Electron Dance
30Apr/15Off

The Farfield: The 100

The Farfield is an occasional series where I write about something other than gaming.

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Against my better judgement, I sat my eyeballs in front of The 100 when it started on E4 last year. And I found it offensive. Drawn from a YA novel of the same name by Kass Morgan, it throws teenagers into a post-apocalypse Lord of the Flies type scenario. These teenagers who had been locked up for god knows how long were let loose on a world where quite possibly they could have perished in seconds - yet they acted so flippantly. Yo party on, everyone. The show felt flippant.

A year later, there is no more flippancy. What we have is brutality and grimness.

In retrospect, I think the production team got the tone all wrong at the start which somewhat stunted its progress. Someone actually used the line “but she's my best friend” as a plea to stop, well, her best friend being executed. The clunky lines kept going. Some of the conspiracy stuff was also a little paint-by-numbers.

But just a few episodes in, one of the principal characters got murdered in a shocker ending. Without any warning, would you believe? Now it's stuff like that which gets my attention but I still thought this might be mere gimmick and not an ingrained part of the show's tapestry.

The 100 gradually revealed itself as one of the various pretenders to Battlestar Galactica's brutal throne, where the writers fix up the storylines so as to catapult our hapless protagonists through ethical quandaries. Many of these shows just look like they're playing BSG dress-up, but The 100 has unexpectedly shown some flair in producing a joined-up plot where actions lead to horrible consequences which to more actions and more horrible consequences.

It's not perfect. Sometimes the motivations switch too quickly. The rules of this fictional world occasionally seem arbitrarily cruel (i.e. as a plot device) including a hefty chunk of dodgy science which underpinned the main second season storyline. And characters frequently do the stupid or angry thing – which is admirably human, but rarely do the characters seem to rise above themselves.

But The 100 doesn’t like the reset button and the chain of consequences is spellbinding. While it seems like the show has a fetish for “torture as necessity” like 24 and BSG before it, neither torture session indulged by the good guys lead to a positive result. In fact the show pushed it much further in the second case: it led to an entirely pointless massacre and, eventually, the death of another major character.

The central conceit of the show is that people faced with extinction will do whatever it takes to survive. This plays out again and again and again. Sometimes there are a few too many agains but it keeps driving characters who have affectations to be whiter than white into getting their hands not just dirty, but bloody. I guess it’s just too dirty, sometimes, and I feel the writers are trolling me. It’s a hazardous line to follow because it’s this kind of relentlessness that caused me to sign off The Walking Dead when the first TV season finished.

But ill consequences follow each time a decision is made to downplay the rights of the individual for the rights of the collective. Each of the three factions in the second season - the Sky People, the Grounders, the Mountain Men - commit such heinous shit for survival that they wind up almost destroying themselves. The moral of this future fable seems to be that survival at all costs is a dangerous paradox.

I’ve just finished watching the end of the second season and I have to applaud the writers for taking things in a completely different direction from what I expected, which made for a more despairing and grim end than the despairing and grim end I had imagined.

Of course, I still haven’t watched any Game of Thrones yet.

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  1. I’ve not really heard much about this show at all, but it sounds like one I might enjoy. Thanks!

  2. I couldn’t tell you if you’re going to love or hate it and watching the early episodes is a bit of a thankless task.

    I actually put off watching the two-part finale because I had a feeling it was going to be pretty grim. And it was.


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