Spoiler warning if you are not caught up with The 100‘s latest episode, “Watch the Thrones.”
The 100 proved with the last two episodes that it deserves to be included in conversations about the best dramas on television. I’ll even dare to say The 100 is better than Game of Thrones. And as that show is at the pinnacle of television, I don’t take comparisons lightly.
This week’s episode title, “Watch the Thrones,” obviously lends itself to those comparisons with Game of Thrones, though when I originally watched the hour and drew the parallels, I wasn’t even aware of the title. According to Executive Producer Jason Rothenberg, the title was inspired by Kanye West and Jay-Z’s album of the same name.
On the surface, the two series don’t appear to be much alike at all. Game of Thrones is a fantastical tale with magic, dragons and families battling for the Iron Throne, while The 100 is a post-apocalyptic story of survival that started with a 100 kids being dropped from space.
The fight to the death between Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Roan (Zach McGowan) sparked the idea that with The 100‘s shift to political matters brings the two show’s themes closer together. A massacre? Check! A coup attempt? Check! An assassin attempt? Check! A death match? Check!
Let’s talk about Lexa and Roan’s deathmatch. Even without HBO’s budget, this fight rivaled that of Game of Thrones‘ The Red Viper vs. The Mountain. Visually, the set was also similar, with the Ambassadors watching from a stage and a crowd around the ring.
My emotional connection to the two fights was very different, though, due to the fighters in the ring. During the Game of Thrones fight, I cared about the outcome not because of fighters, but because of what it meant for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). But, during The 100 fight, my mind and heart raced with anxiety over the outcome, because I didn’t want Lexa or Roan to die.
And, I knew someone was going to die. As viewers often say, “This IS The 100.”
The 100 purposefully subscribes to storytelling that goes against traditional tropes. There aren’t last minute saves, and the cavalry definitely won’t swoop in. Instead, when something is set into motion, it happens.
“Watch the Thrones” showcased this trait in all its glory with Lexa and Roan’s fight scene. When Titus proclaimed, “In single combat, there is but one rule: someone must die today!” we knew someone would indeed die. The deathmatch was then insightfully choreographed to heighten the intensity and suspense of the fight.
So Lexa or Roan? I wasn’t prepared for either of them to die, because neither of their stories were complete, and when I contemplated the possible outcomes, none of them were satisfying. Lexa’s death was unthinkable, but so was Finn’s (Thomas McDonnell), right? And we all know how that ended.
Also, Roan turned out to be much more than just a bounty hunter, banished Grounder, or Prince of Azgeda. One moment he was helping Clarke attempt to assassinate Lexa, and the next their target shifted to his mother. Besides, he was fighting not for himself, but because his mother was willing to sacrifice him to gain power for herself.
In a shocking turn, Lexa used the fight to take out her rival. Not Roan — he wasn’t her enemy — but his mother the Ice Queen. The Commander threw the spear right into Nia’s chest, fulfilling the single combat rule of death, and declared Roan the King. Who would have thought Brenda Strong‘s Ice Queen would only last one episode?
Just like on Game of Thrones, no one is safe on The 100.
The reasons I prefer The 100 to Game of Thrones can be extrapolated from these two fight scenes. While they are both genre shows, I find The 100’s realism, closer-knit world building, and (most importantly) the driving motivation of the characters in these scenes to be more intellectually and emotionally stimulating.
Game of Thrones is often too broad in focus to allow viewers to develop a real connection to most of the characters added after Season 1. At the time of the fight, neither The Mountain or The Red Viper were integral to the ongoing story being told, or pulled at the heartstrings. While the outcome did end up having deadly ramifications down the line, it was a slow, slow burn.
In comparison, the outcome of “Watch the Thrones’” fight will have far-reaching consequences immediately. Lexa remains Commander, Roan becomes King and, as far as they know in Polis, there’s a revived peace between the 13 Clans.
Perhaps the most important reason The 100 is arguably better than Game of Thrones is due to the motivation behind characters’ actions. On the former, leaders are driven to make difficult decisions in order to protect their people, with a focus on their survival from enemies and threats around them. Wrong decisions for the right reason change everything. It’s not about the individual or a quest for power (like in Game of Thrones), it’s about keeping their people safe and alive.
Of course, Game of Thrones is definitely one of the best things to happen to television, and it’s possible, even likely, that without it, The 100 wouldn’t be the show it is today. Still, is it possible that the student is becoming the master?
The 100 airs Thursday nights on the CW.