Being a leader in a post-apocalyptic world is no easy job, especially when there is a constant barrage of obstacles threatening the continued existence of mankind. Like most shows taking place against a dystopian backdrop, The 100 explores how outside forces are often less malignant than humanity itself, especially the leaders who either choose, or are forced by circumstances beyond their control, to make some questionable decisions to ensure the survival of those who depend on them. While many characters on The 100 have stepped into leadership roles, nobody has carried this burden with more mixed results than Thelonious Jaha. The former Chancellor turned messiah turned savior continues to keep fans of the show debating whether Jaha is a good guy or just plain bad.
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Judge, Juror and Executioner
As Chancellor of the Ark, Jaha wasn't a popular leader, enforcing some brutal punishments for minor infractions. He imprisoned and executed many, including his best friend, Jake Griffin, when Jake threatened to expose a life-threatening oxygen shortage. Opting to keep this information quiet to avoid panic and chaos, Jaha chose to send 100 young adults, including his own son, to earth as guinea pigs to determine if the planet, ravaged by a nuclear Armageddon, could sustain life.
Jaha would eventually tell Clarke that no leader starts out with the intention of lying, imprisoning or executing his people, but they're broken down by the decisions they are forced to make. So, while Jaha did take responsibility for his actions, he remained unapologetic regarding the outcomes.
Jaha may not have been a particularly merciful Chancellor, but he did offer to sacrifice himself, along with 300 other Arkers, to help conserve resources for those who remained. He also devised a plan to send his people to earth and stayed behind to make sure the plan was executed.
A Never-ending Quest for Salvation
Once Jaha finally made it off the Ark, he became obsessed with finding the City of Light, The 100's equivalent to the Lost City of Atlantis. Believing there could be no peaceful co-existence between the Grounders and the Arkadians, Jaha recruited a small group to go on his quest to find a place he believed would be the salvation for his people. In the meantime, he left others behind to deal with the mad scientists of Mount Weather and the continued threat from the Grounders.
What Jaha found was an evil artificial intelligence, A.L.I.E., and instead of saving mankind, he inflicted upon them a plague, encouraging them to swallow chips that in addition to taking away their pain, both physical and emotional, stole all of their good memories and free will as well. He began to threaten and literally crucify anyone who refused to join his cause.
Was Jaha suffering from grief, mental instability and the lingering effects of oxygen deprivation, seduced into believing that a virtual reality and the promise of eternal peace was preferable to life in this harsh new world? Or did he evolve into a religious fanatic who was able to reconcile torturing and killing for some misguided greater good? Even after Jaha was no longer under A.L.I.E.'s influence, he justified his actions to Bellamy, stating that the best anyone can do is make decisions based on the information they have and hope there is a forgiving God.
After learning that an increasing amount of radiation would make the planet uninhabitable for at least five years, Jaha went in search of the bunker constructed by the Second Dawn. He succeeded, and in doing so, ensured the survival of mankind. But Jaha used his continued influence over Clarke to convince her to seize control over the bunker, condemning all the Grounders to death.
Unlike Clarke and Kane, Jaha still struggles to understand that it is imperative that he learn to work with the Grounders, and that the lives of those from the Ark are no more valuable than anyone else's. If it weren't for Kane, who has come a long way from the power-hungry wannabe Chancellor he was in season 1 (although he still believes survival trumps humanity), Jaha would have likely ignited a battle that would have resulted in the deaths of the very people he was so vehemently trying to protect.
Jaha, no matter how misguided his motives have been, has always tried to act in the best interest of his people. As Roan said, leaders do things so their people don't have to. If that's the standard we use to judge Jaha, he's only the villain so nobody else has to be.
Does finding the bunker make up for Jaha's previous mistakes? Should he be held accountable for his actions while under A.L.I.E.'s influence? Do you think Jaha is a good leader? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
(Image Courtesy of The CW)