Anyone who knows me knows that I love The 100. I drop everything when a new episode comes out and rave about the show to friends and strangers alike. I’ve got my best friend hooked on the show, as well as my coworker and this one guy I met at the library once.
When it first debuted on The CW, a few critics scoffed at the YA-worthy setting (to be fair, the series is adapted from a YA-novel of the same name), with gorgeous teenagers and no adult supervision. Yet, more critics were impressed by the crisp pacing of the premiere and the potential for a darker storyline to follow. Despite a slow start to the series (heavy exposition and excessive exclamation points reigned in the pilot), the show very quickly found its groove and raised the stakes every episode. The 100 is a complex series with tight storylines and killer characters (pun intended)- a true gem of the sci-fi genre.
(Note: This review only contains minor spoilers for the first season)
97 years after a nuclear war destroyed Earth, about 4,000 people survive in the remnants of the International Space Station, now dubbed The Ark. The Ark’s only surviving criminals, all under the age of 18, become the perfect “expendable” test subjects to see if the ground is now habitable, as The Ark’s oxygen supply can’t sustain its current population Yet when the hundred teenagers (hence the title) reach the ground, the kids lose contact with The Ark. Now the hundred are forced to survive on their own, exploring the dynamics of self-government and morality without consequences calling to mind the sophomore World Literature read The Lord of the Flies. Plus, when they reach the ground, they find that they’re not the only survivors. So there’s that. Simultaneously, the adults on The Ark grapple with the decision between choosing their humanity or choosing to save all of humanity as their resources continue to dwindle, provoking harsh questions about the ethics of playing God.
Cliche? Think Again.
It is so easy to dismiss this show as another post-apocalyptic convenient setting in which everything always works out for the main cast and unnamed extras are the only ones to suffer the brunt of harsh decisions. I thought the exact same thing, which is why I nearly gave up on the show four episodes in (which is ironically the episode just before the show managed to hook me in again, months later). The 100 is separated from other imaginative post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows through thoughtful writing that provokes questions about the extremes of humanity.
When the teenagers on the ground suspect one of their own for committing a crime, they forgo judge and jury and go straight to executioner, stringing the culprit from a tree in a matter of minutes. While the audience knows the suspect is innocent the situation urges the teenagers (and audience) to question the role of justice in their new society. From the get-go showrunner Jason Rothenberg has proved he is not afraid to explore the darker aspects of humanity in this new world that relies on primitive nature and desperate survival.
While The CW has often been criticized for their shallow plots and lack of diversity, The 100 boasts meaningful character development with a cast that reflects the audience, allowing for a strong audience involvement with the fate of the group's. Clarke (Elizabeth Taylor) Griffin and Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley) are the two leaders of the hundred on the ground. While the first few episodes had the two acting against the other, they quickly evolved into a brilliant pairing, forcing the other to modify his or her stance on leadership, ultimately thinking of the good of their people. Clarke began to let go of her righteous attitude, learning that sometimes the “right” thing was not what was best for her people while Bellamy learned to think farther than his own sister’s survival, the reason he came to the ground. His sister, Octavia Blake, evolved from the hot-girl-rebel stereotype into the open-minded and brave warrior of the hundred, serving as commentary on the relationships between grounders (survivors of the nuclear war from the ground) and Ark people.
Then there is also bad boy/secret pacifist Finn (Thomas McDonnell) who challenges Bellamy’s ruthlessness, Murphy (Richard Harmon) who undergoes perhaps the most dramatic character development of the bunch, Jasper (Devon Bostick) whose PTSD always reminds viewers of the realities of the ground, Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Kusick) who understands the harsh sacrifices that must be made for survival and Abby Griffin (Paige Turco) who argues against the unforgivable consequences of those sacrifices. Even when the romantic relationship between Clarke and Finn began to veer into shallow teenage drama and dubious chemistry, the show managed to only keep it as an afterthought, instead choosing to focus on the myriad of more immediate problems the group had to deal with.
Additionally, The 100 refuses to make a big deal about the abundance of female leaders in their cast, from plucky engineer Raven Reyes (lindsey Morgan) to Grounder antagonist Anya (Dichen Lachman) to Ark councilwoman Abby. When asked about the girl power in his show, Rothenberg stated, “We don’t write women characters, you know, we write strong characters or weak characters.”
The 100 is the most severely underrated television show on air right now and should be watched by anyone in search for a brilliant show.
Tune in to The CW on January 21st to watch the Season 3 premiere of The 100 and then come back to The Prospector on January 22nd for our weekly review!
Thumbnail Image Courtesy of FanSided.