TV: The 100 (Season 3)

Something about The 100 makes me forget, between seasons, just how very good it is. I suspect it’s the same thing that delayed my interest initially: it simply doesn’t look like it should be that good. But every season, after a few episodes of warm-up, it quickly reveals itself to be one of the most engrossing, thoughtful, and powerful narratives on television, if not one of the most ambitious.

As season three begins, the young survivors of the hundred—along with the many other adults who survived the failing space stations—have established themselves in the wreckage of their ship, now the city of Arkadia. In the wake of the vicious clash which saw Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and the hundred triumph over the treacherous citizens of Mount Weather, Arkadia is looking to forge a peaceful way forward. To that end, Clarke, whose leadership against Mount Weather has gained her notoreity and respect, is working to leverage her influence with their leader Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) to become a new Grounder tribe, “Skaikru.” Unfortunately, the arrival of a new group of space survivors turns up, led by the fiery Charles Pike (Michael Beach), who has lost so many of his friends to Grounder brutality that he can’t accept the attempts of Clarke and Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) to make peace. Meanwhile, Theolonious Jaha (Isaiah Washington), who has left the group in a quixotic, spiritual search for the fabled “City of Light,” actually finds it—but his discovery, which may explain the mysteries of the end of the world, only leads to new threats.

Over its first two seasons, The 100 evolved from YA survival drama to a complex, gripping war epic. To start, season three continues in that vein, and felt like a show creatively spinning its wheels: new factions arrive to perpetuate the conflicts that previous events may otherwise have resolved, forcing the heroes to evaluate their moral codes and make new decisions. More of the same, in other words, well enough executed but not particularly innovative by the show’s standards. But about seven or eight episodes in, the season turns the corner, enlivening its science fictional scope and raising the stakes astronomically with an ingeniously conceived new threat. The second half of the season not only justifies the slow-build of the first, but redeems an extremely controversial mid-season plot twist—one that justifiably enraged large segments of The 100′s fan base, and yet ultimately serves the logic of the greater narrative.

Meanwhile, the show continues its impressive track record of thrusting its characters into thorny, moral gray areas, and carefully shading their points of view to make them relatable, even when their decisions are questionable. Survival ethics continues to be a major theme, but the show also looks at religious zealotry, the politics of fear, and the severe emotional consequences of grief, guilt, and trauma. The huge, diverse cast does a fantastic job with the material, even at its most melodramatic: it’s a particularly strong acting year for Lindsey Morgan (Raven), Devon Bostick (Jasper), and Marie Avgeropoulos (Octavia), but really there isn’t a weak link in the cast. My favorite character is still the snarky, resourceful neutralist Murphy (Richard Harmon), who always seems to be accidentally in the thick of things.

Transcending a slow start and the show’s familiar imperfections (questionable medical science and superhuman pain resilience continue to plague the show), the third season of The 100 ultimately escalates into another first-rate science fiction drama, with a truly epic finale. Looking forward to the next chapter.

The 100 Season 3 Poster

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