Every once in a while an adapted show hits television that really elevates its source material, and offers viewers a chance to take part in something really special. “The 100” - like “Game of Thrones,” “The Waking Dead,” and “Battlestar Galactica” before it - offers viewers a more mature take on the fantasy/sci-fi drama. Part pure sci-fi, part drama, “The 100” has found continued success in its (currently-running) third season through its incredible writing and plot development, as well as its willingness to take chances with its plentiful main characters… which leaves viewers more often shocked, than not.
In a similar spirit to “Game of Thrones,” “The 100” does not pull its punches with main characters. You get a sense, through early on events, that no one is truly safe. In fact, the stakes are set so high, early on, that the hopeless situation of the characters seems almost insurmountable. Herein lies the excitement – this show just feels fresh, in a way that that “GoT” and “Walking Dead” haven’t in some time (not that I don’t LOVE those shows, but we, as the viewers, are very dug in on these shows, and know what to expect to some extent).
“The 100” begins in season 1 by following the journey of 100 juveniles from their internment aboard a space colony, hovering just above the Earth, through to their banishment by their elders to the surface, some 97 years after nuclear war wiped out life as their predecessors knew it. Or so they thought.
It turns out that nothing is at it seems to the 100 banished teenagers, nor to the viewer. Even the very politics of banishing the kids to Earth results in turmoil among the colony’s (the “Ark”) leadership – to them, it’s clear that the colony will not last forever, as over-population becomes a threat, but consensus over sending the 100 is far from resolute. By using their own youth as lab rats, however, they outfit the 100 with biometric recording devices and send them to the surface, eagerly following their successes and failures in an effort to determine just how safe the surface is. This was extremely exhilarating to watch, in the same way that “Game of Thrones” was until it became somewhat predictable and passé to kill off main characters.
In “The 100,” killing even a minor character isn’t used as a means to an end, as in “GoT,” rather, it is used as a catalyst to spur the development of another character – and sometimes, not even characters who are directly connected. This adds infinite layers to the show’s plot – we can never really know what to expect, or what effect death (or suspected death) will have on any major character or plot line. The repercussions of each plot twist seems to affect a multitude of characters, and the show’s writers maintain incredible balance in this area – never does the show feel overwhelming or too fast-paced, despite the sheer density of plot lines and great characters.
Without getting too “primer-y,” the factions in the show are worth a brief explanation. The banished, or the “100,” are immediately at odds with virtually everyone. Their despair and lack of support is what drives the show and the characters, early on. Once they arrive on the surface, the 100 are eager to explore the natural world, which none of them have ever had exposure to. Their child-like naiveté may truly be their greatest enemy, in the early days on the surface, as dangers await them in every possible direction and capacity.
I’ll just come right out and say this – Clark Griffin is not only one of the greatest heroines on television today, she’s one of the best written characters on television, period. Played by Aussie actress Eliza Taylor, there are more layers to her, alone, than to the entire casts of most other tv shows. I’m talking “Walter White” depth, here. She is established early on as a leader, but what she endures, and chooses to endure as the seasons go on, is impressive from a viewer-standpoint (and probably daunting from a writer’s-standpoint). In her character I see echoes of Starbuck from 2004’s “Battlestar Galactica,” Rick from “The Walking Dead,” and even the dutiful commitment to her plight of Jon Snow from “GoT” – this character is clearly being written to change how female characters are written for television from here on out, and the result is nothing short of a watershed moment for female characters on television.
I could keep going, but honestly, you just have to see her in the show, and be a part of this as long as the CW keeps taking a gamble on new seasons.
While Clark is the main heroine of the show, a whole slew of the 100 banished are introduced early on – the handsome-and-mysterious loner Finn, the responsible big brother and leadership rival Bellamy, the young and naïve Octavia, the reckless Jasper… the list goes on and on, and this was just the first faction.
Back on the Ark, there are several rivalries and schools of thought, played by such notable actors as Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Alessandro Juliani (“Felix Gaeta” from “Battlestar” 2004). On the surface, several more factions become early players in the ground battles – the militaristic and secretive “Mountain Men” held up in Mount Weather (the show, early on, takes place mainly in the Blue Ridge Mountains area of Virginia/Maryland), the well-organized and culturally significant “Grounders” (basically the Native American-like civilization-at-large), the blood-thirsty “Reapers” (pretty much what they sound like), and the many other smaller nomad factions that the show hints to. In Seasons 2/3, even more factions are introduced which further splinter the loyalties of all the “Sky People” from the Ark.
This is potentially the most exciting development and driving force behind the momentum - people are loving this show! Not only has it entered the tv/sci-fi space, it is being represented in fan-fics and cosplay in popular culture. The mythology in the show is so well-developed that even easy to talk about and connect with, on a cultural level. This show represents the best in television from so many genres, but its contribution to sci-fi is what will continue to propel "The 100's" popularity.
It also doesn't hurt that the critics and fans are all single-minded on the quality of the show, which currently sits at 7.9/10 on IMDB, 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 8.6/10 on tv.com. I won't say much else in this regard, but I would personally rate it in the 8.5-8.75/10 range, so pretty much in line with popular opinion.
Again, nothing is as it seems in “The 100,” and this is the same for the factions – as the show progresses and characters’ stories become intertwined, loyalties and rivalries do shift, which often leaves lives of main characters hanging in the balance. This, to me, is the hallmark of great television – simply being thrilled by developments in every episode, and having a hard time waiting for whatever comes next.
Currently about half-way through Season 3, you can catch “The 100” on the CW (USA), or get caught up on Netflix, which even airs the new episodes, albeit one week behind the television schedule. It’s a great show to binge-watch, too, if you’re looking for something new to get excited about!