The 100 Says Goodbye to Another Beloved Character in a Brutal Episode
Huge spoilers for The 100 season three follow!
Only two episodes after The 100 killed off a beloved character and caused the fandom to implode, another fan favorite has met his maker. This death won't be nearly as controversial as Lexa's but there's still a lot to unpack here about social consciousness, narrative mechanics, and especially The 100's treatment of violence.
Lincoln's death was tragic and upsetting, but, of course, not entirely unexpected. Ricky Whittle was cast on American Gods earlier this year, but more importantly, it was necessitated by the narrative, so much so that we predicted it after the season premiere. Lincoln was essentially a perfect human; he was noble, even-keeled, and always does the right thing, which means there's only so much you can do with his character. At some point, on shows like The 100, sweet and morally invulnerable characters need to either be corrupted or killed off in order to avoid stagnation, and I don't think it would have been true to Lincoln's character to see him break bad in some way. The "too good for this world" character is a trope on brutal shows like The 100 for a reason; when a character stands as a symbol for equality and tolerance, it only makes sense that he would be killed off in the midst of Pike's hate-mongering.
I had some mixed feelings about the execution, but mostly I thought it was done very well. Lincoln has always been defined by his nobility and self-sacrificing quality, so it made sense that he died saving his people and Octavia, and the death scene itself was a huge tearjerker. His death was a little cheesily telegraphed when he said "I love you" to Octavia and we immediately knew he was a goner, but then again, this is a violent genre show, so any expression of love is pretty much a death knell.
Which brings us back to Lexa, and the question of whether Lincoln's death was offensive or not. As I've said before, I think the execution of Lexa's death was somewhat problematic, but that overall it wasn't necessarily offensive, and I feel the same way about Lincoln. Ricky Whittle has had significantly reduced screentime this season, which undercut the emotional impact of his death considerably. If he had had a greater role in fighting against Pike, even just for the last few episodes, it would have made more narrative sense for him to die. And it doesn't help that there have been rumblings that interpersonal conflicts with Jason Rothenberg led to this reduction in screentime (his mother went so far as to explicitly call Rothenberg out for "bullying" her son). And Whittle himself seemed to throw some implicit shade at the showrunner after his death scene aired:
Thank you to the writers whom constantly have their hands tied,they're so talented & wrote some great stories for linctavia in season1— Ricky Whittle (@MrRickyWhittle) April 1, 2016
But behind-the-scenes drama aside, was Lincoln's death racially insensitive in the context of the show? My immediate instinct is it's not. The 100 isn't perfect about race, by any means; there hasn't been a POC in a leadership position that didn't take a backseat to a white person since Jaha was chancellor in the beginning of season one. But that being said, the cast is pretty racially diverse, and that goes for non-expendable characters as well as expendable ones. To me, killing off a minority is only offensive if they are more expendable partially by virtue of being a minority (*cough*Walking Dead*cough*), and I don't think that's the case with either recent character death. Lexa was killed off because the actress was leaving the show and because the Commander is necessarily a tragic character, not because she was peripheral to the plot. And Lincoln might have been a little more expendable, but where Lexa was the only lesbian on the show, there are several other POC that won't be killed off anytime soon, like Jaha, Bellamy, Raven, and Monty.
Lincoln's death was the most affecting of the episode, but it wasn't the most brutal by a long shot. The 100 is rapidly becoming a young version of Game of Thrones, for better and for worse, and it was absolutely shocking to see scenes like Titus slitting his own throat and Ontari revealing the heads of children she had killed in their sleep. Regarding Titus, his death was fitting, heroic, and disturbing in all of the right ways, and it only made sense that his character had an expiration date after killing Lexa.
But I was disturbed in the wrong ways by the scene with Ontari and the poor Nightbloods. The 100 has never been afraid to go dark, and it shouldn't be, but having the deaths occur offscreen seemed strangely callous. We only knew one of the children's names, and Aden had never really been developed as a character. Similar to the Grounder massacre that happened offscreen earlier this season, The 100 loses some of its trademark humanity and compassion when it uses implicit massacres for shock value without actually portraying the characters' horrifying actions. Maybe it's not their fault, maybe they couldn't get a scene of Ontari beheading a bunch of kids past the censors, but I hope this doesn't become an ongoing trend. When Finn massacred a Grounder village back in season two, it hit me right in the gut even though we didn't know any of the characters, because you could see the horror of what was happening unfolding onscreen. Last episode seemed to imply that Bellamy can be redeemed somehow, but would any of us accept that redemption if we had seen him help Pike kill peacekeeping Grounders in their sleep? Violence is all very well and good, but it needs to have the emotional impact behind it in order to avoid feeling gratuitous, and The 100 has been a little less successful in that area recently.