In the third episode of the first season of The 100, NO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The 100.
Trigger Warning: For talk of racism, specifically anti-black racism.
Ah, The 100. You gambled, and you lost. I have things to discuss before I get to that terrible thing, but suffice to say I’m not very pleased.
This is the first episode that doesn’t contain any present-time sequences aboard the Ark, yet I think the flashbacks to Jake’s eventual death were a smart way to still give us insight into life aboard the space station. We get a glimpse of what it was like prior to Jake’s discovery of the oxygen, and we also get to see what the Griffin family was like, too. It’s both illuminating and utterly heartbreaking, especially since we see the events that led to Jake being floated. While I understood Dr. Griffin’s concerns of panic, I thought Jake had the most sensible point: out of desperation, the people on the Ark could unite together to solve the problem for everyone.
Instead, Jake is sacrificed in order to keep the truth a secret, and it tears everyone’s life apart. The Griffin family is ruined. Wells earns Clarke’s ire, despite that it’s miscalculated. (More on that later.) The 100 are born from this moment, even though they don’t know it. And what of Chancellor Jaha? During the entire execution, he looks miserable and reluctant. Is he certain that he’s doing the right thing? WHAT’S GOING ON WITH HIM?
I’m glad that The 100 did not wait long to tell this story, at least in the sense that I think it was very important to get it out of the way early on. At the same time, I hate it, but we’ll get to that.
Bellamy / Charlotte / Clarke
I admit that it’s fun to hate Bellamy as a villain, and I think a good antagonist, especially one as dynamic and present as Bellamy is, can be an entertaining thing. However, I am admittedly far more interested in the quiet things The 100 does to challenge our perspective of this character. When he’s brash and over-the-top, all I can really get out of him is my own reaction. I yell at him, I talk about how I hate him and hope the Earth eats him, and that’s about it.
But what do we see of Bellamy within “Earth Kills”? He goes from a ruthless group leader who has no qualms about hanging Atom up to be “punished” for touching his sister, toâ€¦ well, that’s complicated. This is the first episode so far that portrays Bellamy in a light that openly criticizes his behavior, and I think that’s important if we’re going to get a story for him that deviates from the tropes you often see in dystopian fiction. I mean, Bellamy is a huge trope all by himself: the asshole who cares about no one but himself. He’s made himself the de-facto leader of the camp, and everyone is too afraid to question him. He assumes control, even over Jasper’s life, when no one has asked him to do so.
Yet what happens when he and his group are separated from the 100? When he doesn’t have to perform for anyone? When other people get him to act differently? His scenes with Charlotte are so surreal because we get a chance to see a side of him that seems impossible. Who knew that Bellamy could be sympathetic and supportive? Is this what he was like with his sister before she was discovered? Is this what he’s like when he doesn’t have to be the macho alpha male? I’d argue that Bellamy’s performance is rooted in fear; he’s afraid of these people thinking of him as anything other than superhuman. I offer that conclusion after watching the scene where he couldn’t end Atom’s life. He watched on in surprise as Clarke delicately ended Atom’s suffering, and he absolutely did not think she was capable of that. (I think that’s also why he told other members of the 100 to help her.)
So who is Bellamy without the posturing and the rage?
It’s hard for me to talk about this episode as a whole, though, because so much of it is tied to Wells. The entire plot involving the seaweed poultice centers around Wells’s ability to identify the plant. The emotional core of the Finn, Wells, and Clarke scenes focuses on the estranged friendship between Clarke and Wells. Practically every story here depends on him, and prior to that final scene, I was actually quite thrilled. I really like Wells as a character, and it’s not often that a black character gets this much screen time in a genre show.
And yet, his entire purpose here is to serve other people. He provides the means to heal Jasper. He helps Clarke come to terms with the fact that her own mother handed Jake Griffin over to Chancellor Jaha, betraying him. He provides Finn with a chance to pursue Clarke romantically since he’s now not viewed as a romantic option for her. And even in Charlotte, Wells exists so that a new story can be told: What do the 100 do when one of them kills their own?
Through this all, Wells does not get his own story. We don’t find out how he got sent to Earth. We don’t get to see his time with his father and understand their relationship. We don’t get to see what comes of the bullying and torment he’s received from all the 100. The show doesn’t get to address the obvious race issues at hand with having a black kid be both one of the most privileged people on the Ark and then the most despised character on Earth. We get nothing at all. Instead, he becomes plot fodder for other people. He literally exists so that other people can feel closure, or sadness, or rage, or bewilderment. In this act, the show tells us that Wells, as an individual, doesn’t really matter.
I really don’t think I need to spell out why this is racist as hell.
The video for “Earth Kills” can be downloaded here for $0.99. Please note that there’s a use of “crazy” at the end of the video when Wells is killed, and I’ve already spoken to Baize, so it won’t happen again!
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