Is it possible to start over again in an environment where no one knows what's in store for them; good or bad? What if the fate of many was placed in the hands of a small group? What happens when the balance of power shifts in the wrong direction? That's the early premise of the CW's new show "The 100," which showcased a group of teenagers forced into a dilemma that many weren't ready for. Sure, the results, and execution, could use some serious improvement, but only time will tell if that remains to be the case.
"The 100" followed Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) who spent the better part of a year in solitary confinement for a crime that hasn't been clearly defined. Clarke's crime may have involved what ended up getting her father killed and her a stiff prison sentence. She was chosen to amongst a group of 100 juvenile delinquents who were given the chance to start over on a foreign land where there was untold opportunity and danger for everyone willing to take the risk. It turns out that foreign land was Earth, which hasn't been populated in over 97 years after a major nuclear disaster made it uninhabitable for humans. People have been living on the "Ark," which housed multiple space stations and contained hundreds of inhabitants. Unfortunately, the air supply was limited and getting smaller by the day. Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington) and Clarke's widowed mother Abigail (Paige Turco) believed that their plan to use the kids to search for a new home would lead to success rather than consequences. Unfortunately, the Chancellor gets shots and nearly died in the process. Abigail was nearly executed for going to extremes to save his life. The Chancellor's second in command Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) tried to take advantage of his injury and plotted to kill off inhabitants in order to increase the air supply and through making extreme laws to do so. While Clarke's mother tried to keep the Ark going, Clarke was forced to make allies in order to stay alive. She bonded with resident rebel Finn (Thomas McDonell), her former friend Wells Jaha (Eli Goree) and the wrongfully imprisoned Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos). Sadly, Octavia's brother Bellamy (Bob Morley) committed a shocking crime to get on the ship with the 100 and was creating a rebellion that could get a lot of them killed if they weren't too careful. Will Clarke be able to stay alive or will some unseen force prevent that from happening?
In terms of questions, the show posed a few big one, but the biggest one involved whether the series could make it to another season. The show has some stiff competition on Wednesday nights and it's disappointing premiere seemed to recycle a lot of the best parts from the show's commercials. The Earth scenes felt a bit like "The Hunger Games" minus the emotional intensity of the movie. It also didn't help that the show played it just a little too safe in castings the younger set of the cast. Taylor did manage to bring some charm and vulnerability to Clarke, but her quiet presence made it seem like such a stretch that a nice girl could be considered a threat to the Ark's security. Maybe, if the show had included some crucial flashbacks at some point to better explain how Taylor's Clarke got locked up in the first place. It would make a whole lot more sense than some of the early scenes in the premiere did. Taylor did have a nice rapport with McDonell's Finn, but it's too early to tell whether that storyline will turn into a romance or simple alliance to stay alive. The final scene of the premiere involved a shocking attack on one of Clarke's allies that wasn't really all that shocking in the end. Many viewers could anticipate that things were getting to be too easy on the planet and there needed to be a tangible threat to keep everyone from killing each other too soon. Let's hope that future episode will continue to build on that storyline as well as the growing tension between the 100 to keep things somewhat interesting for the time being.
As for breakout performances, the adult portion of the cast seemed to be leading the pack in different degrees and was where the show's true tension originated from. While the teenagers learned the lay of the land, the adults were always plotting and scheming against each other in an extreme effort to stay alive. Although Washington's Jaha was a compelling character to watch, he sadly wasn't in the premiere long enough to merit a full opinion of just yet. Future episodes should determine whether he's a misguided leader or a villain corrupted by power. Luckily, Washington's brief scenes in the premiere proved that it was a step in the right direction for the time being. The premiere's truly memorable performances were from Turco and Cusick as they plotted to save lives in very drastically different directions. Turco's Abigail was designed to be the right mixture of stern logic and motherly vulnerability as she worried that she might not get to see her daughter again. She worked to make Abigail a character that viewers could root for, even though she allowed her daughter to be a test subject as one of the 100. Turco's strongest scene came when she thought that her character was going to be executed for her heroic efforts to save the Chancellor. Shock and relief washed over the character's face after there was a last minute pardon that put a stop to everything. Cusick, on the other hand, made Kane to be a ruthless man who valued human life as much as he did power over everyone. He made Kane's ruthless power move look all the more shocking as he told Turco's Abigail that she was going to die for her crime. Cusick did the scene in such a serious tone that it almost unnerving to watch at times. Fingers crossed that Cusick and Turco will get to face off again in more scenes, because the show's main tension lied with their characters for now; until the show finds a new direction to draw viewers in.
"The 100" premiered on March 19th and airs Wednesdays at 9:00 PM on the CW.
Verdict: The show tries to put a serialized spin on "The Hunger Games" on a much larger scale, but the action seemed to be focused more on obvious shock value than telling actual stories for the time being.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)