Monday, December 1, 2014

The Simple Reason Why I Love The 100: Bellamy and Clarke

Vulnerability is not historically one of my strong suits. It doesn't come naturally to me. There are some people I know who can just go deep right off the bat, who barely need an introduction before they're talking about their hearts and feelings and the deep desires of their existence. I'm not like that. I can tell you the surface stuff no problem, but the real meaningful intensity is hidden under layers of defense mechanisms and humor. It takes me a while to go deep. I'm not naturally gifted at being vulnerable.

Which is why it's very hard when God specifically asks you to be vulnerable. For an indeterminate amount of time. Just to wait and be open and exposed and vulnerable. To wait quietly with a soft heart.

I'm not good at that. Which is exactly why for the past month God has been asking me to do it.

This past week I finally got around to watching The 100, a show I've been meaning to catch ever since it premiered last year. It's exactly my brand of crack: a dystopian young adult show with intrigue and feels galore. Totally my thing.

Only I wasn't really anticipating that it would be so completely my thing. Like, so much my thing that I watched through the entire first season and first five episodes of the second season in about three days. I really did not expect to love it as much as I do. And for a while there I was kind of confused about why I love it so much. It's good, but from an objective standpoint I can see why it's not great, and there are lots of other things I could love just this much if not more. Why this show? Why The 100?

The 100 is a show on The CW, which should give you some small idea of what it's like. It's a fusion of Battlestar Galactica and The Hunger Games, adapted from the young adult novel by Kass Morgan. It's about the remnants of the human race, almost a hundred years after a nuclear apocalypse devastated all life on Earth, living in orbit on a giant space station called The Ark.

The Ark, which was built out of the combining of all twelve space stations in orbit at the time of the nuclear war, houses several thousand inhabitants. Its purpose is to preserve the human race for another hundred years so that they can all go back down to the surface of the Earth and restart society. It's a weird transitional place and people, with strict rules and customs. It is also, as it would happen, dying.

That's right, The Ark, which sustains all known humans, is failing, with the life support system only having a couple more months before it gives out entirely. They need to do something drastic, and fast. Their solution? Send one hundred of the juvenile prisoners (there are no adult prisoners as a first offense is punishable by death) to the ground to see if the Earth is habitable yet.

And that's where our story kicks in. We the audience ride along with the hundred prisoners and get super invested in their survival, as well as what it means for the people on The Ark. But most of all we get invested in two particular people: Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) and Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley).

Clarke and Bellamy represent the two opposite ends of the spectrum for characters on the show. Clarke is a child of (relative) privilege, the daughter of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Engineer of The Ark. She grew up well educated, well loved, and certain of her place in the world. In fact, Clarke's only crime was believing that the people deserved to know that The Ark is dying. When her father discovered that fact, he tried to tell everyone and was executed for it. Clarke then followed in his footsteps, and was imprisoned. She's a freaking political prisoner, strong idealist, and privileged to boot.

She's always dreamed of the ground, and when she gets down there Clarke is the first one to start thinking in terms of practicalities. She wants this to work. She needs this to work. She knows firsthand how bad the Ark's systems are, and wants to save everyone on board. It has to work.

Bellamy, on the other hand, has lived a life of hardship and sadness. The defining moment in his life came when his mother had a second child - Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). Since that was against Ark law (every woman is permitted only one child), Bellamy and his mother kept Octavia hidden for fifteen years. Bellamy's entire life revolved around his sister, raising her and keeping her safe. He jeopardized his own life and sabotaged himself in order to help her. And, in the end, it didn't work because she was found and sent to prison. Their mother was executed and Bellamy was left alone to work as a janitor.

When the news starts to trickle down that the Ark will send one hundred prisoners to the ground, Bellamy does whatever it takes to get himself on the ship. In this case that means attempting to assassinate the Chancellor (Isaiah Washington) just so he can be on the drop ship. When they reach the surface Bellamy quickly rises to a position of authority, and uses it to rile up the other prisoners against The Ark. After all, it never did anything good for him. It ruined his life and made his sister a fugitive. Why would he ever help them?

Clearly Clarke and Bellamy don't get along well at first. They have completely different backgrounds, styles, and motivations. Clarke wants to save everyone. Bellamy wants to make sure his sister is safe. But they're both charismatic, decisive leaders. And, eventually, they end up in a tentative co-leadership with all of the hundred following them like ducklings.

They defend their ducks from threats of all kinds: attacks, revolt from within, medical emergencies, supplies running out, even the threat of The Ark trying to further run their lives. They make an excellent team, always pushing each other back and forth until they can find the best solution. Always testing each other, always challenging each other. 

It's rough watching them duke it out for the first six episodes or so, but after a while something changes. They stop arguing so much - they still argue, just less - and they become a team. They lead together. And then it gets awesome, because you start to see that all along Clarke and Bellamy were changing each other. Learning from each other. Making each other better people.

It's funny, because technically Clarke has a love interest in the show, and Bellamy is supposedly all about his sister. But when it comes down to it, the real love story on this show is between two completely opposite people, and it's about them learning how to live and lead together. And it's great.

More than that, they believe in each other so thoroughly and completely. Clarke believes that Bellamy has the potential to be a great leader, to care so deeply, to be the man she knows is inside him. And Bellamy looks at Clarke like she's the sun. Like she's everything good and true and powerful in this world and he would rather die than let anyone make her believe she isn't. They know each other better than they even know themselves. Heck, there's even a scene where Clarke literally holds his hand while he faces up to the terrible things he's done in his life. They confront it together, because that's what partners do.

I mean, I literally started watching this show because I kept seeing gifs of the two of them on tumblr and I could already tell I was going to love their story. At the beginning of season two I wanted to squeal because it was so clear to me that Clarke kept asking herself what Bellamy would do and Bellamy kept asking himself what Clarke would do. They made each other better people. That is both really good writing, and also something I actually want in my life.

Like I said above, there's a reason why this show captured my mind and heart so completely right now. I'm in a point in my life where God is asking me to be vulnerable and patient, and to wait with a soft heart. It's difficult. I'm not good at it. But I know that the reward for doing these things will be good. It's always good. God doesn't disappoint.

Watching the show, though, I realized what I was waiting for. I'm waiting, I need to wait, for someone who looks at me like Bellamy looks at Clarke, like Clarke looks at Bellamy, someone whose influence in my life will make me more of the person who God has intended me to be.

It's hard to be vulnerable at the best of times, but it's especially hard to be vulnerable about heart stuff like this. I like to pretend that I've got it all together, but I really really don't. I'm a mess. Especially when it comes to thinking about letting someone see exactly how much of a mess I am. I want to know that there's someone out there who will look at me like I hung the stars in the sky, like they know exactly who I am supposed to be and can't wait to see me be it. I want to be known. Don't we all?

But the hard thing is that God has told me to wait. To hold back, to be patient. To keep that soft heart, and to let everything happen. It's insanely difficult, but watching this show was like getting a picture of what it could be. An idea of what that could look like: growing, learning, becoming alongside someone else. Us against the world. I want that so much it hurts. I appreciate any taste I can get.

And in a weird way, watching those two idiots fumble through a platonic relationship with each other (that had better become canon romantic, seriously) makes me feel better. It's comforting to see characters who want what I want, who are like me. It gives me hope. I'm not saying I know any better than I did before how to wait patiently and hope well for the things I want, but I am saying that it's moments and shows like that remind me it's okay to want it at all. It's worth it. It's good.

Even if the waiting sucks.


  1. Brilliant! I think what makes television so good, or at least the shows we love most, is their application to our lives. I love the KMWW filter of "I'm going through this, and this show presents an idea I didn't have before".

    Gonna have to start watching this now. There's goes 100 hours of my life....

    1. Definitely. The stories we love say so much about who we are as people. One of the reasons I like doing what I do!

      Also yes. You definitely need to watch it.

  2. Replies
    1. You're going to be smug about this for the rest of our lives, aren't you? :P