Did anyone expect such a massive fallout and ensuing campaigns and conventions following Commander Lexa’s death on The 100? We didn’t.
‘Fog of War’ was the episode. The 100 was the show. December 3rd, 2014 was the airdate.
It’s been three years since Fear the Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey made her first appearance as ‘Heda’. Or in our English: the Commander. The effect was instant. Debnam-Carey, overnight, was launched into stardom and became an immediate fan-favourite. Furthermore, keen-eyed viewers instantly spotted the simmering chemistry between the show’s lead, Eliza Taylor.
One half of the famed ship ‘Clexa’, which has since gone on to inspire an actual convention, it’s safe to say Debnam-Carey’s introduction transformed the show. The 100 has had a typical CW rollercoaster ride. A blindingly bad first season, followed up a surprisingly addictive second season. And then a stupendous wave of ‘what on earth?’ seasons henceforth.
Lexa’s centrality to the show has been inimitable. When you think of The 100, do you think of a hundred random, indistinct kids who fell down to earth or do you think of Grounders, warpaint and that fight scene with Zach McGowan’s Prince Roan?
Frankly, little attention was sprinkled on the small CW show until news of a revolutionary new character trickled from outlet to outlet. Huge ones like Variety; The Hollywood Reporter; Entertainment Weekly; and Vanity Fair. In a largely unbelievable show about teens surviving spear wounds to the chest (…but not a gun-shot–) via seaweed, this concept was out-of-this-world too. Was The 100, on The CW, really about to introduce a no-nonsense, strong, independent, fighter of a diplomat Commander who was also a lesbian?
Yes. Yes, they did. Granted, Debnam-Carey may not have been fed the best material as Lexa. But did she run away with the show regardless?
It definitely seems that way.
Emotional fallout from the death of Commander Lexa sparked outrage, controlled hashtag campaigns…and lives saved.
Immediately after the fallout of Lexa’s death, talk of the Bury Your Gays trope prompted outrage. The hashtag #LGBTFansDeserveBetter trended on Twitter for days. Donations from anywhere and everywhere poured into a fundraiser. Merchandise, art-books and T-shirts were sold with proceeds going to charity.
However, where there is revolution there is also resistance. It’s just “another dead lesbian”, really. That’s all, isn’t it? Kira M. Deshler (2017) studied that particularly harmful lack of care.
“I have found that queer girls have created their own unique worlds in these online spaces, and through their activism and public discourse, have begun to shift the balance of power between producers and viewers of media texts, making important connections between the fictional and “real” worlds that they hold dear.” – Deshler, 2017.
And that’s the beauty of it. It’s so bittersweet that such tragedy—befallen on a relatively young audience—had to inspire this movement. By some miracle the fundraiser has likely raised more dollars than The 100 has viewers. Remarkably, the (majority) young audience has manoeuvred rightful hurt and anger into life-changing commitment to society.
The Trevor Project provides “crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24”. Disturbingly, this hotline had to be mass-distributed following Lexa’s death.
So many people can simply wave this off. “It’s just television,” you’ll hear. And again, we’ve all heard the phrase “television is no longer in a vacuum”, too. But it’s true. Television’s leapt off-screen and into the hearts of viewers. Representation matters because often, in real-life, these minority communities don’t see themselves as the warrior Lexa was. The brave fighter she was; the understanding lover she was. Yet she inspired so many. And if that seismic impact is recognised and still enough for someone to dismiss to queer audiences, we apologise on their behalf. To tell anyone how to feel about their interpretation is robbing them not only of their independence. But it’s also ridiculing them at their lowest. However, whilst ugliness festered, beauty fluttered in the form of life-saving and communities bonding.
Heda Lexa: the Commander who revolutionised her people’s society and didn’t just survive—but lived.
Distrust was heavy to begin with. Initially, Lexa was a brutal, treacherous, self-interested Commander. As Debnam-Carey unfolded her though, we learnt of lost love, her noble values, and the altruism her betrayal of Clarke was born from. Season two’s clever interplay of Skaikru bias and the bloody truth from Lexa’s view, as a seasoned war-leader, dug the path for an excellent, three-dimensional character.
One of the most significant quotes of her character came in ‘Bodyguard of Lies’:
Lexa: “You think our ways are harsh, but that’s how we survive.”
Clarke: “Maybe life should be about more than just surviving. Don’t we deserve better than that?”
Admittedly, since the surprise of season two’s quality, the consistency of Lexa’s characterisation in season three declined to lumpy. Perhaps riding high from the success of ‘Clexa’, Lexa’s role was hugely romanticised. Trademark moral clashes between Clarke and Lexa remained. But when an inexperienced teenager walks all over the Commander of the Coalition in matters of war, Lexa as someone who existed beyond a Love Interest fizzled away.
However, it offered us intimate insight into an enigma. You don’t meet many, like Lexa, who don’t fear death and aren’t psychopaths. Little snapshots of Lexa’s life were gifted to us. Her natural affability with her child Nightbloods. Vulnerability laid so bare that it would cost her. And fatefully, her aforementioned fearlessness of death.
Season three was more of a peak-and-trough for Lexa and characterisation. But it did show us that her philosophy of utilising her head and not her heart had now merged. And though the execution was so poor it’s difficult to take comfort from, it feels a little less painful that Lexa died knowing she was loved, so dearly. However, time—and rushed, forced arcs—don’t wait. Not even for revolutionaries.
Paired with Eliza Taylor, she and Debnam-Carey seized the opportunity to crush hearts with their portrayal of ‘Clexa’.
Nothing prepared the fanbase (and the writers, clearly) for how huge ‘Clexa’ would become. Wonderfully, it’s an inspiring source of creativity within the fandom. Some of the content spawned can be truly eye-opening. Who’s to say fandom can’t inspire true talent? And those who think “well, let’s give it a go”? An eternal cycle of inspiration is beautiful, right?
It is something you wouldn’t imagine a fictional character’s death to leave behind. Nonetheless, a huge part of that came from the ship ‘Clexa’. Debnam-Carey and Taylor’s chemistry certainly snapped like lightning before thunder had a chance to catch up.
Eliza Taylor: “I feel like [Lexa] was ‘the one’ for her.”
Representation manifests itself in many, uncountable forms. What Lexa was to many, so was Clarke. And together? As a couple? An openly queer couple who were on the precipice of commanding their societies? Ultimately, these two were trapped in a suspension of disbelief being in the world of The 100. But they resonated with an unbelievable amount of people. That cannot be coincidence. In a deprived television world of relationships like Clarke and Lexa’s, this was hope dangled on a string. Via behind-the-scenes manipulation, it was savagely yanked away.
Bluntly, the sheer coldness of such unprofessionalism is as shocking as the deposition of the trope itself. There are so many articles criticising the harmfulness of the trope. We could—and maybe one day we will—talk of this properly.
But three years ago, Alycia Debnam-Carey burst onto our screens and stole The 100. For her sake, let’s celebrate and take pride in that.
We’ve mourned, campaigned, hurt, unified—but as long as Lexa’s legacy lives on inside of us—we can surely celebrate the Commander Debnam-Carey crafted.
Three years on, Lexa is still the top of many people’s favourite character lists. She, a mish-mash of contradictions, shouldn’t have existed. But Lexa did. Shut off from love, yet overwhelmed by it for Clarke. Unimaginably powerful, yet heartachingly vulnerable.
Of all quotes, most came from her ‘lessons’ to Clarke. An obvious set-up for the finale, one of the most memorable was:
Lexa: “Victory stands on the back of sacrifice.”
It may have been a cheap throwaway at ‘Blood Must Have Blood: I’. But sacrifice has always been a theme for Lexa. First, she sacrificed her love to forge an alliance with her nemesis, thus a coalition. Sacrifice of her self-interest was a regular decision she had to make. Yet as a leader, sworn to her people, the pain most could not handle rested solely on her shoulders.
Lexa was brave in the face of terror. She was diplomatic even in the midst of a coup against her. Shrewdness, intelligence and understanding allowed her to forgive betrayal. And her head finally taught her to stop closing her heart off and let love—life—seep in. It’s not hard to see why she was an icon. Complexities and insecurities plagued her. But she was a warrior. A fighter who won, in our LGBTQ community. Ultimately, Lexa was love—she always had been—and the fact that she was a warrior and a commander too was unspeakably empowering. Death needn’t be a symbol for her; ALIE’s needn’t be one for a haphazard B-plot.
Infinity spelled across the back of her neck. And infinity is perhaps for how long she’ll be loved and remembered.
“I will always be with you,” she promised. Undeniably, we can feel it.
Roles like these are rarely so well-portrayed, and as we’ve seen, even more so rarely well-written. But the legacy it’s left is inspiring.
There are so many gaping plot-holes and character inconsistencies involving Lexa that it’s remarkable she didn’t turn into television’s Fight Club.
But you’re as good as the words you’re given. Or so the myth goes.
Quite simply, you don’t nail Lexa’s characteristic mannerisms the way Debnam-Carey did just by reading words off a script. Often, Lexa’s thoughts and fears and desires could’ve done with a bit more “show, don’t tell”. However, the generous nature of Debnam-Carey’s work paid off immensely. Her eyes were always a gateway to Lexa’s soul and Debnam-Carey opened that up. The regal stance; the stubborn jawline; the perfected enunciation. Debnam-Carey was not just a symbol for Lexa: she was Lexa.
In a way, the fanbase was a phoenix rising from the ashes. And the fanbase didn’t just represent Lexa, either. They were Lexa, too.
Such unity has inspired massive conventions—the most notable being ClexaCon in Las Vegas. Not only did it garner huge audiences and guests, it gave a hurt, recovering LGBTQ community a unique chance to truly meet and bond. Famously, writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach opened up his Tumblr to criticism in order to understand the hurt and pain the trope had caused. Evolution with dedicated websites and increasing support systems is changing the scope of television for the better. And hopefully, that’ll be an upward trend. Hopefully, that will be Lexa’s legacy—of unity and ever-mounting peace.
Your fight may be over, Commander Lexa. We see you’ve moved onto killing zombies now, which is considerably cooler if we’re being honest. But the uphill battle you started is one we vow to carry on. Thus, from the bottom of our heart:
The inspiring fight for better representation is something surely Lexa’s spirit will look proudly down upon. For all the times you tell someone ‘it’s not just about her death’, you may sigh loudly. But our fight, the legacy left to us by Lexa, is not over. And for all the determination, spirit, joviality, unity and milestones you’ve achieved, surely all we can say as supporters is: mochof.