If you’re a fan of great television shows who also happens to love quality sci-fi, then you should definitely be watching CW’s The 100.
Here, have some vague summary that will tell you what the show is about without giving away any spoilers: Almost a century after a nuclear war left the Earth uninhabitable, the council of the sole survivors of the human race -living now on The Ark, a space station that still orbits the planet- sent 100 criminal youths back to Earth to test its habitability because The Ark is running out of oxygen. When the kids crash-land, they discover that Earth is not only survivable, but that it is already inhabited by “grounders”.
Sounds like a ride, doesn’t it?
I haven’t been able to stop talking about The 100 ever since I first saw the show; and with good reason, too, because it’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed a sci-fi TV show as fulfilling -in every aspect of cunning storytelling and sharp characterization- and compelling as this one. The 100 is renowned around its fandom -and around new watchers- for being the kind of explosive and progressive series that doesn’t revolves around labels, that makes its leading -yet wonderfully imperfect- characters go through hell and that is always stepping outside the morality line that many other shows are too afraid to cross.
With the premier of the 3rd season just around the corner, and with the first two seasons already available on Netflix, here are some of the reasons why I believe you would enjoy watching this incredibly -and sadly underrated- TV show.
Set in a post-apocalyptic time, The 100 does an amazing job mixing characteristics of the old world -our current present- with every other grimy, gory aspect sure to be found in a world that has already met absolute destruction. There are salvaged cars, lots of guns, fixed radios, underground bunkers, active missiles and artificial intelligence; but there’s also extremely mutated animals, glowing radioactive plants and deformed humans that are casted out of their society for being “affected” by the level of contamination that almost annihilated Earth’s entire population a century before.
The political, cultural and societal features of The 100 are also exceptionally thought out and beyond fascinating. There are three predominant civilizations on this show and their ideology couldn’t be more different, jarring, but yet incredibly representative of the kind of society we live in today. Chancellors. Presidents. Queens. Commanders. Kids… those are the leaders of the Sky People, the Mountain Men and the Grounders. Each of them mighty, but not all of the righteous.
Like in our current reality, almost all of the leaders -along with many of the members of each different society- have a selective morality that makes watching the show exhilarating yet frustrating. I can promise you, though, that The 100 won’t ever fail to spark interesting arguments between their viewers because it is the kind of show that makes you realize that, in a confrontation, every side always considers themselves to be right. And sometimes these characters are forced to face moral dilemmas so unthinkable that it makes you sympathize with them, even if their decisions leads them to doing truly horrible things.
Another feature that makes The 100 a mouth-watering show for sci-fi lovers is the Trigedasleng, an entire new language created exclusively for the show by David J. Peterson (the same genius that created the Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones and the Shiväisith spoken by the Dark Elves in Thor: The Dark World, among many other languages). Trigedasleng is a descendant of Modern English, developed by the grounders to use as a form of code that would keep their enemies, specifically the Mountain Men, unable to understand them. This new language sounds sassy while also being harsh, and it’s fairly simple yet challenging to learn if you’re as much of a nerd as I am.
There’s also the whole new and interesting culture involving the grounders -who are divided in 12 different, independent clans that form a coalition ruled by Heda a.k.a the Commander of the grounders, who happens to be chosen by reincarnation. Throughout season 1 and 2 of The 100, we learn riveting bits and pieces of information regarding the laws and beliefs of the grounders. In the incoming season 3, however, the show finally takes us to Polis -the grounders’ capital- and it is absolutely a pure, unstoppable explosion of new facts about their culture and everyday life. The writers finally allow us to witness a new side of the grounders that we hadn’t been shown before -a part of their lives that doesn’t revolves around blood, battles or death- and it’ll be so wonderful that you won’t be able to feel anything but awed by the amazing society created by The 100‘s writers
RELATIONSHIPS ARE A CORE FACTOR (but shipping is not)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about romantic relationships, angsty or fluffy ships and even the occasional ill-timed love confession. But I have to admit that I’m extremely grateful of the fact that, on The 100, you won’t ever see a character losing themselves because of a romantic storyline. I often stop watching TV shows because, sadly, this is a recurring problem. Leads -most of the time, female- act out of character in order to make their useless and forced love interest slightly more “entertaining”, completely forgetting their own essence in order to fit the guy’s need. Thankfully, this isn’t the kind of issue that you’ll stumble upon when watching The 100. Sure, there’s plenty of incredible ships on this show -I’m a proud Clarke/Lexa fan, myself- but what makes the relationships between these characters stand out on their own is how deeply complex they truly are. No matter if it is mother/daughter, leader/warrior or an enemy/hero dynamic, the level of understanding, hatred, respect, bravery and love felt by these characters are always so raw, truthful and potent that it will leave you wanting more.
When The 100 gives, it gives good. This time, I’m talking about a word as important in the media as REPRESENTATION. Lots and lots of representation. As as young, female Latina that has yet to figure out her own sexuality, I’m often trying to find myself reflected on the entertainment industry that I love so much. The lack of minorities showing up on television is still appalling; therefore, it’s particularly hard for me to fully connect with any female characters because I can never see myself reflected in them. I was honestly overjoyed, however, when I first stumbled upon the incredible variety The 100 has to offer us.
Characters of color, queer characters, characters with disabilities… whatever you can think of, I’m sure they have it on The 100. And the best part about this utterly important fact -about this astounding representation- is that these characters are truly fundamental to the story The 100 is telling. These characters -representatives of a minority that is way too often overlooked and isolated by a media where white and straight privilege is the only thing that seems to matter- are not used to portray grossly inaccurate stereotypes, they’re not used as props to appease the desperate -and rightfully angry- audience that keeps begging to see themselves represented on TV, they are not used to be killed off after a short story arc just so the network can wipe off their hands and say “see, minorities, we heard you and we gave you a character that represents you, but sadly, we had to kill them off because we don’t really care about them”.
No, these characters on The 100 are iconic. They are brave, strong, present… and more importantly, they are the leads of the show.
The 100 is inclusive, revolutionary and exactly the kind of show I wish I could have watched when I was growing up and needed something –someone– to look up to. Their lack of labels when it comes to the sexuality of their characters is more than refreshing, too, because these characters are never absolutely defined by the people they are attracted to, they never stray from who they truly are in order to fit an agenda. Sure, they are representatives of a marginalized minority -I mean, the lead character of the show is a female bisexual (first in the CW network!) and that is definitely a huge deal- but that doesn’t mean that’s all they are, and for me, that’s a wonderful thing.
In fact, there’s a single line in the premier of season 3 that is so effortlessly inclusive that it almost made me cry. And I never cry, but that’s how good The 100 truly is.
STRONG AS HELL CHARACTERS
Last, but most definitely not least, there’s the ridiculously on point character development this show has to offer. I’m talking A+ levels of writing, so much that Kim Shumway, Dorothy Fortenberry, Aaron Ginsburg, Jason Rothenberg and most The 100’s staff writers have become my personal inspiration. I’m a screenwriting student, therefore, story and character development are the first thing I notice when it comes to TV shows and movies, and let me tell you, The 100 did not let me down.
Clarke Griffin is the lead of The 100 -played brilliantly by Eliza Taylor– and she is one of the most complex yet invigorating female characters I have ever seen. Clarke is valiant, kind, inexperienced, extremely loyal and a role model to everyone, whether she wants to be it or not. She’s a teenager that’s forced to lead a bunch of other kids in a world where violence, blood and death are an everyday occurrence. She’s leader that’s forced to overcome obstacles, fears, battles and betrayals in order to protect all the people that have put their lives in her hands. And she’s a human being that never truly has a chance to be peaceful and enjoy life on Earth because she’s forced to commit unspeakable actions time and time again.
Commander Lexa, played by a stunningly fierce Alycia Debnam-Carey, is definitely another fan favorite. As the leader of the grounders, Lexa is not only young, brave and wise but also the kind of character that is so intricate and mysterious that you’ll never be able to fully unravel who she truly is. Lexa is as deeply flawed as Clarke is, they both bear the burden of terrible actions so their people won’t have to and they both understand what it means to sacrifice what you love. Those are some of the reasons why they make a truly explosive yet emotional duo whenever they are on-screen together; and those are some of the reasons why their Eliza and Alycia’s shared scenes in Season 3 will blow away many, many minds.
Then, of course, there’s Bellamy Blake -played wonderfully by Bob Morley. Bellamy is the kind of character that you’ll hate from the start but I can guarantee that it won’t always be like that. He’s selfish, entitled and scared; but lack of character development isn’t a problem when it comes to The 100 and Bellamy is a living proof of that. His story arc is so carefully composed that by the end of season 1, he grows into the kind of hero that many people look up to.
The 100 has many terrific characters like Raven, Lincoln, Octavia, Anya, Murphy… but I’ll let you get to know them on your own. Believe me, watching this show is definitely worth your time. The 100 is my unicorn: unique, beautiful and even magical because their spellbinding yet harsh storytelling has a way of captivating you like very few sci-fi shows can.
The writers refuse to give their characters an easy way out. They refuse to stop making their characters face situations in which their morality is tested to the limit. They refuse to stop killing core, important, beloved characters because in a post-apocalyptic world, no one is really safe. And they refuse to write the kind of story where there’s always hope at the end of the day.
Struggling along with these characters is a fantastic experience, one that you can be a part of. So don’t be afraid and join us!
Season 3 of The 100 premiers this Thursday, January 21st at 9/8c on The CW.