The CW’s consistent pursuit of teen and millennial viewers can lead to preconceived notions about the shows that the network brings to air, but judging the network’s new sci-fi drama The 100 by its home network and the “Teen Vogue” look of its cast might be a misstep for those seeking a new science fiction fix in prime time. The key word is “might”.
Adapted from Kass Morgan’s YA novel of the same name, The 100 doesn’t waste time jumping right into the action, as we see Clarke Griffin (Australian actress Eliza Taylor) taken into custody, strapped in, and shipped off of the humongous and human race-sustaining space station known as “The Ark” within the first five minutes of the show.
Griffin is joined by 99 other sub-18-year-old “juvenile delinquents” who are being used as guinea pigs to determine if the Earth, which mankind abandoned after a nuclear war 97 years ago, is now a habitable alternative to the failing Ark. It also doesn’t hurt that the absence of those 100 teens will buy the Ark another month’s worth of resources, though that isn’t nearly enough to fix what ails the ship.
Chancellor Jaha (Isiah Washinton), Councilor Abigail Griffin (Paige Truco) and Councilor Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) stand out as the principle characters aboard the Ark and those most responsible for the continuation of the species (according to them). Naturally, these characters clash, primarily Kane and Griffin (Clarke’s mother), though the disagreement is philosophical (but also dire) and each has a point. For a “Big Bad,” Cusick’s character isn’t at all one-dimensional. We may not agree with his methods, but we probably don’t discount them as cartoonishly evil, either.
Bob Morley’s character, Bellamy Blake, is another story. A stowaway on the Earthbound shuttle with a massive chip on his shoulder and a trail of blood in his past, Bellamy clashes with Wells Jaha (the Chancellor’s son, as played by Eli Goree) after the shuttle crashes, leading the settlers toward rebellion and a separation from the waiting elders up in the Ark, a move that is likely as motivated by hubris as it is by his desire to save his own skin.
Bellamy is aboard to look after his sister Aurora, a brat with a wannabe soap opera vixen’s demeanor. Aurora is the weakest main character in the pilot, inspiring some of the biggest eye rolls when she steps foot on Earth for the first time and yells “We’re back b******!” prior to the grating use of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” in the soundtrack.
Off on a hike to discover an in-ground military base with an abundant food supply with Clarke and three others, Aurora’s cliched decision to strip down to her underwear to go for a swim – which ends in near calamity and some Syfy original movie-level special effects – isn’t far behind in the eye roll department, and honestly, it was hard to not root for the snake/eel/radioactive serpent.
Along with Aurora, there are a few other thinly-drawn characters and moments that betray the central story-line, it’s harder science fiction elements, and the larger social issues that divide the Earth-stuck kids and the adults in the Ark – such as the dreamy glowing forest that made it feel as if they were lost in a fairy tale.
This isn’t The Hunger Games or Divergent, and it isn’t the next Lost, it just isn’t going to be as dark (despite the shocking final moments), but it has the potential and the seeming ambition to transcend its labels if the producers move away from the canned dialogue and let us see, not just that these characters are in peril, but that they believe they are in peril; acting as if they are scared and overwhelmed by this hostile place and the challenges that come with trying to survive.
The 100 airs on The CW on Wednesday nights @9PM ET