Welcome to the first of a special 2-part episode on the hit CW show “The 100”. The show originally premiered in 2014 and ran for seven seasons – but today, we’re only getting into the first season. Of course, there are some spoilers, so feel free to go watch the entire first season and come back to this episode.
In the first part of our series on “The 100,” we introduce the premise of the show, some of our favourite plotholes and burning questions, and most importantly, how it relates to religion—through its apocalyptic themes.
Join us next episode for the rest of our discussion on Season 1 of “The 100” where we compare culture and religiosity in three different communities: The Sky People, The 100, and the Grounders!
Interested in learning more about apocalypticism and rapture theology? Check out these sources:
- Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman
- The Apocalypse: A Brief History by Martha Himmelfarb
- Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature by Greg Carey
- The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature by John J Collins
- The Apocalyptic Literature by Stephen L Cook
Don’t forget to follow us on your favourite social media platforms – just look up Nearly Numinous.
Welcome to Nearly Numinous. Today we’re going to be talking about a show called 100 and some of the themes of spirituality and religion we see in the show. Obviously, some of the things we’ll be discussing today will make more sense if you’ve seen the show, but we’re hoping those who haven’t seen the 100 will still get something out of our discussion today. And also, needless to say, there’s gonna be spoilers.
So today, we’re only going to be focusing on season one. But we’re also going to be splitting season one into two episodes, just so we don’t shove a lot of information in your face at one time. So first, we’re just gonna, you know, give you a little bit of an introduction about the show and give you our thoughts on it. And we’re going to talk about themes of apocalypticism. Next time, we’re going to talk about a little bit of eco-spirituality
Just a dash!
Just a little dash, a little sprinkle!
A little sprinkle!
And we split that part up into three sections, each focusing on a different community in the show to make it simpler for our listeners. And within each section, we’ll look at the different ways religion and spirituality manifest in the show’s communities.
All right, to give some listeners like a little preflight warning. We wrote the script for this in February and March. It is now June, we had we had a couple of failed recording sessions because internet hates us. And then I moved across the country and forgot everything that happened pre living across the country. Do you guys do that ever? Like I feel like there’s little like cuts in your life where like, when you make that big transition, everything that happened prior you’re like, “Oh, right. I have all these other responsibilities. My life didn’t just stop there.” So anyway.
I get what you mean. But it’s never happened to me. That’s kind of concerning.
Well, I’ve moved a lot in my life.
Pick up, dust off. Forget about everything in the past. You guys are lucky you still made the cut.
Oh, thanks, thanks so much!
No, I’m kidding. But no, that’s the listener’s preflight warning. We’re going to
Yeah, pre-flight warning. It makes sense. But we might fumble our way through a few points. But hopefully, it’s still a good conversation. Okay, so what is the 100? Which I said it the 100 because Jacqueline told me if I said the “one hundred” she would beat me up.
Oh, yeah, from the pacifist. No, I’m definitely gonna mess up on the name. I’ve always in my head called it “the one hundred.” So, okay, the 100.
Yeah, me too.
I have to practice that.
If you don’t know it’s styled with the numbers. So you could like upon first view, you could say either “hundred” or “the one hundred”. But I think officially it’s called “the hundred.”
What weird semantics anyway. So what is the 100 or “the one hundred” – whatever you would refer to it as? So the 100 is an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama that first aired on The CW in 2014. Side tangent, the CW puts out the best shows hands down.
The best worst shows
Yeah, sorry. Like, yeah, I only watch bad TV. So I only understand bad television shows, and the CW puts out the best of them, so.
As the show starts, we learned that a nuclear apocalypse made the earth supposedly inhospitable. Humans have lived in space for 97 years building their own culture, families, laws and sense of spirituality. However, the purpose of the scientists on the Ark is to determine when and if the earth will become hospitable again, and to ultimately return the Ark citizens to the ground. Our main character is Clarke Griffin, who has been sent to jail or as they call it in the show “lockup.” I don’t understand why they needed to call it something different.
Yeah, they really could’ve just called it “jail.”
Yeah. She has been sent to lock up because she knows a secret discovered by her father who was an engineer. Her father discovered that the Ark was running out have air ahead of schedule and that the Ark, which is, to clarify, the space station that they live on, would need to send people to the ground earlier or quote-unquote cull people to make the air last longer. Just to clarify for our listeners culling people means like, you know, removing them…
Sending them out to space
from the equation. Yeah, that’s a nice way of putting it.
Oh, yeah. And in the show, don’t they call like sending people just out into this into space “floating” them?
It sounds lovely.
Yeah, it sounds really nice.
I love floating in a river, in a lake.
Yeah. The number one insult is like, “go float yourself” throughout the show. And it’s really funny when they get to earth and they’re telling the non, oh, I don’t want to spoil it, but the non-space humans to go float themselves and they’re like, “what?”
Yeah, it makes no sense.
It’s okay, I think you can spoil it.
The whole episode is gonna be spoilers.
Yeah. This is your second warning. If you don’t want spoilers, dip out now we won’t be mad. Just go listen to one of our other episodes. They’re also good.
I will be mad.
Okay. All right. So getting back to Clarke and her father. So her father found out this secret. But he believed that the people of the Ark deserved to know the truth so that they could be part of any decisions that were being made about the future of the Ark. What a commie, eh?
What a terrible person.
But the leaders of the Ark disagreed and floated him aka, like we said, sent him out of the spaceship without a spacesuit, therefore no oxygen. This was the standard punishment for any crime big or small, except for those under 18 who would go into lockup until until they turn 19. And then they’re put on trial. So that’s good. They don’t kill children.
Yeah, they’re great people.
If that’s where your line is.
It’s really unclear like what going on trial means and how many people actually pass the trial? But you know… I don’t know. Kind of weird.
Maybe they expand on it in the books.
That shows based on books by the way.
I should actually read those.
Yeah, they really don’t show any examples of it in the show though. Because obviously like, the kids are in lockup for like a day before they get sent down to… Okay, sorry. And the TV episode we see a day of them in lockup.
Yeah! It’s really unclear because… Okay, so, Clarke is the main character. We meet Clarke at the beginning of the first episode, she’s in lockup. And it’s really unclear how long she’s been in there. Because the show opens with showing her drawings that she’s done all over this room she’s in and it clearly would have taken a lot of time, but it kind of also feels like it’s only been one day, so it’s just really, like the timelines really unclear how long she’s been there and how long everybody else has been in lockup. I don’t know. But…
No, I also found that super unclear, because it almost makes you feel like it has only been like a day or two that they’ve been in there. But like, it definitely seems like more. I would say like a year here.
A year? Well, like they did they did have some sort of classes and stuff to like they had Earth skills. They learned some things. I think that’s when they were all in lockup already. I think.
Oh, I thought that was like regular. Like everybody got Earth Skills.
Like regular school.
Yeah, I don’t know.
I don’t know. I’d have to read the book, I guess. Okay. Um, yes. So, so Clark is in lockup, and since floating her dad didn’t actually solve the oxygen problem, the leaders of the Ark decided to send the juvenile delinquents, so everybody in lockup who is under 18, and there was 100 of them, to go to Earth secretly to see if it is survivable. So it’s really unclear how they managed to send 100 kids, like in a smaller spaceship without other people noticing because there were windows on the larger spaceships. I’m not really sure how it was actually
Oh, people noticed.
Yeah, cuz Raven noticed, but nobody else really noticed. I think they were just saying like, oh, what did they say? Like, they were just discarding something else. And they didn’t realize it was the kids. Yeah.
And then they also wouldn’t let any visitors go visit the kids and they said it was because there was like an outbreak and they were in quarantine.
Right. And then Raven was like, “Uh, I don’t think so. Because you’d have to do these things for it to be in quarantine and you didn’t.”
Raven was or was training to be an engineer on the Ark by the way.
Yeah, she’s very smart. And is, yeah, she’s a very main character throughout the hroughout the show because she just like solves the problems and
She’s super cool.
Yeah, she really is. So anyway, a bunch of kids who are already pissed off by the Ark system of governance, get sent to Earth with limited supplies, little guidance, and no idea why they are sent there. So not only has the Ark floated some of their parents for small things like stealing cold medicine, but now they sent the kids to the ground, knowing they could die from the radiation. So the 100 kids are both really excited to be on the ground because they’ve always dreamed of going to the ground, but also really, really pissed off.
I would be too.
Yeah, exactly, right? Like, I don’t know.. And they have like these wristbands, and they don’t know why they have the wristbands. And I don’t know, it’s just like, that would be really weird, to… Because they essentially like they wake up… Do they wake up? Or the show kind of shows it like they wake up in the capsule that sends them down to earth? Do you think they were actually escorted?
Where they what?
Where they like, escorted onto the spaceship? Or… because the show just kind of starts off as like they’re already there.
That’s a good question. I don’t remember.
But I’m just thinking like, that’d be really scary to wake up like in this, like the spaceship with like this wristband suddenly on their arm, and like not know why. But maybe that’s just like all…
Honestly, that whole experience is scary, though. Like I don’t think that’s where it starts or ends.
Yeah, true. So anyway, once the kids reach the ground, the Ark is monitoring them through these fancy wristbands to see if they are dying from radiation and to keep working on the oxygen… Oh, and the Ark keeps working on the oxygen problem and seeing if they will need to cull more people. So the 100 kids, they slip into anarchy until they realize that they need to bond together because surprise! They’re not the only humans on the earth. The other people on the earth who we primarily experience as the other in this season, are understandably freaking out. Because there are intruders who have guns and can make bombs. And you keep doing things like accidentally lighting their villages on fire. So they’re quite scared. And so they get hey get quite violent towards the 100.
And these, these people that we experience as the “other” category in the show, are eventually called the Grounders because, you know, they come from the ground. And the 100 which are also kind of deemed like the Sky People, like Jacqueline said, they keep you know, they’re kind of in a sense, intruders on the Grounders’ land. They come from the sky after years and years of not being there. They’ve got strange technology that they can possibly use to hurt people. And they’re basically encroaching on land and resources.
I think it’s really interesting too, that this is like a thinly veiled metaphor for like colonialism. Because obviously, like the Grounders are seen as people who have like, no technology, like how are they surviving? You know, they’re savage because they’re attacking them. How dare they? And like, I’ve only gotten to like halfway through season two. So like, I don’t know how it plays out too far. But, you know, I feel like they slowly start to figure out like, “Oh, no, you’re not like, idiots,” I guess. I don’t know how to summarize that better. But, yeah, I don’t like that. Because at the beginning, like if you’ve only ever watched the first season, you’re like, “Well, obviously like these kids know better than these other people.” Like, a lil’ problematic.
Yeah. And colonialism is something that we will talk about a lot, especially in the second season, but it’s definitely worth noting in this one as well because the Grounders and the Sky People are pitted against each other where you know like the Sky People are supposedly more cultured and you know, have better technology and see themselves as in the right and then the Grounders from the Sky People’s point of view are like, like, like Steph said, savage and uncultured and violent as well. So that that metaphor for colonialism that you see throughout the show, and even in the first season is really, really interesting.
Um, before we move on from you know, the explanation of plot, I have one question. How do you think… okay, so we didn’t mention this yet. But you’re only allowed to have one child. That’s like a key plot point because one of the 100 that gets sent down was a second child and that’s why she was in lockup. So they’re only allowed to have one child. They don’t talk about how they manage that. So my question is, how, how do they?
Do you mean, like, do they have birth control? Or…
Yeah, like, so here’s the thing. Alright, so think about it this way. When you’re a teenager, you know, I’ll just let you fill in the blanks. So if they didn’t have some sort of birth control, they’d have teenagers running rampant and having kids, but they have limited resources. So it’s not like they just have like, birth control at the ready. Cuz I can understand that maybe if you’ve had your one child, then it’s like, they go through a surgical process. And I think that they would have like the resources for that, right. But before you have your one child, or do you like, not plan and just it happens, because then there’d be a lot more 16-year-olds running around with kids.
This is a major concern and plot hole for me for this first season especially is that you have all these teams on Eart, like, in a state of anarchy, they’re all sleeping together, and somehow they don’t become pregnant? Wouldn’t that be a problem, like, shouldn’t we be concerned about these people that were just sent to Earth having babies not probably knowing how to take care of them? And like in a really insecure situation of like, oh, maybe, maybe there will be effects on these potential new infants due to radiation and why aren’t we concerned about that? I don’t know. It just concerning to me.
I guess they thought they were gonna die.
Yeah. Which is really reassuring.
Yeah, totally. My theory, though, is that everybody who’s got a uterus has an implant.
So like, rather than, you know, taking pills or using condoms, my theory is, everybody has got an IUD. Because, like you said, there’s not as many resources probably as you’d expect, especially because they’re on an Ark, an isolated spaceship in the sky. They’re not going to have like, access to building condoms or, you know, pills for everybody. Especially cuz I think there’s thousands of people on the ship. I think it might be easier to just do like, a simple one and done IUD.
I don’t know.
I think they do address it.
Like, they do last longer than other alternatives. They could, like go for a few, you know, years. Anyway.That’s a total side tangent.
Well, something that bothers me is the fact that it’s apparently only been 97 years since they were last on the ground, which actually isn’t that much time. I think it’s
one and a half generations.
Yeah, I think it’s too short of time for the grounders to be completely oblivious about technology, for example.
Yeah, unless… there’s one thing though, that I could see fitting into this. And that’s if the lifespan was shorter for a Grounder, which I could see as plausible, right? Because, like, they are battling different elements that like, you know, because if they’re like, kind of a pre-technology type of human being, then pre-technology, human beings had shorter lifespans. So like, if you’re playing off of that, right.
That being said, though, they also develop new languages. And, like, regardless of how long your life is, why would people as soon as the bombs fell and all that start, you know, speaking differently?
Yeah, like I could see like differences in like slang and certain words, but like, not the entire language.
Unless it was a survival mechanism, right? Because the Mountain People — this is getting into season two, but – the mountain people seem to speak English
So then maybe Grounders had to do a different language to like as a protection mechanism.
Right. It’s kind of like as a code. It’s very unclear also of like, so it said at one point that the fighters know English and it’s kind of unclear to me like why they would need to know English because everybody else speaks this other language. And really, only the Mountain People know English. And so what’s the purpose like they don’t communicate with the Mountain People at all. Like the Grounders don’t. And so why would they even need to learn English? It’s very convenient, obviously, because when the Sky People come.
Oh, yeah, that’s true. Reading signs.
Yeah, I could also see like, from like a tiered system, the fighters would be considered and like warriors, they’re typically I mean, historically they’ve been considered like the high class, right? So even just from like a hierarchical system, like the higher classes, usually more educated. So I wonder even if it’s just like the fighters had to learn more things, because they were part of this, like, more elit class. I don’t know, this is all projection. I feel like yeah, keep going and actually get to the whole point.
I was gonna say, like, aside from all the reasons we can come up with it, I think it was originally just because the author tried to find a way to, you know, other an exoticize, the Grounders, kind of like separate them from the Sky People, make them more, like, we keep coming back to this word like quote-unquote savage. Coming from like, a sort of primitive sort of language. And distance them from, you know, the heightened culture of the people from before the bombs and the Sky People. I think that’s probably why.
Do you guys think that there’s, this is a critique on colonialism and othering? Or do you think that this is a blind… someone writing and othering without like the intention of critiquing it?
I think that especially, this is a spoiler even for this episode, but in season two, when we meet the Mountain People, there was very much, like they’re the high culture very much so like, even more than the Sky People. Like they keep all of the art from the world previously. And it’s, it’s this kind of like really lifting ourselves. We are sophisticated because we have this culture, but then it’s actually shown how, how I would use the word barbaric the mountain people are just because the things that they do to the Grounders are just horrendous. And so I think I think it is a critique on colonialism and just this idea of high culture and sophistication that, yeah, that like what like Westerners historically have had. So maybe not totally in this season, yet. Like I would say a little bit, but I think it, it comes into play even more in season two.
I see what you’re saying for sure. Because you’re right. Yeah, like in season one, it’s really hard to see. Season two, it’s a bit more understandable, especially because Clarke forms like a relationship with
Yeah. But to the point where like, you actually start to see like empathy happening between the two of them. Yeah. Can I just like say this before I move on, and that I had such a hard time getting into the show, because the characters just bothered me so much. Like they were all terrible. I was just annoyed by all of them.
Yeah, there’s there’s a number of them, especially in the first season that are just terrible, like Murphy and Bellamy. You’re just like, “Oh my gosh!” Like I could not deal with them.
Even Clarke. For the first like two episodes, I was like, “You’re the worst human being alive.” Like everything you say, is just the most frustrating and annoying thing. I grew to like her a lot more later on, but like I think I messaged you guys. And I was like, “does she get better? Please tell me she gets better.”
Very impulsive throughout the entire series. I just… sometimes her impulsive decisions, I just couldn’t. Like why are you doing that Clarke? Like, is that necessary? Is that the best decision? Did you think this through? No, you didn’t!
That’s very CW though. Like the characters, their personality traits are very heightened to the extreme. And people who you might not like are like very unlikable, and people who you might like are pretty likable. So that’s, that’s very par for the course for writing for CW, I think.
All right, so let’s talk about some of the themes now that we saw that actually relate to our podcast and talking about this TV show for the next hour! So the first theme that I think we want to highlight is apocalypticism. So this is the most glaringly obvious theme in the show. It’s an apocalyptic show. Apocalypticism is super, super intrinsically tied to almost every single religion. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a religion that doesn’t have apocalypticism in it to some extent. Apocalypticism is from the Greek word “apocalypsis,” which means “an uncovering,” so it’s like a disclosure or revelation of knowledge. So when you hear the word “apocalypse,” you may think of the Christian apocalypse that is presented in the mainstream. In the American and evangelical tradition, this is portrayed as a literal event, perhaps with a rapture in which faithful Christians are taken up to heaven before various trials and tribulations occur on Earth. There are many timelines of these events. But the main features of this apocalypse is that there will be suffering, and that Jesus will return. And in some traditions, the good Christians taken up in the rapture, just get to chill out and watch the suffering from above.
It’s important to note that this interpretation is not the belief of all Christians. Many biblical scholars would actually say that these literal interpretations are unbiblical because A) they are reading books written in code and metaphor, literally. So a lot of these, this apocalyptic literature is written in allegory and is using metaphor. And when, when these books are taken literally, then it’s it’s not how the book was intended to be read. And B) the scriptures cited in these interpretations tend to be a collage of Scripture, made by kind of cutting and pasting from different parts of the Bible, and using these passages outside of their historical and literary context. So we talked about this a bit in our last In the News episode, we talked about that. Yeah, which is just not how a lot of trained scholars of the Bible treat scripture. And C) the two most cited books are the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. So Daniel was written in the context of the Babylonian exile. And the book of Revelation was written when the Jews were being controlled by Rome. So both were written a long time ago. And so biblical scholars argue that these ends of the world that take place in these, these pieces of literature are about ends of empire rather than the end of life on Earth, and are in reference to ends up very specific empires and not like the American Empire.
Yeah, and also, this idea of like a rapture theology is a relatively new theology. There’s no rapture in the Bible, at least not as we know it from popular theology. That came from a vision an English woman had 200 years ago. Matthew chapter 24 does discuss an event where people are left behind but in that context, it’s actually the faithful that are left behind, like in the flood in Exodus. Some biblical scholars see this as a reference to a New Heaven, New Earth theology in which, like after the flood, the Earth is renewed, and that Jesus will return and heaven will come to Earth. But honestly, this is all spoken about in parables and metaphors so there’s no clear framework for this in the Bible, which is why a lot of people prefer the literal version, because we know exactly what to expect. And anyway, there’s a lot more we could say about it. But instead of going into more detail, we’ll just give some book and article recommendations in the show notes for anybody who’s interested in apocalypticism in the Bible.
So why is this literal interpretation the most visible interpretation? Honestly, because the American evangelical church is really good at marketing and using technology for their agenda. If you’re unaware, this is the tradition that makes the most appearances in the Christian movies you hear about, and funds the Christian radio stations and programs. So the rapture narratives make for a good story. It’s cut and paste use of Scripture gives it the appearance of being, quote, unquote, biblical. So it’s really marketable, it’s scary, and it’s current. So people want to be in the know. If you grew up in the Evangelical Church, you’ve probably heard of something like the Left Behind series, which is a children’s fiction series written about the rapture in the 90s and early 2000s. And this theology really sparks the imagination, especially within children, and it kind of gives you a certain anxiety that allows this sort of literature to be immensely popular.
So evangelical leaders of this type of thinking, so the rapture theology, often look to international politics to find evidence in current events. While some may look at these events with fear, some actually do what they can to speed up the end of the world as it is foretold by their narratives. So for example, while environmental groups have tended to use the apocalypse narrative to get people to act to change the world in positive ways, so like the house… like “your house is on fire,” “this is the only house you have” that sort of thing that inspires you to work to help fix the environment. Some people of the rapture worldview will actually try to be anti-environmentalist or do things to speed up the destruction of the planet. So this literal apocalypse narrative has in turn influenced a lot of our media, including apocalyptic or dystopian books, films and TV shows. But what is important to our discussion about the 100 are the questions around the nature of heaven, the nature of destruction and the restoration of the earth in these narratives and the treatment of others. So in the 100, the Grounders. But in the rapture narratives, the people that are left behind. In a way, the people in the Ark are a part of the rapture narrative, where they watch the destruction of the Earth from above. But contrary to the common rapture narrative, the people on the Ark aren’t happy to be up there. As the name of their spaceship suggests, their situation is more akin to the flood story in the book of Genesis, and they wish to return to the earth as soon as they can. As we continue this discussion, and as you reflect on other apocalyptic and dystopian books, or shows that you know, consider: what and where is heaven in these stories? And who if anyone is left behind? And what does that mean ethically? And what role do destruction and restoration of the earth play in these stories? So in what ways do these stories shape your ideas around ethics or world events, either around environmentalism or the treatment of other people? I’m a big believer in the power of story, as well as the use of story as a mirror to better see ourselves individually and as a society. And I find dystopian stories to be particularly good at this because very often, they’re a critique on what society is right now. So when you use a story as a mirror, do you like what you see? Does it help you imagine a better world? Or is it a story best left behind or rewritten? As you may guess, by us discussing the 100 in this episode, we think it is a story that adds fruitful insights to our perspectives, but perhaps you disagree. And if so, please let us know why you disagree and what your favourite apocalyptic or dystopian story is, and why. We’d be excited to hear from you!
Do you guys have a favourite apocalyptic or dystopian story?
I mean, when I was a kid, I was more into this kind of stuff. So like, I was a big fan of like the Hunger Games. I would almost argue Harry Potter’s got a little bit of apocalypticism narrative in it. Except from like a defeat the apocalyptic narrative kind of,
So it’s like pre-apocalyptic?
Yeah, yeah. I don’t know, though. I think I experience a lot of like eschatological dread on a daily basis. And I don’t like to sit and stew in it.
So that’s as an adult, I usually avoid this kind of stuff. But it does, it is interesting, you know.
See, I was kind of the opposite. When I was a teenager, I read a lot of dystopian fiction. And I think partly that was because I was going through a lot of eschatological dread and, you know, normal teenager stuff. And it made me feel better about things.
Yeah. Like, this isn’t what’s happening right now. So my life’s not quite as bad as it could be.
Yeah, it could be worse.
I’m trying to think… what’s the… Okay, so after the Hunger Games, there came… the… Divergent. Did you folks like Divergent?
I do. It’s on my shelf right here.
Yeah. I have a lot of my teenage books right behind me.
Yeah, I liked it too. I really enjoyed the like thinking through the way in which like the different groups were established in Divergent of like, “Oh, the world’s, like bad things happen the world because of all these different reasons.” So one, we weren’t brave enough. One, we weren’t, like we didn’t value knowledge enough. One we weren’t charitable enough. And the other we weren’t truthful enough. And so I, I appreciated just like the like thinking through those sorts of values.
So for this episode, we just wanted to give you a bit of an introduction to the show. And even when a religion isn’t mentioned in the show explicitly, it often shows up implicitly in ways that are meaningful. In the 100, this shows up through themes such as apocalypticism, or as a way to construct identity and promote group cohesion, which we’ll talk about in the next episode a little bit. Also, we see in the 100, something rare in dystopian narratives, which is cool, which is an emphasis on the importance of nature. One of the questions we have is, will this reverence for nature be a value that continues as the people The Ark returned to earth? And is there an aspect of religion that you saw in season one that we missed? Or perhaps you’d like to share your all-time favourite dystopian show or novel? Let us know in the comments or by sending us an email at nearlynuminous(at)gmail.com We would love to hear from you!