'Do No Harm': Why Abby Griffin's Story Is One of 'The 100's Most Complex Tragedies
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The 100 Season 6 Episode 8, "The Old Man and the Anomaly"]
When fans of The 100 think of a fallen hero, the first character that comes to mind is probably Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos). That’s reasonable. Octavia went from being an innocent girl who lived her childhood under the floor, to being a warrior who saved her people, to being a reluctant leader, to being something of a dictator.
But there exists another tragic figure whose story seems to be moving along the same path as Octavia’s, though not to the same extreme degree: Abby Griffin (Paige Turco).
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After “The Old Man and the Anomaly,” it has become clear that the old Abby — the Abby who fought to do the right thing and wound up in an airlock in the show’s pilot — is fading. Whether or not she returns will remain to be seen, but Clarke’s (Eliza Taylor) mom just made a decision that would’ve appalled her Ark-era self in killing Gavin to ensure Marcus Kane’s (Henry Ian Cusick) survival.
How did Abby get here, and why is her tale a tragedy? Let’s explore why Dr. Griffin’s choice was as upsetting for her character as it is intricate.
Deserving to Survive
In the show’s first two seasons, Abby was concerned with surviving while doing the right thing. She released Jake’s message about the Ark’s air supply for the good of her people, even though she knew doing so could get her killed. She met with Indra to try to negotiate for Finn, because she felt the right thing for him wasn’t a grounder execution: it was standing trial. She was appalled by Clarke’s decision not to tell civilians about the bombs at Tondc and reminded her not to forget that they were “the good guys.”
It’s worth noting that under Abby’s leadership, Arkadia had three months of peace with the grounders. Given how close they’d been to war before, that’s a stunning achievement. So, what happened?
A Flawed Leader
One of the things The 100 has excelled in doing throughout its run is highlighting the weaknesses leaders have. Octavia’s weakness was her inexperience and her eventual craving for power. Lexa’s weakness was balancing peace with a system that only appreciated bloodshed. Kane’s weakness was his rigid adherence to the rules. Abby’s weakness is her heart.
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Almost all of the questionable decisions Abby has made, even before the show began, can be traced back to the people in peril when she opted to go through with them. Telling Jaha about Jake’s plan? Done to save her husband. Arming Finn, Bellamy and Murphy? Done to get Clarke back. Destroying the testing chamber in Becca’s lab? Done to save Clarke. Making it illegal not to be a cannibal? Done to save everyone, but Kane was definitely on her mind.
As many have noted, Abby cares for the people she loves to a fault. This doesn’t make her a bad character, or annoying, or selfish: It makes her human. But when people working against her, like Josephine, realize how easily her heart can dominate her head, they use it against her. And unfortunately, the stakes of her making those choices have gotten higher and more devastating.
Emotion Over Ethics
The emotional decision for Abby eventually stopped being the most ethical decision, and as she kept choosing emotion over ethics, those choices began eating away at her. The ethical decision in the bunker might have been to let people choose whether or not to be cannibals, but the emotional decision (and the best decision for the survival of the human race) was to outlaw not eating.
Even now, with Sanctum’s Nightblood dilemma and Kane’s recent body-swap, Abby committed an ethical sin to save someone she loves—though it's worth noting that she didn't inject Gavin with the serum, Simone did. The difference between Season 1 Abby and Season 6 Abby is that Ark-era Abby would’ve looked for another way to ensure Kane’s survival; she would’ve figured out a method of saving him without taking a sledgehammer to her morals. But Season 6 Abby is exhausted, and bitter, and thoroughly human, and she wants the people she loves alive and well more than she wants to be the good guy.
She’s Been Through a Lot
Season 6 Abby has survived every circle of hell, but at what cost? Despite the passage of 100 years, these characters have awoken like they went to sleep the night before. Abby is still dealing with the ramifications of a years-long addiction, as well as her own self-hatred for what she did during The Dark Year, which isn’t helping her think clearly. Should Abby have realized Clarke wasn’t Clarke? Maybe. Is it justifiable, given her mental state, that she didn’t? Yes.
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Like Octavia, Abby sees herself not as a hero but as a monster. She doesn’t think it’s possible for her to earn redemption, she has Raven reinforcing that line of thinking and telling her to commit suicide. As such, she’s focusing on saving those who deserve it even if it tears her apart, because she thinks she’s fallen too far to deserve forgiveness. As the “objectively right thing” and the “thing that saves the most people” have gotten farther and farther apart, Abby strayed from the person she was and evolved into a tragic figure rather than a hero who always makes the best choice.
The Other Side of the Octavia Coin
There are echoes of Octavia’s journey in Abby’s current storyline. Much like Abby, Octavia was put in an impossible position with life-or-death stakes and emerged from it a self-proclaimed “monster.” Both started out trying to do the right thing—Octavia’s government was merciful, early on—but they had to take drastic measures and were trapped, despising themselves, inside a system they constructed. Octavia immersed herself in power to cope. Abby numbed her guilt through pills.
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Abby and Octavia are mirror images of each other, struggling with self-hatred from the same sins and their methods of justifying them. They’ve both shown impulsive and reckless behavior that proves they crave absolution more than they want happiness or even life; Octavia was ready to die a hero’s death in the slime pit, Abby doesn’t care if Kane hates her as long as she can bring him, and his objective “goodness,” back. They’ve both made enemies of those closest to them, since Bellamy has now given up on his sister, and Raven has little love left in her heart for the woman who was once her semi-adoptive mom.
As such, if Abby is ever to truly heal, it seems there would need to be some closure between her and Octavia. But can either of them ever forgive each other?
Another interesting parallel in Abby’s tragic journey is the ways in which she’s mimicking Kane in Season 1. She lacks his adherence to a set of rules, but, like him, she makes morally unsound decisions that she thinks are for the greater good; his were the Culling and her shocklashing, hers are The Dark Year and erasing Gavin. And, like Season 1 Kane, those decisions, made with the intent of salvation for her people and those she loves, are slowly ripping her apart.
Even 125 years in cryo couldn't freeze the love between Marcus Kane and Abby Griffin.
Now, it seems Kane and Abby’s mindsets are swapped. Kane is concerned with making sure their people “deserve to survive,” while Abby, after everything she’s survived and suffered, is more concerned with keeping those she loves alive “at every turn and any cost.” It was Kane who told her that first they’d survive, then they’d get their humanity back, but he seems to believe in a reversed version of that statement while Abby’s adhering to its original phrasing.
Redemption Arc or a Redemptive Death?
Where is Abby’s storyline going for the rest of the season? She’s made another dark choice that will undoubtedly push her closer to the edge, and while Kane might eventually come around, he’s going to spend a while despising her for it. She needs someone to pull her back from the darkness within herself before it consumes her.
Given everything she’s done, it’s possible Abby might not survive the season (though if the show’s losing a Season 1 cast member in Henry Ian Cusick, there’s no way it’ll let Paige Turco go, too). Jackson is apparently a good enough doctor to perform brain surgery, which puts Abby’s narrative relevance on shaky ground. She could, in theory, sacrifice herself for someone she loves in an ultimate move of altruism: A final choice of emotion over logic in line with her character’s motivations. If this happens, it’ll probably be Josephine who takes her life.
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It’d be far more satisfying, though, to see Abby survive. If she’s really serving as a parallel to Octavia and Season 1 Kane, she should have a redemption arc that sees her realize her worth, her importance and that her past does not dictate her future. If Octavia isn’t too far gone, neither is she, and it’s likely they both still have a role to play in each other’s stories (as does Kane).
First, Abby will survive. Then she’ll get her humanity back. But for now, she just needs a hug.
The 100, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW