When a show veers off the rails narratively, a full recovery is exceedingly rare. Fans might recount statements like, “This character is great until Season 3, then the writing jumps the shark on him.” Until its Season 4 premiere, CW’s The 100 seemed poised to fit that pattern, specifically regarding Bellamy Blake. But in its first episode of the new season, “Echoes,” it manages to deftly infuse him with new life, proving that this show is as scrappy and resilient as its young characters.
Aside from Lexa’s death, the most contentious aspect of Season 3 is Bellamy’s character arc. One of the most impressive aspects of The 100 has been his development from hot-headed antagonist into an unlikely hero with rich character depth. Then came Season 3, which abruptly turned him into a hawkish murderer. To view it generously, this signified that he hadn’t evolved as much from Season 1 as it seemed. From a less generous angle, it was inconsistent writing that failed to establish his motives in a way that felt earned.
After all, this was the guy who stopped a mission to help a girl who had fallen down a cliff; the guy who was wise enough to say, “Who we are and who we need to be to survive are very different things.” In Season 2, this was the guy who returned to free the imprisoned Grounders in the Mountain.
And yet, suddenly Season 3 saw him not only slaughtering innocent Grounders, but stopping Marcus Kane’s efforts to overthrow a Chancellor whose policies were dangerous to his people. Sure, Bellamy was angry that Grounders killed his girlfriend Gina — but considering the fact that the viewer saw them together onscreen for less than ten minutes, that motive felt perfunctory rather than earned. Unlike Clarke’s intriguing spiral into seriousness following Finn’s death, it was underwritten and underdeveloped. Further, The 100 seemed to forget that Bellamy pulled the lever in The Mountain at the end of Season 2 along with Clarke.
Season 4’s biggest job, then, is to reassure the audience that Bellamy is a compelling character worth following, and that his development is in sound hands writing-wise. Otherwise, why bother watching a show that can’t stay consistent with one of its leads? And in his tense scene with the Ice Nation Grounder Echo, the season premiere did just that.
Before Bellamy must meet Echo for a diplomatic conversation, Marcus Kane tells him, “I know how you feel about her, but you can’t lose control.” The first indicator that his character is getting back on track is when Bellamy then hands Murphy his gun. While Clarke is a savvy leader because she’s a ruthless decision-maker and isn’t afraid to be disliked, Bellamy’s strength has always lied in his perceptive nature and people skills. While Season 3 seemed to forget that, this moment acknowledges it. Murphy is not the same selfish dick he was in Season 1, and Bellamy recognizes that.
When he meets Echo to talk, she proceeds to make a valid point. “I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you to bring the girl, Bellamy. But I was just following orders,” she says. He responds, “I wish it was that easy.” While you can read that line as a sentiment that he will never forgive her, it has a double-meaning. He, too, was “just following orders” in Season 3, and he’s seen how that’s hardly an “easy” justification. Through a mixture of much-improved tighter writing and Bob Morley’s performance, this scene is once again giving Bellamy the depth he lacked in Season 3 — the depth that made both the character and the show stand out.
The 100 puts its characters through the ringer. Everyone has murdered, and everyone must face up to their actions. It explores the concept of doing terrible things for the greater good in a way that is superior to most other shows on television. Bellamy has largely represented the best of its impulses, as he began as a short-sighted murderer and evolved into a sympathetic character who consistently surprises the audience. While the show lost its way for a time in Season 3, in spiritually resurrecting Bellamy Blake, The 100 is resurrecting itself as smart television.