The Devil’s in the Details

My husband and I recently started watching a show called The 100 on Netflix. The 100 is based on a book series of the same name by Kass Morgan and the first season aired on the CW last year. (Oddly enough, I heard absolutely nothing about this show until the last few months when it made its way to Netflix and, subsequently, made its way to tumblr fandoms.) Anyway, as far as entertaining and diverse media goes, I’d give The 100 a solid A. I’m only six or seven episodes into season one, but the cast features plenty of PoC and women as driving forces of the narrative instead of just background decoration, and that’s something I can always stand behind—especially when it’s entertaining too!

The-100-cast-season-one

image from primetime.unrealitytv.co.uk

 

The 100’s grade starts slipping a little, though, in the details of its storytelling. During the first three episodes, my husband and I had a rousing good time picking apart all the flaws in the plot and in the costuming and in the world building. To be fair, I’m married to the sort of person who spends the drive home every time we go see a movie picking apart every single detail about said movie that doesn’t make sense and he can be overly critical, but at the same time, I feel like he and I were making some good points—and these good points have shifted The 100 from “oh my gosh everyone go watch this show it’s amazing!!!” to “eh it’s a pretty good show and entertaining, but it could have been so much better.”

Let’s look at the costume design. The 100 is set 97 years after a nuclear fallout on Earth and the only surviving humans are the descendants of people who’d been living on twelve different space stations (now hodge-podged together into one). The only resources these people have are what already existed on those space stations at the time of Earth’s destruction. And yet everyone wears tailored-to-fit skinny jeans and I’m pretty sure that the teenage cast (the 100 juvenile delinquents sent to Earth to see if it’s survivable) were all outfitted with custom made leather jackets before they were booted out of the space station. (How else are we supposed to indicate that they’re delinquents if they’re not wearing leather?)

The show has nodded to the fact that the people on the space station to recycle and reuse a lot of clothes and shoes and supplies, but there hasn’t been a significant explanation of why those space stations had all that gear in the first place.

And beyond the jeans and leather jackets, we’ve seen a couple of girls in their underwear and so we know that at least one of the girls wears a standard underwire bra—that apparently fits her like a dream even though that bra is 97 years old (or has been repurposed from 97 year old parts). I’m lucky if my bras last more than a year.

Now, I suppose a lot of this is probably nit-picking. It’s just costuming, right? Besides, skinny jeans and combat boots and leather jackets are part of the post-apocalyptic aesthetic and that sort of aesthetic is important when marketing a show so people know what they’re getting themselves into. Fine. Fair enough. I’ll give you that.

But what about this guy?

image from thetvaddict.com

image from thetvaddict.com

This guy is a grounder—the descendant of one of the humans who survived the nuclear fallout 97 years ago. Until the 100 showed up, he’d been living in a cave, but LOOK AT THAT T-SHIRT! I can perhaps buy that the clothes on the space station have held up better than they should because they haven’t been exposed to natural elements, but this guy has been living in a cave and I’m pretty sure I could find that exact shirt out at Hollister or something. That doesn’t suggest to me that the grounders have been living it rough the last 97 years.

Another thing about that character? He speaks and understands English. In the episode where he’s introduced, the showrunners make a little nod to the fact that he probably doesn’t understand English, but by the end of the episode, it becomes pretty clear that he does. And while 97 years isn’t enough time for language to completely shift—enough time for the space survivors and the grounders to be using wildly different dialects, perhaps, but not enough for them to be speaking completely different languages—I still have a hard time believing that the 100’s space pod, which essentially crash-landed in the middle of a forest in some unidentified part of the world, happened to land in the pocket of the world that still speaks English. The odds are unfathomable.

And from here, my problems with the details in the storytelling only get worse. In the first few episodes, several of the teenagers take a dip in a river. How did they learn to swim? I doubt their space station has a lap pool. Even if they do have enough water to fill a lap pool, I doubt they’d want that water being contaminated by people swimming in it.

And that time they had to save one of their buddies from a fever from an infected wound? As far as I can tell, they just went out to the same river and grabbed a handful of radioactive-red seaweed and…boiled it? And it saved him? Granted, I know nothing about herbal remedies, but doesn’t anyone else think that the flora on Earth would be so warped by radiation that you shouldn’t really trust it without testing it first?

And when some of the 100 drag home a wild monster-puma for everyone to eat, how do they know how to cook it? Have any of them ever eaten meat? Where did they get meat in space? And how do they know how to control fire so well? Considering the space station is running out of oxygen, I’d assume that fire would be a number one banned item in space considering how it feeds off oxygen.

On the subject of oxygen, what’s the deal with the space station government executing criminals by throwing them out of an airlock—along with an entire room full of oxygen? The method of execution does add some fun vernacular—the practice is called “floating” and leads to such phrases as “Oh, go float yourself”—but for a people concerned with conserving oxygen, it does not make an ounce of sense to launch your criminals into space through an airlock without vacuuming the oxygen out of the room in the first place! Especially since these people operate by a “one strike and you’re out” policy. How much oxygen have they wasted by booting people out of airlocks like that? How much of their current crisis could have been avoided if they’d figured out a better way to kill their criminals?

At the end of the day, all of these details are pretty extraneous. None of them are terribly important to the plot and none of them feel like gimmicks designed to prop the plot up (which is a worse crime, in my opinion). But the fact is that these extraneous details pull me out of the show and out of the story. As much as I enjoy the show, I can’t help but notice all these little things that don’t make sense and then I spend time complaining about it with my husband instead of paying attention to the show. The show is very good, but it’s not mind-blowing in the way it could have been…all because the attention to detail is a little lacking.

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