When it comes to post-apocalyptic futures, nuclear annihilation ranks pretty high on the dystopian list (second now, only in recent years, to an obligatory zombie apocalypse). In the CW’s new series, The 100, what’s left of humanity is orbiting the Earth in a decrepit amalgam of space stations known collectively as the Ark. The show, based on Kass Morgan’s teen novel of the same name, has a straightforward, high-concept premise: Life support on the 97-year-old Ark is dwindling. To stretch precious resources, the station’s population is routinely thinned. Even with these drastic measures, there’s only a few months’ worth of supplies left. Enter the eponymous 100—a group of expendable juvenile delinquents who will be sent down to Earth’s post-Cataclysm nuclear wasteland to see if the planet is inhabitable. The teenagers’ vital signs will be monitored via special bracelets worn against their will. If they survive their mission, what’s left of humanity will return from space to re-colonize Earth.
Not all delinquents are created equal, though. Take Clarke Griffin, for example (played by Eliza Taylor). Our heroine is the practical, protective one, whose detention was political. And you know she’s soulful because she pines for open skies and “the ground.”
Next up is Wells Jaha (Eli Goree), the chancellor’s privileged son with a guilty conscience. He cares about Clarke, but cares more for their mission’s success.
Then there’s Finn (Thomas McDonell). He’s a wild kid with a heart of gold—his unauthorized spacewalk cost the station a month’s worth of oxygen.
Rounding out the main cast are Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos), whose only crime was being born into a society with strict population control, and her older brother, Bellamy (Bob Morley), who is masquerading as a guard.
These introductions are made aboard an old-tech capsule as the 100 make their risky descent from the station. The trip is a rocky one—we lose two prisoners right off the bat to violent turbulence. (Will the show now be rebranded as The 98? Too soon?) Once the 98 reach the surface, they barely have time to enjoy the sun on their faces before factions begin to form. (I looked for Lord of the Flies’ poor, asthmatic Piggy in the crowd, but the chubby schoolboy was there in spirit only.) Clarke has already busted out a map to plot their course (a skill she learned from her father before he was floated out of an airlock). She’s intent on finding Mt. Weather, with its cache of food and supplies. She’s quickly joined by Finn, Octavia, Jasper (the goofy one), and Monty (that other guy).
The party makes its way through a surprisingly lush forest, where they encounter a deer in a clearing. So much for a nuclear wasteland! But when they realize the deer is a creepy two-faced mutant—well, maybe Earth is not the lush utopia they hoped it would be.
Meanwhile, back on the Ark, Clarke’s mother, Councilor Abigail, finds herself at the center of a political struggle—and she quickly becomes collateral damage as Councilor Kane seeks to usurp power from the injured chancellor. (We are merely told about an assassination attempt on the chancellor—why something so important would happen off-camera was a weird storytelling choice.) But before Kane can float Abigail out of the airlock she receives a last-minute stay of execution—from the injured chancellor himself!
Back on the planet, Clarke’s party is having a relatively easy time of things until Octavia decides to take a dip in a river. Never mind possible contaminants in the water—she’s quickly attacked by what I can only assume was a giant mutant eel. Jasper (the goofy one, remember?) leaps to her rescue. The show’s visual FX are pretty good, as is the Ark’s production design, but the wound on Octavia’s leg wasn’t very convincing. (Perhaps four seasons of Walking Dead-inspired gore have spoiled me—it’s harder now to accept lackluster make-up effects. In this case, the bloody wound looked more like a jelly donut-eating mishap.) Ultimately Clarke and company reach Mt. Weather. What better way to celebrate than with a spear to the chest? Poor Jasper. And then there were 97. The pilot ends on a cliffhanger—who else is on the planet?
I may not be invested in the Ark’s political intrigue (for now), but I’m curious to see what troubles await our photogenic guinea pigs. I’m hoping their environment plays a bigger role in future episodes. This is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic world—we need to see more than just some mutant wildlife to understand how intense radiation is something to be reckoned with.
Some closing thoughts:
– Who tried to kill the chancellor?
– What’s Bellamy’s story? Obviously he didn’t go to the surface only to keep an eye on his sister.
– Wells has a prosthetic leg? Will we find out how this happened?
– Did Bellamy’s lackey, John Murphy, remind anyone else of a young Robert Pattinson? I was waiting for his skin to sparkle in the post-apocalyptic sunlight.