The CW’s mid-season sleeper hit The 100 has just wrapped up its junior season and what a roller-coaster it has been. As Emma Caulfield so artfully put it, “The 100 was a smart, original, and created a world that artfully side-stepped any attempt to limit its intentionally broad scope.” So, what happened? Starting with minor pacing issues to fans boycotting the show because of the overuse of the dead lesbian trope, The 100 writers and producers have not had an easy year in the fandom.
This is not to say they do not deserve the obvious fan backlash. And, in fact, I am going to add to it throughout this piece. One of the biggest transgressions the show committed is the absolute obliteration of its male lead — Bellamy Blake — and his characterization. There are currently hundreds of articles out there addressing the disastrous handling of Clarke/Lexa and their relationship (including Lexa’s death), but I don’t believe enough attention has been brought to Clarke’s co-leader.
Inspired by Caulfield’s EW article in which she summarized the issue with season three as: “BELLAMY, Mr. American Apparel villain, turned hero, turned awesome, turned possible quagmire. The mess of him has been so pervasive, he can be described as both an adjective and a verb,” I have decided to write my own little addition to the backlash.
WHAT MOTIVATES BELLAMY BLAKE?
We are taught in school that good storytelling absorbs us into the world and takes us away from reality. Well, every decision Bellamy Blake made this season threw me back into reality and then slammed my brain against a wall repeatedly. At some pints, I didn’t even know what show I was watching anymore. Maybe I was spoiled in seasons one and two. The characters were three-dimensional, the plot had barely any holes, every act and reaction in the world made sense — so maybe my expectations for season three were too high going into it. But to spend more than half of this season asking: “Bellamy, what are you doing?” is a problem. I should know why a character as well developed as Bellamy Blake (and as pivotal to the story) is doing what he is doing. He’s not just some good-looking side piece, after all. The only way the fanbase was even able to justify this breakneck reversion in character was to see him as a completely new character: Borus Blake.
Let’s begin with what we know about Bellamy’s core motivation: Octavia. Season one Bellamy Blake was a douchebag. We were not meant to like him right off the bat, but we did understand him. Everything he ever did or has done has been for the safety of his sister. That is who Bellamy is, as Clarke pointed out. Season two Bellamy had become a co-leader of the 100, and at the very end of the season he repeats his mantra, “my sister, my responsibility” before decimating an entire population. In two seasons, we have now established that Bellamy Blake will do anything and everything to protect his sister.
That is, until season three. Pike — oh, how I loathe him — threatens to “deal” with Octavia multiple times. Remember, Octavia is Bellamy’s core, the thing that we have learned makes him who he is. And how does Bellamy react to those threats against his sister’s life? CRICKETS!
How did we go from Bellamy Blake shooting the chancellor and boarding a potentially toxic drop ship to Earth and killing over 600 people at this point to make sure his sister was safe, to barely batting an eyelash when Pike threatens her life? I get that Bellamy endured tragedy. The girlfriend that we hardly knew died. Lexa left them all for dead, and Clarke just left. But one of his friends was Lincoln, a Grounder, and he knew and cared about Indra. Where is the connection between Bellamy’s motivation to murder Grounders, and his central motivator (Octavia)? Have I misunderstood who Bellamy is this entire time? Did I get rose-colored glasses implanted on my face? Bellamy isn’t perfect, but his motive has ALWAYS been the safety of his sister first. So what happened?
Now that everything we know about what motivates Bellamy Blake has been set on fire by angry elves, let’s get down to the trainwreck that was his alleged characterization for season three. In order to do that, let’s first briefly talk about his character in season one. In season one, Bellamy was a jerk (as stated above), but he was a jerk with a heart — a really big heart. Exhbit A: “Day Trip” where Bellamy almost gives up living because the guilt of shooting the chancellor. The guilt of what he’s done almost destroys him. He basically collapses in on himself as he confides in Clarke that he is a monster. This was a huge turning point for the character. Look at that growth. Wasn’t it beautiful? This concession lead to a wonderful field of character development where Bellamy slowly became a hero of sorts. Now we meander onto season two, where Bellamy is starting to develop hero-like qualities by volunteering to go into Mount Weather and sacrificing himself for the good of his people (and Echo! Remember that? His willingness to be tortured instead of her?). Then a storm approaches: season three.
Bellamy suddenly gets trigger-happy once again. It’s as if he didn’t learn from the culling. We knew that he feels things deeply. No one hates themselves as much as Bellamy Blake hates himself. But somehow this is all overlooked. He is now fine will killing an entire innocent Grounder coalition meant to protect the Arkers. But, wait, didn’t Bellamy save the Grounders in Mount Weather? Now he wants them all dead? Isn’t his sister pretty much a Grounder? Bellamy Blake is a lot of things, but to be an equal to Clarke, he can’t be stupid. He has been portrayed as hot-headed, but also tactful. And yet, all of this was all erased. Sure, in some world Bellamy Blake siding with Pike might make sense. But thanks to lazy writing and lack of apparent understanding in the writers’ room of how Bellamy Blake can go from hero and protector to trigger-happy child, the show effectively glazed over and justified his regression. This story made zero sense.
ATTEMPTED REDEMPTION: TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The last five episodes of the season attempted to redeem his character — to bring him back the tortured and morally conflicted leader we know and loved, rather than a directionless and heartless, genocide-committing character. But these episodes were just damage control. As a fan, they were proof that the writers actually did understand Bellamy Blake, and were capable of writing him well. These episodes proved what I suspected all along — the writers created conflict this year with his character just for the sake of it, and not to move the story or develop his character deeper. The writers were just being plain sloppy. They didn’t want to show us Bellamy’s regression or why he would do these terribly out of character things; they just wanted us, as viewers, to blindly accept it. And that is not fair to Bellamy or to us. It is almost if the writers intentionally wanted the viewers to hate him because he had become so popular. Maybe it’s because something within his core character resonated with us and they felt Bellamy had become too predictable. Maybe the world will never know why they chose to write him that way this season.
These final episodes had Bellamy “redeeming” himself, something he already had to experience in seasons one and two. But this time, the fans couldn’t keep up. Instead of following the journey of Bellamy Blake, we were forced to break our necks trying to keep up with his erratic characterization from one scene to the next.
I love Bellamy Blake. I love The 100. I, of course, am going to continue watching the show until the day it dies. But speaking as a fan, for a moment? Please writers, don’t betray us like that again. I mean, you can’t have a character homicide on such a grand scale and not expect a ripple effect throughout the rest of the season. Bellamy Blake is the main male lead. He is connected to every single character on the show, which means his actions will impact every character on the show — for better or worse. And this ripple effect almost killed the entire season. Because of course Bellamy’s storyline is going to color every plot point and character. He’s Clarke’s co-leader, after all. The heart to her head; the yin and yang.
So let’s bring back some balance to season four, and maybe learn from the mistakes of three. And fans? Let’s cross our fingers that Borus never returns again!