In the complicated world of the CW’s post-apocalyptic drama The 100, one of the most confusing elements is an item called “The Flame.” It’s a computer chip, but it’s also sort of Lexa’s soul, making it both scientific and religious. In the Season 4 premiere, “Echoes,” the Flame enabled Zach McGowan’s King Roan to stand before all of Polis and command them to respect the highly unpopular Skaikru, or else. If it had been awhile since you’d seen Season 3, watching this probably provided a big head-scratching moment: Why was this tiny object such a big deal? Here’s a refresher.
Fundamentally, the Flame is a computer chip, also known as A.L.I.E. 2.0. It’s inserted into the base of a Commander’s neck, enabling an A.I. to fuse with their brain. Becca — the original creator of the world-destroying A.I. A.L.I.E. — created it in order to remedy her past mistakes. By fusing with a human, Becca believed it would succeed where A.L.I.E. failed. It can’t be implanted in just anyone, though; some people die upon insertion. That’s why, in the Season 3 finale, Murphy pumped the Nightblood Ontari’s blood into Clarke; the thing only works if you are a Nightblood, which comes from a genetic disposition. At this point in The 100, it is believed that Luna is the last Nightblood.
The Grounders don’t know that A.L.I.E. 2.0 is A.I. They understand the Flame to be “the spirit of the Commanders” and look at it with a religious reverence. And they’re not wrong. Becca implanted the chip in her own neck, thus becoming the first commander. It stores the memories of past commanders, enabling current commanders to access them. In that regard, when Lexa spoke about communing with her predecessors, she was being literal, though it sounds religious. Whenever the Flame is out in the open without an appropriate Nightblood commander to be its host, it has a sacred Keeper. Right now in Season 4, because Luna is off in the middle of the ocean, there’s no known host for it. But because it’s such a venerated object, even though King Roan can’t implant it in his neck, possessing it still gives him power. If any more Nightbloods should make themselves known, he can help dictate who is worthy of it. As Clarke tells Roan in the Season 4 premiere, “With this, you control who ascends.”
The bottom line
The Flame is important to the balance of power in the world of The 100. The Sky People view it as science, the Grounders as religion, and both parties are right. As King Roan announces to everyone assembled before him, “Until another Nightblood ascends, I King Roan am the caretaker of the throne and the keeper of the flame.”
Considering the fact that having Roan on the throne is integral to Clarke and her people’s survival, this makes the Flame an object of utmost importance to everyone.