Octavia Blake’s Character Arc Remains The 100’s Greatest Strength

Though The 100's final season has some issues, Octavia Blake's journey represents everything the show does right.

Photo: The CW

No matter how much we wish this weren’t the case – the final season of The 100 has some issues.

Season 7 has largely shoved its primary protagonists, Clarke Griffin and Bellamy Blake, to the sidelines of its main narrative. It’s thrown itself into telling lore-heavy stories involving time dilation and teleportation stones, rather than wrapping up seven years’ worth of existing character arcs. It’s added a random dark commander as a new Big Bad for the gang to battle, but given him little reason to exist beyond the simple fact that he appears to enjoy killing and violence. (Been there. Done that.) And let’s not even get into Bellamy’s sudden decision to find religion and join Bill Cadogan’s bizarre Second Dawn cult.

With just a handful of episodes to go, it’s not clear whether The 100 will be able to wrap up all these outstanding plot threads in a meaningful way or to arrive at a natural endpoint that allows our favorites to find any sort of healing or grace. It’s very possible that it won’t. Perhaps, in its final season, the show is simply trying to tackle too much story, and we all need to start making our peace now with the idea that there are simply some plots that won’t end satisfactorily.

The idea that The 100 might not stick the landing after all these years is particularly distressing because the show has demonstrated before that it knows how to properly pay off its characters’ long-term arcs with depth and meaning. Just look at the culmination of Octavia Blake’s years-long journey in Season 7 – a story that has allowed her to redeem the sins of her past while charting a new and different future that honors all the pieces of the woman she’s become.

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Technically, Octavia is a character that shouldn’t even exist. Born in secret, her mother’s defiance of the Ark’s one-child policy. Forced to grow up hidden under the floorboards of her family’s rooms. The fact that Octavia survives long enough to reach the ground again is fairly amazing in and of itself. But that’s only the beginning of her story. Over The 100’s run, we’ve seen Octavia grow from rebellious teenager to powerful warrior and hero. She’s saved humanity more than once – bringing multiple cultures together, uniting the clans, and proving that humans and Grounders could live in relative peace by allowing herself to love Lincoln, a stranger with whom she had little in common.

Yet she’s also been a dangerous enemy, driven by rage and grief to take up arms against the very people she claims to love. When given the chance to truly lead, she became a vicious despot who manipulated her people and refused to tolerate dissent, forcing them to embrace cannibalism in order to survive, building fighting pits where those she condemned had to kill one another for sport and destroying the algae farm that might have kept the bunker survivors from going to war.

What’s truly remarkable about her story, however, isn’t that Octavia has endured trauma after trauma and still kept going – that’s the basic hallmark of The 100 at this point. It’s that her character has been allowed to grow and change as a result of the many horrors she’s both lived through and committed, and the woman she is now contains obvious pieces of all the versions she was before. From expressing regret and sorrow over horrible choices to learning from those mistakes and trying to make better ones, it’s hard to name a character on this show who’s grown more fully into herself than Octavia. (Maybe Clarke. Maybe.)

Granted, I don’t know that any of us would have ever guessed that Octavia’s endgame would involve (a version of) motherhood, or that finally repurposing her rage toward fighting for something rather than against something else would provide us with such a rich new perspective on her character. Despite all the pacing and focus problems in Season 7, the story of Octavia’s second found family has been a true highlight of this final run of episodes, and few aspects of this season have been as emotionally satisfying as watching the way that her love for Hope has allowed her to recalibrate how she feels about the other important people in her life.

Her time on Sky Ring not only allowed Octavia the opportunity to learn how to be a parent, but the chance to realize how much of who she is – and how she relates to baby Hope – exists because of Bellamy, and the effort he put into taking care of her when they were younger. No matter how difficult things may have gotten between the Blake siblings, this is quiet proof of the constancy of their connection and it’s proven a surprisingly moving way to keep their bond alive, even though the two have barely shared the screen this year.

Similarly, Octavia’s admission that she now understands Clarke better than she ever has before thanks to Hope’s presence in her life represents an important sign of growth for her character. After spending the better part of a decade transitioning from warrior queen to mama bear, Octavia appears to have finally understood what it means to love something more than herself, and the power inherent in those emotions. 

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Maybe she and Clarke couldn’t have ever truly come to such an understanding when they were both essentially competing to lead their people and, later, the other clans. But it feels now as though their entire relationship has acquired a new and heretofore unseen depth. (One that has nothing to do with Bellamy, the character who has so often served as bridge or wedge between them.)

On paper, The 100’s decision to give Octavia a second family before it truly repaired the existing cracks in her first one feels like it should be a mistake, another example of The 100 using its final episodes to build new relationships at the expense of neglecting the existing ones. But unlike several other Season 7 narrative twists, which seem specifically designed to pile even more trauma on our favorites before the final credits roll, Octavia’s story has ultimately been one of catharsis. 

Her time on Sky Ring has allowed her to heal wounds that it’s not clear she even realized she was carrying, and to develop a nurturing, caring side that feels like a revelation after everything she’s both been through and done. (There’s something really beautiful in knowing that she’s still capable of this sort of depth of care and love – I think most of us would absolutely understand if she weren’t.)

Octavia Blake has been The 100’s greatest warrior, its bravest heroine, and its grandest villain by turns. (Two of her Grounder nicknames were Skairippa and Blodraina, after all.) And though her role has evolved into something that looks completely different in this final season, her arc remains the show’s strongest through-line, blending multiple dark and disparate pieces together to create something beautiful. Octavia, after all this time, has found something that feels like meaning. Here’s hoping The 100 itself can do the same before it’s over.