A Controversial Death Just Changed Everything We Knew About The 100
Huge spoilers for The 100 season 3 ahead!
Last night's emotional, gut-wrenching episode of The 100 was a game-changer in all kinds of ways; not only was it a beautifully written and acted origin story/farewell episode in the vein of Spacewalker (but for a much more popular character), it revised the mythology of the entire show in a way that was completely organic and didn't feel like a retcon, tying all of the disparate plotlines of this season together. Lexa's death wasn't perfect, by any means, but overall "Thirteen" was The 100 at its best.
So let's talk about Lexa's death, which was a daring move that I personally loved, but may very well have cost The 100 some viewers. Like so many other characters on this show, Lexa died in a sudden, brutal fashion, but not a heroic one. It would have been too easy and neat for Lexa to die in an epic battle like Lexa vs. Roan, or, as many fans have been saying, in some kind of courageous self-sacrifice for Clarke. That would have been easier on the viewers, but I preferred this death—a tragic accident at the hands of her misguided but loyal mentor—which reflects the arbitrary, unfair nature of death in real life. We occasionally get to have emotional deathbed goodbyes in real life, as Clarke and Lexa did, but we hardly ever get to die in ways that perfectly end our own narratives.
I don't have a problem with the decision to kill off the character, either; although Lexa was one of the best characters on the show, and I will miss Alycia Debnam-Carey's presence greatly, there was really no other way for this story to go. Couples don't get happy endings on this show, regardless of shippers or sexual orientation (but we'll get to that in a minute). Lexa was pre-ordained to have a short, violent life by virtue of being the Commander, and considering the conflict brewing between Arkadia and the Grounders, it wouldn't have made sense for the tone of the show for Lexa and Clarke to be in a happy, healthy relationship. So while I loved Clarke and Lexa together, this was the only fitting end to their love story. As Jason Rothenberg told Variety, if the writers had given into pressure from the shippers, The 100 wouldn't be any better than a soap opera.
"This is a world where people die; it's a tragic, difficult world and Clarke has had to compartmentalize emotionally the way that we all do in life... This is not a soap opera, so it's really not about their relationship, it's about how they as leaders have a role to play in the bigger tapestry that is the story we're telling, and the fact that they are in love with each other is a part of it, but it's not everything."
That being said, I think some of the complaints about Lexa's death are legitimate, because it was a little problematic that Lexa died right after she and Clarke slept together for the first time. I'm sure the writers' intention was just to make the death as tragic as possible (and to give Clexa shippers a tiny bit of happiness before Alycia Debnam-Carey left for Fear the Walking Dead), but unfortunately, Lexa is another in a long line of lesbians on television who have been killed off right after or as a consequence of having sex. Her death was very similar to Tara's on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, right down to the stray bullet, and that was controversial fourteen years ago.
However, both Joss Whedon and Jason Rothenberg get the benefit of the doubt, because they both indiscriminately kill off beloved characters and destroy any and all couples' chances for happiness. Lexa's death is, unfortunately, problematic in the context of the television landscape in general, but it's perfectly normal within the context of The 100. Finn died in a similarly brutal and essentially unheroic fashion, right around the time that he and Clarke were finally confessing their love for one another. And just as Lexa and Clarke finally slept together before Lexa was killed, Clarke finally kissed Finn again right before she killed him (and they didn't even get a chance to consummate their relationship again). Overall, it's a sound (if slightly typical) narrative choice to make a death sadder by teasing a couple's happiness.
Somehow, that wasn't even the biggest shocker of the episode, as the reveal that the "spirit of the Commander" inside of Lexa is actually A.L.I.E. 2.0 rewrote a lot of the history of The 100. We predicted last week after the 13th Station reveal that the Grounders worshipped A.L.I.E., as their "sacred symbol" is the same infinity symbol found on the City of Light chips, and their wall paintings showed a woman standing in a mushroom cloud, which presumably represents the apocalypse. As it turns out, A.L.I.E.'s creator, Becca, was the first Commander, as the second version of the A.I. is able to merge with the human body. So all this time, Lexa has actually been an artificial intelligence.
But what does that mean? Has Clarke really been in love with A.L.I.E. 2.0 this entire time? Not exactly, as Becca was still a person in her own right who simply merged with an artificial intelligence, so Lexa was a human being with her own thoughts, feelings, and personality, but they were presumably all affected by the A.L.I.E. chip inside of her body (which Rothenberg calls "the flame").
"Lexa's not an AI, Lexa is a woman who happens to have an augmented consciousness in the form of this AI," Rothenberg said.
This reveal is a game-changer, not only because it calls all of Clarke's interactions with Lexa into question and raises some very interesting questions about our definitions of consciousness and humanity, but also because it confirms that there is no magic in this universe. I was getting a little uneasy about this whole "Nightblood" reveal, as it didn't really make any sense for the Grounders to be somehow mystical simply because they remained on Earth after the apocalypse and are technologically less advanced. Murphy is hilariously insensitive when he scoffs that their "sacred symbol" is a "corporate logo," and that they technically "pray to garbage," but he also kind of hits the nail on the head.
And for those of you who are thinking about jumping ship after Lexa's unceremonious death, there's a very good chance we'll be seeing Lexa again. The fact that she was "augmented" by AI makes it more likely she could be resuscitated in some way (probably temporarily, as Alycia Debnam-Carey's FTWD schedule permits), not to mention that we've already seen dead people can be revived (in some form) in the City of Light.
"Without being too spoilery, the flame that came out of Lexa collects the spirits of the Commanders," said Rothenberg. "If that's true, then I do believe that people could anticipate perhaps seeing her again in that way, somehow."