I read the book and it was, to put it mildly, crap. The TV show, however…
Seriously, this is an amazing show. It’s still recognizably a CW show, with “pretty” people and unnecessary drama of the romantic kind. But still…pretty freaking good. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is set after some kind of global catastrophe that seems to be radiological in nature. Humanity survived through those who managed to escape to an orbiting spacecraft known by the original title “The Ark”. Because of the need for order and the extremely limited resources, the justice system has become rigid and harsh. Any crime is a capital crime and executions are carried out by “floating”; i.e. shoving a person out an airlock while they’re still alive. Cruel and horrific? Yes. But the fear of it seems to be an effective tool of a desperate society.
So what happens if you’re under the age of majority and are convicted of a crime? You’re put in jail until you’re 18, then retried and most often floated. The show starts after something’s gone wrong aboard the Ark…after nearly a century of sheltering humanity, the poor thing is falling apart. We’re told that the Earth still needs another 100 years to heal, but the increasingly desperate folks in charge decide to kill two birds with one stone: free up resources and test the Earth’s habitability by sending all 100 juvie delinquents to the ground. Heading up this plan is Dr. Abby Griffin…or as we’re introduced to her, the mother of our leading lady Clarke Griffin, who is in jail for a crime of conviction and just a few weeks shy of turning 18.
So, is Abby cruel enough to use her own daughter as a lab rat or loving enough to give her an another (admitted long) shot at life? Or desperate enough to be both?
I won’t say too much more because my family is going to watch it when it comes out on Netflix, but here is a basic, spoiler-free version of why I’m addicted.
It is a CW show, so there’s no guarantee that this will continue, but so far I have been pleased. The show will present a challenge, an impossible choice, and then the characters have to make that choice and live with the consequences. Actual character development ensues. I guess ten years of blood, sweat and tears (as Michael puts it) from the Smallville team really did some good for the network. They’ve really stepped up their game with Arrow, The Tomorrow People and now The 100.
• Battlestar Galactica feels.
I miss my Battlestar. I really miss Helo and Starbuck and the Adamas. And The 100 feels like Battlestar-lite…not as gritty, not as deep, but still thought-provoking. I especially like how the show does not conveniently forget that these kids on the ground have all been convicted of crimes. I rather expected the youngsters to start acting like teenaged heroes, but no. These aren’t the cream of the crop; these are teenagers who have seen and done some rough stuff. Clarke is from a more privileged background but she is treated differently because of it. Multiple characters refer to her as “Princess”…which I find a realistic reaction. Speaking of which…
• Mostly authentic characters.
Now, every fantasy/sci-fi story has The One Big Lie, usually related to the set up. And however far-flung and unrealistic the situation, the characters have to be relatable, their reactions authentic for the audience to suspend disbelief. For the most part, both the kids on the ground and adults in space are behaving like people, not plot points. Okay, the adults more than the kids, but isn’t that to be expected anyways?
Probably the most compelling characters are the Griffins, both of whom are healers by nature and leaders by necessity. Also, the relationship between Bellemy and Octavia (the only siblings on the show) has a very natural, very organic feel to it. You honestly believe that Bellemy would do literally anything for his little sister and Octavia both resents and relies on him.
• Genetic diversity in the cast.
The Chancellor of the Ark, the most powerful human in existence…is a black man. Holy cow! And you want to know what’s even better than that? Nobody ever mentions it. The color of skin is a bit of a non issue when humanity is on the brink of extinction. And a bit of a rant here, but with humanity in the thousands and huddled on one spacecraft, pretty much everybody is going to be of mixed racial origins. And I love that the show reflects this and a lot of the characters are not pearly white Caucasians. Yeah, I know all this sounds funny coming from a pearly white Caucasian girl…but hey, you’re only looking at the outside, people.
• Forward momentum.
There’s a sense that this train is headed somewhere and going there fast…unlike the book, which kind of squished it’s way from drama to melodrama. Seriously, the show is 100 times better than the book; as in it is actually interested more in the premise of the story than the hormones of its teenage characters. Never thought I’d say that!
There’s no guarantee that this show will keep up its steam. But so far, The 100 is an intriguing premise with decent execution. Looking forward to Wednesday’s new episode!
By the way, even though it’s written as “the one hundred”, it’s called “the hundred”. Drives me nuts, but there you go.