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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The 100 Series 2 (First Half)

Here's the review that was going to be yesterday's review but then wasn't yesterday's review. 

The 100
Series 2 (First Half.)

Okay, so I adored the first series of The 100. I tuned into it entirely expecting it to be one of those the CW shows which is just trashy and awful and feels exhausted after half a series - and it was airing in the same season as The Tomorrow People and Star-Crossed, so I don't think you can blame me. I also wasn't the only one who expected this: Several people I know also watched it expecting entirely the same thing. 

I was completely wrong, and it turned out to be a very deep, well-crafted show about people doing their absolute best, and the conflicts that arise both from a clash of different cultures and a clash of different people trying to do what's right for everyone. One thing I loved about the series was that it entirely subverted my expectations: Early episodes were set up to frame Clarke and Abby as the heroes of the two respective storylines, and Bellamy and Kane as the villains. It turned out four or five episodes in that while Clarke and Abby were certainly heroic figures, so were Bellamy and Kane - Bellamy genuinely felt that his draconian, warlike leadership was a necessity for survival, and he and Clarke formed a partnership; while Kane was revealed to deeply and earnestly believe that delaying what he saw as inevitable (killing a portion of the Ark's citizens to save oxygen) would only make matters worse. 

Anyway, Series 2 opens at the exact moment that Series 1 left off: With Clarke trapped in a quarantine facility after being kidnapped by the technologically advanced Mountain People - the mountain, in this instance, being quickly revealed to be Mount Weather, where the 100's dropship was meant to land. While the people of Mount Weather try to integrate her and several others into their comfortable but isolationist society, Clarke's suspicion of them leads her to discover several terrible secrets that they've been hiding. Meanwhile, Abby, Kane and the Ark survivors have arrived on the ground, and must deal with establishing an ordered society in a hostile and dangerous environment. Meanwhile meanwhile, Octavia and Lincoln, on the run after the battle in Series 1 final episode, are waylaid by attacks by the mysterious, savage Reapers. 

Also, Octavia meets Lincoln's mate Steve.

While I have enjoyed this series thus far, I admit I maybe enjoy it less than the first series. While there were no true villains in the first series, the elite of Mount Weather are unambiguously evil, engaging in human experimentation coloured with striking savagery. But it is striking, and for that reason they make effective villains: The veneer of comfortable, 1950s Good Ol' America style warmth contrasted with their concealed barbarism makes them effective villains, and as more is revealed about their activities, the more frightening and unstoppable they seem. But I do, nevertheless, miss the moral ambiguity of the first series.

My other bugbear is that it feels like every character has been getting less time focused on them, and definitely less character development. Bellamy, Finn, Raven and Octavia all seem sorely underused, and while every character underwent some kind of change over the course of the first series, so far our leads of Clarke and Bellamy have remained mostly static, with the lion's share of character development going to Finn, who discovers he has a murder-y side. Possibly he took Murphy's (heh) murder-y side, since this series also has him undergo some development into a functioning and trustworthy member of society.

It's understandable though, if only because the series' attention is split more broadly than before - while the first series had two ongoing storylines in parallel, series 2 has three to five at any given time. That brings with it a certain amount of strain on the writing, and what I'd ideally like to see - and what we appear to be heading towards for the second half - is for that to be condensed back into two parallel storylines again.

One of those being the Mount Weather kids, who need more screentime.

The interpersonal conflicts are often less sharp and engaging than in the first series, but not always: The moral quandary that the main characters faced in the midseason finale was handled well, although I do think a more interesting route would have been to see it go to trial. Similarly, the conflicts between Jaha and Abby were excellently done. 

But I am intrigued to see where the series will go when it returns. Having ended on a rather shocking note, the second half seems set for both massive interpersonal conflicts, and the various issues arising from both a new alliance with a dangerous tribe of grounders, and the coming war against Mount Weather. 

So, overall, while this series sof ar maybe hasn't reached the heights of the previous series, I am still enjoying it a lot, and it remains one of the best shows on US television right now. I'll be awaiting its return next year very eagerly.

Clarke, Octavia, what's ... up with your ... eyes ...

(Also, why do all the promotional materials show Clarke wearing thick, heavy eyeliner? She literally never wears eyeliner that heavy in show. Ever.)

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