While it does follow The CW's latest strategy for lining up dramas with supernatural, sci-fi and fantasy elements, The 100
is an unexpected and entertaining departure from other similar shows on the network.
I started watching The 100
with low expectations. Yet another sci-fi drama from the CW, with pretty young actors, an awkward premiere date and a limited episode run? I figured the show was dead in the water.
So I was shocked to find myself enjoying the post-apocalyptic series, at least for the few first episodes of the fledgling television program.
Assembling the 100
The premise of the show is pretty simple. One hundred young people -- all under 18, for the record -- are sent to Earth in an attempt to determine whether the planet, ravaged 97 years earlier by a nuclear apocalypse, can be safely re-inhabited.
The questions start coming when you start picking that premise apart, however. Why teenagers, for one? Why would the last remaining members of mankind send a bunch of teens to figure out whether they can all return to Earth? Adolescents are not exactly known for being the most practical, steady individuals at the best of times, after all.
As it turns out, those hundred teenagers all committed some sort of crime, and in their futuristic spaceship home, the Ark, any such transgression is punishable by death. I guess with so few resources, the troublemakers are the easiest to weed out.
However, anyone under 18 is spared such drastic punishment, and they are instead sent to a juvenile detention facility. It is from that location that the chosen hundred are rounded up and sent in a smaller vessel to Earth. They are "expendable," as is stated in the very first episode, and therefore the best choice available to force what appears to be a suicide mission.
Meet the Cast
The main character of the show, Clarke, is in the facility for reasons that we are led to believe were not really her doing. Resourceful, focused, but with a spark of hope for what Earth could be, she is the Katniss-lite protagonist this show needed at its heart to win me over.
Clarke is sent to Earth along with the other teens, and when they get there, she is immediately focused on reaching Mount Weather, the peak they were supposed to land on before their ship went off course during landing. The mountain has supplies to aid in the group's survival, so you'd think her plan would be the one everyone would want to go with.
But other members of the ensemble have other plans. One character, Bellamy, sneaks onto the smaller ship seemingly to protect his sister, Octavia, who's hidden for most of her life because there's apparently some sort of rule on the Ark against people having more than one child.
But it becomes clear very quickly that Bellamy may have other motives. He committed a much more serious crime than the other teenagers before boarding the ship, one that has repercussions for those still on the Ark. And through various means, he quickly ends up as the rebellious leader to many of the now-unsupervised teens.
There's also Finn, who's got a bit of a bad boy streak and a thing for flirting with Clarke, and Wells, a character who appears to be a friend of Clarke's initially but whom we quickly learn she has a very serious grudge against. Rounding out the Earth-bound cast are a few other intriguing side characters that shift focus from Clarke just enough to keep things interesting.
On the Ark
But the teenagers aren't the only people on this show, despite it being on a network that caters to that age demographic.
The main character on the Ark is Clarke's mother, a doctor who is closely monitoring the young group's progress thanks to the wristbands the 100 were sent with when they were blasted off to Earth. While many on the ship are focused on keeping mankind alive, Dr. Abigail Griffin has a moral streak, and her personal goal is, as she says, "to make sure we deserve to stay alive."
The 100 aren't just sent to Earth to look into re-colonizing it for shits and giggles. The Ark, it seems, is running out of resources for the small population there to survive for much longer. The 100 are sent to Earth in the hopes that the rest of those living on board can soon follow.
It's an interesting dilemma, and one that challenges the ethics of those running things on the Ark. I don't want to give too much away, but viewers learn very quickly about some previous methods used for culling members of the population, and how those reductions impact many members of the 100 exploratory group.
I'm impressed by Eliza Taylor as Clarke Griffin, who holds her own and stands out in a cast that comes close to being too bloated with named characters early on. She brings a depth to Clarke that I appreciate, and every move she makes, I find myself wanting to root for her and her efforts.
The 100 is also a comeback effort for Isaiah Washington, of Grey's Anatomy fame. He has an important role on the Ark and does what he can with the material he's given.
In fact, I can't name an actor that gives a notably bad performance during the first few episodes of this series. There are a few that are not as memorable as others, but no one is laughingly bad, as some of the pretty faces featured on The CW in the past have been prone to be.
Of course, not everything about The 100 is great. It's a little ridiculous that those individuals sent to Earth manage to keep their perfect physical appearances, for one. I know for a fact that some of those hairstyles cannot be pulled off without a lot of product.
And things do move a little fast in the first episode, at times cramming a lot of information in that could've been left to be fleshed out later on. But this is a tendency I've been noticing in more freshman series lately, and might have more to do with trying to drum up interest quickly in the competitive TV pilot market.
Should You Tune In?
All in all, I'm optimistic about The 100 in a way I haven't been about a CW show in a long time. I'm also thrilled that it's based on a book series by a female author and headed by a handful of producers and writers that include women. The small screen needs more representation behind the scenes, and I'm willing to see The 100 as a small victory towards that goal.
I'd say definitely give this series a shot, especially if you're a fan of speculative fiction, particularly of the post-apocalyptic variety. If The 100 continues on the trajectory it sets up in its early episodes, this may be a surprise dark-horse hit.
premieres tonight, and will air every Wednesday at 9pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)