“The 100” 3×09 “Stealing Fire”: Maybe Survival Should Be About More Than Just Brutal Death
(*This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS from episode 3×09 of the 100. If you haven’t seen it yet, read no further!*)
We’ve heard it time and time again: The 100 is a story about survival and the difficult decisions that are necessary to survive, a story in which no character is safe. We’ve heard it so much that it has probably been permanently ingrained in our minds.
It’s the tone the show set from day one. Ever since the pilot episode, in a Lord of the Flies-esque manner, children and young adults were thrust into situations where they had to do the unthinkable, where they were constantly surrounded by the fear of death and violence. I get that. I understand the looming threat death poses in this world and for the most part, (to me at least) in the first two seasons, it was compelling, yet tragic nonetheless. Death was present but not everywhere you looked.
What I’m having a hard time understanding is why death has been maximized this season. Not just “death” but brutal, horrible, grotesque death, the kind of death that is used primarily for shock value. The 100 used to highlight storylines and character development. Now it seems to jump at the opportunity to present suffering, tragedy, and death every chance it gets.
When did brutality replace compelling stories and character development?
In the past few episodes alone, we have experienced character deaths in rapid succession. Just this past Thursday, fifteen minutes into episode 3×09, all of the nightbloods, children, were brutally and mercilessly slaughtered in their sleep following the tragic, heartbreaking death of Lexa in 3×07. Then Titus died. And then there was Lincoln, who was tragically and gruesomely executed at the very end of the episode. Each death came so quickly, one after another, that we didn’t have time to process these losses. We are united with Clarke in that we, too, had no time to grieve or reflect.
Speaking of, let’s think about Clarke in the latest episode for a moment. Clarke just watched the woman she loved die in her arms, and after being locked in the room where the tragedy took place, any hope the nightbloods represented for Clarke’s people (because of Lexa’s promise) was destroyed. Slaughtered. Then, Titus, the man who killed Lexa, blamed Clarke for killing her and if that wasn’t enough, Ontari referred to Lexa as a “bitch.” And since she had to escape from Polis, Clarke never got to say a proper goodbye to Lexa. All of the hopes and promises that Lexa and Polis provided throughout the season were destroyed in one episode. And that was only Clarke’s storyline from last night. Apparently grieving the tragic loss of Lexa was not important for Clarke as it was replaced with even more death, pain, and suffering.
Yes, you can argue that the show must go on and that character deaths have always been present on TV, but there is no denying that the numerous deaths in the latest episode were extreme, gory, grotesque, and gratuitous. Was it necessary for Aden to be beheaded by Ontari just minutes after having a tender moment with Clarke? Was it necessary to show the disturbing details of Lincoln’s execution? So much emphasis was placed on these shock value deaths that the entire episode was rather predictable. From Ontari’s entrance, to the mention of Luna as the 8th nightblood, to Clarke stealing the commander’s chip as the new Flamekeeper, to Lincoln’s death: everything was utterly predictable. The show is now so focused on death and how to shock the viewers that the potential for interesting plots and twists are being largely overshadowed.
The deaths weren’t well written or consistent with the characters. They seemed to devalue the characters themselves, undermining and destroying their development, especially Lincoln and Lexa. These two incredibly strong warriors, who valued peace, suffered dishonorable deaths along with the nightbloods. (Yet, somehow Titus ended up with the most honorable death without facing the consequences of killing Lexa…)
While yes, death and violence have always been a major part of The 100, it is now being handled insensitively, with social issues and diversity not being taken into consideration. A story about survival does not mean that death is lurking around every corner or behind every door.
Survival should be about more than just brutal death. These characters, and the fans deserve better than that.
So on behalf of the fans:
(And Titus…thanks for giving Clarke the chip..?)
My favorite line of the episode was from Clarke, as she spoke on behalf of the fans: “I don’t understand. If nightblood is so rare, then why do you let them kill each other? That has to be the dumbest succession plan.”
Great review. Is The 100 trying to beat Glee in terms of how fast a show can destroy itself? Because it seems so. What a mess of a season. I can’t believe how idiotic the whole thing about the nightbloods is. How did Ontari get access to all of them? No one heard them? There were no guards protecting them? Why is Titus the only flamekeeper? He wasn’t training anyone? He freaking blamed Clarke for Lexa’s death?!? Who is Ontari exactly? What does she want besides power? Is she just another cartoonish villain like Pike? How is Luna a coward hiding nightblood and the leader of the boat clan at the same time???
Of course Titus get agency in his destiny and a somewhat honorable death, while children are beheaded, Lincoln gets executed in the mud and Lexa is shot by accident… What the f,.. is going on with the messages on this show? Season 3 is appalling!! Love is definitely a weakness, wanting peace will get you killed, minorities are disposable, mass murderers will get redeemed, colonialism is back and native Americans will die again!
Fhis is the best 100 review I’ve ever read on this site hands down. You just summed it all up in a nutshell – nice and tight and smacks you in the face (in a good way…!) and you’re right. It must be insufferably difficult to review a show like this. I confess I can’t stay away because people on twitter keep talking about it so when a review came up I was wary…but you hit the nail on the head. When you “shock” us so many times with no lead up its not shocking (take a lesson on shock from POI–if they haven’t already about the AI story…). For a show that claimed to be different and was arrogant to boast of it, it fell to the death trope, it imprisoned a black man all season then executed him
If you look at WWII photos it’s eerily familiar.
Note how the massacres happened off screen (3×05 because I’m sure no body could stomach fan fave Bellamy being a genocidal mass murder and actively killing hundreds); the Anakin rip off with the night bloods (though I’m glad for that). But Titus’ fate was grossly OTT, Ontari was in character to call her a bitch but insensitive in cultural context of NOW, and Lincolns slow mo execution – whilst he was brave – was as you say gratuitous, appalling and immensely triggering to young viewers. Again, suicide hotlines had to be pulled up. The show has sucked itself into its own conceited, “groundbreaking/BSG/Buffy/POI” vacuum and left viewers empty, miserable and apathetic. There is nothing I feel for this show other than “blah”. I’m ashamed I recommended it to people. Amazing, non biased, objective review that dismantled the hard topics…kudos!!
“When did brutality replace compelling stories and character development?”
Every time I see an argument “no one is safe, people die, this show is not about happy endings” I get mad, because that’s not the point of this current The 100 criticism.
I’m ok, with characters dying. But this stuff needs to be balanced with good storytelling. Ep 3×9 was ridiculous and like you said – grotesque. In my opinion, the difference for me between season 2 and season 3 is that s. 2 was character-driven. Meanwhile season 3 is a plot-driven misery porn. Plot will NEVER be more important than characters.
Also, what’s the point of introducing such a complex society like the Grounders and characters like Lexa, Lincoln, Anya, Titus, Aden, Ice Queen, Gustus? The writers treat them like moving targets, and kill them when they need a cheap plot device used for its shock value.
Overall, I think they are so obsessed with shocking brutality, that they completely lost awareness of the message they are sending.
It’s easy to understand why this show has taken such a huge tumble in ratings from the start of the season. Smart, interesting character development has been replaced with meaningless brutality. I think Jason Rothenberg is desperately trying to replicate Game of Thrones on network television. Unfortunately, he’s failing badly.
Exactly, the point of this whole YA thing is that one doesn’t turn to The CW looking for a misery porn fix; we have HBO and AMC filling that gap in our lives already. But guess what? That’s exactly what happened this episode, and to a lesser extent the past couple of episodes too. I couldn’t even count the many times I wondered what the demographic of this show really was. I mean, I’m pretty sure its target audience are teenagers and young adults, but I don’t see how the excessive brutality depicted in the show recently are supposed to appeal to them.
I am 45 myself but I still found it appalling considering Lincoln’s death played out exactly like a white supremacist’s wet dreams. I don’t know if the writers are aware of the cultural implications of their writings but it’s their responsibility as story tellers to be cautious in approaching sensitive topics that are very much present in real life. There comes a point when killing a character is necessary, but I genuinely believe this isn’t one of those instances. Forcing story lines for “shock value” ultimately gets cheaper in time.
Thiiiiiiiis. I know massacres = different story to point blank execution (seriously I can’t believe I’m saying this) but look at it though. Pike and Bellamy = forefront of the Hakeldama one; Ontari forefront of the Anakin one. Bellamy most worryingly. Both him and Ontari (I can’t consider him a POC if the show doesn’t, but I appreciate if the show made a statement of any Filipino origin wrt Bellamy–either way, I don’t care)–it’s like *jumps back* “nooo, let’s not show the white people committing a HORRIBLE CRIME but I know, let’s execute the black man in the most graphic, slow-motion of ways to traumatise our viewers because we are ~~very dark~~.” It reminded me of endless roundups of prisoners during the ethnic cleansing period of WWII…not just in the conc camps but in Romania, Slovenia, etc. *Shudders* Horrible. Couldn’t agree with all of your stuff more.