Lexa (The 100)
|The 100 character|
|First appearance||"Fog of War" (2014)|
|Last appearance||"Perverse Instantiation — Part Two" (2016)|
|Created by||Jason Rothenberg|
|Portrayed by||Alycia Debnam-Carey|
|Occupation||Commander of the Grounders|
Lexa is a fictional character from the American post-apocalyptic science fiction television series The 100, produced by The CW. The recurring television character (portrayed by Alycia Debnam-Carey) does not appear in the books on which the series is based. The commander of the allied Grounder clans, Lexa is proven to be a reasonable leader and strong warrior. She considers love a weakness, a view significantly impacted by the death of her girlfriend, Costia. Though she starts to show romantic feelings for Clarke Griffin (leader of the Sky People) and takes Clarke's views into consideration, Lexa puts her people first, even at the expense of losing Clarke's trust.
Lexa has been well received by critics and fans, who consider her to be one of the show's more interesting and complex characters. She has been a source of frequent debate, particularly for how she was written out of the series. Her relationship with Clarke, which was viewed as compelling, significantly impacted the LGBT community and many viewers embraced it as a positive or tempestuous depiction of friendship, love and betrayal. The relationship was, however, criticized for being unnecessarily tragic, leading to a national debate about the "bury your gays" trope.
- 1 Appearances
- 2 Development
- 3 Reception
- 4 References
In "Fog of War," two days after a massacre, mechanic and explosives expert Raven discovers Mount Weather has jammed communications, preventing them from reaching out to other potential survivors from the Ark (a ship that held descendants of humans who survived the nuclear apocalypse 97 years before). The survivors become known as Sky People to the Grounders (descendants of humans on Earth who survived the nuclear apocalypse). After a group of survivors find the communications tower, they are forced to split and take shelter from an acid fog. Clarke, a teenager who has taken on a leader role for her camp, realizes she no longer recognizes Finn, her one-time lover. Jaha and Kane, two former leaders of the Ark, are told that one of them must kill the other to have even a chance at speaking with the commander of the Grounders. Kane attempts to take his own life rather than kill Jaha, but a Grounder witness, Lexa, reveals herself to be the commander and says she believes their wish for peace is sincere. She allows Jaha to escape with a message to his camp: leave within two days, or die.
In "Long Into an Abyss," with the Grounders' deadline imminent, Abby (Clarke's mother) and Jaha disagree over what the survivors are to do; Jaha wishes to evacuate to the so-called 'City of Light', while Abby wants to remain behind to rescue other members. Clarke and two of her fellow people (Octavia and Bellamy) hold Lincoln in the dropship; he is a Grounder and was experimented on with a serum to become a reaper (a mindless, zombie-like killer). When Lincoln is almost mercy-killed, his heart stops and he is revived by Clarke, who believes curing reapers depends on waiting for the serum to leave their bodies, even though the reaper might temporarily die in the process. With this information, Clarke realizes they have something to offer the Grounders. When Abby is successful in curing Lincoln, Lexa grants Clarke the truce, but says she must be allowed to execute Finn before it can begin. In "Spacewalker," Clarke returns to camp and tells them the Grounders will cease their attack if they are given Finn, who is the one who massacred a number of their people. The tension between the people in Camp Jaha rises as opinions are divided whether to give Finn to the Grounders or not. At the camp, Abby and Kane, having returned, think they can bargain with the Grounders by offering to put Finn on trial, but such plans are wasted as Finn gives himself up to the Grounders. In the end, Clarke goes to meet with Lexa in a last-ditch effort to save Finn from the brutal execution process Lincoln has explained. When Lexa refuses clemency, Clarke asks if she can say goodbye to Finn. She approaches, kisses him, and tells him she loves him while stabbing him in the heart, killing him quickly. Several of the Grounder chieftains are angered by this mercy-kill, but Lexa declares the demands have been met and the truce will stand.
In "Remember Me," Clarke and a group from the Ark set off to a Grounder camp (Tondc) to complete their agreement for a truce. On the way, Clarke is haunted by visions of Finn. Bellamy tries to convince Clarke to let him go to Mount Weather as an inside man; Clarke says she cannot lose him too. When they arrive at the village, Clarke burns Finn's corpse, along with the corpses of those he killed, in a traditional Grounder funeral. While grieving, Lexa tells Clarke of Costia, her own past love who was tortured and killed by Lexa's enemy, who believed she knew Lexa's secrets. She tells Clarke that love is weakness. At a dinner, Kane gifts Lexa with a bottle of liquor. When Gustus, her right hand, tests it for her, he appears to be poisoned, leading Lexa to believe it was an assassination attempt by the Sky People. Clarke immediately thinks it was Raven, as she was Finn's former girlfriend and loved him. Clarke confronts her; Raven punches Clarke for accusing her of doing it. Lexa nearly kills Raven, but Clarke figures out that the bottle was not poisoned, and proves it was the cup to Lexa by drinking from the bottle herself. Bellamy then accuses Gustus, saying that it was one of Lexa's own people. Gustus confesses and Lexa kills him. When Lincoln confronts Bellamy about how he knew it was Gustus, he says Gustus would do anything to protect Lexa. Clarke decides she sees Lexa's point about how love is a weakness and tells Bellamy he was right and should go to Mount Weather.
In "Survival of the Fittest," Clarke and Lexa encounter a gigantic mutated gorilla after one of the grounder council members drives Clarke into the forest with the intent to kill her. They escape, but become temporarily trapped in its cage. Lexa is injured, but that does not stop her from dispensing some advice about leadership to Clarke. Clarke figures out a way to escape, and also has an idea about freeing the Grounders inside Mount Weather to help fight the Mountain Men. "In Rubicon," bone marrow experiments at Mount Weather are proven to work; people at Mount Weather, who had been prisoners to the place due to their anatomy being incompatible with Earth's radiation, can now possibly roam the land; Cage, son of Mount Weather's leader Wallace, plans to destroy any chance of peace between the Grounders and people of Mount Weather by launching a missile. Clarke races to the village where she explains the danger to Lexa. Lexa points out to Clarke that if they warn anyone else and stop the meeting, the Mountain Men will realize they have a spy inside the mountain and Bellamy will be compromised before having completed his mission. Clarke is reluctant to leave so many others to die, but agrees Lexa is right and the two secretly escape. As they leave, Clarke sees her mother arriving in the village and returns to try to rescue Abby as the missile hits the village.
In "Resurrection," Clarke and Abby survive the missile strike on Tondc, but Abby is horrified to realize Clarke knew it was coming and did nothing to save the rest of the people in the village. She goes back to help survivors, while Lexa and Clarke set off to find and kill the spotter who called in the strike. Clarke finds and kills the spotter with Lincoln's help, and realizes the spotter's lack of a hazmat suit means the Mountain Men have started harvesting her friends. Inside Mount Weather, Jasper (a friend of Clarke's) and the others fight back and find refuge with those in Mount Weather who do not agree with Wallace or Cage.
In "Bodyguard of Lies," Clarke and Lexa rehash the plan of attack, and Lexa tells Clarke she (Clarke) was born to be a leader. Octavia figures out Clarke and Lexa knew about the missile, and Lexa decides she needs to be killed to protect that secret. Clarke stops the attempted murder. She confronts Lexa about her plan and her facade of heartlessness, and Lexa reveals she has feelings for Clarke. As they wait for the deadly fog to clear, Lexa informs Clarke she does trust her and will no longer try to hurt Octavia. She notes that the Grounder ways are just focused on survival. Clarke suggests that maybe life should be about more than just surviving, and Lexa catches her off guard with a kiss. Clarke returns the kiss before she tells Lexa she is not ready to be with anyone yet. They are alerted to Raven's signal that the fog is disabled. The combined grounder/arker army marches to war with Clarke and Lexa at its head. The Mountain Men prepare to deploy acid fog, but Bellamy manages to escape a security team and destroy the system in an explosion just in time.
In "Blood Must Have Blood: Part 1," Bellamy frees the Grounders inside Mount Weather, as Clarke's plan is to attack from within. When the generators are taken out, soldiers from Mount Weather open fire on the army in front of their doors, but those still manage to destroy the lock at the last second. When they pull the door open, Lexa commands her people to stand down because of a deal she just cut with the Mountain Men. When the Grounders retreat, almost all of the Sky People accept defeat and soon retreat, leaving behind only a betrayed Clarke at the front door and Octavia in the tunnels.
In "Wanheda: Part Two," attackers on a jeep turn out to be Arkers who landed separately. Their numbers have dwindled to 63 due to conflict with the community called Ice Nation and they accept Kane's offer to come to Arkadia, where the other Sky People live. Part of the group continue to search for Clarke, who has been on the run for three months due to now being a legend and subsequent target because of her defeat of the Mountain Men after Lexa's betrayal. This has earned her the nickname "Wanheda" (commander of death). Indra, one of Lexa's best and most trusted warriors, warns Lexa that the Ice Nation is marching on her; Indra is there when bounty hunter Roan (the banished Ice Nation prince) brings Clarke to Lexa, who sought to capture Clarke before members of Ice Nation did. Still angry at Lexa for her betrayal, Clarke is dragged out kicking and screaming while vowing revenge on Lexa.
In "Ye Who Enter Here," Clarke struggles with taking revenge on, as well as forgiving, Lexa. Lexa tells Clarke that she intends to initiate the Sky People into her coalition as the thirteenth clan. Clarke believes Lexa only wants this because her (Clarke's) defeat of the Mountain Men has made Lexa look weak. Lexa focuses on sparring with Aden, a Nightblood she has been training for the role of Commander. Nightbloods are Grounders with black blood; they are the only Grounders who can become commanders. As Titus (Lexa's right-hand man and former mentor) wants Lexa to kill Clarke because he feels that Clarke has weakened her reputation, Roan suggests that Clarke kill Lexa. In the end, Clarke cannot do it and Lexa apologizes for her betrayal. Emerson, the last survivor of Mount Weather, is revealed to be alive.
In "Watch the Thrones," in a fight to the death for the right to the throne, Queen Nia chooses her son Roan to fight Lexa. Lexa bests Roan but kills Nia instead of him, and pronounces Roan the king of Ice Nation. She and Clarke later bond as Clarke tends to her wounds.
In "Hakeldama," Clarke, Lexa, and other Grounders discover an army of fallen Grounders, slain by Pike (the new and destructive leader of the Sky People) and his followers. Indra is found wounded and says Bellamy persuaded Pike to let her live in order to tell Lexa that the Sky People reject the newly-formed coalition. Lexa allows Clarke's return to Arkadia to tell Bellamy and the others to step down. Clarke fails to convince Bellamy, but convinces Lexa to end the cycle of violence in hopes of peace.
In "Bitter Harvest," Lexa worries that by trying to make peace instead of engaging in war, she is betraying the commanders who came before her. Clarke assures her that her legacy will be peace. Roan has Emerson, the last Mountain Man, delivered to Clarke; she must decide his fate. She ultimately decides to let Lexa banish him.
In "Thirteen," the Grounders celebrate their Ascension Day, a holy day for Grounders. Octavia and a man named Semet walk in claiming the Sky People destroyed their village. Discussing the situation, Titus wants Lexa to destroy the thirteenth clan while Clarke thinks they just need time to take out Pike from the inside. Speaking to everyone, Lexa orders the armies not to attack, but instead make a perimeter around Arkadia and says that any Sky Person found past the five mile buffer will be killed. Semet is angry at this and attempts to kill Lexa, but is stopped by Titus who kills him. Later, Titus is against Clarke staying, believing she further endangers Lexa's life. He warns Lexa that, just like with Costia, she may not be able to separate feelings from duty. Lexa is enraged at this, reminding him that because she let Ice Nation into her coalition even after they cut off Costia's head and sent it to her bed, she is more than capable of separating feelings from duty. Later, Clarke goes into Lexa's room and realizes she is saying goodbye. Clarke says the reason she is going back is because the Sky People are her people. Lexa says that this devotion is what makes Clarke the person she is. Clarke suggests that maybe someday they will owe nothing more to their people, and Lexa responds with "May we meet again." Clarke kisses her and they have sex. Afterward, Clarke admires Lexa's tattoos, pointing out there are only seven circles on her back despite there being nine participants. Lexa tells her she got the one on her back on her Ascension Day, and asks to talk about something else. Clarke agrees and they become intimate again.
It is later, as Lexa is running into Clarke's room, that Lexa is accidentally shot by Titus, who intended to kill Clarke. Clarke catches Lexa as she falls and they take her to the bed. Lexa realizes she is going to die and tells Clarke not to be afraid. She tells Titus to never harm Clarke again, and he swears he will not. She tells him serve the next commander as he served her. Clarke continues to try and save Lexa, but she tells Clarke that her spirit will find a new commander. She says her fight is over and that Clarke was right that life should be about more than just surviving. Clarke recites the Traveler's Blessing, an Arkadian prayer. As Lexa dies, Clarke kisses her one last time. Titus extracts a tech from Lexa's neck, where her tattoo is. The tech is called "the flame," and it is revealed to be Lexa's spirit. She was augmented to carry an AI (the flame). The flame is how every new commander is chosen, with each new commander becoming a part of the flame. It is only compatible with Nightbloods. Aden is meant to succeed Lexa, but, in "Stealing Fire," he is murdered by Ontari, a rogue Nightblood who seeks the throne for herself.
In "Perverse Instantiation—Part Two", Clarke is on a mission to stop a holographic AI named ALIE from world domination. ALIE is the one responsible for launching a nuclear strike on Earth because she believed it was needed to save humanity from extinction. This is in contrast to what her creator, Becca, had wanted. With Jaha's help, ALIE has been successful in getting many of the Sky People to swallow a chip that takes away pain (emotional or physical) and simulates a utopia called "the City of Light." In this city, those who have died live on. ALIE uses this chip to entice and control people. Clarke had tried to get Luna, a missing Nightblood and rightful heir to the Commander throne (as indicated by the tattoos on Lexa's back), to accept the flame, but she refused. Clarke is implanted with the flame with the help of a blood transfusion via a brain-dead Ontari, whose blood is compatible with the flame. Clarke takes one of ALIE's chips and enters the City of Light to stop ALIE from within. She is protected by Lexa's spirit and aided by Raven's hacking against ALIE's minions, leading her to a room resembling the Polaris space station, where Becca's spirit shows her the kill switch to destroy ALIE. Before Lexa sacrifices herself to get Clarke to safety, Clarke tells her that she loves her. Lexa says that her spirit will always be with Clarke.
Casting and creation
Show creator Jason Rothenberg said he and others involved with the series were aware of Debnam-Carey while casting Clarke in 2014; although the chance for her to portray Clarke never materialized, her name was brought up while casting Lexa. He called the casting a "no-brainer"; she did not audition for the role, but was rather offered it. At the time, Debnam-Carey was also being considered for the role of Alicia Clark on Fear the Walking Dead. "That's always a concern when you have an actor in your show that is popping—that someone else is going to grab them and make them a series regular if you don't. That's kind of what happened in this case," stated Rothenberg, who considered Debnam-Carey's performance on The 100 "amazing". He added, "You know we can't compete on some level with the cache of a franchise like that, with the numbers." Debnam-Carey was allowed to continue work on both shows. Rothenberg said he would have done the same had it been the other way around, with creators asking to borrow one of his actors, and he would have done his best to make the situation work.
Of the dramatic shift from one show to the other, Debnam-Carey stated, "It was super weird, it was like 'I have no power anymore! No weapons, no power!' But maybe eventually, Alica will be able to have her own kind of power." Lexa, with "such an iconic look and distinct wardrobe," was an alien role for Debnam-Carey. She stated, "I signed on for this role at a time in my personal and work life when there was a little bit of a lull period. I was like, 'I don't know what I'm doing!' It was one of those actor freak-out moments." She said when the chance to portray Lexa presented itself, she was excited because of the quality of the show and its actors, and because the character allowed for a multifaceted dynamic; this resulted in Lexa being the character she has favored portraying thus far. "Thankfully, (show creator) Jason [Rothenberg], the creative team, the writers, and the hair and make-up are very collaborative," Debnam-Carey said. "They're really willing to create something. And that's what's so lucky about this show. It never started with expectation, so we've been able to embrace it and really make it our own, and that's been wonderful."
Rothenberg said he and his crew do some research with regard to depicting societies, such as the Grounders, within the series, but most of what is shown is based on his personal tastes. He enjoys the world-building aspect the most. "Getting to create this universe from the language to the wardrobe to the tattoos ... we obviously get pretty deep into what the grounder spirituality is and means," he stated. "All of that is pretty awesome. So yes, we do some research as to how societies have evolved in the past but for the most part it's fiction." Rothenberg said there are more than just men writing the show; there are several women "writing hardcore sci-fi." In 2015, two commander jackets were described as being "made out of leather, metal, and fur". Debnam-Carey felt that the Grounder culture—the language, wardrobe, makeup and "all the symbolic meaning behind that"—was "one of the highlights" for her. "We explored it as much as we could as actors to break down its meaning, but the best thing about this was finally finding out all this backstory and fully creating this world," she stated, adding they "had three sets built just for the Grounders".
Dany Roth of blastr.com was impressed by the show's costume designs, stating that they are "possibly the best on TV right now. Each costume tells the story of the world, of the people, of the specific character." He said that, like Mad Max, The 100 "understands that the Grounders are repurposing tools and clothing from a time long dead. But the costumes are far from uniform. The people who lived on the ark, the people who live in the forest, the people who live in a frozen tundra, they all dress differently.", and although "there's fashion here that makes the clothes exciting", it is the clothes that tell the story. "I've said this many times before and I'll say it again here," he added, "a good costume makes a good actor a great one. Costumes make a show's world real." Maureen Ryan of Variety, formerly of The Huffington Post, stated that the "most enduring image of Lexa is one of her sitting on a throne made of intertwined branches, her enigmatic eyes looking out from a face half-covered in elaborate war paint." Debnam-Carey said, "I'm lucky they put me in such a badass costume and makeup. It's funny, we did a whole day of tests with that makeup. We were like, 'Should we do this? Should we do tears? Should we do the bindi?'" She collaborated with Rothenberg on the makeup and wardrobe for her character, and both collaborated with viewers on fan versions of the designs.
When developing the character of Lexa further, the idea of her being romantically interested in women was pitched. "It just made complete sense. The moment, I think I'm remembering it now, the moment was in Episode 9 when Lexa tells Clarke the story of Costia at the fire after the funeral, and she talks about Costia—that was the first reference, I think, to her sexuality," stated Rothenberg. He "embraced it and [ran] with it."
Personality and portrayal
The writers designed Lexa as a proud and wise warrior who keeps her feelings very guarded, and as someone who is usually unable to show she cares for people. The vulnerability that results from caring, and particularly loving a person, is something she views as a weakness. This was significantly exacerbated by the death of her girlfriend, Costia; the anger, grief and subsequent dissipation of the grief hardened Lexa further. In addition, having been selected commander involved her going through a brutal training process, as is their society's custom; if she shows weakness in her duties as a commander, she can lose the respect of her warriors.
Debnam-Carey said figuring out how to portray all these aspects of the character was the most challenging part. "For me, it was about finding that mix between vulnerability and tension and a wiseness beyond her years," she said. A director advised her that less is more, and she adapted to the character, and learned more about her, via portrayal. "I realized that I was slowly developing all of these things. Someone was like, 'Is it a thing you've chosen to do, to not blink all the time?' I was like, 'Wow!' When it comes to Lexa, she's very steely-gazed, all the time. There's a presence about her and a knowingness, and she's always observant." By making calculated choices, she is used to getting what she wants.
Lexa is the first Grounder leader to seek peace, which Debnam-Carey described as "somewhat difficult" for the other Grounders to understand because of their "rough and aggressive" culture; she is also "the first person to unite the 12 clans and to actually have the option of an alliance." Throughout, she is extremely loyal, but more so to her own people; she puts them first regardless of the cost. Debnam-Carey said "it's in [Lexa's] blood" to put her people first because they "are so close to her, that's what she's been groomed to be. She comes from a really harsh culture and she has huge responsibilities." Lexa is "brutal and she's a pragmatist, but not out of unkindness. It's all she's ever known." Debnam-Carey did not view Lexa as a teenager, and did not assign her an age, stating, "It's almost like she skipped that period. She was placed in a position where suddenly she was forced to make a lot of hard choices that most people never have to make, no matter what their age is. The 100 is a world where you don't ever really get to be a kid."
Relationship with Clarke
Lexa's relationship with Clarke is presented as intense, complex, and the one thing that manages to soften Lexa's outlook on life. Debnam-Carey said the characters progression from being allies to becoming romantic "stems from a connection that they both share—which is similar experiences and similar positions" in that they are "both very young leaders with great authority, a lot of responsibility. They have to lead a huge amount of people. They have a lot of expectations riding on them." She said the sudden responsibilities they faced, the need to make the right decisions, and the fact they both grieved over past lovers helped connect them further, and it is a connection they do not have with others. Rothenberg originally stated that while he would not go as far to say that it was love at first sight for Lexa, "it definitely was a bit of a thunderbolt moment for her when she first saw Clarke." He said Clarke's attraction to Lexa "developed a little bit more slowly, but by the end [...] they were very much intrigued at the possibility of a romantic relationship." He later said "Lexa was definitely smitten—like love at first sight, probably", but maintained it took longer for Clarke to develop romantic feelings for Lexa.
Debnam-Carey considered the characters being "very adaptable" as one of the interesting aspects of their dynamic. Sacrifices the characters make are "for a much greater goal in the end". They have also "taken characteristics from each other," with Lexa becoming more trusting and learning that love can be empowering, and Clarke becoming more ruthless. "It's very interesting to see the way they ebb and flow with each other," said Debnam-Carey. Of Lexa possibly putting Clarke first instead of her own people, she said perhaps if "Clarke was able to assimilate to their culture as well and become more of a right-hand man, then maybe I think Lexa could—then that would be a merger of two people." Lexa's weaknesses, as indicated by Debnam-Carey, are her feelings for her people and Clarke.
Debnam-Carey appreciated the fact the writers did not make a big deal of defining either characters' sexuality or their romantic relationship. Show creator Rothenberg said labels and gender are not a factor in the series, which Debnam-Carey viewed as true to the story. "[It's] just a world where people love people for who they are and not what they are and that creates such a broad variety of characters. It is representative of the world that we live in today, but it also doesn't make it out to be this statement—it's not a social/cultural statement," she said. "It is just that in this world, some things are a little better after the apocalypse [...] It kind of represents, in a way, an ideal place where people love people and it doesn't have to be a thing, which I think is really great."
Of the decision to have Lexa betray Clarke, a significant moment for the series that allowed the writers to strain the characters' relationship, Rothenberg said Lexa was under the impression Clarke would likely die in the battle and Mount Weather would possibly remain to keep her people united. "She was probably—master strategist that she is—thinking several moves ahead. Thinking she could keep her alliance together, the 12 clans, because they would still have this evil empire out there to unite them," he stated. Lexa was not expecting Clarke to win, and to subsequently become a legend. "Everywhere she goes it's like, 'I heard it was 5,000 people! No, I heard it was 10,000 people!' Everywhere she goes, [Clarke's] a legend now," said Rothenberg. "Certainly it means that her alliance now no longer has a real reason to be held together. [...] I'm really excited to play out the ramifications of all of that." Rothenberg said Clarke would eventually come to terms with the likelihood that, if she had been in a similar position as Lexa, she would have done the same thing: Protect her own people at all costs. He said she did as much in the season 2 finale. "That was kind of the theme of the entire season, which was how far can you go and still be the good guy in order to save your people. Lexa had that choice in [Episode] 15. Obviously, it landed very emotionally for both of them, but especially on Clarke," he stated. "In [Episode] 16, Clarke had a similar choice and I hope that over the course of the first part of [season 3], Clarke will eventually come to see it that way. If she can't, then they'll never figure out a way to make peace with each other".
Debnam-Carey viewed the betrayal as a relief and release for herself as an actor, and as a "very honest" and "open" moment for Lexa. "It's the first real time you get to see—apart from [them sharing a kiss]—this is a scene where she makes a really strong choice, but you can see that it's hard for her to do, and she does care," Debnam-Carey stated. She said Clarke's portrayer, Eliza Taylor, was "brilliant" and "great to work with and between the two of us, we were just very connected with each other and made sure that that was the strong force of that scene." To Debnam-Carey, Lexa "showing that she cared, even in that moment of betrayal" was Lexa being real. Debnam-Carey argued that even though Lexa was upset by the betrayal, she is a very hardened person and her people continued to be her main concern. She does not think Lexa was preoccupied with the repercussions. Unlike Rothenberg, Debnam-Carey felt "[Lexa] always knew [Clarke] was going to [survive]. Now those cards are back on the table, if she wants to restart an alliance or whatever else."
Lexa, and her relationship with Clarke, have been well received by critics and fans. Maureen Ryan, writing for The Huffington Post, stated, "In a show packed with morally compromised characters, Lexa stood out; she led a tribe of Earth inhabitants named Grounders with a combination of deftness, intelligence and unhesitating ferocity." Ryan felt Lexa "does not suffer fools gladly, yet Debnam-Carey made Lexa's vulnerability and her attraction to Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) not just believable, but engrossing." Linda Ge of TheWrap referred to her as a fan-favorite, while Eric Goldman of IGN called her "a standout, highly popular character". The staff for SheWired stated that she "had the best character introduction ever and never stopped being great" and "has proven to be endlessly engaging, even when she's making choices that make us want to crawl into a ball and cry." Dana Piccoli of AfterEllen.com characterized Lexa as a "mysterious queer character" that has caught the audience's attention, and complimented the "chemistry and increasing bond between Lexa and Clarke," adding, "Both are smart, and somehow manage to see the bigger picture. [...] Here are two young women, leading their people to salvation or at least as close to salvation as they can get." The A.V. Club's Kyle Fowle reasoned that Lexa's resolve while facing the reality of protecting the Sky People, the 13th clan, while risking an uprising from the other clans and her own people "is exactly what makes her one of the better characters on TV." Hypable.com's Selina Wilken said that she was "one of the best and, yes, most divisive characters in recent TV history."
Many viewers were upset by Lexa's betrayal of Clarke, resulting in debates about why she may have done it, and Andy Swift of TVLine's stating, "I'm pretty sure I speak for Clarke, and all the angry viewers watching from home, when I say, 'Lexa, please meet a fiery death. ASAP.'" Mariya Karimjee of Vulture viewed "the hurt and confusion that washed across Eliza Taylor's face" during the betrayal as "one of the most powerful performances" she had seen on the show and said the heavy, emotional struggle came from both characters, with Clarke realizing "Lexa is the only person who understands her." Kyle Fowle of The A.V. Club stated that having the characters reunite after the betrayal, "allows for the show to dig into one of its most complex and compelling relationships. Clarke and Lexa are a tangle of emotions and motivations. [...] They share a connection on an emotional level, a romantic level, and they recognize the burden of responsibility that they each have taken on." Fowle felt "Clarke's relative forgiveness of Lexa makes sense within the context of the war of her people, and the larger political conflict at hand. When she kneels before Lexa [...], it's loyalty informed by weeks of patient storytelling."
Whether or not Lexa should be paired with Clarke was also debated, especially by fans of the Bellamy and Clarke relationship ("Bellarke"), which is canon in the books. This resulted in a rivalry between the fanbases. In 2015, Sydney Bucksbaum of E! Online stated with regard to season 2, "People who want to see Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Clarke (Eliza Taylor) get together—ahem, in every sense of the word—have had to suffer through a full season in which they were actually separated for pretty much the entire time." Rothenberg told Bucksbaum that he was not dismissing the pairing; rather the Bellamy and Clarke romance was not yet the focus. He said the show gives indications that Bellamy and Clarke care deeply for each other, and those wanting a romance at the time should read the books. "We played with the Lexa/Clarke storyline [in season 2] and that [was] still ongoing because both characters [were] still breathing," stated Rothenberg. "The journey is long, and eventually we'll be able to tell that story in all its glory." He said when it came to whether or not the series would end with Clarke and Lexa as a couple, he would not comment on the matter and knew where he wanted the series to go, but he was always open to better ideas. Eliza Taylor also weighed in on the matter, stating that she loves that bisexuality on the show is portrayed as normal, and that she also likes the chemistry between Bellamy and Clarke.
Clarke and Lexa's relationship had a significant impact on the LGBT community. Dalene Rovenstine of Entertainment Weekly stated that the series "has featured unexpected twists (a baby in space! a human harvest chamber! cannibals!), the shocking deaths of multiple main characters, and amounts of blood and gore you wouldn't expect to be approved on network TV. But none of those moments have created a stir quite like [...] when [Clarke and Lexa] locked lips." The kiss was trending on Twitter after it aired, and many fans created artwork of the characters and couple as the series progressed; others engaged in cosplay of Lexa (dressing up like the character), with some receiving input from Debnam-Carey and Rothenberg.
Debnam-Carey was surprised by the attention. She was new to Twitter and Instagram, and did not know what shipping (the desire by fans for two people or fictional characters to be in a romantic or platonic relationship) meant; she saw that fans had given the pairing the portmanteau "Clexa". "I was on Instagram or something and I checked my tagged photos, and I realized that suddenly they were all LGBT artwork. I was like, 'Oh, my god!' I had no idea. It was the first time I realized I was a figure for that community," said Debnam-Carey. She called this "an honor" and "flattering," and added, "It's new for our society, as well. It's one of the first shows that really has two characters in the cast that are gender and sexually fluid and embraces that. There are no labels. It's a wonderful thing to be a part of. I'm all for it." While at Paleyfest 2016, she was made aware of fans raising money in her name for The Trevor Project, an organization for LGBT teenagers in need, and the fact that, at the time, $46,000 dollars had been raised. When asked if she knew she had that much of an impact on the LGBT community, Debnam-Carey commented, "Not that much, no, that's amazing." As of July 13, 2016, over $135,000 dollars have been raised.
Selina Wilken of Hypable.com appreciated that the show had "subtly introduced [its] first queer character" and that it is free of the other "big issues in today's society," like gender stereotyping, racism or misogyny, but felt the writers had been heteronormative with their romances before that point, which she characterized as "bizarre" for "an imagined future where marginalization" no longer exists. "In a media landscape where gay, lesbian and bisexual characters are still often defined mainly by their sexuality, having Lexa—one of the show's strongest, most well-liked characters—casually reveal that she's queer and then carry on with her day sends a strong and important message to young viewers," stated Wilken. "However, there's a big difference between having a supporting character (however brilliant) play the pronoun game, and actually featuring a same-sex pairing on the show." She said The CW did not have "a single queer main character on any of the network's currently running shows" and that needed to change. "The next step, obviously, is the visual: The 100 has made it pretty clear that gender, race and sexuality are not issues worth bringing up in conversation, which is great," said Wilken. "But then, following this Show-Don't-Tell approach, how about actually featuring a same-sex pairing on the air? Give her a love interest, however fleeting. The ball's in your court, writers." To this point, Rothenberg had Clarke have sex with a different woman in season 3 (while parted from Lexa) to make it clear that Clarke is bisexual, ensuring she would be viewed as a lead LGBT character.
Exit from the series
With Debnam-Carey's limited role on the series, Rothenberg contemplated how best to continue or end Lexa's story. When he chose to kill her off, this resulted in much animosity among the fanbase, with viewers and critics (especially those who were upset or confused by the decision) debating whether she was killed off for being lesbian, and whether she was killed off the right way; many also felt the decision was a blow or slight to the LGBT community because of the view that it reinforced the "dead lesbian syndrome" (or "bury your gays") trope, which posits that a lesbian couple (or other same-sex couple) on television or in film can never be happy for long, if at all, because one or both of them will soon die.
Viewers expressed their anger on Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media sites, with a number of them threatening to dox (reveal personally identifiable information about) the writers, others making death threats, and some stating they were suicidal after watching the episode; people associated with the show immediately responded and tried to ease their thoughts, and defended the series by stating characters die on the show all the time. A number of fans compared Clarke and Lexa's final moments together to the death scene involving Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, finding both moments unjust. The "bury your gays" trope rose to a national debate, and the international fan-led initiatives "Lexa Deserved Better" and "LGBT Fans Deserve Better" emerged, initially dominating Twitter. The Trevor Project was also borne out of the backlash, and had "raised more than $30,000 (£21,000) in just a few hours."
Calling the uproar messy, Caroline Framke of Vox said killing off Lexa "may have alienated part of [the audience] for good. [...]." She argued that "on the one hand, [Lexa's] death was gut wrenching, and it unexpectedly brought together several disparate story strands in The 100 's floundering third season. On the other, Lexa was an openly queer woman leading 12 armies, a rare sight for LGBTQ representation on television. Less rare, unfortunately, is the trope of television and movies killing gay women off for shock value." Framke was especially critical of the show having Lexa die immediately after having sex and pillow talk with Clarke, which were long-awaited scenes; to Framke, this signaled "sex, love, death", particularly for lesbian couples. Eric Goldman of IGN argued similarly, stating, "No, no, no, no, no. [...] If there's one thing I truly hate about how Lexa's death was handled, it's this." Feeling that this setup was "really trite and cliché", and made worse by the dead lesbian trope, he commented, "While I don't think The 100 writers ever intended to imply 'sex = death,' it ended up coming off that way." He felt fans of the couple "were truly manipulated and treated poorly" and that, given how important the couple was to people, they deserved more time to see them happy. "To the LGBTQ fandom who looked at Lexa as important, I can sympathize," he said, "but as a straight white male, I wouldn't dream of saying 'I totally get it.'" Goldman, like Framke, however, felt Lexa's death was a good opportunity to propel the show's story of artificial intelligence (AI) with respect to Lexa forward. "If The 100 is smart—and it usually is—Lexa's death will be the defining moment of the season," he said.
Variety's Maureen Ryan, who expected Lexa to eventually die, and called Clarke and Lexa's love and deathbed scenes spectacular, said the season had been rushed and Lexa's death after sex with Clarke "was another case of the show compressing a timeline to an unfortunate degree." Ryan argued that the way a character dies matters, particularly for LGBTQ characters, given their under-representation and misrepresentation in the media. She listed scenarios with pros and cons about how the show might have better played out the Lexa factor, including the suggestion of Lexa never being in season 3. While Bethonie Butler of The Washington Post stated that part of what fueled the outrage is that The 100 was thought to be "progressive in its treatment of LGBT characters," and so the death led to feelings of betrayal, Hypable.com's Selina Wilken said that "Season 3 did a lot to build Lexa up before her fall, turning her into an almost King Arthur-like figure of salvation in this broken world, at least partly in an effort to blind-sight and devastate the audience when she died. (And... mission accomplished, all too well.)" Butler added, "The controversy reveals the pitfalls of a show misunderstanding its audience and the politics of minority representation onscreen."
Trish Bendix of AfterEllen.com, on the other hand, challenged the outrage, stating that while LGBT visibility matters, fictional characters of color (including transgender characters of color) do not get a tenth of the attention that white television characters do. She hoped to see viewers care more about these characters going forward. The A.V. Club's Kyle Fowle felt that while "it's certainly frustrating to see one of TV's prominent lesbian characters written off so hastily," the show made Lexa's death mean something. In his opinion, episode "Thirteen" is "a remarkable episode, one that deepens the mythology of The 100 while also delivering on a number of character threads that have been left dangling for much of this season so far." Damian Holbrook of TV Insider argued that, despite assertions to the contrary, television writers and producers never hastily kill off a character. "They are humans who come to love their casts and their characters as much as we do, but they are also ultimately telling a story."
Liz Shannon Miller of IndieWire opined, "The outrage over the show falling prey to the 'lesbian death trope' was epic—in a season full of death, Lexa became an icon for how LGTBQ characters and characters of color seem to die an awful lot more than others." TV Guide listed the death as one of the most important television moments of 2016, arguing that while Lexa was not a main character, she "was critically important to a portion of the population who watched the show: a strong, proudly LGBT character whose sexuality was only a part of who she was -- a rarity on TV.", and that her death "sparked a year-long discussion about how, and why, this trope must change."
Creator and portrayer commentary
Rothenberg said he had not always planned on killing Lexa, but the fact that Debnam-Carey was simultaneously on another show (Fear the Walking Dead), and was therefore unlikely to ever become a series regular on The 100, he felt use of the character would be limited or absent in the future. This is when the writers decided to craft a death scene for her to propel the story forward. "I remember as we were breaking the season, we talked about reincarnation in the Grounder world and how that was how commanders were selected. I didn't want to throw that out as nonsense, which is how Clarke had received it, but I also didn't want to say that it was real reincarnation," he said, adding he had been reading The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil at the time, which "talks quite a bit about a future where we'll be able to upload our minds—literally upload our consciousness—into a computer and live forever." This gave Rothenberg the idea for incorporating a "technological reincarnation" storyline. "The commander A.I. would need to be able to pass itself from person to person over time and [...] Lexa was just the most recent recipient of this artificial intelligence augmentation of her consciousness. So once we came up with that idea, that was the point at which everything jelled and sort of came together storytelling-wise," he stated. "And of course, if you're dealing with a story about reincarnation, you've got to die before you can be reincarnated. So Lexa dying became a very tragic necessity." Rothenberg said Clarke was in love with Lexa, that they were soulmates, and Lexa's death will haunt Clarke. "[She] is going to have to figure out how to compartmentalize, the way that all of us have to do in the real world when people are suddenly and tragically taken away from us," he added. "That's kind of the point of The 100 in many ways. These horrible things happen and yet we still have to figure out a way to move on and be the heroes of our own stories."
Debnam-Carey thanked Lexa's creators, and said, "It has been an honour to portray [Lexa]. To envelop myself in her skin. To be given the freedom to represent a moment in our cultural and social zeitgeist—she has left a great imprint on me. I will miss her. May we meet again." While at Paleyfest 2016 promoting Fear the Walking Dead, she addressed Lexa's death publicly for the first time. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said she was "surprised by the intensity and the fury" that came from fans and she did not think "anyone on the show expected such social outcry." To Debnam-Carey, "any attention we can draw to a movement like that is an amazing thing, and is a great thing to pursue and keep working towards." She emphasized Lexa's death never came from a place of hate or negativity from the writers or Rothenberg, or anyone in the crew, and the death was purely a creative decision made due to her obligations to Fear the Walking Dead. "I know obviously that it's hard when there are social issues going on and maybe they were dealt with in an insensitive way for some people," stated Debnam-Carey. "And I hate that people feel like that. That's really awful if people feel ostracized or targeted." At her second Q&A panel weekend at Copenhagen Comic-Con, she said, "It saddens me to think that this was an event that tarnished the show."
The fan outcry and subsequent discussions over Lexa's death led several screenwriters and producers to sign the Lexa Pledge, a pledge promising to treat gay and lesbian characters in future plotlines with consideration to their emotional and cultural impact. Some have argued that this stifles creativity and the freedom to develop characters and stories, while others have welcomed the debate, even if they have not signed the pledge. Although Rothenberg said he was "very sorry for not recognizing [the "bury your gays" trope] as fully as [he] should have", he would have still killed off Lexa; he would have written it in a way that does not perpetuate the trope, such as death after sex. He said that while he understands the argument that Lexa should have had a heroic death, having such a powerful character die by a stray bullet was more realistic because it signifies that anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who wrote the episode, said, "I don't think that the failure here was to discuss [Lexa's death], the failure was to recognize the cultural impact it would have outside the show [...] I am grateful for the tidal wave that came down on me. The activism that goes on online is [very] important."
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