4:00 pm EDT, September 23, 2014

Introducing ‘The 100’: The best show you’re not watching

The CW drama The 100 is entering its second season this fall, renewed due to its strong concept and fantastic first season. It’s not too late to let this underappreciated TV gem seduce you.

Now is the perfect time to catch up on The 100: the 13-episode first season, which aired earlier this year on The CW, has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray! Need more reasons to give the show a chance? Let us convince you.

What is it?

The 100 Anya

The 100 is a CW drama series based off of the Kass Morgan novel of the same name. It takes place in the future, almost 100 years after a nuclear war destroyed Earth and (allegedly) destroyed all life.

The scattered groups of humans on various space stations banded together to form the Ark, a refuge for the human race which was meant to keep the species alive for another hundred years, when it was believed that radiation levels on Earth would return to normal.

But when the Ark begins to fail, the Chancellor (Isaiah Washington) makes the decision to send 100 prisoners under the age of 18 (all adult prisoners are executed to keep the population level down) to Earth, to buy the Ark inhabitants a bit more time – and also to determine whether, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Earth might already be survivable again.

The 100 prisoners include our lead characters Clarke (Eliza Taylor), Finn (Thomas McDonell), Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), as well as several fantastic supporting characters. On the Ark, the main players are Clarke’s mother Abby (Paige Turco) and Kane (Henry Ian Cusick), council members rivalling for the Chancellor’s support.

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Why should I watch it?

The 100 Clarke and Finn

If you haven’t watched The 100 yet, it might be for one of three reasons:

– You have a stigma against CW shows
– You don’t like sci-fi
– You just haven’t had time to pick up another series

If you found yourself agreeing with any of these reasons, you are missing out on something amazing. At first glance, The 100 might seem like just another dystopian teen series, but it is so much more than that. It somehow doesn’t feel at home on The CW – not that CW shows can’t be edgy, just look at Supernatural and Nikita – but more like it should be airing on Syfy or HBO.

Its 13-episode first season is tight and tension-filled, and feels like a mix between Lost and Battlestar Galactica: rich, layered characters with complex backstories, stuck in a mysterious, isolated world where harsh circumstances force them to reveal their true natures.

If you like shows that explore the extremes of humanity, and don’t ever feel contrived or convenient, The 100 is for you.

Not convinced? Read the five best things about The 100, which truly sets it apart from other shows:

1. ‘The 100’ explores the very nature of humanity

The 100 Chancellor and Kane

The 100 author Kass Morgan has created a wide-open sandbox for readers and audience members alike to explore through the eyes of the characters. The idea of an abandoned world, which has reverted back to a more natural state, is so rich and filled with possibility.

As a species, we love to imagine worst-case scenarios (and assume that we will personally survive to experience the aftermath of such scenarios): zombie apocalypses, alien invasions and natural disasters are just a few of the creative tools we use to explore the nature of humanity under extreme duress.

The 100, much like Revolution and Terra Nova (both great premises, but – in this author’s opinion – not nearly as good as The 100) explores how modern-ish humans cope on an Earth which has been stripped of technology and has reverted back to a pre-industrial way of life. In all three shows, unaided by modern technology or ‘shortcuts,’ the characters are forced to reveal their innermost selves in the struggle for survival.

The 100 makes it even more interesting, because not only do we get the modern-day-ish humans that were born and raised in space with only their grandparents’ tales of the Earth to guide them, we also get several kinds of “Grounders”: descendants of the survivors of the nuclear apocalypse which was believed to have wiped out all life, and which appear to have even less ties to our present-day society.

We have a variety of humans, now, but no one who actually witnessed the fall of society as we know it. That happened almost 100 years ago, and neither the people born on the Ark nor on the Ground seem particularly interested in reviving pre-apocalypse tradition.

So what is the ‘right’ way to move forward, when there’s no longer a blueprint of societal evolution to follow? Which group’s way of life is ‘best’? There is no right or wrong answer, and The 100 is careful to show that no side of the conflict is purely good or bad. The world is truly a blank slate now, which opens up for the rise of a brand new era of mankind.

2. It’s full of strong female (and male!) characters

The 100 Raven

There are some absolutely fantastic female characters on this show. But it’s not a show about girl power at all, because in the imagined future of The 100, there is no such thing. In fact, one of the most amazing things about the show is that there doesn’t really seem to be a difference between men and women. (Apparently, all it took to finally break down that pesky gender divide was a little nuclear warfare. Who knew?)

Not once in season 1 does a character use “but you’re a girl!” as an argument for or against anything. On the Ark, the Chancellor is male, but the previous was female. On the ground, Clarke and Bellamy are both considered leaders in their own right, neither limited nor aided by their gender. Then there’s the prodigy mechanic Raven, the feisty and free-spirited Octavia, and Clarke’s strong-willed and compassionate mother Abby.

The 100 doesn’t push up the women by diminishing the men, however, because we’ve also got equally resourceful and interesting male characters like Bellamy, Kane, Jaha, Finn, Lincoln, Monty and Jasper.

The leader of the Grounders, Anya (played by Dollhouse‘s Dichen Lachman), also happens to be female. She’s fierce, she’s terrifying, and her gender has absolutely no relevance. It is amazingly refreshing to watch characters interact with each other and establish power relations solely based on their merit and skill. There is no weaker/stronger sex here, only true weakness and strength.

3. The characters are layered and realistic

The 100 Bellamy and Octavia

Not only are there no clichéd, tired gender stereotypes, but there are also no stock characters in sight. There are no heroes and villains in The 100; nothing is ever that black and white.

In fact, it is a testament to the writers that every single character is so fully realised, they will always act in what they believe is everyone (or at least the majority)’s best interest. No single character acts without purpose, or doesn’t stop to consider their options before acting (for better or worse).

Take Bellamy, who starts off solely caring about protecting his sister, and whom we are briefly led to believe will be the series’ main antagonist: he ends up being one of the most complex, heroic and layered characters in the whole show. And on the other side we have what could very easily have been the one-note heroine Clarke, but who is nothing but notes, all dissonant and playing different tunes. Yes, we can usually count on Clarke’s heart being in the right place, but that isn’t always a good thing. She makes mistakes, her resolve wavers, and she pays dearly for it.

On another character note: one of the most enjoyable things about The 100 is that whenever something happens and you as an audience member question its legitimacy, someone on screen actually voices your question. There’s always someone to speak for the audience and to present the most logical explanation/solution, and it’s refreshing to feel like the characters you’re watching on screen haven’t been dumbed down to prolong the drama.

Whether you agree with a character’s actions or not, they are always justified based on their own agendas and morals, and there is never a clear right answer to any given problem.

4. All actions and bad decisions have consequences

The 100 Lincoln and Octavia

You’ll soon notice that nothing comes easy to the characters of The 100. When you’re thinking, “There’s no way it could be that easy,” you’re usually right. A couple of strategic deaths early on manages to make you feel what few series are truly able to do: that anyone really could die at any time. Even the leads.

And beware of getting too attached to anyone: because The 100 is still a fairly unknown show, don’t expect the writers to be afraid of fan outcry or significant backlash. If a character does something stupid or catches a bad break, they will suffer the consequences. And realistically, that sometimes means death. At the end of season 1, we’re left confronting that fact head-on, and wondering how the hell the show will continue with several main players in jeopardy.

It’s always such a cliche to say that “no one is safe” in a given TV series, but in this case, it’s true. Of course, if the show kills off all of its lead characters, it’ll probably be in a bit of trouble. There are some character arcs you just can’t abandon, as a writer and a storyteller, no matter how “shocking” their sudden departure might be. A character death shock impacts your audience for a few episodes, while a good character arc stays with your audience for years. The 100 writers seem like they’re trying to honor their characters, while also doing their best to keep the show realistic, and to avoid too many unrealistic, last-minute reprieves.

5. The mystery of Earth

The 100 Finale

If you haven’t read the book, obviously you’ll enjoy the show a lot more, thinking less about plot changes and more about what the hell is going on down on the ground.

As mentioned earlier, the Ark survivors quickly discover that they were wrong about the nuclear war wiping out all life on earth. Survivors have repopulated, to a certain extent, and split off into warrior factions seemingly dead set on destroying each other.

Why? We don’t know. By the end of season 1, the mystery has only expanded – but amazingly, without leaving us frustrated at the lack of answers (we still love you, Lost). Because you do get answers to your questions, you just discover that there are much bigger questions you should be asking.

Intrigued yet?

If you powered through this massive article, we sure hope you’re up for giving the pilot episode (actually, I would recommend you watch the first four before you make up your mind) a shot! Come back here and tell us what you thought about the series, and what other kind of articles you’d like to see about The 100 on Hypable.

The 100 season 2 premiere airs October 22, at 9/8c on The CW. Come back here for more news and coverage for the show!

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