Spoilers through The 100 season 3, episode 5: “Hakeldama”.
If there’s one story that divides The 100 fans, it’s the City of Light arc. (Though lately it may not divide fans as much as Bellamy’s recent actions.) For much of season two, ex-chancellor Jaha and punk BFF Murphy traipsed through the desert in search of the fabled city so that Jaha might save Skaikru from those pesky human traits like pain and emotions.
Here’s the thing about Jaha: he has a savior complex. On the Ark he leapt at every opportunity to be a martyr for his people, even when Kane rightly pointed out that sometimes dead leadership isn’t the best idea. The first dozen or so times it was admirable but by the end of season one it bordered on straight up annoying. Like many of the other characters on The 100, Jaha desperately wants to be hero and his sacrifice is how he accomplishes that goal.
That is until the oxygen deprivation sets in and his subconscious dreams up a crying baby and alive Wells to inspire him to head to the ground. Once he crash lands in the desert, now dehydrated and overwhelmed, he comes across another way he become a hero to his people: the City of Light.
By the end of season two, he and John Murphy have reached A.L.I.E.’s mansion, but only Jaha experiences the City. John is instead trapped inside a bunker, left to his own insanity for three months. (A trick intended to break him, I’ve no doubt.) And here’s where we get to see the transformation Murphy has made over the course of three seasons. In the beginning he follows the powerful, Bellamy and Co., in the hopes of staying in their good graces. That backfired for him and after being beaten more than anyone besides Lincoln, he quickly learns not to trust every hand out. So, when A.L.I.E comes a calling with her magic pills, he rightly refuses.
Jaha, however, has no such darkness. He’s been praised for his heroism, praised for his leadership, praised for his sacrifices. No one has beaten Jaha to a pulp, tied a noose around his neck, and looked on him with disgust. When he sees the name “Camp Jaha” he smiles because he thinks he’s earned it. He never corrects someone when they refer to him as “Chancellor.” So when A.L.I.E. approaches him and says she’s been waiting for him, waiting for someone intelligent enough to lead the humans to the City of Light, he thinks, “Yes, that is my job. I will be their savior.”
I want to note here that I don’t think Jaha is the first to find A.L.I.E. Obviously with the rumors and the Grounder knowledge of the “sacred symbol,” word has spread. However, A.L.I.E. mentions she is waiting for someone intelligent enough to carry out her design, which says to me that she’s either tried before and failed or she was waiting for someone with enough influence to make a difference. There’s a stark contrast between having a Grounder outlaw or a still beloved chancellor hand out her Halloween goodies.
Then Jaha returns to Arkadia a changed man, peddling his infinity pills to the sick and crippled with a creepy, stoner smile. Sure, many think he’s a bit insane, but he’s also the chancellor who couldn’t wait to off himself; insane is okay when it’s not a Grounder. Besides, he’s spent four months in the desert so naturally, he would be a little loony. At most, he’s a nuisance, but surely nothing dangerous, not with Grounders poised to attack.
Which is exactly what A.L.I.E wants. She knows Jaha will never convince the leadership to try her tasty technology drug, but with enough of the weaker ones on her side, she can force them to join or die. There’s something frightening about a hologram having access to an army that can’t feel pain and Jaha is recruiting its members under the guise of peace and spirituality. And everyone else is focused on killing each other.
To answer the question I posed in my title–is Jaha a madman, messiah, or murderer–I think it’s all three. To Jaha, he is messiah, he is finally fulfilling the role of savior to his people. To Abby, he is a madman who should be stopped but she can’t do anything about it. To Murphy, he’s a murderer, someone who steals away your chance at a full life and keeps it for the “good” of the City of Light.
And by the end of the most recent episode, “Hakeldama”, Jaha has Raven on his side.
The 100 airs Thursdays on the CW at 9pm EST.