Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TELEVISION: The 100 shows promise -- but is hampered in some areas

When I first read about the premise of the CW’s new teen dystopian thriller The 100, I was actually intrigued.

The basic premise of the show, for those that don’t know, is that the Earth was compromised by nuclear winter after a conflict caused several countries to shoot missiles at each other.

To survive, an “ark” was built. This time, it went to space.

The generation of individuals living on the “ark” was merely meant to be a transition generation since it would be a hundred years before Earth was inhabitable again.

Unfortunately for the survivors on the ark, the oxygen system is starting to fail and the survivors only have a few months to live.

That’s where viewers are introduced to the story and we’re introduced to Clarke (Eliza Taylor) – a young
girl that has been in the prison system on the ark for the past year. She – and 99 other teenage prisoners on the ark – are being dispatched to Earth to see if survival is an option on the planet.

Since scientists believe the Earth is still too toxic for humans to survive, it’s possible the kids on the shuttle will die the minute they land. Each teenager has a wristband feeding their vitals back to the ark so the adults can monitor the morbidity rate of the kids.

To no one’s surprise (it wouldn’t be much of a television show if the kids all died in the pilot episode) the kids land relatively safely (two fatalities) and find that they can breathe without a problem.

The first order of business is food and mindless flirting, apparently.

Most of the kids have been in the background so far, but a handful of them have been pushed to the forefront.

The first is Clarke, the moral compass of the show. Clarke’s mother is one of the science officers on the ark. She’s got her own political agenda – as do all the adults we see on the ark – but more on her in a minute.

We’re also introduced to Wells, Clarke’s childhood best friend – who Clarke isn’t overly happy to see. It seems Clarke believes that not only was she imprisoned because of Wells – but her father was also “floated.”

What’s floated? Anyone that broke a rule on the ark was essentially shown into a capsule and had an
external door opened and they were sucked out into space. Clarke’s father was one of these individuals. His crime? He was the one that found out the environmental controls on the ark weren’t working and the people on it were in danger. He wanted to do the right thing and tell everyone, but he was floated instead.

Clarke always thought Wells told his father, Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington) and that resulted in her father’s death. Clarke realizes relatively quickly, though, that her assumptions were wrong. Wells didn’t turn on her and turn in her father. It was her mother, Abby (Paige Turco).

Of course, Wells doesn’t survive long after Clarke and he reconcile. He’s killed by a frightened 13-year-old child named Charlotte – who is trying to control her fear (yeah, the Charlotte tale is one of the weaker arcs so far).

That brings me to the true “heart” of The 100. This is really just a fancy retelling of Lord of the Flies. We have kids who have all done something wrong to get where they are. Many thought they were being sent on a death mission. So, when they survive, they are easily swayed by a charismatic leader.

Enter Bellamy (Bob Morley). Bellamy’s story is interesting – if incomplete. We know that he’s the older brother to Octavia, a girl who was locked up because it was illegal for a couple to have more than one child on the ark. Octavia spent her childhood in hiding and, when she was discovered, was locked up.

Bellamy went out of his way to make sure he was on the shuttle with the prisoners so he wouldn't be separated from Octavia again.

Bellamy wants to fire up the survivors to discard their bracelets and let the ark think they’re dead so they
won’t come down. He’s hiding some big secrets – and I’m curious to see what they are. Back on the ark, as the kids are "dying" -- the adults are starting to gear up to "float" hundreds of innocent citizens to prolong the air supply on the ark.

While I like Bellamy, the problem is, he has largely been painted with a dark brush. The only thing he’s missing is a mustache to twirl.  Charlotte showed a softer side of Bellamy – but that didn’t last very long.

The truth is, the biggest problem with The 100 isn’t the story. True, the story is a little heavy-handed right now – but most shows are when they first launch. I have hope that the writers will relax a little bit and not force everything.

No, the real problem is the casting.

I understand this is a teenage ensemble, but the bulk of the cast is obviously learning how to act on the job right now.

While there have been some decent moments, there have also been some cringe-worthy moments – and I don’t expect that to get any better when we get immersed in an actual love triangle this week.

I keep reminding myself that this is a show for teenagers – so they like the melodrama – but sometimes the teenage angst is almost too much for me to take.

Still, the premise of the show is interesting and the acting of the adult cast is top notch. I’m willing to hang on and let the writers iron out the kinks (if they’re willing and able).

Since dystopian fantasy is all the rage right now, I think The 100 has a chance to survive and thrive. I’m just hoping the acting with the younger set improves – and the writing lightens up a little bit.

What do you think? Do you like The 100?


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