|“||The blood of the first Commander Bekka Pramheda is your blood.||”|
|— Gaia to Madi [src]|
Commander, also known as Heda in Trigedasleng, is the title given to the leader of the Coalition and later Wonkru who takes on the Flame. The Flame is a cybernetic artificial intelligence chip invented by Becca Franco which is used by the Grounders to pass experience and wisdom from one Commander to the next. The Grounders believe that The Flame is the "spirit of the Commander" and that it helps find and guide the next commander.
When a commander dies, the Flame is removed from their body and kept safe by the Commander's spiritual leader known as the Flamekeeper until a new Commander is found. Since the Flame is only compatible with Nightbloods, only Nightbloods can become true Commanders. The process of selecting a new commander is known as a Conclave.
After inventing A.L.I.E. 2.0 (the Flame), Becca Franco was the first one to use it and therefore the first Commander. The title "Commander" originated from the badge on Cole McAdams' spacesuit that Becca was wearing when she descended to Earth from Polaris two years after the first Nuclear Apocalypse. After her death, she became known as Bekka Pramheda ("Becca, the First Commander" in Trigedasleng).
Following Becca's death, the Grounders established a tradition in which whoever took on Becca's spirit (the Flame) became their new Commander.
One of the most notable commanders is Lexa of Trikru. Under her leadership, Lexa united all the twelve Grounder clans to form a coalition and work together under the one true Commander. Lexa also led the process of adding Skaikru as the thirteenth clan into the coalition. Following Lexa's death, the Grounders were unable to find a Nightblood to become the new Commander.
With the Second Praimfaya approaching and without a Commander, each of the 13 Grounder clans selected their own champion to fight to the death for the Second Dawn Bunker. Octavia Blake won and invited all the clans to share the Bunker. Under her leadership, Octavia united all the clans into one clan - Wonkru. However, Octavia was not considered to be a true Commander because she's not a Nightblood and couldn't take on the Flame. Instead she was given the title, Blodreina (Red Queen).
Wonkru lived without a true Commander until Madi - the last born-Nightblood on Earth - joined them years after the second Praimfaya. The Flamekeeper, Gaia gave Madi the Flame in order to unite the Grounders and lead them in Shallow Valley peacefully.
While on Sanctum, Madi becomes haunted and later possessed by the spirit of Sheidheda, the Dark Commander, an evil and insane Commander that ruled when Indra was a child. In order to save Madi, Raven is forced to activate a kill code Sheidheda places in the Flame, deleting the AI. Sheidheda is able to upload himself to an unknown location, but it is unknown if the other Commanders were also uploaded. After the Flame is surgically removed by Eric Jackson, Madi states that she is no longer the Commander.
The Conclave is Grounder tradition, held upon the death of the Commander in which a Nightblood successor for the role is selected. The Flamekeeper (or Fleimkepa in Trigedasleng) is responsible for retrieval of the Flame from the previous Commander's corpse and overseeing the Conclave for the selection of the new Commander.
The Flamekeeper uses scouts to find Nightbloods. When a Nightblood child is discovered, they are sent to Polis to begin training for their Conclave. For each group, or "class", of novitiates, a Conclave is held when the last Commander dies, during which the Nightbloods fight to the death. The survivor then becomes, or, "ascends" as the next Commander. The belief among Grounders is that the Commander's spirit (in fact the A.I. chip of A.L.I.E. 2.0) "chooses" its successor through this process.
Once the victory horn is sounded, the victor is taken to the throne room, where the Flamekeeper performs the Ascension Ceremony in which the victorious Nightblood becomes the Commander. The Flame from the old Commander is implanted into the neck of its new successor, and with it, the new Commander is endowed with the spirits of all the past Commanders. As part of the rites of Ascension for a new Commander, they are required to recite the lineage of past Commanders. If they are incapable of doing so, they are considered illegitimate.
Through the Flame, the new Commander gets dreams / flashbacks and hears voices of the past Commanders. The Commanders use these to gain knowledge and wisdom on how to lead their people. The Flamekeeper helps teach the new Commander how to control the past Commanders' voices in their head.
- Becca Franco† – the First Commander; creator of the Flame.
- Sheidheda† – the Dark Commander
- Lexa† – the Commander who brought all twelve Grounders clans under one coalition.
- Madi Griffin – the Commander of Wonkru and the final Commander.
Notes and Trivia
- While Octavia became the first leader of Wonkru during the Second Nuclear Apocalypse, she was not considered a true Commander because she is not a Nightblood and could not take on the Flame.
- Following her massacre at Mount Weather, Clarke is given the title of Wanheda ("Commander of Death") but is not an actual Commander for the Grounders. She is called Commander by Becca when she enters the City of Light in "Perverse Instantiation (Part 2)" while using the Flame.
- In Sanctum, the Primes use a process similar to how the Grounders pass on the Flame to the next commander. However, instead of just passing on wisdom and experiences to the next host, the Primes use the Mind Drives to replace the host's mind with the Prime's entire consciousness.
- The Commander (Heda in Trigedasleng) is at the head of the Coalition. The title can only be assumed by Nightbloods.
- Past Commanders are honored on Ascension Day.
- The Flame is passed from Commander to Commander. When a Commander dies, the Flamekeeper takes the Flame from the dead regent and guards it until the Conclave is over and the next Commander has been revealed.
- If the Commander dies in battle, the Flamekeeper or one of their scouts would have been tasked with finding the Commander's body and retrieving the Flame.
- The Commanders are known to have died badly in either conflicts or situations, starting with Becca, and last ending with Lexa.
- Commanders may also be removed from power by a vote of no confidence by the ambassadors of the Coalition, but it must be unanimous to succeed.