The 100: TV Review
Wednesday at 9 p.m. on The CW, beginning March 19
Eliza Taylor, Thomas McDonell, Bob Morley, Eli Goree, Isaiah Washington, Marie Avgeropoulos, Devon Bostick
The sci-fi drama presents The CW's ultimate vision for humanity: an Earth populated only by attractive teenagers, whose parents are left out in space.
Man cannot survive on bread alone -- he must have kissing. Ninety-seven years after a nuclear holocaust wipes out life on Earth, the only survivors of the human race number 400: those left in space. Three generations later, the international space stations have been cobbled together to form "The Ark," whose now 4,000 inhabitants are ready to return to Earth, but still fear its potential cloud of radiation. Unfortunately, their Ark is running out of oxygen because of a fatal malfunction. The solution is simple: Send 100 teenage criminals down to Earth. If they live, then the others will follow. If they die … well, they were going to be killed anyway (on the Ark, all crimes are punishable by death).
The 100 is, in many ways, a metaphor for The CW itself. The teenagers escape to a planet that is all their own, where only the most attractive among them survive. Who needs adults? Who needs rules? After all, as lead character Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) states in a moment of spontaneous philosophy: "Reality sucks."
Totally. Which is why, when the hundred land, they're more interested in stripping down and hooking up than finding food, water or shelter. As they trample the lush ground cover and pristine ferns (it's remarkable how well the Earth has rebounded from the nukes; aside from a two-headed deer, a very large snake and some glowing fungi, things are Eden-like), the sky-born children scream unto the fertile landscape, "We're back, bitches!"
But the bitches of Earth 2.0 appear to give little protest. From there, the ragtag band begin splitting off into factions, a la Lord of the Flies. Like its cobbled-together Ark, the series itself is a pastiche of many other shows and stories: There are shades of Battlestar Galactica, Lost (including a hatch), 1984 and that aforementioned tale of ill-fated teenage governance. But these complex ideas are overshadowed by something much more important: Is Clarke going to fall in love with the daredevil Finn (Thomas McDonell) or the pushy leader Bellamy (Bob Morley, whose face shall launch a thousand Tumblr GIFsets)? And what of Wells (Eli Goree), son of the much-hated Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington), who has loved Clarke since they were tiny sky tots?
There are other love triangles, squares, hexagons and other permutations that form among other characters -- like between Bellamy's kissing-focused sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos) and the goofy Jasper (Devon Bostick) -- which drive most of the action (literally and figuratively) on Earth 2.0. Meanwhile though, in the sky, the adults are arguing over silly things like governance, population control, failing oxygen levels and the fate of humanity. Why don't they spend their time figuring out important things, like how Bellamy's abs are so perfect?
The 100 has a lot of interesting things to play with in terms of its narrative and world-building, but it chooses to gloss over them. There are whispers of class struggle and of injustice, but those things aren't as interesting or sexy as radioactive butterflies. Most unfortunately, the show has an incomprehensible issue with race. Minority characters (it's interesting how delineated race continues to be three generations into a reduced population) are either given stereotypical roles (a "nerdy" Asian guy spends all day working on tech stuff, while a "feisty" Latina is a mechanic) or just silent ones (or even worse, dead). The Chancellor is black, but one character who hates him starts side-eyeing every black character she sees, because they remind her of him. Earth 2.0 seems to be back in the dark ages.
As the series continues with all of these issues, there are also new threats to both those in the Ark and those on the ground, from within and without (for instance, the teenagers may not be alone on Earth). Unfortunately, most of the one hundred are a muttering mob of criminals without a lot of brainpower, which is both convenient and frightening. They agree with the person shouting the loudest, until someone else counters. They also employ the show's favorite early form of exposition, which is "character traits explained by unidentified crowd shouts." When Octavia runs up to embrace her brother (it is illegal to have more than one child on the Ark), an unseen town crier makes known, "Hey! That's the girl they found under the floor!"
It's unclear yet whether the adults will follow the teenagers down to Earth and crash their party (it is notable that they didn't even send one chaperone with them, which means the teens are free to rebel against the Ark pretty quickly in order to establish a place with no rules, as explained by their awkward "We'll do whatever we want!" chant). The one hundred are, of course, "liberating" themselves from the doctors, farmers, engineers and others up in that Ark, which might set humanity back a few paces. On the other hand, procreation shouldn't be a problem. Finding an audience for The 100 shouldn't be, either, though that audience should demand a lot more from the series. Instead, like the initially driven Clarke, it's so much less work to just settle for a kiss under a radiation-filled sky.