The 100 Season Finale Review: It *Is* Rocket Science, Actually
A lot of people look down on The CW because its shows 1.) often feature men who look more like underwear models than actors, and 2.) tend to focus on telling stories aimed at a younger demographic. However, the idea that just because a show airs on The CW, it's not capable of telling worthwhile character stories is ridiculous and offensive to everyone involved, from the writers to the actors to the fans who wait impatiently for each new episode.
Last week, Slate published an essay arguing that adults who read young adult fiction should be embarrassed, because there's so much adult-targeted fiction that's worthy of exploration, and the internet exploded in protest because that's what the internet does. But the internet wasn't necessarily wrong. There were several excellent rebuttals to the story, but Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post responded in a way that I think accurately sums up the counterargument in a broad sense:
Rather than trying to set one category of fiction against another, which seems to be the fashion these days, I wonder whether we might all benefit from a more open-hearted approach...
To simply give up on romance novels or young adult literature as hopeless categories of fiction, fit only for the weak-minded or young and incapable of improvement, is to embrace a kind of snobbery and rigidity about what is worthy and what is not.
Rosenberg's point can be applied to television just as easily as can be applied to literature, especially with regard to The CW. I won't deny that there are plenty of frustratingly silly storylines and characters on the network (in fact, I'll get to that in a minute), but the idea that anyone could discredit it simply because it's not churning out complex adult dramas like Mad Men makes no sense.
The 100 is ambitious in ways that plenty of other TV series are not. As the show has progressed, it's taken risks and ventured into territory so dark that many shows wouldn't dare approach it. Is it the next Battlestar Galactica? Of course it isn't. Was its first season perfect? No, it wasn't. But the show clearly knew where it was headed, and the first 13 episodes maintained a nice, quick pace, which kept viewers engaged and the story exciting.
In a lot of ways, The 100 is very clearly a teen series (again, not a bad thing), what with its focus on sibling relationships and love triangles, but in a lot of other ways, the show has evolved The CW's stock themes and characters and given its relationships and ideas a purpose beyond trying to grab the attention of the network's core audience. The show has tackled adult themes in its portrayal of the brutal savagery of Earth, and it hasn't shied away from the very heavy topic of self-sacrifice.
Even the romantic relationship between Clarke and Finn—as rushed as it was—feels more refined than a typical CW love stories, because it isn't overstuffed with angst and longing looks. Since the Hundred have always been in some sort of danger, there's always been something more important on the horizon than raging teenage hormones, and even though Finn and Clarke succumbed to their urges a few times, The 100 has handled their relationship relatively maturely. The show also found a way to put it on the back burner for most of the first season in order to focus on the Hundred's survival.
Of all The CW's heroines, I think Clarke might be near the top of my favorites list. Nina Dobrev has turned in some truly stellar performances as Elena on The Vampire Diaries, and her character has sacrificed a lot—including herself—to save her friends, but there's something holding her back. In contrast, from the moment Clarke stepped onto the drop ship in the The 100's series premiere, she's been a confident and levelheaded leader, taking charge in situations we can't even imagine. She's quick on her feet, she's able to adapt to her surroundings, and she recognizes when the good of the many trumps the good of a few. Clarke doesn't need protecting, and she certainly isn't the type of woman who requires rescued (need I remind you of the throat-slitting from a couple episodes ago?). She's resourceful and intelligent on her own, and she's more than willing to make the tough calls.
These qualities are why I've found myself so engrossed in her arc over the course of The 100's first season. It's also why I think The CW's Reign is so captivating. Both Clarke and Mary are young, but they understand their roles as leaders. It doesn't matter that Mary was born into royalty while Clarke simply stepped up when the situation called for it; they both see the importance of ruling and/or leading, and know that it must often take priority over their personal happiness.
"We Are Grounders, Part 2" definitely showcased some of Clarke's finer moments as a leader. All season long, we've watched her grow from an optimistic but strong and (mostly) fearless woman into a character who's not only able, but willing to let go of people she cares about—like Finn and even Bellamy—in order to save the rest of the group. We have no idea whether Finn or Bellamy survived the ring of fire, or if they escaped before Jasper was able to successfully barbecue some Grounders, but does it honestly matter? Yes, their characters are intertwined with Clarke and they are integral to the show, but The 100 has always been a series about humanity's survival, not necessarily individual survival.
All battles have casualties, but I don't doubt that both Finn and Bellamy will be back for more action in Season 2. Because they weren't in the ship, they conveniently weren't captured by the Mountain Men—who, we learned, have high-tech equipment and are most likely the descendants of the original soldiers at Mount Weather. I don't presume to know where The 100's writers will take us next season, especially because the series usually zigs when I think it's going to zag, but Bellamy, Finn, Octavia, and Lincoln are still out there in the world and not being held captive in sterilized white rooms at Mount Weather.
And let's not forgot that Abby and Kane were miraculously on the single piece of the Ark that didn't explode or burn up during its descent through Earth's atmosphere. I'm confident they'll be around to help rescue Clarke and the rest of the Hundred (if rescuing them is even necessary; we don't know who the Mountain Men are aside from the fact that they're enemies of the Grounders, which could very well make them allies of the Hundred).
Bellamy also had quite the arc this season. He started out as a hostile, selfish, and chaos-championing leader whose every move was designed to save himself from having to face the repercussions of shooting the Chancellor, but in the end, he truly wanted to save his people. I could spend several paragraphs talking about Bellamy's transition from pain in the ass to hopeful and inspiring hero, but I'd rather discuss his relationship with Octavia, because sibling relationships are a very big part of who we are and where we come from, and this one is particularly unique. Even though brothers and sisters can be frustrating and annoying, it's very difficult to shake one's sense of familial obligation when a loved one is in danger; as annoyed as Octavia was with Bellamy playing the power card, and as frustrated as Bellamy was with Octavia disobeying him, they're all each other has.
What's more, since no one else from the Ark has siblings, their relationship is rife with story possibilities. None of the other characters can possibly understand what it's like to have a brother or a sister, and I look forward to the continued exploration of the Bellamy/Octavia dynamic in Season 2.
The 100's first season set out to accomplish a very specific goal, which was to get the people of the Ark back to Earth. The Hundred were guinea pigs, like scouts sent before an attack. They surveyed the land, figured out how to live in the new world, and discovered the weaknesses and strengths of their surroundings. The fight between the Hundred and the Grounders was the culmination of everything the Hundred have learned, but just like with everything else, there was always something larger looming on the other side. The battle was inconsequential when you take into account the larger story arc. Yes, members of the Hundred died, but they were nameless faces, casualties of a dangerous world. In all honesty, this season was never about the Hundred's eventual battle against the Grounders, it was about how the Hundred would fare in this new world.
Every one of the series' main characters has evolved since they first landed on Earth or, in Kane's case, since they were first introduced. The scene where the Hundred exited the drop ship the morning after the attack called back to the series premiere, when the Hundred first arrived on Earth. Consider how much has changed since that first episode: The Hundred's numbers have steadily dwindled. Clarke and Bellamy have learned how to work together as leaders and often merged their differing philosophies for the greater good. Finn has emerged as a serious hero contender after starting the series as a wisecracking idiot. Jasper has definitely matured beyond his role as comic relief, and was responsible for saving the day. So no, the battle with the Grounders didn't really matter. You could exchange the Grounders for the Reapers and it wouldn't make a difference (although the Grounders obviously have a few IQ points on the Reapers), because the story The 100 set out to tell wasn't about war or the Grounders. It was about survival on the most basic level, and it was about who these teenagers had to become in order to survive. And I don't think anyone would argue that the show was unsuccessful in accomplishing this mission.
Current population of the Hundred (including Bellamy and Raven): ??????
– My press screener for this episode was very dark—I have no idea how it looked on TV—but people were getting offed left and right during the attack. After the first guy took an ax to the face, I definitely lost count of how many people died.
– Hey, look! Vancouver is pretty!
– Chancellor Jaha sacrificed himself in order to give the rest of the Ark's population at least a slight chance of survival. It seemed like Jaha had been dying to sacrifice himself all season—both he and Kane, really—so I wasn't very surprised when he launched the Ark manually. It was sad, definitely, but he will be reunited with Wells. And after everything that's happened this season, I rather like that this marks the end of his story.
– Raven had better not die, or I'm going to be throwing punches next season. I have a feeling she'll be alright, though. The Mountain Men seem like they'll have medical facilities. And soap.
– Monty! Monty! Monty! Hey, guys, I found Monty! He's been chilling in his own white room for a few days now. I'm just glad he's alive.
– The Grounders captured Murphy! And they took his walkie-talkie, which meant they knew what was going on at the camp. Sneaky.
What'd you think of the finale? What do hope to see in Season 2?
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