In my review of one of The CW’s new offerings this mid-season, “Star-Crossed,” I mentioned the idea that the network itself has more intriguing shows to offer to potential audiences, and “The 100,” the other new show premiering on the network in 2014, certainly falls under that category. Action-packed from the very first minute of the pilot, “The 100” is dark, twisted and not afraid to take the teen-friendly network to places it rarely ventures, resulting in an exciting and addictive new show for us to obsess over.
The show’s premise is pretty typically dystopian YA in how it invents scenarios to get teenagers away from adults to survive on their own (being loosely based on an actual YA novel by Kass Morgan, and all), but it’s elevated by intense pacing that starts immediately and hasn’t let go in the four episodes which were screened for press prior to its premiere. Eliza Taylor’s Clarke, a teenager held in juvenile detention on a space station, is told within seconds of the show’s opening that she’s being sent down to what is supposed to be an inhospitable Earth, along with 100 other juvenile delinquents. It sounds harsh, like certain death, but when execution waits for each of them the moment they turn 18, it doesn’t seem like such a bad alternative. And okay, it doesn’t make much sense that a bunch of unruly teenagers would be shouldering such an important task with not even one single adult supervisor, but this is The CW, and YA, and there’s just so much else happening it’s easy to get over some of the logic leaps the show makes.
Among the castaways are Wells (Eli Goree), Clarke’s ex-best friend who’s committed a crime just so he could be among the 100, in order to try to patch things up with her; Finn (Thomas McDonnell), our requisite broody hunk who quickly forms a bond with Clarke; Bellamy (Bob Morley), a dangerous older guy who did something pretty awful in order to get on the flight; and his baby sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), who’s said to have lived “under the floor” of the ship for sixteen years in defiance of its strict one-child policy. There’s issues up on the spaceship still as the adults left behind worry over their kids and disagree on how to preserve their dwindling resources, but the best drama is happening down below.
The kids, too, naturally also disagree on how to navigate their new world and new responsibility. Clarke, along with the more sensible of the group, want to stick to the instructions they were given to find the stash of food and supplies the humans left behind when they went up to the space station known as the Ark. The other group, urged on by Bellamy, who clearly has ulterior motives, wants to enjoy their freedom and embrace rebellion, cutting off their wrist monitors to make the Ark think they’re dead (and subsequently that the Earth is inhospitable, and not follow them down). The show pretty quickly descends into “Lord of the Flies” style in-fighting and brutality, at times shockingly violent, at times shockingly complex as it tackles morality, psychological damage, mob mentalities and more issues the 100 are thrust into at a very fast pace. The pacing is one of its highlights, making the show a truly exciting one to watch, moving frenetically from one shocking twist to another. Danger lurks around every corner, whether in the form of two-headed dear or gigantic sea monsters or each other or even more nefarious forces. You better pray for your favorite characters, because even in just the first few episodes, it’s clear that nobody is safe.
Another sign that the show has done its job right is that all the characters are distinct and memorable, right off the bat. Not to beat up poor “Star-Crossed” even more, but beyond the two leads, I’d be hard pressed to remember any other characters’ names, to speak nothing of what their personalities are and what they bring to the table. On “The 100,” the characters immediately make themselves stand out. The leaders each bringing their own baggage to their new situation: Clarke. Finn. Wells. Bellamy. The three younger, lovable scene-stalers: Octavia, Jasper (Devon Bostick), Monty (Christopher Larkin). Characters you care about and want to see survive, thrust into such dangerous settings, is a recipe for an addictive and suspenseful ride, hopefully heading towards a satisfying conclusion at the end of its first 13 episodes.
Oh hell, we’re probably actually headed towards an agonizing cliffhanger, aren’t we?
“The 100” premieres on Wednesday, March 19th at 9pm, on The CW.