Last night ATX Television Festival debuted the first two episodes of The 100 Season 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane to a theater full of over-the-moon fans. Tonight "Wanheda: Part 1" airs on The CW at 9/8c, and next Thursday the two-parter wraps up with "Wanheda: Part 2," and I am here to tell you that both episodes are thrilling, brutal and unquestioningly feminist, everything we love about The 100.
It's hard to talk about The 100 without spoilers, because the show is so merciless in killing off its most beloved characters, those thought surely safe by the audience, and so to even mention a character is to acknowledge that he or she survives. But "Wanheda" Parts 1 and 2 continue threads begun in the gutsy Season 2 finale, giving an unblinking portrayal of the wreckage of war and the harrowing nature of survival itself. It's a show that never sugar-coats the burden of responsibility, the soul-destroying decisions one must make in order to be the leader of an endangered people. Clarke, Abbie, Octavia and Lexa all have suffered this burden, and it's no accident that the most fearless leaders on The 100 are women, women who love, fight, survive and lead in equal measure.
The episodes looked INCREDIBLE on the big screen. The 100 has always appeared more expensive than its CW budget should allow, but either Season 3 is more gorgeous than ever or I was finally able to truly appreciate the beauty of this show once I saw it on a grander scale. As always, the map of The 100 continues to grow and change, revealing new landscapes and surprising horizons, new tribes with different obligations and motives. There were several moments so big and inspiring that the audience broke into spontaneous applause; I cheered, myself, when Octavia first strode into frame on the back of her horse, this indomitable warrior that has changed so much from the little girl who once cowered under the floor on The Ark.
Interestingly, the best and worst scenes in the Season 3 premiere are set to the Violent Femmes' "Add It Up." In one beautiful, fleeting moment a group of our survivors are riding on a rescue mission and they start singing along to the song, smiles slowly breaking over their weary faces. It's a scene reminiscent of the "Tiny Dancer" moment in Almost Famous - this group has been through so much, and they love each other and hate each other and they're stuck with one another, but they're given a very temporary reprieve from their relentless battle, and it's a hard-won moment for these characters whom we've watched scrabble for two seasons. But later, tweeny pop star Shawn Mendes arrives out of nowhere and plays a piano ballad cover of the song for a crowd, making for an abrupt reminder that this show about kids killing kids is, ostensibly, for kids. It's the only moment in thirty hours or so of The 100 that actually feels like it.
If you live in or near Austin, make sure you follow ATX Television Festival on Twitter and Facebook, or check in with their website periodically. The festival's in June and it's absolutely worth your time and travel, but throughout the year they hold these great screenings of your favorite shows at the Alamo. Nothing makes TV feel more special than a big screen event.