This The 100 article contains MAJOR spoilers for the ending of the series.
Who had “Most of Humanity Will Turn Into Groot-Shaped Beings of Energy?” on The 100 series finale Bingo card? If so, you guessed it! The CW series has finally come to an end and, after seven seasons, showrunner (and episode director) Jason Rothenberg has written a Battlestar Galactica-like ending that attempts to tie all the bloodshed that has come before up with a neat, tidy bow. Does the episode accomplish that? Not entirely. Let’s break down The 100 finale…
Clarke Sees Lexa, Fails The Test
Let’s be honest: we all knew Clarke was going to fail this test, right? The Commander of Death literally enters the test pier by murdering Cadogan. He had it coming, but it isn’t a particularly auspicious middle for humanity’s bid for transcendence onto a higher plane of existence. The choice did give us the chance to see Lexa again—well, that’s not exactly true. It gave us the chance to see Alycia Debnam-Carey, which we’ll take. While The Judge took the form of Clarke’s deceased lover and friend, she wasn’t actually Lexa. As The Judge explained it to Cadogan: “We most often take the form of the subject’s greatest teacher or the source of their greatest failure…or can be their greatest love.” For Cadogan, it was all of the above. Perhaps the same could be said for Clarke.
While Clarke straight-up fails the test because of all of the genocide she’s committed, humanity gets another chance in the form of Raven and Octavia, who have both committed slightly less murder. Though it’s Raven who buys humanity more time (and who gives us a chance to see Abby’s face again) by touching the pulsar and asking The Judge for another chance, it’s Octavia who convinces Wonkru and The Disciples to put down their weapons and recognize that they are all part of the same human race, unknowingly saving humanity from extinction. “I don’t know what I believe, but I do know if we fight this war, we don’t deserve to survive,” Octavia tells the others. Then, she rushes off into the woods to help Hope keep Echo and Levitt alive long enough that they are able to transcend with the rest of humanity. Everyone who is still alive—which includes very seriously wounded Levitt, Echo, and Madi, as well as Emori, who only exists as a mind drive in Murphy’s head—turns into energy and transcends.
What is Transcendence?
Honestly, even after watching a whole season that largely centered Cadogan’s quest for humanity’s transcendence, I’m still not totally sure what transcendence, you know, is.
Here’s what we do know: There is some kind of collective consciousness made up of the combined knowledge and experiences of a bunch of alien species. To join the consciousness, you must “transcend,” which seemingly involves an entire species giving up their corporeal bodies (or at least turning into energy trees) in order to join the hive mind. Once in this “place,” you will no longer feel pain and will live forever. In many ways, this sounds like a kind of death, at least from a human perspective.
The Judge character who gives The Test to Cadogan, Clarke, and Raven seems to have no empathy; Raven remarks that she doesn’t seem to feel a thing. Is this the “heaven” waiting for the human race—a place without feeling? And, if so, are those who transcend still human at all? In this context, it’s understandable why Becca was so afraid of it, though it’s not clear why she couldn’t get more specific about why transcending was a bad idea (other than for the meta narrative value of maintaining suspense).
The questions the concept of “transcendence” presents aren’t uninteresting ones to explore, but they’re not ones the final episode or even season of The 100 is well-equipped to answer. In the end, though The 100 series finale introduces some interesting philosophical questions through, the wibbly-wobbly logic of “transcendence” is far too muddled to understand what the stakes of this ending are, and that’s before most of the characters we care about opt out of the next phase in humanity’s evolution (or whatever) to have a beach party.
Who Dies in The 100 Series Finale?
For a show notorious for killing off its characters, The 100 series finale actually has a pretty low death count—unless you count “transcendence” as a kind of death, in which case… yeah, most of humanity dies. If we’re going by traditional dying, however, the season’s major villains—Cadogan and Sheidheda—are the only major characters to die.
Cadogan is murdered surprisingly quickly, shot in the back by Clarke while he was trying to take the transcendence test on behalf of all humanity; in what feels like a fitting punishment for his character, who killed so many so heartlessly on his quest for transcendence, he never gets to transcend. Later, Sheidheda is killed by Indra with a massive gun. It’s fitting that Indra is the one to take out Sheidheda, as she witnessed Sheidheda’s atrocities as a child; he was also responsible for her father’s death. By killing Sheidheda, Indra gives Octavia space to make the speech that will convince the last vestiges of humanity to lay down their weapons.
Who Survives in The 100 Series Finale?
When humanity transcends, Clarke Griffin is left behind; because she failed the test, she cannot transcend. (“Your actions must have a cost,” The Judge tells her.) Though it initially seems as though this will be her punishment—to live out the rest of her days without a single other human for company, and maybe not even Picasso the dog, after he runs off—the Lexa-faced Judge leads Clarke to the big reveal. Her loved ones have chosen not to transcend (which is, somehow, a first) in order to stay with Clarke. They reunite on Earth. They will not be able to procreate, so this is the end of the human race as we know it.
Who decides to stay with Clarke? Notably, not Madi, who, as she is younger than the rest of the group, would most likely outlive them all. As The Judge tells Clarke, Madi didn’t think that is what Clarke would have wanted for her. Those who do make the choice to stay include Raven, Murphy, Emori, Echo, Nylah, Hope, Jordan, Octavia, Levitt, Miller, and Jackson. In other words, these are the characters who survive.
Does The 100 Have a Happy Ending?
You will have to decide this for yourself. On the one hand, it’s pretty dark that The 100 ends with most of the human race opting out of corporeal existence—like they have a choice and they decide that they’d rather be part of an alien hive mind than continue to be human. (Honestly, a very 2020 vibe.) While the Lexa-faced Judge tells Clarke that humanity has “added so much to us already,” for a show that depicted murder as a valid life choice more or less right up until the end, it’s not really clear what those qualities might be.
On the other hand, some humans do survive. They seemingly get a pristine Earth to live on, and they don’t have anyone left to fight besides one another. Still, for an episode that has a surface-level message of anti-tribalism, the final scene seems to hammer a different message home: a peaceful existence is possible when everyone but your family is dead.