March 19, 2014

THE SKED Pilot Review “The 100″”


THE 100:  Wednesday 9PM on CW – Worth A Look

THE 100 has promise, although it needs some work.  Based on a series of YA novels by Kass Morgan, the premise borrows liberally from Lord of the Flies, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Hunger Games, and any number of post-apocalyptic dystopian tales.  In the future, Earth has been decimated by nuclear disaster, and the only survivors live in a conglomeration of space stations called The Ark.  97 years after that, the Ark is quickly running out of resources, and someone needs to revisit Earth to see if it’s become inhabitable again before those humans who are left start perishing.  The Ark’s management decides to use its version of convicts as canaries in the mine:  teenagers who’ve been imprisoned for their widely varying crimes (in the future, anyone over 18 who breaks any law whatsoever is punished with execution–unless the Chancellor grants a pardon).  There are–you guessed–exactly 100 of these renegade teens.

Our Katniss Everdeen is named Clarke Walters (Eliza Taylor), spunky blonde daughter of the scientist who wanted to tell the Ark’s residents that their time was running out and who was executed for his trouble, thanks to ruthless baddie Councilman Kane (Henry Ian Cusack, who knows a bit about surviving in mysterious territory).  Clarke’s mother Abigail Walters (Paige Turco), herself a Councilwoman and surgeon, stands for all that is good and honest on the Ark.  Another distinguished bloodline among the 100 belongs to Wells Jaha (Eli Goree), son of the Chancellor (Isiah Washington) himself and the most dutiful of the teens.  On the other side of the 100’s mindset are a trio of rebels:  Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley) and his sister Octavia (Marie Ovgeropoulos), and Finn Collins (Thomas McDonell).  Bellamy has no loyalty to the Ark and wants the 100 to play dead so that the powers that be, monitoring their health via electronic wristbands, will think Earth is still untenable and leave them alone, while his sister was imprisoned just for being the second child when Ark rules permit only one offspring per household.  Finn, meanwhile, is the show’s “bad boy” and reluctant hero–he’d be the one on the motorcycle if there were any left, and his disregard for rules instantly stirs sparks of romantic antagonism with Clarke.

There’s plenty to work with in The 100, and that doesn’t even count the mutant animals and whatever else has survived the century of radiation on Earth, creatures only briefly glimpsed in the pilot.  The show is going to need a higher level of writing than series creator Jason Rothenberg provides, however, which may make it a good thing that the series writing/producing will be supplemented by experienced showrunner Matt Miller, whose previous series run the gamut from Las Vegas to Chuck and 666 Park Avenue.  The dialogue in the pilot is flat and lacking any kind of nuance–characters might as well introduce themselves by saying “I am a bad guy” or “Watch me be grimly determined.”  (There are moments that scarily recall Terra Nova.)  The show doesn’t try to achieve any semblance of reality; when the teens, who’ve been jailed for months and have just made it through a bumpy, terrifying flight from the Ark to Earth, step out of their vehicle, they’re so perfectly coiffed and made up that they might be showing up for a club opening.  The actors have little chance to make more than a rudimentary impression, and it probably shouldn’t be held against them yet that most of the young ones come off as various shades of attractive cardboard.

No one expects The 100 to be as darkly allegorical as BSG or as wildly mystifying as Lost, but if it can tap into the potential of its concept, it could fit satisfyingly into the CW universe.  Bharat Nalluri’s direction of the pilot effectively contrasts the sterile technology of the Ark with the lush tropical danger of new Earth, and while Rothenberg’s dialogue leaves something to be desired, the pilot is well-paced and quickly establishes the various settings and characters.  For this week, at least, it’s best to think of The 100 as a work in progress for now, one that could go into orbit or remain dully Earth-bound.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."