So… my girlfriend and I were searching on Netflix for something new to watch and we came across this show called The 100. Honestly, we weren’t expecting much but the cover art was vaguely interesting and the plot summary was enough for us to check out the first episode at the very least.
It took us about five minutes to figure out that it was a CW show also because everyone in it is supposed to be around 16-17 years old and, man… they just had so much angst!
And, yet, in the course of about two and a half days, we burned through every episode on Netflix and then the four that had been posted to iTunes. So… yeah… if you thought that this was going to be a negative review about a stupid show… as Morris Moss would say, “You best put seat belts on your ears, because I’m about to take them for the ride of their lives!”
Now… the premise of the show is, at once kind of dumb and kind of brilliant. Essentially, ninety-seven years before, Earth had undergone a world war and the nukes used during the course of it had left the world uninhabitable. Those who had survived, did so aboard twelve space stations orbiting at the time that merged into one big one everyone called the Ark. Because of limited resources, any adult found guilty of committing a felony suffered the punishment of death while children were held in a type of prison for “reevaluation” when they reached eighteen.
But the Ark is running into real resource problems and the leadership of the Ark, basically a six-member council and a chancellor, decided that a quick solution would be to ditch those kids they were holding in prison, send them down to the surface of Earth and, hopefully, report back whether Earth was again habitable. Turns out there were 100 kids. Hence the name.
And that’s the premise. Simple and stupid. But here’s where it gets interesting.
The kids? Yeah, they knew Earth was either going to be habitable or they were sentenced to death. Of course, since the show is in its second season, I’ll leave you to guess which one it was. But that knowledge didn’t exactly leave them happy and wanting to do the Ark’s bidding. In fact, at least the first few eps were exactly about that.
And the political system up on the Ark isn’t nearly as black and white as one might expect from a CW show. People you initially think are bad guys turn out to be far more complicated while people you think are good guys turn out to be hiding some really dark dealings.
Honestly, I believe that what might have turned out to be a piece of crap television like Under the Dome in other hands is as good as it is because of the producer team of Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain, a pair that have been working together, as far as I can tell, as far back as some of the better episodes of Angel & The Shield.
But there are also a few other details that take it above and beyond and they’re mostly little things. Like, for example, the clothes. Unlike Revolution, which supposedly also takes place after an apocalypse and in which they’re still apparently able to find flawless clothes, everyone on the Ark is wearing ratty sweaters in often multiple layers because they’ve no doubt been recycled for generations. And there is blood. A lot of blood. People don’t get punched in the face and shake it off. Usually, they have blood under their nose or bruises under their eyes for multiple episodes.
But, most importantly, everything they do has a consequence, whether they know it or not. In fact, I was surprised when what seemed like a triumphant part to one episode not only failed to stop what it was trying to but came back several episodes later to bite them in the ass. These writers…? They’re really thinking.
Now, it’s not all good. There are a bunch of small things that bug me but not one of them as much as Isaiah Washington’s characterization of the Ark’s chancellor Thelonious Jaha. Yeah… forget about the name… that’s not actually what bugs me though I don’t like it either.
Jaha is a man who just wants to die. And, at first, I was almost sympathetic to him, you know? He’s their leader, he should bear some of the weight of what he’s asking others to do. Except that he takes every opportunity to die that’s available at any time. Need someone to pull a lever in a decompressing airlock? Yeah, he’s on it, doesn’t matter that it’s one way. Need someone to fight a fire in zero-g with a handkerchief and good intentions? Guess who the first volunteer is? Need someone to manually detonate the docking latches by urinating on their breakers in the vacuum of space? You get it…
The guy just keeps doing everything he can do die to the point that, by the end of season one, I was thinking, “Just let him! Christ, put him out of his misery!”
But, aside from him, the character growth over just the first 12-episode season is outstanding. One of the characters I liked the least in the first ep starts to grow on me by mid-season as I begin to understand her backstory and I find myself actually liking her by the end. And, even though I still don’t like the main character much, the fact that she goes from a goody-goody Jack to a realist Sawyer over a believable timespan and in believable circumstances gives me an arc I can believe in.
So… even though it’s on the CW, that shouldn’t automatically bias you against it. Supernatural is a CW show also and it’s pretty good. Veronica Mars was a CW show. And Buffy was on both the WB and UPN networks before they merged to become CW. So… every once in a while they can surprise you. As they did me with The 100.