TV Show Review

TV Review: THE 100: Season 1, Episode 2: Earth Skills [The CW]

Eliza Taylor Bob Morley The 100 Earth Skills

The CW‘s The 100 Earth Skills TV Show Review. The 100: Season 1, Episode 2: ‘Earth Skills’ sought to give the collective cast something to do, beyond the pilot‘s events. Aboard the Ark, Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington) was maintaining a principled stand, in the face of mounting opposition from rival, Kane (Henry Ian Cusick); while Abigail Griffin (Paige Turco) sought to solve the riddle of the exile’s mortality rate, in order to give Jaha (and by extension, herself) some room to maneuver.

Terra firma side, Clarke Griffin’s (Eliza Taylor) expedition to the intended drop zone (and its much needed supplies) ended with Jasper (Devon Bostick) being convincingly impaled by a spear. As if a hedonistic revolution, led by Bellamy (Bobby Morley), wasn’t bad enough, an unaccounted for, and likely hostile, population of survivor descendants stood between the exiles and resupply. Signs of Jasper’s survival, however, prompted a second expedition. Wells (Eli Goree) and Bellamy took their developing feud on the road, while Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos) was to replace Wells, as the drop zone trouble maker (of an entirely different sort).

I could go and on, about why Jasper’s survival was a stretch (I suspect a post-pilot mulligan, by screening audience demand), Finn’s (Thomas McDonell) possible double-dealing, or the numerous plot holes and technical issues, I had with the episode. With the series seeming to settle into The CW mold, however, where everything can be boiled down to the principal concerns of a teenager, I decided to break the episode down, in kind.

I know you are, but what am I?

The terra-teens did not degenerate to petty name calling; but why resort to trolling, when old fashioned schoolyard bullying gets you a place in the new world order. Peer pressure cuts in all directions, of course, and Clarke gets full credit for using her guilt & shame powers for good. Not only did she get Finn and Bellamy to join in her cause célèbre (not that I’m demeaning a rescue – cause célèbres often mean guilting the jaded into doing some good, if only for show), she managed to keep ahead of Bellamy’s political opportunism. Wells kept fighting the good fights, recklessly maintaining his status as group pariah, and Human target. The shame is that a lot of it seemed more about getting on Clarke’s good side. While he hasn’t been given a lot of options, social wise, it would be nice to get Wells out of Clarke’s orbit.

A character like Octavia wants to exert as much gravitational pull as possible; so naturally, her idea of staking a claim meant using her physical charms to bend tough guys to her whim. Being turned into an unattainable object, by her brother, only made her more power conscious, and eager to wield it. While growing up under floorboards does explain her need for attention, this overcompensation, along with her lack of regard for consequences, makes this bad girl “Veronica” every bit as shallow as her brother, “Reggie” – I mean, Bellamy. Bellamy, for his part, has either been a master at playing to the lowest common denominator – perhaps even the larger theme of genuine populism, or he actually believes in what he’s been selling the masses. If it turns out to be the former, he deserves some respect for being an effective villain (of the moment). If it turns out to be the latter, then he’s just a bully. A bully with no redeeming quality beyond caring for his sister. Punishing others for his sister’s efforts to assert her independence, however, does undercut that one virtue, some.

Finn, I just don’t like. I know his role is supposed to be that of the rogue – the Han Solo, to Well’s Luke Skywalker – but the role has never really translated well to teenagers. The teenage rogue usually amounts to cock-sure arrogance (“that empowered good girls find so irresistible”), more interested in being a statement than useful; but hey, that just gives the good girl a mission in drawing him out. So far, Finn hasn’t offered anything to defy type. What Clarke is likely to draw out of him may include another girl, on the side. The “side,” in this case, happened to be back on the Ark.

Raven (Lindsey Morgan) made for an impressive debut. Not hard to do, I suppose, when set up as being too smart/ well adjusted to be part of the “ground crew,” and too “out of the box” to fit in with the older characters. She established herself as a straight-talking, sharp-minded tomboy; but really, she was being made out to be a tougher, less polished alternative to Clarke. Supposedly a love interest to one of the exiles (and ignorant to his absence), her constant fiddling with an origami raven necklace not only gave away the identity of her lover, but suggested a level of devotion that he might not share. So yeah, not liking Finn.

Abigail, as a more enlightened breed of adult authority figure, did recognize Raven’s sharper qualities, and took her under a wing. The problem is, Raven promptly went on to point out some of the pilot’s plot holes, including the big elephant in the room: why the grounded kids were all flatlining.

It takes one to know one (“Parents just don’t understand”).

So just to be clear, for all the theoretical and practical brilliance that had been displayed by the likes of Abigail, it never occurred to any of the authorities that the terra-teens might have been deliberately removing their bracelets en masse. Raven pointed it out, right off the bat; given her better understanding of how random, irrational, and contrarian the teenage mind can be. All such understanding clearly leaving, or being removed, once adulthood is achieved, it seems. I suppose Raven could be considered a token youth presence on the Ark; allowed to remain because she was a valuable resource and, well, not a delinquent. Given the role of pointing out the obvious, to otherwise smart grown-ups, with no idea how the teenage brain works, however, Raven may have been left on the Ark to serve another purpose. Teenage interpreter to clueless adults (including, I imagine, audience members too hopelessly sophisticated to get what the terra-teens are all on-and-abouts).

The kissing game, post-apocalypse edition.

Like any series set against the backdrop of Darwynism, and Human extinction, The 100 knows the value of setting up a sports bracket of hook-ups as quickly as possible. Maybe the whole “shipper” phenomenon has become a good way of generating buzz; but good characters and storytelling can do that, too. As it stands, more effort seems to be going into the question of who hooks up with who, than anything else. On the ground, anyway. On the Ark, the more adult themes of political power play (revolving around the shooting of the Chancellor), and literal life-or-death decision making (that weighed upon Abigail’s efforts), were ongoing. The intrigues on the Ark, I fear, may yet amount to a real world distraction from the fairy tale/ soapy badness unfolding below.

Never mind the courtship of Clarke, Octavia pretty much summed it up, this episode. Jasper seemed to have a shot at her, by the end of the pilot; but when he paid for it, the field expanded to include one of her brother’s lieutenants, and Monty (Christopher Larkin). These were serious contenders, because they provided Octavia with opportunities to open up as a character (isn’t that how it works?). A romantic interest (complete with bio-luminescent butterflies as visual aides), and not just a sex symbol; the popular girl that appreciates the lowly geek, rather than the mindless social-climber. Well given what happened to first Jasper, then the lieutenant, my only interest in this contest is in Monty abstaining all together. Stick to your work, son, it’ll be healthier for you – and maybe everyone else.

I suppose the same could be said for the series, as a whole; but “forget it, Jake; it’s CW town.”

Someone should apologize to Australia.

I thought about the kind of future The 100 could have in store, for its characters & setting, and kept thinking: Australia on a massive scale. The U.S. might have remembered to forget Australia all over again (as it did after the Mad Max craze; then again, after Crocodile Dundee; and again, after the passing of the Crocodile Hunter), so I’ll take a moment to remind anyone who cares, that Australia was founded by stranded undisirables of the British Commonwealth. Next to no resources, familiar, yet alien landscape, flora, and fauna, and a less than receptive indigenous population. Somehow, that penal colony became a regular colony, then a fully functional nation.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure your average Australian would compare these delinquents favorably to their own criminal forebears. Until I next speak to one, I can only imagine them having a dim view of the colony founders  being compared to Spring Breakers. The thought of America’s founding fathers getting the 90210 treatment would likely launch patriotic death threats, here; so I’ll just put the Australia parallel away. Sorry, Australia

Oh, did I mention the Road Warrior stylings of The 100‘s indigenous threat? No? Forget I said anything.

If you’re old enough to have kids, you’re not too young for anything.

I was wondering how long it would be before the subject of young lust came up. Not long, it seemed. Bellamy quickly seized upon the perks of being the Alpha Male, and Octavia had demonstrated the power to get boys speared, or left tied to trees, for having caught her eye (stick to mechanics, Monty). That’s all well and good; but unless there is an element of serious birth control to this series, left BTS, then addressing the raging hormones involved, without the consequences, will speak volumes to just how seriously this material has been taken.

There will no doubt be a lot of fans calling attention to the fact that the exiles are teenagers; and that a certain allowance should be made for bad/ irrational behavior. Joan of Arc was a teenager. What was her excuse? I’m not just pulling out a random exception, here. Bad/irrational behavior can be luxuries, where hard times can make the most immature among us grow up pretty fast. I just can’t picture this sort of scenario coming out of The Great Depression, much less a slow drift from post-apocalypse to extinction.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

True, but second impressions still count. The good news is that there was enough potential, inherent to the pilot, for The 100 to carry on with this second installment. I had hoped the Ark subplot would be maintained, and that seems to be the case. The series will at least have some real weight to it, even as it risks using the Ark as a counterweight excuse, for increasingly trite melodrama on the ground. As long as The 100 focuses on its core premise, rather than wringing maximum melodrama out of it, there is enough material here to make something great.

‘Earth Skills’ did not impress; but it did encourage.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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