Seldom if ever has the central character of a TV series had to face as many moral dilemmas as Clarke Griffin, played by Eliza Taylor, does in The 100. This exceptional and dark science-fiction drama (CW, 2013–present) is never afraid to explore how far people will go to survive when faced with extreme circumstances.
Almost a century after a nuclear war has apparently made the Earth’s surface uninhabitable, some 2,000 people are living in orbit in the “Ark,” an assemblage of space stations. All of them were born in space, descendants of the Ark’s first passengers. Partly because resources are depleting, and partly as a test to determine whether the Earth may be habitable again, a decision is made to send 100 juvenile prisoners to the planet’s surface.
After a struggle for control within the group, Clarke Griffin emerges as a natural-born leader. The group faces unexpected dangers, beginning with “Grounders”—a tribe of people who did survive on the Earth but live primitively, and who are immediately hostile to the “Sky People,” as they call the 100.
Clarke’s strength and willingness to make hard life-and-death decisions helps at least some of the group survive the first two seasons. When the group is eventually joined by adults from the Ark, Clarke becomes the de facto leader of everyone.
The writing is bold and imaginative, and the cast is superb. Besides Eliza Taylor as Clarke, it includes Bob Morley as Bellamy Blake, Marie Avgeropoulos as Octavia Blake, Lindsey Morgan as Raven Reyes, Paige Turco as Dr. Abigail Griffin (Clarke’s mother), and Henry Ian Cusick as Marcus Kane.
Abigail Griffin: “She's still just a kid.”
Raven Reyes: “You're wrong, Abby. She stopped being a kid the day you sent her down here to die.”
—The 100, Episode 2.5 (“Human Trials”)
Abby: "You crossed the line."
Abby: “Their blood is on your hands, and even if we win, I'm afraid you won't be able to wash it off this time. Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."
—The 100, Episode 2.12 (“Rubicon”)
Clarke: “I have your father. If you don’t let my people go, I’ll kill him.”
Cage Wallace: “You won’t do it.”
Clarke: “You don’t know me very well.”
—The 100, Episode 2.16 (“Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2”)
Rating: 10 stars (out of 10)
Band of Gold was a British television show that ran for three "series" (the U.K. equivalent of "seasons") from 1995 to 1997, retitled Gold in series three. I became aware of it after seeing the film Minority Report (2002). Being greatly impressed with the performance of Samantha Morton as the Precog Agatha, I decided to watch as much of her earlier work as possible, including her Oscar-nominated role in Sweet and Lowdown (1999) and her extraordinary lead performance in Under the Skin (1997). Then I learned that as a teenager in 1995–96, she had been in the TV series Band of Gold. The first series was available in Region 1 DVD format, but the second and third only in Region 2 format. I liked the first season enough to buy a region-free DVD player just to be able to watch the other two, but the device has since proved its worth many other times.
The show is a drama and murder mystery, centering on the lives of several women living in Bradford, England, who are working as prostitutes in the first series. In the first episode, we follow a character who seems likely to become the main star of the show, only to be left adrift (as happens in watching Psycho) when she is murdered late in the episode. The series stars Geraldine James, Cathy Tyson, Barbara Dickson, and Morton, who in the second series are joined by Lena Headey.
Band of Gold is often gritty and contains frank sexual dialogue and disturbing scenes of violence, but the characters are well-drawn and easy to care about.
Rating: 7 stars (out of 10)
First came a critically acclaimed 1990 nonfiction book about a Texas high school football team’s run for the state championship, then came a critically acclaimed 2004 movie based on the book. The TV series of the same name, which ran from 2006–11, was a fictionalized version of its predecessors, giving the writers freedom to explore all aspects of the characters’ lives in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, where having a winning high school football is the most important thing in the world to many residents.
The show focuses on high school football coach Eric Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler), his wife Tami (Connie Britton), their teenage daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden), several members of the coach’s football team, the families and girlfriends of those players, and other townspeople such as a key team booster. Prominent in the ensemble cast are Taylor Kitsch, Adrianne Palicki, Jesse Plemons, Scott Porter, and Zach Gilford. By the fourth season the players from season one have graduated, and several new cast members appear, including a new quarterback played by Michael B. Jordan.
The cast was given broad latitude to improvise lines as long as they kept true to their characters. The result is a compelling drama that never feels contrived or forced, and which earned numerous acting awards and nominations.
Although on the surface this show is all about football, it’s really not about football at all. It’s about the characters. Nothing illustrates this better than the final minutes of the final episode of the final season—one of the all-time greatest series finales—when (spoiler alert) the team is in the state championship game. Trailing by less than a touchdown with only seconds remaining, the quarterback launches a pass toward the end zone. We watch the perfect spiral against the night sky, but before we see whether it is caught for a winning touchdown, the scene cuts to a year in the future. We see what certain characters are doing, how they’ve ended up, and we realize that it didn’t matter whether or not they won the championship—their lives a year later would have been exactly the same either way.
Rating: 9 stars (out of 10)
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