The 100 – Perverse Hopefulness
By: Agathe Cudel and Lisa Steinberg
Before Season Three of controversial show “The 100” started, fans were ecstatic beyond words. The myriad of fanfiction and fan art was aglow with talent and genius, and it was inspiring thousands of loyal and passionate fans. The show still had a lot to prove, but it undoubtedly had more potential than others shows in the same genre to take things to the next level in terms of not only LGBTQ+ representation, but also in terms of women empowerment, and captivating storylines and character development for people of color. Sadly, the story got lost somewhere between episode 5 “Hakeldama” and episode 7 “Thirteen” when two men of color led a genocide, out of hate for the grounders that were sent to protect them; it got lost when Abby gave up her position as chancellor to push Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) and Pike’s storyline further, when a beloved woman of color was injured and later on saved – or pushed around – by Octavia, to name only a few. Episodes 6 “Bitter Harvest” and 7 “Thirteen” still had fascinating and well-developed plots and storylines between key characters, which kept our minds from looking too much into the underlying issues that inevitably and ultimately generated concerns.
Having taken a step back to look at this season in its entirety, we can’t help but feel disappointed, and emotionally scarred. The show being dark was never a concern of ours, because “The 100” was doing things differently. It was dark for a reason: it was a tough new world, and deaths had meaning. They had a purpose, even the most horrific ones. There was always an alternative; there was always a choice between “bad and worse.” It was about people finding a way to survive when the odds were against them, and there was always hope. In the darkest of times, there was always a glimmer of hope that it wasn’t the end; that they could aspire to better possibilities and outcomes. Season Three, on the other hand, simply showed pointless deaths with no sense of morality, and no higher purpose. We could no longer see the big picture; there was only darkness for the sake of it being dark. And darker. Always darker. Until it no longer works and it becomes tedious, because the show lost what made it special, and different. The storylines slowly became sloppy and predictable. Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and the grounders acted as a pillar that kept the structure from falling apart, remove them from the equation and you lose the essence of what once made the show unique, progressive, and groundbreaking. Nothing was actually shocking anymore, it was just about shock value, and it was inconsistent with what we were used to. The death of Lexa – one of the very few lesbian characters on television – was not only tragic in the narrative of the show, it also felt like a stray bullet had hit every single one of the Commander’s fans, straight through the heart. Unexpectedly. Brutally. Cruelly. Executing Lincoln (Ricky Whittle), a black man, chained and on his knees in a puddle of mud, was insensitive at best; it was covert racism at worst. Two tropes which traps could have been easily avoided.
We were devastated to see Lexa die a sudden, unworthy death. Replacing a character as layered, complex and iconic as Lexa with an overly sexualized con artist did not sit well. Ontari did have a purpose to serve, but in the end she was never developed in a way that had meaning. She was bloody brutal at her best, but later succumbed to her own vulnerability and became just another one of A.L.I.E.’s (Erica Cerra) mindless chip faced victims. She lost her power, however false and fake it was, and she ultimately lost her life because she led more with the thirst that had been ingrained in her than with her heart or her brain. Everyone has a choice, and at every turn it seemed like Ontari’s (Rhiannon Fish) path was one she was led down by someone else’s agenda – be it Queen Nia (Brenda Strong) or A.L.I.E. Her life was never her own, and neither was her death.
We were also sad to see Clarke’s (Eliza Taylor) compelling character being tortured time and time again, physically and emotionally. There are many ways to show a woman is strong; Seeing Clarke put her feelings aside every time she was offered a chance to process them became excessive. Clarke originally came up with “blood must not have blood” and when Clarke doubted her own words, Lexa did not hesitate to call her out, inspiring her to make the right choice and spare Emerson’s life. It was an epic scene, offering so many possibilities and ramifications for the future, only to have that ruined when Emerson comes back for the sole purpose of making Clarke go back on her words. It made no sense for her to go back and forth between “blood must have blood” and talks of an everlasting peace. And what of Lexa’s legacy? Gone. Ruined. Trashed. It could have been a driving force throughout this season, and the different ways it could have been developed would have been sure to keep the audience interested. “Things happen quickly, it has to go at a quick pace.” This may have been true once, but the middle of the season was stalled by empty storylines that served little to no purpose, and things that were important for the fans were either nonexistent (Clarke not grieving), rushed (A.L.I.E. chipping everyone within a few days), or simply pointless: Luna’s (Nadia Hilker) legacy was that you don’t have to kill, that peace can be achieved without violence, but violence was brought to her door and she ultimately decided against being a part of the war of the world’s, a lesson she should not have had to repeat.
Clarke fell in love with Lexa. Deeply, and unconditionally. Losing Lexa breaks her heart and changes her, but she keeps on going because she has the flame and she needs to believe that a part of Lexa is still in there. And she does, with all her heart, and we were right there with her. Until that one line, “Lexa didn’t know she was an AI,” which dehumanized her. This is a love story that many fans saw as sacred and special, and it was treated like it meant nothing. This was cruel not only to Clarke’s character in the narrative because she doesn’t get to make peace with her loss, but to the fans as well because they loved Lexa dearly. They related to her, and they saw so much of themselves in her, only to be told that maybe she wasn’t as human as they thought. It was quickly corrected by Raven (and Titus before her), but the damage was done: hearing those words coming from Clarke was heartbreaking. Not only did it dehumanize Lexa, but it also gave the impression that her relationship with Clarke was a lie. That it wasn’t real; that the love they had for one another couldn’t be as true and pure as the fans believed it to be. It was only one sentence, but it was a hard pill to swallow and it reinforced the stigma against f/f relationships, especially when Clarke and Lexa’s relationship can be interpreted as closeted and shameful. Clarke never fully acknowledges her feelings for Lexa: “This isn’t about me; Would you like a moment with her? – No.” Not many people know of their relationship to begin with, and the only person who sees them getting closer disapproves and eventually shoots at Clarke, killing Lexa. Clarke only gets to be honest with one person, Luna. She tells her that Lexa was special and working towards peace, but always with an agenda in mind: convincing her to become Commander and to finish what Lexa started; blood must not have blood.
Clarke apologizing for everything that is beyond her control was redundant. Yes, she is responsible for a lot of deaths. So is Bellamy. So is Monty. So are Jaha (Isaiah Washington), Kane, and the grounders. They all have blood on their hands, yet Clarke is always the one being blamed for the mistakes she tries to fix. Her people expect her to make terrifying decisions, and when she does her best to save them while suffering the consequences of her actions, she still gets blamed. Apologizing to Bellamy (Bob Morley) for leaving, while not holding him responsible for the genocide he participated in was the last straw. An 18-year-old girl with such a burden on her shoulders is not responsible for a grown man’s xenophobia. She is not responsible for his pain, or his loss, and most definitely not responsible for the massacre. While Clarke is not allowed to mourn the loss of the girl she loved, she asks Bellamy about his feelings on separate occasions, and apologizes to Jasper (Devon Bostick) several times as well. Men get to be upset, men get to grieve and they get to be angry; they get to make poor decisions, and they get to blame it all on Clarke. She gets to take it, silently, while trying to save them once again. Even when they don’t deserve it. Author Stephen King himself even commented via Twitter about the amount of times this season that Clarke spent apologizing to everyone:
It has become obvious that Clarke is Bellamy’s vehicle to be a hero. When Finn (Thomas McDonald) killed 18 innocent grounders, Clarke couldn’t look at him and told him she didn’t even know who he was anymore. By choosing to give himself up, he somehow redeemed himself and she forgave him. Now, Bellamy has led a genocide that killed 300 innocent grounders to purge his manpain. He is beyond redemption. He has gone too far to be forgiven, especially that fast and easily without having to show real regret. He is a xenophobic mass-murderer. There is no way around that, and nothing he does or says will absolve him of what he did, yet Clarke gets blamed for it because she “left him alone.” She lies for him, and forgives him for no conceivable reason; and she even goes as far as to hug him. That shows she must know exactly who he is and what he is capable of; she knows he is telling the truth when he says this is who he is, who he’s always been: it will be even more disturbing (and abusive) when they inevitably end up together because there seems to be a pattern where a redeemed Golden Boy gets the girl in the end.
Octavia is the only one blaming Bellamy for his mistakes and telling him what needs to be said. No matter what Bellamy’s “perspective” was, he refuses to recognize what he did was wrong and refuses to truly apologize. “You were hurting, and you lashed out, because that’s what you do. There are consequences, Bell. People get hurt. People die. Your people. Monroe’s dead. Lincoln is dead.” It’s amazing all of the excuses you can come up with to justify actions and means, but you can never escape the demons that will forever haunt you from the consequences. You are a killer because you chose to be, the deaths will hang over your head and yours alone. The blood on your hands will never be washed clean, no matter the lies you tell yourself. Gina and Monroe (Katie Stewart) died for him to have his “villain” arc this season… Two women killed for a straight man to have a pain fest, and attempt to justify a genocide we didn’t get to see so he can play hero.
“You can’t let your anger get in the way of what we have to do;” irony, oh irony. Jasper called him out, at least. But even Jasper takes far too many digs and punches at Clarke because the only loss he can see and feel is his own. Yes he felt deeply for Maya, but when you are faced with death knocking on your door daily and you look to Clarke for every answer, you have to accept the consequences that come with those actions. His manpain comes first and the reality around him comes second. He doesn’t get to be a part time participant then sit back and sling arrows.
On top of the storylines that felt out of character and almost lazy, there is a number of inconsistencies and plot-holes. To cite only a few:
- The nightbloods. Anya told Clarke the Commander was her second, which would logically imply that each nightblood was someone’s second. However, in season 3 we find out from Lexa that when a nightblood is found, they are brought to Polis. We see Lexa and Titus (Neil Sandilands) train and teach them. So, which is it? Was Lexa learning from Anya as her apprentice and taking orders from her, following her into battle, or was she trained in Polis with the other Nightbloods and taught by Titus under the previous Commander’s guidance?
- Lexa did not need to die. When Clarke removes the flame, she only needs to give it a code for it to leave her system. Jason Rothenberg’s “We’re telling a story about reincarnation” fell flat, and sounded like another excuse as to why he chose to kill Lexa. The story about reincarnation wasn’t told: Ontari never got the flame and when Clarke had it, she was connected to Lexa’s spirit, but not reincarnated. Had this specific storyline been thought-out thoroughly, it would have been known from the start that protecting the flame was essential, and Titus would have been following Lexa to make sure to retrieve it, should anything happen to her. ‘Commander Pauna’, AKA Lexa didn’t seem too worried about her spirit being eaten by a gorilla: Titus was introduced to give the appearance of a reason behind Lexa’s death, and to attempt to explain a poor decision. Didn’t they give Lexa another way out early in the season when Nia talked about the ambassadors’ vote? Why give the option if not to use it? It would have been a more challenging story to write, but a much more captivating one to be told. Where would Lexa go, who is she when she no longer has a duty to her people, how does she find her place, her purpose?
- Luna. As excited as we were to finally meet Luna, her ark was unproductive and did not serve the plot. She didn’t want that life before, she doesn’t want it now. We had been waiting to meet her since Lincoln mentioned her in season 1… For what? The pure pleasure of seeing yet another woman of color being tortured, emotionally this time, and forced to go against her values by killing the man she loved and people she cared about.
- English/Trigedasleng. Why is English the “language of the enemy” (Mount Weather) when it was the language of the first Commander? When Becca came crashing down to Earth (in America, no less) she surely found people who spoke English. Even if Trigedasleng was invented later on so the grounders could communicate safely, Becca’s journal is written in English. If anything, wouldn’t English be considered the ‘sacred language of the Commander’ instead? If the clans were enemies before Lexa formed the coalition, how is there only one grounder language? It makes sense for Trikru to invent and speak Trigedasleng, but how did the other clans learn it if they were at war for decades? Lincoln also revealed in season 1 that the Boat people didn’t speak English (they are not warriors), which is why Octavia had to learn to ask for safe passage: did they learn English in the meantime – just for Clarke and her friends? How thoughtful.
It goes without saying we will not be following season 4. We were invested in Clarke’s journey, and passionate about a story that gave us hope. Sadly, the show is taking directions we do not feel comfortable with, and we will not be sticking around to watch more senseless darkness. We were taken to great heights when Lexa swore her fealty to Clarke, and then left broken and bereaved by Lexa’s unnecessary and incomprehensible death. The hurt and the heartache cut even deeper by false promises of good, safe representation that was ripped from right underneath us in one full swoop.
There is an obligation when you write LGBT characters, to treat them with respect, dignity, and with as much concern about the future as you give their present. Lexa wasn’t just a lesbian character. She was an inspiration. She was hope, and we believed that she was going to pave the way for better representation in the media. That she was it. That Clexa was going to be that one relationship to shake things up a bit and show that queer women can be in charge, lead, and learn to compromise. Show that we can learn from one another, learn to love and to be happy, and that we can aspire to grow into inspiring members of our community. Instead, what we saw was a part of this community navigating through pain and triggers until the finale, only to catch the last glimpse of Clexa. Only to be disappointed, and left hanging with no real closure.
When some of your fans share their reaction videos, not because they are having fun or want to discuss the heart pounding drama, but instead discuss the triggers and tropes brought up in the episodes, you need to take some accountability for the hurt and harm caused. This season has been talked less about how compelling and captivating it was, and more about the contrived and careless writing. When all fans are left with is hopelessness, not only does it say a lot about the heart-rending impact Lexa’s death had on them and how much they are craving safe and realistic representation, it also confirms that there is something inherently wrong with the way you chose to tell your story. Where is the entertainment, and the fun? Where is the escape from reality? The hope?
We will be missing the cast’s stellar performances and the show that was digging into different layers of darkness and pain, but never in a meaningless manner. The show that was always inspired, tasteful. Unique. The show that was different, and which potential was expended carelessly by evident arrogance and lack of creativity. What a waste.