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Friday, 13 June 2014

The 100.


The 100.



I did not have high hopes for The 100. Not one bit.

It just looked – very average. Not bad, per se, but the trailers suggested it was probably lacking in originality and depth and all those other good things. I watched it because it was there and I had time on my hands.

The 100 is an adaptation of the young adult novel of the same name by Kass Morgan, and tells the story of a hundred juvenile criminals from a space station, sent down to the Earth, long since devastated by nuclear war, to see if it's habitable, as the space station is beginning to malfunction and die. I'd personally never heard of the book before, and I don't really intend to seek it out, but for those interested, you can no doubt find it on Amazon. 

Less Fallout, more Helheim.

It's clearly meant to take advantage of the current Hunger Games fuelled popularity of dystopian young adult fiction with a survival bent, which is proving to be lucrative for Hollywood right now and could potentially garner some nice cash for an enterprising network, too. Which is fine, that's what networks and publishing houses are meant to do: Keep an eye on current trends and then cater to them to earn money. That's why Hannibal and Bates Motel started so close to each other. It's why Reign started not long after Game of Thrones became so blisteringly successful. It's why procedural crime dramas are everywhere, on every network and channel, inside your wardrobe, watching you in the shower, burrowing inside your skeleton and feasting off your bone marrow.

It's an understandable thing, but it's not an especially exciting remit, you have to admit, and if there's anything the E3 post taught us, it's that I am a master of apathy.

So my expectations were very low. Very low indeed.

I was – pleasantly surprised. Then I continued to be pleasantly surprised. 

The blood and torture was also a surprise. This is a really bloody
show.

The point where I knew the series was okay was probably the end of the first episode, when a cheerful, congratulatory moment filled with the joyous hubris of youth was interrupted by a spear embedding itself in a main character's chest. The point where I knew the series was good was probably the end of the third episode, when an innocent little girl brutally and viciously murders a main character. The point where it became great was episode five, when the series, which had been building several characters up as evil, including unfortunately named Councilman Kane who had been pushing for the death of some three hundred people, turned around and revealed in an entirely organic way that these characters were just well-meaning pragmatists, not driven by any malice but by a genuine, desperate desire to save as many lives as possible.

It's definitely the biggest surprise I've had as far as television this year goes. I was strongly expecting something like a post-apocalyptic Star-Crossed, and that's not what I got at all. It's not just me, either: So many people that I've talked to about this have said much the same, that they expected a rather poor, rather formulaic show and were instead shocked and delighted by something that is very thoughtful and engaging. 

Clarke, seen here with a delightful river.

It's noteworthy that after almost every episode, I ended up posting a commentary somehow, and that nine times out of ten that commentary consisted of 'JESUS CHRIST.' It's equally noteworthy that I almost always got the response 'I KNOW.' 

"JESUS CHRIST." "I KNOW."

When it started, it reminded me a lot of a post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies, with level-headed main character Clarke as the show's Ralph, while her more combative co-leader Bellamy was the show's Jack, and his right-hand man Murphy the show's Roger. By the time the series was halfway through, though, things had become a lot more grey: Clarke and Bellamy had formed two halves of an effective leadership team, people were being forced to compromise their morals, the villainous Grounders were seeming a lot less villainous, up on the station the adult characters were dealing as best they could with a string of impossible predicaments, romances were blooming, romances were dying, the corrupting nature of war was being discussed, et cetera.

The show deals with a lot of philosophical issues, both in episodic format and as part of its serialised story, but it never comes across as particularly forced. There is always a danger that characters stop being characters and start being mouthpieces for philosophical viewpoints, and that was never really the case here, largely because almost every character found themselves having to compromise on their philosophy for one reason or another, in a way that always felt very true to them. 

"Shouldn't we be doing council work?" "Shhh, enjoy the wind
machine."

The acting is as strong as the writing, with Eliza Taylor and Bobby Morley having great chemistry as the two leads and putting in very compelling performances. Some of the cast aren't quite as adept - Thomas McDonell, playing Clarke's love interest Finn, is outshone several times despite being very competent – but there aren't any bad actors, or even any below average ones.

One interesting thing to note is that a lot of the cast are drawn from soap operas. Both Eliza Taylor and Dichen Lachmann (who played the grounder leader) formerly starred on Australian soap Neighbours. Bobby Morley was on Home and Away for several years as a teenage boy allergic to clothes who had an affair with his girlfriend's mother. Ricky Whittle of Hollyoaks plays grounder Lincoln. Paige Turco, who plays Clarke's mother Abigail, was once a regular on All My Children. Henry Ian Cusack, who plays Councilman Kane, had a recurring role on Casualty, which remains the longest running soap and, indeed, television series, in existence. Lindsey Morgan, who plays ace mechanic Raven, was on General Hospital. Brief two episode villain Diana Sydney was played by Kate Vernon, probably best known as Ellen Tigh from Battlestar Galactica, but also an alumni of Falcon Crest.

It doesn't really mean anything, and is almost certainly just coincidence, but it's an interesting thing to note, at least. 

Did they pack protection onto that dropship? I hope they did.

The show has been renewed for a second series, airing in October, which is good, because it ends on not just one but about six different cliffhangers, two of which completely change the nature of the show. I will be eagerly looking forward to seeing those cliffhangers resolved, and seeing how they spiral out into lasting effects on the story.  

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