In Defense of Blodreina: Why Octavia Blake Deserves Redemption on 'The 100'

Emily Hannemann
Opinion Diyah Pera/The CW

The Girl Under The Floor. Oktevia kom Trikru. Skairipa. Osleya. Throughout her time on The CW’s The 100 Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos) has held a litany of different titles, but perhaps none as menacing as the one synonymous with her name this season: Blodreina.

“The Red Queen” of the bunker was perhaps the show’s biggest character shift from season to season when, during the six-year time jump, Octavia went from an impulsive warrior who cared for her friends, to… well, a ruthless ruler who seemed to put her goals above the lives of her own people. Long gone was the girl who chased after butterflies, and risen was the tyrant who sanctioned gory, grotesque fighting pits.

Her personality change tore some of the show’s core relationships to shreds, and she frustrated a number of fans who disagreed with what they viewed as her selfishness. More recently, she’s seemed to repent her actions, and has offered herself as a sacrifice to save those for whom she deeply cares. But though she's now seen the light, so to speak, The Red Queen might have always deserved salvation.

Read on for our reasons why Blodreina was never a true villain, and let us know if you think she’s redeemable in the comments!

Thrown (unprepared) into a position she never wanted

Let’s take a trip back to a (comparatively) simpler time: Season 4. In the season finale, “Priamfiya,” Octavia’s last call to her brother betrays her softer side, and makes it apparent that leadership was never a burden she wanted to bear. She was trying to win a battle, not a throne.

“I’m not sure I’m up for this, Bell,” she says. “They look at me like I know what I’m doing, just because I won a fight.”

Bellamy reassures her that she can be a good leader, but it’s clear the youngest Blake isn’t so sure. And at the age of 17, why would she have that confidence? While she is older than Lexa was when she ascended to the throne, the other Commanders trained their entire lives for the Conclave, and were presumably instructed in how to lead during that time. Other Commanders had the Flame in their heads, which gave them knowledge and guidance. Octavia, with red blood, had no such assistance.

Octavia won the Conclave and was ushered hurriedly onto the throne, then became her people’s figurehead for survival throughout six years of torture and suffering. Without the aid given to the other Commanders, it’s not shocking that this position would break her, and change her into someone she never wanted to be.

A gilded facade

Also worth noting is the effect that these choices and losses have on Octavia. She is not Cage Wallace or Charles Pike. Power didn’t corrupt her, it infected her.

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Multiple times throughout the season, Octavia shows signs of truly struggling with the consequences of her decisions, even when she’s given little choice from a leadership standpoint, with clans whose loyalty to their leader shifts all too easily. She practically begs Indra to give her another option that doesn’t involve putting her in the fighting pits.

She brushes off Indra’s admission that she loves her because she’s been taught that love only means loss. When Gaia throws a spear at her and only narrowly misses, she doesn’t appear worried or even shaken by how close she came to losing her life. And, perhaps most profoundly, she seems to contemplate suicide as she holds a jagged shard of a broken mirror to her wrist before making a cut in a less vital area for her war paint.

These are not the actions of a woman drunk on her own leadership abilities; they’re the actions of a woman lost in her own regret and fear, who sees her only path to the light in digging deeper into darkness. Blodreina isn’t Octavia’s friend, she’s her enemy. And at times, it seems The Red Queen is slowly killing her.

Constantly had to make the best horrible choice

From the moment she won the throne, Octavia was faced with one difficult choice after the next, and often was asked to make decisions that held life-or-death stakes for the 1,200 people living in the bunker. One of her first actions as Commander might have been to kill the entire Skaikru faction if they couldn’t make a decision as to who was staying underground; while Octavia had no love for her old group, kicking off her reign with mass murder would undoubtedly have been difficult to come to terms with.

During the rest of her time underground, things didn’t get better. This may be a controversial stance, but of all the Commanders, O might have been forced into leadership at the worst time. Not only were the previously warring factions trapped underground with some of their worst enemies, but they were all looking to her for answers and survival tactics she could barely provide: hence, how The Dark Year came to light.

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Her choice to start the fighting pits was, again, the best horrible choice. While controversial, certainly, it wasn’t done out of bloodlust — she needed to rule with an iron fist to keep her control over her people from melting away. Her redemptive qualities might be different if she took joy in the fighting, or relished it, but for the most part she seems to view it as a necessary evil.

Many of her choices were necessary evils, and the deterioration of her mental health proves that she hasn’t lost herself completely to the darkness: she feels the pain of losing herself, and her people, to the sacrifices she had to make in the name of survival.

The Dark Year would mess anyone up

Granted, it wouldn’t be right to excuse all of Octavia’s actions this season because of the stress and pressure and heartbreak she faced during The Dark Year. Blodreina has made some truly awful decisions, and it remains to be seen whether those choices will end with the death of someone she loves — or even her own demise. But The Dark Year was the biggest horrible choice Octavia was forced to make during her six years underground.  It’s not outside the realm of reason to say her memories and fears from that time would have a deep impact on the person she became when she emerged into the Priamfiya-ruined world.

The Dark Year was awful on several levels. First, eating people for an entire year would be next to impossible, but Octavia was forced to do it in the name of survival. Second, being forced to kill her own people (in the arena and those who refused to eat) and then use them for dinner would be even worse. Third, she had to face many of her choices during that time with far less guidance than she had in the past.

Marcus, who usually acted as the angel on her shoulder, flat-out refused to become a cannibal but didn’t offer her any better options. Indra didn’t support her in the cafeteria when she executed those who wouldn’t eat. Abby gave her the choices and the options and parameters they needed to survive, but she never could have predicted how haywire her suggestions would go. If The Dark Year drove Abby to addiction — as the implication seems to be — imagine the impact it must have had on Octavia’s mental state.

Blodreina still has a heart

A few eagle-eyed fans noticed Octavia helping an old man to safety during one of the season’s earlier episodes, but that’s hardly her only example of genuine emotion. Blodreina might have encased her heart in a layer of steel, but it’s still beating — and at times, it’s breaking.

Much as with the deterioration of her mental state, Octavia’s sentiments and conflicts have become more apparent as the season continues. She definitely still cares for her brother, despite sentencing him to the fighting pits (again, to keep her people in line — and again, she begged Indra to give her a way out of it). She cried when she sat on her throne above the pit, faced with the possibility that her mother figure and brother might both die in the same day, only moments apart.

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And despite their past, she even gave Marcus a way out of the arena because she knew he wasn’t guilty of stealing the pills; she was fair, though he couldn’t (and wouldn’t) accept that offer. Though they might no longer be friends, she didn’t want him to die — at least not until he threatened her control of her people for a second time and forced her hand. She is also seen helping Abby carry a someone on stretcher to safety in next week’s episode, (presumably) a gravely injured Marcus Kane.

Most recently, Octavia has seemed to shed the layers of Blodreina that clouded her feelings and logic. She self-reflects to Indra, realizing that ruling with an iron fist led her people to ruin, and sacrifices herself so that Bellamy, Indra and Gaia can escape to safety. Whether this leads her to redemption or death in the next episode, one thing is certain: she sees the error of her ways, and feels enough guilt about them to try to make up for her sins. 

The 100, Tuesdays, 8/7c, The CW
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