I have to admit it : I
not so secretly love the TV show The 100, but have never read the books it’s supposed to be inspired by. And I’m not sure I will.
Warning : this post might contain spoilers for The 100, seasons 1 to 6. It will not contain any spoilers for season 7, which is currently airing. Read at your own risk.
I discovered The 100 in my second year of university, which was in itself a weird time. I was supposed to study biology for a year, then try to get into med school somewhere in France again, as I had failed the first year of med school once. But honestly, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life, and I had absolutely zero motivation to study and do well in biology.
I didn’t do much work at home, but one this I did have was good internet and lots of free time, so… I binge-watched The 100 right before finals.
I stopped in season 3, at the Lexa episode – you know which one, then tried again, and stopped immediately after, when Ontari takes over, because… ew. But I couldn’t stay away from the show for very long, and I’ve been watching it dutifully ever since, episode after episode, right when they come out. It might be the show I’ve stuck with for the longest time, after Criminal Minds (which ended in 2019 and oh boy was I sad about it).
So why do I enjoy this show so much ?
It’s a post-apocalyptic scenario with spaceships
I’m a hoe for spaceships. I just love sci-fi, and anything sci-fi related with a mostly interesting premise will have me interested in no time.
Here’s the synopsis of season 1, on IMDB :
Set ninety-seven years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, when a spaceship housing humanity’s lone survivors sends one hundred juvenile delinquents back to Earth, in hopes of possibly re-populating the planet.
Nuclear apocalypse + spaceship + last survivors of the human race ? Sign me up.
It has kick-ass women characters
Octavia is my fave, sorry not sorry – her determination, from the beginning, to survive on the ground and make her life there was admirable. Raven is amazing, and clever, and her character arc during the A.L.I.E. storyline was excellent. And, of course, my favorite bisexual disaster, Clarke. And Harper, who finally got the happy ending she deserved, along with Monty.
I’ve even come to love Emori and Echo (although I don’t say too often that I think the Bellamy / Echo ship is pretty cute, because of how… vindictive Bellarke shippers can be. But that’s a discussion for another time.), and both their tragic backstories.
On a more serious note, I love the strength and the differences between the women characters, and I appreciate the fact that they each have their own interests, desires and goals. And they don’t take shit from anybody.
It reinvents itself every season
Future storylines are mostly set up well in advance, and it makes the renewal of the show at every new season more of a “the universe is bigger than we thought!” thing than a “this is a deus ex machina plot twist” feeling.
When we first learn about the flame, the “spirits of the previous commanders that guide the current leader in their thoughts“, we don’t think much of it. But when we realize that the flame is actually a computer chip that stores people’s consciousness in a highly specialized AI, made by the person responsible for the AI that destroyed the world ? Wow. The universe really is bigger than we thought.
The show tries to reinvent itself every season, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Even seasons 5 and 6, taking some pretty big leaps to bring new things to the screen – with the Dark Year and the 120+ years slumber, were entertaining and in line with the rest of the show in terms of risks and consequences for the characters’ actions.
It tries to do justice to some pretty heavy themes
Sure, they might not succeed every time – looking at you, season 3 episode 7 with that dumb as hell “kill the lesbian” idea. But The 100 tries its best to bring some morals to the characters’ decisions, and gives them interesting moral dilemmas right from the start. After all, Clarke is imprisoned because her father had planned to tell the truth about the oxygen situation to the people of the ark – and how might have things gone differently if the people in charge had listened to him rather than executing him for his decision ?
The most important themes in the show are those of humanity, survival and leadership, and you can see these themes in every single episode – from Abby telling Kane in season 1 that she’s “here to make sure [they] deserve to survive”, to Clarke telling Madi that “there are no good guys” in season 5, and choosing to protect her daughter at all costs. Conflict is well set up, and when it arises, it makes sense.
Why haven’t I read the books, then ?
The thing is, the TV show isn’t an adaptation of the books – it’s inspired by them. Which means it doesn’t follow the novels’ plots.
The story itself is apparently very different, almost right from the beginning, and something that accentuates that difference is the absence, in the book, of a number of main characters from the show! Finn, Raven and Murphy, for example, simply don’t exist in the books – and since two out of these three have managed to survive up until the final season, their absence is bound to make for a very different story. It’s true the other way around too : the books introduce main characters (one of them who has her own POV) who never appear on the screen!
Simply put, when writing the TV episodes, The 100 writers don’t take the book into account at all – and I’ve been putting off reading the books because, since I appreciate the show so much, I’m afraid my expectations will prevent me from enjoying the original story as much as I should.
I might still give the books a chance, though, but I think it’ll have to wait until season 7 is over, and all loose ends have been wrapped up in the TV show. I don’t think I could make sure not to be influenced by one in my reading / watching the other, and my enjoyment of both might be diminished because of it.