The friend zone isn't a real thing. Shocking, I know.
The idea that two people being friends is just a second-rate substitution for a romantic relationship creates an illusion of friendship as a whole.
But if you take a look at the successful storytelling for Bellamy Blake and Clarke from The 100 you get to see a relationship that proves why the friend zone not only isn't real but why it also doesn't fit when characters are written well within their own story.
The Success of the Slow Burn
A friend zone being "established" usually relies on two people meeting and immediately developing long-term feelings for one another. That can happen of course, but the record timing that a TV show usually works with is on another level altogether.
The 100 uses very quick pacing, but somehow, in the chaos of all that, the relationships formed very rarely feel rushed -- unless it is for the sake of the story.
Connections between characters are formed with realistic expectations being kept in mind, and Bellarke is the most significant example of that.
The two met in the pilot, but they got off to a dreadful start, truly living up the phrase enemies to friends. They weren't the first romance on The 100, and frankly, benefited a whole lot because of it.
The first couple never works on any show. Ever. It is a known fact, and the case can be made that it is because there is never enough time for the first couple to get to know each other.
In other words, one person in the relationship doesn't get ''friend zoned'' so the two never connect as friends, and as a result, things don't work out. It is almost as if the parts that go into creating a friendship could be interchangeable with what goes into a successful romantic relationship.
Bellamy and Clarke prove just that, establishing trust in every sense of the word, building a close connection with one another, and becoming genuine partners to one another.
Their relationship, a seemingly platonic one, surpasses some of the romantic relationships that we as the audience are meant to be rooting for at one point or another.
Relationships like the one between Finn and Clarke just didn't hold the same weight as Bellamy and Clarke.
And even though it could be said that Bellarke fell under the nonexistent friend zone label because they reverted to friendship instead of romance, that has to be questioned considering how many exchanges between them seem to be romantically coded.
The Coded Hints of Romance
Every show on The CW needs to throw in a couple of scenes that bring up the topic of romance even if the characters involved aren't headed for a relationship.
It happens from time to time, and then you have a relationship like Bellamy and Clarke's which suffers from barely subtle romantic undertones on a regular basis.
In fact, their scenes are often mirrored against moments that canon couples share on the show which has to call into question where their relationship could be heading.
But the most significant success that comes from Bellarke are the potential possibilities.
If Bellamy and Clarke were to get together in Season 5 or further down the road, then every interaction that was shared between them could be a firm indication that this was all a very natural progression.
The two of them started out as strangers that could barely get along and over time became the most important people in each other's lives.
At the place where they are now, they could continue to grow as friends and partners making up for lost time because of the shift in The 100 Season 4 Episode 13.
Or, the two would have evolved in their time apart and it would have been without each other.
Once they find their way back to one another, they will have proven to the audience already whether they were able to use their heads and hearts to survive individually instead of counting on the other to supply half of the progress.
It is a no-brainer that the two will have figured out a way to keep going even though they were dealing with the other's absence.
Both characters are strong on their own though, and naturally, have to figure out how to make their new normal work without turning it into The 100 Season 3 trainwreck.
But it is through that that they will figure out they don't need each other because together they complete some sort of leader puzzle.
Bellamy and Clarke make sense as a duo not because he needs her head and she needs his heart, but because they are both able to connect with those parts of themselves even though they don't have to.
Regardless of that, it is my strong belief that they will come to realize that the reason they came to rely on one another wasn't that they themselves were lacking something, it is because they simply need each other on a fundamental level.
Season 5 could present the idea of Bellamy and Clarke learning to reconnect while realizing that their feelings all those years ago were rooted in affection that escalated from their friendship into something more.
And if these two were to get into a romantic relationship it would only build onto their present connection; it wouldn't erase their past just because it was some sort of platonic downgrade.
The idea that two people have to show romantic interest for one another off the bat for there to be a decent relationship is ridiculous because of the way it paints development and friendship.
A friendship between two people isn't a second place prize, especially when there are friendships that are, frankly, better than romantic relationships in every sense of the word.
That goes not just for The 100 but for all shows that manage to successfully craft a realistic and healthy friendship that goes beyond exchanges between characters for plot-related purposes.
The Time Jump Advantage
With so many things happening on The 100, it can be hard to remember that not that much time is passing.
Loss is something that not many characters have time to focus on, and with Bellamy and Clarke both having their share of people in their lives that they will never get to see again this is an especially important factor to their relationship.
With loss, there also comes a need to grieve, something neither of them has had the time to do.
And this is exactly where the time jump comes in, not only giving Bellamy and Clarke the time they needed away from constant chaos but it also puts them in, hopefully, a better state of mind.
Clarke is the only character we have yet to see after the time jump, and it is probably safe to assume that for the time being she managed to find some time just for herself.
She has Madi in her life of course, but even that beginning shot of her was relaxed and returning her to her roots, something we haven't gotten to see in a long while.
Bellamy is the unknown factor for now, but there is a chance that everyone in space got at least a little bit of time to not focus on something other than survival all the time.
That means that the time jump gives the two an advantage, even though their friendship has been on a weird pause, neither has talked to each other, and Bellamy thought Clarke had been dead.
Bellamy has to have found a way to start to move on and reuniting with Clarke will set up for a new relationship approach.
After all this time, Bellamy and Clarke will have time working against them, but there is no doubt that through their close friendship, they will have the chance to pick up where they left off.
And through that, there will be the possibility of them growing together differently, with their well-written development from the previous four seasons setting up for a very well-established relationship.
Romantic or not, the way Bellamy and Clarke interact with each other goes beyond the idea that it is somehow not good enough because they built a strong connection.
Bellarke is an excellent example of a friendship that benefitted a lot from starting out as "just friends." They proved that a friendship isn't a downgrade or a relationship not worthy of appreciation.
This 'ship also managed to pave the way for romance down the road while not forcing it.
Bellamy and Clarke don't need to happen for it to feel like there is a natural point for all their scenes, although the narrative certainly sets up for a future between them.
At the same time, Bellamy and Clarke can happen without it taking away from their friendship as if that was in no way relevant because a romantic relationship has an elevated status.
Relationships of any kind can bring with them importance and value, and it is terms like friend zone that try to diminish that.
Most of the time one person doesn't even have to say that they aren't interested in someone romantically for their friendship to them be waved away.
Neither Bellamy nor Clarke made the case that they weren't romantically interested in one another, quite the opposite in some cases.
But yet the concept of the friend zone has still managed to travel far enough to label any developing friendship in a negative light, not factoring in the importance of well-depicted friendships or the idea of a relationship evolving over time between people.
That is why a relationship like Bellamy and Clarke's provides the perfect model for a case to be made against the nonexistent idea of a friend zone.
The 100 returns to The CW on April 24. If you want to relive the Bellarke journey all over again, you can watch The 100 online right here on TV Fanatic!
Yana Grebenyuk was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in April 2021.