There is magic in getting to explore a character with bursting potential. The 100 knows that better than anyone, with newcomer Gabriel Santiago proving his power this season alone.
The 100 Season 7 may be the final one for the show, but it doesn't feel like it in many ways.
This season doesn't feel like a proper goodbye to what fans have come to know and love after all this time. There are many questions about the screentime choices, and how the lead characters don't seem to exist right now.
There were many requests for the final season, yet most of what's happening is a surprise for the audience.
But then there is Gabriel Santiago, swooping in to maybe not solve all the problems but at least alleviating some of them, just by existing.
With Chuku Modu continuing to make Gabriel a scene-stealing presence on the show, it isn't shocking that his increased role was so well received.
Gabriel can do no wrong because of how he continues to always offer quality content as a character and as the introduction to different storylines and dynamics in the final season.
Gabriel Santiago has this chemistry with every character he shares scenes with that makes you want to see him bond with others more. He also can direct all attention his way when he is on our screens because there is something about seeing the season through his eyes that makes it all the more interesting.
Mostly it appears like Gabriel seamlessly found a way to make his time on the show count. He makes the Anomaly storyline fascinating because of the way he explores it himself, and his interactions with the characters around him make The 100 feel exciting again.
Allowing Gabriel Santiago To Introduce The Audience To The Anomaly Storyline
The last season of the show divided the storylines and the characters in equal measure. But the concept of the Anomaly had to be introduced before the main characters in Sanctum had the chance to find out about it.
It was unexpected to have Gabriel, Hope, and Echo as our eyes into this arc, if only because their dynamic was just as mysterious to us as it was to them.
But having Gabriel Santiago there wasn't only perfect because of the knowledge he brought to the table, of which there was a lot. It was more about how the audience would want to go into the Anomaly if it meant following Gabriel to the other side.
Originally introduced to us as Xavier during The 100 Season 6, Gabriel very quickly became the breakout character of that season. He was intriguing, intense, and he came with so much potential.
He had all this history with the Children of Gabriel and the Lightbourne's, but he also made connections with the main characters Clarke, Bellamy, and Octavia. It was the effortless way that Gabriel fit in all parts of The 100 that mattered that made it so easy for the audience to invest in him.
That quickly became an even bigger thrill when Gabriel survived into the final season, especially since his involvement in Octavia going missing meant he would have a big enough role to play.
But he blew expectations out of the water, with his intelligence leading Echo and Hope (and us) into that Anomaly. Gabriel was almost the safe space that you knew you could trust in a group of three characters who couldn't be more different.
His intentions were the most simple, which meant it was incredibly easy to trust him on this journey.
The added aspect of not knowing what the environment was like on each planet meant that the characters who were introducing it had a lot of pressure to make it interesting.
The familiarity always comes from the people leading the way to the next adventure, and Gabriel took that on tremendously because of how he helped back in Sanctum.
That transferred quickly from one planet to the next, with Gabriel existing as this touchstone of safety.
If Gabriel was around, then everything might be okay.
Effortlessly Having Gabriel Santiago Represent The True Essence of "My People"
Whether the series knows it or not, the commentary about who each character's "person" is has never been louder. Season 7 of The 100 dives deeps into that by exploring the motivation that leads the characters to make their choices.
Gabriel, Echo, and Hope are arguably the ones at the center of it, with their adventure into the Anomaly being driven by something specific for each of them.
Hope wants to get to Bardo because of her people: Diyoza and Octavia.
Echo wants to get to Bardo because of her people: Bellamy.
Then, Gabriel, whose motivation is as simple as curiosity and a search for more knowledge.
It may have seemed like he was the odd man out because his involvement was limited to just wanting to see what was on the other side, yet Gabriel still came out on top.
While we didn't see the time that Gabriel spent on Skyring with the others, he was looking out for everyone was evident from the start. Once again, he wasn't suffering from tunnel vision with one goal in mind; he was motivated and aware of those he spent all this time with.
The trio spending time with Orlando was the prelude to a more significant issue; what happens when the person by your side no longer helps your mission?
When Orlando sees that Hope killed one of the Disciples, it is obvious that things aren't going to end smoothly. What follows is an unnecessary bloodbath at Echo's hands, which Gabriel vocally refuses to participate in.
The audience finds themselves in Gabriel's shoes as he tells Echo three times to stop, only for her to kill everyone and then leave Orlando alone.
And while Gabriel isn't able to just stay behind with Orlando for an undetermined amount of time, he is the most vocal about how wrong he finds all of this. Gabriel may have only spent five years with Orlando, but his ability to honestly worry about him proves that way that Gabriel truly cares.
But in the end, it isn't limited to people that Gabriel has formed relationships with because he continues to value all life throughout his time in Bardo. Gabriel views no one as an acceptable loss, which becomes a little complicated when no one around him follows the same philosophy.
Yet even after everything: after Hope starts to get too comfortable with killing those she doesn't trust in Bardo, and after Echo risks their chances at surviving in Bardo, Gabriel still comes through.
He knows that Anders explained about Bardo not being survivable above the bunker they are in, and he doesn't know Levitt's convenient intentions with trying to send them there.
So Gabriel's choice to surrender him and his friends is another example of him fighting for his chosen people.
This bleeds into Gabriel being handpicked to meet Anders, all while asking about his friends because he is continues to be burdened by what he had to do to keep them safe. And it is a constant pattern once he joins the team because he wants answers about how Clarke is related to everything.
Then Gabriel is there for Clarke when she finally arrives, proving that his loyalty continues to be to the people that he found himself surrounded with since Season 6.
He leads Clarke in the conversation to gain the upper hand when it comes to Cadogan.
Gabriel makes it clear that his people are his priority over and over, regardless of how much access he gets in Bardo. Being able to take part in code-breaking gives him everything he was searching for: answers. But leading up to it and while he actually has it, Gabriel chooses Clarke and the others first.
It is a testament to showing vs. telling, where Gabriel's journey allows the audience to witness his priorities to the people around him. It is a stark contrast to that moment during The 100 Season 7 Episode 4 when Echo announces that they aren't Orlando's people, which means he isn't their person.
Gabriel makes the conscious choice to think ahead to keep the others as safe as possible, and that's where the strength for his characterization comes in.
Not every character on The 100 can take on a role like that because it really comes with always redefining expectations. Always showing up for "my people" is a pattern that The 100 mentions, but not every character can follow.
But by not forcing Gabriel into a corner where that is his motivation, he manages to vocalize it better with every new episode.
The value that Gabriel continues to bring to the table is a subtle and consistent loyalty that is almost underrated. It isn't apparent how much Gabriel does to keep those around him safe, whether they realize it or not, but when he does, it means so much to each aspect of The 100.
Gabriel offers true consistency this season, and it's a small ray of sunshine that deserves to make it to the very end of the story.
Giving Chuku Modu The Opporutiny to Continue To Be His Scene-Stealing Self
It doesn't matter what Gabriel is doing, as long as he is on our screens doing something. That is what happens when you allow Chuku Modu to exist and bring his all to a character -- which he continues to do seamlessly from The 100 Season 6 to The 100 Season 7 without missing a beat.
Taking the intrigue from his first season on the show, Chuku only enhances the growth and the value that Gabriel exudes.
To be clear, Gabriel Santiago stands out because of the performance that Chuku Modu delivers each and every episode. The writing alone doesn't make Gabriel a fan-favorite; it adds to the actor's handle on the character.
So it was a genuine pleasure getting to see this season essentially throw their hands up and let Chuku work his magic once again when it comes to making the audience invest in Gabriel.
Because while so many plotlines and decisions might seem like a dumpster fire in the final season, Gabriel Santiago's existence makes that fire a little less overpowering.
Watching Chuku Modu portray Gabriel is like seeing all of the best parts of Season 7 so far. Gabriel is entertaining, but he is also rooted in his emotions, and yet he manages to find time to make the storylines much more enjoyable as well. There is this humor to him that makes the audience care more about him, while at the same time allowing him to be serious as well.
It is almost an effortless approach to the character, allowing him to grow around the edges that each episode writes him into, which makes Chuku's performance of Gabriel that much more epic.
There may have been many versions of Gabriel during his time on Sanctum, but it is the Chuku Modu portrayal that stays with you long after an episode ends. He manages to make Gabriel's scenes so exciting as they are happening, and then at the same time, he also makes you want more of them.
One of the best things right now is that Gabriel has this room to lead us through Bardo, and hopefully, the audience will continue to see Chuku blow our minds one scene at a time.
For The 100 fans still looking for some more nostalgia, TV Fanatic has a special new ongoing The 100 interview series. "Looking Back on The 100" that centers on monumental cast members and characters from the show that left behind a legacy.
We then had the chance to take a walk down memory lane with the iconic Christopher Larkin, as he talked about his time playing Monty Green. And we got to hear Aaron Ginsburg's insight on his most iconic episodes and his writing journey on The 100.
Chai Hansen also looked back at the show with us when it came to his time on it as Ilian. And Charmaine DeGraté expanded on her writing journey with the show, as well as what it was like to write for Bellamy and Octavia Blake.
Keep checking TV Fanatic for more upcoming interviews with surprise cast members from seasons past.
The 100 airs on Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
Share all your thoughts with us in the comments section! Stick around TV Fanatic for more features, slideshows, episode previews, interviews, 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.