Shows on The CW get snubbed sight unseen too often. People have been more accepting in the past few years with the addition of series like Arrow and The Flash, but I’m surprised at the brush-off some still give the network by dismissing it as the channel with all the young and attractive people and their angst. While that’s not an entirely inaccurate characterization, it’s not all The CW is about. It’s the home to several quality series–like The 100. The science fiction drama premiered in 2014, and if you’re not watching it, I recommend putting it on your list. Like, yesterday.
After seeing high praise from trusted friends, I binged all existing episodes of The 100 just last month. While I watched and gasped and cried, I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t been watching this show from day one. Loosely based on the book of the same name by Kass Morgan and developed by Jason Rothenberg, The 100 is set 97 years in the future in a world where most of the human race was wiped out by a nuclear explosion. Survivors live on a space station called the Ark, but resources are limited. As a last-ditch effort to see if there is any hope for continuing existence, leaders of the Ark decide to send 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to see if it’s become inhabitable. Best case scenario: The 100 finds out the surface is livable and everyone can return to the ground. Worst case scenario: There are 100 less people using up precious oxygen on the Ark.
The story opens by throwing you right into main event. The 100 are gathered and are on Earth in no time. You’re introduced to series regulars Clarke (Eliza Taylor), Bellamy (Bob Morley), Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), Abigail (Paige Turco), Kane (Henry Ian Cusick), and more within minutes, and for the most part, the show never stops rolling from the time the youths land on Earth. Just hang in until you get to the fourth episode. You won’t look back. This series has made my heart literally race more times than I can remember. Yes, a fair portion of the cast is young and attractive. Yes, you’ll see some angst and some romance subplots. But! The story splits its focus between the kids on the ground and the adults on the Ark. And everyone is rather focused on staying alive so the teen angst isn’t overwhelming.
The 100 is a delicious, intense sci-fi drama. It’s obvious that planning and care have gone into developing the world and its culture. I don’t want to give away any of the surprises I enjoyed, but trust me, they are around every corner. Things on Earth are not what they appear to be, and the people have more gumption in them than you might think. They have to because hey, continuing to breathe is a plus. The stakes are high, the threats are real, and oh my goodness, are there consequences. It’s an environment where no one is safe. This is not a show that cares about which characters you like best.
And the characters you root for will probably change over time. Remember how Battlestar Galactica handled the evolution of Saul Tigh? He went from being someone completely unlikable to someone most people respected if not cared for. None of it was forced, either. He progressed naturally and as time went on, we got to know him and his struggles better. That sort of evolution has happened across the board on The 100. Characters on the Ark and characters on the ground are so much more nuanced than you can imagine when you first encounter them. Brutal decisions and actions affect the people who make them and those around them (as they should), and it leads to some truly fascinating and deft development.
Because of the circumstances being what they are, some of that development is superficial. A fan of The 100 named Kate, a.k.a. @weyheybellarke, made a series of images showing physical changes for various characters. Here’s Clarke:
Clarke is a prime example who shifts as layers upon layers are peeled back. She’s also one of many rich and complicated female characters on this series. You won’t find the “strong female character” trope here. You’ll find characters. Diverse ones. This is a society that has been focused on merely getting to the next day for so long that gender and ethnic stereotypes aren’t really issues. People fall into the roles they fall into based on ability and willingness to learn or try new skills, and that’s that. It’s a natural, no big deal thing in-universe but so very impactful on network television.
The 100 currently airs on Wednesdays at 9pm ET/PT on The CW. Two episodes are remaining in the second season. You can catch up on previously aired episodes on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. See, you have options. Remember how spoiled you are when you watch Clarke, Bellamy, and the rest of the 100 scrounge for shelter and food.
Do you already watch The 100? Head to the comments and share some spoiler-free reasons why others should give it a chance. For those of you who end up watching it for the first time, feel free to come talk to me on Twitter when you need a shoulder.