4:00 pm EDT, September 1, 2020

Is transcendence the only way to save humanity on ‘The 100’?

As The 100 series finale approaches, we speculate about how the series might end.

It’s official: The 100’s seventh and final season will conclude this month, on September 30, 2020, with the series finale “The Last War.” The episode will air on The CW at 8/7c.

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But how is will conclude is anyone’s guess.

Since its debut in 2014, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi series has reinvented itself several times over, as it tackled various variations of the ever-relevant question: can humanity transcend our inherent tribalism and abandon our ‘us vs them’ mindset, breaking the cycle of violence and finding a way to peace?

At the time of writing, we are 96/100th of the way through the series, and the answer seems to be a resounding “no, humanity cannot.” We are, it seems, well and truly stuck in Dante’s circles of hell and have rejected transcendence at every turn.

Is our only option to hope for a divine assist that will let us rise out of the darkness and only preserve the part of humanity worth saving?

’The 100’s’ story so far: How we (didn’t) get to peace

Since the 100-plus-two delinquents landed on the ground in the pilot, humanity has whittled itself down to a fraction of what was once a surprisingly sizeable population, considering how unbelievably wrong the 2,659 people on the United Ark Federation were when they thought they were a) orbiting an uninhabited and uninhabitable Earth and b) the last survivors of the human race.

Since then, new faction of survivors upon new faction of survivors has been discovered, only for most of them to promptly get slaughtered. War after war has been fought; genocide after genocide has been committed; apocalypse after apocalypse has scorched world after world.

And through all this, humanity has taken every opportunity to split apart and enact more and more violence upon each other in the name of themselves or their people. Everyone with good intentions has failed or been corrupted. Countless opportunities have been wasted to achieve this elusive thing called “unity.”

In the show’s recent history, Earth was wrecked by a second apocalypse and mankind went to war with itself for the last patch of survivable land, only for a madman with a nuke to blow it all up because he couldn’t have it for himself.

Elsewhere in the universe, survivors of an exploration expedition had found a new home on a distant planet (moon), only to turn it into a eugenics-controlled farm for future husks for their own mechanical souls.

Again, elsewhere, a warrior tribe offshoot of the Earthborn cult named Second Dawn are preparing for what they believe to be the “final war” that will cause humanity’s ascension; they claim that all humans are the same, yet they have spent millennia learning to suppress their own human instincts and deem anyone who opposes their cause their enemy.

But for all that The 100 appears to exist to throw the very worst aspects of humanity back into the faces of its viewers, it occasionally floats the possibility that there is, perhaps, one day, a way for us to overcome our self-imposed darkness.

The quest to “break the cycle” of violence and tribalism was first vocalized in season 5, but it already manifested as a possible over-arching mission statement for the series when Clarke Griffin rejected ALIE’s ‘salvation’ of the human race in season 3.

The second apocalypse was imminent, and humanity was almost certainly going to be wiped out, so the AI had engineered a virtual reality paradise for human minds: even as their bodies were incinerated, their minds would be uploaded into a ‘City of Light’ where only the good parts of humanity remained. It was a haven of togetherness and contentment without the guilt, pain, or regret we associate with the human condition.

(Incidentally, exactly what Bill Cadogan imagines will happen once humanity wins the final war.)

Faced with the choice of accepting this ‘future’ for humanity or shutting down the City of Light, leaving her species to rise or fall on its own merit, Clarke chose the latter, with the words, “You don’t ease pain. You overcome it.”

At the time, it seemed like a victory for free will and humanity, in all its perfect imperfection. Whether or not you believed the digital save files of the uploaded humans were ‘real’ (as the show insists they are, even if I still struggle with the concept), this version of transcendence was not one Clarke could accept as anything resembling a life worth living, and by extension, neither should the audience.

At the end of season 3, this is what we knew: ALIE was wrong. Clarke was right. We are flawed, imperfect beings who suffer and inflict suffering upon each other, and eventually we all die. Individually, and maybe as a species. But the simple act of living still counts for something, and it is worth fighting for every scrap of life you can, and to cling onto the brief pockets of joy and love as you find it, because those things are what make all the pain and temporality of the human condition worth enduring. And those things are what will ultimately enable us not just to survive, but to thrive.

Although not always as apparent, this stubborn streak of defiant celebration of the human condition seems to as consistent a part of The 100 as the more defeatist idea that we always default to tribalism and violence. Over the course of the series, as much as the characters’ bodies seem to call them to war, their minds keep calling for peace. They keep believing it’s possible. Their own lives are a litany of small victories and massive defeats and death comes for them all, but still, hope endures.

‘Maybe tomorrow will be better’ is the lie we tell ourselves to force ourselves to keep going, and the ultimate hook of The 100 is not just that the characters keep believing it, but that the audience does.

“You take a breath, then another,” as Clarke later told Russell when describing how she coped with the loss of her mother. Because that stubborn refusal to give up (‘ge smak daun, gyon op nodotaim’) is as much of a defining trait of humanity as our self-destruction – otherwise we would have wiped each other out a long time ago – and characters like Clarke, Raven, Octavia and Bellamy carry us through what would otherwise be an unbearably depressing narrative exactly by being so fundamentally stubborn in their refusal to let the world break them.

By contrast, the tragedy of Jasper Jordan was that he stopped having hope; he didn’t want to see tomorrow, because he knew it wouldn’t get better.

The tragedy for the audience was that Jasper was right. It didn’t get better. And based on the events of the following four seasons, it doesn’t seem likely that it ever will.

Having chosen life, humanity was now faced with imminent extinction. In season 4, our heroes had to prove that they could outwit the forces of nature out for their destruction and – to an extent – they did.

Praimfaya and the perpetual human-on-human violence wiped out a lot of innocent people along the way (who probably would have preferred the City of Light, all things considered). But humanity endured, as Clarke had gambled it would.

And it even, temporarily, evolved: Octavia Blake rose out of the darkness to ensure that the survivors found peace in unity, and as season 4 closed out, it seemed like humanity was finally learning from its mistakes and would rise stronger from the ashes.

For Wonkru, some of the series’ most progressive and/or fair-minded characters — Octavia, Kane, Abby, Jaha, Indra and Gaia – came together to create something new, taking the best parts of the Ark’s government structure and the Grounders’ leadership style and building something better and new.

But then came season 5. New enemies, from without and within; our ‘heroes’ fell to new moral lows and our ‘villains’ were more overtly evil than we’d ever experienced on this show before.

More good people died. More unforgivable acts were committed. Earth was, definitively (we have been told), destroyed. But still, humanity endured.

Monty Green and Harper McIntyre, two of the show’s most unambiguously ‘good’ people, found a whole new planet on which our species could start over. They also lived peaceful, happy lives themselves – walking the walk, as it were, proving that humans can choose peace.

(For posterity, it should be noted that they were also two of the very few characters who grew up peacefully, on the Ark, where there was unity and elected leaders. They weren’t inventing the concept of peace, as much as reproducing the lifestyle they grew up with.)

And maybe this time, the show suggested, we had been through enough collective garbage and done enough damage to each other in order for our collective psyche to genuinely improve. Just as we here in reality look at the horrific things happening in the world and keep clinging onto the hope that maybe this time, change is possible, so did Clarke and Bellamy when they looked out over their new world together.

By the end of season 5, The 100 hadn’t fixed humanity, and it didn’t offer us any concrete solutions on how it might be possible. Yet it left us with an open ending that suggested that it might just, one day, be possible for us to do better.

Now, it’s worth bearing in mind that The 100 was once imagined to end with season 5. A lot of the show’s staple writers did not transition to season 6; the decision to split the series into two separate ‘books’ at this point marked not just a symbolic, but a thematic ending of one story and a beginning of a sequel, of sorts (with some of the same characters and a bunch of new ones).

Had the show ended with “Damocles, Part 2,” Jasper would have been wrong, and we would have ended on a high, hopeful note that all humanity needed to improve itself was a fresh start on a fresh planet. It would have been a fitting conclusion, with just enough hopeful optimism to sate a harrowed audience without betraying its commitment to grim realism.

But it didn’t. Instead, the show opened Pandora’s Bo…ok 2.

’The 100’s’ endgame: If we can’t transcend our tribalism, what makes humanity worthy of transcendence?

The 100 season 6 was like a slap in the face to anyone actually daring to hope that more than superficial, cosmetic changes were possible. “New world, same problems” was an actual line in the show and a perfect summary of what our heroes were to endure. New dictators. New massacres. New us’es. New them’s.

Whatever The 100 might ambitiously have imagined it might eventually reveal to us about ourselves – that despite our innate tribalism and bloodlust, our equally innate capacity for empathy and our relentless quest for peace will eventually win out – at the time of airing, season 6 felt like the final nail in the coffin for that beautiful dream.

Whether unintentionally or as a reflection of the writers’ own nihilistic worldview, The 100 proved (once again) that a “fresh start” is wasted on our species. The mob mentality on the show is (sometimes comically) unchanging, and even the characters with the best intentions invariably fall back on violent patterns of attack-defend based on their ‘us vs them’ mentalities.

Had it been a series-ender, Monty’s urging for Clarke and Bellamy to “do better” by the last survivors of the human race would have implied that these two once-leaders would set aside the interpersonal issues that had divided them and join together as the leadership duo the show had always implied they would become.

Instead, our heroes landed smack-dab in the middle of body-snatching false-god red-sun-madness green-vortex tree-people civil-war chaos.

And the self-appointed bannerman for Team “For Monty,” Clarke Griffin, spent most of the season as far removed from the big picture as she could get: trapped inside her own mind, fighting to save herself, running through memories of her past with absolutely no idea what was happening in the present and with (understandably) no ambitions for the future.

Meanwhile, Bellamy was running around also trying to save Clarke, Octavia vanished into thin air, and the rest of the main characters were either direct casualties of, or helpless bystanders to witness, the villain of the hour.

Monty and Harper’s literal legacy, Jordan, was sidelined rather than used as a beacon of change and progress. The show’s last remaining advocate for peace and progress, Kane, was expeditiously eliminated and hasn’t been mentioned since.

While it might be argued that the characters learned to ‘do better’ by each other this season, the show certainly didn’t spend much time on anyone learning to do better by humanity as a whole. Overcoming ‘us vs them’ no longer seemed in line with the show’s narrative trajectory, which in season 6 seemed to be all about the characters’ reclaiming and loving their own personal family and friends.

But the shift from The 100 being a story about humanity coming together as a whole to being a story about individual humans and their personal connections has been much more gradual than it sometimes seems.

The introduction of a second Praimfaya that gave Earth an imminent expiration date effectively marked the end of the show’s interest in any ‘long-term’ developments that included the characters looking ahead to a life post-conflict, because there was no longer a long-term to speak of.

From season 4 onwards, the narrative became increasingly chaotic and big-swinging, which in turn made the characters reactionary and individualist. This is especially true for the characters in or seeking power: the show spends a lot of time on leaders fighting leaders, but less and less time on what it actually means to lead.

Not since season 3 has The 100 seemed particularly interested in exploring how reforming systems of government or community structures might have positive (or negative) ripple effects down the chain.

Several Ark leaders, and of course Lexa, were interested in the democratic process, but their efforts were deterred at every turn, and as the catastrophes faced by their people became more and more extreme, sitting down to discuss land division and due judiciary process felt more and more superfluous (that’s how you get a police state, by the way: first they create chaos, and then they argue that things need to get ‘under control’ before we can get ‘back to normal’).

(Octavia dissolving the clan systems and forming Wonkru in the season 4 finale might have been an attempt to reintroduce issues of leadership/government/democracy, but that attempt was quickly abandoned in favor of yet another story about individual leaders’ choices and very close, personal battles.)

The show simply isn’t about the future anymore; it’s about the right here, right now, wherever and whenever that happens to be, sometimes to the point where each character seems to exist out of time in their own storyline, unaware of and uninterested in what anyone else is doing.

Notably, we also spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, and specifically the happiness that existed there. It seems the most important moments in our characters’ lives have already passed, and the people the story considers most important have already died.

This has the effect of making the future not only irrelevant to the characters but less interesting to the audience, because — with the possible exception of Madi, Murphy and Emori — nobody seems to have anything left to be or do. There is a reason the show keeps skipping over peaceful periods in our heroes’ lives; whether by The 100’s design or by humanity’s, they are only truly alive when they are in conflict.

This stagnation in forward momentum is true for most of the characters, but it is perhaps most obvious in the case(s) of Bellamy and Echo: Bellamy was vulnerable to the Shepherd’s influence on Etherea in large part because he was so aware of the catch-and-release loop he is stuck in with the people he loves, and he was ready to let space-Jesus take the wheel because he no longer has confidence in himself or his people’s capacity to improve their own condition.

Meanwhile, Echo reacted to losing Bellamy by devoting her life to first saving and then avenging him, with absolutely no ambition to have a life or identity beyond him. Echo is the clearest example of the show no longer devoting any time to looking ahead: the characters all exist only in the moment and are only defined by what they used to be and what they have lost. It is no coincidence that every single one-on-one conversation that has taken place in the Bardo cells has been about reflecting on the past, while not once has anyone ventured a dream or hope for the future.

So now that we have cut humanity right down to the immediate and the individual, and that there doesn’t seem to be any interest in big-picture societal overhaul, how can we even talk about ‘humanity’ as it relates to the show? And how can we imagine an ending to this saga about the future of the human race, when it’s really become about the day-to-day uphill struggle for survival on an ever-growing mountain of grief for a very small group of named characters?

Maybe by constructing an ending that celebrates individualism rather than collectivism; highlighting the small joys and personal bonds human beings are capable of experiencing, form and most importantly remember – all the things that make humanity worth fighting for – rather than make grand, sweeping statements about humanity’s capacity for collective self-improvement through proper systems of government and community-building.

No more shades of grey: ’The 100’ Book 2 is black and white

Throughout the series, but in season 7 especially, a particular emphasis has been made on small moments of mercy, selflessness, and love that soften the edges of our heroes’ brutality.

Where once the show might once have been trying to overcome that ever-divisive “us vs them,” it now seems to be all about defining, defending and celebrating the “us.”

Clarke sparing Russell, Madi jumping in to fight Sheidheda, Indra yielding to Sheidheda to save Madi, Echo’s love for Raven superseding her need to complete her massacre, Murphy rising up to lead a fallen people, Hatch sacrificing himself for Nikki, Diyoza sacrificing herself for Hope, and Bellamy/Ducett saving each other on the mountain are just a few of many prominent examples.

Octavia and Diyoza’s road to peace being through an insular, isolated family unit is perhaps the clearest example of all, plainly positioned as the more sympathetic way of life against the Bardoans’ clinical, no-personal-attachments philosophy.

To be ‘good’, season 7 seems to say, is not to be without flaw, but to ultimately tip your inner scale of selfishness/selflessness to the ‘right’ side — and whichever side you happen to be on right now is the one that defines you. The human condition is no longer portrayed as a murky, imperfect thing; rather, season 7’s version of the characters are clearly good or bad at heart, and act/react accordingly, with very little room for ambiguity.

The 100 has always been about the light/dark dichotomy of humanity, but I would argue that once, the show took care to show us that all humans are made up of shades of grey and all actions can be considered good/bad depending on your point of view. You couldn’t be a “hero” or a “villain,” you could only be a human.

But now, we are seeing a more clear-cut juxtaposition of good/bad people and good/bad actions — a black and white world, like the pieces on the overtly symbolic chess board.

Are we defined by our worst instincts, or our best? For most of the series’ run, the point has ben that all of us are a mixture of both. But now, it seems like it must be one or the other.

On one side, we have the characters we once ironically called “our heroes” (at this point, it’s just true) who are, or recently have been, defined by their compassion and capacity to love and be loved.

Former grey players like Murphy, Gabriel, Indra and Diyoza are reframed as unambiguous heroes and champions for peace, to the point where there seems to be no grey left in them whatsoever.

(This doesn’t mean we are asked to ignore their past ‘sins’; rather, the show is telling us that characters like Diyoza, Murphy, Octavia, Raven etc. are not defined by the sum of their entire life experience, but by who they choose to be now.)

And on the other side, we have the villains: Anders, Nikki, Sheidheda and Cadogan are almost comedically evil in their quest for war, with Sheidheda in particular seeming like an actual demon ripped out of a supernatural teen drama.

(There is still a little bit of ambiguous grey area left: Hope, Bellamy, Echo and Sheidheda’s lackey Knight could go either way, depending on what the story demands.)

The show is thus making sure to define humanity as an entity both capable of heroism and villainy, but not both at once. This entire season has been a giant chess match with light and dark pieces knocking each other off the board, and the winner gets to decide the future of the human race: salvation or damnation.

And thus, we have reached the apparent endgame for The 100: a system of wormhole-powered stones planted on different planets by mysterious beings in ancient times, that can be used to activate the ‘final war’ (test), which lends its name to the series finale and will, presumably, seal the fate of the human race in some definitive way.

Depending on whether the person(s) who takes the test passes or fails, they will either doom their species, as was allegedly the case on the planet Bardo, or win transcendence to an ethereal plane and/or state of mind.

Bellamy got a sneak peek at transcendence episode 11, and while he didn’t seem to see anything specific, the experience convinced him that not only was the possibility of transcendence legitimate, but that it is the only option for humanity. Simply ignoring the test’s existence and focusing on improving living conditions for humanity on this plane of existence is, it seems, no longer something we are meant to consider a viable endgame.

While skeptics like myself are admittedly hard-pressed to see this transcendence business as anything but an evil plot by yet another AI seeking to bring humanity under its thrall, The 100 is sure making it seem like the test will indeed be taken, and aced, and that humanity will ultimately be admitted into Golden Groot University – and that this will be a good thing, allowing a form of happy ending that skirts around the issue of whether humanity would ever be able to better ourselves on our own accord.

Piggybacking off the spirituality-embracing Lost finale, which saw the main characters reunite post-mortem and suggested that their morally grey actions in life were ultimately unimportant, and all that mattered was the human connections they formed with each other along the way, The 100 could very well end with a rejection of the entire story’s reality in favor of a love letter to the ‘humanity’ of it all. The good parts, that is.

Like Lost, this type of ending would serve to make a complicated story a little less complicated (and tie a bow on a narrative that arguably unraveled somewhat along the way), by setting everything else aside in favor of a simple message: love is all that really matters.

Before, after, and in the middle of our short, painful lives, the love we find and win and cling to and remember is why we endure all the rest of it; it humanizes us and heals us and redeems us for all that the hurt we have caused. It is why we deserve transcendence, and it is all that deserves to transcend.

This type of ending would undeniably be somewhat of a repeat of season 3, insofar as a representative for all humankind is presented with a choice of whether or not to leave their violent hearts behind in favor of preserving their peace-loving minds.

Only this time, we’re asked to believe in the truth of the creator’s divinity, and by extension asked to believe that this version of transcendence is a good thing. (Admittedly, it is a big ask.)

But aside from the legitimacy of one ‘god’ or another, a lot has also just happened between season 3 and season 7. If Clarke is the person, or one of the people, who takes the test, transcendence might simply seem like a more attractive option now because she has lost faith in humanity’s capacity to transcend on its own merit.

Even after everything she is been through, Clarke is one of the series’ most stubbornly optimistic characters, and she remains doggedly determined to forge a future for her friends (and Madi). But maybe part of the endgame is that even she will have to accept what seems to be the sad truth about humanity on The 100: that overcoming pain simply isn’t possible; that all living gets you is more and more pain, interspersed with brief glimmers of love and happiness.

Maybe she will be convinced, as Bellamy apparently has been, that preserving those parts of humanity, and leaving behind the things that cause us pain, is the only way to get to peace. Maybe it will be framed as the right choice this time.

Or maybe not. It is possible that the test is indeed a trap, and that our heroes escape it and find closure in some other way. It is possible that they are offered transcendence but, as in season 3, choose to let humanity take its chances as the flawed, complicated entity it is. It is possible that transcendence doesn’t mean becoming one with the golden light, but rather achieving a form of enlightenment that leaves them as mortal and flawed as ever but with a newfound belief in themselves.

Or maybe transcendence is granted only when each individual is done enjoying life with all its ups and downs, The Good Place-style; it’s hard to imagine that Clarke agrees to anything if it means cutting Madi’s life short before she has a chance to live it. It is certainly possible that all or some of our heroes get to live on – as was also the case on Lost — and only become one with the golden light once their natural lives are over.

But let us, for the sake of argument, assume that transcendence involves humanity at some point and in some way surrendering its fate to a higher power. What would that mean for The 100‘s ultimate moral message?

Humanity is dead, long (?) humanity

On one hand, ending the series with humanity as we know it ceasing to exist and the legitimization of a spiritual force with the power to save or doom our immortal souls would serve to seal humanity’s fate as a war-mongering species that will wipe itself out and will never, in fact, learn to do better – and whose only hope is divine intervention.

One obvious criticism of such an ending would be that it suggests the absolution of responsibility on humanity’s part to improve conditions for people suffering in this life, because there is substantial proof that we can’t, and that we don’t have to, because forces outside our control will save us anyway.

When Raven saved herself in season 4 with the words “I choose life,” it was so emblematic of humanity’s perseverance: we sometimes keep ourselves afloat by sheer strength of will alone, but damn it, we keep going. When Bellamy repeated the trick on Clarke in season 6, it seemed like the show was re-committing to this mantra. I think it would be a shame if, in the end, ‘life’ as we know it is no longer a viable option, regardless of the spiritual implications.

On the other hand, humanity winning transcendence by leaning into the values the past few seasons have explicitly highlighted as ‘good’ — love, empathy, kindness, family, forgiveness — would serve as a celebration of those values. Such an ending would make the point that these values are important even if we can’t fix or improve the world. Having been kind in the past is never a waste, regardless of what happens in the future.

Such an ending would also allow for characters to reunite with those they have lost, in a version of ‘heaven’ that didn’t have to comply with any specific religion. This would give the audience a form of closure, and it would put the characters we have gone on this adventure with front and center and pay homage to their emotional journeys.

(Indeed, I bet any characters who die between now and the finale are still due a ‘happy ending’ after humanity’s inevitable ascent, including Diyoza and Nelson, whose deaths seemed deliberately heroic and ‘pure.’)

It would honor the past at the expense of the future, which is a choice that feels like it has been a long time coming: The 100 has never been able to look in both directions at the same time.

If this ending happens, I do imagine The 100 will lose some of its power as a strikingly relevant social commentary on the time at which it was made (although some would argue it already has), which doesn’t only serve to point out our flaws but celebrates the resilience and capacity for self-improvement so inherent to making real change in this world.

A rejection of humanity’s ability to improve itself by means accessible to us (government, community, charity, inclusivity) is not exactly an encouraging message for anyone watching in 2020, and sending the characters off to enjoy an overtly religious rapture is perhaps not one that viewers will find much comfort in; when Lost ended in 2010, a cheesy (sorry Jo) post-mortem celebration of love and friendship was certainly more in the spirit of its time.

Nihilism is simply overplayed now – we can literally just look outside – and thus, we have very little patience for it on our screens. Game of Thrones was probably the last mainstream show ‘allowed’ to truly celebrate nihilism and the inherent violence of man, and even that show softened in favor of more traditional hero- and villainism in later seasons.

But if you are a believer who takes comfort in any concept of after, and if you have lost faith in humanity, and if you want to make the point that although we will never break the cycle of violence, there is still inherent light inside of us that – while not enough to outshine our darkness – will find a way to endure past the point of us inevitably destroying each other? Then letting humanity transcend to a place where only the best parts of our natures survive might just be the most fitting way to end The 100.

And I couldn’t blame anyone looking around at the state of the world for the past few years and coming to the conclusion that there is a darkness in our collective nature that cannot be overcome, and then wanting to offer a sliver of hope that this darkness does not damn us.

One issue I personally would be inclined to have with this ending might be that it validates the Second Dawn and their absolute buffoonery, but the show has made this point a dozen different ways: faith isn’t the problem. Blind faith is.

In season 7 especially, we have seen how ‘false’ religions wreak havoc on morality, but we are also being hit over the head with the message that what power-hungry leaders choose to do with the power of belief does not reflect back on the belief itself.

Humans can corrupt anything, including the inherent beauty of any given faith; Bill Cadogan can be an unworthy hack who stumbled upon a higher truth and forced his own false divinity unto a people that were never taught to know better, and that wouldn’t make him any worse than 90% of the people who ever ruled Europe.

The validity of a thing isn’t determined by who believes in it, and maybe the validation of the thing Cadogan believes in, coupled with the destruction of the cult he has built up around his own false interpretation of it, will serve to make that point.

In four episodes, we will presumably find out whether or not humanity passes the test, and what happens once they do.

If what Bellamy saw on Etherea is anything to go by, humanity’s evolution will cause us to physically disappear from this plane and ‘ascend’ to somewhere else, becoming one with the golden light (honestly, a win-win for the universe).

This rejects the story’s grim realism in favor of a more escapist dream that we are meant for something more, greater, other than this – or perhaps just the show expressing the opinion that we should be. “No, we cannot imagine a way out of the darkness. No, we do not think our darkness dooms us.”

Because, while the much-discussed phrase “love is weakness” may end up proving true for the characters in life, love could still end up being the force that endures even beyond life itself. “May we meet again” may take on a different, deeper meaning, as will the equally iconic “your fight is over,” “death is not the end” and “life should be about more than just surviving.”

All of these sayings imply that to live is to fight; maybe the series’ ending will suggest that peace only begins once the fight is done, and only then can life, in whatever transcended form our heroes discover, finally be about love.

And maybe over the course of the series, the writers have come to the conclusion that ‘transcending tribalism’ is not in fact the answer — because without an inherent sense of ‘us,’ we can’t form those all-important bonds of love and connection.

While I wrote this article well aware that the ending of the series and its final message isn’t set in stone, there has been no indication so far that humanity will collectively choose to “do better” of its own free will, which makes it hard to imagine that The 100 is able to make any definitive statements about the nature of humanity and our capacity for self-improvement without visiting some form of ‘after.’

Instead of what might once have been a story about humanity eventually overcoming its tribalism and finding a way to govern disparate factions that fostered peace and unity, The 100 could very well end up reminding us that for all that violence and darkness is an irrepressible part of our nature, it doesn’t invalidate our inherent capacity for love, empathy and kindness.

In that case, the over-arching question of the series would shift accordingly, from “is humanity capable of saving itself?” to “if humanity is not capable of saving itself, are we still worth saving?”

In my humble opinion, I think we need more stories in which the answer to the former question is yes. But for those of us who maybe sometimes secretly don’t believe it to be true, stories that affirm the latter question can still be of some comfort.

And whichever question the finale answers, I’m looking forward to seeing how The 100 tackles the near-impossible task it has set itself by approaching this topic at all.

Do you think humanity will transcend in ‘The 100’ series finale?

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