No character was safe from ruin in The 100, where character arcs could take a catastrophic turn around any corner, but that was secretly perfect. The morality of some characters could seemingly change quickly, sometimes leaving audiences frustrated and confused. However, the themes of The 100 revolve around the decisions involved with survival, so these shifts in characterization were important.
In The 100 season 1, it was obvious which characters were supposed to be “good” or “bad.” Among those sent to earth, Clarke was the clear moral leader, but Murphey and Bellamy were determined to lead the group down a destructive path. As for the adults on the Ark, Abigail Griffin was the voice of reason, while Marcus Kane seemed the real villain. However, Clarke and Abigail took countless lives for their survival, and apparently evil characters like Marcus transformed to seem morally acceptable. Each straddled or jumped the fence numerous times, leaving everyone in a morally gray area.
The 100 Explores How Humanity Is Morally Ambiguous
Because many audiences tend to expect a linear progression in a character’s development, The 100‘s far more sporadic and variable character arcs could feel like sloppy writing. However, The 100 thematically explores the lengths humans will take to survive and how those lengths will surprise even the one achieving them. A person’s real-life moral development is not a steady incline, and no one is entirely bad or good.
A great example of this can be seen in Clarke’s relationship with Bellamy and their individual arcs. They each started on opposite sides of the moral spectrum, but as survival became more complex, they met in the middle. By the events of Mount Weather in The 100 season 2, they could depend on each other to share the moral weight of murdering an entire society of people to protect their own.
As the seasons continued, audiences’ compassion for Clarke began to fall, and respect for Bellamy grew. The 100 season 7 shocked audiences when Bellamy joined the Second Dawn. This wasn’t the first time he had joined the wrong side, but when Clarke killed him, it became clear that he would never have a chance to return from his choice.
This was a shocking end for Bellamy’s character and critics argued that it had utterly ruined his arc. However, Bellamy’s death wasn’t a mistake because he died believing that he was doing what was suitable for the human race, and Clarke killed him believing the same. This had been a constant occurrence through every season of The 100, and ending one of the most prevalent relationships of the series this way fully solidified the show’s theme: humans never really know the lengths they will take to survive until they are in that moment.
Did Clarke Deserve To Miss Out On Transcendence?
The 100 season 7 added a new concept to its themes of survival. Transcendence was the closest thing to an afterlife in paradise that the series had introduced. Once it was proven to be a real possibility for humanity, it had to be determined if they deserved transcendence in The 100. The show was filled with acts of kindness, love, and mercy from various characters. It was also filled with murder, hostility, and mistrust (sometimes from those same characters). So, did the poor actions of some trump the good efforts of others— or vice versa?
Ultimately, Clarke wound up taking responsibility for the horror of humanity so that everyone she cared about could transcend, even if their past actions dictated that they didn’t technically deserve it. She wasn’t worse or better than anyone else, but she had long taken the weight of paying the hard prices, so others didn’t have to. This was why her friends chose to stay with her rather than transcend. No one fully deserved death or survival in The 100, but choices matter and growth is rarely linear.