Posted in Entertainment, Television

Why I love and hate “The 100”: THE ROMANCE

WARNING: Major spoilers for Season 1 of “The 100” ahead

I know people who dislike romance, especially when it distracts from more important plot elements.

In my view, there’s no such thing as too much romance.

Okay, that’s not true. I get how frustrating it can be when a subpar romance takes over a great story.

Ahem
Ahem.

The show started EARLY, setting up couples that both drew my ire and inspired my sympathy.

THE ROMANCE
Good:
So they didn’t go the direction I was hoping and make Clarke and Wells a thing.

Clells? Warke? Graha? Jiffin? No wonder they didn’t work out.

Nothing else interesting romance-wise happened for the first few episodes. Finn was around, but you know how I feel about him. Octavia kept hooking up with random dudes (boring), and the writers sexed up Bellamy so you knew he was the villain.

Necessary
Pictured: necessary character establishment.

I started to like Bellamy in “Day Trip” when he was plagued by visions of the people he killed. He acknowledged that he deserved whatever punishment was coming, which was a step toward humility. Then he and Clarke had a nice conversation about guilt and redemption, which was a positive change in their relationship and…wait a minute…

WAIT A MINUTE.

This is a ship. The writers are shipping these two! I’m…I’m not even mad!

What I love about Clarke and Bellamy: it’s not love at first sight (I HATE YOU, FINN). It’s gradual. It feels natural. No one is talking about intense feelings or true love or soulmates. This is a relationship I can get behind.

The other relationship I really liked was Octavia and Lincoln’s.

Yes.

There was the forbidden love element, the ethical dilemma of torturing for information, multiple rescues, Olivia as Lincoln’s caretaker–basically everything I’m ashamed to admit I love when it comes to romance played out between these two.

When Lincoln kissed Octavia out of nowhere, I thought it was a little fast–not to mention kind of gross, since he was still bloody from the torture–but otherwise fine. Surely their relationship would continue to develop as the season went on.

Bad:
The very next episode I asked myself why Octavia and Lincoln were having sex when they barely knew each other. Silly me.

I realize Ricky Whittle and Marie Avgeropoulos are beautiful people. That’s no excuse to skip relationship development in favor of fanservice. Hope you liked the two episodes of sexual tension; the rest of the season is the two of them “in love” because that’s how love works.

BORING, BORING, BORING.

My other romance pet peeve, of course, involved Finn.

I hate Finn. I HATE Finn.

My problem, as I’ve said before, is that the writers want me to buy into this Finn-Clarke pairing. They’re asking me to ignore

  • the fact that Finn has a girlfriend
  • the fact that Finn cheated on said girlfriend
  • the fact that Finn won’t dump said girlfriend

I have no reason support this relationship. Finn is not a tortured, confused, all-in-all good guy. His relationship with Clarke is boring and cliché, based on a “chemistry” that the writers haven’t show me. Finn is the writers going, “Look, a bad boy! Everyone swoon!” after they’ve already shown they can do better.

This is the last of my rants until Netflix puts out season 2. I’ve heard a few things about the second season (“Look, girls kissing! Everyone swoon!”) but am otherwise in the dark. Can’t wait to see what other twists the writers have prepared. All hail Bellamy and Clarke!

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Posted in Entertainment, Television

Why I love and hate “The 100”: THE WRITING

WARNING: Major spoilers for Season 1 of “The 100” ahead

As I said last time, I like watching this show. It takes a lot for me to commit to a TV show and I watched this show’s entire first season with nary a complaint. With few complaints. With a moderate amount of complaints. I LIKED IT, I SWEAR.

Just as a comparison, there are plenty of “guilty pleasure” shows (“Parks and Recreation,” “10th Kingdom”) and critically-acclaimed shows (“Attack on Titan,” “Skins,” “Misfits”) that I haven’t been able to get into. This show held my attention for 13 45-minute episodes thanks to its excellent writing. That’s saying something.

Since we are talking about the writing today, let’s get the bad parts out of the way.

THE WRITING
Bad: Oh goodness. I’ve already talked major smack about the first three episodes and now I can talk about why I hated them. My biggest beef was with the dialogue. I could predict what each character would say before they said it; I’m sure my neighbors loved hearing me spout cheesy schlock to my TV only for my TV to repeat it back. My accuracy was at least 95%.

I talked about this in more detail, so I’ll only briefly mention some of the “good guys” the writers have failed to humanize. I knew I was supposed to hate Bellamy, Kane, and Murphy–and I did–but Abby, Clarke, and Finn didn’t provide much of a contrast. It became a game of “Which Side Do I Hate the Least?” That can work when ambiguity is intentional; not so much in a show that–at least in the beginning–has clear good guys and bad guys. Once episode three rolled around, however…

Good: It takes a lot to surprise me. I typically see through “subtle” foreshadowing, I eat spoilers for breakfast, and the show’s clumsy attempts at shock were less than impressive.

Yawn.

I knew Wells’ tensions with Murphy and Bellamy would eventually come to a head, especially after Wells beat up Murphy.

Then Wells was killed by a little girl and I had never been angrier.

I get suspicious when a character dies. I’ve cried–or cheered–over character deaths, only for said character(s) to return with some implausible explanation.

When Wells died, I waited. He couldn’t really be dead. Yes, I’d watched him bleed out while Charlotte delivered a terrible monologue. Sure, his severed fingers were laying on the ground. Okay, people don’t generally recover from fatal stab wounds. This was different, though. Surely, if I watched the next episode, Wells would be okay.

At the VERY START of the next episode, Clarke and Finn visited Wells’ grave. The writers didn’t include the part where the others found his body and dug a grave because they didn’t need to – WELLS WAS FOR SURE DEAD.

I have to admire “The 100” for killing off a main character. So far, the writers haven’t said, “Just kidding!” and brought him back. Killing Wells showed they mean business, and I respect that.

With Wells dead, however, there was one less reason for me to watch the show. I was still rooting for the kids to die and, to be honest, the premise was kind of silly. The show responded to my skepticism by providing all sorts of interesting relational conflict.

There are certain kinds of conflicts I can’t watch (e.g., father-child conflicts), but there are other types I find compelling. “The 100” unleashed brother-sister conflict, mother-daughter conflict, threw in some ship tease, and served up a delicious emotionally-distressing cocktail. And all this conflict lead to character development–finally! Octavia’s friction with Bellamy made her less of an annoying twit once her background was shown. Bellamy’s guilt came back to haunt him, making room for a friendship–and possibly more–with Clarke. Clarke’s likeability increased when she confronted her terrible mom for killing her dad.

One of these people I sympathize with. The other is a murderer.

The show’s greatest strength is its characters’ struggles. Every time I roll my eyes and tell myself I’m going to stop watching, I get sucked in by a redemption arc or an ethical dilemma.

Hmm…to torture or not to torture? 

Speaking of, the torture scene led to my FAVORITE kind of relational conflict: sexual tension.

Hoo boy.

Next post: THE ROMANCE

Posted in Television

Why I love and hate “The 100”: THE CHARACTERS

WARNING: Major spoilers for Season 1 of “The 100” ahead

My writing buddy Chelsea told me to check out a show she’d started watching called “The 100.” She promised good characters and excellent eye candy.

She neglected to mention it was terrible.

Seriously. The first three episodes of “The 100” were some of the worst TV I have ever seen. They were super predictable, packed full of cliches, and kept trying to suck me into teenage drama. 100 kids are stranded in a new environment with no way to contact their families; I care more about that than I do about who’s sleeping with who!!

Naturally, I binge-watched the entire first season.

What can I say? It got a lot better. So now I’m in this weird middle ground, where I’m really invested in the characters, yet roll my eyes at most of the things they do and say. If anything, I’m this show’s frenemy: I claim to love it, but I’m not very nice about it.

The same things I love about this show are the same things I hate about it. I have so many things to say that can be spread out over multiple posts, so today we’ll start with the most important component of any story:

THE CHARACTERS
Good: Even though the first episode of this show was beyond awful, I kept watching for one reason: I wanted to see all of the characters die. As dark as it sounds, I was very invested in the characters–mostly in seeing them get their comeuppance for being so incredibly stupid. And all of them were so dumb. Except for Wells.

Look at that face.

Yes, he was a goody-goody. Yes, he moped around in the Friendzone. I liked him anyway. As far as forces for good went, he and Clarke were the only ones concerned with keeping order, and I much preferred unlucky-in-love Wells to whiny, preachy Clarke (at first, anyway). He kept coming up with good ideas that NO ONE LISTENED TO, and his friction with Bellamy and his cronies made for good, tense TV. I was looking forward to seeing his growth and influence over the rest of the season. Turns out the writers didn’t feel the same way.

Oh, come on!

Wells was dead. I had no one left to root for. Then a miracle happened: the other characters got better. If not better, than at least interesting. Clarke exhibited ambiguous ethics and made questionable decisions. Bellamy tried to be a good leader in the face of torment, guilt, and self-doubt. Octavia rebelled against her former way of life by hooking up with a Grounder.

The character who made the most growth, however, was not one of the idiot teenagers, but one of the idiot adults on the Ark. I’m talking, of course, about Marcus Kane.

Kane
Everything about you is perfect, including your beard.

Kane transitioned from a murderous extremist to a broken leader forced to deal with the guilt of his previous actions. Over the course of several episodes, Kane tried to rescue as many people as he could after the Ark lost power. Every time Kane faced a life-threatening situation, I found myself screaming in agony. Near the season’s end, he offered to sacrifice himself for the others, only for Chancellor Jaha to take his place.

Yeah…you can go right ahead and do that, Chancellor. No big loss.

Similar to the A Song of Ice and Fire series, where I ended up cheering for initially unlikable drunks and rapists, this show made the villains some of my favorite characters. Unfortunately…

Bad: …their heroes weren’t as sympathetic. Clarke and Bellamy are great; I’m fine with them. It’s the side characters I take issue with. What bugs me about this show is not that it has characters I don’t like, it’s that it wants me to root for unlikable, unsympathetic, and undeserving ones.

Speaking of: in the first episode, the audience is introduced to Clarke and Wells. Wells is clearly into Clarke and GOT HIMSELF ARRESTED SO HE COULD BE WITH HER. Clarke wants nothing to do with him. Already some interesting conflict, and an interracial relationship to boot! I was stoked.

Then this idiot floats over:

“Hey, I’m your obvious love interest.”

Uuuugghh. Thomas McDonell, we meet again.

I don’t understand what the deal is with this guy’s acting. He was so great in that 2011 indie art house film! Okay, it was put out by Disney. Okay, it was “Prom.” Okay, I saw it twice in theaters. But I really enjoyed him in it! In this show, more than anything he reminds me of a baby Keanu Reeves, another favorite actor of mine.

Finn starts flirting with Clarke the minute they land on Earth. Four episodes later, the reveal comes: Finn has a girlfriend he never mentioned!

Whoooops! Sorry, Clarke!

We’ve all seen this plotline before. Surely this can be resolved in a way that leaves Finn’s likability intact.

Here’s what Finn does:

  • He CONTINUES FLIRTING WITH CLARKE even though his girlfriend has landed on the planet
  • He neglects to tell said girlfriend
    • a. he’s no longer into her
    • b. he definitely slept with Clarke

And he’s not framed as a jerk! The show wants me to buy that he’s a confused young man trying to do the right thing when that is clearly not the case. The writers gloss over his flaws instead of acknowledging them and letting him develop into a rounded character. I have no patience for Finn and was so glad when both Raven and Clarke finally shut him down.

There are other characters I could mention, but Jasper is the worst one. For one thing, I couldn’t remember his name for the first five episodes and kept referring to him as “Goggles.” For another, I cheered when he got speared by Grounders in the pilot episode.

That’s what you get for screaming all the time!

He SOMEHOW SURVIVED the above incident, which meant I had to spend the rest of the season with this joke. Never have I begged so earnestly for a character’s death. With every plague, Grounder attack, or returning villain, I would whisper, “Please get Jasper, please get jasper, please get Jasper.”

I have my reasons. A girl tries to get with him and he rejects her, calling her “low-hanging fruit.” Strike one. He never apologizes to his friend Monty for saying incredibly hurtful things. Strike two. He’s so entitled, getting really angry when he does nice things for Octavia and she doesn’t fall at his feet. Strike three. You’re out. Go die in a hole.

What really frustrates me is that so much of the other characters’ energy is spent trying to save or rescue Jasper. Yes, he has valuable skills…but so does Monty. Yet when Monty’s in trouble, Bellamy’s reaction is, “Huh, that’s unfortunate.” When Jasper’s in trouble? Time for Bellamy to go on a dangerous solo rescue mission!

Since this post ends on a downer note, next time I’ll end with the positive in order to convince you that I really do like this show!

Next post: THE WRITING