This THE 100 article contains major spoilers for Season 7, Episode 7.
While Clarke was only in this week’s episode of The 100 for an emotionally-devastating minute at the end, her presence strongly bookended the portion of “The Queen’s Gambit” that was set on Bardo. At the start of the episode, Gabriel—who panicked and turned in himself and his fellow jailbreakers Echo and Hope, plus Octavia and Diyoza—decides to take Anders’ deal and work for Bardo’s Disciples in trying to decipher the secrets of the Anomaly Stone. While much of the Stone is a mystery, they do know about the existence of a Key: Clarke Griffin. When the legend herself steps onto Bardo in the final minutes, a gleeful Anders goes to wake up Bardo’s VIP: the Shepherd, a.k.a. Second Dawn doomsday cult leader Bill Cadogan.
Surprised to be woken up so early, Bill asks: “Have we cracked the code? Has the war begun?”
“Not yet, my Shepherd,” Anders says. “But we have… the Key.”
While the two men nod delightedly at one another and clearly know what the Key means, The 100 viewers have yet to be let in on this secret. How will this Key help the Disciples win their “war to end all wars”? And what makes Clarke Griffin, of all people, the Key?
My best guess is that Clarke is the archetypal character who has inhabited basically every potential role in her series: Though she started out as one of the original 100 juvenile delinquents sent to Earth, once on the ground she became a doctor, leader, and killer. As one of the first members of Skaikru to interact with the Grounders and adopt aspects of their culture, she earned the nightmarish moniker of Wanheda. She became a Nightblood and took the Flame inside her in order to battle A.L.I.E. in the City of Light. She’s a mother. She was a Prime! The girl survived the Primes’ mind wipe when Josephine Lightbourne tried to muscle her out of her own mind, thanks to the neural mesh left behind by A.L.I.E.
More than any other character, Clarke embodies every identity and obstacle that exists in The 100 on its various planets and within its myriad cultures. With this being the final season of a show about humanity continually failing to coexist peacefully, and the Disciples gearing up for a war that will supposedly end all wars, it makes perfect sense that the “Commander of Death” would be the key to peace.
Now, we don’t know how much of Clarke’s truly epic life Anders or the Shepherd actually know about. They seem to have gathered enough data on her that Bardo’s Disciples had a profile built into their helmets, including Clarke’s Wanheda alias and the warning that she is considered armed and extremely dangerous. I’d wager that they also know about how A.L.I.E. changed Clarke’s brain, because the Disciples’ origins seem somehow tied up in A.L.I.E. 1.0 and its creator, Becca Franco. Next week’s backdoor pilot features both Cadogan and Becca, as it teases what happened when A.L.I.E. initiated nuclear war on Earth.
While the Flame was deactivated and buried, it’s possible that Clarke still retains memories of past Hedas, including Bekka Pramheda—and maybe that’s what Anders and the Shepherd need her for, as a way of getting back in touch with Becca.
While pondering The 100’s final-season mystery, I can’t help but think of a different human Key: Dawn Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who was a living ball of mystical energy transformed into a teenage girl. In the Buffyverse, the Key had the power to unlock the gates between all dimensions, albeit at a certain time and place. While The 100 doesn’t traffic in ancient magic and Clarke Griffin is undoubtedly human, her purpose could be similar—especially now that we’ve learned about the Disciples and their use of different Anomaly Stones to jump between various planets.
So far we’ve visited Bardo, Skyring a.k.a. Penance (penal planet), and Nakara (graveyard planet), with two left to explore. The Disciples seem to have established one-way pathways among all five, but perhaps Clarke-as-Key can unlock alternate pathways… or even time travel back to Earth’s past?!
I can’t shake the possibility that the wormholes aren’t just for time-dilated planet-hopping, but that there might be a way to return to where it all began. The way that Anders talks about the war to end all wars as if he knows the outcome, yet also says that the war has not begun yet, seems to hint at some sort of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey knowledge.
Regardless of what this great war is, it’s currently unclear whether Clarke-as-Key will be a weapon for the militaristic Disciples, or more of a tool, or even—like Gabriel, like Echo, who have joined up with Bardo—as some sort of ambassador for the Disciples. With the key players gathered on Bardo, and nine episodes left in the series, hopefully the war will begin soon, so that we can get those answers.
The 100 Season 7 airs Wednesdays on The CW at 8pm ET.