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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The 100 S4

The 100
Series 4

You know, I think I'm ready for The 100 to quietly shuffle off this mortal coil.

In theory, this series has a really strong plot: With ALIE dead and the leftover nuclear reactors across the world melting down, Skaikru and the rest of the clans have a matter of months before a death wave will sweep over them, killing everything in its path and irradiating the surface for five years. As plan after plan fails, Skaikru's alliance with Azgeda is tested to its limit, its people start either panicking or willingly giving in to death, and people start to sicken. When a bunker is discovered beneath Polis, though, Skaikru is left to pick a hundred people to survive, and leave the rest of their people to die.

That sounds like a really interesting, forceful plot, right? Well, it is, from about episode nine onwards, in a series of thirteen episodes. Those last four episodes are must-watch television: Gripping, genuinely fascinating, involving complex moral choices and questions of fealty to one's people versus fealty to a greater ethical ideal.

There's an air of uncertainty hanging over the last four episodes where it really feels like anyone could die -- and in a good way, not in a 'we're going to kill off Lincoln and Lexa for shock value' way. 

'And it was all ye-e-ellow.'

The show's decision to have Jasper, a character who's been in the show since the first episode, be genuinely and openly suicidal throughout the series, and then to actually follow through on that, having him commit suicide in one of the most heartbreaking scenes the show has had, is actually a surprisingly brave turn in a television landscape where almost every other show would have had him decide to live. 

Jasper's not the only one to die, either. Roan, Azgedan king and long-time sometimes-ally-sometimes-enemy, dies in episode ten after being a staple of the series for a good two years; Luna, a major character in both this series and the last, dies in the same episode. None of these deaths feel like they exist purely for shock value -- they finish certain storylines, bring character arcs full circle, add to the story rather than taking away.

Similarly, the show teases that Raven might die, and for a while it really looks like she might -- and when she actually survives, choosing her own intellect over the knowledge that the remnants of ALIE give her, it's not just a nice moment to cap off her character arc for this series, it's also genuinely a relief. When Clarke survives the death wave, it's almost a surprise, and it too is a relief.

All of this makes it sound like I should be praising the series to high heavens, but the eight episodes leading up to that point are dire.

It was clear that this series was written with a clear idea of how it would end, and not a clear idea of how to make getting there actually compelling to watch, so for the first eight episodes, the series meanders around, ambling from plot point to plot point with nothing really having any impact. The characters work on an obviously doomed project to turn Arkadia into a shelter; the characters work on Nightblood experiments that only really lead to Clarke surviving; everyone's allied with Azgeda, and then they aren't, and then they are, and then they aren't; Octavia seems to die but doesn't die and then she has a romance with someone and then she returns to the plot, eventually.

It just goes on and on and on, with each episode somehow less compelling than the last, an endless holding pattern of 'people try things, and those things fail,' backed up by so, so much meaningless fluff. 

The best example of this is that in episode two, Bellamy makes a The 100 Moral Decision (tm), where he chooses to turn a hydro-generator into a bomb to save some people rather than take it back with them and provide clean water for Arkadia. You know how much impact that decision has on the series as a whole? Almost none! By episode four, it is forgotten, and by episode five, Arkadia is gone, so it's a moot point.

Similarly, episode four shows the alliance with Azgeda breaking down. Do you know how much impact that has? Almost none! By part-way through episode five, they're allies again, agreeing to share Arkadia, until even that is rendered moot about ten minutes later.

The idea is clearly meant to be that tension is ramped up as more and more options are closed off to the cast, but what it actually is is 'things happen and then it doesn't matter that they happened,' and that's not a plot, that's a waste of three-hundred-and-thirty-six minutes of my time. Five point six hours of nothing.

The show is renewed for a fifth series, which will apparently have an evil corporation as the villains, because if there's one thing that hasn't been done to death, it's evil corporations being villains in post-apocalyptic science fiction. Woo. Woo.

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