TV Show Review

TV Review: THE 100: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot [The CW, NYCC 2013]

Marie Avgeropoulos Thomas McDonell Eliza Taylor The 100

The CW’s NYCC The 100 Pilot TV Show Review. The 100: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot from the 2013 New York Comic Con introduced a distant future predicated on near future events. At some point, mankind apparently jumped one shark too far and entered into extinction. Extinction, that is, as a terrestrial species. By that point, there were twelve international space stations in Earth orbit, leaving approximately four hundred survivors of the cataclysm in what had now become life rafts. Earth had been rendered uninhabitable. Ninety seven years, and some three generations later, the Human population had rebounded to four thousand. This was a problem. The pooled resources of the original space stations, now in the form of a single vessel dubbed “The Ark,” was stretching thin. Austerity measures, such as strict population control and expansive capital punishment, had amounted to delays of the inevitable. It was decided to gamble on a win-win exercise. One hundred juvenile offenders were to be secretly exiled to Earth. If Earth was found to be inhabitable, it meant salvation for all. If not, then there would be one hundred less mouths to feed on The Ark.

This, then, was the set-up for The 100, and a promising one, at that. Within its first half-hour, viewers were pretty much brought up to speed on years of personal and political intrigues; enough background fodder for more than just one season. At the forefront of all this intrigue was the Chief Medical Officer, Councillor Abigail Griffin (Paige Turco), who found herself caught up in a power grab against The Ark’s fatally injured Chancellor, Jaha (Isaiah Washington), by his #2, Kane (Henry Ian Cusick). That conflict served to both introduce us to the exiles, and help propel the narrative, while also adding valuable context to their terrestrial interactions and dynamic. More pressingly, some of the exiles were the children of the adult cast.

Among the exiles were Clarke (Eliza Taylor), Finn (Thomas McDonell), Bellamy (Bob Morley), and Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). I singled out those four because family ties (to The Ark, and in one case, to each other) informed their actions, and gave license to their behavior. There were, of course, many more; but The 100 made it pretty clear, fairly early, that a viewer “death-watch” would be a part of the series experience. Much like The Walking Dead, The 100 may lack the kind of “job security” that would allow its cast and stories to stagnate. At least, that was the impression given, at the onset of the exile, and at the episode’s end, when acts of stupidity resulted in death for the actors (as nature intended). Oh, how heartening the pilot’s set-up was.

So heartening, in fact, that the follow through was just a crushing disappointment. The consequence for stupidity was suspended for much of it, as it dawned upon the exiles that they had not been given their due, by the powers that be, and now had an opportunity to cut loose. First things first, though, cliques and pecking orders had to be sorted out. The exiles were now Flies vying for a Lord. I was fine when The 100 set itself up as Babylon 5 meets Hunger Games (complete with cross-off board) by way of After Earth; but when the pristine, revitalized Earth setting started to mimic Avatar, by way of a Friskies cat fantasy sequence, I stopped looking for influences. More-so when it seemed like the answer to the episode’s question of survival at all cost, versus whether we deserve to survive at all (thank you, BSG), might very well be “no.”

Here’s the thing. The second half of the pilot more or less cut The Ark loose. Figuratively and literally. The planners of the operation, representing an authority that I imagine had been managing crises for generations, somehow managed to overlook the willingness and ability of the Flies to ditch their monitors. With no formal link between the two, the events on The Ark may prove irrelevant. It seems likely that it would now be entirely up to the Flies to build the show’s mythology, and I have not been given any encouragement that they are up to the task.

I acknowledge that the Lord of the Flies scenario is a true to life given, when the very young are left completely to their own devices. Three generations, however, is not far enough removed from near extinction for teenagers – again facing collapse – to de-evolve into an industrial 20th century state of idle hedonism. I won’t even go into how dolled-up and fashionable these kids were.

The problem (that might be hard-wired in) with The 100 is that it assumes the sensibilities of its setting’s youth would somehow mirror the youth culture of the present age. One can argue that every story, fact or fiction, is somehow reflective of its author’s timeline perspective. Better accounts, however, come from those with a fundamental understanding of Human nature (if not nature, itself), or some grasp of the ebb and flow of history. Such works (by the likes of Homer, Sun Tzu, or  Machiavelli) are timeless. The thing is, you don’t have to be some insightful genius, or student of history, to come up with a work that isn’t dated or culturally biased. It’s the information age. It wouldn’t take a whole lot of time online – or on the Discovery network, for that matter – to get a sense for what youth culture has actually been like, from age to age, under the varied/ combined circumstance presented in The 100.

The 100 series will no doubt attempt to reconcile an overarching optimism (in its depiction of mankind’s attempted reboot and redemption, on a revitalized Earth), with some inherent cynicism (like the fact that the future of mankind rarely ever cares about mankind, our drive to control our environment, and the human tendency to throw away any opportunity to reconcile, period). This first installment sets up a very rocky path, to that end.

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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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