In December, I got ever-so-slightly addicted to the CW survival show, The 100. After a fall TV season that's left me feeling pretty cynical about most of my current favorites, The 100 was the perfect dose of addictive action, great plot twists and fantastic female characters.
The show follows a group of 100 teenage criminals (or "criminals," as the case may be) who are sent down to a post-nuclear-apocalypse earth to see if its survivable when the space station hosting the last remnants of humanity begins to fail.
And since the whole show is available on Netflix, and the series is returning tonight after an amazing mid-season finale, I thought it was time to talk about why this show is a must-watch.
It's LOST meets Battlestar Galactica
Even some of the cast is the same! The show is basically split into two halves -- the people on a dying spaceship, trying to survive, and the teenagers dropped in the forest on earth, trying to figure out this strange world and not die in the process. One half is run-down space tech and political coups and harsh punishments and oxygen shortages, the other is unexplored landscapes and strange creatures and hostile Others and shortages of medical supplies. And in both parts, the greatest threat is often not any outside force, but the main characters themselves.
It has a fantastic cast of female characters
And these female characters are often in positions of power.
The protagonist, Clarke, is the healer and (at least initially) the more pacifistic of the teens' leaders. She's tough as nails, brave, determined, resourceful, insightful and caring. Then there's her mother, Abby, the best healer on the space station and one of its leaders. She shares a lot of traits with her daughter, but she also has a selfish streak that leads to some very interesting issues. There's Octavia, a girl who spent most of her life hidden away, who's equal parts rebellious and empathetic, brave and reckless, or Raven, the group's genius mechanic. Plus a bunch of other interesting female characters and leaders who can't really be discussed for spoiler reasons, but who add a lot to the show.
And the male characters are interesting too!
Just in case anyone would consider accusing the show of making the male characters play second fiddle as part of some evil feminist agenda. Clarke is the main protagonist, and her relationship with her mom is important, as is her relationship with her dad. But there's also the male Chancellor, who must tackle the difficult moral issues of being the leader of a society that cannot survive without some sacrifices along the way. Or the Vice Chancellor (Desmond from LOST), whose more aggressive and rule-driven approach is challenged as the story goes on. Or Bellamy, the immediate leader of the 100 whose anarchist approach quickly leads to chaos.
The cast is one of the most diverse on TV
Always a plus when a show is supposed to be about a future society where all countries merged in space.
The plot is endlessly twisty
It never settles for the expected. It's tense and relentless, and occasionally pulls the Ned Stark/Game of Thrones-esque "that will never happen -- OH MY GOD IT HAPPENED" twist where our own narrative expectations work against us. Sure, it often relies on Red Shirts to up the drama level, but that doesn't mean it goes soft on its main characters, and it can be very difficult to predict where it's going to go next.
It has surprising moral complexity
Yes, it starts off feeling very "teen drama"-esque. But it ultimately isn't afraid to really tackle questions of survival and morality. Pretty much everyone ends up at least somewhat morally grey, and the show asks "what can we do for the sake of survival?" again and again, pushing the issue further each time.
Of course, the show does have its flaws. Sometimes the dialogue is a little weak, and the earlier episodes have an addictive binge-watching quality that doesn't feel like it's driven by quality (at least, in my experience). But then the show throws a sucker-punch at you, only a few episodes in, and you realize that it's not quite what you expected. If you can buy into the characters -- and by halfway through the first season, I was hooked by them -- then their story of survival is beyond compelling.
The 100 probably isn't a show for everybody, but if you like some light teen drama with your survival narratives, or if you're just as sick of genre TV shows relying on Damsels in Distress, token girls, female character fetishization and rape threats as I am, then this show is definitely worth a watch.