What is Transcendence?
Honestly, even after watching a whole season that largely centered Cadogan’s quest for humanity’s transcendence, I’m still not totally sure what transcendence, you know, is.
Here’s what we do know: There is some kind of collective consciousness made up of the combined knowledge and experiences of a bunch of alien species. To join the consciousness, you must “transcend,” which seemingly involves an entire species giving up their corporeal bodies (or at least turning into energy trees) in order to join the hive mind. Once in this “place,” you will no longer feel pain and will live forever. In many ways, this sounds like a kind of death, at least from a human perspective. The Judge character who gives The Test to Cadogan, Clarke, and Raven seems to have no empathy; Raven remarks that she doesn’t seem to feel a thing. Is this the “heaven” waiting for the human race—a place without feeling? And, if so, are those who transcend still human at all? In this context, it’s understandable why Becca was so afraid of it, though it’s not clear why she couldn’t get more specific about why transcending was a bad idea (other than for the meta narrative value of maintaining suspense).
The questions the concept of “transcendence” presents aren’t uninteresting ones to explore, but they’re not ones the final episode or even season of The 100 is well-equipped to answer. In the end, though The 100 series finale introduces some interesting philosophical questions through, the wibbly-wobbly logic of “transcendence” is far too muddled to understand what the stakes of this ending are, and that’s before most of the characters we care about opt out of the next phase in humanity’s evolution (or whatever) to have a beach party.
Who Dies in The 100 Series Finale?
For a show notorious for killing off its characters, The 100 series finale actually has a pretty low death count—unless you count “transcendence” as a kind of death, in which case… yeah, most of humanity dies. If we’re going by traditional dying, however, the season’s major villains—Cadogan and Sheidheda—are the only major characters to die.
Cadogan is murdered surprisingly quickly, shot in the back by Clarke while he was trying to take the transcendence test on behalf of all humanity; in what feels like a fitting punishment for his character, who killed so many so heartlessly on his quest for transcendence, he never gets to transcend. Later, Sheidheda is killed by Indra with a massive gun. It’s fitting that Indra is the one to take out Sheidheda, as she witnessed Sheidheda’s atrocities as a child; he was also responsible for her father’s death. By killing Sheidheda, Indra gives Octavia space to make the speech that will convince the last vestiges of humanity to lay down their weapons.