The 100

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Whenever I say this people look at me like I’m nuts, but I absolutely, 100% mean it when I say The 100 is the best written one-hour drama on any network right. When I say that people immediately throw out the usual award-winning shows… Game Of Thrones, last year’s break out hit Mr. Robot, or the underrated/under-seen Manhattan. I’m not saying those are bad shows or that they’re not better overall than The 100, I’m saying that the CW is laughing in the faces of anyone who dismisses at them as a “teen soap” channel, or the DC-comic channel. Yes, this show is action-packed, post-apocalyptic, YA-novel-based. It also is led by a bisexual female character (technically, the writers have basically said no one’s sexuality is up for discussion because the characters are past that in this world. Race wars are also off the table.) who is incredibly complex and spends the first two seasons plummeting down a moral rabbit hole along with the other 100 criminal and hormonal teens who were sent to Earth to see if it still habitable.

This show does not pander or condescend to its young audience base. It gives them an intelligent conversation that they are worthy of, as are the many adults who watch the show. It also doesn’t begin the show by giving you teens who already know everything. They are all still learning and shaping who they are as individuals, which is why I thought of it when I was watching The Fifth Wave. Unlike the feature, The 100 TV series shakes off any “clunkiness” early on and hasn’t dropped it since. By episode three, the show had really begun to find its voice, but I fell in love with it watching episode 5, “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” and it is that episode we’ll be breaking down tonight.

The Show

The 100 is a post-apocalyptic TV drama series that premiered on The CW in March, 2014. The series was developed by Jason Rothenberg and is based on the YA trilogy by Kass Morgan.

The series follows a group of teens: Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia, Jasper, Monty, Raven, Finn, and Wells as they become the first humans to return to Earth after a devastating war. The show also focuses on Clarke’s mother, Abby, council member Kane, and Chancellor Jaha, who still live in “The Ark,” the space station the teens hail from. The show is currently airing its third season. The first two seasons are available for viewing on Netflix. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

The Breakdown

Cast:

CLARKE, the actual leader of the teens. She has medical knowledge learned from her mother and excellent survival skills. She has a thick wall of practicalness around her emotions.
BELLAMY, the self-proclaimed leader of “the hundred” after sneaking onto the drop ship to be with his sister. Unbeknownst to the others, he shot the chancellor and put him in critical condition before leaving. He exists to protect his sister but is otherwise apathetic.
FINN, Clarke’s love interest. Kind, easy-going, and often inspirational for Clarke, he’s a glass half-full kind of guy.
RAVEN, a mechanical wiz who stole a ship to get down to Earth, with help from Abby, in order to see if the teens are still alive since their communications half broken down. She is also an old friend/girlfriend of Finn’s.
OCTAVIA, Bellamy’s younger sister. She grew up hidden under the floorboards of the drop ship. She is as stubborn as her brother and more idealistic.
ABBY, Clarke’s mother. A doctor and council member on The Ark. The teen experiment was her idea.
KANE, Another council member. He is quick to sacrifice a few for the good of the many without thinking of the moral cost.
JAHA, The current chancellor on The Ark. He sent his own son down with the teens in order to show those around him that he and his family are not exempt from sacrifice simply because he is the chancellor.

Storyline

A-Story: On the Ark, they are still running out of oxygen and it is taking its toll on the health of the citizens causing the council members to debate whether or not to kill 300 citizens so that the rest may live a little longer.

B-Story: Raven lands on Earth and needs to get word back to The Ark that the teens are alive, however Bellamy has stolen the radio to keep that from happening.

Previously on The 100:

Clarke finally let her guard down around Finn after learning how her childhood friend Wells died and that her mother is the cause of her father’s execution. In the heat of the moment the two sleep together.

Bellamy shot the chancellor before getting on the drop ship and heading to Earth. He is unaware that Chancellor Jaha survived.

Raven and Abby fixed one of the shuttles and Raven is currently flying it down to Earth.

Season One, Episode Five “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”

B: Clarke and Finn lie in bed together. She tells him that she did sleep with him because emotions were running high, it genuinely meant something to her. He playfully teases her about the statement.

A: Abby is in prison for having helped Raven. Jaha tells her that she will be given work release to help with the rise of health situations. He offers her extra oxygen to make sure she is at her best. Abby refuses to take more than anyone else’s share.

A: Jaha tells Abby they have no choice but to sacrifice citizens to make up for the lack of oxygen. Abby wants them to wait for word from Raven before they make a decision. (Inciting Incident)

A: Jaha scolds Abby for letting Raven go. Abby finally takes some air but maintains her faith that Raven will come through. (Decision)

B: Raven flies towards her Earth. The shuttle is rocking and not stable. She attempts to maintain her cool though she panics internally.

TITLES

B: Clarke wants to share supplies from the secret bunker she and Finn are in with the other teens. Finn agrees but won’t do it because he wants to keep the space to themselves.

B: Finn tells Clarke he wanted “it to be her too” (referring to their night together). They kiss.

B: Clarke and Finn see the ship fly in, as do the teens back at the drop ship. Everyone is thrilled except Bellamy. (Inciting Incident)

B: Finn wants to take a moment with Clarke to appreciate everything the teens have done before the “adults” arrive and take back control. Clarke takes a flat three seconds and heads out with Finn behind her.

B: Octavia tells Bellamy they should go now to protect the ship from “grounders” (people who lived on Earth before the teens arrived). Bellamy refuses, they will go in the morning.

A: Abby tests a young girl who is now blind in one eye. Her father is worried and is angry that no one is telling the people what is going on and causing all of the problems.

A: The father is still angry but Abby maintains her cool as he leaves. The moment he’s gone, Abby turns on her assistant and tells him to do nothing but monitor the radio’s to hear word from Raven.

COMMERCIAL

B: Finn and Clarke arrive at the drop ship and find that Bellamy is gone. They chase after him, knowing that he is going after the radio. (Decision)

B: Clarke verbally punishes herself for getting distracted. Finn wants her to relax, but Clarke only pressures herself further.

B: Octavia has followed Bellamy into the woods. He tells her how he shot Jaha so that he could sneak onto the drop ship to protect her. Octavia tells him she won’t let him blame her and runs off.

A: Kane gives Jaha the forms to approve the “culling.” Jaha agrees with the caveat that he is with the victims and Kane will be the new chancellor moving forwards. (Reversal)

B: Bellamy finds Raven passed out inside of the shuttle. He hesitates as he looks at her, but ultimately takes the radio and runs.

B: Bellamy throws the radio into the river and runs out of sight into the forest.

B: Raven wakes and is found by Clarke. They’re both thrilled.

B: Clarke helps Raven out of the shuttle. Raven spots Finn and kisses him. Clarke watches nearby, hurt. (Midpoint)

COMMERCIAL

B: Raven faints. Clarke quickly moves to tend to the girl.

B: Raven remembers she has to call Abby with the radio but it’s gone. Clarke blames herself for Bellamy getting to it first.

A: Abby scolds Jaha for his cowardice in sacrificing himself. Jaha is steadfast in his decision.

A: Abby finds the video her husband made before he was executed and makes a decision to use it. (Midpoint)

Octavia hears something in the forest. She runs and falls, rolling down a hill and getting knocked out.

B: Raven, Clarke, and Finn find Bellamy. Raven reveals that Bellamy shot Jaha. Bellamy attacks her.

B: Raven says that Bellamy’s shot didn’t kill Jaha. Clarke sees the opportunity and tells Bellamy that he’s not a murderer than and everything will be okay if they call The Ark and the adults come down.

A: Abby’s husband’s video plays through the entire space station, informing them of the lack of oxygen. The military rush to Abby but are unable to shut it down in time. (Low Point)

B: Finn apologizes to Clarke but she’s cold towards him saying that it’s okay and what they had is over and meant nothing.

B: They find the radio, but it may be broken and will take hours to dry out to know for sure. Clark flips on Bellamy but Raven has an idea. (Low Point / New Decision)

A: The father Abby met before arrives while she is meeting with the council. He and hundreds of others volunteer to sacrifice their lives so that others may live. The council is shocked. (New Decision)

COMMERCIAL

B: At the drop ship, Raven barks orders to all the teens as she works on her new project. She talks to Clarke on Abby’s behalf, but Clarke is still angry with her mother.

A: Kane gives Jaha the full list of volunteers, still baffled by the citizens’ behavior. Jaha tells Kane to remember the events when he takes over as chancellor.

A: Jaha will still volunteer. Kane asks Jaha to stay and lead.

A: The father from earlier says goodbye to his daughter. He cries as he hugs her but doesn’t say a word, allowing her to be oblivious.

A: Jaha is no longer volunteering. Abby asks Kane what changed his mind. He says “the truth.”

A: Kane tells Abby the radio is being monitored. She is thankful.

A: Jaha thanks all of the volunteers while on the ground the teens get Raven’s homemade flares ready. It’s time to let the volunteers go, Jaha presses the button himself.

A/B: The teens set off the flares as the volunteers slowly die. Jaha gives a mournful speech. (Climax)

COMMERCIAL

A: Abby enters the cell where the now dead volunteers lay. She and her assistants quietly close the eyes of all the dead.

B: The kids continue to watch the flares as they’re set off. Clarke wonders aloud next to Bellamy if these count as shooting stars she can wish on. Bellamy says he wouldn’t know what to wish for. He asks what she would wish. She looks over at Finn with his arms wrapped around Raven.

Octavia wakes from the sound of the flares. She is horrified as she sees a grounder hovering over her.

A: Jaha and Abby watch the sky and drink. They see the flares and are shocked.

Conclusion

I sobbed so. hard. when I first saw this episode. Even in rewatching it and seeing all those volunteers slowly die I tear up. Absolutely heartbreaking. So when people try and roll their eyes at this being a “teen show” I have to throw it right back at them and tell them that they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Just because HBO and Netflix can have nudity and cable channels get extra violence and language does not mean that it’s higher quality.

Now in terms of breaking this down, I initially put Clarke’s storyline as the A and Abby as B. For most episodes that is the order. Even in this one I believe the screentime is fairly even, so Abby’s storyline received top billing for simply having more beats and the larger emotional impact. The show has a clear four act structure, though you of course could argue for five. Everything before the titles is set up and everything before that first commercial I consider Act One as it results in the driving decision. Act Two brings the first reversal and ends with a Midpoint. Act Three heads into the commercial with the Low Point and, different from other network shows, a decision of how to move into the Climax we see in Act Four. The final moments are a tag that set up the drama of the next episode as well as acting as a resolution.

The reason I believe this Act Three to be different is that with most network shows you lead into the commercial with an “oh no!” moment that resolves after the break. Here it’s not “oh no,” it’s “I have a plan.” The Low Point is when the radio is lost but then Raven already has a solution. For Abby, she’s been caught by the military but the volunteers give the group a new solution heading into the Climax.

You could also argue about the number of storylines in the episode. One of the great things about this show is the sheer number of emotional arcs even if there are minimal stories. It’s very ensemble-focused. Abby, Jaha, and Kane each arc in the space station though Abby is essentially driving the storyline. On Earth, Clarke has a clear arc in her relationship with Finn and how it effects her handling of the situation at hand, but Finn and Bellamy each alter by episode’s end as well. The writers are incredibly economical in showing the changes of all of these characters without stalling the story at all.

I truly hope you are all watching and learning from this show. It just began Season Three and it always appears that these writers really push their abilities to their limits as they’re creating each story. The likelihood that they will ever get award or main stream critical attention is low but I truly believe that this will be a show that will live on as a premium example of our current golden age of television.

Happy Writing!

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