Don’t eat the radioactive animals, kids.
There will be a shit-ton of spoilers about the new CW show, The 100, in this post, so don’t come crying to me if I ruin it for you.
Set-up: A-. I don’t know the book The 100 is based on, so I can’t say if the show is faithful to it or not. Ninety-seven years before the show’s kick-off, nuclear war made the Earth unlivable. Eleven nations had space stations that some of their citizenry were able to retreat to for safety. Now, all 11 space stations have been combined into one large space station. It’s estimated that it will take up to 200 years after the war for Earth to be safe for human inhabitants. Meanwhile, the space station is getting crowded. Lawbreakers are automatically shot out the airlock. Juvenile offenders are jailed until they turn 18, then they get the airlock. Everyone’s clothes are ragged, and nothing seems as if it’s in very good condition. But the powers that be have a plan: Launch all 100 incarcerated youthful offenders to Earth. They get the opportunity to live – maybe not very long, depending on how conditions on Earth end up being – and, via wrist monitors the 100 wear, the space station will be able to get an idea if it’s feasible to start inhabiting Earth again. Pretty awesome, eh?
Characters: D. It’s the Sleepy Hollow syndrome all over again. Why do writers and execs think you have to know everything about everything by the end of the damn pilot? For example, we pretty much immediately find out that our heroine, Clarke, has been imprisoned for rebelling after the death of her father, who discovered that the space station’s calculations for how quickly its resources will run out are way off, and that the whole space livin’ crew will be screwed soon. IT’S TOO MUCH INFORMATION. We don’t need to know that. It’s pretty obvious that the situation in the space station is pretty tight, both on space and resources, just from the set-dressing and the plan to launch the juvies to Earth. Plus, we find out that one of the other main characters, Octavia, has been jailed simply for being born. There’s population control on the space station, and she’s the second child, and – therefore – an unnecessary drain on the collective’s food, air and space. The imminent end for the space folks could have been a guarded secret to find out down the line. Even the fact that Clarke’s father’s death had been set into action when he defied the station’s leaders and shared the dreaded information, that could have been held back. Clarke is also too much of a cardboard cutout from the jump off, and this sort of indelicate plotting doesn’t help. Her mother tells her to take care of herself and not to try to save everyone like her father. What does she do in every scene after that? Try to save everyone like her father. It’s very ham-handed. Another other issue with the characters are that they are supposed to represent 11 different nations. Yes, there’s an ethnic/racial mix among the actors, but they all have American accents. Really? So far, no other character has really distinguished himself or herself other than Clarke, and to be fair, that’s hard to do with a large cast and having just an hour to get stuff established. There’s promise, which is what saves The 100 from a dreaded F in this category.
Acting: C+. Eliza Taylor, who stars as Clarke, is so earnest that it’s almost stifling. Most of the young actors are pretty under-cooked and awkward, but that could improve. The best performance by a younger actor comes from Devin Bostick (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and his character is dead by the end of the pilot. The only other young actor who sets himself apart is Richard Harmon (Percy Jackson). The adults – all on the space station – are fine, a solid mix of character actors such as Paige Turco (Party of Five), Isaiah Washington (Romeo Must Die, Out of Sight), Kelly Hu (Scorpion King) and Henry Ian Cusick (Lost).
Writing: B-. TV is a writer’s medium. I realize this is the CW and not HBO or AMC, so there’s a curve. But the aforementioned issues with sharing too much hurt, and too much of the dialogue is spot on and tepid. I’d probably normally go lower, but the overall story idea really saves it, and in a pilot, you’re going to get more exposition than probably any other time in the series. Plus, it’s the first episode. This is a feeling-out process, and the craftsmanship could improve.
Recommendation: If you’re a sci-fi fan with an opening in your TV watching schedule, give it a shot. It’s the CW, so if you’ve been fans of shows such as Smallville, Green Arrow, Supernatural, etc., odds are good you’ll have an affinity for The 100. If science fiction isn’t your thing, look elsewhere. The 100 is not the kind of show that will change your mind about the genre.