The 100 Recap: 3×07 “Thirteen”

The 100 has shown us a ten-year-old girl committing cold-blooded murder, the romantic lead gunning down an entire village of innocents, and the protagonist wiping out an entire race of human beings, but this was still arguably the most controversial episode yet. It was also one of its best: “Thirteen” was a stunningly crafted hour of television, one that elegantly weaved all of the disparate plotlines of the season together and organically changed the entire mythology of the show without feeling like a retcon. It also happened to be a heartbreaking, elegiac origin story/farewell episode in the vein of season two’s “Spacewalker” (but for a much more popular and beloved character), and while a few elements of the execution may have been problematic, “Thirteen” will go down as one of the boldest moves in The 100‘s history.

All right, let’s get on with the recap. This is going to be a tough one.

Previously on The 100: Titus was an overbearing parent about Lexa bringing Skaikru into the fold; Lexa revolutionized a century of Grounder tradition by declaring “Blood must not have blood”; the Pikers tried to massacre a Grounder village and were thwarted by Octavia, who was taken as a prisoner of war; A.L.I.E. 1.0 destroyed the world, and A.L.I.E. 2.0 was downloaded into the 13th station of the Ark (because that seems smart).

We open on Murphy being tortured, which is par for the course at this point.

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Credit: TV.com

Titus demands information about Clarke and the A.L.I.E. chips with the infinity symbol. But Murphy isn’t being tortured because he refuses to give up information (this is Murphy, after all), but because Titus can’t accept his answer: that the “holy symbol” is associated with a tech company. “Holy??” Murphy scoffs. “It’s a corporate logo!” Ouch, and heh.

Murphy explains that the chips are supposedly the key to the City of Light, distributed by Jaha and the “woman in red,” who is a Battlestar rip-off not a woman at all, but a computer program. “I get that that’s hard for you to grasp, considering that you pray to garbage.” HA. Seriously, when did Murphy become my favorite character??

We flash back to 97 years ago on the 13th station, where Becca is working on a new A.I. after A.L.I.E. 1.0 expressed genocidal tendencies. But since they’re not using the cutting-edge A.L.I.E. code, the “neural interface” isn’t working, which threatens the viability of the entire project. A haggard man comes on a communications screen and tells them that A.L.I.E. “got out,” and her fail-safe isn’t working. Becca repeats A.L.I.E.’s ominous words, “Too many people,” and figures out that A.L.I.E. is hacking the killer launch codes. The commander comes in and tells them that nukes from China are inexplicably heading towards the U.S. (which explains why that techie said “I knew it wasn’t China!” in the premiere).

They open the window and watch as the nukes approach. The commander has told the crew to contact their families, and he has a brief, tearjerking conversation with his own wife and daughter. His wife has seen scary things on the news, but clearly doesn’t know she’s about to die. His daughter comes on the phone and chirpily starts telling him she got a new bike as the nukes start going off quietly in the background. After a minute or so, the call cuts out, and Earth lights up like a Christmas tree as Becca watches in horror. What a beautifully chilling cold open.

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In present-day Polis, Lexa, Clarke, Titus, and the little Nightbloods are celebrating Ascension Day, which honors the lives of past Commanders. The Grounders from the village barge in, yelling that Titus promised they would be heard (but they call him the “Flamekeeper,” maybe for the first time on the show). One of the villagers, Semet, brings in a trussed-up Octavia, and calls for Lexa to punish her for Skaikru’s crimes. Octavia looks to a gaunt and sickly-looking Indra for help, but to no avail.

In private, Lexa reams Titus for bringing this to her on a holy day, but he fires back that she brought it on herself. She made Skaikru the thirteenth clan against Titus’ advice, she forgave the Skaikru after an essentially unprovoked massacre, and they still attacked a defenseless village, proving that “blood must not have blood” is a failure. God, Pike really is the worst, isn’t he? Even when he’s not in the episode, he still manages to ruin everything.

Clarke can’t begin to defend these reprehensible actions, so instead she insists that not all of her people agree with Pike (#NotAllArkers, I guess). Titus rightfully points out that Arkadia voted for Pike, which makes them responsible for him, but Clarke wants to give them time to realize they made a mistake and vote Kane back in, since he still has many supporters. (And she would know this how? She hasn’t been with her people all season.) Titus exposits that the other clans fell in line when Lexa killed the Ice Queen, but the coalition is still fragile and she needs to make an example of Skaikru. Lexa, ever the individualist, decides to split the difference and call the armies to march on Arkadia, but to form a blockade rather than attack. This way, they’ll prevent Pike’s crew from trying to take over their land, but also give the Arkers time to take out Pike from within.

In theory, this seems like an even-handed plan, and I love Lexa for taking action while also making a real effort to keep the peace. That being said, this plan sounds ridiculous. I can forgive the fact that they really have no idea if the Arkers will overthrow Pike, because Clarke will presumably go home (finally) in order to seed insurrection from within. But they’re going to march on Arkadia without attacking because–what, Pike and his crew are just going to let them form a blockade without any fuss? An entire army of Grounders was just massacred by ten people because the Arkers have the benefit of machine guns, and now they’re going to send a bunch more people armed with bows and arrows to control all of Arkadia? I’m all for the characters finding a solution that doesn’t end in warfare, but I doubt that this would be it.

Lexa then clarifies that any Arker who crosses the line will be subject to a kill order. Clarke and Octavia look horrified, but honestly, this might be the only part of the plan that does make sense. Semet asks Lexa how this is vengeance, and she gives the stately answer, “This isn’t vengeance, my brother. This is justice.” You tell him, Lexa. He’s not sated by this answer, however, since Skaikru killed his entire family and all, so he attacks Lexa and Titus swiftly kills him. “Blood must have blood,” Titus says, as Semet’s blood drips off of his sword. Unsubtle, but effective.

Flash back to Polaris, and Becca is injecting herself with a mysterious substance. (Now, watching the episode a second time, I can see that the little bit of blood on her arm seems to be black.) The Commander and Becca’s assistant tell us that it’s Unity Day, but Polaris can’t join with the Ark before destroying the “potentially genocidal” A.I. on board. Becca has been working on A.L.I.E. 2.0 in secret, and if the 13th station joins with the rest of the Ark while she’s embedded in its programming, then she will infect all of the other stations.

Becca pleads with them not to destroy the program, because it could be the key to saving the human race. “A.L.I.E. 1.0 didn’t understand what it means to be human,” she says, “but A.L.I.E. 2.0 is designed to interface with humans on a biological level. She will understand the value of life by coexisting with us.” Well, that’s new. Becca tells them that there aren’t enough “smart people” among the survivors to keep the human race alive for two centuries, but A.L.I.E. will be able to make all of the calculations, run all of the simulations, and catch any errors. She has a point, but she says it in a very elitist way, which makes me even more interested in her and hopeful that she’s still alive (more on that later).

The Commander and the assistant are not convinced, and I can hardly blame them. They say that it’s too much of a risk to bring a world-destroying program, new version or no, onto the ship that contains the entirety of the human race. Becca begs them not to kill A.L.I.E., and when they won’t listen, shuts both of them into an airlock.

In the present day, Clarke brings Octavia into her lavish, candle-covered bedroom, and Octavia snarks, “No wonder you wanted to stay.” Ouch, but she’s not wrong. Clarke should have been back with her people several episodes ago. Octavia asks Clarke what their plan should be, and Clarke says she’ll talk to Lexa. Octavia points out that Clarke’s diplomacy led to a kill order on all of Arkadia. “This is the second time [Lexa] has left all of us to die.” Okay, I agree with Octavia on most things this season, but on this subject, she needs to slow her roll. This is 100% different from what happened at Mount Weather last season; Lexa isn’t betraying them, she’s showing them clemency. The Arkers massacred a peaceful army and then launched an attack on a defenseless village, for no other reason than imperialistic hubris. While the Mount Weather explosion was a non-sanctioned attack from a fringe group that had rejected Lexa as a Commander, the Arkers’ attacks were the result of direct orders from an elected official. As Clarke tells Octavia, in so many words, Arkadia is damn lucky that Lexa isn’t trying to wipe them all out.

But still, Clarke visits Lexa to try to talk her out of the kill order. She finds Lexa meditating in her bedroom, and says, “Someone tried to kill you today. How can you be this calm?” This is perfectly in keeping with Lexa’s character, because she’s awesome, but as we now know, this is also foreshadowing for that last-act reveal. Lexa immediately knows that Clarke is angry about the kill order, and asks Clarke how else Lexa could possibly enforce a blockade. There actually are responses to this, such as public lashings or taking people prisoner, but Clarke immediately folds and asks when they would have to leave to get behind the blockade. Wow, that was easy. Maybe Octavia couldn’t trust Clarke to talk to Lexa after all.

Lexa invites Clarke to stay in Polis as Lexa’s guest, and Clarke intimates that Titus would be upset. That’s true, but also–it’s completely inappropriate for Clarke to stay, and I can’t believe Clarke even views it as an option. Clarke is supposed to be a representative for her people, and the fact that she’s close with Lexa only makes it more imperative for her to be behind the blockade. Otherwise, what’s to stop Lexa from wiping everyone out when the going gets rough? I know Clarke is conflicted about facing everyone again (and that she’s in love with Lexa and all), but her apparent disregard for her responsibility to her people seems completely out of character.

As Clarke predicted, Titus is at his wit’s end when he finds out that Clarke might be staying. He begs Lexa to remember his teachings: “Love is weakness. To be Commander is to be alone.” This sounds exactly like Slayer rhetoric, but Titus needs to brush up on his Whedon, because Buffy taught us that “Love is pain, and the Slayer forges strength from pain.” (There are many parallels between The 100 and Buffy that become very important in this episode, but I’ll get into that later.) Titus tells Lexa that the kill order needs to apply to everyone (YUP), and that sending Clarke behind the blockade is the only way to keep her safe. But then he goes a step too far when he says, “Don’t make her pay the price for your mistakes the way Costia did.” This sets Lexa off, and she screams at him, “The Ice Queen cut off Costia’s head and delivered it to my bed. And still, I let them into my alliance! I am more than capable of separating feelings from duty!” To be fair, Lexa is probably making a mistake when she asks Clarke to stay, but Alycia Debnam-Carey’s performance is so fierce and charismatic that all I can think is, “You tell him, Lexa.”

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Titus immediately apologizes, telling her he didn’t mean to offend, and the ever-mature Lexa calmly responds, “Yes, you did, but you also mean well.” He wants to make arrangements for Clarke’s departure, and Lexa tells him she knows where he stands, but reiterates that it’s up to Clarke.

Octavia finds Indra and asks for her counsel, but Indra coldly rebuffs her. Indra looks physically frail and emotionally vulnerable, so Octavia tries to rouse her: “I need the woman I served as second. I need the warrior who taught me to be who I am.” Aw. I miss this mentorship so much. Indra stubbornly yells at her to get out–in English–and calls her “Sky Girl.” Octavia tells Indra that she’ll fight against her own people, even her own brother, if necessary, but she needs help. Indra slugs her, and Octavia easily overpowers her. “See?” Indra says faintly. “Even someone as slow and weak as you can put me on my back.” She says she should have died on that field with the others, and Octavia gets awesomely harsh. “We all die. You can either do that here, feeling sorry for yourself, or you can come back with me and get your revenge.” This is a stirring moment, and shows just how far both the character and the actress have come since the beginning of the series. Can you imagine season one Marie Avgeropoulos pulling off a line like that?

In Titus’ Torture Room, Murphy escapes from his restraints, and discovers the Polaris ship with the “a” and the “r” burned off. Titus returns, and Murphy attacks him, only to be soundly beaten–again. Murphy just can’t catch a break, can he? Just as Titus is about to break his arm and possibly kill him, Murphy teases him with information about the ship and the infinity symbol. He tells him about the Polaris/Polis connection, but Titus refuses to believe it. “My faith has nothing to do with yours.” “Trust me, I have no faith,” Murphy deadpans. He tries to prove it to Titus with the wall paintings: the mushroom cloud is the apocalypse, which is why “Sky Crew” had to stay in space. Murphy says the woman rising out of the apocalypse must have gotten out of the 13th station before it blew up. Titus says the small figures surrounding her are the first Natblida, which would make her the first Commander. “This woman, she fell out of the sky, right?” Murphy says. “Just like us.” Titus doesn’t take kindly to this snot-nosed kid comparing himself to their Messiah, so he knocks him out–again. Poor Murphy.

Back in the past, Becca has just done something to herself with a scalpel, giving us a close-up of her dripping blood–and it’s black. The Commander tells Becca over the communications screen that the Ark is threatening to open fire on Polaris if they don’t fall in line (so Finn’s conspiracy theory from the first season episode, “Unity Day,” was true after all). Becca tells him that he can save them by joining with the Ark and allowing A.L.I.E. to infect the other stations. Her assistant tells her that this is not the way to seek penance for A.L.I.E. 1.0, but Becca believes she really is saving the human race. (And it seems like she’s right in that A.L.I.E. 2.0 may have saved the Grounders, although some of the Arkers ultimately survived without her help.)

When Polaris is about to be destroyed, Becca apologizes, says that this isn’t what she wanted, and ejects in an escape pod down to Earth along with her technology. Polaris begins docking maneuvers, but a voice says that “if we’re going to survive up here, extreme measures may be required.” (So wait, Polaris was joining the Ark and they still blew it out of the sky? When Finn’s right, he’s right.)

In the present day, Octavia confronts Clarke about Lexa’s invitation to stay in Polis. They both know that Pike won’t obey the blockade (word), so they need to take Pike out from the inside before more of their people get killed. Clarke tries to play the “I can help my people more from here” card, which, again, is a shameless rationalization that’s a little disappointing for her character. Octavia calls her out on her bullshit, because she’s rapidly becoming the moral center of the show. They have to leave in an hour if they’re going to get behind the blockade before it goes into effect at dawn. “If you’re not there,” Octavia says, “you’re not the person I thought you were.” This sounds a little judgey on its face, but in this instance I agree with her. I understood Clarke’s reasoning for staying behind in Polis a few episodes ago, but now her people clearly need her, and enough is enough.

Clarke finds Lexa, who’s sporting the side-swept soft waves of Clexa romance, to say good-bye. Lexa immediately knows from Clarke’s expression that she’s leaving, and asks when. “Now,” Clarke says dramatically. (Actually, it’s in an hour, but maybe she thought that would sound too much like a pick-up line.) She apologizes, but Lexa understands Clarke’s duty to her people. “That’s why I-” Lexa trails off before she can drop the “L” word, and amends to, “That’s why you’re you.” Aw. “Maybe someday, you and I will owe nothing more to our people,” Clarke says sweetly. Lexa must know that that’s unrealistic, considering that Commander is a lifetime gig, but she just says, “I hope so.” The star-crossed lovers finally kiss, and proceed to sleep together for the first time in a beautifully shot, sun-soaked, intimate scene.

In the afterglow, Clarke admires Lexa’s intricate back tattoo. There’s one circle for each of the Commanders who were chosen and died before her, and Clarke counts seven. Lexa had previously said there were eight officiates at her Conclave, but she doesn’t want to talk about what happened to the eighth Commander. (Does this mean Becca’s still alive??) They have sex again, and there’s so much post-coital bliss that we really should have known what was coming. No one is allowed to be that happy on The 100.

Clarke is about to leave to find Octavia when she stumbles into the room where Titus is keeping poor, bloodied Murphy. She’s horrified, and tries to free him, but Titus walks in on her, wielding a gun. He plans to kill Clarke and blame it on Murphy, so that Lexa can carry out her duties without any confounding variables. I doubt that Lexa ever would have believed that it wasn’t Titus, or that one of Clarke’s own people would have killed her for no apparent reason, but I think this plan is supposed to feel desperate. He shoots at Clarke, and in the ensuing scuffle, Lexa comes in at the sound of gunshots and gets hit by a stray bullet.

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Clarke and Titus try desperately to save Lexa, but she immediately knows what’s going to happen. “Don’t be afraid,” she tells Clarke, as she’s been telling her all season. But Clarke is Clarke, and keeps trying to save her even as Lexa’s black blood goes everywhere. Titus helps at first, but then sees it’s hopeless and begins calmly preparing scalpel instruments for some kind of death ritual. He asks Lexa to forgive him, and of course she does, so long as he promises not to harm Clarke. We should all hope to be as simultaneously tough and magnanimous as this character. Clarke tells her not to give up, and Lexa tells Clarke her spirit will live on in the next Commander. “I don’t want the next Commander,” Clarke sobs. “I want you.” Ugh. SAD.

Now for the only bit of positive news. While all of this is happening, Clarke has missed her chance to go home with Octavia (that wasn’t it). Octavia gives up on Clarke with a disgusted sigh, but then hears someone call, “Octavia cum Skaikru.” It’s Indra! She’s back to her bad-ass self, outfitted with her armor and patented steely expression, and the two march off together with purpose. Yay! I love these two so much. We need more female-female mentor relationships on television; even Buffy had a male Watcher.

Meanwhile, Lexa is not doing well. She has that telltale stream of blood coming out of the corner of her mouth, and even Clarke has slowed her efforts to save her. Lexa says, “My fight is over,” in Trigedasleng, and at first, Clarke refuses to accept it, but then Lexa says, “You were right, Clarke. Life is about more than just surviving.” Clarke tearfully says the death prayer, finishing with a, “May we meet again,” and kisses Lexa goodbye. When she opens her eyes, Lexa is gone.

Clarke weeps profusely, and I’m about to join her. (Although, it’s hilarious to see Murphy standing awkwardly in the background of yet another tragic moment on this show. That helps a little.) Titus gently gets Clarke out of the way to “complete the ritual,” and pass on Lexa’s spirit. He says a prayer with tears in his eyes, but then starts to mess with her body, and it’s clear that this “ritual” isn’t what it seems. We zoom in on the sacred symbol tattooed on the back of her neck and flash back to:

Earth, 97 years ago. Becca comes down to the post-apocalyptic, ashen wasteland in her escape pod. Her spacesuit says that the radiation level is “critical,” but she takes off her helmet without any adverse effects. Humans start to tentatively gather around her as we see that her spacesuit says, “Commander.” We all knew this was coming, but holy shit. She says she’s here to help them as we zoom in on an ugly incision on the back of her neck–

And back to poor Lexa in the present day, where Titus cuts open her neck with a scalpel. An insect-looking thing starts to come out of the opening, Clarke exclaims “Oh my God,” and Murphy’s face says, “WTF.” Titus shows us that it’s a weird piece of tech that’s moving on its own, and I literally gasp out loud as we realize that it’s A.L.I.E. 2.0.

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Jason Rothenberg called this the “flame” (hence Titus’ “Flamekeeper” title), which sounds a little too Maze Runner-y for my taste. One commenter who didn’t know its name called it a “neck-spider,” which I like infinitely better.

Titus tells Murphy and a catatonic Clarke that the flame is the “spirit of the Commander,” but they know better. Titus carries Lexa’s corpse out of the room as he tells the guards to start the next Conclave.

“May her spirit choose wisely.”

Well, shit, you guys. Lexa’s demise has already inspired hugely passionate reactions within the fanbase, so we’ll analyze the implications of her death in a minute, but first let’s talk about this A.L.I.E. 2.0 reveal, because it changes pretty much everything. Broadly speaking, it confirms that there is no magic in this universe. I didn’t know how I felt about the introduction of the Nightbloods, because it was becoming unclear whether there was an actual mystical reincarnation process. Much has been made about the parallels between The 100 and Battlestar Galactica, and we all know what happened when Battlestar tried to get spiritual. But now, it’s clear that all of the Grounder’s beliefs are just that–superstitious beliefs that explain wholly earthly phenomena, which is much more in keeping with the tone of the show.

But the answer to that question brings up about a million new questions. Is the black blood inherited, or was Becca treating herself somehow to prepare for a merger with the AI? Did she treat herself with gene therapy, so that it wasn’t heritable originally but it is now? How do they choose which Nightblood gets the A.I. implanted? Will Grounders view Skaikru as Messiah figures going forward, because their first Commander was one of them? Will we see Lexa in the City of Light? (The answer to that is almost definitely “yes,” since Alycia Debnam-Carey has been confirmed for the finale.) And most importantly, are Becca and Lexa kind of the same person? Have these flashbacks truly been Lexa’s “Spacewalker”-style origin story?

We now know that Lexa has been A.L.I.E. 2.0 for as long as we (and Clarke) have known her, so does that mean that all this time, Clarke has been in love with an A.I.? Not exactly, according to Jason Rothenberg, since the Commanders are humans who have merged with an A.I., but they still retain individual identities.

“Lexa’s not an AI, Lexa is a woman who happens to have an augmented consciousness in the form of this AI,” Rothenberg told Variety.

This makes the reveal more interesting, as it forces us (and Clarke) to tease out how much of Lexa’s personality was her own and how much of it was determined by the A.I.–and whether that matters. As Clarke highlighted in this episode, Lexa has always had superior powers of compartmentalization, to the point that she seemed to have borderline superhuman emotional strength. But “borderline” is the operative word, because she was still on the spectrum of realistic human behavior. Was her maturity, serenity, and resilience the result of the A.I., or was she chosen to receive the A.I. as a result of those qualities, Slayer-style? I would guess that it’s the latter, that Lexa the human had the “potential” to be a higher form of life, and the A.I. strengthened those qualities within her. And then, when she met Clarke (and Costia), her love for them brought out the more human–and more fallible–side of her a little bit more.

I’m sure the rest of this season, and possibly the series, will be devoted to A.L.I.E.’s implications for our definition of humanity, and our valuation of stereotypically “human” traits. But judging from what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think it will be a simplistic recrimination of human irrationality and inconsistency, nor an Asimovian indictment of coldly calculating artificial intelligence. The entire point of A.L.I.E. 2.0 is to synthesize the efficacy of A.I. with the beauty and je ne sais quoi of humanity. Lexa’s personality, with her A.I. and human tendencies constantly warring, aptly represents the dialectic between the stoic, saintly, dogmatic morality of transcendence and the down-to-earth morality of empathetic and compassionate humanism. She is able to put her feelings aside to make difficult choices, but she still has feelings, so she can both help her people survive and give them lives worth living. She can be a strong and seemingly unflappable leader, but she uses her compassion to make meaningful change like “Blood must not have blood.” Titus views her feelings for Clarke as an unqualified weakness, and in some cases he’s right. But with “Blood must not have blood,” she also proved she could sublimate those feelings by making a revolutionary decision that will likely be the most important part of her legacy.

Which brings us to Lexa’s death, a daring move on the writers’ part that I personally loved, although I agree with a few of the objections to the execution. To start with, I don’t mind that she didn’t die a heroic death on the battlefield, or in an epic self-sacrifice for Clarke. That would have been easier on the viewers, but this accidental demise more accurately reflects the arbitrary, senseless nature of death in real life, which makes it all the more tragic and emotionally resonant.

I do mind, however, that she died only minutes after she and Clarke had sex for the first time. While I’m sure the intent was simply to make Lexa’s death as gut-wrenching as possible, this was a mistake in the context of the Dead Lesbian trope. Yes, writers use similar tricks for doomed straight lovers all the time (Finn and Clarke exchanged “I love you”s for the first time right before she killed him, for example). It’s classic (read: semi-clichéd) drama to kill off one half of a newly blissful couple, but intent doesn’t matter when it comes to reinforcing stereotypes. Jason Rothenberg said that it didn’t feel natural for them to sleep together before now, but let’s be honest, we all thought they were going to have sex in that last scene of “Watch the Thrones”. They should have just slept together then; that would have mitigated the Dead Lesbian effect somewhat, and would have made this entire conflict with Titus even more fraught than it already was.

All that being said, I think it was 100% the right choice to kill Lexa, even if Alycia Debnam-Carey weren’t leaving for Fear the Walking Dead. I appreciate the fact that there is a dearth of queer representation on television, and that Lexa was more than just a character for a lot of people, just as Clexa was more than just a ship. But first of all, this is a sci-fi show with an inherently violent premise. Prominent characters need to die in order to maintain the emotional stakes, and in the same vein, couples never get happy endings on shows like The 100, regardless of sexual orientation. And more importantly, Lexa wasn’t a one-dimensional lesbian lover who was brought on for a few episodes to boost ratings. She was a beautifully written, well-rounded, stunningly complex character with her own personality, agency, and multiple-season character arc. While Clexa was a great relationship to watch, her primary function wasn’t as a love interest, but as a leader. Clarke may be the protagonist, but Lexa was a hero in her own right, and she had a classic hero’s arc that is normally only afforded to straight men, and one which, unfortunately, can only end in death. The certainty of her death has always defined her character, as she would only have become Commander when a previous Commander met an early demise. Like a Slayer, she was marked for an ugly, brutish life and an early death.

Many have already noted that Lexa’s death was very similar to Tara’s on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was similarly controversial (although, again, Joss is known for killing off beloved characters in general, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation). But on a more positive note, Lexa mirrors Buffy’s hero arc in both her lifelong intimacy with death and her struggle to integrate her enormous capacity for love into her particular brand of strength. Buffy once told Giles that ruthlessly honing her Slayer strength was translating into emotional hardness that didn’t leave room for love (“Strength, resilience… those are all words for hardness”), only to learn time and time again that her powerful emotions and loyal relationships were some of her greatest assets. When Lexa first met Clarke, she told her that “love is weakness” (which Titus, in turn, repeats to Lexa in this episode). But she has evolved impressively since then, and has spent this entire season negotiating a leadership style that embodies the principle of justice, while incorporating the virtues of love and mercy.

There is only one fitting ending to Lexa’s warrior’s journey: the one that was so movingly written for Buffy in the fifth season finale (which was originally intended to serve as the ending). Right after the First Slayer told Buffy that she derived strength from her ability to love, she told her that “love will lead [her] to [her] gift,” meaning death. Then, after an entire season of agonizing over whether she has lost the ability to fully express and experience love, she sacrifices herself to save the world, but also to save her beloved sister. Buffy tells Dawn that “the hardest thing in this world is living in it,” and Lexa, too, ultimately realizes that death is her only possible respite from her oppressive and lonely leadership responsibilities. Earlier in this episode, when Clarke implies that they’ll be together when they owe nothing more to their people, Lexa smiles because she knows that that will only be true in death. And she tells Clarke not to be afraid, because she knows that death frees her from the perpetual violence, from the betrayal at Mount Weather, from her necessary isolation, from the fear that her acts of compassion will have adverse consequences for her people, from her inability to say “I love you” for fear of being too vulnerable. She knows that death is truly her gift.

RIP Lexa. May we meet again.

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4 Comments

  1. I don’t agree with the idea she had to die because that’s the only way/peace/gift for the hero in the end. I find that a somewhat short-sighted, formulaic way at looking at storytelling and quite frankly it is so overdone, that is has become too common and repetitive in my opinion.
    As to whether it fell under the lesbian trope, I think it absolutely does regardless of intent (here is someone who explained it far better than I can right now: http://www.fandomfollowing.com/an-open-letter-to-jason-rothenberg-of-the-100/)

    However, my actual purpose in commenting is to correct something you said about Anya. Anya was never the Commander, she was a battalion leader sent by Lexa to address the skaikru threat. When she is unable to, Lexa sends Tristan (the big bald dude that captures Clarke at some point). He literally tells Anya the commander sent him to replace her and do what she has failed to do.
    Much later, when Anya and Clarke return to Camp Jaha after Mt. Weather, and Clarke pushes for a truce, Anya says she can’t negotiate one, ”only the Commander can.” Then she’s shot, then Clarke meets Lexa in 208 and tells her about Anya ”she died by my side, trying to get a message to you”.
    Lexa was the Commander a long time before the 100 were sent to Earth and established the 12 clan coalition to stop the never ending clan wars, as we hear Gustus comment in 209. At some point, as a nightblood kid Lexa was Anya’s second, before she ascended to Commander, but Anya was simply a warrior training her.
    Thought I needed to point this out since it’s a very important detail and the fact that Lexa has been a presence (although referred only as ”the commander”) since season 1.

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    1. Thank you for reading! (The error is fixed now, so thank you for that as well!) And I agree with you that the hero arc doesn’t always need to end in death (and that it is slightly overdone), but I did think that Lexa’s specific character arc as a hero/warrior called for her death, and that her death was foreshadowed from the very beginning. I also agree with you that intent doesn’t matter, but the context of the show does, and I think that the complexity of Lexa’s character arc and the heavy foreshadowing makes her death seem less cheap and more like an inevitability.

      I agreed with most of the article that you posted, particularly that Lexa shouldn’t have died right after they slept together and that Jason Rothenberg has been insensitive in his response, but it troubles me that the person who wrote the article hasn’t watched the show, since one would need to watch the show in order to determine whether the death was a cheap narrative trick or a sound decision for which the narrative foundation had been laid.

      But I appreciate that it’s a very complex issue, and that different people will have different experiences with such a fraught and sensitive topic, so I respect anyone’s opinion who believes this was the wrong call. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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