The 100 is based on a series of books by Kass Morgan. So what's the premise? Get this:
It is 97 years after the world was destroyed in a devastating nuclear war. Only a small number of human beings are left. They live in an ad hoc space station cobbled together from dozens of smaller habitations that were in orbit when disaster struck. Now they are running out of air and water, and everyone will soon perish unless they get more supplies.
So they decide to send 100 juvenile delinquents down to the earth, unsupervised and in secret, to see if the radiation has abated enough for the world to be repopulated. The teenagers are tagged like gazelle and their life signs are monitored by the adults far above.
The teenagers are given no survival training whatsoever. They're just chucked in and forced to find a way. It's sink or swim.
If that doesn't sound like a setup for a teen show, I don't know what would.
Remove adult supervision? Check.
Dangerous conflict laden environment? Check.
No pre-established hierarchy so teens must fight for dominance? Check.
Teens must create a new society, free of fuddy-duddy adult rules? Check.
High stakes? Check.
Hot, dashing young guys and beautiful babes? Check.
Heaving bosoms? Check.
Requisite bad boy? Check.
Teenagers who are smarter and wiser than all the adults put together? Check.
My God, man—they've created the ultimate teen drama!
You'd think it'd be awful, right?
Cheesy, superficial, overwrought melodrama with a preposterous premise.
It's tight and transcends the tropes.
You don't get quite what you expect. And I love subverted expectations. Don't you?
Tons happens each season, and there is enough resolution to feel satisfying. Some shows just leave you hanging, and offer no resolution whatsoever. Helix, for example, I found particularly bad this way. And Lost. You just get more questions. Game of Thrones, God help me, sometimes feel like mostly filler: characters spend eight episodes traveling, finally meet up for one episode in which all hell breaks lose, and then have a wrap up episode in the aftermath, along with a cigarette. That's an unfair caricature of what is, really, an awesome show, but it doesn't stop me thinking it every now and then. The 100 doles out events in a more even handed manner.
|Bad boy beefcake Bellamy. I bet he works out. No, seriously. I bet he does.|
Which brings me to the cast: up above, you have the spiritually tormented commander Thelonious Jaha (Isiah Washington), the strict second in command Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick), and concerned mom Abby (Paige Turco). Down on the surface, you've got earnest young doctor Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), bad boy Bellamy Blake (Bobby Morley), sociopathic John Murphy (Richard Harmon), and the put upon rebel Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos).
Most of the characters either are obvious archetypes, which is typical for a genre show, but often with a twist, and the program doesn't do with them what you'd expect. Not by a long shot.
|Suspiciously sexy mutant leader. I just want to know where the mutants are getting their teeth and hair done.|
John Murphy I expected to be one note and written out right quick, but the writers had other ideas. Same goes for heartthrob Finn Collins (Thomas McDonell), who zigs when you think he's gonna zag.
The emotional connections and conflicts between the characters have been handled extremely well. The relationships build in a manner that feels natural, and the occasional betrayal is set up elegantly enough you can buy it when it happens. This isn't always the case on TV. 12 Monkeys, for example, has a betrayal that I didn't buy into at all.
They all have competing and frequently conflicting interests. Conflict, of course, is where drama comes from, so characters should be designed to clash. Viewpoints are laid out, so when characters do things, you understand (eventually) why. So it makes sense. People often do bad things for good reasons. The show lays out understandable motivations, making it a great example of action from character.
|More powerful bonding with bound beefcake|
The entire third season of House of Cards would be one or two episodes of The 100.
Eliza Taylor plays Clarke Griffin, a born leader and budding doctor, is the lead character and primary point of connection for the viewers. She's got balls, and is preternaturally wise for one so young. She's always showing up her elders, which is a typical teenage show trope.
But she makes mistakes, and that humanizes her. She may not be terribly compelling personally (which allows greater viewer identification), but the choices she's faced with are.
|Clarke and her powerful friends. Also, some old dude.|
Hey, it's CW.
Sometimes ya just gotta embrace genre tropes.