June 12, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “The 100″”


Season 1 of CW’s THE 100 worked better than logic suggested it should, considering that it was basically a thrift shop of plotlines and tropes from other, more ambitious fantasies, some aimed at teens (The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies), some not (Lost, Battlestar Galactica).  The post-apocalyptic survival stories moved briskly, sparked by a strong lead performance by Eliza Taylor as spunky heroine Clarke, and managed to generate a fair amount of excitement.

Tonight’s season finale, written by series creator Jason Rothenberg and directed by Dean White (who must wish he had just a fraction of the production budget HBO pours into Game of Thrones–that mutant deer in the pilot, for example, was just about the last one the budget allowed), had plenty of life-or-death crises both on Earth and in space.  On the ground, there was the final battle between the teens led by Clarke, who’d arrived from the Ark space-station to test out the Earth for re-population, and the Grounders who were already in residence, led by Anya (Dichen Lachman, a veteran of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).  The children of the Ark won, but the fates of leading men (and romantic rivals for Clarke) Finn (Thomas McDonell) and Bellamy (Bobby Morley), Bellamy’s sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropolous) and engineer Raven (Lindsey Morgan), among others, was left in doubt, as all of them had either sustained possibly fatal wounds or were in the line of fire when Clarke and Jasper (Devon Bostick) detonated the fuel tanks of the drop ship, eradicating the nearby area.  The cliffhanger twist was that no sooner was the battle against the Grounders won than the previously-mentioned but never-before-seen Mountain people made their appearance, armed with tear gas and automatic rifles, and Clarke woke up in a quarantine room a la 2001 (very, very white, with a Van Gogh on the wall), clueless about her captors, their aims or her comrades.

Meanwhile, up in space the adult inhabitants of the Ark outdid each other with self-sacrifice, as Kane’s (Henry Ian Cusack) attempt to be the one left behind to make sure the Ark made it to the ground safely was prevented by Jaha (Isaiah Washington) getting there first.  Kane and Clarke’s mother Abby (Paige Turco) did reach Earth, and Jaha appeared to be doomed, sipping on his prized final bottle of alcohol as he looked out at the planet–although in a story like this, no one’s fate can be considered certain.

There were so many action beats in The 100‘s finale that it lacked the human element that the best episodes of the series have had, with little chance for meaningful interaction between the characters, much less the contemplation of what kind of civilization the new Earth should feature that have given a bit of depth to the show.  Hours like the one where the Grounders infected the newcomers with a pre-battle virus, or where the morality of torturing the captured Grounder Lincoln was at issue, represented the series at its strongest.  (The space station sequences have always been comparatively pompous and heavy-handed.)  This week, the characters mostly barked orders at one another and displayed their bravery.  On the other hand, we were spared the YA romance (who does Finn love more, Clarke or Raven?) that periodically make the series more CW-routine.

Given the set-up at the end of the finale, Season 2 will clearly be a somewhat different animal, what with adults in the mix on Earth and new, seemingly more high-tech villains.  The 100 has had its share of silliness–the Grounders who all spoke perfect colloquial English, the repeated ability to create bombs, walkie-talkies and other technology with some old wires and a piece of tin, like the characters had grown up watching McGyver–but it’s made the most of its own parts, with a more handsome look than the typical CW drama.  Rather than winking at its rip-offs from better sci-fi (although one imagines that the guest star appearances by Battlestar Galactica performers like Kate Vernon and Alessandro Juliani weren’t completely unconscious), it’s taken itself with the right amount of seriousness, and while her two swains were somewhat interchangeable, Taylor has been a convincingly tough and vulnerable heroine.

The 100 will retain its strong Arrow lead-in next fall, so there’s no reason to think the ratings will falter.  It’s a stew of ingredients that may have been tastier in their original dishes, but it’s nevertheless a fairly satisfying one.


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."