Why 'The 100' Needed to (Temporarily) Get Rid of Clarke Griffin

Emily Hannemann
Opinion Sergei Bachlakov/The CW

In the trailer for Season 6 of The 100, these 13 episodes of the series seemed relatively straightforward. Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) and her friends were going to try to coexist with the inhabitants of Sanctum. That attempt at coexistence was going to go sideways, as it always does. Team Clarke was either going to have to start a war or step into an existing one, as they often do. They were still going to try to be good guys, as they always do.

Then Episode 4 happened.

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The show turned itself upside down by replacing Clarke with Josephine Lightbourne, and thus far, the change has been refreshing. While we definitely miss Clarke and don’t want her to be gone permanently, many of the changes that have come from this seismic character shift have been positive.

Here’s why we think it was necessary for Clarke’s story to take such an unexpected turn.

Written Into a Corner

Though there was certainly more story to tell with Clarke before she was Josephine’d, the beginning of Season 6 was perhaps the most unrelentingly harsh on her. For the first time, she had relatively few steady allies. Many of her friends reluctantly followed her lead, but they hadn’t forgiven her for her morally gray actions on Earth.

Clarke wasn’t a villain, but the narrative kept pointing out her wrongdoings and the ways in which her decisions could’ve resulted in her friends’ deaths. That point, hammered home in the premiere with Shaw’s death, is one of the reasons turning Clarke into Josephine was a good idea.

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Putting another chip in her neck gave Clarke a break from the “all my actions result in good people dying and my friends angry at me” cycle in which her character had been trapped. It also framed her as a victim rather than a hero or antihero, prompting sympathy from both the audience and the other characters on the show.

Breaking New Ground

Trapping Clarke in her own mind also allows the show to explore something it hadn’t much pondered when it comes to main characters: the effects of trauma. Yes, Clarke hallucinated Finn after his death and yes, Raven, Bellamy and others have struggled with what they’ve had to do. But by and large, the show moved on from their guilt after a few episodes when the plot moved forward.

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Keeping her locked inside a cell of her best and worst memories gives the show a chance to delve into the lasting psychological effects of everything that happened since the original hundred landed on the ground, and how Clarke really feels about the role she’s played in certain events that transpired. Although we know she’ll “escape,” showing she’s weighed down by all the burdens she’s had to carry will humanize her.

Other Characters Interact

In seasons past, many character interactions were centered around Clarke, or at least her storyline, which was typically the most integral to the overall plot. She’s still incredibly important this season — even though she’s gone, she’s still the main character — but replacing her with Josephine has cleared some space for others to solve problems, talk to each other and develop.

For example, Murphy’s storyline this season would probably be entirely different if Clarke was still around. If Season 6 had taken the route of “Clarke tries to convince the Sanctum people to let her group live on the planet” or even “Clarke and her group go to war against Sanctum,” there wouldn’t be as much time to explore Murphy’s fear of damnation and how far he’ll go to avoid it. Clarke’s “death” has also sparked interaction between Bellamy and Madi, who were a good duo last season (even if Bellamy giving Madi the Flame was controversial).

No Easy Way Out

While the midseason or season finale might end with Clarke escaping Josephine’s control and bringing an end to the Primes, for the most part, characters have had to learn how to deal with their own problems. Their fearless leader isn’t coming to save them with a last-minute plan to save the human race or keep the planet intact, or a perfect idea that’ll allow everyone to coexist.

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This has fostered some pretty unique scenes of character development (Murphy’s standoff with Bellamy, Madi turning to Sheidheda for revenge on Sanctum, Gaia being exiled and however that affects her, etc.) we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. While we hope — and wholeheartedly believe — Josephine won’t be taking up permanent residence in Clarke’s body, getting rid of her has definitely developed some characters that might not have gotten a chance to shine.

Josephine Lightbourne, Nice to Meet You

The last major benefit of Clarke’s temporary absence has been who’s showed up to, quite literally, step into her shoes. Josephine Lightbourne, while not exactly a likable character, has easily been one of the season’s most intriguing additions. She has her own agenda apart from the Primes’ plan for eternal life, and exploring her goals has given the show a deeper mythology, a truly unique setting and a bunch of cool tunes (she’s evil, but she has good music taste).

Josephine’s introduction has also given Eliza Taylor the chance to play a new person inhabiting the shell of her old character, and she’s risen to the challenge spectacularly. Taylor has made Josephine compelling, frightening, funny and astute, and the actress deserves high praise for everything she’s accomplished this season.

The 100, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW