It wasn’t a surprise to anyone paying attention to casting news or Ricky Whittle’s Twitter account but it still happened. Another major death hit The 100 and it was another Grounder. Lincoln finally met his end in “Stealing Fire” following weeks of speculation by fans.
Many assumed Lincoln’s days were number after learning that Whittle had landed a new acting gig as the lead of the upcoming American Gods adaptation. They were right. It’s probably because of this anticipation and expectation that Lincoln’s death turned into what it became. A terribly mishandled and disappointing death for a very interesting character.
The idea of Lincoln’s death is solid. Lincoln dies sacrificing his life in exchange for those of his people. Lincoln, who constantly was at odds with his Grounder roots and was routinely shunned by the Grounders, pays the ultimate price. He dies for his people. Lincoln shows his loyalty and bravery to both Sky Crew and the Grounders by exchanging his life for the life of more innocent others. It’s a heroic death it’s also wholly unnecessary.
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Lincoln’s death does nothing to move the plot forward in any conceivable way. Lexa’s death earlier in the season was incredibly controversial but it’s hard to argue that her death doesn’t change the entire landscape of The 100 forever. Lincoln’s death doesn’t do anything near that powerful and it totally could have been achieved. The war between Pike and Kane’s forces remain the same. It’s just a lot more sadder now.
Pike is the Worst Man Alive
The most immediate thing about Lincoln’s death is that it made it clear that it’s all Pike’s fault. Pike pulls the trigger in the execution. Pike lures Lincoln back with his threat to kill the Grounder prisoners. Pike kills Lincoln in cold blood. It’s just that simple. It’s also a really disappointing and reductive move for the character.
Bellamy’s decision to join Pike in the beginning of season 3 will always be a narrative mistake on The 100. The civil war inside Arkadia has not been handled well but Pike was an interesting character. The key word being “was.” Pike killing Lincoln puts the character beyond the realm of possibility and outside the realm of entertainment. Pike is now just a genuinely unpleasant person to watch and experience. There is no other way to look at Pike’s execution of Lincoln than just plain evil. Pike has done some terrible things in The 100 season 3 but it was always plain to see how he could justify to himself that he was a “good” man. He was trying to protect his people in his own misguided way. Killing of Lincoln is petty, needless and cruel.
Pike recognized earlier in “Stealing Fire” that the Grounder prisoners were innocent. They are not a part of the coup that Pike is trying squash by ordering Kane, Sinclair and Lincoln’s deaths. They are bystanders, innocent bystanders. Before they were thrown in prison they were medical patients and allies of Arkadia. Pike threatened the death of those prisoners (and likely would have done it) out of nothing but spite and anger. It’s evil in every sense of the word and just makes Pike so very unlikable.
The 100 audience really didn’t need more reasons to hate Pike either. Lincoln’s death tips the scales too far to one side. It takes Pike from a morally complicated, but still appropriately unlikable, antagonist to someone who is just reprehensible. The only satisfying way for Pike’s story to end is with his death. A very gruesome and violent death at the hands of Octavia.
Shockingly No Shock Value
When I first heard of Ricky Whittle’s new job and saw the Arkadia civil war begin, I figured that Lincoln was going to die in the conflict. In fact, I thought that Lincoln would be the reason that Bellamy finally pulled his head out of Pike’s bum and got on the right side of history. This is kind of what happens, Bellamy realizes Pike is the wrong when the latter orders Lincoln’s death but it’s not enough. Lincoln’s death would have been far more effective and useful if it was the true impetus for Bellamy’s change. Bellamy shouldn’t have been aware that Lincoln was going to die. It should have been a shock for Bellamy (and the audience). That’s another problem with Lincoln’s death it was too telegraphed.
Some of that fact is out of The 100‘s control because of the casting news about Ricky Whittle. Fans have been anticipating and predicting Lincoln’s death for a while. It doesn’t change the way the series of events played out though and Lincoln’s death happened far too slowly.
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Not to keep comparing Lincoln’s death to Lexa’s but the behind-the-scenes situations are not the same. The 100 had to write Lexa off the show in some manner because the actress was on Fear the Walking Dead. Season 3 of The 100 was filmed in the summer of 2015. The entire season was shot, written and conceived before Ricky Whittle ever got cast on American Gods. The plan was always for Lincoln to die, yet somehow Lincoln’s death feels so much more manufactured than Lexa’s death.
It only takes about ten minutes of screen time for when Lincoln gives himself up to when he is killed but it feels like an eternity. There is not a sense of tension watching Lincoln get ready for his execution or a sense of tragedy. It is just gratuitous and awful. The 100 treats Lincoln’s death as the heroic sweeping sacrifice it wants to be but the result is just an exercise in misery. It’s unpleasant and not in emotive way. It’s dull and even Ricky Whittle’s fantastic performance can’t change it.
The situation that is causing Lincoln’s death doesn’t need to happen for any reason. Pike doesn’t need to be this awful. Octavia doesn’t need to see Lincoln killed in front of her (though Marie Avgeropoulos does a terrific job playing Octavia’s reaction to the death.) The sacrifice isn’t even that keenly felt because The 100 never bothered to develop the characters that Lincoln is trading his life for anyway. The only slight benefit is that Lincoln’s death complicates Clarke’s mission to find Luna but The 100 could have introduced a ton of different ways to make that happen. None of them required Lincoln having to die.
But what do you think? Did The 100 give Lincoln a proper swan song? Was it necessary?
The 100 season 3 airs Thursdays at 9pm on The CW.
(Images courtesy of The CW)