The 100 did a thing. OK, it did a lot of things in season five. Bug consumption, cannibalism, nuclear holocaust, genocide, additional AI possession, drug addiction, weird mother-daughter relations, fighting pits, threatened abortion by pistol — this season has had a lot going on.
After walking away from the show more than a season and a half ago I tried to dip my toe back in and found myself almost in love again. The 100, despite the profound nihilism it is steeped in, has been a ride this season. But I’m still trying to decide if I’m offended or astounded.
I gave up on The 100 over a year and a half ago for a few reasons. The show took out two characters — notably a lesbian and a black man — in a callous fashion that, coupled with reports of behind the scenes problems, put a bad taste in my mouth.
The on-screen and off-screen nastiness highlighted the absolute worst aspects of people, and I get enough of that looking at my Twitter feed thank you very much.
Then I watched four episodes in a single night and remembered why I liked this show to begin with.
It wasn’t because The 100 was gay, or because it had pretty scenery or decent actors. It was because the show can be so goddamn relentless and tackle a whole mess of sci-fi subgenres without feeling like a hodgepodge.
Season five, which wrapped up the the US this week and will wrap up in Australia August 22, kicked off with Clarke, the blonde leader of the 100, and then of “sky people” (people who grew up on a space station and returned to Earth because space life is tough), left alone on the surface of an Earth that’s now a nuclear wasteland.
She radios her friends in space every day, but they can’t hear her, so she’s left with nothing but her thoughts, and the bugs she scrapes off her windshield to eat (seriously).
Eventually, she happens upon a small child living in the last piece of green land on the planet. She becomes a surrogate mother for the kid and they live a peaceful, if lonely, life in their oasis... until 500 ex-cons from space show up (surprise!) and try to steal the land. Clarke has to find the rest of humanity (living in a bunker underground, or in an abandoned station in space) and fight for the last piece of life on Earth.
From there, season five goes to a very pulpy place. It isn’t quite as on the nose as Neil Marshall’s Doomsday, which features a scene of cannibals consuming human flesh to the soundtrack of Fine Young Cannibals, but The 100 repeatedly sets up predicaments that can only have a limited number of nasty outcomes, and it methodically pursues those outcomes.
Octavia, a girl who grew up living under the floor, finds herself leading a group of people living underground? Well, she’s definitely going to have them resort to cannibalism at some point, instigate fighting pits as entertainment and population control, and start painting her face with the blood of her enemies.
I mean, that’s like the only outcome you get from “I was an illegal child living under the floor for fear of execution as a baby and now I’m in charge of a ragtag group of savage warriors and space people whose only common ground is their murderous pragmatism”.
Another girl (Madi, the same one Clarke had been caring for) has special black blood that allows her to merge with a sentient AI that holds the ghosts of everyone that came before her, including her mum’s dead girlfriend. And she’s definitely going to merge with that AI and then bring up that girlfriend when her mum makes bad decisions.
The doctor (Abby, Clarke’s mother) who loses her best friend and then encourages a girl who lived under the floor to eat human flesh so the last vestiges of humanity living in a bunker can survive? Yeah, she has to become a drug addict.
She’s then forced to work for the 500 criminals at war with her daughter? Her drug addiction will absolutely play a role and may briefly lead her to a love triangle with her boyfriend and a cannibalistic serial killer who buttons his prison jumpsuit to the collar.
And that’s just three of the story arcs! There’s also the war, worms that burrow into humans and explode out of them, the threat of nuclear warfare, a very lame love triangle, poisoning by barely-edible algae, more fighting pits, and so. Much. Torture.
And finally, at the end of the season...a 125-year time jump.
What is interesting about this time jump, and the finale as a whole, is that it’s the first one on the show to actually feel like a (rushed) series finale. I could honestly step away from the pathos-drenched lives of Clarke, the girl who lived in the floor, and the rest, and be OK. With this jump forward in time, the show seems to have come to an end.
It’s an end where humanity’s inability to get along destroys the Earth and forces the last few refugees into cryo-sleep and across the galaxy in the hopes of starting again (even as two of their group — Monty and Harper — decide to live out the majority of those years awake and alone...rude... to keep an eye on Earth’s failed regrowth progress).
It’s ridiculously pessimistic, but that’s kind of been a hallmark of the show. I mean, it had a black man executed on the street and a lesbian killed mere moments after confessing her love. Little kids have murdered and been murdered. The whole cannibalism and fighting pits for survival thing happened!
The show has never been nice; any pleasantness has been through the sheer force of the charisma of the actors. It’s a nasty little show and it seems fitting to end it with them looking out at a new world to screw up.
But then there was the final shot.
Ignore the pretty people hugging and looking out at a brave new world. Focus instead on that bit of text: “End Book One.”
That’s right, the last few years of entertaining misery were but the first chapter in a saga of misery, confirmed by the fact that The 100 has already been renewed for a sixth season. Which means there’s at least one more book of humanity being the worst.
And the worst part is that I’ll probably still watch. The sheer audacity of The 100 might be its most entertaining aspect.