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The 100

The 100’s Clarke Griffin: A Case of Designated Protagonist Syndrome

Credit: The 100/The CW

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More often than not, the main character of a television show isn’t the fan-favorite.

If you look at some of the most popular teen shows of the past decade, the character that got the most media attention and had the biggest fan base is never the protagonist. Elena Gilbert and Scott Mccall from The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf, respectively, were overshadowed by characters like Damon Salvatore and Stiles Stilinski. Viewers tend to place certain standards on the main character of a show that snarky, secondary characters can avoid. Their actions aren’t constantly critiqued the same way. Ensemble cast members often become more popular with the audience than the lead due to the amount of time we spend with them and their overall importance to the narrative. It’s much easier to get sick of the character with the most screentime, especially if you don’t find their storylines as compelling as others. One notable case study of what is dubbed as “designated protagonist syndrome” is the leading lady of The 100, Clarke Griffin.

The 100's Clarke Griffin in her prisoner cell.

The 100/The CW

Clarke Griffin is the first character we’re introduced to in the pilot of The 100, yet in my years as a fan of this show, I’ve seen more critiques of her than I have of nearly any other character on the show (male lead, Bellamy Blake gets his own fair share of undeserved hate, but that’s another story).

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of The 100, it’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series on The CW. The CW is known for young adult shows usually characterized by cheesy romances and ridiculously attractive 20-year-olds trying to pass for teenagers. The 100 is definitely a sucker for both of those things, but it also created a revolutionary character in Clarke.

Clarke is one of the most multi-faceted female characters I’ve seen not only on The CW but on television in general. Most of the time teenage girl characters only have storylines centered around male characters and aren’t given the space to develop into their own person. On the other side of the spectrum, you have female characters whose only given attribute is that they’re “tough” and never allowed to show any emotion or empathy. When I started watching The 100 as a young fourteen-year-old girl, Clarke was a breath of fresh air.

Watch all episodes of The 100 right now

I had never gotten to see a character like her before. She became the leader of her people, not through force, but through earned respect. People trusted her because she was honest and kind. However, she wasn’t just some sweet girl that they could walk all over. Clarke’s ultimate goal was always to protect the people she cares about and do things for the greater good, yet she wasn’t afraid to be ruthless to do so. 

The 100 is heavily laced with themes of morality and difficult choices, yet seeing a young woman having all this power to make life or death decisions was incredibly empowering. Throughout the series we see Clarke commit unspeakable acts and we watch her deal with the consequences. Because most of the big decisions lay on her shoulders, she receives the brunt of the blame in the show and in the fandom. 

She gets labeled as “Wanheda”, which means “the commander of death” in the show’s fictional language. In the show, the term is thrown at her constantly to remind her of all the deaths she has caused. In the fandom, she’s consistently labeled selfish or presumptuous. 

Clarke in season 3 when she was known as wanheda.

Clarke as “Wanheda”/The CW

I’d like to argue that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that a lot of the hate Clarke receives has to do with the fact that she is the main character of the show, and is mostly unfounded.

Clarke’s actions throughout the show typically have the most repercussions because she’s the lead. She’s had the most opportunities to cause destruction and usually faces more obstacles than most of the ensemble cast does. She never actively chose to be a leader, but she was forced into it by her circumstances in the show. And yet somehow when things go wrong, all the blame automatically falls on her. Of course, that’s the normal struggle of a leader, but when you’re just a young girl forced into the role it seems to be a bit of harsh judgment. 

As seasons progress, more and more people abandon Clarke. A lot of this has to do with several plotlines separating Clarke from the rest of the main cast for extended periods of time, but the ultimate theme the show seems to be reinforcing over and over again is that “leadership is a lonely pursuit”. Her love interests die while most of her friends have decided that she’s no longer apart of their so-called “family”. 

As a dedicated fan for years, the constant critiquing and isolation of the main character gets old. In the most recent season of The 100, John Murphy, a fan-favorite character, actively put Clarke’s life in danger and was ready to let her die for his own selfish reasons. Murphy has been on the show since the beginning and has gained a cult following because of his quick remarks and sharp one-liners. I never had much of a problem with him until this past season.

He spends the first two episodes complaining to the rest of the ensemble cast about how Clarke is selfish, makes bad choices and is dangerous. However, when you fast forward to the middle of the season, he is completely capable of saving Clarke from a life or death scenario and chooses not to for a chance at immortality. This is far from the first time Clarke has ever been in danger on this show, yet I found this betrayal especially cutting. Clarke and Murphy had never really been friends, but always kept each other alive when they could. Now, it’s been shown that nearly everyone Clarke has had any kind of relationship with on the show considers her to be disposable. 

Clarke and Murphy standing together.

Clarke and Murphy/The CW

Frankly, Clarke Griffin deserves better. She’s called selfish when time after time she has sacrificed herself and her happiness for the safety of others, even leaving herself to what she believed would be certain death in the finale of season 4. Her former friends and allies treat her with no respect and no gratitude for saving their asses multiple times. The fandom still complains that she’s annoying or hypocritical when all she’s done is try her best to keep the most people alive that she can.

Clarke is such a complex, enjoyable character that I find it so hard to believe so many people don’t like her. She cares deeply about the people she loves and isn’t afraid to go to bat for them. She’s incredibly intelligent and diplomatic, helping create essential alliances that no other character in the show could have achieved. Whenever there are brief moments of happiness on The 100 we get a glimpse at her fun side, who’s able to relax and enjoy herself with the people she loves. Yet almost immediately, that glimpse of happiness and hope always slips through her fingers.

Unfortunately, Clarke doesn’t always get back what she puts out into the world. She does have a few strong relationships still, but she has by far experienced the most loss on this show and been given the least amount of time to grieve. She’s lost her best friend from childhood, her parents, two romantic partners, and several other friends. Yet somehow she’s still supposed to be an all-knowing leader who never makes any mistakes.

One important aspect that cannot go unmentioned when talking about Clarke Griffin is the groundbreaking representation she provides. In season 2 of the show, it was revealed that Clarke is bisexual. This shocked viewers, specifically fans of the book series the show was based on since she wasn’t bisexual in the novels. However, the choice to include this aspect of her in the show lead to one of the best examples of a bisexual woman on television. She became the first LGBTQ+ lead on The CW network and the first bisexual lead on major network television. How can people not love someone breaking down boundaries for bisexuals everywhere?

Clarke and Lexa/The CW

Fans have expressed how Clarke’s bisexuality on-screen has helped them figure out their own sexualities. Although The 100 is guilty of falling into problematic LGBTQ+ tropes on television with the infamous death of the character Lexa, Clarke and the representation she provides has always been a bright spot in the show.

Clarke Griffin is a dynamic character who makes hard choices and will always do what needs to be done to protect her people. She’s committed unspeakable acts and she owns that. But she’s also the person who sacrifices herself to save her friends on more than one occasion. She’s also the girl who stepped up to take care of a group of 100 teenagers when they were dropped on a new planet. She’s the girl who took in a six-year-old girl to raise when she was still a kid herself. Impossible choices are forced onto her and no matter how she handles it, she’s always the one blamed in the end, on the show and off.

I don’t know why Clarke isn’t a fan-favorite character. Usually, the Designated Protagonist Syndrome occurs when the ensemble cast is made up of such captivating characters that you get sick of the main one you’re forced to spend the most time with. But from my perspective, there would be no The 100 without Clarke. She has the most interesting storylines (besides that long stretch in season three when the whole show hit a rut), has the most compelling relationships, and has had a real-world impact on LGBTQ+ viewers. Clarke Griffin has been carrying this show since it premiered in 2014.

She bears it, so they don’t have to.


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The 100

The 100 Review- Only One More To Go (7×15)

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The 100 season 7 episode 15 the dying of the light review

The penultimate episode of a series will tell you everything you need to know about the finale. Will there be enough time to wrap everything up? Are characters headed towards endings that make sense for them? Is the message the show is trying to leave us clear? Based on this week’s episode of The 100, next week’s series finale will likely not meet any of those criteria.

An hour that should’ve been spent on wrapping up relationships arcs and setting up the last big obstacle our characters have to face included a lot of filler moments. Over the years The 100 has introduced way too many new characters that they don’t know what to do with. Any effective character development ended after season four, and we’re now left with a plot that’s too ambitious that we have no emotional connection to.

This Could’ve Been Avoided

And unfortunately, these final episodes are tainted by the loss of male lead Bellamy Blake. It’s not lost on the audience that every other character is getting a death scene surrounded by the people they love and a traveler’s blessing. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It’s hard not to imagine how Bellamy would’ve been able to save Madi from her fate. The only reason he wasn’t in that room with Cadogan and Levitt is because Clarke wasn’t able to trust him. It would’ve been nice if she could’ve at least tried to understand where he was coming from. She wouldn’t be completely alone if she did.

It’s incredibly frustrating to see Clarke continuously push the blame for Bellamy’s death on anyone but herself. His faith didn’t kill him, she did. His death is not comparable to anyone else she’s lost. This wasn’t a Finn or an Abby situation. He was still himself and she had many other choices. It doesn’t make narrative sense to show us Bellamy crying and begging Clarke to trust him and telling her that all he wants to do is protect everyone only for all of his friends to agree that he was too far gone to be saved. If they wanted to write a brainwashed Bellamy, they should’ve done it. But instead, Clarke seems heartless and out of character. It’s a shame that Bellamy was only worth anything to the people he loved when he agreed with them.

Octavia only wants to honor the memory of the brother that would give up anything for her. She won’t acknowledge the man who developed a sense of agency and found something that brought him comfort and peace. Even in death, he’s still mistreated.

Under The Rubble

The only good parts of the episode were involving Emori. I’m really hoping she pulls through. She’s the hidden gem of The 100, and it would be a shame for her to not get a happy ending.

Murphy and Emori are easy to root for. They’re a great match. It’s been nice seeing Murphy care for someone other than himself. His desperation to find her underneath the rubble was the most in-character thing we’ve seen this season. The conversation they shared while Jackson was cauterizing her wound was adorable.

I especially liked the part where Emori was describing how happy she was in Sanctum and how she finally felt like she mattered, only for Murphy to intercept saying that she always mattered to him. Who would’ve thought John Murphy would end up being apart of the only good couple left?

Raven and Emori’s friendship was a bit more developed than the rest of the relationships built on Skyring, so their moments together also felt meaningful. Everyone’s become so self-sacrificial lately but hopefully Raven continues to be stubborn and Emori & co. travel to Sanctum instead of Bardo.

What’s The Point?

The entire final sequence was sickening to watch. It’s disturbingly written, and the way it’s shot makes your skin crawl. The 100 brands itself as a series that pushes boundaries and isn’t afraid to face the dark sides of humanity. But there comes a point where enough is enough. The show’s become another egregious example of what happens when you become addicted to making your characters suffer and just end up creating torture porn. What’s the message you’re trying to give your audience? That no matter what you do, you can never be happy? That there will always be worse things ahead?

Isolating your protagonist from everyone she’s ever loved isn’t bold storytelling, it’s just bad. It’s exhausting to watch. And to show a child left behind in that kind of state? There’s no shock value or benefit to going to such a dark place. It just upsets your audience without adding anything to the narrative.

There’s not much else to say about it.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Clarke and Gaia’s scenes felt hollow. Their relationship isn’t developed enough for any of their moments to have meaning. Same can be said for Octavia and Levitt.
  • On the other hand, Gaia’s moments with Indra felt well-earned. They’ve fought over faith for a long time, and they’ve come a long way.
  • Should we be expecting Clarke to go full Daenerys in the finale? Without Madi, she apparently has nothing left to fight for.
  • Jordan always feels out of place. They never really figured out what to do with him.
  • I pray I never hear the words “go float yourself” again.
  • Clarke humming the same song she hummed to Atom in 1×03 when she mercy killed him would’ve been really powerful in any other instance.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!


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The 100

The 100 Review- It Keeps Getting Worse (7×14)

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the 100 season 7 episode 14 a sort of homecoming review

After the disaster that was last week’s episode of The 100, I didn’t think it could get much worse. But it did.

Another pointless episode revolving around side characters with half-assed backstories and a graphic death of another man of color at the end. Every character felt off, relationships were erased, and we had to watch Gabriel “die” not once, not twice, but three times.

Chuku Modu’s performance has been the only bright spot of these past two seasons, and he will be greatly missed. He would’ve been a great candidate to take the test to save mankind. I’m glad he was given the traveler’s blessing, and I know he said he was ready to go, but you would think Clarke would at least attempt to patch him up in some way. She’s been the show’s resident medic since the first season.

However, we’re not dealing with Clarke anymore. Our lead character has been replaced with a shell of what she once was. Any fan of the show knows that Clarke would have never killed Bellamy, let alone defended her decision. When Clarke killed Finn all the way back in season two, it was under very different circumstances. She was saving him by killing him. Even then, she beat herself up about it for quite some time and hallucinated him in the next episode out of guilt. Everyone around her, Raven, in particular, were harsh on her afterward. But this time around, Clarke is coddled.

Clarke doesn’t show any remorse. She cried for a minute, but it felt artificial. She defends her choice, and actively lies that she did everything she could when we all know there were a million other ways she could’ve gone about it. She killed Finn when she was surrounded by an entire Grounder army with no other option, but she killed Bellamy when they were alone. There was one, maybe two other people in that room with them, and the only person who was a danger to him was her. Her hands were not tied. She could’ve shot his arm, shot the book, shot everyone else in the room before even considering killing Bellamy.

I love Clarke Griffin, and this isn’t her. It feels wrong to criticize her actions when it’s clear that the character we once knew doesn’t exist anymore. She’s become a plot device. It’s hard to care about a story when you no longer feel connected to anyone in it. Clarke Griffin died when she shot Bellamy last episode, but unfortunately, this week the rest of the cast went along with her.

We didn’t even see Octavia mourn her brother. She didn’t hesitate for a second before hugging Clarke and telling her it was okay that she killed her brother in cold blood. How is this the reaction of his only blood relative? She had just started to finally understand Bellamy and everything he did for her after her time on Skyring, and then she immediately forgives his murderer? That’s just bad writing.

The Blake sibling relationship has been rocky for a while, but to be comforting the other’s murderer? Yikes. Especially considering Octavia was there when Bellamy was begging Clarke to trust him on this whole transcendence thing. He was so emotional and passionate in that moment and spent the entire time emphasizing how all he wanted to do was save them. How is he a different person now? Just because he doesn’t agree with you? He still fought for you and did his best to ensure you would get the salvation he knows is possible.

None of them ever deserved him.

Miller and Madi’s reactions to his death were the only ones that worked narratively. Miller hasn’t been close with him for a while, but he still expresses remorse over not patching things up with him while they could. It was a nice tribute to one of the original friendships of the show.

Miller’s small moment of mourning felt earned. He really hasn’t spent that much time with Bellamy. But what about his so-called family of Spacekru? Just a few tears and a hug for Clarke? Come on. They spent over half a decade with the man, you would think they’d be more upset about his sudden death. Echo went off the deep end on Skyring and Bardo in pursuit of him but now accepts his death immediately. Bellamy, and what he meant to everyone, has been erased completely.

Madi was completely valid with her anger at Clarke for making such a terrible decision in her name. She should be mad at her for constantly using her as an excuse each time she betrayed her closest friend. Clarke doesn’t let Madi be her own person, just like the series hasn’t let her be her own character.

Madi’s speech after Gabriel died was exactly the same as Charlotte’s speech all the way back in season one. She doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt over her, so she’ll put herself in danger to save the rest of them.

She sends herself to M-CAP, making Bellamy’s death meaningless. It was already a poor narrative choice, but it feels like a kick in the gut that they ended up in the same situation anyway. Two men of color died to keep Madi safe, and she ended up on Bardo regardless. Neither death was necessary, and neither one needed to be so graphic.

Brutally killing off characters of color for shock value (Lincoln, Shaw, Pike, Anya for example) will be the lasting legacy of The 100. It’s shameful.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Echo and Niylah’s backstories served no purpose whatsoever. It was forced and pointless.
  • What was the point of Bellamy and Echo’s relationship? She never even told him her name and then hugged his murderer. They should’ve never been a thing.
  • Hope and Jordan are sweet, but it feels horribly out of place with such little time left.
  • Clarke’s lack of reaction to killing Bellamy is so wildly out of character I need to mention it again because it bothered me so much.
  • If they’re going back to Bardo, what was the point of stopping on Earth? What was the point of Gaia being there alone? Who took her there? Why does this season not make any sense?

What did you think of the episode?

How many characters are you mad at this week? All of them?

Do they even deserve to win the last war?

Let us know what you think in the comments below!


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The 100

The 100 Review: So Much For Together (7×13)

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The 100 Season 7 Episode 13 Review Blood Giant

Game of Thrones Season 8, congratulations. The 100’s final season has officially taken the throne for the worst television writing we’ve ever seen.

There’s something to be said about killing a character for shock value. Sure, it can surprise your audience, and even occasionally help move along the narrative when done properly. But when it’s done wrong, it can ruin a show’s legacy. Take Veronica Mars as an example. A fan-favorite character was killed off in the final moments of the show’s long-awaited fourth season, and now it’s unlikely to be renewed ever again. The season is widely disliked by both the critics and fans, and now every conversation about the show comes back to that one poor plot choice.

In The 100’s case, there’s been more than one poorly written character death that the creators have had to make statements and apologize for. Most notably, characters Lexa and Lincoln in season three of the show. The latest addition to this pattern is none other than the show’s male lead, Bellamy Blake.

Killing off Bellamy was always going to be a bad choice. He’s one of the most beloved characters by the fanbase. It would’ve always been hard to wrap our heads around what The 100 would be like without Bellamy Blake.

He’s framed as the heart of the series. He would do anything for the people he cares about and has proven time and time again how resilient he can be. When other characters gave up, he kept going. Nearly every single character on the show had a deep emotional bond with him that drove their respective character arcs at one point or the other. He was always going to be a big loss.

But The 100 didn’t treat him like one. After being sidelined for the entire final season, he was killed off in the most gruesome way possible. He was killed off for a notebook. He was killed off by his best friend. Say what you want about the nature of Bellamy and Clarke’s relationship, but they were each other’s person. Platonically or romantically. Both of them have chosen the other over love interests and the safety of mankind before. So, why would it make sense for Clarke to be the one to shoot Bellamy?

We’ve been here before. At the end of season four, Clarke holds Bellamy at gunpoint when he wants to open the bunker to save Octavia. That was literally a choice between Bellamy or her people, a choice between Bellamy or the safety of the human race, and she chose him. Why would she choose the mere possibility of Madi being in danger over him now? He promised he wouldn’t let anyone hurt Madi right before she pulled the trigger. This is a repetitive storyline, and it was done wrong.

Bellamy’s absence in the season has had a considerable impact on the show’s viewership. It’s been hitting series lows in ratings all season. Social media has been filled with questions about Bellamy’s whereabouts ever since he was taken into the Anomaly in the first place. He’s been left out of promotional materials and ignored in behind the scenes extras. It’s clear that this is not just a bold storyline to shake things up in the final season, this is completely done out of spite. In an entire episode about Bellamy’s journey on Etherea, his name was not said once in the five-minute clip discussing the episode. That’s purposeful. There’s no way around it. If you go back and look at actor Bob Morley’s tweets during filming and compare it to past accusations against showrunner Jason Rothenberg, it’s clear that this is a pattern.

Behind the scenes drama has affected the story and the characters suffered for it. Ricky Whittle, who played Lincoln in the earlier seasons of the show, has stated that the show’s creator cut storylines for his character to try and make him as insignificant as possible to the plot. Lincoln’s death was rewritten and moved up earlier in the season and changed to an execution. Fans have complained about how Lincoln’s death was shot, and how out of place it had felt for Pike to kill him in that way.

Bellamy’s character seems to have been given the same treatment. He was killed out of the blue and in a very graphic way. He wasn’t given any final moments with the people he loves to say goodbye. There was no tribute to his death. Finn got an entire episode with flashbacks building up to his death. We only had him for a season and a half. But Bellamy, the male lead for seven seasons, is killed off in the final few minutes of an episode without anyone blinking an eye. Clarke killed Finn while saying she loved him. Lexa died in Clarke’s arms. Jasper died in Monty’s. But Bellamy dies alone.

Screw that. It was a hateful choice. He went out knowing that everyone he loved hated him, and he died by the hands of the person he trusted the most. Did anyone even try to understand where he was coming from? What he went through? Bellamy spent the entire last season trying to bring Clarke back from the dead but she won’t even take a minute to reflect on what must have happened to him to change his beliefs so suddenly? The Clarke Griffin we know and love would have never killed Bellamy, especially for a stupid sketchbook that she didn’t even get. There wasn’t a worse way for him to go out.

If you add in all of the romantic baiting Bellarke fans have dealt with over the years, it’s hard to get past how terribly written this was. We went from writers and cast members tweeting their support for the relationship, to having one kill the other three episodes before the series finale.

Bellamy Blake is a hero. He always has been. But he was written off for the majority of the season, given a complete personality change, and then killed by someone he loved. That’s  The 100’s legacy now. They didn’t “do better”. It only got worse.


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