Well, things just got serious. Again.
This episode was once again filled with the sorts of interactions that are par for the course for male characters in genre shows, but rarely rare for female characters. The interactions between Clarke and Lexa and Indra and Abbie are filled with tension, but its tension with a very clear purpose: they are all leaders, and they all have very different perspectives on how their people should be led. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see, for example, Iron Man and Captain America butting heads over the right response to a villain’s threats, but female leaders are so rare in genre TV and movies that they rarely get to argue with male characters, let alone with other female leaders. And yet, week after week, The 100 shows us a huge range of female leaders struggling with the moral questions and difficult choices of their position, and vying with one another, not necessarily for power, but over what should be done. They’re passionate, they completely believe in their own causes, they’re intelligent and articulate, and the audience can see that all of them have valid perspectives. And, unlike in a lot of stories of female “competitiveness,” they butt heads over things that really matter.
Of course, it’s not all rivalry. This episode treated us to Raven and Clarke working together to help Bellamy infiltrate Mount Weather, and although there’s a lot of tension between them as Clarke struggles with her responsibilities and Raven pushes back against her decisions, there’s never a sense that they’re anything other than a team when it counts. The show could easily have used Finn’s death as a reason for them to hate one another, and although Raven is not above bringing that up, the series is too smart to allow two of its main female characters to hate one another (ultimately) over a guy. It’s refreshing that Raven never blamed Clarke for how Finn acted before she arrived, and that it barely takes an episode for her to recognize that Clarke acted in Finn’s best interests when she stabbed him. Their relationship is a difficult one to navigate, but as their hug in this episode showed, their struggles are based on mutual respect and now friendship.
And I love that we get to see Clarke struggle as a leader. She might be brave and tough as nails, but she has been thrown into a position that she’s never been prepared for, and she has to learn what to do while many other people’s lives are in her hands. It’s no wonder that she’s pressured and panicked, and Eliza Taylor once again showed her amazing acting talent as she conveyed both Clarke’s strength and leadership potential, while also capturing how much the pressure is affecting her. As I’ve said before, we don’t need Strong Female Characters who never show weakness and are never affected by the things that they have to do. We need female characters who experience all the emotional nuances of strength and leadership that male characters (and real people) go through, and Clarke is a fantastic example of this.
But let’s talk about the moral dilemma that Clarke faces here. She can tell everyone in TonDC about the missile, save their lives, but alert Mount Weather to Bellamy’s presence and not only put his life at risk but prevent him from turning off the acid fog and freeing the Grounders held there. Or she can only tell Lexa, her needed ally among the Grounders, and allow the village to be destroyed to maintain Bellamy’s cover and give their people even more motivation to fight and work together. It really is the decisive moment for what sort of leader she is going to be. Is she willing to sacrifice innocent people if it gives her a tactical advantage? Does she value the lives of many others more than the lives of a few friends? She has been taking more and more cues from Lexa on how to be a leader in this harsh environment, but her declaration that even Bellamy’s life is worth risking for the good of their people is contradicted here by how much she is willing to sacrifice to protect him and her fellow dropshippers in Mount Weather. She has no time to think through her decisions, and her instinct throughout the episode is to toss everything else aside to save them. She both does and doesn’t want to be detached and ruthless like Lexa, and the struggle between those two instincts is pulling her apart.
It would have been easy for the show to save Clarke from this dilemma and its repercussions. Leaders on genre shows often have to make tough decisions, but they usually eventually get to take Option C, where everything turns out well and everyone lives. We even got a hint of it here, when Clarke realized that a man on the ground was guiding the missile, and that she could protect the village if she found him and took him out, and I immediately expected the show to follow that line of thinking through. But she never even got chance to look for him, once she saw Abbie in the village. Once again, all thoughts of the greater good were abandoned in favor of protecting one of the people who matter to her the most, and so Clarke never got her easy out. The missile struck, the village was destroyed, and Clarke has that blood on her hands.
Once again, despite its teen soap-y origins, The 100 proved itself a show to be reckoned with, willing to really dig into character tensions and moral quandaries, and to push its female character development to extents that are rarely if ever seen on TV. And considering how this episode concluded, I really can’t wait for next week.