★★★★/★★★★★ The 100, based of the novel by Kass Morgan and developed by Jason Rothenberg.
This is a review for the first 2 seasons.
The series takes place a century after Earth was destroyed by nuclear war, the survivors live in a spaceship known as “The Ark”. Obviously resources are few, so all crimes are given the punishment of death unless one is under the age of 18, in which case when said age is reached, the teen will be put on trial. When the Ark’s air supply starts to die, 100 of these delinquent kids are sent down to Earth so the planet can be tested as survival ground or not. There are many surprises, mysteries, hate-able and lovable characters, madness ensues.
Disclaimer: I have read the book and hated it, but seen the show and loved it, so if you didn’t like the book, screw it, watch this awesomeness because it is worth it. Also read my review of the book here.
So this is a sci-fi/dystopia/thriller/survival type story, that follows not only the children sent down to Earth (yes, they are under 18, way to go humanity, the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few right), but those that stayed in the spaceship. It is not only about youngsters trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic planet, but about political dynamics of the Ark, and ethnocentrism, because as luck would have it, we all know that of course there will also be humans on the surface of the planet that ended up surviving as well, and they are as diverse as cultures are today.
The characters in the show, unlike the book, are very well developed and intelligent. We have the two leaders, Bellamy and Clarke. ( I might ship them) Clarke is the daughter of scientist in the Ark, because of her background she is able to help the 100 survive, and soon becomes the voice of reason in the small community, as some of the children seek revenge against the ark or truly not care what happens to their friends or family. Bellamy was not meant to be on the ship, he only went down to Earth so he could protect his sister, he is fierce and defensive, and willing to do whatever it takes to defend his people, even torture. Both of these leaders balance each other out the perfect way. His sister Octavia is not as vulnerable as her big brother thinks, she does not need anyone to protect her, she is independent, and holds resentment for being locked p her entire life, as well as for Bellamy’s over-protectiveness. Monty and Jasper come as a packaged deal, they are basically the stoner best friends, who are very smart, as they had important jobs up in the Ark. Raven Reyes is the youngest engineer of the Ark, and not one of the original hundred, although she does share a connection to one of them, she is clever and independent, strong willed, and willing to do anything for those she cares for, she is one of the strongest characters I have seen on television. Finn is a character I disliked, because he seemed to be too empty, as if he were there to fill the love triangle trope. There are others, Jaha, the morally-led Chancellor, Abby, the doctor with a secret and a quest, Kane, he who believes in all that can be done for survival, but who still shows remorse for his actions, Murphy, who I am not sure ow much of an anti-hero he is, and Lincoln, a Grounder who falls for someone of The Sky People.
This series shows the constant struggle between these kids and their morality. During various occasions they are faced with what to do to survive and what has been morally acceptable. The Grounders have been on Earth trying to survive since the nuclear war, and therefore have had to do many things to survive, while the Sky People were up there without having to fight for survival the same way the Grounders did. Will the kids resort to torture and revenge in order to achieve their ends? Or are they more conscious of their actions because they never had to do such things before coming down? In the final episode for the first season, called “We Are Grounders Part 1 and 2,” the teens are being forced to fight for survival against the Grounders. Bellamy gives this speech “You expect us to trust a grounder? This is our home now. We built this from nothing with our bare hands! Our dead are buried behind that wall in this ground! Our ground! The Grounders think they can take that away. They think that because we came from the sky, we don’t belong here. But they’ve yet to realize one very important fact: we are on the ground now, and that means we are Grounders!” And of course they listen to him, they have fought hard to survive and to build a place they could call home, and now it is being stripped from them over a misunderstanding/conflict based on “culture.” Of course this is not how it plays out, as Clarke brings them back from this mentality by reminding them that they “are not Grounders,” and therefore should run instead of becoming as violent as their counterparts, she is telling them not to leave their humanity behind (not that the Grounders aren’t human, we will get to that later), but rather that the survival of all is worth more than their new home. They are not prepared to do what it takes to survive in such an “inhuman” way just yet, but don’t worry, they will have to soon.
Now the world building was done extremely well. I was in a constant state of wanting to know more about what is going on, not only on Earth, but on the Ark as well. The Sky People (nicknamed so by the Grounders) are the 100, but I use it to refer to the Ark people as well. Those living in the Ark have an interesting background. The main language spoken is English, but they are a conglomeration of many cultures that combined their ships (12 different space stations) to form the big spaceship that they now inhabit. They look like normal people of today, except that they are able to hold extreme amounts of radiation due to living so close to the sun for a century. The Grounders are various groups, living all across the United States and most likely the rest of the world. They are divided by clans, and speak one universal language known as Trigedasleng, but warriors are taught English, therefore they are able to communicate with the Sky People. So far we know there are at least 12 clans that are aligned with each other in the area the story takes place, but there must also be others, including nomads. They all seem to have different rules, as they are not all as warrior like, but some seem to be more peaceful and accepting, but barely shown. I cannot wait to know more about the groups, particularly The Boat People, The Desert Clan and The Ice Nation. But again, these to main groups are not the only ones, there are Reapers and Mountain Men. The clans fear both, and the reason will be clear in later episodes, but as viewers we should know they are not to be trusted. The Reapers are much like the ones from Firefly, although less bloodthirsty, and extremely dangerous. I was very glad that we got to find out so much about them during the second season, the explanation was not as I expected, but very original. Oh and also, we have a City of Light that no one knows anything about, fun stuff.
I am going to think of this show as feminist, now you may agree or disagree, but the dynamic of characters, male and female, is something I have found surprising. Unlike the book, the female characters are bosses of themselves, self-assured, complex, while the male characters stand at par; no one, regarding their gender, is any less than the other. The show is filled with women and men in leader positions and no one bats an eye. It is not like in many other shows, there are occasional sexist comes when it comes to ruling women, there is none of that here, both of the genders are respected equally. (there is still no transgender representation nor representation of other genders, but I would not rule it out at all) There is also the point of sexuality, there are open queer relationships in the series, well so far only one, but I am hoping for others, because I know they will come. The writers do not seem to shy away from the criticism they will get from homophobic and racist people, instead they are listening to the majority voice that demands diversity.
Therefore I will give a high five to this show for diversity! I watch a lot of British television, (Misfits, Skins, Being Human), and something I have noticed is that racial, gender, and sexual diversity is a common thing over there when compared to the United States. The U.K has diversified their television for their audience, and I do not mean by this that they simply add characters for the sake of diversity, but that they realize diversity is a human thing and therefore worthy of representation, instead of ignoring it like many seem to do. This show seems like a ginormous step towards such diversity in American cinema.
The one issue I actually had was the lack of religion in the show. Now most will ask: But Liz, you cannot possibly be focusing on religion when it is barely the most important thing going on! And to those people I will say yes, there are more important things going on right now, but in time, there should be a spot reserved for this discussion. In a society where ethnicity/race, culture/language, sexuality, gender roles are not an issue, religion would not disappear all together. It is a thing that has existed since the beginning of humanity, and it cannot be so easily erased with merely 97 years. When I first saw Jaha I pictured him as a Muslim man, and I longed for it to be explored, and to see how the basic view on peace would affect his relationship with the Grounders. Abby seemed a Christian woman, and I wished to see how her pious nature goes against what she has done. Kane seemed to come form a spiritual rather than religious family, and I wanted that to be explored more, so as to understand his character more fully. Murphy and Clarke could be agnostic or atheist, and it would be brilliant to see how their views shape each of them in a very different way, so as to show the duality of faith and spirituality. It seemed like a missed opportunity. For the longest time I even wanted the Grounders to be deeply religious, contrasting the only others that actually show a bit of religious practice, the Mountain Men. But I am patient, therefore I shall wait for them to bring it up, if they do not, I do not care, because I will continue watching since it seems to be getting better and better by the episode.
The scenery and costumes were another perfectly done thing. Not only is the environment in which they find themselves authentic, but it is breathtaking. It is as if every shot tries to tell us a secret story that we must puzzle together. The above picture is a scene depicting Clarke after she goes to a ship that has crashed, where she finds it completely destroyed, and even thought there is a lot of CGI here, it seems realistic. The filming locations are very beautiful, lush forests and deserts. The costumes, particularly those for the Grounders were brilliant. Each clan has its own style of clothing, which is a mixture of bones, metal, leather, and animal skin.
I hope this review was enough to convince you to watch this series. If not, just look at poor Bellamy, he will tell you how it is:
I have already
forced helped many friends discover this series, and all have enjoyed it. Now I only need to convert some of my co-workers and my mission will be complete. Please give this gem a chance, if not for all the previous explanations, do it for the adorable actors, and all of the secret ships that I will most likely die trying to save.