Almost 100 years after nuclear war rendered Earth uninhabitable, survivors from the ground, from space, and from inside a secret government bunker are fighting for survival. There are a lot of unanswered questions about loyalty and power. The line between hero and villain is getting blurrier and blurrier. People dress funny. But the ultimate question any fan of The 100 must confront is actually pretty basic. What happened to humanity’s shit?
The show is six episodes into the third season and the post-nuclear world occupied by Grounders and Sky People has been pretty well mapped out. There are uncertainties, sure — Lexa’s rule is being questioned, a zealot has wrested control of Arkadia, and we’re contending with a mysterious looming threat in the form of A.L.I.E., an imaginary friend who lives in a suitcase — but we have a sense of the landscape. That means we also have a sense of what is not part of the landscape, which is basically anything human or humanizing. There are almost no signs of prewar popular culture. No one seems to have a copy of Season 1 of Gilmore Girls on DVD.
The world of The 100 is expansive and in a hour-long show that has 16 episodes per season, there isn’t a lot of time to dwell on the minutiae that don’t directly impact the story at hand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t formulate a few theories about where the detritus of human history ended up.
Theory One: Everything Is in Mount Weather
In “Ye Who Enter Here,” this season’s third episode, the Sky People have moved into Mount Weather in an effort to use it as a medical facility/stronghold. While Pike, Bellamy, Octavia, and others heed Echo’s (misleading) warning and make their way to Polis to stop the summit, which they believe is a trap. Meanwhile, Farm Station survivors, along with Gina, Raven, and Sinclair, are hanging out in Mount Weather. Cut to an assassin who’s (surprise!) hiding out in Mount Weather, ready to kill everyone. After he kills Gina (R.I.P. Gina, we hardly knew ye), he sets in motion a self-destruct sequence and promptly exits Mount Weather, pursued by Sinclair. And Raven. They escape just before Mount Weather blows the hell up, but no one else is quite as lucky, and gone with them are the priceless pieces of human history that were tucked away in the warehouse and library inside the mountain.
We’ve only seen the very tip of the iceberg in the show. Shots of the warehouse reveal that there were thousands of artifacts in Mount Weather. Clearly someone had some warning and thought to stock the super-secret bunker with paintings, sculptures, books, statues, MP3 players, and, theoretically, all of the digital media they could cram onto the Mount Weather servers. Nothing says “America” like living in opulence while the rest of the world burns, right?
In theory, it wasn’t just Starry Night, the piano, the cathedral-sized stained glass windows in the dining hall and the thousands of items in the warehouse and library. They could’ve had everything from Gilligan’s Island to Game of Thrones hoarded digitally. We do know that the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” survived, thanks to Jasper and courtesy of Maya’s iPod.
Theory Two: Space Storage
The Ark was made up of 12 space stations that were operational at the time of the nuclear war on Earth. Well, technically there were 13, but one blew up. Space is unforgiving and tends to punish folly with death, so it’s doubtful that too terribly much made it on board with the survivors from Earth. It’s not totally clear whether the majority of these stations were already in orbit or if they were launched as something of a Hail Mary pass for the human race. We also don’t know how much warning they might’ve had or how many people were originally on board, so the Ark is a wildcard.
At any rate, though, anything that astronauts were allowed to bring on board would’ve survived. Given what we’ve seen from real astronauts like Commander Chris Hadfield, that could’ve included things like guitars. Based on what we’ve seen from fictional astronauts like Kate Mara’s Beth Johanssen in The Martian, it also could’ve included a copy of Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
Any files could’ve transferred digitally also could’ve survived, but in the face of a nuclear war, it’s hard to tell where that might’ve been on the list of priorities for those still on the ground. We do know that residents of the Ark had access (if limited access) to things like pencils. We also know that Jaha had some extremely old whiskey. They also had access to every technological advancement that might’ve feasibly been aboard any of the 12 stations.
Still, anything not on the piece of the Ark now that makes up Arkadia or brought with the survivors from Farm Station is gone, just like anything that was in Mount Weather.
Theory Three: The Grounders Are Actually Hoarders
The Grounders could be hoarding loads of pre-war goodies, but outside of Polis, probably not and probably nothing that isn’t practical or useful. The Grounders, though certainly more civilized than we gave them credit for in Season 2, likely aren’t concerned with sentimentality. They’re focused on survival, not on saving knickknacks and bric-a-brac. Their clothes are largely found and modified and their weapons are decidedly old school. Even so, they live in close proximity to major cultural centers — Tondc is, after all, derived from Washington, D.C. It stands to reason that the Grounders have likely collected some artifacts from before the war, but there’s a better than good chance that they left behind anything that doesn’t serve a purpose.
That said, what we’ve seen of Polis sheds some light on what they might’ve collected over the last 97 or so years. The scene in the Polis square, specifically, shows what look like bicycle wheels, old car doors, pots, pans, chairs, grills, a keyboard, sunglasses, carts, bird cages, hoses, and plenty of other found objects, so they’ve clearly done plenty of scavenging and, in a way, preserving. What else they have is anybody’s guess, but it’ll likely be something we see more of as we move forward in Season 3.
Theory Four: Everything Is in Plush Underground Bunkers
At the end of Season 2, Murphy and Jaha follow a drone to a mansion on the other side of the Dead Zone. Though Jaha leaves Murphy passed out on the beach, when he wakes up he stumbles upon a solar panel and an underground bunker that’s full of couches, booze, and Werewolves of London.
There’s tons of stuff inside of the bunker: motorcycles, a pool table, sculptures, food, a camcorder, a TV, lightbulbs, electricity, and some video files that just might eventually tell us how and why the war started and where. But because we’ve seen so little of the bunker and the mansion, what else is there, what it means and what condition it’s in is largely up in the air.
Theory Five: Boom!
Supply depots like the one that Bellamy and Clarke find in Season 1, along with shelters like the one that Finn and Clarke discovered, are good bets for surviving remnants of prewar culture, but they’re likely few and far between. What’s more, they’re going to be stocked with things like super nasty MREs and canned food, not fine art and a pristine set of first edition Harry Potter books. Though there may be items of significance, many of them are probably commonplace.
So that leaves all the usual places. What became of public libraries, for instance? Private collections? The Library of Congress? The Smithsonian? National Archives? The Metropolitan Museum of Art? You get the idea.
That’s a great unknown, but much of it depends on how much of it was moved into places like Mount Weather before the war. If Mount Weather’s collection is anything to go by, those with advanced warning moved a lot of stuff before the bombs hit, and Mount Weather may not have been the only place where things ended up. There’s still a lot we don’t know how the war began, or if people knew what was coming. If they didn’t, it would’ve been difficult to move anything that was on display in museums to safety without alerting the public. Creating panic isn’t the something our government has ever liked to do, and I’d be willing to bet that doesn’t change by 2052.
In cities that weren’t hit directly by the bombs, the survival of artifacts is probable, but it’s unclear whether or not people on Earth were killed immediately after the bombs hit. If there were any survivors on the ground initially (and it stands to reason that there may have been, though we don’t know for sure where the Grounders come from), there was almost definitely a period of looting. If that’s the case, then there are probably a lot of artifacts hanging around wherever survivors took refuge, and we still have no idea where that might’ve been.
Will we get to see the inside of a surviving museum or library on the show? Hard telling, but based on the appearances of banks, zoos and underground train stations that we’ve already seen, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.