From Cringe to Binge – The 100 is worth a second look

I’m SO picky about my entertainment. My life is crazy busy, and like many people, I’ve become a snob, quickly judging a book by its cover or its first line and a TV show by its opening episode. I checked out The 100 on Netflix a while ago and got two episodes in before throwing up my hands (there was nothing else on so they were lucky I endured that long). As much as I was intrigued by the post-apocalyptic scenario of humans in space coming back down to Earth to see if radiation levels and other dangers were survivable, the lazy, strategically incompetent teenagers they sent made it feel more like a bad series of Survivor.

Flash forward six months, and my husband and writing partner breaks his foot. He’s stuck on the couch for two weeks and quickly runs out of entertainment, and with higher tolerance levels than me, he made it to Season 2. One day I came home and he said, “You know that 100 show…. ” I roll my eyes, so he’s quick to add, “I know it sucked at first, but this second episode of the second season is phenomenal. I think they have new writers and more budget for cameras and filming or something, because it doesn’t look like a soap opera anymore.”

I watched warily from the kitchen while prepping dinner, and I soon noticed the changes as well. I crept forward to the couch and sat … for a while. My dinner almost burned, so I told him to pause it while I took care of things. He was not allowed to watch any more without me!

After a Season 2 and 3 binge, watching minimum three episodes a night and thinking about it all day, I was hooked! The 100 is now one of my favorite shows. What makes it so great?

Story progression. Character development. Those two things could be my mantra. I hate a flimsy story idea and weak characters stretched thin over season after season like dregs of margarine scraped over toast. Give me substance, agonizing decisions, regret and deaths as well as loves that matter. That’s what The 100 has now.

Yes, there are still stupid characters and decisions (although now its mostly the adults who seem to have no clue about life on the ground), but Bellamy and Clarke are phenomenal, especially Clarke. I’ve loved watching her natural leadership ability grow and her personal agony (I’m a writer so I like it when my characters suffer) as she has to make one difficult decision after another. When you see the body count, the toll on the characters’ opinions of themselves and their moral values (“There are no good guys”) you realize this really is post-apocalyptic fiction and not Survivor. The very nature of humanity’s soul, not to mention its extinction, hangs in the balance.

“Death by Clarke” is my new favorite line, but as much as she is haunted by her choices, she’s not afraid to make them. It’s what sets her apart from the other characters who regret too much, too openly or fail to learn and move on.

I’m a Bellamy/Clarke shipper, but her interactions with Lexa is another powerful element well worth watching. I find the entire Grounder culture fascinating, although only 97 years has passed and it feels more like it should be double that. Grounders are essentially a matriarchy-led society of warriors that value strength and believe “Blood must have blood.”  There’s a very interesting reveal in Season 3 about the nature of their Commander. No spoilers from me, but it’s all so perfect you know they must have planned the story out. Another plus in my book is an over-arching season plot rather than one-off episodes. There’s probably only one flat episode three quarters through Season 3 that doesn’t progress things, but everything else keeps the plot moving towards its climax.

Then they organically develop a new plot turn to carry it forward into the next season! The threat never lets up. There’s never a chance to celebrate, because even the most idyllic parts of the wasteland (or its people or their own people…) are always trying to kill them.

My advice is get the cliff notes for Season 1 and start watching from Season 2. Try some sweet and salty popcorn (another new fave of mine), kick back and enjoy a good post-apocalyptic binge. You might just fall in love.

The 100 was created by Jason Rothenberg, loosely based on the books by Kass Morgan. Seasons 1-2 are on Netflix, and season 4 is now airing on the CW.

Thanks for reading! More posts on books, film, and writing can be found on my website at Lorel Clayton Author.

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