The 100 and Tragic Queer Relationships

The 100 Clarke looking at PolisI’ve been sitting on the The 100’s most recent episode “Thirteen” for a few days now, trying to wrap my head around what happened. And, well… I’m disappointed, to say the least. The 100 has struggled with important issues in the past, such as racial representation, which it continues to struggle with today. However, while it hasn’t always done a good job with depictions of race and characters of color, it’s consistently done well with Clarke’s and Lexa’s plotline. The show has spent the past two seasons excelling at characterization, worldbuilding, and being an inclusive and friendly show for LGBTQ+ people, despite its often violent premise. At least, that was the case until last week.

Spoilers after the jump.

It came as such a shock that Lexa, a prominent character and Clarke’s love interest, was killed off. This was also shocking since those of us desperately seeking a loving queer relationship on TV had allowed ourselves to become invested and attached to these characters. After all, it’s not often that a queer relationship takes center stage to hetero pairings, and it definitely isn’t often that both characters get to live. The tragic queer romance trope is well overdone.

I applauded the show last season for its portrayal of Lexa, Clarke, and their relationship. After Lexa betrayed Clarke to the Mountain Men, an action that resulted in Clarke needing to murder some four-hundred people in order to save the rest of Skaikru, it looked as though their budding romance was doomed to failure. Then Season 3 rolled around and we got to see the fallout of Lexa’s actions, how Clarke was affected by what happened, and where an alliance between Trikru and Skaikru could go. Lexa has thus far spent the season trying to get back into Clarke’s good graces. She brought Skaikru into her coalition, promised to protect them as if they were her own people, and she even murdered another Grounder, Queen Nia of the Ice Nation, for her crimes against Skaikru.

In the past so many episodes, Lexa has spent her time navigating a political minefield while also seeking a way to redeem herself in Clarke’s eyes. It has been some of the best writing The 100 has had to offer.

the 100 Lexa and ClarkeLexa’s role among the Grounders makes her an important and influential figure, and her legacy has also been some of the best worldbuilding The 100 has given us. Lexa is a Nightblood—she bleeds black—and to the Grounders, only someone with Nightblood can rule as the supreme Commander over all the coalitions. Throughout both this season and the previous season, Lexa has also informed Clarke that should something happen to her, her spirit will be wise in its choice of the next Commander. Initially, Clarke thinks Lexa means reincarnation, but it’s when Lexa dies that we learn this isn’t the case.

The nuclear apocalypse a century ago that wiped out humanity was caused by an AI that went rogue. That AI’s creator, who was on a space station at the time, created a second AI in response that could feel and understand human emotions. She believed that this AI would be able to save humanity, and as such she inserted the chip it was in into her spinal cord—the whole technological process to make her and the AI compatible turned her blood black. Following that, she took an escape pod down to a radioactive Earth, while wearing a uniform that said “Commander”, and somehow saved a bunch of the survivors using this AI and her Nightblood. Whenever a Commander dies, the chip is removed from their spinal cord, and then it chooses another Nightblood to take the Commander’s place.

The AI contains all of the previous Commanders’ thoughts, memories, and experiences, which it uses to help the new Commander lead. Naturally, the Grounders have built a form of religion around this AI and it informs their whole leadership process. The use of the AIs, Nightblood, and the relationship between the Grounders and the Sky People is fantastic. In order for us to fully understand all the implications for how things work and how they are related, I will agree that Lexa’s character needed to die. Her death shows us where the AI is, what it’s doing, and connects Grounder and Sky People history together seamlessly. Furthermore, Lexa’s death is also going to worsen the tensions between both Trikru and Skaikru, as the next Commander will not be as understanding of the two groups’ differences, and the situation might potentially lead into another all-out war. So yes, I will say that Lexa’s death is important in that it moves the plot forward, but I only agree with that from purely a writing standpoint.

The 100 Lexa and Clarke in BedThe problem with Lexa’s death is that The 100 doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and I feel as though its creators wrote themselves into a hole. Good worldbuilding, no matter how needed, does not excuse awful and harmful tropes. I questioned the decision to kill Lexa off the minute it happened. Lexa’s actress did have to leave the show, as she is also a prominent character on Fear the Walking Dead, but her character’s absence didn’t have to be explained by her dying. The 100 has been developing Lexa’s relationship with Clarke for over a year now, Clarke finally just got back together with her, we were just learning about Lexa’s own past and her own traumas that inform her decisions, and they finally had sex, in what I considered to be one of the better romantic scenes I’ve watched in a while. As an asexual, it’s not often that I get to experience sex scenes on TV that make sense to me—they don’t if they’re purely physical—but on an emotional level, this was a clear progression of their characterization and trust for one another. I had never been more invested in them and happy with the show at that moment.

Then Lexa died in the very next scene, during a failed murder attempt on Clarke’s life by one of the other Grounders. We have watched Lexa lead armies and show proficient fighting skills. Not only did she die, she died by an accidental and contrived bullet.

This is not the happy ending we wanted for her. Happy ending doesn’t mean “good sex and then death”. It means both characters get to live and continue growing and working through their problems together. It’s hard to say where the tragic queer romance trope came from. Historically speaking, queer people have been and continue to be oppressed. Violence is committed against us all too often, and so the experience of a queer person losing their partner tragically is very real. At the same time, though, the experience of being able to live together away from this kind of tragedy is also very real, and yet it’s the latter that we never see represented in media.

The 100 LexaI doubt that the decision to kill Lexa came from an intentional place of homophobia, but all the same, it can send an unintended message: that queer people don’t get happy endings like straight people do. As of right now, The 100 was one of the few places queer youth could turn to see themselves represented. Lexa and Clarke were an escape from what can be a horrible reality—being told that you are abnormal, that there’s no one for you, being hated for your sexuality. But Lexa and Clarke were normal, their relationship was healthy, and they were not hated for their sexualities. This was a relationship that people could look to as a shining example of representation that spoke to a lot of LGBTQ+ people on so many levels.

To add insult to injury, Jason Rothenberg’s comments in later interviews show that he doesn’t understand why there has been such a backlash to Lexa’s death. He has said that the world of The 100 is tragic and that tragic things happen all the time—but we already knew that. We didn’t need a prominent queer character to die to tell us something we already knew, especially since his comments also seem to imply that she was simply fridged for Clarke’s pain.

“Lexa’s death will haunt Clarke. Clarke was certainly in love with her, if not falling in love with her. Although she’s gone from the physical world, it’s something Clarke is going to have to figure out how to compartmentalize, the way that all of us have to do in the real world when people are suddenly and tragically taken away from us.”

Rothenberg continued by saying that part of Lexa will live on in the AI, but that is hardly the same thing as her being alive. If there were a plethora of other queer relationships on television right now that we could all turn to, Lexa’s death wouldn’t be the problem that it is. But there’s not, and whatever decision went on behind her death, it was the wrong decision.

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9 thoughts on “The 100 and Tragic Queer Relationships

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  2. I have to disagree on the necessity of her death. This AI plot line is not only colonialist but requires major retconning from season 2. For example, Titus was no where to be found in Season 2 and Lexa was way too chill about being eaten by the gorilla in season 2. So Commander Pauna then. Also, a gorilla that eats people in North America. Really? My friend and I side-eyed that so much. Lol.

    Second, a spiritual sense is the vibe I got as far as the Coomanders being chosen. Now, Nightbloods make sense because who knows the type of genetic mutations that occur in the future but an AI chip being placed in the commander as proof of them being chosen is a stretch. It makes the Grounders look stupid if they don’t know about the chip and it invalidates their spiritual beliefs in favor of a more “technologically” advanced society in the Arkers.

    Furthermore, Lexa portrayed this tragic like essence and it seemed like she didn’t want the burden of being the Commander but she was spritually chosen. So the spritual destiny propelled her to do her best. Yet she somehow thinks an AI chip is the spirit. It doesn’t connect with what I know of Lexa or even Anya’s intelligence. Also, this show has had people survive from worst injuries so why not fake Lexa’s death and/or banish her because tensions are too high. Then Titus cuts out the chip and Lexa stays off screen in some capacity. Death to move a story forward is lazy and if you can’t come up with something better than a stray bullet which is also how Anya died (mad about that as well) then I have to call into question your writing skills.

    Here is what I think. Jason the shiwrunner got to caught up in his ideas about being the next GOT that he thought the AI plot (done before) would make up for Lexa’s death. Furthermore, he thought he would get praise for killing her so boldly like he did with Finn but he miscalculated. First, he baited LGBT fans cruelly. Second, he made Lexa to vital to the show in this season just to make the emotional reaction stronger when she died. That was a mistake because of third reason. Third, it’s the characters on the show that we follow for the 1oo not the plot which isn’t that great. He destroyed a character that was on the verge of being iconic whereas Finn wasn’t liked much by the really invested fandom. And all for contrived plot reasons instead of a natural character driven storyline that allowed Clarke to kill Finn. No comparison.

    Also, it doesn’t make sense that the conclave kills all the Nightbloods and one is left standing. It’s been established that Commanders don’t live long so who serves in between that time of Nightbloods getting to like the age of 10 or something. Titus? That’s a scary thought considering he (as Lexa’s father figure which is how Jason the showrunner described him) was used to further the idea that love is weakness and is an overly emotional idiot.

    Sorry. This plot line really made me mad. It was such bad writing that I was stunned. I expected her to die because I never thought this show was that original to begin with but it was so badly done. And this doesn’t even get to my thoughts on the baiting that I’ve read that the show did to the LGBT community. All of this was just so manipulative and badly done.

    Either way, he never meant for Lexa to be back for S3. He didn’t lock down ADC into a regular role and AMC did. If ADC was tied to AMC when they casted her then she was still temporary as a character. She was meant to teach Clarke how to be a better leader and move on. If they got some buzz and progressive points from the kiss and then the betrayal then awesome. They just didn’t realize how popular Lexa was but as soon as they did – they brought her back for S3 and capitalized on even when they had already decided to kill her by making her part of the main promotion for S3. This was just so messed up.

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  6. This is the first time I get myself to comment (yay for me!), so I have to start with “I love your blog!!”. I love your blog!!
    The total number of queer characters on tv is really a catastrophe. What I do is read webcomics instead, I like how they have all the minorities lacking everywhere else. One of my favourites, Lovespells, was created with the exact purpose to counter the “tragic queer romance” trope. It is great. I am aro ace, and I still like it, so I guess that means something.

  7. I can only speak for myself but as a long term scifi fan, the series of events in 3×07 is also a agonizing call back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s killing off of Tara McClay, Willow’s love. I will never have a bad word to say about Joss Whedon as the worlds he has created and continues to create almost feel realer to me than our own, buttttt the man really emotionally gutted a lot of us that episode. It made Lexa’s demise a double edged knife to the back.

    In case you never watched Buffy? In effect: a young lesbian is killed accidentally in an attempt by a gun wielding idiot to kill a pretty blonde protagonist. Literally just after having reestablished a physical relationship with her lover with whom she had been having difficulties.

    Too many painful memories!! Ha death happens. I get it and appreciate it when it rings true to life but… does anyone really think The Commander would’ve been outdone by a man who had presumably never even shot a gun before that moment? The character deserved a better death.

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