The 100

And the chil­dren shall lead

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - View Screen - Dave Golder

For a show based on one of

the worst YA nov­els ever writ­ten ( no hy­per­bole, it’s ter­ri­ble) The 100 has de­fied all ex­pec­ta­tions to be­come sur­pris­ingly gutsy, un­pre­dictable, hard- edged and down­right watch­able. Things didn’t begin well, as the show worked its source ma­te­rial out of its sys­tem. For the first few episodes it ap­peared it was go­ing to be ex­actly the ghastly, light­weight fluff the novel and the pre- pub­lic­ity sug­gested. When a bunch of delin­quent teens are sent from an or­bit­ing space sta­tion back to a post- apoc­a­lyp­tic Earth to test if the planet was hab­it­able again yet, it seemed like we were in for a sea­son of Daw­son’s Dystopian Creek.

But then, a few episodes in, it went all Lord Of The Flies, be­com­ing far more in­ter­est­ing with the kids all killing each other. Then the Grounders – the savages that na­tive Earth peo­ple had be­come – ar­rived to add more threat, and the show be­came a half­way de­cent combo of The Hunger Games and Sur­vivors.

With sea­son two, even big­ger changes stirred up the for­mat, with the space sta­tion, the Ark, crash­ing to Earth, the Grounders threat­en­ing all- out war and some of the ini­tial “100” be­ing taken in by a group of hu­mans forced to live in­side a moun­tain bunker ( they’ve be­come al­ler­gic to sur­face ra­di­a­tion). It takes a while for this new for­mat to bed in and the start of the sea­son is ham­pered with too many un­con­nected sto­ry­lines all yet to build to a point. It com­pen­sates with so many “shock” deaths the show’s in se­ri­ous dan­ger of mak­ing un­pre­dictabil­ity pre­dictable. In terms of story struc­ture it’s now us­ing the Vam­pire Di­aries blue­print – fully se­ri­alised, mul­ti­ple plots, and lip ser­vice to giv­ing any in­di­vid­ual episode a be­gin­ning,

mid­dle and end. At least all the hair prod­uct seems to have run out ( apart from in­side the moun­tain) and all the teens look suit­ably griz­zly this year.

But as the sea­son has de­vel­oped and the sto­ries have re­vealed their dark un­der­bel­lies, the show’s once again taken a leap for­ward in qual­ity. The ar­rival of the grown- ups from the Ark has chal­lenged the power struc­ture the teens had es­tab­lished, and there’s some meaty drama about the short­com­ings of democ­racy in war sce­nar­ios. In­side the moun­tain all kinds of moral is­sue are rear­ing their heads about the right to hu­man ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Ad­mit­tedly the scripts are oc­ca­sion­ally cring­ingly on- the- nose deal­ing with th­ese is­sues, but at other times they’re sur­pris­ingly sub­tle. While the teen- soap ve­neer is the very thing that may put cer­tain view­ers off, iron­i­cally the show works best when it lets the moral ar­gu­ments seep into the re­la­tion­ship drama than the other way around.

The 100 is also be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dark, both in a bleak sense ( some of the “shock” deaths are gen­uinely shock­ing) and a black hu­mour sense ( there are some great fly­ing limbs and gal­lows hu­mour in a mine­field episode). On the other hand, there’s so much tor­ture porn go­ing on – rarely a week goes by with­out some­one strung up and poked – you have to won­der if the CW’s re­search team has iden­ti­fied teenage masochists as a hith­erto un­ex­ploited au­di­ence de­mo­graphic. There’s gore, and then there’s slightly dis­com­fort­ingly fetishis­tic gore…

You do won­der what the writ­ers are go­ing to do to shake things up for sea­son three, though. Alien in­va­sion, any­one?

broad­cast UK: Tues­days on E4 US: Wed­nes­days on The CW

“You’re un­der ar­rest for not dress­ing like us!”

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