Now, the CW has a tendency of pushing out shows that while different in many ways share a few common traits, such as: love triangles, a pretty little damsel in distress who is at the peak of said triangle and loads of handsome men flexing their muscles, shirtless (usually for no reason at all). It was why I did my best to stay away from their, now in the second season, show The 100.
Imagine my surprise when I took a peek at the first episode and I was instantly hooked, because most of the elements that made The CW The CW were blessedly absent.
The show’s premise is simple: humanity destroyed itself during a nuclear war and now the last survivors live on a space station that is soon to run out of oxygen. Faced with the possibility to witness the end of the human race, the leaders decide to send 100 delinquents, imprisoned for various reasons, down on Earth to see if it’s safe or not for their return. Since most of them are teens, I’m shocked no one foresaw the potential of them acting out, given that they were basically sent down to die, but I’ll suspend disbelief on that one. Oxygen deprivation and all.
It might sound like a shaky plot line, but it works surprisingly well, possibly because it’s one of the few shows that actually relies heavily on character development, instead of focusing entirely on some romantic subplot or another. Not that those are absent, but when the situation is life and death, love, for once, comes second to survival.
Faced with an unknown world that looks pretty, but it’s quite deadly, the new arrivals must suddenly act like the grown-ups that have, so far, taught them nothing other than the fact that they’re disposable. Violence runs rampant and only the arrival of a third enemy – the Grounders – makes them band together. And those aren’t even their only enemies.
Now, I love the Grounders, the people that were forced to live on the planet, while everyone else was cosy up on the space-station, but more often than not the plot demands that we sympathise with the ones that dropped out of the sky. We’re given time to know them, to find something in common with them and root for them, before the others get involved. Still, what I love about the show is the shades of grey morality of it. Even the “good” guys do horrible things, even the “bad” guys can be heroic. This perspective that is forced and enforced repeatedly makes for compelling characters, instead of keeping the two sides separate and turn one of them into poor caricatures of good and evil.
Something else that I found refreshing about the show is that females and males fit into the roles of leaders without their authority being questioned based on gender. It doesn’t mean that their ruling will be accepted just like that, but if someone challenges it, it’s not because of their being a woman or a man. It’s usually based on sympathy, antipathy and their actions beforehand. Same sex relationships? Perfectly normal. At least so far no one batted an eye at it. Seeing how the Grounders survived in a world that tried to kill them and the Ark survivors fought for every breath, I think their priorities changed. This seems to be a world that operates on merit, rather than on other factors that still rule ours.
At least as far as I’ve seen until now. Things might change and from fawning over the fact that I finally found a good show that incorporates elements of post-apocalyptic sci-fi I might go to: What the hell was I thinking? but so far it doesn’t seem likely. It’s got strong female characters that aren’t afraid to make hard decisions, strong male characters that aren’t afraid to show weakness and emotions, two roles that, to this day, are pretty much avoided. The female leads in general, if they are strong must be bitches and the males are given the “wuss” label if they show any bit of sensitivity, but here? Not happening. That’s not to say the show is devoid of arseholes that go against what seems to be acceptable and what not, but they are the minority, not the norm.
On that note, the characters are well thought out and surprisingly realistic. They make mistakes, some worse than others, they either try to redeem themselves or dig themselves deeper by seeking vengeance and they aren’t one-dimensional. I might have clapped a little when I saw that in a show, especially since I’ve given up on something good coming out of this particular network. Character development is something that should be present in all things involving…you know…characters. And here we have it. People operating inside a world where their evolution isn’t connected to their romantic involvement or their romantic desire for someone else. People growing and changing, with their own storyline in which the romantic partner isn’t used as a crutch to further their own advancement. It does sound like sci-fi to me. (Before you think I went off the deep end, this is a network that has shows in which romantic leads are killed by the dozen to further, usually, the male lead’s plot – I’m looking at you, Supernatural – so yes. I’m stunned.)
Some of the actors involved are more recognisable than others, with Isaiah Washington of Grey’s Anatomy fame, Paige Turco (Damages), Henry Ian Cusack (Lost) as part of the “grown-ups”, the ones that sometimes seem surprisingly disconnected from the reality they ended up in, but there are also a lot of younger actors that manage to hold their own against the more experienced ones. Eliza Taylor, Bob Morley, Lindsey Morgan, Marie Avgeropoulos, Ricky Whittle and Richard Harmon, to name a few, all bring surprisingly layered performances to the table, something that again, I didn’t anticipate.
Now, I became hooked on this since episode one, took me a bit to warm up to some of the characters, before character development happened, but now? Well, I’m actually waiting with bated breath for a new episode to come out each week. Word of advice, though. It’s based on a book series, two books are out. Don’t read them. It reads like a fanfiction of a great show, instead of an inspiring piece of literature. It might be the first time in history when the TV show is better than the book. Oh, well. It was bound to happen at some point.
Give it a chance and if you do watch it, let me know what you like about it and what you don’t.