Review: The 100 1×1 (The CW/E4)

When pretty teens go bad


In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4. To air 2014

Sometimes, the contrariness of US TV amuses me. Watch pretty much any US TV show these days and you’ll spot someone who isn’t American pretending to be American. Whether it’s simply the ubiquitous Canadians who permeate every show that’s shot for budgetary reasons in Canada (pretty much anything on The CW, for example), or the numerous Brits, Australians, New Zealanders and Scandinavians looking for jobs and pay in the US they’re never going to get back home, look close enough and they’ll be there, usually sporting a non-descript Mid-Western accent, in pretty much any show you care to mention. 

Yet, when a show actually calls for some degree of international representation, not only will virtually all the characters be American, even the foreigners the producers bring in will be obligated to pretend to be from someone in Iowa.

Case in point is The 100, set in some distant, post-nuclear future, in which only a handful of humans from around the world have survived. They all live in The Ark, an amalgamation of all the world’s space stations, so naturally you’d expect just a few of them to not be American. Yet they aren’t. Even the obviously and famously Scottish Henry Ian Cusick from Lost is forced to feign US accent.


Nevertheless, The 100 is a moderately interesting piece for The CW, which is rapidly turning into the ‘more sci-fi than the SyFy’ channel. Yes, we have all the standard tropes designed to appeal to young people of both genders – pretty, clean-cut, fit young things in various states of undress, emoting at each other and worrying about their teenage relationships. But these 100 pretty young things are all juvenile offenders, forced to return as guinea pigs to the irradiated world that is the Earth by the Draconian regime that runs The Ark. Will they all die of radiation sickness, get eaten by rabid rats or club each other to death?

Maybe, actually, which is surprising. In fact, some of them might even get killed before the end of the first episode…

Here’s a trailer.

Ninety-seven years ago, nuclear Armageddon decimated planet Earth, destroying civilization. The only survivors were the 400 inhabitants of 12 international space stations that were in orbit at the time. Three generations have been born in space, the survivors now number 4,000, and resources are running out on their dying “Ark” – the 12 stations now linked together and repurposed to keep the survivors alive. Draconian measures including capital punishment and population control are the order of the day, as the leaders of the Ark take ruthless steps to ensure their future, including secretly exiling a group of 100 juvenile prisoners to the Earth’s surface to test whether it’s habitable. For the first time in nearly a century, humans have returned to planet Earth. Among the 100 exiles are Clarke, the bright teenage daughter of the Ark’s chief medical officer; Wells, son of the Ark’s Chancellor; the daredevil Finn; and the brother/sister duo Bellamy and Octavia, whose illegal sibling status has always led them to flaunt the rules. Technologically blind to what’s happening on the planet below them, the Ark’s leaders – Clarke’s widowed mother, Abby; the Chancellor, Jaha; and his shadowy second in command, Kane – are faced with difficult decisions about life, death and the continued existence of the human race. For the 100 young people on Earth, however, the alien planet they’ve never known is a mysterious realm that can be magical one moment and lethal the next. With the survival of the human race entirely in their hands, THE 100 must find a way to transcend their differences, unite and forge a new path on a wildly changed Earth that’s primitive, intense and teeming with the unknown.

The series stars Eliza Taylor (newcomer) as Clarke, Paige Turco (“Person of Interest,” “Damages”) as Abby, Thomas McDonell (“Suburgatory”) as Finn, Eli Goree (“Emily Owens, M.D.”) as Wells, Marie Avgeropoulos (“50/50“) as Octavia, Bob Morley (newcomer) as Bellamy, Kelly Hu (“X2: X-Men United,” “Arrow”) as Cece, Christopher Larkin (“Squad 85”) as Monty, Devon Bostick (“Aim High”) as Jasper, with Isaiah Washington (upcoming “Blue Caprice,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) as Chancellor Jaha, and Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost,” “Scandal”) as Kane.

Based on the upcoming book series by Kass Morgan, THE 100 is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Alloy Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios with executive producers Matthew Miller (“Human Target,” “Chuck”), Jason Rothenberg (upcoming “Twilight Zone” feature), Bharat Nalluri (“Torchwood,” “Emily Owens, M.D.”), Leslie Morgenstein (“The Vampire Diaries”) and Gina Girolamo (“The Secret Circle”). The pilot was directed by Bharat Nalluri.

Is it any good?
It’s not bad. It’s pretty tame, pretty cheap and pretty pretty, but it has a slight edge that pushes it above the truly dreadful, such as Star Crossed

Essentially, this is Lord of the Flies, but as if written by the class president at a particularly sheltered private girls school. It features the basic, ‘special plucky girl’ set-up, beloved of teen fiction (cf Twilight, Star Crossed, Vampire Diaries), which sees one outsider, teacher’s pet, pretty but not too pretty, sort of girl (Eliza Taylor) gradually come to be accepted as leader by the other, not-that-threatening, sexier bad boys and girls, thanks to her brains and showing how much she cares about them all. 

The action is split in two: the adults, including Cusick, Kelly Hu, most of the supporting cast of Continuum and head honcho Isaiah Washington, are up on The Ark, essentially confined to chatting a lot in two slightly futuristic space rooms about their kids and being snarky at each other/trying to kill each other, while discussing the ethics of survival; the teens, meanwhile, are all wandering around a very Canadian-looking bucolic landscape, setting up little cliques and revelling in the fact that their parents aren’t around. 

This is, in fact, the nicest post-apocalyptic nightmare you’ll ever see. Despite human-eating water snakes, two-headed mutated deer and other slightly unexpected dangers to our photogenic, not especially dirty, smooth-faced former prisoners, there’s is no Ray Winstone figure with a sock full of sand, asking ‘Who’s the daddy?’ Everyone, despite having been confined to cubicles in space for months and even years, and never having set foot on anything except a low G environment, seems perfectly up for hiking, swimming, climbing, swinging on vines and fighting. No one really worries – or even has to worry – about exposure, rainwater full of radioactive poison, limited food and water supplies, or anything else in this chilly environment, as they wander around in their early 90s Seattle grunge outfits. And all it takes is someone to explain the nature of their predicament and rational self-interest kicks in, rather than the speaker getting shanked for making the alpha-dog look stupid.  

Nevertheless, there is just enough acknowledgement of a darker reality that these things aren’t entirely glossed over. Kids are picked upon, criminals try to set up hierarchies where they’re the boss, and, yes, the occasional kid does die from one danger or other. I mean you’ll probably want them all to die before the end, anyway, and the show makes the mistake of killing off the only ones you probably don’t want to suffer from a horrible lingering death, but some sh*t does indeed happen.

If you’re over the age of about 24, there’s probably not much here for you, since the adult roles aren’t especially well defined, largely are there to service the teens’ story and despite attempts to make Cusick something more than a well intentioned but evil antagonist to Washington and Paige Turco (Clarke’s character’s mum), there’s no doubt who’s the baddie and who are the goodies. Even if you can follow the largely tiresome teens through their not especially troubling trials and tribulations without wanting nuclear winter to descend upon them all, the only real surprises are in the nasties on the planet, rather than the lack of nasties among the teenagers.

Unless the show doubles down on the few edges it already has, The 100 is only going to appeal if you like your nuclear apocalypses to be less threatening than a nature hike with some scouts. Try it if you must, be prepared for a few surprises, but don’t expect too much.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.