Hot on the heels of Lexa’s death in season three of The 100 came the death of another beloved character: Lincoln. Put through Hell from the moment he was introduced in season one, Lincoln was also part of the longest romantic arc on the series (so far). That romance was with Octavia — a white woman — who berated him when he began to integrate with her people more than his own (following a kill order placed on his head because of his associations with her and the Sky People).
His death, in many ways, wasn’t a surprise. Ricky Whittle was cast as Shadow in American Gods shortly before Lincoln’s death, and Lincoln’s story line was significantly smaller in season three than it had been in either of the previous seasons. Following his departure from the series, Whittle spoke out against show creator Jason Rothenberg for the way he treated Whittle and Lincoln, and fans rallied behind the actor in their outrage.
It was a wild, awful month in The 100 fandom, but even with all of the in-fighting over ‘ships, writing decisions, and more, one thing seemed constant (at least, on my feeds): no one wanted to actually witness Lincoln’s death.
Conceptually, Lincoln dying made sense. Sacrificing himself for his people, using nonviolence, fell in line with his growth as a character and the beliefs Whittle had seemingly poured into every line delivery.
Unfortunately, Rothenberg and the other writers/producers/directors/People Who Make (Bad) Decisions On This Show opted to make Lincoln’s death into a graphic execution that read like a slap in the face to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Not only was he shot, point blank, by another black man (who was later killed by Octavia after being made into the worst villain this show has seen), Lincoln was killed on his knees, in the rain.
Then the camera panned up to show him lying there, bleeding from the head, his body sprawled awkwardly in the mud.
It immediately brought to mind the seemingly endless reports of black youth shot to death by police, black men killed for existing in the US. Executing Lincoln in such a manner, taking away all of his power and then panning back to show all the gory details, was completely unnecessary.
Yet somehow, this mess gets worse!
It wasn’t enough to show this execution once. Oh, no. It’s been shown on multiple “previously on” segments since. And it was overlaid with Octavia, crying at the end of episode 4×06 while she held a gun to Illian’s head the same way Pike held a gun to Lincoln’s.
To Jason Rothenberg, et al.: Executing Lincoln in this manner and then showing it over and over is bad and you should feel bad.
I don’t care how important Lincoln’s death is to Octavia’s growth as a character. I really, really don’t. Killing a black man to further the plot of a white woman is racist. It frames Lincoln’s death as mattering only because it causes Octavia pain, which dehumanizes him and reduces his character to nothing more than Dead Love Interest.
Furthermore, using Lincoln’s death in this manner — and showing it, repeatedly, especially overlaid with Octavia In Crisis — perpetuates the white feminism problem on this show by offering her a “valid” reason to not only go after Pike, but after Bellamy, her biracial brother. Since Octavia blames Bellamy for supporting Pike’s mission to wipe out the grounders, it supposedly justifies her beating the crap out of him while he’s chained up and can’t defend himself.
This plot not only says that black-on-black violence should be expected (Pike killing Lincoln), but that white pain is more important and should be elevated. It also provides a really shocking and disturbing moment of sibling abuse. Later, when Octavia kills Pike in retribution for Lincoln’s death, she’s clearly framed as “deserving that kill”, being in the right, and doing what needs to be done.
Beyond all of that — which is problematic as hell — Lincoln’s execution and its repetition (yes, even in the “previously on”) takes away three seasons of watching his character grow and change and win us over. It replaces whatever image the audience had of him before with the image of him sprawled in the mud, dead from a bullet to the head. It completely dehumanizes him, especially because in the moments leading up to his death, there’s no sense that it can be avoided, or circumvented, or changed. Even though Octavia breaks down as he’s killed, everyone basically stands around and lets Pike execute Lincoln, like it has to happen. Like it’s necessary.
The 100, traditionally, doesn’t deal well with race. But Lincoln’s death — and its repetition — take the cake for least respectful moments on this show. Season three is a mess of racist narratives, all piled together, but that moment is one of the worst, especially because it triggers so many other awful scenes.
I, for one, am tired of seeing Lincoln’s death on my screen. When The 100 returns to the CW tonight, I have to hope that it won’t be shown again, but given past experience… I’m not holding my breath.