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Performer of The Month - Readers' Choice Most Outstanding Performer of September - Alycia Debnam-Carey

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This article was written by Aimee Hicks,Ellys Cartin, and Jamie Coudeville. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). The open and close of the article were written by Aimee Hicks. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

The 100’s Lexa became an iconic character thanks in large part to Alycia Debnam-Carey’s portrayal. She was a cold and calculated character until she was around Eliza Taylor’s Clarke. The two characters forged a powerful bond built out of curiosity and respect. Over time that blossomed into attraction that gradually evolved into love. The reason the pairing worked so well was in large part due to the way Debnam-Carey handled Lexa’s side of the pair. She portrayed Lexa as razor sharp around almost everyone else and would pull back and soften Lexa when she was with Clarke. Her work played a big part in how deeply the pairing was endeared to the audience. That is also what made it even more painful when the character was killed off during Season 3. The loss of Lexa left a hole in Clarke’s heart and the loss of Debnam-Carey from the show left a gaping hole in the hearts of fans.

Then came the series finale and while Lexa didn’t return in The Last War (7x16), Debnam-Carey made a grand final appearance. She portrayed the no-nonsense Judge who presided over the final fate of humanity. She gallantly wore the Lexa costume and sported her war paint. Visually she was Lexa, but she made the Judge feel quite different and almost relatable. This is a character with vast knowledge of a multitude of species that populate the galaxy and was still able to feel the power of the Clarke and Lexa bond. Debnam-Carey took a character that so easily could have been one-dimensional and made the Judge feel multi-layered oftentimes with no more than the way she chose to speak or carry herself. It also helped that she got to reunite with Taylor and while this wasn’t some big grand romantic reunion for their characters, it still carried significant meaning. She was so pivotal to the series that the show almost had to bring her back for the series finale in some capacity. Reuniting her with Taylor was a well-crafted decision. The two of them are a powerful acting duo and Debnam-Carey immediately fell back into the old rhythm she shared with Taylor. An epic return paired with her patented brand of stoic honest acting is what made her such a worthy winner of the title SpoilerTV’s September Readers’ Choice Performer of the Month.

Continue reading below to find out our thoughts regarding her performance. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments.

Debnam-Carey last appeared on the series during Season 3, so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that she would be in the series finale. What are your thoughts about her being a part of the series finale? Were you surprised by her unannounced return? Do you think her return was made better by the fact they managed to keep it a secret for all these months?

Aimee: I expected them to bring her back for the series finale and was glad that the show didn’t disappoint. Lexa was such a pivotal part of the series even long after her demise that it would have been absurd to not find some way to bring Debnam-Carey back for the series finale. Even if she didn’t return as the beloved Lexa it is Debnam-Carey as an actress that made Lexa have the profound impact she did. They needed that special brand of acting that she delivers to help cap off the series. Even though I had a strong feeling they were going to sneak in at least a cameo from her I was still pleasantly surprised to see her appear on the screen. I am very impressed that they managed to keep her return mostly a secret. I was also pleasantly surprised at the capacity in which they used her. I expected that if they brought her back it’d be a quick non-consequential blink and you miss it moment, but they incorporated her in the episode in an impactful way. I am very glad they brought her back and gave her an actual part to play.

Ellys: For me, the return of Lexa’s image in the series finale was more of an Easter Egg than a tribute to the character’s legacy and relationships. Still, it is undeniable that Lexa and Alycia Debnam-Carey will be forever tied to The 100’s cultural impact. Bringing her back for one last episode in any capacity was fittingly symbolic of the show’s most brilliant successes and most unforgettable failures. The term iconic is often overused in entertainment references, but Debnam-Carey truly created an icon with her performance as Lexa over the years, one that reshaped the TV landscape in countless ways.

Jamie: I wasn’t surprised because there had been online rumors for a while now. I do think it’s good that they didn’t market it. Last time around, Thirteen (3x7) was hyped up beforehand which probably didn’t help matters afterward. And if her return had been announced everyone would have assumed (and hoped) she’d return as Lexa, which she didn’t. So, keeping it a secret was the best way to go here. But I am extremely glad that she came back. 

She came back as the embodiment of Lexa but portraying a totally different character in the Judge. She was one of multiple returning performers to embody that character. What stood out for you in her portrayal of the Judge? Do you think any of her old Lexa characteristics seeped into her performance or did you see this performance as entirely different?

Aimee: She has this ability to give a soul to the coldest of characters and make the audience care about them. She worked that same magic with the Judge and made her version of the character most compelling. Not to say the other performers didn’t do terrific work as well bringing this character to life, they did, but she pushed a little more humanity into the Judge to make the interactions between her and Clarke have a more meaningful impact. Clarke and Lexa had a profound connection in life and those memories never faded inside Clarke’s mind. The Judge was seemingly meant to feel those powerful emotions. In that way, a part of Lexa was a factor in the interactions between the Judge and Clarke and Debnam-Carey did a brilliant job of walking a very fine line between allowing Lexa to have some impact on the Judge while not losing the character to the memory of Lexa. So, yes, I think she brought some aspects of Lexa to her performance, but not so much that it was overpowering. She brought just enough of Lexa to pay homage to the departed character while making the Judge feel entirely different. The performance she delivered was fresh and original while respecting the legacy she built for Lexa and that was no easy task and yet she pulled it off effortlessly.

Ellys: Debnam-Carey returned for a cameo that required her to present her iconic character as a mere shell, to withhold nearly all the traits and personality definition that made Lexa who she was to the audience and to Clarke Griffin. Her performance was as an apparition, haunting for how she reminded us of who she wasn’t being.

Jamie: There were some characteristics of Lexa that seeped into her performance, especially during the hug with Clarke. Her portrayal was more standoff-ish, though. It was awfully hard not to see her as Lexa when she’s in full gear and makeup.

Debnam-Carey had a lasting impression on the series even long after she departed. She delivered some powerful performances as Lexa during her tenure on the series. Which of her scenes as Lexa do you think she delivered her most impressive performance?

Aimee: I have written many POTM articles over the years for Debnam-Carey. To avoid rehashing to many things that I have no doubt said many times in them I’ll just list my top five favorite moments from my top five favorite episodes. Survival of The Fittest (2x10) for the scene where Lexa is trapped in the cage with Clarke. A lot of the groundwork for the relationship between their characters really took hold in this episode and in that moment. Her acting choices showed the feelings that were beginning to emerge within Lexa. Bodyguard of Lies (2x14) for the memorable first kiss scene. That whole kiss scene, what came before and after, could have felt so forced had it not been for the masterful command she had over Lexa to be able to express all the emotions the character was feeling without losing her edge. Watch the Thrones (3x4) for the fierce battle scene she shared with Zach McGowan as Roan. The conviction and ferocity she brought to that scene was impressive. Then Lexa won the battle and instead of killing Roan she threw the javelin into Queen Nia (Brenda Song) killing her and declaring Roan the King of the Ice Nation. That whole scene was brilliantly done and every action she made was perfectly executed to convey all that needed to be stated for full impact. Thirteen for the controversial death scene, despite how heartbreaking Lexa’s death scene was, it was a tour de force performance by Debnam-Carey as she took the audience through Lexa’s excruciating pain while the character also tried to comfort Clarke. There was this beautiful transition moment where she took Lexa from intense pain to a peaceful calm as she accepted her fate. I understand why the show had to write her off, but I also believe they could have handled the entire exit much differently, but even that couldn’t stop her from delivering a profoundly impactful performance. Then came Perverse Instantiation Pt. 2 (3x16) where Lexa returned to Clarke for one final adventure together. When they were together on the stairs after Clarke’s seizure it gave her another grand moment to showcase the effect that Clarke still has on her even in this afterlife reality. While that was a beautifully acted moment perhaps the most memorable was when she had Lexa commit to sacrificing herself to protect Clarke. It was a heroic end that Lexa deserved from the start. She had Lexa’s eyes burning with rage and conviction as she charged towards the crowd. These are my top five favorite moments, but there are dozens of amazing scenes and performances that she delivered throughout her time on the series.

Ellys: I have never been able to forget how Debnam-Carey sold one of the show’s weakest plot twists solely with her performance, as she utterly inhabited her character’s burdens and moral conflicts. This scene was Lexa’s betrayal of Clarke and Clarke’s people at the end of Season 2, a decision that didn’t work on any strategic level or by any stretch of mental gymnastics. Debnam-Carey allowed the audience to overlook this critical storytelling failure by translating Lexa’s inner torment vividly, permitting us to feel the entire tragic weight of a decision that Lexa knew was a mistake. Her performance in that episode effectively set the stage for The 100 to complete its evolution into a fatalistic tragedy.

Jamie: I mean, it’s hard to pick just one. But her scenes in Thirteen will always stand out to me because she portrayed such a clear difference between the Commander and Lexa. Also, the conversation right before they kiss in this episode, I read somewhere that Lexa’s tears were adlibbed by Debnam-Carey and it really made that scene that more powerful.

Since she debuted on the series her key scene partner was always Eliza Taylor, so it was fitting that she ended the series with Taylor. What did you like about their acting partnership? She did have some memorable scenes with other cast members as well. Who do you wish she had worked with more?

Aimee: Debnam-Carey and Taylor have had remarkable acting chemistry since they first shared the screen together. Their dynamic has always been magnetic and easy even when their characters were locked in conflict. I think what I most enjoyed about their partnership was how well they played off each other. They were a well-matched acting duo and they each knew exactly what they needed to bring to their performance to make the Lexa and Clarke dynamic hit all the right points. The bond they crafted between their characters was so powerful that when Lexa was killed off, the outcry from that event launched a campaign of such extraordinary proportions that it changed how LGBT characters are handled in television, raised money for the Trevor Project, and launched a fan convention. A response like that can only be the aftereffect of an unprecedented acting partnership that elicited real raw emotion from the audience.

As for who I’d like to have seen her act with more, that is easily Marie Avgeropoulos. They did work together a little bit, but the show could have done so much more with the complicated dynamic between Lexa and Octavia. I think they left a lot on the table when it came to the dynamic between those characters. More importantly, I think the actresses were quite evenly matched and could have taken things so much further in the push and pull between their characters. I would have liked to see Debnam-Carey and Avgeropoulos work together much more than they got to.

Ellys: I personally would have loved to see Debnam-Carey get to share more scenes with Zach McGowan and Nadia Hilker, especially the latter considering Lexa and Luna’s complicated history. In many ways, Lexa was The 100’s double-edged sword. She represented a power and defiance of the show’s chosen narrative, hope and courage and leadership that almost no one else brought to the world. These characteristics likely evolved from Debnam-Carey’s charisma and passion. She legitimized the entire universe of the show with how organically she played the role of Lexa. There was truly no way for the show to reach its apparent catastrophic endgame if Lexa had continued to exist on the show. She was too powerful a character, too strong a leader, too wise and compassionate. She would have been too perfect as well, had Debnam-Carey not balanced out her performance with a hundred tiny nuances of regret and longing.

Jamie: I love that it seemed like no time had passed since they last acted together. The chemistry was still there, they still worked so well off each other. As for who I would’ve liked to have seen her interact more… I don’t think we ever got an interaction with Bellamy (Bob Morley). That would’ve been interesting. I wish we could’ve gotten something with Madi (Lola Flanery) when the flame was still around. But also, Indra (Adina Porter). She carried a pretty high position when Lexa was still the Commander (I think), but I don’t think there were all that many interactions between them.

Debnam-Carey only had a couple of major scenes in this episode. Which of them was your favorite? What about it most captured your attention?

Aimee: The show smartly gave her important scenes as the Judge for the series finale. Their reunion scene was beautiful how Debnam-Carey uncertainly had the Judge loosely embrace Clarke as if she was trying to understand the full meaning behind the embrace. My favorite part was when Clarke was listing off the things she had been through to justify what she did. There was so much softness in the way Debnam-Carey had the Judge sympathize and seem to really take in every word Clarke was saying and did truly feel bad for the things Clarke had endured even though her actions were condemned. She had real tangible emotion in her eyes and by bringing that into the character it made this cold unforgiving being seem almost human. The writers didn’t bring Debnam-Carey back for some grand redemption for what they did to Lexa. The Season 3 finale gave Lexa that final exit, for better or worse, but they did give the audience a final chance to see the dynamic of Debnam-Carey and Taylor at work showcasing that acting duo in all their glory. Even with Debnam-Carey playing a different character their acting chemistry was still as sharp and in sync as always. Their final scene of the episode was a nice way to end both of their journeys on the show, but the scene where Clarke opens up and the Judge sympathizes was a great showcase for Debnam-Carey. I think that scene gave her the freedom to show the most emotion and really tap into the character. It did a good job of showing off all the reasons she is such a fan favorite actress.

Ellys: I am always delighted to recognize Debnam-Carey on this platform. She is the artist that you watch who reminds you of all the reasons you love television. Watching her at work as a character completely immerses you in a show; she never fails to enthrall with her fierce performances. While this series finale role was a smidgen of a cameo, it still conjured many wonderful memories of everything she gifted us in Lexa.

Jamie: The hug with Clarke probably stood out the most. For both actresses, their expressions were practically the same as in Perverse Instantiation Pt. 2. That quiet “I’m not her, Clarke” followed by “I know” just broke my heart. As much as I wish they could have found a way to bring the actual Lexa back, at least there was that.

What are your final thoughts on her winning this recognition?

Aimee: Debnam-Carey was the first-ever winner of POTM way back in 2016, therefore, making her the first-ever member of the cast of The 100 to win this feature. It feels like a bit of poetic closure that she is also the final winner from the series. For that reason, I was thrilled to see her win to provide a nice bookend for her journey on the series. But it was more than that, for her short time on the screen she delivered a strong performance that was noteworthy. It is a testament to her talent that despite limited screen time she still made an impact on the episode and captured the attention of the audience. She has a commanding way about her that can’t help but draw the audience into whatever character she is playing. Even though her time on The 100 is definitively over, she will still be gracing our screens as Alicia on Fear The Walking Dead and I expect we’ll get to be witness to many more profound performances by this gifted actress. This might be her final win for her work on The 100 but I expect we’ll see her take this title for many more years to come as she continues to bring complex multi-layered characters to life in only the special way she can.

Ellys: I only regret that we have but one performer of the month slot each year to give to Debnam-Carey, as we are in for more amazing work from her on Fear The Walking Dead this season. However, I am delighted that fans got another chance to recognize her truly iconic role as Lexa.

Jamie: I mean, I wasn’t all that surprised that she won this recognition. Debnam-Carey has always been extremely popular with the fans of this show. Even after her departure, that didn’t change much. For me she stole the spotlight in this episode. The quality in the storytelling has been steadily declining, I think most fans would agree with that, and I doubt that the finale was what anyone pictured it would be. For me, her performance was sort of a light in the darkness. Her character had a pretty big impact on me 4 years ago, her death an equally big impact. I very much would like to thank her for her portrayal.

Debnam-Carey was never a series regular on this show, but the impact she had on The 100 ran deep. She took the words that were given to her and elevated them to a point that Lexa took on a life all her own. She was a character that the writers couldn’t even seem to contain, but whom Debnam-Carey instinctively knew how to command. It is because of all the heart, soul, and charisma that she infused into Lexa that made her such an iconic figure in the lexicon of the television medium. She ended the series not as Lexa, but as a Judge overseeing the final test of humanity, and somehow that seemed fitting. For her final outing on The 100 she is SpoilerTV’s September Readers’ Choice Performer of the Month.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of Alycia Debnam-Carey’s performance in The Last War.

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