Class struggles in space and on Earth with “The 100”

“The 100,” a CW series nearing the end of its second season, is an interesting take on the roles that people play and how they are shaped by their environment and society.

The show follows a girl named Clarke Griffin through emotional turmoil and struggles for survival. Her beginnings as a stubborn, naïve girl struggling to find her place among her peers and getting away from her mother, evolves her into an efficient and analytical leader who balances her decisiveness with flexibility. Her open ear to wisdom from those who know more than she does facilitates this.

“The 100” begins in outer space, 97 years after a nuclear war that ravaged the earth. What remains of mankind is what inhabits a space station named “The Ark.” So it was thought by the Ark’s denizens, wary of an Earth potentially desolate and uninhabitable. This conflicted with the reality that onboard the ship, where there was not enough oxygen to maintain their population of nearly 3,000.

Despite a legal system that outlawed having multiple children and where all crimes from petty theft to murder, were punishable by death, the life support was still limited to a few remaining months of survival. In an attempt to rectify this, 100 juvenile delinquents who were subject to solitary confinement for their transgressions if they were younger than 18, were sent to Earth in a drop-ship to see if it was survivable.

It was, but it wasn’t deserted. People who descended from survivors of the nuclear war on the ground, were aptly dubbed “Grounders” by Clarke and her crew. The Grounders are seen as primitive people compared to those from the Ark, who have modern technology and weapons, as well as knowledge of a peaceful existence that isn’t dominated by the need to maintain survival through hunting and war.

However, that is the reality on the ground, and no one is more well versed than the Grounders in how to coexist with nature. The Grounders go from being predators, then enemies, to reluctant neighbors and finally a tightly-allied support system for Clarke and her “sky crew.” The tensions resolve, and grudges dissolve across cultural boundaries in ways that eventually damns those who do not compromise more than those who are initially seen as traitors to their own people.

The individualistic eat-or-be-eaten philosophy of the Grounders is very different from the “sacrifice few to save the many” ascribed to that those from the Ark, but it is shown in time that these perspectives both have their place, whether or not they are solutions in their own right.
“The 100” manages to take the action and gore of a post-apocalyptic survival theme, and add to it the heart and drama that inevitably accompanies coming-of-age stories.

For a show that puts a twist on the idea of aliens invading by coming from the perspective of the strangers from the sky, for a show set in some indeterminable future date, “The 100” is refreshing and relatable. It’s original, but retains enough familiar elements to get you hooked on watching believable people explore a surreal world.