The following is a quick critical recap of The 100 and its first 9 episodes, to get you guys up to speed for a weekly recap of the remaining episodes of the first series and the entire upcoming second series.
The 100 Season 1 Episodes 1 to 5
The Earth was rendered uninhabitable 97 years ago. A few lucky humans escaped to an orbiting Ark. They now send their prisoners, made up entirely of handsome high school-age kids, to Earth to check whether it’s okay to return. There are people with dark make-up. And acid fog. The only black kid dies first. Which is lame.
The 100 Season 1 Episode 6 ‘His Sister’s Keeper’
Starting with a flashback to Octavia’s secret birth 17 years ago, before cutting to the present, where she finds herself captured by the Grounders. Bellamy, Finn and Jasper gather a team to look for Octavia. Witnessing a funeral purge from the Ark after the previous episode’s failed mission provides a sad, glittering, almost beautiful ‘meteor’ shower above the 100’s heads.
What follows is a journey into the jungle intercut with scenes of Octavia’s attempts to escape the Grounder camp, which are infinitely more interesting than the overdramatic teenage bickering, needless exposition and often-pretentious posturing among the search party. Marie Avgeropolous spends most of the episode alone, having to rely on expressions and physical performance, and has her best moments of the series so far doing so.
For a gentrified American show like The 100, this episode actually features a refreshing amount of grittiness. The Grounders bare their teeth for real, while also revealing a certain ambiguity about them, and there are not one but two fairly surprising death sequences, albeit bloodless ones as per its network origins.
The flashback scenes to Octavia’s upbringing do a good job of strengthening her and Bellamy’s relationship, while leaving a fair few plot holes to fill (but which probably never will). Meanwhile, we get an inevitable emotional showdown over Finn between the two girls left behind at the camp, delivered with all the teary soapiness of a rejected One Tree Hill take.
It does no service to either Eliza Taylor or Lindsey Morgan to have their characters, young, potentially strong women dealing with loss, survival and the fate of their little community, reduced to a snarky back-and-forth about a guy. A late twist also reaffirms Bellamy as the most layered character of the entire youth contingent.
Also, Thomas McDonell can not deliver a line.
The 100 Season 1 Episode 7 ‘Contents Under Pressure’
This time around, the orbit-bound adults get more exposure, as contact is established between the ground and the Ark just as a hurricane ravages the landing party’s camp. Conflict arises when Bellamy’s team return with the Grounder who held Octavia captive, intent on some good ol’ torturing business.
Clarke and Raven have to join forces in saving Finn’s life, while Bellamy’s dark side comes out in his interrogation of the captive Grounder, and Abigail and Thelonious engage in Important People Talking About Important Things conversation aboard the Ark.
Most of the dialogue in these sequences is painfully generic, as is it in the following showdown between councillors and relatives of the sacrificed people of the Ark. However, the growing empathy for the characters makes you not mind that so much.
Somehow, they’ve managed to make you care about them, which makes it interesting rather than annoying when two very different love triangles rear their head.
‘Contents Under Pressure’ also starts to push its thematic element a little by asking questions of the greater good versus personal stakes. Of course, it does so in the archetypical bombastic way of an American drama, but thankfully holds back just enough to let the actors have something to do other than merely spouting exposition throughout.
The introduction of Project Exodus, and the complications that presents, provides the mandatory end-of-episode cliffhanger, but one of the better executed ones so far in the series.
The 100 Season 1 Episode 8 ‘Day Trip’
At the beginning of the inventively named ‘Day Trip’, we see a secret order issued to a random 100 member named Dax to kill Bellamy. If he were only slightly less necessary for the viewer’s loyalty to the show, we’d be afraid for him.
It’s also entertaining to see Raven go slightly Misery on his boyfriend Finn. Clark and Bellamy go on an expedition to uncover an old bunker filled with weapons and supplies, and the whole episode takes a generally more subdued tone than the stormy, dramatic ‘Contents Under Pressure.’
There is also a welcome comical touch involving some hallucinogenic nuts, which eases the grip of po-faced self-importance to the entire proceedings, as Octavia attempts to free the Grounder being held captive in the camp.
Octavia’s connection with the mysterious imprisoned Grounder is a focal point of the episode, and despite a healthy dose of the honourable savage trope in that emerging storyline, it’s gripping due to Marie Avgeropolous providing possibly the strongest performance of anyone on the cast.
By comparison, Bellamy and Clark’s dilemma feels entirely formulaic. Eliza Taylor struggles to elevate the stilted dialogue she is given, but Bob Morley does slightly better in a drug-addled showdown with his inner torment.
The makers are also getting the hang of this whole cliffhanger thing, as ‘Day Trip’ ends on a genuinely upsetting sequence. Well done. Oh, and there’s a nice little touch about how guns definitely make everything so much safer all the time.
Oh, and your weekly Thomas McDonell line delivery update: still not hitting a single one, we’re afraid.
The 100 Season 1 Episode 9 ‘Unity Day’
After the relatively intense and trippy ‘Day Trip’, ‘Unity Day’ quickly establishes itself as a set-up episode; a segue of sorts for the seemingly inevitable showdown on both fronts of the world of The 100.
First, in the camp, the youngsters decide the best way to deal with a recent hostage torture crisis and an escape by a tall, muscular, undoubtedly dangerous Grounder warrior, very possibly to help them plan a devastating attack on the under-prepared camp is… to have a party. Because ‘Murrica Unity Day, we guess.
On the Ark, unrest is also brewing, as the Exodus programme is nearing its launch date. The leadership is split on what to do, and a few outcasts plan to save their own arses, but may have to sacrifice a number of lives on-board to do so.
A lot of time is devoted to hushed conversations and covert planning meetings, while on the ground the focus is placed on Finn, who arranges a surprising meeting with the leader of the Grounders. In a dialogue-heavy episode, Clark has finally started adding a third dimension as a character.
Eliza Taylor might just come into her own before the end of the series. The same can not be said for poor Tom McDonell, who still stumbles on every emotion, reaction and piece of exposition.
This is not picking on him; he just utterly fails to imbue Finn, a central character to the ground-based plot, with any sense of empathy or excitement, which undermines so much of the relatively good work being done by Bob Morley and Devon Bostick in the other lead male roles, and makes the love triangle between him, Clarke and Raven completely impotent. The final episodes have a chance to put this right. Somehow. But something has to happen to fix that Achilles heel of the character base.
Also, if the Grounders turn out to be nothing more than misunderstood Terrorizer subscribers, we won’t be entirely surprised.
The 100 is airing now on E4 in the UK. For the latest US TV news,subscribe to SciFiNow and save 30% off the cover price.