The rule on TV is if you don’t see a body, don’t believe the person is dead. Thanks to The 100 for proving me right!
“Etherea” keeps everyone’s hopes alive that Bellamy isn’t finished in this series. As expected, the explosion that was supposed to have killed Octavia’s big brother failed thanks to the portal nearby that was opened. Levitt discovers Bellamy and a Disciple got sent off to yet another planet.
Since his story has been neglected this entire time, the whole episode is dedicated to catching us up – similar to Octavia and Diyoza’s planet purgatory time. Unlike his sister, Bellamy has to share his castaway journey with an enemy, helping the poor guy to heal in order for them both to survive. You know what’s fun about bunking with a religious zealot? Nothing. Granted, it makes for some fun philosophical debate: the self-centralized belief vs the community-centralized belief. Neither side is willing to give. So…maybe less debate. More of a never-ending sales pitch. Poor Bellamy.
The two inevitably come to a head on the common-sense of not traveling through horrendous weather, with Bellamy adopting the stupid attitude of “if I just keep going I can walk my way through it”, while the Disciple (called Conductor, and played by Jonathan Scarfe) – despite all his zealotry – realizes “wait out the bad weather, then walk”. On the bright side, Bellamy’s kindness in saving his life gets repaid when the religious man goes back out into the storm to rescue our hero from freezing to death.
This turns out to be serendipitous as the previously spoken of “cave of ascent” might be real, and it might be the second cave they take shelter in. Behold a genuine miracle: an unexplained light source in the cave in the form of three human-looking bodies. Conductor thinks, see? Proof! Bellamy is less convinced. It does give our believer new purpose, but when Bellamy realizes their Shepard is a cult leader from history he instantly feels better about the very clear moment of doubt he had when seeing those glowing figures. The Disciple isn’t convinced and doubles down on selling to Bellamy the virtues of his belief.
He makes some solid points with respect to the way human love for each other can become corrupted by its intensity, but the message is also paired with religious fervor, which makes it a hard sell. Bellamy is driven to get back to his sister and his friends, while Conductor believes he has a higher purpose and it helps him deal with the setbacks.
Eventually, Bellamy gives in to conversion – resulting in a full-on religious hallucination. Atheists would argue that our hero’s physical and mental malaise contribute to his mind’s willingness to embrace any kind of sanctuary (who wouldn’t want to see a vision of their dead loved one? Hi Aurora Blake – played by Monique Ganderton). Is religion just a result of extreme duress? Do our minds have no choice but to succumb to irrational rationalization when faced with dire outcomes?
It’s a good question, a really good question, but instead of embracing the ambiguity of it, this episode chooses to have the storm that’s been trapping our travelers in the cave break – giving Conductor the obvious edge in his argument. But, in fairness, shit like this does occur in real-life – people turn to religion in times of great stress and when that stress just happens to relieve after engaging in a religious ritual we can’t help but connect the two. Be wise and remember that correlation is not causation. It could be that Bellamy and Conductor managed to wait out the storm till it broke and that had absolutely nothing to do with the Shepard. It could also be that the bug Bellamy ate right before he prayed was venomous and caused his hallucination. Oooo…questions! See why I love this show???
As all media portrayals of opposites attract (non-romantic) there comes a moment when the bond is tested. Granted, there are a few in this one, but the biggest is when Bellamy refuses to let Conductor die after a misstep on the mountain. The Disciple explains that he wrote the codes to use the stone in his bible (for lack of a better term) and snuck it onto Bellamy’s person – he can use the codes himself, he doesn’t need Conductor now. Naturally, Bellamy isn’t one to fuck over someone he’s worked so hard to keep alive, and who has returned the favor – ironically, this is against the Disciple’s beliefs but he’s willing to be a blasphemer to live. They triumph and find the stone, only there’s one last hurdle to overcome: the leap of faith.
Every episode about religious debate has one of these. Sometimes they are metaphorical, but if the show has a sci-fi or fantasy bend that leap is usually very literal. Ours is no different. Though I will say this is less a leap of faith and more a leap of logic – the bridge is entered by going into it. If it flies past you but is still visible, then obviously the only way to use it is to jump off the cliff to enter it. Still, the message is clear.
The outcome is also crystal: Bellamy is a convert. We see this first by the way he drops to his knees and refers to Bill Cadogan as his Shepard, but also when he rats out his friends after Clarke confides in him she doesn’t have the flame. Ouch.
Overall I enjoyed this episode. As a fan of television that makes you think, “Etherea” fits the bill nicely. Granted, it wasn’t reinventing the wheel – we’ve heard this philosophical debate far too many times in too many shows, but there’s a reason: it’s an eternally unanswerable question. The quickness of conversion in this episode is something to be considered – really, Bellamy, it just took one vision to change you? Though, it isn’t as if he didn’t resist at all. So what changed his mind, or…is his mind changed? I am worried, especially given the previews for the next episode, that Bellamy’s faith isn’t like Echo’s.
We do have another factor to contend with: Levitt. See, our episode opens with Levitt making the discovery that Bellamy is alive. Now, does Levitt tell Bill? Does anything the Disciples find while memory mining someone go up on a collective cloud server for Bill to see? It has to be concluded that the reason Bill was present when Bellamy and Conductor returned was because he knew they hadn’t died – the main mystery is how did he know? Also, when did he find out? Because, if Bill knew while Bellamy and Conductor were on the planet taking their pilgrimage, did he cause the glowing anomaly in the cave? Did he somehow hijack Bellamy’s mind to implant the vision that ultimately converts our hero? What level of manipulation, if any, was involved???
Shit just got real. Stay tuned, you know I am!