Once again, the CW’s The 100 aired it’s final episode of the latest season [six] and I have feelings. With post-show interviews, twitter drama, there’s a lot to unpack from what we’ve seen on the screen, and what we’ve heard off of it.
You see, one of the core relationship of the show is that between Bellamy Blake and Clarke Griffin. Whether you ship them romantically, or as friends, they are the main characters, and this is their story. It’s undeniable. That is not a matter up for interpretation.
So what is the issue, exactly?
It stems from many places, the obvious one being: ship wars. Secondly, the cast and showrunners of The 100. You see, they have stated multiple times in interviews, on social media that the ‘show isn’t about ships’. A mantra repeated between warring fandoms. Not everything is about ships, apparently.
Except, and I hate to break it to you, but it is.
We often take ‘shipping’ to mean romantically shipping two people together. To many, the idea of shipping and fangirls often falls in to a derogatory prejudice of young women being romantic fools. I’ve seen it many times on Twitter, where ‘fangirls’ have been accused of only being a fan of a show because they find the main character hot, or for their romance, and that they miss the deeper meaning of the show and fail to understand the larger story. And . . . that makes me mad.
I do not understand the logic. And frankly, I find it patronising – it stems from a sexist, outdated mindset. Most shows work on a high stake premise. Be it a comedy, SCI-FI, fantasy, crime – eventually the show will work to a point of climax, a life or death, will-they-won’t-they, needs to make-a-life-changing-decision moment. But why would anyone care about these moments, if they don’t care about the characters? For example, without the development of Bellamy and Clarke – why would I continue watching? No matter how good your plot is, if I don’t care about the characters taking the journey through it – what’s the point? Romantic, friendship, family relationships – they’re all important elements of the story, that make the plot work.
The 100 seems to struggle with this idea. The writers often sacrifice time to develop relationships, which would benefit the story in the long run, in sake of the plot. This is poor writing, which often leads the writers and showrunners taking to Twitter to explain to fans how they’ve misunderstood a scene. This is usually followed by the usual ‘the show isn’t about ships’.
And that is just . . . wrong. Look, if the material you have produced is being perceived one way by a large quantity of people, but that’s not what you intended for it to mean, then chances are you’re a) trying to mislead purposely or b) have poor writing skills.
Secondly, when you are continuously sacrificing screen time on the characters it impacts the story you are trying to tell. How am I meant to feel emotionally about the death of Abby and Kane this season when you’ve provided them with no new material? Their characters have been stuck in the same mindsets – often switching roles – from season 2. One wants peace and won’t kill, the other is all about doing what they have to do to survive and will make up for it later, and then they’ll switch. Why should I care about Abby losing Kane when they spent the majority of season 5 apart – and were better for it? An issue I had in season 5, was that they relied to much on the past 4 seasons of material to provide the emotional weight for season 5. They expected the audience to care about the new relationship dynamics based on what they saw in the first 4 seasons (and for most of these relationships, they were barely developed in the first place) rather than spend time letting the audience get to know, to readjust, to these characters that have now had 6 years of life experiences that we haven’t seen.
Yet, despite trying to push the plot forward and insisting that things are too intense to explore the impact of past actions and new feelings, the writers dedicate time to random side plots, and new relationships.
For example, the relationship between Jordan and Delilah in season 6. Jordan and Delilah had the promise of being an interesting dynamic to explore. I was immediately wary, however, that the show was already trying to bite off more than it could chew. Surely Jordan getting to know the people who had been his parents family, the heroes in his childhood stories, would be enough? To let Jordan figure out his place within this group – he’s lost his parents, but he has them. But no…we had a few scenes of this – before Jordan is whisked away in to a whirlwind romance with Delilah, falling in love with her after a day – and this drives his storyline in season 6.
Well. . . it does, but it doesn’t. Jordan gets to go around with SpaceKru for a while, calling out Bellamy for his blatant love for Clarke, taking a few moments to reminisce about his parents, before he’s written off for the rest of the season until the finale. When he returns in the final episode, he’s brainwashed: his beliefs are different from the beginning of the season, and he’s mad at Bellamy and the rest of them for failing to do better, for destroying Sanctum and his chance at having Delilah back.
So please, tell me – if the show isn’t about ships, that being romantic why introduce Jordan solely to push him in to a poorly developed romantic side-plot that had no impact on this season. I imagine this will feed in to his season 7 plotline and unravel more about Sanctum (the info-dumping and confusing, conflicting, storylines is a whole other blog post). But yes. Why spend time on this romantic relationship?
So for a show that claims to not be about relationships, it likes to push their side characters in to them. (Another example, Raven. Or how Becho is completely undeveloped, adds nothing to the story that the other relationships don’t or can’t, yet the writers stick with it.)
That is the issue. The writing on The 100 constantly contradicts itself. And that is why The 100 consistently fails to live up to it’s potential. Because it’s okay for the show to be about ships. It is about ships. As stated at the beginning, the core relationship that drives the whole show is about Bellamy and Clarke. Season-to-season, it’s about them either finding their way back to each other, or working together. It’s a show about chosen family. It is about ships. Their dynamic as they try to survive together, be it on a radioactive Earth, or on a Moon in deepspace. And that’s okay. It’s okay to take time and focus on your characters. Let them deal with their trauma, let them deal with the hurt between them (I really need a Raven and Clarke heart-to-heart with actual development, and Bellamy and Clarke to talk about all their shared trauma more). Let your characters BE, for just one moment, before pushing them in to another plot line. Flesh them out. Make us care again. Get us invested in them, as people, and with their relationships.
Stop being afraid of romance. Stop being afraid of characters talking. If you did, the plot would be better for it. Having characters miraculously recover, or having characters make life-changing decisions based on a relationship we’ve seen nothing of, doesn’t make sense, even in a show that’s asking us to suspend our disbelief.
Shipping is okay. The characters and their relationships are what make the show. Dear The 100, please stop contradicting yourself. Spend time on the relationships you do have. Stop belittling fans for seeing something there. Stop telling us the show is all about plot and survival when you pointlessly pair off characters like Raven every season. Your show is about ships. We are allowed to watch for them. It’s okay.
(This blog post was brought to you by a very sleepy Gabby at half one in the morning. This is an emotional rant. Please excuse me.)