No current The 100 character seems to draw as much of a marked reaction as Echo, former royal guard of the Ice Nation. People seem to either love or hate her. And to be fair, she’s pulled some shenanigans on our beloved main characters: betrayed Skaikru to blow up Mount Weather, stabbed Octavia when attempting to capture her (oopsie!), cheating in the final Conclave, and general aggressiveness towards anyone not in her clan.
Echo has a challenging track record. She’s kind of a jerk.
And as such, there are fans that simply don’t like Echo.
I’m here to say I think Echo gets a bad rap.
I LOVE her character. If you’re not in Echo’s corner, I know she’s hard to appreciate. But let me make a case for her. Let me tell you what fans of Echo see in her character and where the writers could possibly take her. Maybe I’ll change a mind or two…or at least convince you to give her a second chance in season 5.
(Note: I will not address character hate due to shipping – it’s ridiculous, intellectually fallow, and belies an emotional immaturity that deserves no time or effort to placate.)
(Note note: I also will not address if/how misogyny or internalized misogyny plays into how we view and criticize women who oppose our main characters…I honestly can’t unpack that sort of stuff right now.)
What Do We Know About Echo?
If you’re looking for a deep history of Echo, well, you’re shit outta luck. Because frankly we don’t know much about her past. She’s a member of the Ice Nation royal guard. She’s also used as a spy, hence why she has no facial scarring typical of her clan. We first met her as a prisoner in Mount Weather in season 2 and watched as she bamboozled Bellamy and Skaikru in season 3, creating a distraction that allowed Azgeda to blow up Mount Weather. But aside from this sketchy history, that’s all we really know about her.
What is her family background? How did she rise through the ranks to become a royal guard? What exactly does that job entail? Did she have friends? None of these details have been filled in to give us a better idea of the mix of nature/nurture that resulted in the character we see today.
I am really hoping we get some background detail filled in with Echo during season 5. Six years is a lot of time to get to know someone, and while I think Echo is going to be reticent at first to be all sharsies with this rag-tag Spacekru, she’s going to have to just be human with them.
While Echo is kinda an enigma to us, we do know one thing for certain…
Echo Is Ride or Die. RIDE OR DIE.
We dislike Echo because she’s set as an antagonist to our Skaikru protagonists. But if you take your “I love Skaikru and don’t you dare hurt my babies” goggles off and consider Echo’s motivations and her point of view, I think she’s one of the most straight-forward characters to understand. Put simply, Echo is ride or die.
She’s extremely loyal to Ice Nation and given their framing as the enemies of the other clans, it’s easy to hate on her. When you just hone in on her character, she never wavers from her service to Ice Nation and its leader(s). She never considers doing anything that isn’t expressly to benefit “her people.”
If her name was Clarke, we’d give her forgiveness and latitude and celebrate her ability to make tough choices and do the unthinkable for “her people.”
And like Clarke, Echo can go a bit off book to do what she thinks is the only way to push her agenda forward, and that causes her to make moves that now look like mistakes. “Cheating” in the final Conclave was egregious, but if you consider the factors that led her to consider doing it, everything makes sense within her character’s purview.
Our Protagonist-Leaning Biases
It’s not rocket surgery to point out that when a character is put at odds with our protagonists, we’re going to tend to dislike said character.
The thing about Echo is her motivations are understandable and extremely relatable, especially in a show where characters doing anything to save their people is pretty much de rigueur.
Something I like to do when taking a critical look at this show is try to, at times, set my feelings aside and look at characters or plot points objectively in order to strip away biases and consider situations outside of the context of my own personal prejudices. When I do that, I can see that most of the characters on The 100 are justified in their actions to some extent and many times characters do the same type of things but elicit different reactions from the audience.
Let’s engage in a little “whataboutism,” comparing Echo’s actions with those of our protagonists:
- Echo was complicit in the destruction of Mount Weather, killing 300ish people, including Gina. Bellamy, who dated Gina and noted that she was “real,” was complicit in the deaths of 300ish sleeping Trikru warriors.
- Echo stabbed Octavia in the soft bits, causing her to fall off a cliff because, let’s face it, Octavia is CLUMSY. Clarke, on TWO occasions, has left Octavia for dead.
- Echo tried to cheat to win the Conclave for Ice Nation. Clarke, in the spirit of “if ya ain’t cheatin’, ya ain’t tryin'” pretty much stole the bunker while everyone was distracted by the Conclave. There’s cheating at the Conclave, then there’s rendering the whole Conclave moot by just stealing the prize.
Doing a little moral calculus – and add in all the OTHER stuff our heroes have done in the name of their own cause – we can see that Echo isn’t really worse than our protagonists, it’s just that our sympathies lie strongly with the “good guys.” I mean…if you listed everything Clarke, Bellamy, Kane, etc. have done and stripped away all the context, they’re MONSTERS. I mean, sexy sexy monsters, but still.
I think that’s one of the strengths of The 100 – showing characters and their motivations in a way that makes them empathetic and understandable. It’s just that the fans of the show aren’t always able to set aside their own protagonist-leaning biases to necessarily appreciate how actions and decisions contextually make perfect sense from a point of view we don’t share.
From the start of the show, the Grounders have been a threat to Skaikru. While we got to know individual Grounders who were supposed to provide us with sympathetic characters, Grounders have been at odds with Skaikru for most of the series, even when set as tenuous allies.
Imagine if you flipped the whole conceit of the show and we were meant to empathize with the Grounders and dislike and distrust Skaikru. In that world, isn’t Echo one of the most stalwart of characters? Her ride or die proclivities make her an tremendous asset. Yes, sometimes she’s an haughty asshole, but if she’s YOUR haughty asshole who has your back and is loyal only to you, I’d say you’re pretty fucking lucky.
Admit it, you’d want an Echo on your side when the chips are down.
Echo’s Parallelism to Bellamy
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Echo’s only connection to anyone outside of Ice Nation is Bellamy. When Echo first met Bellamy in Mount Weather, they were both prisoners. When she quickly discovered he was not a Grounder, didn’t exactly treat him kindly. Despite this, I believe she saw in Bellamy a kindred spirit as she watched him be willing to do anything to get out of his cell and save his people. This type of loyalty and single-minded focus is right in Echo’s wheelhouse. He’s brave. He’s a warrior. He’s willing to die for his people. That’s Echo catnip.
In a lot of ways they served the same purpose as a sounding board and confidant of their respective leaders. Obviously we don’t know what sort of relationship Nia had with anyone, save for Roan, and those two were a bit frosty, to say the least.
We don’t know how Nia treated Echo, but we did get to see Echo with Roan in season 4, and she had his back as Ice Nation king for the duration. She acted as his trusted adviser. Echo was in the unique position to see how weak (physically) he was when he declared Ice Nation in charge while still honoring Lexa’s coalition of clans. He made himself extremely vulnerable for a short period of time to an overthrow attempt but instead of maybe seeking a stronger representative to lead Ice Nation, she stuck by her king.
Bellamy has been Clarke’s trusted second in command, standing by her even when he didn’t necessarily agree with her decisions. His journey has taken him on a meandering path to his own expanding leadership role, especially once he was able to come to terms with inability to save everyone all the time. I think his journey in season 4 helped him reconcile different aspects of himself, and his evolution was one of the best parts of season 4, in my opinion.
I think when Echo looks at Bellamy, she sees someone who is willing to go to extremes for his family and his people. And she respects him for it. His loyalty is very personal to Bellamy much of that due to Octavia. No one is more important to Bellamy than his sister, and that sort of fierce loyalty is something Echo can relate to as I think it’s her defining trait.
That they express that loyalty very differently is interesting. Bellamy is a Blake – his heart is on his sleeve and every emotion he feels shows on his face. Echo, on the other hand, is restrained. We don’t see her humanity displayed as obviously as Bellamy’s, but I think in Echo’s case the old saying is true: still waters run deep. She’s keeps her softer side VERY guarded, but if you watch Tasya Teles’ acting choices, she does a lot of eye acting and muted emotions. Watch her face after Bellamy is told Octavia is dead and tell me you don’t see regret and hurt flash there for a second. I think emotions brought about by empathy and compassion are likely viewed as “weak” by the Azgeda, so Echo has learned to tamp them down, but isn’t immune entirely.
Go back and watch three scenes and see if you don’t agree that Echo reveals a side of her that is very human:
- The Octavia/Echo fight – to me, stabbing Octavia seemed like a mistake and regret immediately flashed on Echo’s face.
- The Bellamy prison cell scene – I’ve already mentioned it, but I think it’s a key scene that shows Echo doesn’t lack sympathy.
- The Echo suicide scene – one of my favorite Echo scenes because she really gets to let loose a bit and reveal her fears and regrets, and of course Bellamy displays his head/heart thinking to convince her to not give up.
I want to see more of this. I want more Echo outside of the context of a dutiful Ice Nation warrior. And guess what…we’re gonna get it!
Echo In Space…and Beyond
Guys, we have seven people in space. HOW CRAZY IS THAT???!!! And two of them are Grounders who likely are going to spend a lot of their time pointing at stuff and going “what’s that? what’s this? what’s that do? can I lick it?”
With Echo, I think the writers have a very fun and unique opportunity to define who Echo is outside of her role as royal guard? Who is she without her people?
Everything we’ve seen from Echo is loyalty to Ice Nation – even when that loyalty takes her to Bad Decision Land, like cheating at the Conclave. The only agency we see from that isn’t attached to Ice Nation comes at the end of the season when she asks for help from the Adventure Squad. She saves them in hopes of just getting the location of the lighthouse bunker to ride out the storm. I don’t think she has an illusions past that request.
And can we give Echo props for accepting her fate and not trying to beg or lie her way back into her clan or into the Second Dawn bunker? She took that shit with honor. My ass would be begging and Claire-Danes-ugly-crying and promising all sorts of debased stuff to get into that bunker. Not my girl Echo.
When it’s apparent that the only option is heading out to space, Echo makes another decision – suicide. Deciding one’s own fate was a theme in season 4 and we see it play out in a number of ways with Jasper and Raven. Echo is a bit different because she’s pushed into a corner. She’s been banished from Ice Nation. Like, the only thing she’s ever done in her life is serve her people. Imagine losing your place among the clan you’ve been loyal to your whole life. And the irony of it all being due to a decision she thought would help Azgeda. Man, that sucks.
So what is a woman with no nation to do up in space with a group of strangers for six years? Especially after what she’s done?
Now, with newfound agency that’s untethered from her obligation to Azgeda, Echo can forge her own path, independent of what her fate as an Ice Nation royal guard had in store for her.
Here’s a wild idea, what if Echo becomes FRIENDS with these strangers and adopts THEM as her new “people”? Because now Echo has the ability to choose with whom she is loyal. She can now ride or die for anyone. If she becomes a fierce protector of Raven, Bellamy, Murphy, et al., isn’t she EXACTLY the type of character we absolutely love on this show?
I know a certain cockroach that when from zero to hero over a couple seasons, so I’m not shooting the moon here by saying it’s very possible Echo has a similar redemption character arc. I can’t wait to see her develop more personality and become less guarded, to show some vulnerability like she’s done in flashes in the past.
And guess what, at Unity Days, Tasya mentioned that Echo gets to be sassy this year.
Who is a sassy banana who needs a sassy banana bestie?
Okay, I know Murphy is a sassy banana too, and while I CANNOT WAIT to see more of Murphy and Raven together, but I want to see some real f/f friendships get built and sustained on this show, which seems to bring our female characters together only to fling them apart again before they can have more “I’d pick you first” moments that make us melt with delight.
And yes, searching for “sassy banana” gifs is as problematic as you think it is.
My internet search history is just weird gifs because of my The 100 articles. THANKS OBAMA.
Don’t Be A Dick
For all that is good and holy – and all that is bad and unholy – can we stop conflating actors with the characters they play and treating them poorly? It’s maddening. And WRONG.
- My ship, Slarke (soap + Clarke) is still CANON…but I think I might be keen on a new ship: Highlarke – Clarke and those red highlights. I hope these aren’t dropped in S5 because I like Wanredheda. DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THAR?!
- There is a “soap” writing room doodle signed by Eliza Taylor that’s gonna be in the Cancer Gets Lost annual auction and it will be mine.
- Becho is still endgame because it annoys you.
- Was Echo’s suicide visually mirroring Japanese samurai ritual suicides intentional?
- I desperately want an Echo/Raven training montage where Echo teaches Raven how to fight as a kind of form of physical therapy to help Raven cope with her pain.
- If it turns out that either Emori or Echo can’t read and there’s a “teaching Grounders to read” montage, I’m going to both roll my eyes and cry like a baby. Such is my relationship with this show sometimes.
- I want some good Clarke/Echo time because of my aforementioned desire to see f/f given more breathing room before one of them is shipped off to kick ass and/or be tortured.
- The Echo and Octavia reunion will be FIRE. No, like literally, Octavia will likely set Echo on fire. I’M SO EXCITED.
- I didn’t use one wrestling gif. DEAL.
- There seems to be a lot of positivity about a potential season 6…I will take this optimism and live off of it. It is my succor.
- In other news, at Unity Days, Marie seemed to confirm that Helios is dead, so I’m done with this show, reviewing it, and thinking about it. GIRL BYE.
TWEET/RETWEET: If you enjoyed this review, could you do me a favor and share / retweet / like it on twitter? I hate to ask this because I hate asking anyone to do anything for me, but I’d really appreciate it. God, it’s not like I’m asking for a kidney (yet).
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST OF THE 100 MUSIC!: Hey people who like sounds entering your ear holes! I have a Spotify playlist, which is music from and inspired by The 100. You can find it right here and marvel at my musical tastes. I keep it up to date with anything featured on the show or in promos.
SHIT YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING WHEN NOT WATCHING THE 100:
- Black Lightning – the newest addition to DC’s pantheon of superhero shows is pretty, pretty dang good. Featuring African American super heroes. The soundtrack is hot, the story line is really good so far, and it’s about damn time we get more people of color front and center. Also, great LGBT rep. And NO SPEEDSTERS.
There are some The 100 reviewers/recaps/writers you should absolutely be reading, and I offer them up for your enjoyment; I have no affiliation with any of them, save for being a fan:
- Selina Wilken – a mix of passionate fandom and truly professional journalism.
- Erin Brown – unfairly beautiful writing. Like seriously, stop being so good.
- McKenzie Morrell – recapping her damn face off and great interviews with the cast!
- Toni_watches – piss your goddamn pants funny photo recaps.
- Jo Garfein – Hosts The Dropship podcast (defunct as of now) and has some great fandom charity auctions
If you’re a fan of the show, join us on Reddit for deep discussions, wacky shenanigans, Trigedasleng lessons, and clan flair! It’s the least toxic place you can find right now for The 100 fandom. Mods got that shit on lockdown.
Disclosure: this is my own indie site. I’m not a professional reviewer, I don’t get paid for this. This is a labor of love/insanity.