Marin County Civic Center,
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1960
Gattaca’s futuristic world, like that of Bladerunner, is assembled from iconic elements of California’s architectural past. The characters glide down minimalist roadways in electrified Citroens and inhabit monumental Brutalist, Futurist or International Style structures- utilised selectively to reflect the film’s thematic world of authoritarianism, social engineering, and antiseptic perfectionism.
(Image: Ezra Stoller)
Okay so earlier in the hiatus I was part of a long thread discussion about season 3, specifically episodes 303 and 315, where we basically screamed for several pages about the parallels and the similarities of those episodes. In that @raincityruckus pointed out that Bellamy was basically like a hero going to rescue the princess, and someone else talked about Clarke as a princess kept in a metaphorical tower maybe all through 3a, and that of course devolved into more squee over the screen-literal symbolism of episodes 3 and 15. I don’t remember all of that episode discussion, but this week I decided to just take that idea and run with it into a huge scale break down of episodes 303 and 315 as a fractured fairy tale. So… here we are, 2000 words about symbolic storytelling, as well as a tribute to the mythic storytelling that has made this one of my favorite shows of the last three years.
In looking at executive producer Jason Rothenberg’s whirlwind story, it helps to love classic tropes as much as the show does. Archetypes from speculative fiction, religion, mythology, and fantasy are borrowed liberally. Alongside the well known science fiction stories of evil computers, outer space, and mad scientists, seasons 2 and 3 made liberal use of mythic characters and tropes. The second season told the overarching story of the villagers versus the dragon–or in terms of The 100, the Sky People & the Grounders versus the Mountain Men. It’s a siege and infiltration story right out of The Hobbit, only this time the beast in the mountain is a society of science-vampires, the antihero burglar is a resourceful man instead of a nervous hobbit, and the armies outside are commanded by fierce warrior women. You could even parallel the Sky People to city-dwelling humans and the Grounders to forest-dwelling elves. From within the mountain, it’s a trip down mythology lane with in-world terms like “The Cerberus Project”. The show wants us to be clear that yes, entering Mount Weather equals a descent into the underworld. Beyond plot specifics, major characters and groups have the most genre-specific names that a primetime television series can get away with: Griffin, Kane/Cain, The Commander, Octavia, Cage, Dante, The Outsiders. The 100 loves mythic stories and larger-than-life characters.
If season 2 was a story of alliances against old and terrible villains, season 3 lowers the stakes to a human level. Now our protagonists are facing personal political conflict and the creeping threat of a corrupt false religion. I’ll leave the religious allegory of ALIE’s cult to one side for this discussion, and focus on the story of the Clarke, Bellamy, Lexa, and the classic fairy tale storytelling at work in season 3.