Warning! UK viewers, spoilers ahead for season 3!
© 2016 The CW Network
Firstly, I’m well aware there are viewers (especially UK viewers who are three episodes behind) who haven’t seen The 100 episode 307:‘Thirteen’, who may wish to wait before reading to understand the context. This post will be full of spoilers about a character death, so please don’t read past this point if you don’t want to be spoiled. You may also want to listen to the Dropship podcast as I will be referencing some of showrunner Jason Rothenberg‘s comments.
For anyone who does comment, here or on social media, please be kind to one another. Having a passionate or differing opinion is fine but avoid personal insults or threats.
Oh and this is looooong. Ok, enough with the warnings. On we go…
I’ve thought long and hard about how I wrote this article and I’m hoping that any criticism is constructive. There’s a part of me that wants to write about why I’m disappointed about Lexa’s death. There’s also a part of me that totally gets why Jason is so surprised by the viewer response. I feel a little bad for him in that sense. In the end, I just felt compelled to write, so I did.
It’s fair to say episode 7 of The 100 Season 3: ‘Thirteen’ has left many, including myself, a little shaken and upset. I watch the show for many reasons: the great cast; the origin stories; the sci-fi element and mythology, but mainly because I care about the characters. Logically, I think most fans are aware Lexa died mainly because The 100 wasn’t quick enough to sign the wonderful Alycia Debnam-Carey up to a regular contract before she got snapped up by Fear The Walking Dead. Jason admits himself that if he could have made her a regular he would have, thus proving Lexa didn’t technically need to die the way she did to advance the story. Which also makes me realise most of what I’m about to write is null and void. But I feel I need to process it and this is my way of doing that, even though I know it makes no difference or sense if you look at it from a logistical perspective. I’m well aware of the process of how shows are made, so I really should know better, but as many others have said it’s a question of the heart versus the head. So I apologise in advance for what is essentially a ramble. But if anything I hope it might make you feel a bit better or help you process.
Everybody has a different opinion on the death of Lexa, and I couldn’t possibly attempt to guess everybody’s reasons, and nor would it be fair too. All I can do is present my own reasoning and feelings, no matter how raw, and hope to give some comfort, solidarity or simply a voice to those hurting.
Being a fan is hard, wonderful but hard. And I watch a lot of TV. I like many but love few. A show has to be special to me to get a reaction. There are many who will mock those who get upset by a character death with a “It’s not real”, “Get over it” or “How sad”. To those people, it’s easy to judge, and you may see it that way but try to have some empathy. As the saying goes: “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
I’ve been a big fan/supporter of The 100 from the beginning. And unfortunately for me (and my heart), my favourite character in the series was/is Commander Lexa. Don’t get me wrong, I have many favourites including Clarke, Bellamy, Raven and Octavia. What I love, is that to me, Clarke, Raven, Octavia and Lexa are the epitome of strong female characters. All have had struggles, (more so than the male characters imo) but they are independent, don’t rely on men and are positive role models for females young and old – and regardless of their sexuality (I will get into the Clexa situation in a bit). In essence, I watch them thinking “how cool are they? I want to be like them!” Which is rare for female viewers. If I feel this way as a grown woman in my mid thirties, I can only imagine how important they must be to younger viewers. This reaction is of course indebted to both the writers and the wonderful layered performances of the actresses who play them. Anyone who has seen ADC in Fear The Walking Dead will see how versatile the actress is.
This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten attached to fictional character (and I doubt it will be the last). Five years ago I was devastated by the upset and an utter sense of betrayal when my favourite character in UK TV series Spooks was killed off. (I feel silly even writing that but I shouldn’t). I vowed to never to get attached to another character again and felt I couldn’t bare to watch the show again. This however, is easier said than done. Why? Because, oh yeah… I run a TV website! The fact that I am the creator and editor of this website, which is all about the visual mediums of TV and film – along with my other interests which include a desire to write and direct for TV – all of which I love with a passion, kind of makes falling in love with characters a hazard of the job. (Trust me, no matter how many times it happens, it doesn’t hurt any less. It does however make me more cynical about life).
You may well ask then, “why on earth do you watch? Why put yourself through it?” The answer will be different for everyone and mine is very personal to me (and probably sounds bonkers to others) – but in a nutshell it’s two things: Firstly, I have suffered with varying degrees of anxiety and depression most of my life and certain shows and characters provide an escapism from the difficulties in my real life. I’d even go as far as to say, some have saved my life! That may sound extreme, but it’s true. Of course I know it’s not ‘real’, but when you’re having a bad time, feeling sad, afraid, desperate or lonely, these characters become a life raft that you cling to to get you through. Is it healthy; debatable. You could argue that getting attached to fictional characters doesn’t solve your problems or ground you in reality. Very true. But you could also argue (and this has been reiterated to me by professionals in the past) that everybody has something they are passionate about. And that passion is fueled by your feelings. I’m sure we’ve all at some point had favourite books/bands/films etc, or have enjoyed an activity so much we’ve got completely immersed in it. Every fictional writer of books/TV/film/games spends hours creating a fictional universe of characters. Are they sad/crazy to get so immersed? Do they not in some minute way live through those characters? Is it really wrong to cling to hope if it’s your only bit of light in the dark? No! Of course not. If anything you’re likely to hold on tighter, with anything that upsets that equilibrium bound to have an impact.
To be clear, I’m not saying everyone who is upset suffers from an illness/disorder, or that feelings would not be felt the same in different circumstances. If I didn’t suffer anxiety and depression, I’m certain my reaction would be the same. Plus, realistically, my health problems are only a small part of me, they don’t define me. What they do is exacerbate or make more visceral the emotions and importance I may give to the death of a much-loved character. Which is understandably heightened during more difficult times. This could be said for any stressors in life: exams, job pressures, family arguments etc.
I’m certainly not saying a writer should never kill off a character. In fact I’ve noticed most of my favourite shows are those with high stakes that often do (I’m obviously my own worst enemy). I do however think writers have a responsibility to try to be aware of the impact a character death may have on the audience. Although the Lexa death scene is beautifully acted and filmed, the context and abruptness is perhaps miscalculated. I believe it’s also important for writers to be understanding about the impact said actions can have on some people. As much as I believe you should write YOUR STORY, there is ways to limit the damage. Going back to the reality vs fictional again, the show maybe fictional but our responses are very real.
To be fair, from what I’ve seen on the whole from The 100 team on twitter and tumblr, most have been very understanding and respectful of the fans feelings over Lexa’s death. Many have taken the time to respond to fans and those upset. Even when faced with fury and insults. Do they fully comprehend the ‘why’ people are reacting the way they are? I’m not sure. But again, it’s not for me to guess. I do however, appreciate that the team is also upset and Jason has also apologised to those who he may have unwittingly upset. How sincere that is, who knows? But having seen how some producers act, it’s quite rare and precious commodity in this business for producers and writers to respond to fans questions in such depth.
I don’t agree with people threatening the creative team. I know this is only a small minority. The majority of reactions, although very raw (for some they feel a real sense of grief), many have been respectful. It’s fine to be angry initially, but don’t make threats of harm or death. That’s not on!
I will pull Jason Rothenberg up on a few things he’s said though. And Jason if you read this, I say these things in the nicest possible way. I think you are a great writer and visionary and I can tell from the little I’ve seen on social media, and your comments on the podcast about being “shaken by the intensity of the negativity” the reaction has hit you just as hard. I don’t think you had any idea of the extent of the backlash you’d get – which is never nice for anyone. I do however think it’s unfair to bait the fans, offering Lexa fans hope, knowing the fall to come. I’m also fed up of writers saying things like this isn’t the kind of show where we “walk off into the sunset” and there are no “happy endings at the end of the rainbow.” Personally, I find this insulting. Who said anything about it all being sweetness and light’? I certainly don’t want that. Just because an audience disagrees with your decision does not mean we want the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s also a generic response considering many dislike the death for many reasons. Personally, my dislike is nothing to do with the Clexa relationship (although I love them both individually and as a couple. I thought it was a lovely relationship. Wonderful both in representation and its benefit to the story being told). Some of my reasons (I won’t list them all) I’m not happy are:
- I love Lexa as a character. As mentioned above, I think she is the epitome of what a female character should be. She is iconic. I will miss her internal battles about what is right, her loyalty and her fiery command. I feel sad such a positive female role model has been lost.
- Lexa received a poor death. She was a great warrior who should have gone out that way in battle or sacrifice. It’s not like she even sacrificed herself for Clarke, she just happened to walk in at the wrong time.
- The podcast mentions that Commander’s “don’t last long.” I can’t disagree with your vision of the world you have created but I can disagree about the principle of your argument. Although I’m definitely not a royalist, many of the UK Royal family have served in the forces and come back alive, the Queen is the longest-serving monarch (63 yrs), which includes many wars (she also served in WWII). If anything, history shows the leaders are more protected than their followers. As Lexa said to Clarke in Season 2, leadership means sending her people out to “go die for me.” That’s a tactic that keeps leaders alive not hastens their death. Titus of course would die for Lexa. But killing Clarke would be going against Lexa, effectively committing treason. As much as I believe Titus would continue to warn Lexa against Clarke, I don’t think he would go against her so drastically. Especially when Clarke is leaving and he has plenty of time to talk Lexa round (successfully or not) without Clarke there.
- I personally would have preferred Lexa to have just dissapeared off-screen. I know it’s been said that’s difficult as fans would want to see Lexa. I think many would prefer to have her gone and alive with the possibility of cameos if AMC allowed. Killing her off is very final. Alycia may not be able to return at any point, and in the right context I can live with that. I understand the show is about survival but from Clarke’s point of view, other than her mom, she’s lost everyone she loves. So what is she left fighting to survive for?
- There is more than one way to tell the AI story without killing Lexa. Let’s be honest, Clarke could have found the symbol on her neck while lying in bed. Plus Titus (as mentioned above) killing Clarke doesn’t ring true. He would know Lexa would view the murder of Clarke as a betrayal.
- I do agree, killing her straight after a sex scene was cliché (I believe that regardless of whatever their sexuality) I’ve come to expect in drama’s now anytime I see a happy scene, death will surely follow. How cynical a world we’ve become.
Like I said earlier, I’m aware these are fruitless arguments because of Alycia’s availability, but I’m just putting them out there. Interpret them as you wish.
I know there has been many posts by the LGBT community who feel betrayed by the show. I’m not sure I agree with those who have said Jason is to blame for focusing too much on the Clexa relationship. With or without Clexa would not have changed my reaction to Lexa’s death. I’d still be gutted. Granted the fact they loved each other and had a shred of happiness may have made it that little bit more heartbreaking. But I would have rather that than their feelings never being acted upon.
I’ve seen comments that the LGBT community feels the show has taken away a form of acceptance and representation and replaced it with a TV trope. I can certainly see that argument. But it’s not my reasons. That of course does not devalue if it’s anyone else’s opinion. I do understand it’s difficult to feel you are under represented. It’s sad TV drama’s are spreading negative messages about sexuality by demonstrating gay love and happiness as equaling death. I don’t think that was The 100‘s intention. But they have perpetuated the trope by rushing that scene, making it look that way. My reasons may differ to other fans, but I totally empathise with everyone who is upset by the death of Lexa and understand, for some, the reasons may run even more deeply personal than others. No matter your reasoning, all opinions are valid – simply because we feel them so strongly.
I’m all rambled out for now. Stay safe and take care of each other and thank you for reading. I hope you can continue to enjoy other aspects of the show or future projects featuring Alycia.