Monday, January 25, 2016

The 100: Season 1, Episode 2

“Why would they do something so reckless?”
“Because we told them not to.”

I was only able to mention characters in passing last time, so it’s a good time to rectify that now. Why now? Well, because starting with episode 2 Raven’s in the house! Wooo! Raven’s the best!
            In time, all these characters will be the best, save one exception. What’s a bit remarkable at this stage is that the show isn’t afraid to highlight some of their negative traits. This is, of course, at least in part due to some changes in direction and development, as some of these characters are set up as antagonists and villains, so of course their negative traits would be brought to the fore. Kane is power-hungry, obviously unpopular, and a little too eager to initiate “population reduction.” Bellamy is a sneery, disingenuous hypocrite whose childish frat-house libertarian utopia poses a real danger to both the 100 and the Ark, and his chief supporter goon Murphy seems to be a psychopath. Of course. They’re the bad guys against whom Clarke, Wells, and Abby are to struggle. Still, Kane is right that if the Ark’s life support system is failing, pressure needs to be taken off it sooner rather than later, especially since every delay just means they will need to reduce the population by even more. Murphy makes no secret his hatred of Wells springs from his executed father. And it’s hard not to see at least some sympathy behind Bellamy’s railing against the Ark’s injustices given how the 100 were throw away to be canaries in a radioactive mine—Jaha even told them all they were chosen because they are expendable.
            Meanwhile, Clarke is overly serious, a bit prickly, and seriously type-A, though these are hardly the worst traits a heroine surrounded by all these chuckleheads could have. Wells is too much of a weenie to truly stand and make a case against Bellamy’s alpha male swagger (also the universe seems to have it out for him, having Clarke arrive on the scene of his fight with Murphy at exactly the right moment to make him look as bad as possible). Finn, for all his performance of swagger, is very negative and actually something of a coward, though his simply taking food rather than paying Bellamy’s price (Whatever the Hell You Want, after all) is probably the character’s high point in my mind. Octavia is a bit of a brat and is, uh, free with her affections we might say, though of all the young people set free after a life of extreme restrictions, her restrictions were the most extreme. Monty seems just fine, though. And while we know why so many signals from the 100 are being lost, Abby’s belief that there is an explanation other than death, if taken in a vacuum, seems more than a little recklessly hopeful under the circumstances, and she’s also forgotten a key bit of teenage psychology.
            This is some real basic ass nuance. And yet, basic ass nuance seems to elude so many. A certain, very successful, similarly themed show whose title rhymes with “duh hawking Fred” never gave antagonists anything close to legitimate points or justifications, at least it hadn’t until I stopped watching it, well after I should have known better. Stuff like this is what intrigued me enough about the show to look past the obvious trappings. Moreover, the faults of the kids feel like real faults of real kids, even as extraordinary as their circumstances are. That other show (and a lot of others) have characters doing stupid things to heighten the drama or whatever, which apologists chalk up to their desperate circumstances. Really, The 100 is no different—a lot of characters will do ill-advised, reckless, and outright dumb things because of desperate circumstances. But their actions don’t feel inauthentic, because after all, they are kids, poor choices are a bit easier to swallow.
            My favorite bits, though and as always, are the incredibly minor details that tell a whole lot. Little snippets of dialogue paint a gradually-filling-in portrait of Ark life, of it’s strange but recognizable politics, its grudges, its limitations, and how all of that has informed behavior on the ground. Adam talks to Octavia about how having Bellamy kept her sane. His words hint at the yawning isolation bred by this society that has internalized the cheapness of life and to which brothers and sisters are alien beings. Abby and Kane’s conflict seems to run (mostly through performance) much deeper than political disagreement, implying a lifetime is petty feuding in the Ark’s insular world (it is too bad Kelly Hu doesn’t return from the pilot, where she was council member Cece, both Abby’s best friend and, it seemed, Kane’s lover).
            But the most significant detail—the first thing any of the 100 do to adapt is to make knives. Perfectly sensible, as a knife is a very handy tool. Except the only one attempting any sort of work is poor Adam. Tells you where the minds of these kids are at right now.

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