At the end of the episode “Hesperides,” Echo shocked her found family (and the audience) by reverting back to her old Azgeda spy training and turning on their newfound companion on Sky Ring, Orlando. What led to the betrayal, and what does it mean for the character? We talked with showrunner Jason Rothenberg about Echo’s complicated choice.
Echo, Hope, and Gabriel were admittedly a surprising trio for an adventure, especially for one that stretched on for year, thanks to the time differential over on Planet Beta, AKA Sky Ring. (If this is making your head spin a bit, check out our rundown of the various new planets and how time works.)
Having done this once before, Hope knew that the only way out of Sky Ring was to befriend the prisoner who actually belonged there, so that on his Absolution Day, he would help them take on the Disciples, steal their suits, and jump off-planet. It’s how Hope escaped her birth planet when she was 20, and in spite of Gabriel’s attempts with technology or Octavia’s attempts to dive toward the bridge/Anomaly at the bottom of the lake, it’s the only way Hope has ever left Sky Ring.
As we saw over the course of the episode, what started as an extremely calculated effort to use the prisoner, named Orlando, turned into a genuine friendship. Just as Gabriel, Echo and Hope created a found family among themselves, Orlando became part of their lives as well. Four years is a long time, especially considering they had all day and nothing else to do but survive, train, and get to know one another, and no one to spend time with but the four of them.
When I asked showrunner Jason Rothenberg about Echo’s betrayal, he pushed back on the question itself, saying, “It’s interesting that you refer to it as betrayal and certainly on some level it is that, but it’s also Echo realizing in that moment that if they did leave Sky Ring with [Orlando], Lord knows how many people they would have run into on the other side that he trained and loved.”
While that’s true, it’s something they knew beforehand. Was this always Echo’s plan? Much like with Raven’s turn toward a moral grey area (at best) last episode, this imposes a reductive binary view on the situation: either they bring Orlando and he would betray them, or Echo kills all the other guards, leaves Orlando, and they succeed. In reality, Echo could have discussed it first with Gabriel and Hope, taken a less lethal route, or brought Orlando and then knocked him out, tied him up, or ditched him somewhere that he couldn’t sabotage them, but could still be found. As the others pointed out, Orlando presented a real asset while they were in Bardo, and Echo’s actions meant losing that tactical advantage, in addition to the moral issues at play.
“In that moment that he sees that they’ve killed one of his own wonderful people that he trained, [Echo] realizes the risk to the mission, and she’s not going to risk Bellamy, not finding Bellamy. And so she does the awful thing that she does.”
It’s worth noting here that Rothenberg’s stance is essentially the same as Echo’s, which suggests he agrees with her choice. But what does this mean for Echo as a character? The Echo we know now is a far cry from the woman Bellamy met in a cage in Mount Weather, the Azgeda spy some like to derisively call her. While in many ways she’s fought hard to change, unfortunately it feels like that struggle has become her only character note. Unlike Emori, who has continued to evolve in interesting ways like adding her pilot skillset and the way she’s invested in a community that actually values her, Echo has struggled since her pairing with Bellamy to step out from the shadow of her relationship to continue her characterization, largely due to the writing.
After her time on the ring ship, it felt like Echo, who as a spy is predisposed to trusting (and being trusted by) no one had finally forged real bonds with her shipmates. While there have been the occasional slips back toward her old behavior, this feels like a new level of violence (and more importantly) betrayal. Any progress that Echo has made in the last few seasons was undone, in the space of a few lines in a script. Since Echo’s trajectory has been restricted largely to the topic of how much she has progressed from being a violent and conniving spy, it makes this setback harder to stomach, when stepping back to look at her overall narrative as a character.
While it’s easy to understand how this development. drives the plot and makes for a juicy ending, it’s hard to reconcile this with a character-driven reading of the show. What’s the plan for Echo as character right now? What will Bellamy think of her doing all of this to save him? Is Echo really going to finish the show without meaningful development, or with meaningful development focused purely on how close or far she is from her old “Azgeda spy” persona?
Returning to the rescue trio, Gabriel has always seemed rather peaceable for a man who supposedly led a guerrilla resistance force, and we have seen that Hope has trouble killing, which is frankly what Diyoza wanted and a positive sign for her as a human being. It’s clear that Echo was the only one who would have made the choice to kill all the guards – but did she need to? And how will Gabriel and Hope react? In this episode it’s hard to tell if they’re stunned into inaction or tacitly approved of her horrific choice.
For his part, Rothenberg says, “It’s definitely something that is revealed and discussed in subsequent episodes.”