The 100 returned last night after a brief 3-week hiatus. Things were, in a word, tense. Things are bad in Arkadia, arguably even worse in Polis, and more of our faves are in trouble because The 100 is a show founded upon misery and death. Let’s be honest, you’re in too deep to back out now.

We pick up in Polis, with Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and Murphy (Richard Harmon) locked in Lexa’s chambers by Titus (Neil Sandilands), Lexa’s advisor/murderer and all-around worstie. We’re in the midst of the conclave and Clarke’s been told no less than half a dozen times that she needs to scoot from the capital stat, lest she and Murphy find themselves suddenly without heads and/or accidentally shot.

But Clarke refuses — she isn’t about to let Ontari (Rhiannon Fish) become the next Commander. Ontari has other plans, though, and she murders a bunch of kids (the other Nightbloods) in their sleep, in order to become the default “winner” of the conclave.

In Arkadia, Lincoln (Ricky Whittle), Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) and Sinclair (Alessandro Juliani) face execution. Apparently ready to awaken from whatever fugue state he’s been in, Bellamy (Bob Morley) makes some attempts at back-channeling and arranges to meet his sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos) to devise a plan to save them. Turns out Octavia doesn’t need his help, though, and she keeps Bellamy out of the way by holding him captive in Lincoln’s cave while she takes care of the business of heroism.

Back in Polis, Roan (Zach McGowan) joins the “Tell Clarke she needs to leave if she wants to live” club. He gives her and Murphy an out through a tunnel, saying that his debt to Lexa is paid in full and that next time they meet, it won’t be as friends.

Murphy: Clarke, no. Clarke: Clarke YES.

But Clarke hates being told what to do, so in what might be the best scene of the episode, she sneaks back into Titus’s Murphy-Torturing room because she’s going to steal the flame — the spirit of the Commander and A.I. chip that apparently has Lexa in it. Titus meets her there, though, and blames her for Lexa’s death.

He’s not about to let her leave with it, but when Clarke connects the dots and figures out that Ontari isn’t the only Nightblood left, that there’s a missing novitiate from Lexa’s class, he sends her away with the flame in the armor of the past Commanders to find Luna, the second-to-last Nightblood, because pretty much anyone’s better than Ontari.

Meanwhile in Arkadia, Octavia, Monty (Christopher Larkin), Miller (Jarod Joseph), Harper (Chelsey Reist) and now Bryan (Jonathan Whitesell) hatch a plan to get Lincoln, Kane and Sinclair out of Arkadia and away from Pike (Michael Beach). With some careful bait-and-switching and hiding in the floor (Octavia will never not be one of the best parts of this show), they get them to Kane’s secret passage and damn near out of Arkadia when Pike makes an announcement: there will be an execution today, and if no one turns themselves in, he’ll kill the Grounder prisoners.

Lincoln, being Lincoln, can’t let that happen. Octavia tries to stop him, but he drugs her, sends her off with Kane and surrenders, braver than anyone on this show has ever been.

Later, in Lexa’s chambers, Ontari is going through the “purification” process. Murphy, sent there to distract Ontari long enough to get Clarke out of Polis, is equal parts resigned to probably dying and intrigued by this shift in power. Sort of the cockroach of this post-apocalyptic world, he sees a new opportunity to keep himself alive. That’s what Murphy does best. Titus enters the chamber, slits his own throat on Roan’s knife and dies something that would’ve saved us all a lot of time if he’d done it two episodes ago.

We catch up with Clarke riding away from Polis on an honest-to-God white steed, and it feels like we’re finally getting to see heroic Clarke Griffin with a purpose again. She’s safeguarding this piece of Lexa, on her way to find Luna and it feels, briefly, like the show understands what made it great in the first place. It doesn’t last.

We cut back to Arkadia to find Lincoln staring down the barrel of Pike’s gun. Octavia, just outside of the gates with Kane and Sinclair, scrambles and stumbles, trying to fight her way back to Lincoln. Kane stops her, though, and she looks on as Pike takes the shot. In one of the most affecting moments of the episode, Octavia is shattered, but immediately hardens with resolve. If there was ever any doubt that Octavia kom Skaikru is a true warrior, it’s been firmly put to bed here.

All told, this episode had some strong points. The return of purposeful, heroic Clarke was definitely one of them. Marie Avgeropoulos continues to elevate Octavia, making her one of the most compelling characters on the show. Ontari is a powerful and evocative villain, and the ways in which the lore behind the Commanders connects to the City of Light promises to be explosive and dynamic.

That said, we lost Lincoln, and his death, like Lexa’s, is a blow to representation. For a show once lauded for its inclusivity and groundbreaking treatment of minority characters, The 100 is killing those characters (and praise) pretty swiftly. It’s worrying to see it descend into some very dark places, seemingly without understanding the real-world implications of its actions. We can only hope that the fundamental DNA of The 100 remains intact, that it understands that while the world building and the mythology of the show is vast and impressive, it’s the characters that make it strong.

It’s been said over and over that no one’s safe, that anyone can die, but it’s worth noting that without the human elements and the characters that’ve made this show worth watching, it’s just a bunch of morally bankrupt assholes wandering around an irradiated wasteland killing each other. That’s a different show, and The 100 can’t survive trying to be something it’s not.

For now, things are changing. The entire power is shifting and storylines are converging. This A.I. arc is going to come to a head soon and we’re going to see much more Raven next week — a marked improvement from this week’s episode which included exactly 0% Raven. Clarke’s on the move, fighting tooth and nail to save her people and protect whatever she has left of Lexa. Octavia grows stronger and Kane and Sinclair aren’t about to sit idly by as their people are held hostage by a xenophobic zealot. There’s still much to come, but who’s going to survive it remains to be seen.

Reshop, Lincoln. We’ll look forward to seeing Ricky Whittle in American Gods.

Photos via The CW Network