And the children shall lead
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!”