Review: ‘The 100’ Season 3

the 100 season 3 premiere review
Courtesy CW

The season three premiere of “The 100” is encouraging in any number of ways. Its energy practically jumps off the screen, the way various story threads are picked up and carried forward is crisp and efficient, and the show continues to grapple with the psychological consequences of the wrenching end of season two through believable character development. “Wanheda: Part 1” is simply terrific to look at, and the commitment of the cast is palpable. There are moments of badassery that made me cheer.

One of the best things about this installment and the three episodes that follow is the look of “The 100”: The show’s directors, production designers, set decorators and costumers have outdone themselves this season.

When looking at the epic feel and varied array of stories on display in season three, which overtly and covertly recalls “The Lord of the Rings” saga in a number of ways, it’s almost hard to recall how limited the scope and the ambitions of “The 100” were two years ago, when a rag-tag band of survivors first crash-landed on Earth. In season three (which the cast and showrunner previewed here), the show is more politically complicated than ever, and the world-building that accompanies the depiction of various factions, alliances and conflicts is generally admirable.

A lot of people wrote the show off back when it first premiered, but I wasn’t one of them. I don’t say that to be annoyingly smug, truly. I just feel lucky that in the gigantic flood of TV that every critic has to sift through, I spotted enough interesting elements to keep me watching, despite other demands on my time. My patience was rewarded, given that “The 100” developed into one of my favorite shows, a knotty and rewarding tale of survival and disillusionment wrapped up in an exciting adventure yarn (or maybe it’s the other way around).

All that said, when writing and talking about “The 100,” I’ve been honest about the show’s flaws. Sometimes it rushes past story elements that needed more care and attention. A few characters have been thinly drawn (Maya) or hard to take (I wasn’t a Murphy fan in Season 1, though I am now). In a show that wants to explore the morality of complicated men and women, character development and challenging choices need to be outlined with rigor and believable texture, but that hasn’t always happened. Occasionally, the show’s desire to sketch bold allegories or achieve a certain momentum slides into sloppiness and corner-cutting.

All those things happen in a major way in the third and fourth episodes of the new season, and the way those problematic elements play out gave me serious pause. It’s only one story line in a show where the rest of the plots are functioning just fine, but everything is connected within the world of “The 100” — which is as it should be.

What worries me is that the overly speedy aspects of that story line, which lacks nuance and meaningful depth, weakens one of the core pillars of “The 100.” My objections could be partly summed up by asserting this truth: When a person on “The 100” is given an array of bad options, a viewer will understand why a character picked a certain path, even if the viewer doesn’t necessarily agree with that choice. Hand-waving away concerns about set-up and follow-through doesn’t work with this show, because half the appeal of “The 100” centers on our ability to empathize with people who often do terrible things. We need to know why they do those things, and we need to care even if they make choices that ends up working out very badly for them and for others.

Very little about the story line that concerns me is credible, let alone entertaining, and one new character is just as grating as can be this season. It’s not the performer, it’s the way the character is written. This person is a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out on a show that has mostly avoided that kind of predictable writing.

I don’t want to be more specific than that for now; I don’t want to ruin your viewing experience; it’s entirely possible that none of these things will trouble you as you watch “The 100’s” third season. I should make it clear that I will continue to watch the show and hope that it rides out what, for me, is a disappointing instance of disarray as well as a number of missed opportunities. The good elements of season three — and there are quite a few — may allow the show to rise above and/or excise the weak elements and return to top form by mid-season. We’ll just have to see. 

By the way, I asked “The 100” executive producer Jason Rothenberg about all the things I’ve outlined above — good and bad — and he answered every single one of my questions with equanimity. (Look to my Variety colleague Laura Prudom for a series of interviews with the cast of “The 100” in coming days.) This is part 1 of the Rothenberg interview. Part 2 will be posted after episode four airs. May we meet again…to discuss the ups and downs of season three.

Ryan McGee and I discussed the return of “The 100,” along with “The X-Files,” “The Magicians,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” and several other shows, in the most recent Talking TV podcast, which is here and on iTunes

“The 100” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.

Review: 'The 100' Season 3

Series; CW, Thurs. Jan. 21, 9 p.m.

Cast

Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, Devon Bostick, Lindsey Morgan, Ricky Whittle, Christopher Larkin, Richard Harmon, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Michael Beach, Zach McGowan

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  1. Jackson1223 says:

    SPOILER……. I hate how in season 2 episode 8, they killed Finn. I cried and I never cry over tv

  2. J. says:

    The show was complete shit since season one.

  3. Katherine Arredondo says:

    After killing Lexa the show just became complete shit, is all over the place!!

  4. gstarraw.warratsg says:

    I could just about cope with season 2 of this let alone season 3 which has taken and absolute horrific spiral into into the dior.

    First of all, when you see reviews all I read is “experts” opinions like rotten tomatoes. These people are clueless. People don’t give a s**t about central themes and relationships. It’s how much you actually enjoy it that counts -which comes from ordinary viewers

    Also, I don’t have a vandetta against homosexuals but just cut out all the cr*ppy sex and love scenes (we came to watch a drama). The plot is riddled with it and it’s clearly just a propaganda promo thing they have added later on to try and increase viewers.

    That brings me on to a major point. What actually is the plot. The whole 3 season has about 50 new conflicts which, let’s be honest, are only there to fill up episodes. The only decent conflict is this AI that has slowly risen. But it’s predictable they are going to use the second AI to save the world and make it a “better place”. And suddenly AI is the solution to everything even though it killed almost the entire planet.

    And now characters themselves. I almost feel sorry for their future careers. They seem to be killing off the good characters in the story and leaving the bad ones behind. They cannot build convincing characters in the play and most of the time when they do, they end up dying (lincoln) or spontaneously change overnight to become mass murderers (bellamy). You’ve got octavia riding horses thinking she’s a hardcore grounder and lincoln wearing a skikru jacket using guns? And Clarke is the most irritating annoying piece of bullcra*p that ever existed in season 3. Straight out. Her constant frown is unbearable at times and I have to look away at the TV to stop my eyes screwing up. They have given her far to much air time. Any advice that comes out her mouth is predictable, her only purpose in the film is to state the obvious.

    These major problems is why so many people have stopped watching it even before the season has finished. I don’t expect them to make it to season 4.

  5. Bun So says:

    I am so sick of these shows where these 90 pound women are super bad ass. Octavia really makes me sick I would like 15 minutes with her and I would kick her ass please kill Jasper off.

  6. Linda says:

    I really loved this sow until the last two episodes. The show has gone down hil with all the homosexual parts. I don’t enjoy watching it. People can be who ever they want to be but I don’t have to watch it. I don’t even like heavy sex sceens between a man and a woman on the TV.. I will not be watching it anymore.

  7. Debbie says:

    Hate the push for homosexual relationships and absolutely no heterosexual relationship. Can’t sit with the family to watch a good decent show without having this rubbed in our faces. Stick to the story and cut out so many same sex scenes! I enjoy the show but now taking it off my dvr recording schedule.

    • G says:

      2 same sex scenes, an 1 out of the 2 was basically just kissing. In season 1 and 2 we had Finn/Clarke, Bellamy leaving his tent with girls, Bellamy/Raven, Octavia/Lincoln, Raven and the other guy. So, where’s the lack of heterosexual relationships? I can’t see it tbh. None of these scenes did anything for the plot, they were obviously for the drama itself as this is still a CW show as you know. It’s sad to see people like you, I personally treat any relationship as the same, heterosexual or homosexual and you should get used as homo relationships on tv will only increase from now on.

  8. Greg allen says:

    I really love this show, but hate the fact that the music is now constant throughout the ENTIRE EPISODE! It makes the scenes seem less intense because it is always going. It’s also WAAAY too loud. There are many times you can’t even hear what the actor is saying. Please fix this!

  9. octaviablakegriffin says:

    Why is everybody hating the 100 now! The 100 deserves so many seasons, and also people are complaining about things that, don’t make sense! Season 3 episode 3 was really good, and it was time for a change! Season 3 episode 2 was also really good because Instead of waiting for ages, for a reunion, they had it fast. The only bad thing is that Clarke should of gone back with Abby, Kane and Bellamy instead of having two leaders staying in tondc!

  10. EternalCreator says:

    “Spoiler” I really liked this show after watching the first two seasons. Letting go of a couple inaccuracies and I was looking forward to season 3. I was pumped when I saw new episodes but episode 3 ruined the whole show and I’m pretty sure I’ll never watch it again. Thanks for that by the way. “Spoiler”. A man who commits Treason becomes chancellor the next day and pardons himself. MAKES ZERO SENSE. Who writes this crap. How can someone become leader after committing treason. He should have been killed for trying to start a war with people they just became a part of. Just dumb.

  11. Galane says:

    The show would be so much better if they’d either had a decent science advisor, or if it has one the writers and directors would actually listen to the advice.

    Just so many awful bad things on the Ark. Letting the air in or out of an airlock isn’t what makes people and things drop to the floor. The station had various spinning parts but apparently just for show. Did you also notice at least two space shuttle-like craft attached? I guess nobody ever gave a thought to trying to use them to land. There would be several naturally flat dry lakes and salt pans that might serve as runways.

    After 97 years most of the radiation from bombs would be long gone. The longest lived byproducts (only from certain types of bombs) would be Americium 241 with a half life of 432 years and Plutonium 239 with a half life of 24,400 years. Half life is the amount of time it takes for 50% of a radioactive material to decay. Pu-239 contamination only comes from bombs using Plutonium. The amounts of Pu in a typical bomb is fairly small, used in the initiator that compresses and fuses the hydrogen isotopes which then explode. The worst contaminated areas would be directly below the points of detonation, with rapid falloff with distance. Secondary contamination zones would be downwind in whatever direction the wind was blowing when a bomb detonated.

    http://zidbits.com/2013/11/is-nagasaki-and-hiroshima-still-radioactive/

    Radiation does not at all work how this show depicts it. Some small amount of material could be made radioactive by high energy particles from the bombs. Most of what would be a problem is the vaporized material of the bombs themselves, scattered across the ground. 97 years of accumulation of windborne dust and decomposed plant matter would bury and ‘seal’ the fallout. Use a geiger counter and don’t eat anything that spikes higher than normal background levels. Don’t dig in those areas.

    The air wouldn’t be radioactive. The ventilation system would have to be pulling in fallout contaminated dust, which it wouldn’t be after 97 years.

    Just about all of the medical stuff, especially in regards to symptoms and treatment of radiation exposure, is total bollocks on this show. I guess in this future time everyone who survives has the same blood type and has perfectly compatible bone marrow.

    “Metabolizing radiation”. No. Just no. No way in hell, not even as a naturally occurring mutation in only two or three generations. Humans are not like Deinococcus radiodurans. A gene therapy treatment based on that bacteria would be more plausible than blood and marrow transfusions without type matching. (Which wouldn’t do a bloody thing to heal radiation burns anyway.)

    Hydrazine is not an explosive. It’s not even flammable. Nor is it red. It’s a clear, oily liquid that is a monopropellant. It’s used in reaction control thrusters and has been used to power engines on some high altitude unmanned aircraft. It contains both fuel and oxidizer, requiring a catalyst to cause it to decompose. That process produces heat which ignites the oxygen and other gasses separated by the catalyst. Without a catalyst Hydrazine is as likely to explode as water. NASA tried to make it explode. In one test they used a pound of C4. No detonation from the hydrazine. Another test fired a 1/8″ diameter aluminum projectile at a small, stainless steel tank, at a speed of 6.1 kilometers per second. No detonation. When Raven dipped the rock in the “hydrazine” and tossed it, all that would have happened was a mildly toxic rock where she threw it.

    Yes, the stuff is toxic. A small exposure won’t hurt you, unless it’s a small exposure very often over a long period of time. Exposure to or ingesting/breathing a lot of it is not at all a good thing.

    Then there’s the bomb. A 2lb coffee can with an open top, covered only with a piece of aluminum foil, won’t work for a decent explosive, especially not VS a reinforced concrete bridge that’s managed to survive a nuclear war and 97 years of neglect.

    Containment is the key to a good explosive. The pressure has to be held for a bit so it can build before a fast release. Assuming that smokeless powder can be set off by shooting it with a non-incendiary bullet (which it can’t) what would happen with Raven’s “bomb” is most of the powder would be blown up and out unburned, with a bunch of it soaked in ordinary unmagical hydrazine.

    Even if the coffee can was packed solid with C4 and properly rigged with a blasting cap (which *might* have a chance of taking down the bridge when simply set on the deck), no chemical explosive that fits into that size can would make that large of a mushroom cloud.

    Finally, blowing the lock on the Mt. Weather door, again with “hydrazine”. Given their knowledge of the radio jamming capabilities of the mountain men, why did they not simply use a wired switch to set it off? Nooo, had to have Lincoln do a Dukes of Hazzard flaiming arrow shot at the last second. Yeee-hawww!

    Aside from all that horrible fail at technology and medicine, I have enjoyed the first two seasons, but the show could have been so much better if it was as good on the science part as The Expanse is on the physics of spacecraft maneuvering.

  12. greg says:

    So done with Hollywood cramming gayness… Yes you exist, yes I recognize you. But I don’t have to see it by the thousands.. Black Sails, Orange is the new black… Take a look https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dramatic_television_series_with_LGBT_characters
    homosexuals exist.. but this in no way represent real society.. if thats the case 50% of the country is gay.. Most major new shows are STUFFING it down our throats.

    • Debbie says:

      I agree!!! Is there any heterosexual relationship in this show… give me a break!!! So many story lines is hard to keep track of what’s, what! Getting ridiculous

    • Yes, it represents real society. Even if your homophobic brain can’t seems to absorbs it. Gays/bisexuals aren’t fictional characters created by the tv shows, they’re real and need representativeness

      • SAM says:

        I too am tired of the constant sex-related content shown in tv shows lately of all persuasions… I am glad that tv shows have been representing the LGBT community but I think overall less is more I want to be invested in a tv show because of the story not the sex. Before anyone starts accusing me of being some kind of homophobe, I am a member of the LGBT community. Not wanting to see people constantly getting their rocks off on tv doesn’t make me, or anyone else for that matter, ignorant. I am just bored with it constantly being on display everywhere like sex is the only thing that happens in the world and I am racked off with accusations of homophobia being thrown around just because someone has a different view on things.

  13. This is a very enigmatic review. But I understand that you don’t want to give us spoilers (thank you for that). I’m anxious to see what you have to say after episode 4.
    About the non-enigmatic parts, I mostly agree. The show is really good, and I’m happy I had the patience to go through some things in season one. The 100 turns out to be in a completely different level in season two. Season two was epic, I became so conflicted about some things that I couldn’t stop thinking about. This show makes us reason about aspects like sociology, psychology, morality, ethic… I’d love to have deep conversations about things that happens in this show. But at the same time, I do agree that the show rushes some important things. And another down aspect for me, the romantic relationships aren’t well built. Lincoln had a kind of love at first sight for Octavia? That was fast! The thing involving Finn, Clarke and Raven was boring as hell. I understand that the romantic relationships aren’t the focus of the series, but if the main focus is the building of a new society and world, it has to be present and it has to be better written. Because relationships happen. And they’re kinda important. Relationships can deflagrate wars. And change political aspects of society. And the relationships in the 100 aren’t well built. It was a nice surprise for me the Lexa and Clarke thing. But it was nice because of the performances of the actresses, they had chemistry and could show their feelings in their eyes. But the romance wasn’t well written. It didn’t have a good building up. I hope they can change my opinion about this in season three. In general, the show is fantastic. I love it! Mainly because of Eliza Taylor. She’s a stupendous actress. She amazes me every time. She’s the best thing in the 100.

  14. Jason says:

    I agree I am sick and tired of Hollywood Cramming Homosexuality down our throats. It does not add anything to the series. Every person I talk to about this agrees, that they are tired of it. Hollywood, news for you….The horse is dead stop beating it and move on….

  15. Kim Crady says:

    I am so sick of every show on TV having to put gay or lesbian sex scenes. It is ridiculous. This show is good why would you do that. It has nothing to do with this show. I’m sick of Hollywood cramming it down our throats. Has this become a requirement to put a show on TV, because I’m telling you the majority of people do not want to watch.

    • AngelLestat says:

      I am not gay.. But I like to see new things.. I am tired to see the same roles over and over..
      I am tired to see girls that are a copy of her mother or grandmother, girls can fight if they want.. they can play games, they dont need to be always behind a prince and think in shoes.. With the guys that never was a problem, they did girl stuffs wherever they wanted… no limits in their hobbies or activities.
      Womens are full of limits self-imposed limits. I prefer 100% of the time people who challenge the society and their costumes.

    • Lesley says:

      You putrid little homophobe Kim Crady. I have your heterosexualism crammed down my throat every day on TV. The show reflects real life representation of society – yes we exist, and how the hell have you jumped into the minds of the audience to decide the majority of people don’t want to watch. Thankfully ignorant little homophobes like you are becoming a thing of the past generation. You are outnumbered. Crawl back into your hole, hobbit!

      • Jason says:

        spoken like a true liberal. Its okay for you to disagree with other peoples views, but if someone does not agree with you, then they are a racist,Homophobe, or any other name you will call them

    • Grow up. If that’s all you have to complain about, you have nothing to complain about.

    • Nate says:

      If straight sex is acceptable on TV or in movies, gay or lesbian sex scenes should be as well.

      “Sick of Hollywood cramming it down our throats.” – Really? The 100 and Sense8 are the only two shows I can think of that have had lesbian/gay sex scenes.

    • Bill B. says:

      Because there are gay people everywhere and they can be a part of any scenario. All the endless cries for diversity does not only pertain to black people, ya know.

      • F-dat says:

        I think this imposed gay stuff is getting ridiculous… These shows only do it so you can give them “points” or to capture a target crowd. Teens running the world. Just think about that for a second.Has anyone ever noticed that almost everyone who has survived in space and on the ground are mostly white. This show is stupid and it takes a stupid person to think this show is not a giant comedy. In 97 years we wouldn’t forget our past and create a new language. c’mon people use your brains people. This show should be cancelled.

  16. Ronbo says:

    The season 3 premier didn’t quite sync with the last episode of season 2. For instance, where did the blond girl running the trading post come from and where is Clarke’s warlord girlfriend? One of several plotlessness that didn’t quite dovetail. Still infall, I’m a fan

    • Dunno says:

      There was a three-month-timejump, its obvious that things changed from Blood Must Have Blood Part Two. They have 40 minutes, so they cant fit every single alive character in every episode, and thats why you didnt see Lexa. Also, Nylah didnt need to describe her story. That would have been just stupid. Shes doing what is needed for the story

    • Nate says:

      Viewers don’t need a backstory on a new supporting character to “sync” to last season (she wasn’t even in season 2). It explained her motivations for helping Clarke (her mother was in Mount Weather if I recall correctly). That’s more then enough character development at this point.

      I imagine Lexa’s storyline will pick up where it left off sometime over the next few episodes.

  17. Larry says:

    This is a very good show. More people should watch it.

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