Gored polar bears, bald huntsmen and smoke monsters. Before jumping the shark, ABC's Lost was the epitome of water cooler talk. Over six seasons we saw Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Sayid, Jin, Sun (and all the other others) survive on the world's most dangerous holiday resort.
For those still in mourning for Lost (believe me I still am), CW's The 100 can offer you some light relief. In a distant future mankind has left Earth as a radioactive graveyard, taking to the skies in 'The Ark.' A cruel twist of Battle Royale fate means the children are sent down to Earth to see if it is habitable. Safe to say things don't go to plan for the tiny human guinea pigs... But wait, haven't we seen this thing '100' times before?
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Teenager dramas were a mainstay of the '90s/'00s airwaves. Every week millions would tune in to see whether Joey would kiss Pacey or Dawson. Then came the influx of sci-fi to the genre. An ever popular Battlestar Galactica peaked an interest in sci-fi, but if you coupled with your standard teenager's angst, you were on to a winner. The likes of Charmed and Buffy The Vampire Slayer were hybrids of this drama, evolving darker with the likes of True Blood and Supernatural.
But in the current decade it appears teenagers just don't cut it any more; we have heard all your period pain, cheating boyfriend problems and flunking math class before. Even Revenge and Pretty Little Liars lurk on Netflix for those 'binge' days when you have nothing else to watch. The 100 tries to amalgamate the two genres, combining the sci-fi/thriller elements of Lost with the teenager drama that dominated the '90s... Boy does it work.
It is a sequence of genre more readily repeated than Lost's 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. The 100 is clearly influenced by past shows and themes, while ultimately striving to be its own. If you think The 100 is new, then check out the New Zealand/British post-apocalyptic drama The Tribe. It was set in a near future where adults have been wiped out my a deadly virus, leaving teenagers to inhabit the world.
Starting in 1999, The Tribe quickly gained a loyal fanbase - for five seasons people tuned in every week and producers had even planned a sixth, pulling the plug due to a cast that was "too old." Perhaps the crew of The 100 saw this gap and filled it; if it worked in 1999, why not now? Also, you only have to look at the silver screen to see apoca-drama couldn't be bigger right now. Mad Max, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner. If it people are willing to invest in a ticket and a popcorn, then bring it to their homes for free.
Every show has its shaky first season, the actors get to know each other, the audience get to bond with the characters - normally everything is a bit flat. Despite hitting its stride, Lost's first season was the same, even toying with the idea of killing of lead character Jack in a shock finale twist. But just as Lost's second season upped their game with the introduction of 'The Others' and 'The Hatch', The 100 did the same with Mt. Weather.
Both shows proved that neither group were alone on their island/planet, but that those already there seemed to be living a much happier life. Lost's 'The Others' had their little village, while over on The 100 the mountain dwellers had everything from jewelry to fine wine. We meet their mysterious leader, President Dante Wallace. Ironically Wallace is played by Raymond J. Barry, Jack's grandfather on Lost. Wallace serves as the second season's Benjamin Linus - Lost's well known primary antagonist, but ultimately good guy (somewhere).
The two shows also share Henry Ian Cusick (Lost's Desmond) but there is more on him later; and The 100 even have the main character waking up in a nifty little hospital facility similar to Resident Evil's 'The Hive.' Hey, didn't Jack Shepherd wake up in a medical facility in the Season 3 episode 'A Tale of Two Cities'? But let's not be too harsh on The 100, there are plenty of differences as well. We are yet to see any rogue polar bears, but we did see a radioactive deer. A core cast is only as good as the enemies they face, and just as Lost learned that we didn't want six seasons of Castaway, The 100 realized that teenagers in charge of an abandoned planet would be pretty dull.
So What's New?
The main character of The 100 isn't a dashingly attractive spinal surgeon, a long haired hillbilly, or even a spunky ex-con. At the centre of The 100's impressive ensemble is Clarke. She is the Katniss Everdeen of our group. Yes, the adults all have their own relationships and dramas to deal with, but it is Clarke who is front and centre.
What makes Clarke the 'Jack' of the cast is her willingness to protect those close to her, even when making a tough decision. In the closing episodes of Season 2 we saw Clarke commit mass genocide by culling 90% of the supporting cast.
From this point on we saw that The 100 is just as likely to hit you with a Game of Thrones twist than any other show. Admittedly no one of vast importance died during the Mt. Weather killing, but the new Darke (Dark Clarke) treads the line of good and bad that makes characters like Lost's Juliet Burke and The Walking Dead's Carol Peletier so interesting. Clarke's quest to do what was right for her friends has clearly had some real impact as she started Season 3 heading into the wilderness for some 'me time'.
This season, Clarke has gone full rogue. Just about everyone and anyone (including her mother) is looking for Wanheda - the Commander of Death.
Mommy issues aside, Season 3 Clarke has dyed her hair red and recently had a steamy girl-on-girl scene with bouncing breasts that would make even Emilia Clarke wince. The series's main children have come a long way from their Dawson's Creek stereotypes. For a show where the world is only populated by attractive teenagers, The 100 has done well to shake off its original critics. Think The OC if Orange County was populated by warring tribes. Take a look at the Season 3 promo for a feel of the series so far:
Sadly shows like this seem to have a limited lifespan. Even The Walking Dead will need to work towards some sort of end goal. In reality the sci-fi genre often has a well worn sell by date. Flashforward (with Lost's Dominic Monaghan) showed a grim fate where people got flashes of their own future. A stellar cast couldn't save Flashforward and it only lasted a year. Similarly Alcatraz (with Lost's Jorge Garcia) saw inmates from 1963 blasted to the present, fairing only one season too.
Finally was Revolution, lasting two seasons, which followed a post apocalyptic world with no power (with Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell ). Away from the mysterious island of Lost's cast, things don't fair much better for other sci-fi shows. Even Lost series producer J.J Abrams couldn't save his Fringe from having a haircut. Nothing to do with the island, but also a cult of the genre; the tail end of last year saw the highly anticipated return of Heroes. The once lorded show hit a brick wall with its panned reboot and limped through the 13 episode run.
"There's Desmond!" Lost's favorite Scottish rogue is very much a mainstay of The 100, but can he break the curse of the Lost followups? Henry Ian Cusick starred in both Lost and Fringe, so is no stranger to the genre as he plays Marcus Kane, one of the Ark's adults. Cusick says he was immediately drawn to the show:
When I read the script, it was one of the few that I got to the end of. It was a real page-turner for me and I really enjoy the sci-fi genre, so I was really interested. I like thinking about what could be out there and I love the questions that sci-fi poses.
Where the shows of his cast mates like Mitchell, Monaghan and Garcia failed to go the distance, The 100 has some real potential. Well if it is good enough for Cusick, it is good enough for us! Currently still airing the third season, it will be interesting to see where The 100 goes next. After-all, in a post apocalyptic world, the world isn't really that big. No doubt we will have the usual character twist and turns, the odd mole, and maybe even a trip back into space. For the meantime The 100 rides the ratings gravy train, but how long until it runs out of fuel?
Are you into 'The 100'?