×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Review: ‘The 100’ Season 3

With:
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

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

More TV

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content