Last year I said on social media that The 100 was a terrible show. I saw the first few episodes of this loose adaptation of Kass Morgan’s novel, and I wasn’t even remotely impressed. This year, my brother-in-law convinced me to give it another shot, as it had become one of his favourites. Having nothing else to do, I did as he asked and watched the first season on Netflix.
I was wrong and he was right.
Created By: Jason Rothenberg
Network: The CW
Air Date: Season 3 begins this Fall
After a Nuclear war the Earth became an uninhabitable radioactive dump, forcing humanity into space stations that over time join to form the unoriginally named Ark. The Ark holds the last vestiges of humanity as they wait until such a time as they can return home. To make sure everyone works for the community, all crimes are punishable by ‘Floating’, which in The 100 is code for “we’ll shoot you out of an airlock!” That is unless you’re a minor, in which case they lock up you for a few months.
That’s what the eponymous 100 are—One hundred criminal kids. With the Ark’s resources dwindling and life support slowly failing, the Ark Council decides to send the 100 to Earth, to check if the planet can support life. For all the 100 know, it’s a death sentence in a radioactive wasteland. Instead, they find an almost pristine, nature-retaken planet. They land in a lush forest.
But it’s not the Earth itself that starts killing them like teenagers in a slasher movie, but their neighbours, the unoriginally named ‘Grounders’, Viking-like people living on the ground since the time the first humans left for space, surviving and adapting to their new world.
The 100 doesn’t have the strongest opening. The reason for sending the kids down is a bit contrived—and might as well be “just because”—and the status quo and relationships and conflicts between the kids are ridiculous, just episodes of leadership and domination battles between Belamy and Clarke. But to balance that out, they introduce the Grounders and the threat they pose and don’t abandon the Ark storylines, showing you how things degrade in space and revealing some of the more heinous acts the leadership has committed to keep things stable. And of course, they start killing the kids off. It doesn’t take long for there not to be a hundred of them. This is a show that goes dark very often and I’m glad it does.
Everything on the ground you see from the 100’s point of view, in that unless one of them is present in the scene, you don’t learn of the world around them. It’s a very good approach as it keeps the mystery for as long as possible. On the Ark on the other hand you see things from many points of view, learning just how crappy life in space can be.
But what finally hooked me on The 100 were the characters. One you move past the annoying leadership and faction nonsense, characters really start developing, and you learn their origins and their fears and you see them growing out of them or falling deeper down the super-fun-slide of psychosis. Even the characters you think are complete bastards turn out to have a lot of depth and become relatable. Marcus Kane, a council member and head of security on the Ark is an example—he becomes less of a murderous antagonist as the season goes by. On the ground the equivalent is Belamy, at first an idiot taking command of the 100’s makeshift camp—built around their dropship—and later becoming one of the best characters in the series. Clarke goes from determined young woman to the absolute leader of the group, crossing more and more lines as she’s forced to do what’s necessary to survive. And then there are Finn and Murphy. Finn is the absolute good guy in the first season, always taking the high road, and Murphy’s the complete opposite, a unforgivable monster of a kid, for lack of a better term that is still polite among company. Oh, screw it! He’s a douchenugget from start to finish.
In terms of visual design—a term I find very strange to use outside of a video game—they do a bang up job with the Ark, making it look futuristic and still derelict—steel corridors with scorch marks and emergency welds. The Ark people dress mostly in hand-me-down rags, which they are. If you die, your stuff goes to the community and it made me feel a bit weird that they’re all wearing dead people’s clothing. This is not high-tech, with lasers and super-science but the “we’re barely keeping things together” kind of Sci-Fi. The technological level isn’t very high and things usually get resolved the medieval way—with copious amounts of threats and violence. On the ground, it’s all wilderness and shacks, a mix of survivor and Mad Max. Things are gritty, deadly and people die every episode in horribly painful ways—the acid cloud being the worst to be honest—but there are also beautiful landscapes and bright open areas, giving you a sense of awe every so often to break the tension, making the next emotional moment much more intense.
The performances are strong all around…after the pilot. We’ve established that the start is atrocious but it does get better. Eliza Taylor’s performance as Clarke is phenomenal and she’s one of the most believable actors in the show. Bob Morley’s and Marie Avgeropoulos are equally strong as the Blake twins, Bellamy and Octavia. The latter in particular becomes one of the strongest characters in the show. It was a surprise to see Dichen Lachman in the 100 as Anya, one of the Grounder leaders. She and Tristan (Joseph Gatt) become the main antagonists for the season, leading the grounder forces in attacking The 100 camp. On the Ark, Henry Ian Cusick is outstanding as Kane and I immediately recognized Jean Paige Turco, who playes Clarke’s sometimes-annoying but just as badass mum.
The conflict with the Grounder is the season’s main plot, but don’t expect any deep reason behind it. The Grounders hunt and kill The 100 because they’re in their territory and being the stereotypical Vikings they are, they can’t see that it’s a bunch of kids and start picking them up with greater efficiency and zeal than Jason Voorhees.The only character from this group not to show this level of tunnel vision is Octavia’s love interest, Lincoln, one of the most badass characters on TV—hands down.
I’m not a fan of the overall plot, as you can say the Grounders’ reason for attacking is “because.” The season gives you glimpses into who they are as a people but not enough to give their aggression a bit of much-needed context.
The 100 starts off weak, but once you get past the first set of episodes it all picks up significantly and keeps its pace and momentum all the way to the outstanding and intense season finale. With strong performances, beautiful landscapes and fantastic set design, this is a Sci-Fi series you should give a watch
4/5 – Exceptional