Reeling it in: Thrilling and emotional, ‘The 100’ worth watching

“The 100”

The CW (available on Netflix)

45 episodes

 

This week was one of those bleak January ones where there was next to nothing new at the theaters and little enough time to go to the movies anyway. As I’ve done before, I thought I’d pick a new movie online, some smaller indie, maybe a hidden gem, but as happened several times before, the movie turned out to be a big disappointment.

The movie this time was “Mojave,” a “cat and mouse thriller” starring the kid from “Tron” and that guy who flew the X-Wing Fighter. I picked it because the latter, Oscar Isaac, is a really good actor, and I believe by this time two years from now, he’s going to be a full-fledged movie star — it just won’t be “Mojave” that gets him there. The movie was dull, pretentious, unbelievable, choppy, etc., etc., etc.

For a critic, however, that review is really hard to write. Essentially I’m saying, “Hey, let me introduce you to a movie that you’ve never heard of, that you most likely would never have stumbled over, and then advise you not to see it.” Why do you need me, in that case? Better to just let nature take its course.

That said, I got to thinking of what I really would like to tell people about — what’s really got me interested lately. Of all things, it’s a TV show.

Now, I feel very strongly about going to the movies. I don’t really like streaming movies if I can avoid it, and I have no intention of turning this into a “film and television” column. That said, there’s no denying that television is experiencing a golden age right now. There is more quality television now than ever before (I’m sure there’s more bad, too; there’s just more television than ever before, period) and with cable and satellite, and now websites like Amazon and Netflix getting into the programming game, the array of choices is overwhelming. It’s impossible, really. No one can possibly keep up with all the shows that you’re supposed to be watching these days. People will tell you, “You’ve just got to watch (insert ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Friday Night Lights,’ or ‘The Good Wife’) and you think, when am I supposed to do that?

My dad is working his way through every British detective procedural and every week there’s a new one that I absolutely must sit down and take in. I quit even trying. I’ve never seen “The Walking Dead,” and I can’t tell you anything about “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “How I Met Your Mother.” I find the time to keep up with a couple of sitcoms, and a couple of the myriad superhero shows, but I haven’t had a show I was seriously impressed with since “Battlestar Galactica” ended several years ago. That is, until “The 100.” (It’s a terrible title, I know.)

“The 100” (spoken as “The Hundred” not “The One-Hundred,” which helps a little) chronicles the last days of the human race, marooned in a giant space station orbiting the Earth after nuclear war decimated the planet nearly a century ago. A council makes up the government of “the ark,” and justice in this fragile self-contained society is swift. All crimes are capital, unless you are under 18 when you commit said crime, in which case you are locked up until you can be reviewed upon your ascension to adulthood.

The titular hundred represent the population of juvenile offenders who, when the story opens, have been chosen to be the first new human settlers on the ground, if it’s survivable, or a group of expendable martyrs who will afford the rest of the population a few more months of air if it isn’t. The ark is running out of oxygen, and things are getting critical.

The kids are sent to the ground and so begins one of the tensest, bloodiest, high-concept shows I’ve ever seen. There are battles, betrayals, murders, and love. The stakes are insanely high, and then the show just keeps ramping them up. It’s hard to tell you anything about the show, because just about anything in this show counts as a spoiler. I just finished the end of season 2, and all I can say is color me impressed.

“The 100” actually reminds me of “Galactica” as far as the level of tension goes, as well as the insanely complicated character arcs. Characters that you like will go bad, then good again, and then, maybe, crazy? Allegiances ebb and flow like water, and the stakes couldn’t be higher — the very survival of the species. It also reminds me of “Lost,” though I think that show actually got lost toward the end, unable to reconcile all the potential with the demands of weekly storytelling. Just like that show had a flair for killing off characters at a whim, so does “the 100.”

You may read all of the above and think, “I don’t know — sounds weird.” And you’d be right. In fact, the first couple of episodes aren’t all that good, but you’ll just have to brave your way through them. By the third episode, however, the show finds its footing and really takes off. The cast is great including Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick (from “Lost”), and relative newcomers, Aussies Eliza Taylor and Bob Morley as Clarke and Bellamy.

It’s not perfect — at times the action feels stagey, and you can tell this show doesn’t have the budget of “Game of Thrones,” but what works is the show’s ability to follow through on an idea, even one that changes the entire human race, and the moral dilemmas it presents nearly every show. It’s like the show started with the question, “What would you do to save your friends and family?” “Would you do this?” And each time that question is answered, the show doubles down and asks it again. It’s thrilling, and emotional to boot.

I know some of you won’t ever seek this out. I know some of you are thinking, “give it a rest!” Giving your time to a new TV show takes real commitment, but for those that can push on through, “The 100” is something to see.

Grade: A-

“The 100” is rated TV-14, but some of the violence in this show is pretty brutal.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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