You know, all else aside, I give The 100 kudos for going to places I never would have expected going into it.
The premiere seemed strongly influenced by the book the show is based on, full of stock teen characters and a moderate amount of contrivance. Something happened along the course of the first season, though: the characters got fleshed out and took unexpected turns, the show presented tough moral dilemmas with no easy answers, and the “villains” evolved to just be people with differing (albeit “wrong”) ideas. The deepening of the show continued and by the end of season two, I was confident to call The 100 this decade’s Battlestar Galactica, a show with heavy themes, inventive sci-fi concepts, and enough human drama to make it that much more compelling.
Then season three happened, and . . . well.
The thing about season three is that it wasn’t bad. It was mostly just overambitious, resulting in plot elements that felt like first drafts and character arcs that didn’t quite work.
The biggest problem with season three was its main antagonists. Seasons one and two focused on differing ideologies and mutually-exclusive needs to build conflict, while season three’s two main antagonists were a xenophobic jerk and an evil AI. And the real shame is how easily these characters could have been handled better–if we’d gotten a flashback episode to Pike’s landing on Earth and and subsequent struggle with the grounders, he’d have been far more sympathetic. (Instead the show wasted two episodes on an oil rig that was utterly pointless.) The writers also could have shuffled around the coup by Ontari, making it so that the grounder army Pike slaughtered actually could have been a threat and there would be an actual argument; instead he was just wrong to have done that.
Meanwhile, the evil AI, Alie, was revealed at the end to be enacting her whole plot because the world’s nuclear reactors were about to melt down and kill everyone. Rather than introduce this to the characters so they could grapple with the moral implications, or even hint at it so the audience knew there was an actual reason for Alie’s goals and not just ~evil AI~-ness, the show held off until the last moment for the shocking revelation. I don’t think that was the right choice.
Ask fandom circles what the big issue was with season three, though, and you’ll get one main answer: Lexa’s death, which I touched briefly upon in my post “The 100, Diversity, and Death.” Now that it’s been nearly a year since it happened and I’ve been at more or less the same place with it for a while, I’m gonna go ahead and give my opinion on this: it wasn’t nearly as big a deal as people made it out to be.
To give background, the issue with Lexa’s death is that it plays into the “bury your gays” trope, which at least anymore tends to affect wlw (women-loving women) characters most. That this is a trope indicates the problem: that LGBT+ characters are at least seemingly killed off at a disproportionate rate to other characters, which sends the message that this is the appropriate, inevitable end for LGBT+ people.
So, yes, Lexa’s death does play into this trope, and therefore it does contribute to a wider fictional landscape where wlw characters are too-frequently killed off. But the thing is, Lexa’s death in context is just about as justified as it possible could be.
Consider: As seen in the aforementioned post about death in The 100, over 50% of characters in the show are killed off. This number increases if you focus on recurring characters, which Lexa was. The 100 is a show steeped in death not just mechanically but thematically, and it’s the most likely end for any character. So to say that Lexa’s death is the show saying something unique about wlw characters just doesn’t make sense, because within the context of the show it very clearly isn’t. To look at Lexa’s death and get the message that wlw are supposed to die requires completely misunderstanding the show you’re watching, and at that point I don’t think it’s fair to put the blame on the writers.
With that all said, I guess I need to talk about Wednesday’s season four premiere. Which was fine, I guess, but after such a messy season I was hoping for a bit more wow-factor to kick off the season. There really wasn’t much going on, actually, as it picked up right where season three left off with no new characters or locations or concepts to introduce. Pretty much the whole episode was spent dealing with the Ice Nation’s aggressions, which was a pretty perfunctory plot for the show. I’m cautiously optimistic about where The 100 is going this season, but it’s too early to say much.