Based on the novel of the same name by Kass Morgan, The 100 takes place nearly a century after a nuclear war wiped out most of life on Earth and left it a radiation-soaked wasteland. The survivors fled the planet and sustained the human race aboard a space station called the Ark. However, when it becomes apparent the Ark cannot support life for much longer, the Council decides to send 100 young offenders (since adult offenders are all executed) to the ground in order to ascertain whether Earth is habitable again.
The show follows the 100 as they try to make camp and survive on Earth despite antagonistic neighbors — which they call “grounders” — as well as those left behind on the Ark who must deal with their own problems as they monitor the 100 and the testy political situation of the space station.
The 100 centers on Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley), Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos), Finn Collins (Thomas McDonell), Jasper Jordan (Devon Bostick), Monty Green (Christopher Larkin), and John Murphy (Richard Harmon) who make up the main group of the 100. Meanwhile, Abigail Griffin (Paige Turco), Thelonius Jaha (Isaiah Washington), and Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) are the central characters on the Ark. Other main characters include Raven Reyes (Lindsey Morgan) and the grounder Lincoln (Ricky Whittle).
The 100 is a complex sci-fi teen drama that completely surpasses many other series in both the teen and sci-fi genres. The pilot is a bit rough around the edges — check out my review — and suffers under the strains of explaining the complicated premise of the show, establishing the characters, and hooking the audience to keep them coming back for more. However, The 100 quickly transcends typical growing pains in new series, becoming highly compelling by the end of the third episode, and in the fifth episode completely surpasses expectations.
By the end of the show’s first season, it was clear that The 100 would be 2014’s breakout show — similar to My Mad Fat Diary last year. Not convinced? Here are six reasons The 100 is fantastic and the best new show on television.
[This post contains spoilers for the first season of The 100.]
Fantastic Science Fiction
There is a fatal mistake often committed by science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural television shows and movies: they get too wrapped up in the mechanics or plot and forget about the characters.
No matter how interesting or groundbreaking a concept may be, it will never be successful without the characters to draw in the viewers. Well-developed characters are the door through which viewers enter the worlds created by TV and film; they are the most important aspect of a series like The 100. Thankfully, The 100 doesn’t skimp on character development, which brings the post-apocalyptic Earth landscape and the cramped quarters of the Ark to life.
At first glance, The 100 may seem to fall in line with many other post-apocalyptic/dystopian adaptations from young adult novels — The Hunger Games and Divergent are the most famous. But, since it’s a television show, The 100 has more time to develop and explain its post-nuclear war landscape throughout its 13 episodes. This helps viewers to understand how the Earth has been affected and what that means for the characters living on the planet as well as in space. Even the most diehard sci-fi fan will be hard pressed to find flaws in the science of The 100.
Diverges from the Book
It’s not often that an adaptation diverging from its source material is a good thing, but The 100 proves it’s completely possible. While The 100 by Kass Morgan is a perfectly decent young adult novel, series creator Jason Rothenberg makes certain choices that ramp up the excitement, the action, and the stakes in the television series. Though some changes may have been controversial — like killing off a main character in episode 3 — they were often needed.
For instance, in the novel, the grounders don’t appear until the very end but in the show they make their presence known in the very first episode. Additionally, characters like Jasper, Monty, and Raven don’t exist in the novel, but they help to flesh out the group on the ground and add different layers to the story.
The 100 television series took a cool idea from the novel, as well as some of the characters, and created a slightly different and more exciting story. Not many adaptations are successful in changing aspects from the original book — it’s difficult to translate a narrative from one medium to another — but The 100 pulls it off spectacularly.
Social Media Presence
As I’ve mentioned before, I love the trend on Twitter where television show writer’s rooms are creating their own accounts with which to provide insider information. Well, The 100 takes it a step further. Not only is there @The100writers, there’s also @The100Directors for the fans that appreciate the directorial choices of the show as well as the writing. (These accounts are in addition to the show’s official account: @cwthe100.)
The creator of the show, Jason Rothenberg, also has a very enjoyable Twitter presence. He live-tweets new episodes offering fun tidbits of information from the writing, production, and filming processes of that week’s installation. Additionally, the cast — Eliza Taylor, Thomas McDonell, Bob Morley, Lindsey Morgan, Devon Bostick, Christopher Larkin, Marie Avgeropoulos, Ricky Whittle, Henry Ian Cusick, Paige Turco, Isaiah Washington, and Richard Harmon — often live-tweets new episodes and interact with fans.
The cast and crew’s interaction with the fans on Twitter has led to a very vocal and dedicated fan base. Though the official accounts for The 100 and those involved with the show helped “The 100 Finale” to trend on Twitter last Wednesday while the episode aired, it couldn’t have happened without the fans. Those who run the Tumblr site, We Are Grounders, launched a campaign to help “The 100 Finale” trend on Twitter by rallying fans together via social media. All of these people — cast, crew, and fans alike — help to create a fun and interactive second screen experience for the series on social media.
Most — if not all — of the characters in The 100 had their own character arcs throughout the first season whether it was Jasper’s transition from quiet nerd to gun-toting soldier or Murphy’s conversion from power-hungry sociopath to revenge-seeking sociopath. However central characters like Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia, and Kane had more compelling character arcs (in addition to more screentime).
In the pilot, Clarke was depicted as the voice of good and reason, Bellamy was a chaotic and powerful leader, Octavia was reckless and a bit immature, and Kane seemed to be selfish and evil. However, by the end of the first season’s thirteen episodes, all four of these characters had changed almost completely, especially Kane who became a selfless leader seeking redemption.
One amazing aspect of the characters on The 100 is that they’re all multidimensional. Even the grounders and Murphy, who are painted as the villains of the series, are well-developed enough that they don’t come off as flat. Not a single character on the show could be characterized as entirely good or bad, they all reside in a wonderfully human grey area that makes every person in The 100 entirely relatable.
Though The CW is often criticized for an abundance of cliche love triangles and supernatural teen dramas, The 100 breaks this mold in more way than one. While, arguably, The 100 has more than one love triangle, these romantic liaisons often take a back seat to the platonic relationships and friendships forged by the characters. Two of the most well-developed of these relationships in the first season are between Clarke and Raven, Octavia and Bellamy.
Clarke and Raven, who both have romantic feelings for Finn, could have easily been written off as enemies by the writers and the fans alike. However, these two ladies, as a mechanic/engineer and healer/leader, are incredibly important to the camp and must often work together. Throughout the first season, Clarke and Raven grow to be friends despite their initial conflict and it’s one of the most empowering relationships of the series for female viewers.
Octavia and Bellamy’s relationship also goes through many changes over the course of season one. At the beginning, Bellamy views himself as the sole protector of his little sister — even if that means protecting her from herself. But, through the course of events in season one, Bellamy is forced to realize that Octavia can stand on her own two feet, which changes their relationship. Additionally, since the Ark must prevent overpopulation and subsequently families are only allowed to have one child, Bellamy and Octavia are the only siblings on the show, making the relationships incredibly unique.
Shocking Moments, Death, & Destruction Galore
As an avid television viewer, I pride myself in often anticipating big reveals or shocking twists on the shows I watch. However, The 100 has managed to surprise me more than any other show. From the unexpected death of a main character at the end of episode 3 to the mass suicide of more than 300 people on the Ark in episode five, The 100 often breaks from conventional story trends.
For example, in episode five the group of survivors on the ground race to prevent the mass suicide — who sacrifice themselves in order to allow everyone else on the Ark more oxygen and a longer lifespan. While many shows, especially teen series, end up saving the day by the end of the episode, the 100 have no such luck. However, these twists are not without consequences as many of the deaths and violent moments have ramifications later on in the season.
The 100 manages to pull off all these twists and turns because they are well thought out and planned. Even though the death at the end of the third episode is surprising, the entire 40 minutes preceding were spent leading up to it, which, of course, you don’t know until it happens. Similarly, the season finale sees a battle and “ring of fire” that act as the climax of the season that the writers had been building up to for many weeks.
It’s not enough to use gruesome battle scenes and huge explosions on a show to keep viewers hooked — these effects must be earned; they have to be believable within the context of the show and have a meaningful impact on the overarching story. That’s exactly what The 100 does and it works exceptionally well.
Although I’ve only listed six reasons The 100 is the breakout show of 2014, there are plenty more, which may be why it got picked up for a second season by The CW. The 100 will return with new episodes in the fall and I can’t wait.