A Newbie’s Thoughts on The 100
When my twin sister Stacy raved about The 100 and suggested that I watch the show, I initially refused. I never considered myself a Sci Fi aficionado. A brief flirtation with the short-lived 1977 series Logan’s Run as a child was my earliest Sci Fi television show memory and my enjoyment of that show was more about my infatuation with actor Gregory Harrison than the series itself.
But I love reading and reviewing books so when I was sent Earthbound, a story based on The 100 and written by Erica Schaaf, I found myself enamored by the characters and plot. Schaaf’s flawless writing was the perfect appetizer; I needed the full “meal” of The 100 to satisfy my hunger. It didn’t take long before I finished the first two seasons.
A fan was born.
After processing this emotionally riveting show, I wanted to offer some of my newbie thoughts. Please note that this article contains spoilers from the first two seasons of The 100.
The 100 is a show set in a post-apocalyptic world 97 years after humanity was destroyed by nuclear war where the inhabitants of a space station (referred to as The Ark) seek to return to Earth. This culture is governed by a Council under the regime of Chancellor Thelonious Jaha. Because of limited resources, crimes that might be considered petty are deemed punishable by death if you are under the age of 18 (i.e. floating, means opening the airlock and letting the person drift off into space). The stakes are raised because The Ark itself is running out of oxygen and soon will become unlivable. Consequently, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent to Earth as guinea pigs to test the planet’s survivability.
I was impressed by The 100’s ability to mine suspense at the outset. Viewers are on the edge of their seats wondering if The 100 will survive their foray to Earth or if they will perish upon descent. Then, we wonder once they successfully land whether they will succumb to the Earth’s radiation. Both of these questions are quickly answered. The 100 do survive the landing and they aren’t killed by radiation. But their problems are far from over. Earth is a strange new world. The teens need to reach a destination called Mount Weather where more supplies are housed. However, they landed far away from Mount Weather.
In addition, The 100 enjoy the taste of freedom on Earth away from the Council’s iron thumb. They aren’t eager for The Ark colleagues to join them on Earth. Bellamy Blake is a determined young man who protected younger sister Octavia from the Council’s wrath (there was a one child rule on The Ark to conserve resources. Bellamy’s mother hid Octavia’s existence and was later floated). On Earth, Bellamy is the self-appointed leader of The 100. He reasons that if The 100 systematically destroy their bracelets The Ark uses to monitor their vital signs, the people on The Ark will believe The 100 died on Earth. Bellamy has another, more self-serving motive as to why he wants The Ark to believe he died.
Bellamy isn’t the only leader on Earth, though. Clarke Griffin, daughter of The Ark’s chief medical doctor Abby, inspires trust and confidence amongst the teens and she is also considered a leader. Clarke is more levelheaded than Bellamy so not surprisingly, there is tension as their leadership styles clash.
And speaking of clashing personalities and leadership styles: Back on The Ark, Chancellor Jaha is recuperating from an assassination attempt. Council member Marcus Kane asserts his authority much to the chagrin of Dr. Abby Griffin. The viewer can take note in subtle foreshadowing here: there’s a waltz of wills between Kane and Abby that becomes pivotal once adult Ark inhabitants themselves land on Earth.
What I most enjoy about The 100 is that the characters complement the plots and each skillfully contributes to the other’s development. We see these space station denizens adjusting to life on Earth. They are strong characters, but flawed, too. Jealousy, passion, guilt and hubris are motivators. These same attributes are also hindrances.
One of the great attributes of The 100 is that the show presents strong female characters. The women on this show aren’t damsels in distress who need to be rescued by their male counterparts. When they find themselves in precarious situations, they exercise both mental and physical prowess to save themselves. Further, their heroic instincts allow them to make decisions for the well-being of others. Of course, like any good story strengthen by dramatic tensions, sometimes their judgment is faulty producing a domino effect that has casualties. Both Clarke and Abby have questioned their decisions throughout the course of the first two seasons.
Family loyalty is an asset as well as a liability. Viewers see Bellamy make decisions that he feels are in Octavia’s best interest, but have the opposite effect. Similarly, Abby is a loving and devoted mother to Clarke, but she also has made her share of mistakes that threaten to undermine her relationship with her daughter. Fortunately, the familial bond is strong. Sadly though, the decisions that Thelonoius Jaha made as The Ark’s Chancellor spiraled into tragic consequences for his son Wells.
The 100 is a show that demonstrates how effective television writing can be when it utilizes both internal and external conflict to drive the story. The external conflict of The Ark citizenry trying to survive in this brave new world of Earth while there are other threats in the form of additional and unexpected populations conflict that exists within the characters themselves. These conflicts are threaded within the plots and aid in character development. When I first saw Bellamy, I didn’t really like his character. He reeked of arrogance and was too self-serving for my tastes. But the writers were clever: As Season 1 progressed, Bellamy’s actions and sacrifices endeared him to me. Once Season 2 began, Bellamy emerged as one of my favorite characters.
Finally, The 100 fandom may focus on the “shipping” possibilities that are ripe in this show. Romantic entanglements are evident particularly with Bellamy and Clarke and has been bandied about by other fans of the show. For me, the shipping component is the least of my focus. As I noted above, I am more intrigued by the character development against the backdrop of internal and external conflict. Season 3 is poised to offer exciting possibilities.
The 100 Season 3 premieres on January 21 at 9/8c on The CW.