The long The 100 hiatus is about to end, Season 3 finally returning tonight! In preparation, J and I rewatched the first two seasons over the past month, and while I still agree with what I said in Mary Sue and the Boy Scout, I’ve have some new ideas thanks to the rewatch and nearly a year of chatting with fans. (Some fans have even taken up the #BringBackBadBoyBlake debate, an idea started by my post and brilliantly hashtagged by the lovely @skiku.) My new thoughts are mostly a matter of degree with new examples and comparisons, but I figure what better way to get in the mood for the show’s return than to write them up.
(ASIDE: Super quick recap for people who haven’t seen the show. The 100 is set in a post-apocalyptic near future. The Ark is a collection of space stations where a couple thousand people have survived waiting for radiation levels on Earth to drop enough that mankind can return. This process is speeded up when 100 juvenile criminals are sent down, and it turns out Earth is survivable, and some people have been surviving there all along—some on the ground, some in a military bunker. Naturally, the Arkers, Grounders, and Mt. Men don’t get along.)
TV Tropes page on Mary Sue
So, I’ll be blunt—I like Clarke less than I used to. Rewatching the show, knowing that no real uppance was coming, at least through the end of Season 2, made Clarke nigh on unbearable sometimes in the second half of the season. There’s a moment in Season 2 Episode 11 “Coup de Grace,” where Clarke says to her mother, the current head of government for the Arkers, “You may be the Chancellor, but I’m in charge.” This moment has become something of a litmus test for me with fans of the show. If you find it badass for a 17 year-old to say this to her intelligent and competent mother, well…I have to respectfully disagree. Because what this makes Clarke look is not like a badass, but a petulant teenager.
And what, specifically at this moment is Clarke contradicting her mother about? Letting a Mt. Man prisoner return to Mount Weather to deliver the threat that the Arkers and Grounders are coming. Clarke’s mother, Abby (played by the talented and lovely Paige Turco), has no choice but to allow Clarke to win this argument, because Clarke is with a rather large, armed gang of Arkers and Grounders who have made this particular decision without so much as consulting Abby and attempting to explain their plan. Now, Mt. Men cannot survive outside the bunker of Mount Weather without hazmat suits and oxygen tanks. To show the prisoner how serious she is, Clarke lets out some of his air, saying that Mt. Weather is an 8 hour walk, and he’s going to do it in 6. This, again, would be terribly badass, if Abby were not the head of medical for the Arkers and Clarke one of her trainees. The fact Clarke doesn’t comprehend that the prisoner is going to burn more oxygen by running and that she’s likely killed him is never touched on. (Of course, the prisoner makes it to a secret entrance just as he’s running out of air.)
But that’s only a single instance of Clarke clearly being the leader the writers want the audience to want, without making that choice reasonable. Let’s look at why Clarke is informally in charge of the Arkers. The first people sent to earth were teenagers, and within that framework, Clarke rising to the top makes sense. Because she and the others who were first sent have had relations with the Grounders, the adults should listen to them and garner what knowledge they can. But the original 100 juvenile prisoners did not start talking with the Grounders until they had been on Earth for 19 days. The adults all arrived 10 days later. So Clarke and her group didn’t actually have that deep a relationship with the Grounders by the time the actual government arrived. And since the one Grounder leader Clarke has a significant relationship with, Anya, dies days after the adults arrive, Clarke isn’t really in a particularly better place to negotiate and work with them than anyone else.
All of these sorts of issues are exacerbated by Clarke’s veneer of flawlessness. She needs to be tone deaf, like Horatio Hornblower, or something similar to break up the monotony and show she’s fallible. The writers actually had the right idea early in the first season when Clarke gets teased for being humorless. They should have stayed with it. But they did not, so everyone continues following her through all her humorless mistakes (although no one now seems to care that she’s no fun). And they do so even though she was wrong about leaving the dropship camp at the end of Season 1 and wrong to bring armed teenagers to the meeting with the Grounders at the bridge. In Season 2, she was ultimately wrong to form an alliance with the Grounder leader Lexa, because as she pointed out herself, that alliance failing meant she had killed Finn, the man she loved, for nothing.
But who tells her she’s wrong? Two people do after Clarke and Lexa allow hundreds of people to die in the missile strike on TonDC that they knew was coming. (For anyone still reading who hasn’t watched the show, the episode in which this happens was apparently almost called “Coventry,” which should explain the situation.) Octavia is furious, in part because she was in TonDC and survived entirely by luck. But her outrage feels personal, as opposed to a direct question of Clarke’s leadership. (I could be reading it wrong, and should give more weight to Octavia’s rebuke. I’m willing to listen to arguments.)
Abby is also not happy with her daughter when she realizes what has happened, because unlike Octavia and everyone else, her mother is the one person Clarke gets out of TonDC before the missile strike. But when Clarke and Abby have a moment to talk about what happened, Abby says, in the most pissed off mom voice you’ve ever heard, “Their blood is on your hands, and even if we win, I’m afraid you won’t be able to wash it off this time.” But by the time the finale rolls around, and Clarke has been forced to sacrifice hundreds of more lives, many of them innocent, she comes crying to her mother. In a call back to their parting a few episodes before, Clarke says, “I tried to be the good guy,” and Abby responds, “Maybe there are no good guys,” tacitly rescinding her previous rebuke.
What does this mean for Clarke’s future? Well, hopefully things can stop being entirely about her and her feelings and reactions to them, and we can remember that humanity is at stake. J and I both felt one of the worst scenes of season 2 was Clarke and Lexa talking after the funeral pyre had burned out in Episode 9 “Remember Me.” They were both talking about their pasts and their pain in a fashion J has dubbed “Dueling Narcissists.” Let’s keep our fingers crossed for less of that, and more of people seeing Clarke as flawed as everyone else.
The Boy Scout
To be honest, I have a lot less to say about how I feel about Bellamy Blake on rewatch, other than I like him even more. Yes, he becomes a straight-up hero in Season 2 after having been pretty awful at the beginning of Season 1. His leadership feels more believable, however, because people question it from the very beginning, and eventually in Season 2 he’s working with Clarke and Abby and the other primary Arker leader, Kane, instead of against them. (But not before being a Boy Scout and going on some unapproved rescue missions, of course. The rule breaker is still in there, after all.) And Bellamy has had a true character arc. In the first episode, he proclaims there are no rules and everyone can do “Whatever the hell we want.” But by Episode 12 “We Are Grounders: Part 1” of that Season, he’s hugging Jasper, who he wanted dead back at the beginning of the season, and Jasper specifically says, “Long way from ‘Whatever the hell you want.’” Let’s hope the evolution continues, and Bellamy grows beyond hero, perhaps even circles back around to rediscover some of his Bad Boy Blake roots.
But whatever happens, it all starts happening tonight at 9:00 on the CW! Hope to see you there.