Clarke Griffin Deserved Better Than The 100’s Final Season

The 100 series finale is a condemnation of Clarke Griffin that feels deeply wrong – and quite frankly, cruel – after her journey thus far.

Photo: The CW

This THE 100 article contains MAJOR spoilers for the ending of the series.

For The 100 fans, our fight is finally over. The series wrapped up its seven-season run with an hour that saw Lexa return (sort of), Octavia save the day (sort of), and most of humanity choose to completely abandon corporeal existence entirely rather than continue to suffer through life on the ground (again…sort of). Long story short: If you can’t entirely explain what really happened at the end of this show, you’re probably not alone.

As a proper ending, The 100 series finale hedges its bets in multiple directions, counting on years’ worth of viewer affection for these characters to do a heck of a lot of emotional lifting and narrative gap-filling that the writing doesn’t support. Technically, everyone dies, but also (almost) everyone lives. Beloved characters return, but aren’t really themselves, they just sport familiar faces. Our favorites get a happy ending, of a sort, but they are also the last of the human race.

Whew.

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Such a bleak conclusion is par for the course for this show, which loves to remind us that every joy can only be achieved through the application of intense pain. And, to be honest, this finale is probably the best ending we could have expected for most of these characters. It’s peace, of a sort, even if The 100 doesn’t do much in the way of interrogating or explaining why the characters who chose to reject apparent eternal peace in a hive mind consciousness in favor of one last lifetime on Earth.

But it’s also a final condemnation of Clarke Griffin, which feels deeply wrong – and quite frankly, cruel – after her journey thus far. Her character honestly deserves better than this, and so do the fans that love her. Clarke’s seven-season arc doesn’t really conclude so much as just stop, and her pseudo-happy ending only comes about because the other characters recognize the breadth of her sacrifice rather than the show itself. Clarke herself is, once again, denied anything like real interiority in the show’s final hour, and other than a line about not wanting to be alone we have precious little insight into her final decisions or feelings about anything.

Season 7, as a whole, has struggled to figure out what to do with Clarke in this final run of episodes, frequently forcing her character to the sidelines of the narrative and generally ignoring her perspective. We still don’t really have a clear idea of the fallout from all her various traumas in Season 6 – Sanctum, Josephine, the Primes, Abby’s death – let alone how everything that’s happened this season (Bellamy, Madi, dooming all of humanity to die) has impacted her. (Will I be bitter forever that we got roughly four minutes of screen time dedicated to her decision to kill Bellamy? Yes. Yes, I will.)

Instead, it feels as though The 100 simply gives up on her character entirely and, let me be clear: I hate it.

On paper, the idea of Clarke as a Biblical-type figure, a Moses who fights to get her people to the promised land but who is barred from entering it herself makes a certain amount of sense. But in actuality, it feels as though Clarke is being punished in ways that others in the same universe are not, and her final judgment is just one more heaping dose of suffering dumped on a woman who’s already seen more than her fair share.

Every other major character on The 100 has done terrible things. As much as we all love Octavia, you don’t earn a nickname like Blodreina without going full dark, no stars a lot. Echo, Raven, and Murphy are all guilty of what the religious among us might call fairly mortal sins.  And poor, dead Bellamy stood beside Clarke, offering moral support and tacit approval during some of her darkest moments, which makes him complicit. No one who came to the ground back in Season 1 is innocent, is what I’m saying, and everyone has done things they wish they could take back.

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There’s certainly an argument to be made that Clarke’s lack of repentance – she’d absolutely commit genocide again, if she had to – is what dooms her. But other than the Lexa-faced god-judge commenting on the fact that Clarke shot a man in the middle of a moral test she never signed up for in the first place, it is not really one that The 100 makes on its own or that holds up to much scrutiny.

Though Clarke ultimately ends the series on Earth, surrounded by the found family she’s formed over the course of the show, it’s an ending that rings hollow. They’re literally the last of humanity, and when they die, the human race will vanish with them. She’ll never see the daughter she loved so much again, and it turns out she killed her best friend in cold blood for nothing. (And he turned out to be right, after all.)

Though showrunner Jason Rothenberg has insisted in post-finale interviews that Clarke isn’t a hero, it’s hard to square that analysis with the character we’ve spent the last seven years watching. We’ve watched Clarke grow up on this show, becoming a leader, a fighter, and a mother by turns. She’s done terrible things – by accident, vaguely on purpose, and by deliberate choice. She’s made mistakes. But she also never stopped fighting for the things she cared about, and she’s the reason humanity even made it to their judgment day, multiple times over.

Part of the reason that The 100 finale feels so off for me is that the episode suddenly becomes about judging Clarke for all that she’s done wrong, without ever bothering to celebrate the things she did right – or even extend the character any grace for the countless impossible choices she’s had to make over the series’ run. Is Clarke Griffin perfect? Of course not. But she does deserve to be applauded for her strength and resilience, as well as her constant willingness to sacrifice herself – whether that means her physical body, her moral compass, or her inner well-being – in the name of others.

We’ve watched her keep fighting no matter what dire situation she found herself in, and struggle to build meaning out of the ashes of destructions both large and small. In the series’ final season, viewers might well have thought that she’d earned some modicum of peace. Instead, there’s simply more suffering, as Clarke is forced to shoot her best friend, watch her daughter be tortured until she can no longer move or speak, and scrabble to hold together the last vestiges of her people on an alien series of planets.

As The 100 approached its end, many viewers were likely hoping that Clarke would get the chance to experience a real reckoning of sorts in its final hours, one that might allow her to fully internalize the things she’s done, realize their cost, and choose the path of healing. Instead, The 100’s primary heroine is judged and found wanting, and punished accordingly. This isn’t how any of us saw her story ending – and even if the final destination was an ultimately acceptable one, it’s difficult not to be disappointed in how we got there.