When it premiered on the CW in 2014, The 100 had all the markings of a stale YA survival story: One hundred adolescent criminals crash landed on the Earth, hundreds of years after humanity left the planet to escape the after effects of nuclear war. With their parents and guardians trapped above in a space station, the hundred delinquents, all sexy and tousled, began trading partners, exploring the wilderness and trying to kill each other. There were harshly defined “good girls” and “bad girls”, and the show suffered from its reliance on stereotypes. Somehow, as the show’s first season came to a close, The 100 developed deftly from an amalgamation of popular YA fiction from the last decade into something unique.
As it turned out, several tribes of humans stayed behind on the earth, and their world had come to resemble the high fantasy backdrop of shows like Game of Thrones. The 100 enjoyed a second season with a larger scope, notably mixing the shiny, sleek aesthetic of Battlestar Galactica with the ruddier, old-world look of fantasy epics. What was once a story about teenagers getting it on in the forest became a war with multiple opposing forces, all set on an earth that most of humanity abandoned. Season 3 begins January 21st, and the show is set to out-do itself again.
In anticipation of a larger audience, the CW released “quick cuts” of each prior episode, as if the network was fully aware of the show’s slow build in quality. Instead of releasing “quick cuts” for each episode of Season 1, for example, the CW simply released a “highlight reel” for its premiere season, which was worth watching, but only with one finger waiting on the fast forward button. The story of the adults on the space station, for example, was often heavy-handed, while the action on the ground became increasingly interesting. One of the The 100’s greatest triumphs has been allowing teen romance to take a back seat to survival, which gave the will-they-won’t-they aspects of each episode the same emotional heft as each milestone in the kids’ gathering of resources and allies. By teasing the audience with small moments of affection, The 100 made its pairings feel as if their stakes were as high as the larger dramas — where will the kids get food? Why are there deer with extra heads in the forest? Do the adults in the space station know they’re alive?
The CW has, again, deftly, released several bits of information on The 100’s third season, including a confirmation that Clarke’s first sex scene will most likely be with Lexa, the warrior who kissed her in Season 2.
Other, arguably more important, developments include Bellamy’s increased power. The adults who followed the 100 to earth will defer to Bellamy, which is a smart move, considering he’s one of the most informed characters on ground warfare and the wild landscape.
Notably, Jasper, who began the series as comic relief, will become what IGN called a “wrecking ball”, destroying what stability he can in response to Maya’s death in Season 2. The 100 has always needed an internal, turncoat villain — a kid suddenly disillusioned with the group’s culture — and it appears Jasper, who looks gaunt and rattled in promo photos, will fill that role this time around.
Other news, which will probably only delight the show’s primary demographic of tween viewers, is Shawn Mendes’ cameo in the Season 3 premiere. MTV reported that Shawn got himself a role after publicly calling himself a fan of the show, but it appears he’ll most likely die after a short appearance.
If The 100 continues its streak of surprising viewers of all ages and shirking the tropes it sets up for itself, Season 3 will probably be even better than Season 2. As even the CW seems to believe, most viewers should be binging through highlight reels and “quick cuts” of the first and second seasons just to get enough of the gist to be on board later this month.