The 100‘s Octavia Blake has had one of the most interesting character developments on the show, going from damsel in distress to badass warrior. Where does she go from here?
Whether you’re a Bellarke or Clexa shipper or just here for Murphy being hilarious, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a The 100 fan who doesn’t root for Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos). The tough-as-nails would-be Grounder has not only proven to the men in her life that she can manage just fine on her own, but has gone from being the one needing rescue to the one doing the rescuing.
Ever since learning how the Grounders choose their next Commander, many fans believe that Octavia is being set up to take over from Lexa when her spirit inevitably passes on.
But could Octavia lead the Grounders? Would she want to? Let’s take a look back at her story so far.
The damsel in distress
Despite her adventurous, abrasive nature, Octavia is the closest The 100 has ever come to having a traditional damsel in distress character. Being the little sister of the self-made leader made her everyone’s little sister by extension, and, promiscuous and sassy as she was, Octavia always needed rescuing.
Season 1 Octavia was a lot like Cordelia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: an undeniably fierce, powerful character in her own right, but acting within the confinements that a normal woman had in her world. She didn’t have superpowers, and therefore had to rely on others to save her if her wits and charms couldn’t get her out of a jam. I loved Cordelia and I liked season 1 Octavia, but compared to the Octavia of season 2, there’s no contest.
Looking at gender politics on network television, Octavia’s oppression was perhaps a necessary evil, the character serving as a juxtaposition to the very decidedly self-sufficient Clarke, who was noted by certain surly viewers as being “unlikeable” and “bossy” simply because she didn’t let her gender define her. (Those viewers, thankfully, have either realized their narrow-mindedness or checked out of the fandom. Good riddance.)
The Grounders’ matriarchal yet merciless society has done a lot to normalize gender equality on The 100, but in early season 1, viewers still assumed that the show would follow traditional TV stereotypes — and women, therefore, would have limits simply because they were women.
Octavia was strong and independent, yes, but she also served as the audience’s link to a more traditional view of masculine dominance. Her freedom was always tempered by a man — first Bellamy and his lackeys, and later Lincoln. (Stay with me here: I know Lincoln is awesome, but he also did physically carry Octavia away from danger and keep her locked up in a cave.)
In season 1, men defined Octavia’s life. First, it was Jasper, who cheesily earned his ‘man-card’ when he saved her from the Loch Ness monster guarding the Mount Weather territory. (“Next time, save the girl” is not exactly my favorite line of dialogue on this show.) Like a good princess, Octavia even rewarded him with a kiss.
Then it was Atom, with whom she actually shared a kiss while frolicking in a field of butterflies, Bella Swan style. She was locked away, again, and her would-be suitor was punished by Bellamy for trying to sully her innocence, like Bellamy was the Lord of Good Standing and Atom was the stable boy.
Of course, it wasn’t only boys pursuing her like she was a prize to be won; Octavia was very much embracing her newfound sexual liberation. And in the context of her backstory, this makes total sense.
She’s grown up with only Bellamy and her mother for company, listening to mythology stories and fairy tales about heroes and princesses, and her only brush with the outside world was something as cliché as a masquerade ball, like she was the post-apocalyptic Cinderella. So naturally, when she was finally free of her cage, she identified her desires and ran with them.
And Octavia’s sexual awakening was in itself as empowering as Clarke embracing her leadership position; Octavia was acting on her impulses just like everyone else, and was free to do so regardless of her gender.
But, unfortunately, her big brother was right behind her, holding a gun to the head of any man who showed an interest in her, seemingly reflecting the narrative’s attempts to reinforce more traditional male-female gender roles even while its characters tried to subvert them. I love Bellamy and his season 2 development, but considering his own random orgies, the double standard here was absurd.
If landing on the ground was a metaphor for rebirth, then season 1 represented the loss of innocence, where the characters had to grow up fast and figure out who they really were before the real world crushed them. And this was true for Octavia more than anyone else, as she had been imprisoned her entire life.
Now, the Octavia of season 1 was in no way weak or submissive. She was impulsive and head-strong, and was always willing to put herself out there to save her friends. But Bellamy, and convenient injuries, almost always prevented her from actually following through — and it was only after being captured by a man (who, ironically, also wanted to lock her up to keep her safe) that she found a modicum of freedom: she traded one over-protective male guardian for another.
‘The 100’s’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Jason Rothenberg has repeatedly pointed to Lincoln and Octavia as the Romeo and Juliet of The 100 — hopefully because they are from different, warring tribes who didn’t want them to be together, and not because of some gruesome ending he has planned for them.
It implies some all-consuming romantic love that overshadows everything else that they are and stand for, and while their romance certainly is epic, I’m not sure this comparison still holds true in season 2 (at least not for Octavia).
Their relationship actually has done a lot to empower Octavia (Lincoln may be overprotective, but he also teaches her how to fight and expands her worldview), but in the early part of their relationship, all her choices were still defined by a man.
In season 1, she went from from being locked up on the Ark, to being locked up by Bellamy on the Ground, to being locked up by Lincoln, and finally to being freed by Bellamy, but still “protected” by Lincoln, whether she needs that protection or not.
Even when she cut herself with Lincoln’s poisoned knife to save Finn, she was acting within her confinements as a physically (though never mentally) weak female in need of protecting: she knew that her allure as a woman would rouse Lincoln to be her knight in shining armor and save the day. She didn’t save Finn, she compelled Lincoln to.
And I remember the frustration I felt during the otherwise brilliant season 1 finale, when an injured Octavia was carried away from the fight by the stoic Lincoln. Although Octavia had suited up and was ready to fight and die for her friends, the men in her life still treated her like a fairy tale princess.
Bellamy literally handed her over to Lincoln, with an exchange that felt more at home in a period drama than a post-apocalyptic sci-fi show: one man was passing on the responsibility of caring for The Woman to another man, with the woman swept off her feet and powerless to resist. It felt out of place in The 100, a show that had otherwise so successfully blurred traditional gender boundaries.
Freedom on her own terms
But then season 2 began, and oh boy, was Octavia in for a change. One might say that Lincoln being captured by the Mountain Men was the best thing that ever happened to her (though she definitely wouldn’t agree!) because finally, for the first time in Octavia’s entire life, she had no one proclaiming themselves her protector.
We can bemoan her lack of autonomy in season 1 all we want, but the truth is that Octavia never asked to be protected. She wanted to be her badass, fierce fighter self since the pilot, but she always had guys falling over themselves to fight her fight for her, so she was never in a position to seize control before now.
And the moment Octavia was forced into the position of being the saviour rather than the one in need of saving, she took to the task like she was born for it. She pushed all thoughts of her own well-being aside, stubbornly following the Grounder leader Indra and demanding that she join their group.
Finally in control of her own destiny, Octavia isn’t letting anyone set limits for her or tell her what she can’t do.
Throughout season 2 she is repeatedly beaten, pushed back and ridiculed, and yet she perseveres, slowly becoming more and more like a Grounder in her look and movements and her commitment to their brutal lifestyle.
Every episode, Octavia shows up looking a little bit more like a warrior, and becoming ever more ferocious and blunt in her behavior.
Octavia has likely realized that while she’ll never find true independence with the Ark survivors, the Grounders don’t care about her gender, her position as a little sister, or her looks. They only care about strength, and Octavia is strong. Finally Octavia has found a way to carve her own place in the world, and no on else can carve it for her.
Octavia has the most incredible strength of spirit, and circumstances are finally allowing her to come into her own power. It’s a wonderful arc, which has turned her from a frustratingly oppressed female character into the fiercest, most defiant of tradition.
Groomed for command?
In The 100 season 2, episode 10, two things happened that set the fandom’s collective mind ablaze with speculation: after witnessing Octavia’s brutal and voluntary beating, Indra invites her to be her second, while in the gorilla cages, Lexa reveals that the Grounder Commanders are chosen through perceived reincarnation.
Since Alycia Debnam Carey has landed a role in The Walking Dead spinoff, we’re kind of putting the pieces together that Lexa is probably a goner. No one will be happy to see the strong and (relatively) compassionate Grounder leader go, especially so soon after losing Anya. But it does leave us wondering who might be the next Commander — and wouldn’t it be interesting if the signs pointed to Octavia?
Indra has clearly seen something in Octavia that has not only made her tolerate the young Sky Person, but made her select Octavia as her protegé. Indra, who openly despises the Ark survivors, has accepted Octavia for her strength of spirit, and sees potential for her to become a great warrior.
Further, I would argue that Lincoln’s immediate attachment to Octavia wasn’t just some stalkerish attraction, but rather a recognition of her importance to his people.
Remember how he had all those creepy drawings of her, and took her away from the camp to keep her safe? And later, how he taught her to fight, and to speak Trigedasleng? In season 2, episode 10, he even avoided Bellamy’s question when asked what drew him to Octavia in the first place.
Sure, it might all be a Love At First Sight trope, but what if it’s not? What if Lincoln saw something in Octavia, which Indra now also sees, that indicates she is to be their future Commander?
The Grounders believe in reincarnation, and evidently, they don’t play power games when it comes to identifying the signs pointing to the next Chosen One. After all, Lexa is young, and can’t possibly be the strongest warrior, yet she was given the title. Since then, of course, she’s proven to be capable and mentally strong, and has united the 12 tribes (however that happened — flashback, please?).
After Lexa, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Grounders to consider Octavia as their leader, if they believed Lexa’s spirit had passed into her — the only conflict would come from the fact that she is a Sky Person, and some Grounders may not accept that.
This would allow for some interesting conflicts, with the Grounders possibly splitting up into factions again and descending into chaos, while Octavia would find herself probably doing everything in her power to decline the responsibility.
Octavia, after all, has never desired leadership. She’s a warrior, and seems happiest when she is off on her own, asserting her independence. Being pushed into the role of Commander would probably make her feel fenced in, and would force her to once again redefine herself.
But with Indra behind her (and Lincoln, maybe, but I’ve got a feeling he’s heading down a very dark and probably fatal path), Octavia would have no choice but to accept the job; once a Commander has been identified, I doubt they have the choice to defer.
And then, with Clarke and Octavia as the leaders of their respective groups, season 3 would be wide open for new conflicts and character clashes. I, for one, would love to see how that played out. Looking at how far Octavia has already come, it definitely would be a great way to continue her journey.