Octavia Blake

Written by @EllieDangerous
I’ve referred to ‘The 100’ as a "feminist oasis". When you’re searching a wasteland for effortlessly interesting female characters, you’ll be happy to find this teenaged American drama; it’s guaranteed to end your search. Most of them have funny names like "Octavia Blake", but trust me, you don’t want to judge her on that. Octavia is played by Marie Avgeropoulos, and by quickly proving herself one of the most proactive and surprising characters on TV, she might take your breath away.

Spoiler Alert
It starts when she totally butts in. See, while Octavia is part of an ensemble she isn’t really the lead: that’s Clarke Griffin, our reluctant leader. Octavia is introduced minutes into the first episode, when the teenagers from the space station have descended to Earth for the very first time. Who will be the first human to step onto the Ground in 97 years? Perhaps the honourable Clarke, the assertive Bellamy, or the compassionate Finn? Nope, none of them. It’s Octavia, who we’ve never seen before. While the other characters bicker, she springs into the limelight with glee. Determined for something spectacular, she steps out ahead of the rest, becoming first to set foot back on Planet Earth.

It’s so brazen; I dare you not to be intrigued by her.

After being startled into paying attention to her, one of the first things I liked about Octavia might be a bit controversial, but bear with me on this. I like her flirtatiousness and promiscuous attitude. This is because her comfort with her sexuality is not deemed a negative trait or something that deserves comeuppance. Way too often on TV, a female character’s sexuality is treated like corruption, as some kind of way to tell us that she’s unethical or has no self-respect. But not in ‘The 100’.

Octavia has ample self-respect and a strong, intelligent moral compass with less cracks in it than most of the people on this show. But season one barely reaches its halfway point and Octavia has already kissed three boys — that’s hundreds! Can such an uninhibited girl really have so many other layers? Um, yes. Definitely.

Her good-looks and grabby hands are not treated as a curse, a blessing, or something that needs either punishment or reward.

Midway through season one, Octavia’s personality becomes informed by her backstory, which was yet another surprise to me. Based on her self-confidence and charisma, I expected her to have been the most popular nonconformist in school. But no, she grew up a shut-in; literally.

The space station on which humanity has been hiding has a strict one-child policy due to limited oxygen supplies. Octavia’s mother rebelled. First she had Bellamy, then Octavia seven years later. The result was enforced seclusion: if others discovered Octavia's existence, the mother would be executed.

So Octavia grew up never having set foot outside the family quarters, never knowing what it’s like to have friends or freedom. Her bond with her brother Bellamy is so strong and her experience with the opposite sex so negligible that we could be excused for sensing the faintest incestous vibe, but the moment Octavia meets other people her reliance on Bellamy dwindles dramatically.

It’s her initiative that feeds her various gripping character arcs. Her relationship with Lincoln the Grounder is particularly gratifying; he’s a captured enemy, and she’s curious and compassionate. They develop a mutual attraction based on tentative trust and general snoopiness, and soon this once-helpless teenager rescues the powerful warrior single-handedly.

Lincoln sparks the beginning of Octavia’s exploration of Grounder culture. She was born an outcast, and in the archaic, forceful Grounders she sees a spark of who she could be. By harnessing her own energy and willpower she finds acceptance, eventually becoming apprentice to a regal fighter named Indra.

Watching Octavia’s fearless swordplay and newly-educated resolve, we can see her transformation from the kid forced to hide beneath the floor. Every time she realises that the world is so much bigger than she thinks, she only spends a moment gazing round in awe before leaping straight into the middle of it. If you’re writing or playing a bold young female character, watch Octavia and take notes.
I am not afraid.
Grounders don’t give up. We fight. Either you get up and we fight this, or you crawl away and die alone like a coward. It’s your choice.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 3 September 2015

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