“Prisoners of the ARC, hear me now. You’ve been given a second chance, and as your Chancellor, it is my hope that you see this as not just a chance for you, but a chance for all of us, indeed for mankind itself. We have no idea what is waiting for you down there. If the odds of survival were better, we would’ve sent others. Frankly, we’re sending you because your crimes have made you expendable.”
It’s 97 years ago and nuclear holocaust has made life on Earth unlivable… at least that’s what most people believed. Fortunately, for humanity, several countries had space stations in orbit. These various stations eventually came together to pool resources hoping for a better chance at survival. The ragtag collection eventually became the ARC. Now, nearly a century later they have created a civilization ruled by the dire necessity of their situation.
All crimes committed after the age of 18, no matter how small, are punishable by death. It’s called being floated. Basically that means you’re sucked out of an airlock. It’s intended not only to keep order, but as a way to keep the population from over-exerting the aging ARC and its resources. Except it’s not working. Air and food have fallen to unsustainable levels. So the ARC’s council comes up with a desperate plan. There are 100 juveniles being held prisoner for crimes committed before their 18th birthday. The ARC is sending them down to Earth to ascertain if the planet has recovered enough to support life once again.
Among the 100 from which the series gets its name is Clarke Griffin (Taylor). She is the daughter of ARC medical chief and council member Abby Griffin (Turco). Her father had been floated for trying to let the population in on the whole failing-systems thing. Yes, he was Jor El, and interestingly enough his daughter who was sent to Earth from space is named Clark (except with an extra e). Also on board is the son of the ARC’s Chancellor Jaha (Washington). His name is Wells (Goree) and Clarke blames him for turning in her father.
The ARC also includes stowaway Bellamy Blake (Morley) who just tried to kill Jaha and escaped on the drop-ship to protect his sister Octavia (Avgeropoulos). He ends up contending with Clarke for leadership of the 100. He’s an inspirational guy who preaches a no-rules “do whatever the hell you want” while all the while ruling with an iron hand and inflicting rules intended to cut the group from the ARC. To avoid punishment for his crime, he needs the ARC to believe the 100 died so they will assume Earth isn’t ready and not follow them down. Except the Earth is ready…well, sort of.
The series tells two stories simultaneously. It’s getting to be a familiar style. We see it on Arrow, and we’ve seen variations of this theme on Sleepy Hollow, The Originals, The Vampire Diaries and earlier shows. One story deals with the 100 on the ground. It’s very much Lord Of The Flies, as the group doesn’t exactly know what to do with this new-found freedom and also deal with the problems they encounter. These problems include the usual food, shelter and water. They also include mutated animals and the unexpected survivors of the holocaust. They’re called Grounders and are a warrior race that look upon the 100 as invaders. There are also Reevers, who are an even more primitive cannibal race that yes, sound, act and even look a lot like Firefly’s Reevers. Finally, there are the Mountain Men, who don’t show up until the cliffhanger finale.
The second story occurs in space aboard the ARC. Here we deal with political intrigue that involves Jaha, Abby and the previous Chancellor and political rival Marcus Kane played by Lost’s Desmond Henry Ian Cusick. There are other players and a mob that are learning just how much has been hidden from them. With contact on the ground cut off, they have to make horrible sacrifices until they finally find out the Earth can sustain them.
Both stories also deliver flashbacks in an effort to fill in plot holes the writers couldn’t find a way to show us in a more effective way. Perhaps the series begins at the wrong time. I think it would have been far more promising to start a few years earlier and deal with the issues that lead to the decision to send the kids to Earth. There are so many characters here that background has to be forced. I think we would have cared far more for them and the plight of the ARC had we been allowed to join them in their downward spiral of diminishing resources and political struggles. Instead I honestly feel like I’ve been dropped in the middle of a better story than I’m getting to see. Of course, if you’re a slave to the title you have to get to those 100 kids, don’t you? So what are they going to do now?
The series is almost entirely driven by conflict. The 100 fight among themselves as well as with the Grounders. The ARC people spend more time on bickering than solving the issues they face. Conflict can be found on micro and macro levels here. It’s all around this series, and without it there’d be nothing to see here. The writing spends a lot of time rehashing stale arguments that end up doing more to fill space than actually drive the plot forward. With only 100 episodes I would have expected a bit more urgency to move forward, but like the 100 themselves this plot is stuck in the mud for nearly the entire season. These writers can beat a two-headed dead horse until there’s not enough left to feed a chihuahua. It doesn’t help that most of the acting is about as dynamic as a lopsided baseball game.
That isn’t to say there aren’t good actors here and some nice performances. Turco, Washington and Cusick all put in pretty solid work, but it’s clear that they aren’t be given enough meat to really thrive here. Isaiah Washington is best known for his role on Grey’s Anatomy where he made a surprising and effective single-episode return appearance this last season. Here he’s given a grand character who gets to make grand gestures. Even his above-average performance here failed to compel me in any way. It’s a meaty role that should have had more passion. I don’t blame the actor at all. Obviously, passion is something we’ve seen from him on Grey’s Anatomy. The writing merely fails to bring out his best emotional forces. There appears to be more than one actor phoning it in around him and Cusick. What a waste of good talent. As for the younger actors, they become quite single-purposed at times, and Bob Morley does a horrible job of trying to hide his Aussie accent. At least he comes the closest to delivering something compelling and energetic. Eliza Taylor is a tad better at hiding her Aussie voice, and she should be. It appears her day job is as a dialect coach for other Australians working on their American accents. Why are they even trying to hide the accent? This is intended to be an international station. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter accent/no accent. The dialog might as well have been put on a loop and rerun for 13 episodes.
Another problem finds the show bowing to the typical lowest common denominator in the audience. OK, here’s the situation. Your people are dying both on the ground and in space. There are people in camp missing. Primitive warrior guys are on their way to wipe you out. Disease and famine are taking their toll. You need to build and replenish weapons. What do you do? Of course, you take time out to get naked and roll in the sack for a while. Running from the bad guys? There’s plenty of time to stop and stare deeply into each other’s eyes. Arrows are flying around your head? It’s the perfect moment to stop and talk about your feelings. Thanks, writers, for keeping it real…and sexy, I guess.
As you can imagine the title is only accurate from the pilot episode. It might have been a clever idea to allow the series name to change each week. Week one would be called The 100 next week it’s The 92. Next we’ll call it The 87…
While the acting and writing is eternally going nowhere, I must give a tip of the hat to the production design folks on the show. The series looks very good. The Vancouver locations are used to excellent form, and the new-born Earth is quite believable. The f/x work is also top-notch. The ARC design itself is a rather nice one. It is complicated, yet simple enough to all make sense. It’s functional. The interiors honestly sell the idea of high technology that’s good stuff but well past its expiration date. Everything from fabrics, textures and surroundings tells a very detailed story. The production folks are telling a far better story than anyone on the writer’s staff appears to know how to do. If you’re going to get hooked on this show, it’s that wonderful design that’s going to suck you in.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25 mbps. The high-definition image does a pretty solid job of presenting the two worlds here. The ARC is almost monochromatic. Lots of dull grays and off-white colors. The Earth, however offers plenty of lush greens and tons of gritty texture with all of the mud and dirt. Thankfully, a show where the characters show the grime of the situation in their clothes and hair. Black levels are a little better than average offering us some glimpse of what might be in the shadows.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is really there to serve the dialog more than anything else particularly aboard the ARC. It’s a claustrophobic feeling that’s totally appropriate. The Earth scenes aren’t a ton more aggressive in the surrounds. There’s a few ambient sounds from the woods that gives you some ear candy and allow you to be somewhat immersed in the environments. The score consists of a lot of ballads that appear to be mixed a bit softer than I’m used to. The original music is pretty sparse.
2013 Comic Con Panel: (14:03) Being a new show, they weren’t given a lot of time, so there isn’t anything more than an introduction here. Rothenberg talks about seeing the show as Lost meets the new Battlestar Galactica. I’ll allow you to judge the results. Me, I don’t exactly see it.
Creating The World Of The 100: This is a four-part behind the scenes feature:
In The Beginning: (7:13) Cast and crew talk about the concept and mythology of the show.
The ARC: (6:37) The f/x and design of the orbiting collection of space stations are explored here.
A New Earth: (6:47) A look at the post-apocalyptic Earth. Two-headed deer, acid fog and the various locations used to represent this world are explored here. The Zoic studio guys who handle the computer images show us how they came up with stuff.
Grounders, Reaper and Mountain Men: (7:52) A look at the various people including that of the 100 and ARC folks. We’re talking wardrobe, hair and makeup primarily.
Deleted Scenes: (2:11) Only two for the final episode.
The show is based on a new series of books from writer Kass Morgan. The crew here has a little bit more room to operate than do most shows based on book series. The first book had not yet been released when they started filming the series. Series creator Jason Rothenberg had the fortune to preview the book’s outline and first few chapters. It dovetailed in with an idea of his own which was quite similar but dealt with the survivors exploring an alien planet for sustainability. I think this is the better idea and certainly has great potential. Unfortunately, Rothenberg and his crew are spinning their tires most of the time here. The show has been picked up for another year. Without revealing the ending, I can tell you Rothenberg has hit a reset button of sorts, so I’ll be there to see where he takes it from here. “Those crimes will be forgiven, your records wiped clean.”