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CW's The 100 is well-grounded on earth, in space


Eliza Taylor (second from right) heads the cast of The 100. CW photo

Premiering: Wednesday, March 19th at 8 p.m. (central) on The CW
Starring: Eliza Taylor, Thomas McDonell, Bob Morely, Marie Avgeropoulos, Eli Goree, Devon Bostick, Richard Harmon, Christopher Larkin, Henry Ian Cusick, Paige Turco, Isaiah Washington, Lindsay Morgan
Produced by: Matthew Miller, Jason Rothenberg, Bharat Nalluri, Leslie Morgenstein, Gina Girolamo

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Elements of Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Flies and Avatar are blended into a surprisingly refreshing smoothie in The CW’s The 100.

Why the network took so long to premiere it is a puzzlement. Why The CW doesn’t simply call itself Syfy Junior is another open question. But The 100 at last is achieving liftoff. And although some of the mostly young cast’s performances are less than Shakespearean, this is a pretty solid hour of escapism operating on two fronts -- Earth and outer space.

Let’s touch on the basics. It’s been 97 years since a “nuclear apocalypse” wiped life from the face of the Earth. Escaping the carnage were 400 inhabitants of 12 international space stations. They now all live in a yellow submarine, er, inter-connected galactic “Ark.” But resources are running dry, patience is running thin and edicts are running amok. One of them is this: 100 juvenile prisoners will be loaded into a “drop ship” and jettisoned to Earth to test its inhabitability. They’re supposed to land on Mount Weather, where “enough perishables” exist to keep them alive for a while.

But wouldn’t you know, “they dropped us on the wrong damn mountain,” says plucky Clarke Griffin (newcomer Eliza Taylor). Derisively dubbed “Princess,” she’s the daughter of the Ark’s chief medical officer, tight-jawed Abby Griffin (Paige Turco from Person of Interest).

While the kids squabble on terra firma, the principle adults in outer space also make life pretty interesting during their segments. Abby’s arch enemy is scheming vice chancellor Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick of Lost), who yearns to wrest the chancellorship from the more even-handed Jaha (Isiah Washington/Grey’s Anatomy).

Jaha’s son, Wells (Eli Goree), is also among the teen lab rats dispatched to Earth. He’s a nice guy compared to the really nasty John Murphy (Richard Harmon) and the ‘tude-copping Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley), whose spirited sister, Octavia (Mare Avgeropoulos), is no picnic either. Add dare-devilish Finn (Thomas McDonell), cuddly, nerdy Jasper (Devon Bostick) and tech-savvy Monty (Christopher Larkin). Supporting cast-offs also pop in and out, most notably in Episodes 3 and 4. That’s when a tragic 13-year-old named Charlotte (Izabela Vidovic) very much makes her presence felt.

Each of the first four episodes ends with a mini-cliffhanger. In fact, Wednesday’s opener pretty much ends the way the first hour of Lost did. “We are not alone,” Clarke deduces after one of her colleagues runs into some serious misfortune before being dragged off at the start of Episode 2. So far there are no “Smoke Monsters.” There is, however, a thick, acidic fog that arrives without warning and barbecues anyone in its wake.

The 100 can be fairly graphic at times. Makeup artists have done nice jobs applying cuts, bruises and worse. Back on the Ark, it’s more a case of verbal combat. Although in a series of Episode 3 flashbacks, viewers can witness the way in which Ark wrongdoers are executed. It’s called “floating.”

Jockeying between the worlds of the imperiled Ark and the endangered new earthlings turns out to be an effective means of mixing and matching story lines. The more seasoned adults in outer space are better actors but the kids get to make most of the chilling new discoveries. It’s all enough to rope a viewer in, even if you’re well north of The CW’s 18-to-34-year-old target audience. The 100 ends up being sci-fi fun for all ages -- with a spine tingle or two also within these realms of possibilities.


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