Lexa’s Death in 13
On the 3d of March 2016 shocked fans of The 100 sat down by their computers, took their phones and tablets out and expressed varying levels of pain and appreciation all over the social media. Twitter, Instagram, blogs, Facebook, Youtube – the sad news was trending everywhere. Lexa is dead. The unexpected and sudden death of such an iconic character made fans feel angry and betrayed. Even death threats reached TV writers that Thursday night. I feel I must share and explain some of that.
The 100 was surrounded by controversy mainly because showrunner chose to kill off the popular lesbian character moments after she had just slept with Clarke (Eliza Taylor).
What happened, happened, but…
Although Debnam-Carey had to be written out of the show due to her commitments on Fear the Walking Dead, many criticized Rothenberg for killing her off the way he did, perpetuating the “Bury Your Gays” trope, the decades-old trend of LGBT characters getting killed off TV shows, often in the name of propping up and/or advancing a heterosexual leading character’s storyline. The trope has always been a part of pop culture history, but this past TV season saw The 100, along with Jane the Virgin, The Walking Dead, The Magicians, The Vampire Diaries and many other shows, kill off lesbian and bisexual characters, sparking viewers to bring the issue to mainstream media. [hollywoodreporter.com]
Nothing gold can stay in the world of The 100, and the show never hesitates to remind us of the dangers of post-apocalyptic Earth by killing characters with gleeful abandon. This week’s casualty was Grounder Commander Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey). [variety.com]
Lexa’s death following right on the heels of her sleeping with Clarke […] That does stray dangerously close to the pop-culture trope of lesbians on TV frequently dying, especially if they’ve had some kind of personal epiphany or moment of happiness. For some viewers, Lexa’s death at that moment did indeed cross the line and became another instance of that trope playing itself out, and for many, it hurt all the more because the show had held itself out as a beacon of positive LGBTQ representation.
These angry and disappointed reactions are rooted in reality. The way a character leaves a show is important. If you choose not to see the larger context of how gay and lesbian characters are treated on TV — just be aware that your lack of awareness is a choice. [variety.com]
Jason Rothenberg on killing Lexa
…it was the very beginning of the season — I don’t even think the writers had started yet – the day that I came up with the idea that the second AI was inside Lexa <…>
I knew before we cracked the story how many episodes I had her for (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and I knew that she had to stop working by a certain time, and then after that we’d pray that her schedule would line up and perhaps we could get her back for a spot here or there for a day.
I was literally complaining about how I had these two great stories: I had this Grounder political conflict caused by what Pike (Michael Beach) was doing in Arkadia and the conflict between the 13 clans, and I had this AI story, but there was no unification moment – there was no grand unifying theory of the season.
We’d talked about reincarnation as the way that the Grounder leaders had been selected in Season 2, and I didn’t want to dispense with that as an idea; I didn’t want to say it was nonsense, which Clarke was obviously clearly thinking that it was, but I also didn’t want to say that it was actual spiritual mystical reincarnation. So then I struck upon the notion of a technological reincarnation, and everything fell into place there. And obviously, if you’re going to tell that story, to be reincarnated you kind of have to pass away first. So it all came together in my thinking, and it’s tragic on some level because nobody loves Lexa more than I do, and Alycia has been a joy to work with and loves the character, and she and Clarke have such great chemistry. I would’ve made her a series regular in a second if I could, but that couldn’t happen.
After fan outrage continued to grow, Rothenberg penned an apology letter that outlined three reasons why Lexa died: “practical (an actress was leaving the show), creative (it’s a story about reincarnation) and thematic (it’s a show about survival).” But he also added that he now regrets the manner in which the character was written off the show.
Despite my reasons, I still write and produce television for the real world where negative and hurtful tropes exist,” Rothenberg wrote. “And I am very sorry for not recognizing this as fully as I should have. Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently. The thinking behind having the ultimate tragedy follow the ultimate joy was to heighten the drama and underscore the universal fragility of life. But the end result became something else entirely — the perpetuation of the disturbing ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope. Our aggressive promotion of the episode, and of this relationship, only fueled a feeling of betrayal. [hollywoodreporter.com]
Aftermath of Lexa’s death
Soon after the Lexa’s death fans started creating their own endings to the story. Here is one of the examples how Lexa was revived by her fans. Two entirely different TV shows, The 100 and Legend of the Seeker, that have strong female protagonists in common and share unfortunate endings come together in a fanfiction series and revive Lexa right after she dies. As a fan of both TV shows, I hold this story very close to my heart.
The author of the 13 episode review of The 100 discusses various parallel scenarios in Variety. This is the one that I would’ve picked if Lexa still had to go:
Lexa and Clarke have sex in 13, but then Lexa dies later.
Pro: This is a reasonable and defensible desire, and this is where the compression of the season causes problems. Having Lexa die in a battle or court struggle down the road would have made sense to me, and I can see several scenarios in which that might have worked in ways that would have been additive to character journeys, to the show’s themes and to the emotional richness of the world. This option would have been worth considering, in my view (though it would have taken some scheduling magic, given Debnam-Carey’s limited availability).