Despite my undying appreciation for Kass Morgan’s books, my interest in the series was initially piqued by the television programme of the same name, based on her creations. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the series as well as the books, because I’m certain that if one doesn’t appeal to you, the other most definitely will. The two are nearly polar opposites in many aspects, so in order to help you make up your mind through which medium you wish to encounter this series first, let’s look at option two: the TV adaptation.
First of all, let me make one thing abundantly clear: when they say ‘based on’, they mean ‘based on’. For readers of the books the TV show will be barely recognisable as a product of the source material, and I believe that this is definitely a huge positive. It means that there is nothing predictable about this on screen translation. Season one of The 100 also runs parallel to books one and two in Kass Morgan’s series, giving further proof to my theory that the two stories would have worked better combined. The books (as I’ve previously mentioned) focus in on the romantic relationships between the characters, which can sometimes get a bit repetitive if it’s not your thing. However, the show is much more survival orientated, leading to a plot that is driven by action and excitement, making for a superbly fast paced adventure. The complex relationships between characters are still there, but the romance takes a back seat to the life-and-death situations these people find themselves in, which I found much more realistic.
Secondly, the parents. I adore the writer’s decision to show the audience what’s going on up on the Ark not through Glass and Luke (who coincidentally don’t feature in the series at all), but through the eyes of the adults making the decisions, including Clarke’s not-dead mum, Wells’ still-the-Chancellor-who-got-shot-by-Bellamy dad, and Vice Chancellor not-as big-of-a-heartless-ass-as-we-first-thought Kane. The sheer emotional depth and complexity of these characters is equal to, if not greater than the powerful performances of the younger characters on Earth. They are so much more than one-dimensional secondary characters. And they have secrets big enough to rival some of the ones being kept by the hundred, leading to some especially great angst between Clarke and her mother.
Now we come to Wells. His role in the show is drastically different here to what it is in the book, and this is why this review says major spoilers. Last warning: leave now to avoid ruining a crucial plot point for yourself. Here we go. Wells is a main character in season one, just as he is in the book, until he dies at the end of episode three at the hands of 12 year old Charlotte. But strangely enough, I wasn’t disappointed by his demise, because I felt that his death was one of the most poignant moments in Clarke’s journey. It was a turning point for a lot of people, and a catalyst for events that play out well into the final episodes of the season. I’m usually good at identifying the twists the writers have coming up for the audience, but I was blown away by how out of the blue it was. It was a total curve ball, as was the fate of his killer at the end of episode four. I’m still in awe.
For me, the biggest surprise whilst reading the book after having seen the show was Octavia. In the series she’s a beautiful 17 year old girl who kicks ass and takes names. In the book she’s 14, vulnerable, and still needs her big brother to look out for her. And it makes so much more sense! TV Octavia doesn’t really seem to need Bellamy at all while on Earth, and even as and when she does, (for example after she’s kidnapped), she pulls herself together, escapes alone and makes her own way back to camp thank-you-very-much! While it makes for good television, I cannot see any reason for making her older, other than the writers wanting to have her make out with every guy she sees. Thirteen episodes and about half a dozen boyfriends later and she’s finally able to prove to Bellamy that she doesn’t need to be protected anymore. Why? Because, honestly, she never did, and all that the writers have succeeded in doing is making Bellamy look pointlessly overprotective, which – as one of the leaders of the hundred – he clearly is not. It frustrates me.
Also, why mess with Clarke’s love life? For reasons mentioned above, Wells and Clarke don’t exactly have the time to develop a romantic relationship in the TV show, and there’s no history of one either; it’s purely platonic. For me this seems like an ideal opportunity to focus more on her budding romance with Bellamy and provide it with much more depth: make it a slow burn romance that builds up over time so as to cut out the insta-love and the love triangle in one fell swoop. But no. Instead we replace one with another. We swap Bellamy for Finn, (a character who doesn’t even exist in the books!) and have him and Clarke really hit it off, only to discover that, surprise surprise, he already has a girlfriend – Raven (also not in the books!) – back up on the Ark. Cue new insta-love, new sort-of love triangle and zero reference to the fact that Clarke and Bellamy have obvious chemistry and are supposed to be a thing!
Lastly, I’m confused. Among this group of juvenile delinquents you’ve got quite a lot of hormonal teenagers walking around and, naturally, some of them get to know each other quite well in those tents or underground bunkers, or wherever teenage criminals like to take their clothes off these days. Yet not one pregnancy? Bear in mind that in the TV series these kids come to Earth with nothing in terms of food, water or shelter, and anything they did have was destroyed when their dropship crash-landed. So did they all get lucky, or did they arrive on Earth with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a tonne of contraception?
All in all, I would rate The 100 Season One a full 5/5 stars, because in spite of the points I said I’d have liked to see altered, I don’t feel as though they detracted from my overall viewing pleasure. The overwhelming majority of the changes made by the writers were done to the benefit of the story, and the series is gripping from the word go, drawing you in with an engaging premise and a little mystery that makes it easy to get in to. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes survival, drama and complex characters who are capable of driving a plot forward and keeping an audience on the edge of their seats.
I hope this post has persuaded you to take a chance on this fantastic series either via the page or the screen. (Or, if you’re like me, both!)