How ‘The 100′ Quietly Became the CW’s Best Show
In just the last few years, the CW has transitioned out of your run-of-the-mill teen dramas into making itself a major competitor with the bigger networks. Holdovers with huge cult fanbases like Supernatural still remain, buoyed by new hit offerings like Arrow, Jane the Virgin, and The Flash. But hidden amongst its star-studded lineup is a show that has quietly become the network’s best offering. The 100, which is currently in its third season, has risen through the ranks of the CW as a powerfully nuanced story breaking through barriers left and right.
Season 1 of the show kicked off in 2014, following the travails of 100 child prisoners sent down from an orbiting space station to a post-nuclear apocalypse Earth, hundreds of years in the future. With the directive of discovering if an irradiated Earth is still livable, it starts out with a massive Lord of the Flies vibe. The kids, ranging in age from early teens to early 20s, set up their own makeshift society, only to find they’re not alone down on the planet’s surface.
But the real genius of The 100 doesn’t take hold until the second season, when the adults make it down to Earth. Half the children have been taken prisoner by an underground survivalist society, while those that escaped capture unite with their adult counter-parts and the natives above ground for an elaborate rescue mission spanning the length of the season. All the while, it brings up questions about the nature of war, survival, and some intense interpersonal relationships.
All this led into the groundbreaking episode before the two-part season finale, where two of our female leads, one from the space station and one the commander of the native tribe they dub “Grounders,” share an affectionate kiss. Of course in this day and age, such an occurrence should be far from surprising, but even Modern Family didn’t do the same until its second season, making The 100‘s choice all that more bold. AV Club hits on this point to a tee in its review of the episode.
The kiss is treated as a passionate bond between two individuals. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, and progressive in its refusal to qualify the kiss as anything weird or different. This is 2015, so such displays of affection shouldn’t need to be praised, but considering the lack of representation in so much of popular culture, it’s absolutely worth mentioning.
Combine this with a high-stakes story that constantly keeps us guessing, and we have a recipe for a show the contains far more depth than anything the CW has ever aired. It’s unafraid to kill off main characters to serve the greater plot, it makes us question the very morality of the people who are supposed to be the heroes of our story, and every relationship among its ensemble cast plays an integral role to the greater plot. You can look back on the pilot episode compared to the current season and see every character having undertaken a massive yet logical evolution, a quality typically shared by truly great shows on networks like AMC and HBO.
It’s easy to lose a show like this in the shuffle of shows more people are talking about, especially on a network with a history of specializing in pulpy teenage drama. But The 100 is a story that could function anywhere on TV, resounding with audiences of all demographics. Season 3 has confirmed all this, with its last episode leading Collider to ask whether it’s outstripping even Game of Thrones (the answer: It very well might be). More and more people are beginning tune in, and soon, it won’t be long before it enters into the elite tier of dramatic television.
The 100 airs on Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.