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10 Reasons You Should Be Watching The 100

The 100Genre: Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian

Unabashed science fiction fan that I am, it’s pretty much a given that I’ll watch any show that falls under that umbrella. I’m always willing to give sci-fi shows a chance, ever hopeful that I’ll find a gem that grabs me and won’t let go. More often than not, I’m destined to be disappointed. But The CW’s The 100 is one of those rare shows that has matured into something that exceeds all of my expectations. I think it’s one of the most compelling shows on television, and every time I think it can’t outdo itself it does, particularly when it comes to the current season; season two. There are many things to love about the show, but these are my top ten reasons why you should be watching.

Note: I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but since I’ll be addressing things that happen in season two, it’s unavoidable that I’ll give away some of season one’s secrets.

10. This show doesn’t pull any punches.

I’m not a fan of explicit or gratuitous violence. I find it off-putting and think it has a tendency to detract from the real meat of the story–Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you. Yet while The 100 is a violent show, I don’t think the violence is there just for the sake of violence. It’s used as a means of showcasing the gritty reality of the characters’ situations, but only to the extent that it’s necessary. Rather than long, lurid battles, the show tends to have brief scenes of shocking violence, and then it goes on to explore the impact of that violence. It’s very matter-of-fact about the brutality of its world, rather than reveling in it as some shows seem to do.

9. It has a real sense of culture.

This is a show that pays attention to the details, slowly, painstakingly establishing its culture. There are four distinct cultures in the show at this point, with hints of others. At first the show focused on the people from The Ark, a space station that was supposed to be man’s last hope for survival after a nuclear disaster supposedly rendered Earth inhospitable. The Ark culture is very well established, and the show quickly immerses the viewer in that culture. Once on the ground, though, the show begins to further expand its cultural boundaries by adding the “Grounders”, the people living in Mount Weather, and the “Reapers”. We also get a glimpse of nomads, as well as a some cryptic information about a possible promised land kind of civilization. Each of these cultures is distinct, with its own social structure, system of laws, and traditions, and the Grounders even speak their own mutated form of English.

8. Gray areas.

This show has plenty of them. One of the most fascinating aspects of it, to me, is the interplay between the various cultures. The people from the Ark have a pretty high opinion of themselves, and the contrast between them and the Grounders seems striking. However, once the show starts to peel back the layers, a lot of similarities between the cultures become quite apparent. For all their judgement, the people of the Ark aren’t as civilized or refined as they might like to think. I think the show does a very good job of portraying the various lengths to which people will go to survive, depending on their specific situation. The Grounders do things that shock the people of the Ark, but, then, the people of the Ark did send a bunch of teenagers down to a planet they weren’t even sure could support life. Mount Weather’s leadership does some really disturbing stuff behind the curtain, but to what extent can the everyday inhabitants be blamed? Time and again, this show provides ample examples of how good people are at justifying their own actions while judging those of others.

7. Parent/child relationships.

To its credit, The 100 isn’t the kind of teen narrative in which adults are portrayed as bumbling idiots who don’t possess the wisdom of its teen heroes. Thank goodness. What the show does, instead, is continue to explore the parental need to protect a child while exposing how misguided those attempts can be. The most prominent of these relationships is between the teenager Clarke and her mother, Abby. Abby isn’t able to let go of the belief that she must protect Clarke, which may partially be driven by her inability to do so when Clarke was sent down to Earth’s surface. She’s blind to the realities of what Clarke has been through, and unable to accept that her daughter isn’t a kid anymore. That sounds like pretty standard coming-of-age fare, but The 100 uses it to great effect. There’s also Jaha, who’s harboring a lot of guilt over what happened to his son, and early in season two this was used to show Jaha’s ability to empathize with the actions taken by his would-be rescuers.

6. The setting.

This may be one of the most tantalizing aspects of the show. The behind-the-scenes crew does a great job of tossing out an intriguing tidbit every now and then. When the condemned teens first set foot on Earth, it looks like a beautiful paradise, as if highlighting nature’s indifference to humanity. Despite their best efforts, people have failed to defeat nature. That they’ve altered it is beyond question, and every now and then we see the effects of that: strange plants, mutated animals, crumbling ruins familiar to viewers. It’s Earth and yet it’s not Earth. Of course, post-apocalyptic and dystopian narratives often thrive on presenting a skewed version of Earth, offering up “what if” scenarios, so it’s not as if The 100 reinvents the wheel in this respect. It does use the scenery to great effect, though, using the way humans have altered nature as a vehicle to subtly critique human brutality.

5. The characters.

In season one I wasn’t sure how I felt about some of the most prominent characters: Clarke, Octavia, and Bellamy. All three have undergone a lot of evolution up to this point, and it’s been to the strength of each character. This show excels at taking characters that seem to be stereotypical or one-note, and doing something completely surprising and unexpected with them. Octavia may be the best example of this. Another of season two’s strength is that it’s worked hard to further develop the adult characters from the Ark, as well as many of the Grounders. I particularly like the dynamics between characters. They have their own agendas, and it’s been interesting to watch the uneasy truces that have begun springing up between them, as well as to witness the changes some of them have begun to go through as they’re learning to look beyond their prejudices.

4. Risks? What risks?

You know how with some shows, no matter how much you love them, there’s not much tension because you just know the characters aren’t going to die and are going to come out on top in the end? Well, that’s not at all true with this show. Characters die, often very unexpectedly, and I admire that. It keeps the viewer on his or her toes. The writers take risks with this show, and those risks pay off because they lead to a richer, ever evolving story.

10 reasons to watch The 1003. Storyline growth potential.

After a while, some shows become formulaic, often out of necessity. This doesn’t make these shows bad, but it does make them rather predictable. With The 100, I don’t get a sense that it’s falling into predictable patterns because with every episode the writers seem to blow the show wide open, creating a multitude of new possibilities. There are several different threads to the storyline this year, and I don’t feel like I know exactly where any of them will lead. There’s still a ton of potential ground for the show to cover (such as what led to the nuclear disaster that necessitated the Ark), and given how much it’s expanded its universe from season one to season two, I’m confident that expansion will continue into future seasons.

2. Diversity.

I think TV in general is doing a good job of increasing its diversity–much, much more so than movies. But The 100 is a particular standout in this area.

1. Female characters get to be, well, characters.

This ties in with #2. The 100 does something I always hope fantasy or sci-fi universes will do; it dispenses with many of our current social and cultural norms. It’s so refreshing to watch a show that not only recognizes the complexity of individuals, it celebrates it. No one questions Clarke becoming a leader on the basis of her being female. Her gender is left out of the picture entirely. This doesn’t mean that she’s universally loved, and it shouldn’t. Other characters question her actions all the time. This is also true of the Grounders and their leader, Lexa. But the characters on this show are on more or less equal footing, regardless of gender or race. It’s not a question of what they look like, but what they can do.

Have I convinced you yet? Season one of The 100 is available on Netflix, so you can binge watch and catch up to your heart’s content. Season two airs at 9/8c on The CW, and you can stream some episodes on The CW’s website.

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