t enough to make him want to live. As Jasper slipped away, Monty utterly broke down and proclaimed his love for Jasper, if only a moment too late. When faced with the death of someone so close to you, no one would actually give a damn about upholding some socially constructed “no homo” ideal. Monty LOVED Jasper. They grew up together, fought everyday on the ground together, were the best of friends. Of course Monty would tell Jasper he loved him. Anything else would have been dishonest. What struck a chord was the fact that lesser writers on a lesser show would never have dared let the characters say “I love you” to each other. They wouldn’t want to face complicated questions about the intricacies of love, and leave the L word to easily defined titles: husband and wife, parent to child. Jason Rothenberg and the whole team of The 100 have figured out what most people are still learning: love is love is love is love. If you’re trying to evade that fact in any way, you’re wrong.
Jasper died as a broken man, but will be remembered as the hopeful member of The 100 who saw the beauty of Earth until his very last breath.
Check out the Jasper Jordan Project.