Theme: Favourite fictional characters
**Spoiler warning for The 100 up to episode 3×16**
The iconic Commander Lexa of the Grounders has graced our screens for the last time with a brief appearance on last week’s season three finale of The 100. As soft as she was fierce, as brutal as she was merciful this is one supporting character, whose impact will be felt far beyond the show she appeared on.*
When Lexa was shot by a stray bullet immediately after consummating her relationship with the show’s female lead, Clarke, the loss felt by fans was immediate and intense. Not solely because the scene was a clumsy and painful reiteration of a damaging TV trope, where LGBTQ characters seem doomed for punishment whenever they find love and happiness, but also for the simple fact that Lexa was an incredibly beloved character.
Some characters are able to capture the imagination of the viewer. Lexa is such a character for me. A magical combination of look, performance, emotional resonance, and all round badassery sucked me in to a universe, where the leader of the remaining world was a young girl caught between the brutal weight of responsibility towards others, and an irrepressible desire to experience love for herself. A simple story, so powerfully and movingly performed and portrayed that the character has far outgrown the show for which she was created. Now she lives on in the unbridled glorious imagination of fanart and works.
The betrayal – a controversial character-defining moment
Lexa is a young woman in a position of divinely bestowed power, with an immense capability to love but with a crushing responsibility to be selfless and lead her people. The role of Commander demands that Lexa the girl sacrifice her own heart’s true desires for the well-being of her people. We see this in the season 2 finale, when Lexa abandons Clarke at the mountain in order to free her people and avoid any further bloodshed to her warriors.
An act that by Clarke and the sky people would understandably be interpreted as cowardly and disloyal. But Lexa the Heda does not concern herself with the opinions and judgements that others may make on her person and character. Let them think her cold and cruel – she shows no vanity in this regard. Her concern and love is aimed solely towards her people, those imprisoned in the depths of the Mountain and the warriors tasked to free them. Ultimately it is their well-being, freedom, and survival that she as Commander is bound to ensure.
The choice may seem a simple one then, but Lexa becomes all the more fascinating because we as viewers know of the internal struggle bubbling beneath the stoic Commander facade. In Clarke she has found a kindred spirit. Someone to confide in, who understands the selfless requirements of leadership. Lexa’s conflict is not a moral one. Her struggle is not with being disloyal towards her allies the Sky People. She is in the throes of a much more human, relatable, and down to earth conundrum – the unbearable act of betraying a loved one.
This is in no way to suggest that Lexa’s choice to make a deal with the mountain men is ever in question. This is a girl painfully aware of having been chosen to live a life of personal solitude and duty. This she honours above all else in that moment when she turns her back on Clarke, along with the romantic ‘maybe someday’ that remains unsaid between them. As a Commander who values every single life of her people she cannot justify more death for the sake of her own heart’s private longings and loyalties. In pained eyes and in the quietly confessed “I’m sorry”, we glimpse the girl whose heart selfishly beats for Clarke of the Sky People. Lexa derives no personal joy or glory from this betrayal. She sacrifices her own heart in an effort to stop an age-old bloodshed of her people.
Lexa and Heda – the complex duality of character
Lexa is never just Lexa. She is also always the Commander, Heda of her people. The two are inseparable entities, who at the same time cannot be wholly conflated. Throughout the first half of the third season we see Lexa using her visionary political mind to carve out a world, where the motivations and loyalties of Lexa and the Commander do not need to be mutually exclusive. It is a fascinating struggle, masterfully portrayed in the season’s third episode “Ye Who Enter Here” written by Kim Shumway. While Lexa attempts to make amends with the girl she loves, the Commander is simultaneously working towards strengthening her leadership to ensure a fragile peace. This does not make Lexa manipulative, it makes her complex. Her sincerity and dedication towards both goals – the peace and unity between the thirteen clans, as well as her love and dedication towards Clarke – are never in question. Both are true and reflective of her character. As both Heda and Lexa we experience someone who is ambitious, selfless, and above all loving. These are the core values she exudes from all her being and one of the reasons why Lexa kom Trikru holds such a tight grip on my heart.
It would be remiss not to mention one of the most intriguing and engaging aspects of Lexa. A lot of her appeal lies in the subtle performance given by Alycia Debnam-Carey. Lexa is introduced as a stoic character and yet she never comes across as cold. She is guarded and sparse with her emotions yet every interaction comes across as multilayered. In Lexa’s eyes and micro-expressions, we see all that her position prevents her from voicing. Throughout the second season we are offered glimpses into the rich depth of feeling that is carefully contained and controlled behind the rituals and traditions of the Heda form. She is after all not only the chosen commander but also a vessel for all previous commanders – inspired by their wisdom, strength, and previous experience as leaders. All this, and yet she is still Lexa. The girl who, however much she tries, cannot prevent her heart from seeking out love.
In conclusion; Lexa kom Trikru is able to open an episode by kicking a grown man out of a tower, and end it by dropping to her knees and swearing fealty to the girl she betrayed but still loves, now that is a character I can get behind! She will be sorely missed.