Now in its sophomore season on The CW, The 100 is a thrilling, well-paced post-apocalyptic yarn that follows the exploits of a band of young-adult convicts who are sent to live on the remnants of planet earth ninety-some years following a devastating global nuclear war. Based on a series of YA novels by Kass Morgan, it opens with the revelation that The Arc – allegedly humanities’ last home in space – is soon to be out of air. Desperate times call for equally desperate measures and “the 100” are sent to the surface to test if earth is perhaps inhabitable once more.
Although it is an ensemble narrative, the charismatic Clarke Griffin – daughter of Dr. Abby Griffin, an elite Arc council member – is the show’s primary protagonist. A tough, smart girl with an iron-clad sense of right and wrong, and a fierce desire to protect her people (both on the ground and in space), she could easily give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money. Thrown into one disaster after another, Clarke rises to each herculean task with intelligence and courage, and actress Eliza Taylor imbues her with such full-throated intensity and emotion, the impulse to root for her swiftly becomes involuntary.
The first season ping-pongs between events on the ground and events on the orbiting space-station, as each marooned population struggles to survive their particular conditions of threat. The set-up is essentially The Hunger Games meets Battle Star Gallactica, with a dollop of The Walking Dead; constant life-or-death scenarios force each group to face endless ethical conundrums that lack obvious solutions, and which often leave the audience in as much moral ambivalence as the characters themselves.
And while the show initially presents antagonists of a sort, the question of who the enemy is fluctuates with surprising mobility, often not because of deliberated deception, but because the writers understand intentional evil is actually far less gripping than conflicts where everyone has a potentially legitimate case. The show’s hazardous circumstances often exceed the premeditated designs of any one character or group of characters, and no-lose solutions are in perpetual short supply. People’s choices matter a great deal, of course, but letting situations dictate the terms of conflict is a narrative strategy that works repeatedly here, to undeniably marvelous effect.
Smartly, despite being young adult oriented, the show also keeps the romance and sex elements to a blissful minimum. Such dynamics do erupt at moments, intermittently influencing character motives, but they do so without ever pulling focus from the larger issues at hand. Rest assured, this is not another teen soap masquerading as post-apocalyptic science-fiction. It is unequivocally the real deal.
Extremely well-cast across the board, the show includes standout performances by not only Eliza Taylor as Clarke, but also Paige Turco as Dr. Abby Griffin, Isaiah Washington as Chancellor Thelonious Jaha, and Bob Morley as Clarke’s fellow charismatic ground leader, Bellamy Blake. Its’ one outlying flaw, thus far, is a tendency to fall into cliché on occasion, particularly in the first few episodes. However, by episode 1.05 (“Twilight’s Last Gleam”), a true emotional core surfaces with heartbreaking force, and I’d strongly recommend you have a box of tissues ready.
The first full season is currently on Netflix, and as of right now, all three of the second season’s episodes are fully accessible on The CW’s website to US residents. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction of any stripe, you owe it to yourself to give The 100 a fair shake. You’ll probably find yourself very pleasantly surprised and, more than likely, suckered into an all-day binge watch of remarkably quality television. I speak from experience on that front. The 100 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on The CW.