Tag Archives: The 100

‘100’ may be trying to get ‘Lost’

Grounded sky dwellers Clarke and Octavia, either running into trouble or running from it.

Grounded sky dwellers Clarke and Octavia, either running into trouble or running from it.

Spoilers ahead. You were warned.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the CW’s The 100. I started watching it with my (then) tween daughter, who is a big fan of all things Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. And while in its own post-apocalyptic way The 100 is part of that youth genre, the writers and other minds behind the show have done a nice job of establishing unique situations and strong characters. The three-way war between sky folk, grounders and the mountain people was masterful, a situation made more interesting by the personal relationships and political machinations that each side has tried to manipulate in their favor.

Clarke has become the most interesting character. Yes, she’s the lead, the daughter of the only doctor among the sky people, a conscience at times when the youthful, shrinking group of 100 needed her to be, particularly in the first season. But the second season has seen a dramatic change in her role. As she has ascended to leadership, she is the one who now must make the tough decisions. She can’t just stand on the sidelines and critique. Now, the blood is on her hands when things go wrong, when battles must be fought, when conflicts must be settled. The change becomes apparent at mid-season when her love interest, Finn, is surrendered for the mass murder of unarmed grounders. It is a political decision to hand him over. It smooths the path for unity between grounders and sky people, as well as their military alliance against the mountain folk. Finn will be tortured, slowly, in gruesome manners for his crime. Clarke approaches him, hugs him to say goodbye, then stabs him in the gut, sealing her bargain with the grounders with blood without allowing Finn’s death to be dragged out over days. It’s a hard call, but the mark of leadership.

I could go on and on about the positives regarding character development, factions and more. It’s all praise that is deserving. But I’m worried that the good times may be over, and that has paused my adoration.

At the end of season two, Jaha – who was the leader among the sky people while in space, but has become a Quixotic character in his search for civilization – has found what he believes to be is the fabled City of Light, of which we have heard a lot about, but not much of substance. Things are clean, solar-powered, food and drink are around. But Jaha finds a settler, a digital image of a human who we were warned might be the person who started the nukes flying that sent our plucky heroes’ ancestors to space in the first place. This digital being seems determined to start the radiation parade all over again. ostensibly with the help of Jaha.

There was something about it that just screamed … Lost. To this point, there’s been no mystical element to the proceedings. To be sure, there’s been plenty of weird to go around, but all explainable. But this moment that closed Season Two felt like the smoke monsters, talking to dead people, ancient temples, a plane full of carcasses on the bottom of the ocean. I sincerely hope that this will lead somewhere rewarding, don’t get me wrong.

But my Spidey Sense is tingling. And as we all know, that never ended well for Peter Parker.

To be continued …

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Superheroes, less-than-super teens and good deaths

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It ain’t easy being one of 100 teens raised in a space station, then dropped to post-nuclear apocalyptic Earth.

In the DVD commentary for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot, Joss Whedon (known now for helming The Avengers as well as planning for the entire non-Sony Marvel-verse) talked about how much he wanted to kill a main character in the very early going. So much so, in fact, that he considered putting Eric Balfour – the actor playing Jesse, best friend of Xander – in the opening credits of the show despite the fact that he doesn’t make it past episode two of the series. Whedon’s point was that by killing a “main” character early, the creator was setting the stage for some serious uneasiness by fans concerning the fate of all of the characters. It’s a red, blinking sign that says “No one is safe.”

That’s part of the reason I admire The 100, a new series on the CW. The basic premise is that 100 kids who have grown up on a now-dying space station are launched to a post-nuclear war Earth in hopes of saving what’s left of humanity floating around the planet. Brilliantly, The 100 makes it seem as if they kill a main character off in the pilot, when Jasper, played by Devon Bostik (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), takes an enormous spear to the chest. It’s a red herring, as Jasper survives to fight another day.

However, in episode three, The 100 shows us what it’s made of. Wells Jaha (Eli Goree, pictured above) is the best pal of the main character Clarke. Wells is also the son of the political leader of the space station, Chancellor Jaha. He is earnest, interested in what’s best for Clarke, a bright mind who can help lead the rag-tag group. But, in an extremely gripping scene, Wells is murdered, tragically, quietly, away from prying eyes. Wells had all the traits of a main character expected to be there for the bulk of the show, if not the entire run. It’s a brilliant example of what Whedon talked about on the Buffy commentary: Don’t let the viewers feel safe, and put doubt in their minds about the safety of their favorite characters.

On the big screen, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 went where I wasn’t expecting, allowing Gwen Stacey to fall to her death before Spidey can save her. Spider-Man 2 is a long, slow movie, decent but bogged down in the middle by plot meant to explain much and set up more. But the payoff was brilliant. Peter Parker lives haunted by the fact that he didn’t act during a bodega robbery, followed by said robber killing his uncle. Here, Peter is marred by the fact that he did act, he did stop the bad guy, he did save hundreds and maybe thousands of lives by battling and defeating Electro. Yet he still failed, setting up Gwen to die a pre-mature death because he both failed in his promise to her father and because with great power comes great responsibility. Peter abdicated his responsibility to Gwen’s dad, and the predictable happened. Peter loved Gwen and would do anything to protect her except that one thing that really would protect her: Walking away.

It’s satisfying to see franchises with much to lose – Spider-Man, a global movie juggernaut, and The 100, trying to find its footing and an audience – willing to make such difficult choices. It might hurt them in the short run, but the payoff is a fan base prepared for anything and on edge about what that anything might mean for their favorite characters.

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‘100’? I’d give it a 79

Don't eat the radioactive animals, kids.

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.

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