Bellamy Blake is the male lead character on The 100, and yet throughout the show's five-year run, the romance in his life has left plenty to be desired.
Now, to have an Asian male lead like Bellamy Blake is rare, and on top of that, this is a character that has subverted the trope of desexualized Asian men in media.
Alongside Monty Green, Bellamy Blake has been written into a position where he is a love interest and can be viewed as such both within the show and outside of it because The 100 explores just that.
And yet, Bellamy is one of the few characters on the show that hasn't been in a prolonged romantic relationship that got the attention that it deserves.
That absence of focus on Bellamy Blake's romantic life becomes even more evident when comparing his female counterpart, Clarke Griffin. She has had three people during the show that she has been together with in some way, with some relationships still being discussed two seasons later.
The issue gets worse when Bellamy gets a love interest or two. Both times it is used for shock value, as a plot device, or as a way to further someone else's story instead of his own. There is not enough evident care being put into Bellamy's love life, and maybe the show's aversion to romance is to blame.
But as we are nearing the sixth season of The 100, it becomes more and more clear that the real reason might be that there's no awareness of the value there.
Bellamy Blake is the lead, and his storylines matter much like his female counterpart's, especially when you consider that he is offering representation that is still scarcely unavailable on most network TV shows.
It isn't fair that for Bellamy Blake to (possibly) have his own rich story each season regarding the overarching plot; he can't have a prolonged romantic relationship. But if he gets offered a chance to have a love interest, it blows up because he becomes a guest star in his own story.
Is The 100 unable to offer their leads a healthy and long-term romantic relationship in fear of "ruining" the plot? Or is Bellamy Blake viewed as a scapegoat for the development of many of the white women on The 100?
Or is the show’s inability to admit the slow burn relationship that they are exploring to blame for Bellamy Blake’s romantic life not feeling valued enough?
Lack of Romance
The one constant when it comes to Bellamy Blake is the chemistry that he has with other characters on the show. It is inevitable with this character, which could be another defining reason why it is ridiculous that we haven't seen him in a romantic situation that the audience would root for.
It feels like the case could be made for Bellamy to be with just about anybody; offer the build-up and let the journey flow with care, and you can have a successful romance for him.
But the emphasis has to be on prioritizing Bellamy's love life instead of relagating it to an afterthought.
At first, it was fair to say that Bellamy needed to work on himself, going through some character development where he came to terms with the fact that he didn't have to put on this villain persona to survive on Earth.
Once that was resolved it was evident to anyone that saw The 100 that Bellamy Blake deserved love.
For a lead that had so much love to offer, it felt offputting that there wasn't anywhere he could genuinely share it. It was there in the way that he cared for his people and his partner, but it was different.
Clarke was with Finn and Lexa, Raven was with Finn and now Zeke, Monty and Harper found each other, Octavia found love with Lincoln -- those were all attempts to allow other characters to branch out into their own connections.
Bellamy didn't get the same journey, which was interesting when you consider how consistent a show on The CW has to be to produce relationships each season for every show.
But what started as standing up against a new relationship every season because there had to be drama to keep interest alive turned into forgetting the main lead altogether.
His needs were different, and his focus was on survival. But so was everyone else's.
The longer that Bellamy's love life wasn't fully addressed, the worse it started to look.
To be fair, it isn't as if Bellamy Blake didn't have a love life in the eyes of the fans.
And yet as we are heading into the sixth season and there is still this refusal to admit that Bellamy and Clarke were a romance explored from the start, there is nothing left but to question every intention with the male lead.
Either Bellamy's love life was explored, but it was through the continuous slow burn lense that once committed to will be a whole series worth of quality storytelling, or his love life was gambled with in an attempt to leave the potential open but never to explore it.
Then Bellamy Blake becomes a victim of a story that he was never going to be involved in in the first place. It becomes unfair to him, to his journey, and to the potential that he always had as a valuable lead who deserved a love that was a priority to the show.
The Appearance of Romance
Meanwhile, Bellamy Blake's romantic relationships were few and scarce, with only Gina appearing for a few episodes after a time jump during The 100 Season 3 only to fall victim to the horrible fridging trope.
Then The 100 Season 5 Episode 1 aired, using the same offscreen development technique to reveal a shock value relationship between Bellamy and Echo.
The issue became that not only was Echo the direct source of Bellamy's trauma throughout the previous few seasons, and he also fell victim to becoming a character purely there to provide exposition that the audience is meant to take at face value.
With Gina, it was never about introducing her in a long-lasting role or allowing us to explore Bellamy's love life. It was already established, with a few sweet moments meant to show that there were emotions to invest in, just in time for us to "understand" Bellamy's future decisions when Gina was predictably killed off.
It didn't do Gina any favors, and it didn't do Bellamy any favors either.
The fact that this was the first prolonged romantic relationship for him brings up the question of what the show feels their male lead deserves.
Compared to Clarke, Bellamy's love life shows signs of irrelevance if it isn't involved with a plot point for that specific season.
There was a chance and also kind of a duty to use the first view we got of Bellamy in a committed relationship to their advantage. Finding time to spend with Bellamy that wasn't about how to push the next shocking twist that season means prioritizing your leads and their individual stories.
Instead, Bellamy's first relationship was a waste, and it left an unsettling memory in our minds. Gina deserved better, which caused an even bigger issue when her death got walked over even more. And there's only a hint of irony included in the fact that Bellamy once again took a backseat in his own romantic life as well.
But then something surprising happened, the only real romantic shift was for Bellamy. Murphy and Emori were still caught up in their relationship, Monty and Harper were happily together, Miller and Jackson continued to grow closer, Raven was alone as always, and Abby was still with Kane.
Nothing shifted for anyone but Bellamy when during The 100 Season 5 Episode 1, the show chose to use the fact that he was now with Echo as a shocking twist to the end of the episode.
The reaction was as expected, very loud and very unhappy.
But if you move aside the initial issues that fans had and suspended your belief that this wasn't just meant to enhance Echo's story without offering her one and as a way to complicate Bellamy and Clarke again for a little while, there is plenty to talk about in terms of the Bellamy of it all.
In a way, this is even more upsetting if you consider this exploring Bellamy's love life because it his popularity as a fan favorite becomes an easy way out of actually writing a character development arc for someone else.
It wasn't a way to show that Bellamy was in a relationship, it was a way to contribute to an overarching plot point instead.
The first time that Bellamy gets written into a longer relationship, it isn't even meant to reflect and explore him.
His romantic life is used to pretend like the time jump actually changed anything, and even more so Bellamy becomes just a placeholder for exposition that had to be written in for the audience and the other characters.
It is an understatement to say it isn't fair. In fact, it questioned the way the show viewed Bellamy even further.
As always if you compare the way Bellamy's love life is written to the way that Clarke's is, there is that stark difference.
Clarke had two significant romantic relationships and a casual but consistently referenced connection with someone else. It wasn't even that we focused more on Clarke's relationships, it was the fact that we saw them happen for episodes at a time.
Then we followed the ups and downs. Nothing was happening off-screen because it felt like every detail was crucial for us to know.
More than that though, Clarke's relationships were created for her and her alone. They got the time and the attention to show to the audience that they were meant to invest in what was being written.
And it was a way to honor Clarke, allowing her to find time in between constantly trying to survive to just be a person with feelings and connections.
Why can't the same be said for Bellamy?
Why are all his relationships either written for the sake of an arc or for the sake of someone else?
Why is it that even when there is an "attempt" to give him a relationship that lasts longer than three episodes, he instead has to carry the emotional weight of it for the entire season?
Bellamy's relationship with Echo was introduced for shock value, then forgotten for the next few episodes, only to be looped back around as a way to put him at odds with his sister.
He had to deal with that emotional weight that came with constantly defending his relationship, and not doing anything else outside of that. It made him have to excuse two seasons worth of trauma, and it put him in the middle of Octavia and Echo's storylines instead of his own.
That continued for the rest of the season, with Bellamy only revolving around trying to save Octavia until he finally made a choice not to excuse her behavior anymore.
It was a step in the right direction, but it feels like it still comes at the cost of him either having a romantic life or his own storyline. And honestly so far neither have worked out in his favor because it never seems to be about him.
So where would this leave Bellamy Blake?
The Platonic Romance of It All
There is no mention of Bellamy's love life without bringing up Clarke. That is just a fact.
If relationships were built on natural progression and chemistry, it is obvious that Bellamy and Clarke would be the two to explore together. The longer you don't touch on five seasons worth of chemistry, romantic undertones, and a very prolonged slow burn then the weirder it seems.
In fact, at this point, you have to view Clarke as the romantic tie to Bellamy's love life if you want to make sense of the way that it has been explored.
It is easier to explain away why Bellamy hasn't had much action in his romantic life when you consider the long game that has been played between Clarke and him.
It isn't that Bellamy isn't written as a viable love interest or as the lead who deserves love, it is more about the fact that he has it, but there is a dangerous gaslighting game being played on the fans that are watching.
His relationship with Clarke has been compared to his relationship with Gina and his relationship with Echo multiple times. Honestly, it is suspicious the way those mentions taunt him for the way he feels more for Clarke compared to people that he is actually in a relationship with.
Their connection was pointed out as remarkably close, with Bellamy's loyalty always thrown back in his face as a reminder of just how committed he is to his platonic soulmate.
We are getting spoonfed the obvious fact that Bellamy cares for Clarke, has cared for her all this time and it continues to border into strange because platonic friends wouldn't look at each other like that, they wouldn't care about each other like that, and they wouldn't react to each other like that.
They may have issues in The 100 Season 5 and Clarke literally ended up in a room with her ex, her daughter, and Echo calling her out on her relationship with Bellamy. And this is all before we even explore the way the camera is used as an unspoken magnifying glass on the very nonplatonic moments between the two.
Jealous shots are in focus, prolonged touching that we get to close in on, and even significant lasting shots of the two at the end of every season.
It isn't a finale for the season if we don't check in on how Bellamy and Clarke's relationship is doing, it is fascinating the way that those two tie the story back with just their relationship as the connection.
The 100 is the story of Bellamy and Clarke, but yet it is questioned offscreen more times than anyone can count at this point.
It works against Bellamy's love life because it takes away from the years of emotions that have been put on the line in the name of Bellamy and Clarke.
You end up with either Bellamy's love life not mattering as much to the story, which isn't great, or you end up with a lot of thought put into his romantic relationships without any payoff.
It says a lot when the most chemistry and substance comes from Bellamy's relationship with his partner, someone that lines up with him perfectly and yet the word platonic has to be inserted when describing them outside of the actual show to try to pretend we aren't seeing what is right in front of us.
Honestly, there could be a lot working against Bellamy and the love that he deserves, a lot of it now tied up in his popularity being used against him in a way.
The worst thing though isn't that there isn't any quality content that would allow for Bellamy to have a romantic life, it is more the fact that there is an abundance of it, but it gets wasted.
It has been wasted for five seasons, and it is undercutting a lot of the show at this point because Bellamy and Clarke are what make the most sense. By exploring it but at the same time not fully committing to it, it not only harms the story but the main male lead's journey as well.
Bellamy Blake deserves a relationship like the one that has been seemingly in the works since the pilot of the show, but unless it is finally followed through on, it becomes nothing more than a disservice to him which would be a real shame and a loss.
Considering The Future of Romance
Looking ahead to The 100 Season 6, there isn't much hope outside of just valuing Bellamy for who he is and not what his romantic life can do for the plot or the characters around him.
There is a priority to explore his character more in general; it feels like it has been a while since his story was about himself and not about his sister or his girlfriend or his soulmate.
In a way, Bellamy deserves to be the male lead that grows all on his own, because it has been a while since the story served him instead of him serving the story.
That shouldn't rule out romance though, with Bellamy headed into the new season still dating Echo. And for all the rumors that are going around about Echo's backstory getting explored and how Bellamy may or may not be involved in that, it once again plays into Bellamy being a tool for someone else.
The more that is said (or usually not said) about Bellamy's love life while he is currently in a relationship with someone, the more it ruins the possibility of it.
How is it that the first relationship that Bellamy is in that lasts a full season somehow still not explored on screen and written in a way where not many are rooting for it?
Much of it has to do with the details that no one got, but it is more than that. At the end of the day pairing Bellamy up with Echo was always going to cause an issue.
There was more work trying to sell the idea of why the audience should buy it than was put into selling that in the narrative.
The biggest success in his story right now would be to think about what makes sense for Bellamy.
There is no easy answer to that, and yet there shouldn't be. Romance can be layered and complicated and confusing, but it has to exist for the characters involved. It has to benefit them because if the thought isn't about exploring their feelings, then that reflects in the content and the interpretation of any new relationships.
The obvious answer is allowing Bellamy's romance with Clarke to be addressed, but between the constant obstacles and separations and new characters and the obvious hints of something more without actually committing to it, it gets complicated.
Even more so, while allowing Bellamy and Clarke to happen is the best thing for Bellamy, it doesn't solve the bigger issue at hand.
At the end of the day, it should be about Bellamy, with the story not doing him any favors by forgetting that.
Bellamy and Clarke make sense, yet it isn't about them. Bellamy Blake hasn't been offered the same options that his female counterpart has, and going into the sixth season it has started to become a real problem.
The priority has to be with Bellamy and with doing right by him, he is a fan favorite character for a reason. He deserves the same respect that honestly every other character on the show has gotten.
The 100 may not always pride itself on the relationships that it introduces to us, but they are there. There are some beautiful examples of relationships that get explored just because it makes the characters happy or because there is that natural next step for the duo.
Why can't the same be said for Bellamy Blake?
The 100 Season 6 needs to acknowledge that Bellamy is a lead who deserves love. That love shouldn't be anything but a priority, because the show thrives best when the characters are valued over the storyline of that season.
Life is made out of relationships, everything that we are is built around the way we interact with each other. Not allowing Bellamy's love life to matter to the show, or teasing the possibility of quality romance but not committing to it puts the male lead at a disadvantage.
There has to be a way to strike an equal balance of Bellamy having a story, while also having a romantic life that gets the screentime and the thought that it always deserved.
The 100 returns in Spring 2019 on The CW.
Stick around TV Fanatic for more features, slideshows, episode previews, and reviews of the upcoming season, and watch The 100 online if you need to catch up on the adventure.
Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.