TV You Should Watch - The 100
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The odds are stacked against The 100 ever finding a wider audience. It’s an adaptation of a dystopian Y.A. books series airing on a teen-oriented network, the combination of which will lead nearly every adult fatigued of this genre to never give it a chance. This is a shame not because The 100 is one of the best examples of its genre, but because it’s one of the best science fiction/fantasy series on air period. With its third season approaching, it’s poised to enter the hallowed halls of the all-time greats with very little fanfare, and I’m imploring you, for your own happiness, to give this series a chance.
The 100 begins with a Lord of the Flies-esque setup: 100 teens are stranded on Earth to see if the planet has recovered from a nuclear war. The kids were raised on a space station, one that believed it was the last outpost of humanity, with their objective clearly being to keep the species alive. They had little room for error, so anyone who broke the law on the station was doomed to die. The 100 teens sent to Earth were scheduled for execution, and the small chance they have to survive on the ground is almost seen as an act of mercy.
The teens, of course, don’t agree with this outlook. They reject the station’s strict regime and claim that their new society will be a free one, but the scars of being raised in such an environment, where mistakes couldn’t be tolerated and an individual’s life was a lesser value, immediately rears its head. Like so much science fiction before it, morality became the driving force behind The 100’s storylines, and few series, particularly on network television, are willing to go down the dark labyrinths that such an ambiguous ideal presents.
This thematic rigor serves the series tremendously, as characters develop at a naturally blistering pace that its well-rounded cast pulls off admirably. Aussie imports Eliza Taylor and Bob Morley lead the way, showing an impressive range that provides the series two solid anchors as it constantly pushes itself forward. I can’t stress enough how important it is that the series has leads capable of stretching and growing along with it, and the entire cast’s ability to consistently hit the emotional marks set before them makes their character’s evolutions all the more affecting.
The great joy of science fiction, though, is that all the complex characters and themes that a story packs in gets delivered with a healthy portion of entertainment. The 100 embraces this mandate from the get-go, covering more narrative ground in its first two seasons than many series go through in double that time. There’s battles galore, many of which get surprisingly brutal, and the circumstances are always dire enough that it’s plausible when one of your favorite characters starts dancing with death. The pace certainly makes for a strong addiction factor, and binge-watchers like myself will happily disappear for days within its world.
One of the big selling points for this series is its sense of style, at first a familiar sea of black leather and metallic greys that burgeons in the second season into full-on dystopian cool. The continuing integration of the characters into life on Earth leads to the appearance of furs and war paint, and a character that looks as badass as Lexa (Fear the Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey) is always welcome in my book.
Refreshingly, the series doesn’t shortchange audiences with a sanitized world. Blood flows pretty readily for network television, and if a character gets beat up, they carry the cuts and bruises for the ensuing episodes. Yes, there’s a lot of pretty faces on this show, but they get marred by their environment, which makes for a great visual match to the show’s long-game thematic work.
It hasn’t taken long for The 100 to hit its stride, but like so many great sci-fi series, the audience hasn’t grown with it. Personally, I want to see how long this series can keep up its mix of smart, emotional entertainment, and that means trying to get as many people on board as I can. So please, give this show a chance now, or you’ll be kicking yourself when you pick it up a few years after its cancellation.