The following article contains spoilers.
Last Thursday, we saw the conclusion of The 100’s third season. Clarke defeated Alie (with the help of Lexa, Raven and anyone who wasn’t chipped), and gave everyone their brains back by finding the A.I.’s kill switch inside the City of Light. There are even bigger problems in store for Season 4, but perhaps the biggest is what’s going to become of the characters on The 100.
With Alie gone, Pike dead, and everyone’s free will restored, will Clarke Griffin finally get a damn minute to think about something other than saving her people?
Not a chance — this is The 100, after all. Just as Clarke’s about to pull the kill switch, Alie tells/shows Clarke what awaits everyone in the real world: imminent meltdown of every nuclear power plant on the planet, which is going to render Earth all but uninhabitable in as little as six months. Alie then offers Clarke a way out of this new problem – ease everyone’s pain and come to the City of Light, because who needs Earth when you’ve got a fake city with no pain run by an A.I.?
It’s on the back of that offer that we get the most poignant line of the episode, and one that feels reminiscent of everything we want this show to be.
“You don’t ease pain,” says Clarke, just before she pulls the kill switch, “you overcome it.”
Now, Alie’s in the rearview and our hero’s tasked with saving the world. Again. It’s just a little more literal this time.
Next season, it looks like we’re going to be contending with the threat of radiation — something that feels much closer to the first two seasons of the show than a rogue A.I. Will Skaikru find a way to work the Grounders to save not only themselves, but their planet? What’s going to happen to the power structure for the Grounders and Skaikru now that both of their leaders are dead? Will the 12 clans splinter without a Commander?
There are a lot of questions, but none quite as important as what’s going to become of our characters.
This season was tough. Clarke couldn’t seem to catch a break for 13 episodes, Raven remained a favorite punching bag, Octavia had her home stripped away from her at every turn, Bellamy became a villain, and Lexa died. The 100 has never been a show known for being kind to its characters, but this season felt especially brutal.
Though there was some serious foreshadowing of Lexa’s death (and more foreshadowing than actual character exploration), in other episodes, it seemed like any scene that explored a character in new ways was a pretty good indicator that said character had some seriously bad shit headed her way. Set-ups and pay-offs were rushed and condensed, and the Alie threat was so big and so difficult to tackle that it felt as though it took precedence over the character work that’d made the show compelling.
In the coming season, it feels important that The 100 finds its way back to giving us characters we can root for. Watching a show with the fear that your favorite character is going to die isn’t going to work for The 100. Sure, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are shows that do just fine with the “anyone can die” modus operandi, but The 100 isn’t either one of those shows. Its greatest strengths are the likes of Clarke Griffin, Raven Reyes, Octavia Blake, Lexa, Indra and the other characters who have proven themselves heroic.
Make no mistake, The 100 is about heroes. It’s not just about survival. It’s not just a sprawling, post-apocalyptic setting for posing moral quandaries. At its best, The 100 is about the strength of the human spirit, humanity, and our ability to overcome despite our profound fallibility. It’s about trying to do the right thing, even when it feels like there is no “right” thing.
The 100 proved that it has the ability to accomplish incredible world-building, but in Season 4, it needs to prove that it can still make us care, that it can still give us characters that feel new and special — that it can still make us feel things without killing those characters. There are going to be plenty of opportunities for pain and suffering in the upcoming season, but it’s important that The 100 figures out a way to be evocative without being murderous.
People are going to die in The 100’s fourth season — that’s all but a given. But if The 100 has any aspirations of getting a fifth season, it will need to give life and death meaning again. It’s going to have to find a way to rebuild the representation it tore down with controversial deaths like Lexa’s and Lincoln’s. The show’s is capable of overcoming the controversy that surrounded this season, but first, it has to find a way to bring light back to a show that went too dark – or, at the very least, went dark in the wrong ways.
Next season, The 100 needs to find a way to reclaim its heart, and key to rediscovering that heart is through its characters.