Upon hearing the premise of “The 100”, you’d be forgiven for dismissing it as just a CW “Hunger Games” knock-off. The show is set a century after a nuclear explosion devastated the Earth, with humankind surviving in a space station. Their way of living, though, isn’t sustainable anymore, so they send 100 disposable juvenile delinquents down to the ground to see if Earth is inhabitable.
Spoiler alert: it is, but it’s definitely not hospitable. Surviving clans of warrior people known as “Grounders” quickly start war with these strange interlopers from the sky.
We’re basically saturated with YA dystopian fare in pop culture, so for most people, the show didn’t really register.
But that’s not the case for “The 100.”
Now early in its third season, the show may have the requisite beautiful actors (you’re telling me none of these girls are growing a unibrow after being stranded on Earth? OKAY) and romantic drama for a CW show, but its quickly proven its got the darkness, violence and ambiguous morality to rival any cable show. Add in its incredibly progressive takes on race, gender and sexuality, and you’ve got yourself must-see-TV.
The main protagonist of the show is a woman named Clarke, and in the first few episodes she was a real wet blanket — like many CW protagonists (ugh, think Elena from The Vampire Diaries), she was the boring voice of reason who had to convince the more interesting characters to do the right thing. It’s a pleasant surprise, then, that Clarke becomes one of the most interesting and complex characters on television.
She’s tough, smart and a natural leader, but she also makes tough choices along the way. You know those questions that are like, “There’s a car of 5 people about to crash to their death, and you can do nothing or pull a lever, but if you pull a lever, you save the people but cause the death of an innocent bystander-what do you do?” Yeah, Clarke has to make those decisions all the time, and her choices aren’t always commendable.
That’s the other great thing about The 100 — Clarke is a woman, but she’s the leader.
No one ever comments on her stance as a female leader. When we first meet the Grounders, they are led by a badass warrior named Anya, when we eventually meet the fearsome Commander, she’s a young woman named Lexa. Their gender is never brought up or seen as a weakness; these women are great leaders and warriors, and that’s all that matters. It’s 2016 and we’re living in a time where people aren’t sure they could see Hillary Clinton as a president simply because of her gender.
Despite all the war and death and violence and lack of shampoo, at least the world of “The 100” truly doesn’t care about gender norms.
And it doesn’t care a bit about sexuality either.
Clarke starts off the series in your typical tortured love triangle, making heart-emoji eyes at the cute good guy, but eventually, in a scene that led to a Tumblr meltdown, she kisses Lexa. Most of the time, people shipping same-sex couples are left to their fan-fiction devices, but in this case, those people were right on the money — the heat between the two was very real, and #Clexa (every show needs a couple name!) now trends regularly when the episodes airs. No one questions each other’s sexually, no comments from other people, no declaration from Clarke that she likes girls, too. It’s just not a big deal at all, and that nonchalant approach to sexuality is exactly what makes the show a big deal.
“The 100” doesn’t deserve to be compared to the endless amount of dystopian shows out there. It’s something different and special altogether.
With plenty of well-developed characters, political intrigue, romance death, and war, “The 100” is an ambitious, sprawling show, and it’s clearly only just getting started.
Tune in to the CW at 9 p.m. Thursdays — you don’t want to miss it.