HowThe 100 TV Series is Unique in the Dystopian Franchise
Not just a Regurgitation of the Hunger Games
I should preface this article by first defining “dystopia”, which has had a huge rise as a theme and concept saturating our media. Dystopia is defined as “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.” The most famous and widely renowned dystopian story in our culture today is the Hunger Games, whose saga thus far has grossed an insanely impressive, approximate 2.3 billion worldwide at the box office. It would appear that revolution sells. It sells very well. The 100 tv series has been accused of being just another show that chews up the Hunger Games’ successful formula, spitting it out in a slightly different order. However, the two are heavily different, only sharing in the genre. Fans of The 100 applaud it for its gritty dramatics, its fearlessness involving realistic war depiction, its moral dilemmas and its depth of characterization, which all contribute to its true level of uniqueness.
The 100 tv series: Questions of Morality
Most dystopian films and shows require a clear delineation between good and evil. The people at the top of these totalitarian governments are usually depicted as desensitized moral relativists, who have enacted the suffering of their people through an addiction to power and a mental attitude that says “the ends justify the means”. The revolutionists in these stories are usually young adults, special for being willing to stand up for what is truly right and despising what is wrong, which is the oppression of persons or a lack of exercisable free will. With such stories, overarching objective morals are at play. ButThe 100 tv series is known for playing in the more gray areas of morality. I should also point out that The 100 does not involve much totalitarian government or revolution at all.
The 100 begins its first season with the simple idea that “no one is truly innocent” since our main protagonists are one hundred delinquent imprisoned teenagers sent away from a space station to a possibly habitable or inhabitable earth as guinea pigs for repopulation of “the ground”. (The surface of the earth had been radiated to an uninhabitable level, which led humans to flee to space in the first place.) This makes The 100 unique since most dystopian stories involve innocent special kids who were placed into a way of life that they decide to rebel against. Instead, The 100 makes criminals into heroes. The moral question addressed throughout much of the first season is whether criminals will continue to act like criminals given a new fresh slate. The show asks whether or not you are defined by your past. However, it’s not all daisies and roses for their fresh start.
Our protagonists quickly discover that they’re not the only ones on the ground and they are soon thrown into all sorts of survival situations that demand the choice of the lesser of two evils. Rarely, if ever, does a fully righteous path where everyone wins seem to present itself on this show. The writers often allude to such a path being possible but when it comes down to it some group or person or thing isn’t willing to make any sort of compromise. The show uses the idea of “self sacrifice” pretty often as well. This can be an intriguing and unique way to progress a plot forward, for any viewer with a mind for philosophy.The 100 tv series really drives the “non-innocence” idea home at the end of season 2 when Abby tries to console her daughter Clarke, devastated over the choice she’s had to make to save her people, by saying “maybe there are no innocent people.”
Such gray dilemmas include the common “kill or be killed”. But there is also often a choice between saving your people or your select few loved ones. There is a struggle involving coexistence with a group of humans bred for war, who appear to want to do anything but coexist. This brings up the question of whether to keep to this moral high ground of coexistence or to stoop to another group’s’ level for the sake of survival and saving lives. This is a common question reflective of the world’s current events, allowing the audience to relate the show’s story to real things happening.
The 100 tv series: Character-Development
Most characters undergo a transformation on this show. This is common in dystopian plots. However, usually the transformation is from being oppressed to being a victor, from frightened and meek to strong and resilient. This show doesn’t exactly follow that dynamic. Instead characters go back and forth between redemption and becoming lost, as a result of their choices. Criminals become heroes. The plucky comic relief takes the forefront as a leader. The peacemaker gets lost in the darkness of his surroundings and makes mistakes. But the great majority of characters develop through their attempts to be more courageous and selfless, making their noble efforts good to watch.
Some character development is told through the flashback formula, first popularized by the show Lost. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the newer additions to The 100 team is Javier Grillo-Marxuach. He joined the crew of Lost as a supervising producer and writer for the first season in 2004 and then returned as a supervising producer and writer for the second season in 2005. Grillo-Marxuach already has serious street cred among nerds and sci-fi fans for his cult-classic TV Series and accompanying comics for “The Middleman,” work on SyFy series “Helix” and his contributions to the Marvel comic universe, and his presence on the show is very exciting.
Although flashbacks are used often in the first season, to show how each character ended up in their predicament as a teenage prisoner on the Ark space station, the formula isn’t relied on too heavily later on. What’s unique about these flashbacks in Season 1 is the way in which it doesn’t just provide sympathy for the main characters, it also grows resentment for the rigid laws that were broken, since characters were often trying to do something good or kind or selfless in regards to their “crime”. This bleeds into the gray ethical backbone of the show by suggesting that the right thing to do can’t always be formulized into a black and white legal system.
The 100 tv series: Realism
Another aspect that makes the show unique, which some viewers enjoy while other viewers tolerate, is the level of realistic war-depiction. Sometimes, though dystopian plots are supposed to disturb you, character deaths can still come off as cartoonish or are more implied and nuanced rather than seen up close.The 100 tv series doesn’t pull any punches on its gore. People are bloodied up about as much as they would be bloodied up given whatever they’re doing. And some characters often come face to face with torture tactics. This makes the show quite visceral, more-so than other films and shows of the genre. But this also heightens the show’s impact, by making your connections to the characters more emotional and allowing the audience to feel the more real emotional impacts of war. It might make the audience feel more driven to see their beloved characters survive.
The 100 tv series: In Summary
To wrap it up, the most stand-out things about The 100 tv series are the fact that it doesn’t involve a face-off or overthrow of a dictatorship though it has a ready supply of power-mad villains, and that its moral choices written into the plot are unique in and of themselves. There is no real revolution, but there is a lot to do with survival. It also encases the loss of innocence that many dystopian films examine. But all in all, The 100 is fresh and original in its approach.