After ‘The Walking Dead’ betrayed me the way it did this season, I felt a post-apocalyptic show-shaped hole in my heart that needed to be filled with something. It was then, upon the cries of several friends who felt lonely in their timelines watching every Wednesday and claimed this show had well-rounded female characters that were used for more than furthering men’s storylines, that I decided to give ‘The 100’ a go.
And ‘The 100’ is good. It’s really good. I am here to tell you my favorite– and least favorite– things about it, only 2 days after I finished my marathon, just in time for the midseason finale:
Warning: if you want to skip the spoiler-filled part of this article, don’t read “The bad” section of it, this show has more good things than bad things, anyway.
The female characters:
My friends were right. The four main female characters in this show are layered, complicated, fully-fledged humans that have good traits and bad traits. None of them are perfect and none of them are free of making mistakes: Clarke is strong, observant, caring and a wonderful leader, but she can be cold and ruthless. Raven is smart, self-sufficient, stubborn– in a good way– but her weakness is Finn and the love she has for him. Octavia grew up sheltered, literally, and yet she is kind, understanding, but too big of a risk-taker. Abby is as dedicated to her work as she can be, but she carries the weight of her husband’s death as well as the guilt for sending Clarke down to the ground.
These women can lead multitudes (Anya and the Commander are worth being mentioned here), their worth is respected by their male counterparts and their authority is never questioned because of their sex, but because of their decisions.
They feel like real people. People you would be or people you would relate to. They’re mothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends but that is secondary to who they are, and the show highlights them and the supporting female characters as individuals. It is truly wonderful to watch.
And sure, there are female redshirts in most episodes, but there are also male redshirts, so every episode an equal opportunity killing spree in ‘The 100’.
It gets really dark
This show goes to really dark places for a network show. It shows the worst side of humanity, but it hasn’t yet used rape as the go-to trope to prove humans can be the worst (I promise I am not purposely taking passive-aggressive digs at ‘The Walking Dead’ in every article, they just happen!) It’s not short on violence and torture and gore, but it’s never unjustified, and when it is, there are actual consequences to it. These characters have to kill, they have to question others’ authority, they have to choose what “doing the right thing” entails, whether that is leaving, fighting, or sacrificing one of their own.
They are trying to make it in their new-found world and sometimes they go to really scary lengths to do so. The current storyline at Mount Weather is nothing but terrifying, but it still feels real, even in the context of the show. The ending to this week’s episode was harsh, but you couldn’t see the storyline ending any other way.
Bellamy and Clarke
Even when Bellamy was a jerk, he was still more likable than Finn and the power struggle with Clarke never felt contrived, but real. The realization that they work better as a team than against each other came together very naturally and somewhat early and their fights weren’t dragged for long enough to make their relationship irreparable to the point of a romantic relationship never being possible.
It’s the fact that their current friendship is based on trust and respect that makes them so interesting. Bellamy and Clarke treat each other as equals, and the connection is already there. They understand each other at a different level. Whether it will delve into romantic territory or not is in the writers’ hands, but they’re the fan-favorite pairing for a reason: you have to be blind not to see it.
Character motivations & evolution done right
You can love or hate a character, but you understand their motivations and their evolution feels true to who they are. The concepts of “villain” and “hero” don’t apply on this show. Of course, you are supposed to root for the people in the Ark (Dropship, Camp), but you understand the Grounders. You see why they want to defend themselves, why they want to protect their people. It’s even easy to understand the people behind Mount Weather. There are no villains just for the sake of it in this show, and that makes the groups’ fear of each other more real.
To point at character evolution, I’m going to use three people as examples: Murphy, Octavia and Bellamy.
I still hate Murphy, but he’s evolving, he’s trying. I don’t think I will ever like him. I think driving a little girl to suicide and killing people that let you back into your group after you came back isn’t something that as an audience member I can forget, but I might grow to tolerate him. He knows he is safer with these people, he’s has experienced what the Grounders can do, and he has chosen to behave. If he keeps on doing that, I might even grow to consider him interesting some point. For now I still think he’s disposable, but they haven’t done a bad job with him.
Octavia was sort of a wild card. She’d been sheltered all her life and she was thrown into the woods, no laws. She felt she could do anything. And for the first few episodes, anything was “anyone”. I was scared that was all Octavia was going to be: the token female character that hooks up with everyone, but thank goodness that wasn’t the case. Sure, the whole Lincoln thing was slightly Stockholm syndrome-ish at first, but she has seen herself in situations where she had to step up in ways you wouldn’t expect someone who has spent 16 years of her life speaking to no one but two people to do. She is strong, she can handle herself more than fine, she can put a knife to your Healer’s neck and tell you to bring her boyfriend back and she can walk out of your camp knowing she’s going to get what she wants.
Bellamy’s evolution has been the most surprising to me as I marathoned. If you read my tweets as I watched (they’re basically a summary of this article, except all in caps and with a lot more exclamation marks), and you will see how somewhere along the way I stopped claiming Bellamy was a jerk and he ended up turning into “my bb” (don’t judge me, I call everyone I love “my bb”). I think I pinpoint this happening in the, what I call, “Everyone’s On Drugs” episode, where he came to terms with what he had done in his past and what he no longer wanted to be. Being pardoned for shooting Jaha took a huge weight off his shoulders and he kept getting better from there, turning into a quite outstanding guy, honestly. His relationships with other characters (such as Octavia herself, Clarke, Jasper, even Finn and Murphy) have evolved and so has his humanity.
Bellamy and Octavia’s relationship
Ah, sibling relationships done right warm my heart. Bellamy is overprotective of Octavia and she has had to prove her worth to him several times in order for him to see her as the valuable member of the group that she is. They both had bottled up so much, she being sheltered for so long and him sacrificing so much of his life to keep her safe, but they love each other unconditionally and it is such a wonderful, real relationship in a post-apocalyptic show. They look out for each other’s ultimate survival and happiness, even if that means separating. So far their bond has been strong enough to bring them back to each other every time.
This show was being dragged down by a character whose sole purpose was being in the middle of a love triangle that was actually dealt with pretty well — Raven and Clarke were both like “screw what is expected of us, let’s be mature adults and be friends because we are both amazing” — but he was kept around for no reason. People around him behaved nothing like themselves. He made Murphy look like he was the sane one, and that’s an achievement. Bellamy somehow felt a need to defend him because, I suppose, he related to going down a dark path (difference: Bellamy knew what he had done was bad, Finn kept blaming everyone but himself) and Clarke and Raven were overly forgiving to everything he did, from cheating on Raven to cold killing.
He somehow believed his sudden, obsessive love for Clarke justified killing 18 innocent people in a village and instead of going full-crazy we had to go through him emotionally manipulating Clarke into thinking she was responsible for making him fall in love with her. In his last episode, we had to stand the show trying to tell us there was a good guy underneath it all, and yet all I could think is how horrible he was cheating on a girl like Raven, who would give everything for him, and how unbelievable it was that she would forgive him for it. When he finally gave himself up to die— the one time I have respected him– and I saw Clarke was going to be the one to kill him, I hoped she would do it ruthlessly, but we had to hear her telling him she loved him. In my head she just did it so he would go in peace, but in reality I know she felt it. You’ll get over it, Clarke. I am sure.
Thelonius, Abby and Marcus exchanging roles 99% of the time
The adults’ storylines in this show manage to be just as interesting as the younger leads’ but that doesn’t mean they are always handled correctly. Jaha, Abby and Marcus need to stop with their cockfighting and reach an agreement on leading the camp together instead of constantly going around punishing each other and sacrificing themselves for no one to die, repeatedly. The young people were able to do it and the fact that they can’t is ridiculous.
I really like this show. I will continue to watch for, hopefully, several seasons ahead. Sometimes it’s filled with sci-fi tropes, but it handles them great. It’s unrepentant, it’s non-stop action-packed, it keeps you on your toes and it creates great twists that don’t feel cheap.
There are going to be consequences to Finn’s death and I expect they’ll be dealt with as well as everything has been dealt with before. Now that the worst part of the show is gone, they can focus on everything that works, which is most of it.