One episode was all it took to get me hooked on E4’s newest American export. Based on a young adult novel and from the producers of teen favourites such as Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars, The 100 could easily be dismissed as another teen drama following pretty people in increasingly implausible situations. So far, however, this series has proven itself beyond these potential limitations.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where nuclear warfare has nearly wiped out the entirety of the human race, the surviving human population is living on a space station known as the Ark and can only wait for Earth to return to a survivable state in an estimated one hundred years’ time. Faced with a limited oxygen supply, the Ark tests Earth’s radiation levels by sending one hundred of its juvenile prisoners to the ground on a suicide mission they are not expected to survive. The Ark buys its remaining population an extra month of oxygen to survive on and if the 100 survive then they can begin to consider returning the entire human race to Earth for good.
In the first episode, the 100 are introduced to an experience denied to the human race for over three generations. They are on the Ground, they are breathing fresh air and they are no longer governed by the Ark’s strict rations for survival and a law that sees all crime as punishable by death if the perpetrator is older than eighteen. The majority of the 100 are therefore criminals – murderers and thieves who have been imprisoned until they turn eighteen – whilst others have been punished for knowing too much, or being the second born in a world governed by its one-child policy. Their arrival on the ground signals a reprieve from their Ark-stated death sentence and this new found freedom becomes a second chance at life and evolves into ideas of rebellion against their earlier restricted lifestyle whilst being able to do ‘whatever the hell we want’ for the first time in their lives.
The show’s strength stems from its exploration of society, morality and lawlessness. Finding themselves on the Ground without any support systems in place forces the teens of the 100 to create their own society in order to survive even if it compromises their morality and challenges their personal convictions. On the Ground, there is no law and the show questions their ability to survive on their own without Ark interference. The whole premise can feel a little Lord of the Flies at times, but what that book did well, this TV show does stylishly, with a great cast and a fantastic soundtrack.
The world of The 100 is a fascinating one, questioning ideas of leadership, sacrifice and punishment across the two very different environments of the restrictions of the Ark and the apparent freedom of being on the Ground, although it is a freedom that is constantly challenged the longer the 100 spend on the Ground and the more threats are made apparent to them. Rules are necessary for their survival, yet the characters themselves are flawed and often selfish individuals, each with their own reasons for helping and/or defying the Ark. Personalities clash against one another as they fight for the control needed in order to create some semblance of order amongst the established lawlessness.
As always, America’s viewing figures determine the future of these shows despite their successes with a UK audience, but the fact that The 100 has already begun filming its second season and debuted on E4 in the channel’s biggest ever launch for a premiere series are definitely great signs for the enduring impact of this dystopian teen drama. The 100 is definitely one to take notice of.