The 100 always treks forward, shaking up its plot and character alliances every few episodes, but the Ark represents perhaps the one element that doesn’t change. It’s been the show’s most consistently used set piece and has functioned as a home base and safe space for nearly all the major characters — until now. In the fifth episode of Season 4, “The Tinder Box,” the show resets itself like never before by spectacularly blowing Arkadia to smithereens.
The explosion couldn’t have possibly happened at a worse moment. The bulk of the episode involves Clarke and the Skaikru’s desperate attempt to stop King Roan’s Mad Max style march to seize their home and kill them all. Luckily, because King Roan is a man of logic and action, Clarke is able to strike a compromise with him: He’ll halt his plans to seize Arkadia and kill Skaikru if Ice Nation and Skaikru can split it during the impending apocalypse — meaning Clarke will need to whittle down that pesky list of 100 names to just 50.
But unfortunately for Clarke, Roan, and their people, while they’re having their wilderness powwow, the new grounder, Ilian, is plotting something horrible. Ilian rescued Octavia from her near death experience last episode, but he did not bring her home for altruistic reasons. Yes, it’s good that Octavia is alive and able to warn everyone about Roan’s March of Doom — and it’s heartwarming that Bellamy immediately realizes she’s alive. What’s not good is Ilian’s vendetta against technology because of the City of Light and his personal mission to destroy it. What’s even worse is that he pulls it off, not realizing he’s giving everyone a death sentence.
Arkadia’s explosion is therefore a clusterfuck of the wrong guy being in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing for reasons he thinks are right —which is essentially the tagline for the show. Clarke, Roan, and their people ride up just in time to see their future go up in flames. And while the show occasionally suffers from network TV syndrome with questionable graphics, the explosion paints the most seamless and impressive picture yet.
The 100 is never more compelling than when everyone is royally screwed and the plot is propelled by character motivations. That’s what made Season 2 stand out, while Season 3 lost its way in plot mechanics. “The Tinder Box” is every bit as strong as The 100 was in peak Season 2, and it promises an explosively fun road ahead for the story.