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In Defense of Echo and Becho

The 100 is a show riddled with betrayals and deaths, and with that territory comes a litany of problematic characters and imperfect relationships. Bellamy Blake of Skaikru and Echo of the Ice Nation (a.k.a. Azgeda) are no exception. They are two of the more morally grey characters on The 100, in my opinion. Both of them have done some awful things, but each has also shown a compassionate side and a protective streak for those they care about. I’ll say this up front: I don’t consider either of them to be especially good people. But they are people. Humans. And the humanity they have both shown has made them more palatable to me, as well as more interesting.

My feelings about Bellamy in particular are extremely mixed, including who I ship him with. I once shipped him with Raven (and still kind of do, though she’s a cinnamon roll who’s much too good for him), and I see the appeal of Bellarke. But ever since Echo showed up, I’ve been unable to ship Bellamy seriously with anyone else.

Bellamy and Echo (Becho) are a pairing that showed a lot of promise when they initially met in season 2. The actors had great chemistry and the characters forged a bond by saving each other’s lives under stressful circumstances. In fact, it was a popular theory that their interactions were intended to set up a romantic connection in season 3. However, the ship fell from grace following Echo’s betrayal and as their clans continue to clash, many people see this pairing as more and more unlikely.

Tell me again these two have no chemistry. (source)         

I can see their point. Outwardly, Echo is a very hostile character, and her ultimate loyalty to Azgeda has led her to harm or threaten people Bellamy cares about on multiple occasions. But I am here to offer an alternative interpretation of Echo’s actions and their implications for the relationship. Echo is a warrior who is not supposed to care about anyone, but there is plenty of evidence that she cares for her former ally. Forgive me any redundancy, as I will repeat some of what I said in this article while breaking it down deeper here. It should also be noted that I’m operating on a Watsonian level here; I’m primarily concerned with what we get in the narrative on screen rather than on plot necessity or the intentions of the showrunners or network.

To set the record straight, I am not one of those lesbians who ship Becho out of spite due to the Clexa/Bellarke fandom wars. ‘Ship and let ship’ is my philosophy. That may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I mostly ship rare pairs. No, the reason I ship Becho is because I am a sucker for ships with certain tropes, of which Becho has two:

  1. Character A is a hardass with most people but softer with Character B, or Character A is nice to most people but an obnoxious a-hole to Character B.
  2. The relationship starts off hostile but develops trust through a grudging but necessary partnership.

On the note of building from hostile roots, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Season 2

When Echo and Bellamy first met in 2×11 “Coup de Grâce”, Bell was waking up after being drugged and stuffed in a cage in the Mt. Weather harvest chamber. He started trying to break his way out of the cage, and his neighbor Echo warned him in Trigedasleng to shut up because they take the strongest. When he said he couldn’t understand her, she realized he is Skaikru and spat right on his face.

That was the hook for me, honestly. The spitting. Both because I loved the belligerent start and because it meant Echo was a badass, therefore I was bound to ship her with anyone in the vicinity (especially the mostly naked guy with the gorgeous pecs).

Things only got better for Becho in that episode, as they saved each other from physical harm if not death. Witnessing Echo’s fear when the guards chose to harvest her, Bellamy rattled his cage to get taken in her place. After Maya revived Bellamy and helped free him, Bellamy got in an altercation with the guard Lovejoy, and Echo intervened. Grabbing Lovejoy’s wrist through the bars of her cage to prevent him from stabbing Bellamy, she held on, restraining him so Bellamy could strangle him to death.

I mean, they murdered a guy together. If that’s not true love on The 100, I don’t know what is. Spitting in someone’s face, maybe, a la Clexa. Oh, wait…

Anyway, Echo didn’t say anything more after the murder in that episode, but there were a couple moments of intense eye contact when Bellamy thanked her for saving him and later promised to come back for her. Keep in mind, this was before he knew Clarke’s plan about setting the Grounders free from the inside, so he decided on his own to save his unlikely ally. Poor Echo looked like a caged puppy being left at the pound in that moment and ugh, the feels.

http://dailyskypeople.tumblr.com/post/112644545686/211-215

The next we saw of Echo was Bellamy coming to make good on that promise in 2×15 “Blood Must Have Blood: Part 1”. He helped her out of her cage and then enlisted her help freeing the rest of the Grounder prisoners and getting them ready to fight. Bell ended up leaving when President Wallace made an announcement that jeopardized the lives of his Skaikru friends, but before that we heard Echo tell a fellow prisoner that they could trust him. And when he left, she had one more thing to say.

Echo: Wait! … Thank you.

Bellamy: You free your people. Protect mine when they get here. We can thank each other when we’re all outside.

Clearly, the trust was mutual. However, Commander Lexa made a deal to free her Grounder prisoners at the expense of Skaikru, so Bellamy ended up coming back to an empty harvest chamber. Perhaps he thought it was Echo who left without him after he told her to wait. Who knows? But in any case, he soon found out who was really behind the betrayal, and he was very clearly no fan of Lexa early in season 3.

Season 3

This is where things first went awry for Becho. Echo was only in one episode last season, 3×03 “Ye Who Enter Here”, but she made a lasting impression. Spinning a tale of an impending attack on the Skaikru delegation in Polis, Echo tricked Bellamy, Octavia, and Pike to lure them away from Mt. Weather while an Azdega assassin blew up the fortress. Unfortunately, this resulted in the death of 49 members of Skaikru, including Bellamy’s plot device girlfriend Gina. This was the basis of Bellamy’s renewed distrust for Grounders and what spurred him down his dark path last season in joining Pike’s massacre of the sleeping Trikru army.

While Bellamy saw Echo’s actions as a betrayal, from her point of view, she was saving his life. She states this in 4×01 “Echoes”. We’ve seen this same theme of Echo protecting Bellamy despite being enemies repeat itself a few times already in season 4 (more on that below). Sticking with season 3 for the moment, I want to break down what happened in episode 3×03.

Firstly, I loved Bellamy jumping to Echo’s defense when he saw her being dragged toward the Mountain by his own people. The bond they forged in captivity was strong enough for his protective instinct to kick back in as though she was one of his own. And while Bellamy has always been wary of Grounders, he trusted her word. Further, he believed her when she claimed she was giving them this intel because it was wrong of them to abandon Skaikru in the battle for the Mountain.

Bellamy: Pike, she saved my life. We can trust her.

Though that obviously turned out not to be her motive, I do wonder if she really believed Lexa’s about-face to be wrong. Echo is not a forthcoming character at all, so we may never know.

That is far from the only thing unclear about her motives and the plan itself. Thirty-six members of Skaikru had recently moved into the Mountain, but based on various conversations throughout the season, it is not entirely clear whether they were targeted or they were collateral damage and the Mountain was the true target. Either way, Queen Nia of Azgeda was aiming to finish Lexa’s abandoned mission at Mt. Weather and challenge her for power over the coalition.

Notably, Bellamy was not one of the people who had moved in. He was part of a small group who apparently were there to help repair the fortress (I’m not sure what anyone other than Raven had to offer, but Gina was conveniently among them). In any case, Bellamy was not someone the Ice Nation would have expected to find there, Echo included.

This is important because there seems to be this assumption that Echo was sent specifically to betray Bellamy and lure guards away from Mt. Weather before the attack. He is the only member of Skaikru who would be inclined to trust her, after all. But Bellamy wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place, and Echo left behind the two guards who captured her outside the fortress, if not more. It was a diversion, but not a very efficient one, and it didn’t strike me as a Plan A.

My interpretation of the situation is that it was Echo’s job to sneak the bomber into Mt. Weather, since she had been a prisoner there, and perhaps kill any guards she encountered. But when she saw Bellamy, she decided to get him out of the way by saving him instead. Given her loyalty to her clan and the things she suffered in the Mountain, she had plenty of reason to blow it up no matter who was inside. And her arc on the series has made it clear that she considers Skaikru the enemy and has no problem killing anyone. Bellamy, interestingly, appears to be an exception to both of these statements.

Another moment later in the episode pointed me to the same conclusion about this not being Plan A. When the rescue team’s rover reached the city limits and found the other truck, they discovered the bodies of two Skaikru guards with slit throats. A common interpretation is that the guards were killed to add to the illusion of the delegation being in danger, that it was all part of Echo’s plan to deceive Bellamy. However, Echo looked nervous when they arrived, as though she was not sure what they would find, which further convinced me that she had gone rogue. The guards’ deaths were not necessary to her ruse anyway, and anyone could have killed a couple guards from the most maligned clan in the region.

Lastly, consider writer Kim Shumway’s thoughts on the betrayal.

http://wildgrapevine.tumblr.com/post/138744256474/bless-this-clarification-my-observation-was

Though Shumway acknowledges that Echo was tricking Bellamy partly to help Azgeda, there’s no indication that she was sent for that express purpose. And whether she was or not makes all the difference. If the lie was her own impulsive idea, it suggests that this extremely skilled warrior decided to get rid of guards the hard way — by deceit rather than the sword — so that Bellamy could live. Season 4 has made it very clear that Echo values loyalty to her clan above all else. But saving Bellamy while finishing her mission wasn’t a betrayal to her clan, just a bit of creativity. How much of a betrayal it was to Bellamy is open to interpretation, seeing as the lie ultimately saved his life.

Season 4

Becho gets off to a rocky start this season, to say the least, when Echo threatens to annihilate Skaikru for bringing the Key to Polis and turning them all into A.L.I.E.’s slaves. She’s not messing around either, killing the Rock Line ambassador for questioning her claim to power and in general annoying her. Echo threatens Clarke’s life in particular multiple times, despite expressing gratitude toward her for destroying the City of Light. It seems it’s not personal so much as because she wants herself or Roan to take Wanheda’s mythical power and make a political statement. Obviously this does not sit well with Bellamy, and he is still smarting from the betrayal last season.

Indra: [Echo is] part of the Royal Guard. Spies, that’s why she’s not marked. Very Dangerous, very loyal.

Bellamy: Not to the people who saved her life.

In an interesting – but in my opinion predictable – move, Echo says she will only negotiate Skaikru and Trikru’s surrender through Bellamy. Despite her distrust of Skaikru, she still trusts the man who kept his promise to come back for her in Mt. Weather. He promptly betrays that trust by using their negotiations as a diversion to allow the Griffins to treat King Roan against Echo’s wishes. Intending to draw the discussion out as long as possible to keep them from being discovered, Bellamy puts a hand on Echo when she tries to retreat back inside. That quickly ends with him on the ground, a knife at his throat.

Echo gives Trikru and Skaikru a chance to disarm and save Bellamy’s life, in contrast to how easily she killed the ambassador with merely an eye roll. Upon dragging him inside as a captive, she finds the Griffins and almost kills Clarke again before Roan wakes up, thereby taking back control of Azgeda. Despite how the ruse ends up saving her king’s life, it does not escape Echo that she was tricked. After Clarke is able to resolve the situation by bartering with Roan, Echo has a parting question for Bellamy when he leaves Polis.

Echo: Do you think we’ll ever be able to trust each other again?

Bellamy: I doubt it.

This exchange at the end of the episode establishes their current dynamic and gives us a starting point for their relationship this season. Nowhere to go but up, right? Right?

Not so much. Oh Echo, Echo. The next time she sees Bellamy, she captures him and his hunting partner Stevens as hostages when she discovers Skaikru repairing their ship in preparation for the radiation. After presenting the pair to Roan and Kane, Echo only kills Stevens. She says it’s because Stevens revealed secrets, but given how easily she takes lives, I think it’s notable that she spared Bellamy. Kane and Octavia would have been enough collateral to give Skaikru pause about crossing Azgeda, so it’s not as though she needed Bellamy alive.

This brings us to the incident that has gotten Echo and Becho a lot of flak: the fight with Octavia on the cliff. “But she tried to kill/almost killed Octavia!” The almost killed is very true, but Echo was clearly not trying to kill Octavia. Not only does Echo say Roan wants her alive, she goes on to say “I wanted you alive” and that it didn’t have to be this way, i.e. they don’t need to fight to the death. Moreover, Echo’s devastation is obvious in her expression when she sees her sword in Octavia, not to mention when Octavia falls off the cliff.

Welp. I’m never getting laid now.

Echo and Octavia are not exactly close, so it can easily be speculated that she is unhappy because she knows the pain this will cause Bellamy. And when Bellamy gets the news, Echo not only hesitates to show him his sister’s broken sword, she looks an uncomfortable mix of crushed and awkward as she watches him mourn. Her “It was a good death” is the best she can manage in terms of comfort, though she does try. Emotions are obviously not her strong suit.

Bellamy looks completely miserable when we next see him, still mourning Octavia as he is presented as a hostage to Clarke during the standoff in the canyon. But when he realizes that Octavia must have been the one to warn Skaikru of the incoming Azgeda army, he looks back at Echo curiously. Of course, he has no idea what happened, so it’s possible he thinks Echo may have spared Octavia on purpose. But, a) that would not line up with Echo’s consistent loyalty to Azgeda and b) it would make no sense for Echo to let her go rather than capture her alive as ordered.

Though he appears somewhat conflicted and confused, ultimately Bellamy is too busy being relieved to really care how Octavia survived, only that she did. But maybe it does restore a bit of his trust in Echo. In any case, he trusts her enough to go off into the forest with her without any weapons to defend himself. When Riley goes rogue, Bell offers to accompany Echo on the mission to find Riley so the guards will let her pass and so he can hopefully talk Riley down before she has to shoot him. He wants his manacles taken off, though. Echo refuses, and she gets some trademark Bellamy sass for it: “So much for building trust.”

Once in the forest, Echo questions whether Bellamy would actually let Riley die to save Roan. This understandably exasperates him, as the entire standoff is trivial compared to the impending nuclear apocalypse.

Bellamy: Don’t you get tired of it? Sides. My man, your king. Praimfaya doesn’t give a damn what clan you’re from.

Echo initially seems taken aback by his outburst, but responds with a similar level of vulnerability. Dropping her hostile stance and expression for a moment, she admits she is glad that Octavia survived their duel and Bellamy will get another chance to see her. When Bellamy narrows his eyes curiously, she promptly pulls the walls back up. But prior to that, she purposely changed her body language and tone of voice in an attempt to convey her sincerity. Bellamy wasn’t there on the cliff, and he was too busy mourning Octavia to notice how miserable she was when she delivered the bad news, so she felt the need to express her regret earnestly now.

Bellamy takes the opportunity to tell her she’d be dead at his hands if Octavia had not turned up alive. Far from being intimidated, Echo rather nonchalantly replies, “It’s like Queen Nia used to say. War makes murderers of us all.” Ironically, we very soon see her once again refusing to murder Bellamy. After threatening to kill him if he doesn’t get out of her way and let her shoot Riley, she’s the one to move. It may seem like a small thing, but given how easily we have seen her take lives, it’s notable, if not remarkable, that she spares him once again.

As Bellamy talks Riley down, there’s a nice callback moment when he parrots Echo’s words, urging Riley, “War made me a murderer. Don’t let it happen to you.” After Riley puts down his gun, he and Echo share a look of not just relief, but understanding. They have this in common. They’ve both done some truly horrible things that have resulted in the loss of innocent lives and caused declarations of war, however short-lived. They did these things in the name of promoting their own clans’ best interests, but it seems both of them are starting to come around and realize these divisions are not all there is to life.

With regard to future episodes, it will be interesting to see how things play out politically now that the Second Dawn bunker has been discovered. Indra vowed that Azgeda would never see the inside of it after their attacks on Trikru, so clan will obviously play a role now even though Bellamy is sick of the politics. Roan and Clarke are tenuous allies as well, while Kane and Octavia are more closely aligned with Indra, so watching where loyalties end up falling will likely be intriguing. A battle over the stronghold looks to be on the horizon.

So what?

From my favored tropes I mentioned at the beginning, it is easy to see why I ship Becho. However, what I set out to address was the idea that there is no basis for this ship. I do see where the criticism comes from, of course; Echo keeps antagonizing Skaikru and harming/threatening people Bellamy cares about. But it is easy to miss the fact that Echo repeatedly spares Bellamy’s life despite all this antagonism by…

  1. restraining Lovejoy in Mt. Weather
  2. making sure Bellamy left Mt. Weather before the explosion
  3. giving his allies a chance to disarm to save his life in Polis
  4. only killing Stevens and keeping Bellamy alive as collateral
  5. reneging on her promise to kill him too if he did not move and let her shoot Riley

And let’s not forget that she expresses regret that she could not save Gina at Mt. Weather and shows remorse when Octavia dies almost dies. I can completely see why some people think almost killing Clarke and Octavia means Echo doesn’t care about Bellamy at all, but the reluctance she has to cause him physical or emotional harm suggests otherwise.

One can only speculate at this point why Echo is softer with Bellamy than most. It could be that she has underlying feelings for him, or just that she actually has retained loyalty to Bellamy because he saved her life, only not in a way that he recognizes. I tend to think it’s a bit of both, and in the right situation I could see her pursuing some kind of involvement with him.

Bellamy would be the harder sell, because of his apparent feelings for Clarke and because the Mt. Weather explosion had such a negative impact on his psyche and obliterated any trust he had in Grounders, Echo in particular. However, despite his hard feelings toward Echo, he does seem to recognize that she treats him differently than most. Because of that, he likely understands that they are still connected by their shared experience in captivity. Combine that with their violent pasts, and they have plenty to bond over, in one way or another.

https://nayalycia.tumblr.com/post/158321638704/echo-and-bellamy-in-tinder-box

A purely sexual affair would probably be more likely between these two than an actual romantic entanglement, and hey, I’d settle for some hot hate sex. But whether anything like that comes of their relationship or not, it’s one I love to watch because both characters are so layered and they have such a tumultuous history. Whatever else has happened since, they have saved each other multiple times and are only enemies because of things their clans compelled them to do.

Maybe once they are in the bunker (if both make it inside) and finally on the same side again, they can interact without loyalty to clan coming between them and finally get back on good terms. Regardless, based on remarks from Tasya Teles and the other actors about Echo’s arc, I think there’s a good chance we will see her side with Bellamy over Azgeda at some point. Earlier in the season I was betting she would die saving his life. But now? How close Tasya has gotten with the rest of the cast has made me think (and hope) Echo might actually return next season. But hey, it’s The 100, so I’m taking nothing for granted.

The 100 returns to The CW tonight at 9 PM EDT.


Images courtesy of The CW

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Lisa is a gay(ish) writer and stand-up comedian from Canada's west coast. A longtime fanfic author who recently made the jump to journalism, she is prone to gush ad nauseum about her OTPs. Stubbornly Watsonian and literal, she can't stand characterization and continuity errors.

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