Seeing the origins of this ritual made this rewatch so much starker, and made Clarke’s “it’s kind of beautiful” statement much more heartbreaking, because she has no idea what Wonkru went through to weld themselves into a body that became an extension of Octavia’s will, and what really lies behind their emphasis on food in this ritual.

Octavia never wanted to be a leader, but was born into the role through blood, starting with the Conclave. Every moment since then has been a dark, downward spiral - a tragic one. 

Her entire life was nothing but isolation, then loss, then brutality, then unwanted leadership. She became the worst part of both of her cultures. I touched on this in a previous meta.

We know now (after 5x11) she tried to maintain diplomacy and democracy until The Dark Year. She was still Octavia until The Dark Year - the flashbacks prove that, as she carries none of the aesthetic or personality trademarks of Blodreina yet, and she is still taking equal counsel from Indra, Abby, and Kane.

Octavia is the tragedy of someone too young being thrust unwillingly into leadership, while simultaneously being failed by every single previous leader and role model she ever had.

  • Jaha failed her by dying on Day 42, and encouraging her to start her viciously brutal reign. “On the Ark, we made death the enemy.” This might have been necessary for Octavia to lead Wonkru to survival, but it’s still a betrayal. She insists she isn’t a leader, that she doesn’t want to be a leader, all throughout Day 42 (5x02), but still Jaha makes her feel she has no other choice. His dying wishes are essentially for Octavia to protect Ethan, and to stop the revolt at any cost.
  • Indra failed her by encouraging her to become a symbol. She stands back and lets Octavia slaughter her way to peace, either refusing to see or outright ignoring the terrible cost for her adoptive daughter. She rejects the repressive symbols of the Flame and the Heda, only to immediately accept Gaia’s suggestion that, “the blood of our enemies [be] her armor”.
  • Abby failed her when she became addicted to opiates.
  • Kane failed her by objecting but giving her no other solutions. He was literally shackled to Abby during the revolt of Day 42, and metaphorically shackled to her for the rest of the time underground. It is exhausting and overwhelming to have a loved one go through that kind of addiction, so we can’t exactly blame him for this one. But it is part of what forces Octavia into her role.

So naturally, when the fungus destroys their soybean crops, the former leaders who are still alive fail her again.

  • Indra fails her by refusing to help her enforce the law. “You just stood there and watched.” She gives Octavia the words (“omon gon oson”) but she doesn’t help her shed the necessary blood to make them matter. She makes Octavia feel alone, when she needs someone the most.
  • Abby fails her by convincing her that cannibalism is the only option. She even offers up Kane as a potential sacrifice for the cause, which not only shows Octavia how serious she is (further deepening her feeling of having no choice), but also shows how far from her core characteristics opiate addiction has pushed Abby.
  • Kane fails her by caving to the executions, and agreeing to eat. He could have disarmed her. She clearly did not want to do what she was doing. He had talked her down from executing an unarmed young man before, with Ilian. This might be a controversial opinion, but I feel someone should have done more to intervene, and Kane was in the best position to do so.  He is the best diplomat in the world. But instead, he validated her coldest, most violent act yet, proving to her that this was who she had to become to protect the human race.

Skairipa. Osleya. Blodreina.

Octavia has killed a lot of people. She’s taken out dozens in battle and through assassination - but how many times has she executed her own people at point-blank range for refusing to do something that she herself found abhorrent? Abhorrent, but essential to survival.

That was the moment that broke Octavia, and when Octavia became Blodreina.

It wasn’t just the cannibalism. It was what she was forced to do, alone, time and again, to keep the human race going. That most brutal moment in the dining hall was just what made her finally snap.

If her people had realized the weight of the situation - if the former leaders in her life had done more to support her, to help her, to give her better options, Octavia might have been able to push through without completely losing herself, without having to become a tyrant. It’s Abby who forces her hand, Kane who caves to that force, and Indra who stands by and lets it all happen.

Utterly alone, backed into a corner, and forced into leadership she never wanted, Octavia had to choose - and she chose Wonkru. At any cost.

Just imagine how different things might have been if Kane, Abby, Indra, or Jaha had reached out, held her, and took that burden from her. If any of them had been in a position to - had been alive, had been sober, had been bolder, had been stronger. Each and every one of them had valid, understandable reasons for being unable to stop Octavia from becoming Blodreina.

They were really all just doing the best they could.

There are no good guys. There is no right or wrong. There is just survival, and what it costs.