10:00 am EDT, August 31, 2019

Every time the scenery stole the show in ‘The 100’ season 6

For all its faults, Planet Alpha really is beautiful.

The 100 season 6 took us on a virtual tour of a brand new, gorgeous planet. Hashtag I want to go to there.

What was to be the penultimate season of The 100 reinvented the epic teen CW sci-fi drama in several major ways — the most obvious being the planet on which the story takes place.

For the first five seasons, The 100 was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with survivors of a doomed space colony fighting the descendants of doomsday cultists and/or miraculous survivors of a nuclear bomb for dominance.

The gorgeous woods of British Columbia, CA doubled as the equally (I’m sure) gorgeous woods of post-apocalyptic District of Columbia, US, in later seasons tinted the sepia tones of impending doom. It was a wild Earth, with occasional cameos from mutated zoo animals, but it was more or less Earth as we know it.

In season 6, The 100’s art and technical departments had the daunting challenge of taking that same familiar backdrop of Vancouver’s backyard and transforming into something completely alien: Planet Alpha, a habitable moon orbiting a giant (uninhabitable?) planet in a distant solar system.

As it turns out, Planet Alpha miraculously resembles our Earth — at least insofar as there are trees of similar species, mountains, water, grass, rocks, etc. But, equally miraculously (considering that this is a tightly budgeted CW drama), The 100’s talented crew consistently managed to make the planet visually distinctive in several big and small ways, giving season 6 a fresh look and feel and breathing new life into the show in the process.

There are two suns in the sky, occasionally creating a blood-red eclipse. There are no animals but bugs (and one, potentially periodically cryo-frozen, dog). There are glittering caves and flesh-eating trees and pits of marbles that swallow you whole. There is a giant green, swirling Anomaly. There is a steampunkish castle overlooking a kaleidoscope field of red crops. There are, thrillingly, motorcycles.

But perhaps the most exciting thing about this new world to many The 100 fans is that the color scheme and lighting are so bright. A recurring criticism of this dark, gritty drama has been that the images themselves have been so dark and gritty that it genuinely impeded the viewing experience (perhaps not on a Game of Thrones-level, but still. T’was pretty dark).

It seems The 100‘s creative team took this criticism to heart in season 6, dreaming up colorful new sets, props and costumes and making good use of the extra sunlight to really show everything off; they also found creative ways to light up the inside spaces like the Eligius ship and the Sanctum interiors, which in turn made the intended dark spaces like the skeleton room and the forest at night pop all the more.

The locations, the photography, the lighting, the post-work, the props and costumes and of course the directing all contributed to some very impressive mise en scènes that complemented all the big, emotional character conflicts happening in the foreground.

And even though the tone of The 100 season 6 might not have been particularly light, it certainly looked like all the creative departments behind the scenes had a lot of fun this year. (And that enthusiasm shone through on screen clear as day.)

Season 6 still very much felt like The 100, but heightened, like the show’s senses had been over-stimulated, which contributed to the exciting and stressful viewing experience.

All in all, the beautiful design work done by The 100’s crew made for not only a pleasant visual change but a fitting stylistic choice for the story, too, seeing as the planet’s inhabitants essentially wanted to Disneyfy the little kingdom they had built to support their own deification. The overly colorful props and sets really were that: props and sets in a grand charade that our heroes disassembled.

On a meta level, it’s also just very impressive that, six years into its run, The 100 managed to so seamlessly shift not just ‘home base’ location (which it’s done before), but color and texture schemes and natural world rules.

I can’t imagine a lot of network dramas getting away with such a big visual and tonal shift, especially because they’ve also got such a hefty cast turnaround cycle, but I suppose that’s one of the things I’ve always admired about The 100: they don’t tend to make their creative decisions based on what worked or didn’t work on other shows. They trust the strength of their own unique story and let it go where it needs to — even when where it needs to go is to an alien planet halfway across the universe.

So let’s bring the background to the forefront and celebrate the gorgeous, crisp visuals — from backgrounds to inspired framings to beautiful close-ups — that The 100’s talented crew treated us to in The 100 season 6:

‘Sanctum’ (directed by Ed Fraiman)

‘Red Sun Rising’ (directed by Alex Kalymnios)

‘The Children of Gabriel’ (directed by Dean White)

‘The Face Behind the Glass’ (directed by Tim Scanlan)

‘The Gospel of Josephine’ (directed by Ian Samoil)

‘Memento Mori’ (directed by P.J. Pesce)

‘Nevermind’ (directed by Michael Blundell)

‘The Old Man and the Anomaly’ (directed by April Mullen)

‘What You Take With You’ (directed by Marshall Virtue)

‘Matryoshka’ (directed by Amanda Tapping)

‘Ashes to Ashes’ (directed by Bob Morley)

‘Adjustment Protocol’ (directed by Antonio Negret)

‘The Blood of Sanctum’ (directed by Ed Fraiman)

I sincerely wish I could call out everyone who contributed to the look and feel of The 100 this year, whether it be the gorgeous pre-created establishing shots scattered throughout the season or the location shots and VFX creations made for specific episodes, but we simply don’t get enough insight into the BTS process for me to know who is responsible for what!

So please, shout them all out on Twitter and Instagram if you know them. (Like, who designed the giant half-medieval, half-trailerpark, playground-sprinkled castle town? Enquiring minds want to know!)

Certainly the episodes’ individual directors deserve huge accolades for the individual shot compositions and placements. Credit also goes to The 100‘s hard-working art and props departments, the production designers and set decorators, the costume and makeup departments, the lightning department, the location managers, the show’s resident DOP Michael Blundell, VFX Supervisor/Producer Michael Cliett and the color correction team.

Thank you for all the hard work you do making The 100 look so good. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for the final season.

‘The 100’ returns for its 7th and final season in 2020

All screencaps used in this article are from thetvhows.us.

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