The 100: sci-fi, & teenage homicide
Warning: spoilers abound
Sometimes I feel a bit too old to be watching The 100. The Netflix/CW series can be broken down as one part science fiction, one part post-apocalyptic thriller, and one part teen drama. Set on Earth about a century after supposed nuclear annihilation, one hundred teenage delinquents are sent down from a dying, orbiting space habitat (The Ark) in order to see whether the Earth is survivable for humans. They discover a livable but hostile world filled with mutant animals, toxic storms, and various human clans known as “grounders” that the teens fight, negotiate, and eventually develop unbreakable bonds with.
As a 22-year-old man, there are some parts of the show that maybe aren’t directed towards me—the angsty indie music scenes, hunky shirtless woodsmen named after US presidents, or characters like Finn the dreamboat teen rebel who is a carbon copy of Bender from The Breakfast Club (if he massacred a village of innocent people). Nevertheless, there are some key strengths to the show’s concept that keep me coming back. The 100 has a ruthless reputation for breaking the hearts of its teenage fans, often killing off favourite characters and graphically portraying humanity’s tolerance for torture and mass-murder in the name of security.
The show takes from many traditional concepts of drama and sci-fi, but makes significant changes to the actors who occupy these roles. Younger characters often hold more sway than older ones, and female characters and visible minorities are regularly placed in positions of power and decision-making. We see this shift develop from the very first season, and even more as the fascinating cultural behaviours of grounders are increasingly revealed.
The series’ main protagonist, Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), is a young woman who inspires tremendous admiration among the teens and respect among the grounders as a heroic leader. After being forced to kill her massacre-mad boyfriend from season one to maintain peace, Clarke is revealed to be bisexual, developing a romantic relationship with Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Formerly an antagonist in the show, Lexa is about the same age as Clarke, as well as supreme commander to thousands of grounders in 12 separate clans.
The Clarke-Lexa relationship was praised by many of the series’ viewers, and was an unexpected twist for a series that for most of its first season was set up like Degrassi-meets-Zombieland. Unfortunately, The 100 shows its fans no mercy, with the relationship tragically cut short by a stray bullet killing Lexa in the recent third season episode, “Thirteen”.
Fans were very upset about Lexa’s untimely demise, and accusations of the series going the way of “another dead lesbian” TV trope started flying all over the Internet. Over 12,000 signatures were collected on change.org in an effort to get Lexa back on the series, and over $40,000 was raised by fans of the show for The Trevor Project, which deals in suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. The fundraisers claimed that as an inspirational figure for the community, Lexa’s death “left many with a feeling of emptiness and betrayal. This is not something ‘sorry’ can fix.”
But don’t write off this show’s progressive chops just yet. Show creator Jason Rothenburg expressed his sympathy for the fans’ loss, first explaining that Debnam-Carey has a lead role in a rival TV series and inevitably had to be written off within the first half of this season. For Rothenburg, “[The 100] is a world where, we've done it before, no one is safe ... there are no happy endings in the sense of easy way outs [sic]."
In many ways, this debate has clouded other aspects that have given The 100 a progressive edge as a TV show. Strong female bonds persist such as the one between teen outcast Octavia Blake (Thunder Bay’s Marie Avgeropoulos) and Indra (Adina Porter), a powerful, merciless warrior of African origin who trained Blake in armed combat.
African-American men are also cast in critical roles in the series. Ricky Whittle, who plays grounder heartthrob Lincoln, has long been a fan favourite as long-standing loyalties to his tribe are overcome by his love for Octavia. Jaha (Isaiah Washington) and Pike (Michael Beach) both play Chancellors of The Ark with wildly different approaches. Pike in particular is a new, power-hungry character especially hardened by grounder atrocities.
In season three, a new story starts developing with Monty Green, a teenage botany wiz played by Asian-American actor Christopher Larkin who is reunited with his mother Hanna (played by Vancouver actor Donna Yamamoto) who expects her son to follow Pike’s barbarous commands. The last episode to air, known as “Terms of Conditions”, focuses on the personal life of two guards (Bryan and Nathan), a biracial gay couple, arguing over whether to support Pike as Chancellor.
For many fans however, the show’s existing progressive placements do not make up for the damage done by Lexa’s death. The latest episode of The 100 was panned by viewers who are still soured by “Thirteen”, and the unexpected absence of Clarke. Nevertheless, the show’s direction since Lexa’s death has everyone paying close attention, and depending on how you read into this show, she might return to the series in one form or another.comments powered by Disqus