The real reason The 100 is such a great show isn’t its beautiful actors or its badass fight scenes. We love this show for the way characters are put in impossible situations, so that we can watch them make hard—sometimes appalling—choices, that add shades to their personalities and cause them to grow.
Well, Bellamy made an appalling choice recently. Only this time, it was a choice that came with none of the context, motivation, or character development that The 100 is usually so good at dishing up. In fact, it just felt wrong. In my view, this storyline came dangerously close to ruining the show entirely—fortunately, enough other fascinating developments happened in episode six that this doesn’t seem to be the case, for now.
Still, Bellamy’s choice undercuts everything the show has stood for, and we need to talk about it.
Turn back now if you haven’t watched past Season 3, episode 3 of The 100. You have been warned.
Look, Bellamy, like everyone else in his band of scrappy not-really-teenagers-anymore, has had a shit life since hitting the ground. They’ve been attacked, imprisoned, and victimized repeatedly by the other people living on Earth. They’ve witnessed unspeakable horrors, watched friends and loved ones die, and murdered the innocent to survive. The original 100 (now 40-something?) have been through hell, and some of then have snapped. Finn’s psychotic break in Season 2, and Jasper’s alcohol-fueled spiral into a pit of depression after the battle at Mount Weather, are two great examples of a character taking a shocking turn, when his circumstances became too much to bear.
Both Finn and Jasper’s character developments were upsetting—but they were motivated. We understood exactly why these characters changed, and the changes added complexity to their personalities.
None of this is true for Bellamy’s complete about-face in episode 5 of Season 3, when he decides to ally himself with Pike, and participate in the mass slaughter of hundreds of their Grounder allies, the people who were stuck on Earth while the Sky Crew survived the devastation in an orbiting satellite. While the show hasn’t been shy about killing droves of people in the past, this was the first time I felt disgusted by it. And while I really can’t stand Pike—a one-dimensional zealot who has stood for nothing other than blind hatred of Grounders since the show introduced him—this decision is entirely consistent with his character.
For Bellamy, though, it doesn’t make any sense at all. The show does a piss poor job setting up Bellamy’s motivations for betraying basically everyone in his life so he can follow a meathead on a murderous rampage.
Clearly, Bellamy feels guilty about the latest tragedy at Mount Weather, where his decision to trust a Grounder ended up getting a bunch of Sky Crew killed. But this isn’t the first time people have died on Bellamy’s watch, and in other instances, he’s found the Grounders to be better allies than his own people. He’s well aware of the complex political situation with the Grounders, and in the past, he’s never viewed them in black-and-white terms.
And yet somehow, after this recent incident, a five-minute conversation with Pike convinces Bellamy that all Grounders are murderers, who need to die before they kill Sky Crew? Even though he knows that his people just struck a peace deal with their leader, and that the Grounder army is a thousand times bigger than his?
Maybe Bellamy is extra enraged, because his new girlfriend was just killed—but if that was the show’s attempt to add weight to the situation, it was a misfire. We barely knew her. I can’t even remember her name right now. Is this somehow motivated by his newfound anger at Clarke for leaving the Sky Crew camp, Arkadia? Bellamy helped Clarke leave, and it was one of the most adult things he’s done.
Whatever spurred Bellamy’s recent choice, it doesn’t come across. Instead, the sudden transformation of one of the show’s protagonists from a reasoned human being who carefully weighs his actions and always questions authority to Pike’s henchman feels like a betrayal of his character.
There were a few signs in episodes 5 and 6 that Bellamy’s conscience is starting to kick in—he stopped his crew from killing Indra, for one, and he seemed to feel a brief pang of remorse at the thought of slaughtering an innocent village. But I’m not sure this is a stumble his character will recover from. As I said before, I’m still enjoying this show a lot (holy shit, the City of Light plot is really getting moving!), but screwing with Bellamy’s character like this sets a disturbing precedent.
Because this is a show that, until now, has differentiated itself from the smorgasbord of other post-apocalyptic worlds in science fiction by portraying a future where people are driven by more than reckless tribalism. Where enemies and allies can come from anywhere.
If Bellamy can no longer see that, I guess I’m relieved that Clarke, Lexa, and others still can. As it is, his botched storyline is a huge warning sign that The 100 might be starting to careen out of control.