March 12, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The 100″”


“There are no good guys,” titular Chancellor of post-apocalyptic Earth Abby Griffin (Paige Turco) told her teenage daughter Clarke (Eliza Taylor), who had supplanted her as de facto warrior queen of humanity, toward the end of THE 100’s Season 2 finale tonight.  Abby was trying to comfort Clarke, who had just massacred men, women and children by way of radiation poisoning to save her own people from systematic execution, but the sentiment could serve as the mission statement for Jason Rothenberg’s The 100, CW’s darkest, most ambitious and least romantic drama, a treatise on the horrors of leadership in the guise of a sci-fi adventure story.  The 100 traffics in the kind of stomach-punch twists and existential angst that might get it more of the attention it deserves if it aired on a network other than CW, home of pretty teen supernaturals and lighthearted rom-coms.

To be sure, The 100 has itself come a long way from its own all-too-CW premise, a sort of Planet of the Teens where the survivors of Earth’s nuclear holocaust, circling the planet in a giant spaceship called the Ark, decided to test out the safety of the surface after nearly a century by sending down a hundred good-looking young convicts.  The 100 at that stage was burdened by too many obvious influences–it was Lord of the Flies, it was The Hunger Games, it was Battlestar Galactica, it was Lost and more.  Although the show was entertaining, everything felt slightly second-hand.

Season 2, however, refined itself down to something remarkably tough-minded–even unrelenting.  The all-teen concept had been eliminated at the end of Season 1 (along with virtually all of the will-they-or-won’t-they romantic storylines), when the Ark’s inhabitants came down to Earth before they ran out of oxygen and had to interact with the young people, who were now more experienced warriors than they were.  The show also introduced two groups of surface survivors of all ages, the wild tribal “grounders” and a more conventionally civilized band who were confined to a military base in nearby Mount Weather with its own air filtration system (thus, the “mountain people”). and who were so polite that they were clearly up to no good.

The terrible things leaders must do to protect their people has been the everpresent theme of The 100.  Back on the Ark, older wrongdoers were sent summarily out the air hatch (including Clarke’s father), while then-Chancellor Thelonious Jaha (Isiah Washington) and his second-in-command Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) made their peace with the potential sacrifice of The 100 by sending them to a possibly deadly Earth.  Things, however, became much more brutal in this last stretch of episodes.  The mountain people, headed by the ruthless Cage Wallace (Johnny Whitworth), discovered that they could immunize themselves against the radiation outside their fortress by transfusing the Ark people’s mutated bone marrow–killing the donor–and ordered their mass murder.  Clarke, who began The 100 as the show’s semi-Katniss Everdeen, all spunk and reluctant heroism, allowed her own people to be bombed by the mountain forces, in order not to reveal that she had a spy inside Mount Weather (shades of The Imitation Game).  Almost immediately, though, Clarke was herself betrayed by her most trusted ally (and seeming potential romantic interest), the grounder leader Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who traded for the safety of her own people by clearing the way for Cage’s troops to slaughter the Ark’s group.

That led to tonight’s finale, written by Rothenberg and directed by Dean White, which began with Thelonious, who’d been trekking across the desert for several episodes with Murphy (Richard Harmon), in search of a rumored “City of Light,” literally throwing an innocent teen to be eaten by a sea monster in order to save his own life.  The main action was that story writ large at Mount Weather, where Clarke first murdered Cage’s father (another tormented one-time leader) Dante (Raymond J. Barry) and then resorted to irradiating the base, killing even the innocent inside, in order to free her mother and the other captives.  This is not the kind of moral struggle you’ll find on The Flash.

The 100 doesn’t mess around, and by the end of the finale, even Jasper (Devon Bostick), who’d started the show as its goofy comedy relief, had been scarred by the ugly death of his mountain girlfriend in his arms.  Clarke finished the season by deciding to walk the Earth alone like Caine on Kung Fu, so burdened by her own guilt that she couldn’t bear to be with the people she’d saved.  Meanwhile, Thelonious found his city, which appears to be ruled by an artificial intelligence (in the hologram form of Erica Cerra) that seems to have been the force that destroyed Earth in the first place–and which now has a new nuclear bomb that Thelonious brought with him from space.  So don’t expect the series to get much lighter next season.

Despite ratings that are mediocre even by CW standards, The 100 managed to get renewed (it’s been reported that it and a few other borderline CW renewals may have been encouraged by the terms of the network’s Netflix deal, which automatically includes all continuing series but not all new ones).  Although the show is harsh, it’s consistently gripping and well-plotted, with strong production values and plenty of effective action sequences, and it has a formidable protagonist in Taylor, who can swing from steely determination to heartbreak in the course of a single scene.  While the larger broadcasters are busily experimenting with dramas to remind viewers of what they see on cable, The 100 already has that kind of scope and seriousness of purpose under everyone’s noses–on the network people would least expect.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."