Premieres Wednesday, March 19 at 8pm on CW.
While they've dabbled in the supernatural for years, the CW's teen melodrama format has only begun to venture into science fiction this season with the alien-romance Star-Crossed and now the futuristic The 100. While the former got mired in the network's trademark teen soap opera formula, The 100 rises above it by fearlessly exploring the drama's complex sci-fi concepts.
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Set 97 years after a nuclear war destroyed the surface of the Earth, The 100 finds the surviving members of the human race living on a space station called "The Ark." With their research telling them that Earth won't be livable for another 100 years, these wayward citizens face the unglamorous task of keeping their species alive long enough to return home.
Population controls are a huge concern of the Ark's leading council. For adults, all crimes are punishable by death (via airlock), while those under 18 are imprisoned until they mature, at which point their crimes are reviewed. Despite these extreme measures, the Ark is in dire straits and may not last another century. The governing body, lead by Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington), elects to send a group of 100 prisoners down to the surface to test out Earth and see if its habitable for the rest of the population.
On the ground, things get crazy fast. Communication with the Ark is cut off during landing and with a population of delinquent teenagers, things quickly go the way of Lord of the Flies. Idealist Clarke (Eliza Taylor), whose father was executed for trying to leak information about the Ark's failing life support to its citizen, tries to rally her peers together to focus on survival, but rebellious stowaway Bellamy (Bob Morley) proves far more persuasive in preaching chaos. The ragtag bunch of teen colonists has more to fear than each other, as the Earth's surface could not only still be toxic, it's now populated with dangerous creatures that have grown and evolved through a century of radiation poisoning.
While the scene on the ground borrows heavily from Lord of the Flies, the action up on the Ark is strongly reminiscent of Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica reboot, as Jaha and Clarke's mother Abby (Paige Turco) are in a race against time to save as many people as possible before the life support systems fail. It makes for some pretty weighty sci-fi, and between the two hazardous settings, the body count quickly escalates.
With a gripping narrative and some impressive adult actors, it's a shame that The 100's young cast is so lacking in talent and charisma. Taylor makes for an exceedingly dull heroine, which isn't aided by the fact that her character is such a buzzkill. She's also immediately thrown into a distracting and hopelessly boring love triangle with Thomas McDonnell's Finn, a plot line that seems to exist merely to fulfill the CW's need to set teen girl's hearts aflutter. But since the pair have zero chemistry, it's just a big time waster. Thankfully, The 100's premise is so compelling that it makes the soap suds worth tolerating.
Filled with thought-provoking stories and lots of adventure, The 100 is one of the most ambitious shows the CW has put forth in years.