Ever watched a movie or a TV series and thought: “Nah, this character would never do that?” Maybe it happened while reading a book. We’ve all been there as viewers and readers. Characters’ actions sometimes can take an unbelievable turn, and make us our eyes roll, taking us away from the story.
Currently, many fans of the sci-fi series The 100 feel this way about the character Finn, though I’m not one of those fans. While I believe they could have handled his transformation a little better or made his character take a different path, I don’t think what happened to him is that big of a stretch when you consider everything he has been through.
I’m not saying writers don’t have a tendency to take things too far for the sake of a more captivating plot or shock value. But often, writers have an emotional connection to their story and don’t just throw a big change the audience’s way just for the sake of it. They become their characters. So it is not so much crafting a path as it’s living, breathing and being that character.
Expectedly, not all of your readers (or viewers) will agree with how (or who) your character ends up to be. Especially when you have give them so many twists and complicated fellow characters, after introducing this one character much more differently in the beginning.
But traumas change people, for the better or worse. Can you tell me that you’ve gone through several significant, life-altering events in your life, and those events haven’t changed your attitude or reactions even one bit? If you say you are 100% the same, I’m going to think you are either a saint, or not being completely honest with me (or yourselves) for that matter.
So today, let’s tackle this tricky issue with the help of The 100, and what Finn’s been through. (Note: from this point on, this post will feature spoilers. You’ve been warned.)
The 100 Premise:
A nuclear apocalypse has destroyed the earth, and some survivors have moved to space stations. 97 years later, a technical problem is causing oxygen deficiency, causing the need to test the earth’s conditions a century before they planned.
On these space stations (called the Ark), any criminal over 18 is executed by floating. Any criminal under 18 is imprisoned – the nature of the crime is irrelevant. So in order to gain more time (and oxygen), they send 100 prisoners (ages ranging from kids to almost 18 year-olds) to earth, without supplies (not that they had too much extra to spare) or weapons.
When the prisoners land on earth, radiation doesn’t kill them. The nature looks beautiful, and they might have a chance after all. But soon, the differences in personalities, agendas and violent tendencies and lack of supplies as well as other survivors they didn’t know existed risk their lives and well-being on a daily basis (or sometimes more frequently). Finn (played by Thomas McDonnell) is one of these prisoners.
He’s famous for his crime: he has gone spacewalking without authorization, causing the Ark to lose oxygen, though it’ll be revealed in the following season that while the “crime” was his idea, the “committing” was done by someone else. (More on this later.) Finn is a fun-loving, spontaneous kid who’s not the bravest – but he’ll definitely step up eventually if he needs to save a friend. He develops a crush on Clarke, the intelligent, resilient and resourceful daughter of the Ark’s best doctor.
Finn is willing to do work when reasoned, but not disruptive and never with an authority complex. He usually provides the humor, ways to have fun and offers less disturbing ways to survive. He’s a bit of a flirt, but hey, for a teenager who has never had an adventure and only been with one girl all his life, he is doing pretty well as a human being trying to survive.
But even during the first couple of episodes that establish Finn as a fun-loving, inherently decent, flirty but smart dude with useful skills (tracking and peace-making), he goes through pretty horrifying stuff: losing friends in horrific ways, losing hope that they might ever see their family and friends in space or communicate with them, having his life and his remaining friends’ constantly in danger. With no time to get depressed or have an existential crisis, he holds up well through his reciprocal crush on Clarke.
Then his girlfriend from the Ark, Raven, comes to earth. Because of this, he loses his chance with Clarke, but that’s the least of his problems: Just think about it. Imagine being a 17-year-old experiencing the earth for the first time. Think about having been sent there to die. (The adults in space had no proof the earth was livable, so he, along with the other 99, was considered expendable.)
Think about falling in love with another girl, a girl you haven’t known your entire life while still caring the hell lot about your girlfriend – who’s both your family and your best friend. Think about not knowing who to trust apart from a couple of people. Did you put yourselves in Finn’s shoes? Good. Stay there.
You don’t have many supplies. You can die of hunger if you can’t hunt. If you are caught by the yellow acid fog, you will die a horrible, painful death, and you lose friends to this death. You see fellow campers go into “lynching mode” because they think someone in this group murdered a fellow camper. You find out the killer was a little girl who misunderstood some helpful advice. You risk your life trying to protect her, but you can’t: the girl ends up jumping to her death because she doesn’t want anyone to be harmed because of her. Aren’t you mentally a little disturbed yet?
Remember these events. Despite all this, because you’re a nice, peace-loving guy:
– You don’t mind the “grounder” Lincoln (people who kind of remind you of the warriors in Mad Max 3– people who have survived despite the radiation and formed their own civilazation) who stabbed you escapes.
– You don’t mind one female fellow camper falling in love with the grounder; instead you see the good in him and use this opportunity to make peace. Things go wrong, you barely escape.
– You find out these grounders have sent a biological weapon into your camp, killing a few more of your friends in the process and almost killing the girl you love (Clarke).
– Then you find out this biological weapon was only the initial attack. Your friends build a bomb to blow off a bridge to delay the attacks. This does delay the war, but during a hunting trip, you and Clarke are kidnapped and threatened to be killed unless Clarke saves the wounded girl. She can’t, and you only get to escape because Lincoln (the nice grounder) helps you.
– You are surrounded by warriors, but with the help of Raven (now your ex: she breaks up with you because you’re in love with Clarke), you manage to build something that will fry all grounders who come close. But you can’t make it inside the safe zone in time, witnessing a lot of people die brutal deaths. You watch people burn while fighting for your life.
– And when it’s over, you learn that Clarke along with 46 of your friends, are nowhere to be found. Maybe the remaining grounders took them. They’re probably tortured. There’s a good chance they might be dead.
Are you damaged enough yet?
– Anyway, there’s some good news as some of the space people land safely and form another camp. You are sent to find the missing, but not before you get to experience your ex’s painful, no drugs included surgery where her screams would make anyone’s blood crawl.
– During your search for Clarke, a grounder refuses to give you information, so you threaten to kill him. Then he draws you a map, but you still kill him. If you don’t, he might track you or try to kill you anyway. These people have been trying to kill you since you arrived.
Out of character? At this point, I think it’s in line with who he has become after what he has been through.
– A couple of more traumas later, you and another camper reach village where you were told your friends are. You round up everyone with guns, and have to decide if they are telling the truth. They’ve guns, but it’s 2 versus a village (though they don’t have guns, their warriors might come any second.) And then the hostage situation gets out of hand: some try to escape, some try to charge at you. You react out of panic, anger and adrenaline and you start shooting and you don’t stop until it’s too late.
Out of character? Or completely in line with what he has been through and what he felt in that moment?
I’m frankly against guns, and I’m a pacifist. But if you put me in a place where people are constantly attacking me and my loved ones, and where each day might be my last…and if you give me a gun to protect myself and my friends…And I go through one trauma after another after another…Well, I might not be that much of a pacifist after I reach my breaking point, and everyone has one.
I think Finn was suffering from major PTSD, and it’s unreasonable to expect someone to behave “characteristically” when they are in a seriously stressful situation.
What do you think? Do you think it is as unreasonable and far-fetched as some fans find it? Or is he just a kid who has gone through too much in short amount of time and expectedly lost it?
Please let me know in the comments. And what are some of the believable or unbelievable character transitions you have seen in novels, movies and TV series?