The 100 "Earth Skills" Review: Fight Club

By Kaitlin Thomas

Mar 27, 2014

The 100 S01E02: "Earth Skills"


The first rule of post-apocalyptic teen sci-fi is to not openly disobey the angry douche bag who thinks he holds all the cards. The second rule of post-apocalyptic teen sci-fi is to not get frisky with said douche bag's little sister. "Earth Skills" wasn't as strong as the pilot as it focused a bit too much on the romantic couplings of various characters, but it was still an entertaining experiment in merging The 100's two settings of the ground and the Ark into one storyline. The introduction of the Council and Raven, in particular, continued to explore the deteriorating systems on the Ark, which might actually be far more interesting than the class warfare and deteriorating social structure of the Hundred on the ground right now. The CW's season-long preview last week spoiled the reveal that Jasper—who was skewered like a deep-fried ball of cheese at the state fair at the end of the pilot—actually survived the attack, and for the first time in my life I wished The CW was a bit more like Matthew Weiner and Mad Men

By featuring him in promotional materials for the rest of the season, they retroactively ruined one of the finest closing scenes of any of their pilots to date. Not knowing whether or not Jasper lived or died (and most people would have assumed he'd died because HI, A SPEAR THROUGH THE CHEST IS NOT A FLESH WOUND YOU CAN FIX WITH A POULTICE) raised the stakes of the show and would have made more people return for tonight's episode. Undermining that moment was a big mistake on the part of the marketing team, and I don't want to sound like a jerk, but they're basically on par with Bonnie Bennett in terms of how well they do their assigned jobs. No one was shocked when it was revealed Jasper was still alive in tonight's episode, and I actually wish he had died.

If we're supposed to believe these teenagers are living in a dangerous world full of wild animals and even wilder human beings, then his death would have sold it. As it stands, the brutal and unforgiving world that was depicted in the pilot has been undermined by the fact the series kept him around. One might argue that the show needed him alive because they wanted to lure and trap the rescue party, but the only thing that came from that scene was Bellamy's second-guessing of whether or not to save Clarke. If he'd let go of her hand, she'd have been impaled on the spikes below and his main opponent would have been dead, but he hesitated long enough after his initial reaction to grasp her hand that the rest of the teens were able to pull them both back to safety. That was a pivotal moment as you saw the decision weighing on his mind, but I do feel the series could have found another way to have that scene play out that didn't involve the rescue team.

Jasper's living status wasn't the only thing that troubled this episode, though. I praised the pilot for only making subtle hints at teen romance rather than putting them at the forefront of the story, but that was quickly squashed this week as Finn's status as a romantic lead was even more cemented by the fact he felt the need to protect and help Clarke, Wells' feelings for Clarke (which we'd all suspected anyway) were revealed, and Octavia fooled around with Bellamy's right hand man Adam. Romantic relationships, or even just sexual relationships, can be an asset to a series, but they shouldn't be a main storyline in a series where humans are being hunted by other humans, and I fear the series might soon be headed down the path tread by so many former CW series. 

If you focus on the romantic aspects of a series for too long, you risk an audience backlash, similar to what's currently happening on The Vampire Diaries as it barrels towards the end of its fifth season of love-triangle bullshit. Focus on them not enough and there's the possibility that the series doesn't adequately portray human existence. The teen love storylines of The 100 aren't out of place given the Hundred's newfound freedom to do whatever they please, but the focus on them may have come a bit too early in the series' quest. It was their second day on Earth, nobody had eaten, and a fellow teenager had just been skewered and captured. All of this combined to make Octavia and Adam's hookup under the fluorescent butterflies (is this one big long bad acid trip?) feel out of place. It highlighted the loneliness the prisoners felt, and it proved their selfishness, but the series probably could have benefitted from finishing laying the groundwork of the series before pairing characters off into couples who make out in the woods and steal food for one another. 

Of course, the most interesting part of that story wasn't the budding relationship itself, but rather Bellamy's reaction to it. By tying Adam up and leaving him in the wilderness—maybe to die—Bellamy was making a statement. He's an angry leader who rules with violence and who isn't against turning on his friends if they disobey him (if that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because it's basically where we found Marcel at the beginning of The Originals, and it's also a common trait found in both fiction and non-fiction). Unfortunately for Bellamy, he's not nearly charismatic enough to be a leader. His rallying of the troops at the beginning of the episode pointed out that the Hundred is fractured along class lines, as characters like Clarke and Wells came from a world of privilege because of their parents, while most of the rest of the criminals were from the poorer working class, but I still have a hard time buying into everyone following a leader who has less charm than sandpaper.

The Hundred were looking for a leader after arriving on Earth, and Bellamy decided to take it upon himself to fill that role, but he seems to be a bit confused about what that means. He champions a world where chaos reigns, but he also desperately wants to be in charge and make the rules. How long will it take the rest of the characters to see through his abusive reign of terror in which he'll string a man up by his wrists because he caught him kissing his little sister? I'm very interested in the social structure of the Hundred, but I wouldn't be upset if Bellamy was mauled by a panther or impaled on a bunch of stakes. Part of this stems from the fact I think his character was miscast, but part of it is probably just a human reaction to the fact he's a douche bag. 

On the Ark, the situation wasn't much better as the Chancellor was facing down the possibility that his son was dead, the people of the Ark would soon begin to suffer the signs of oxygen depravation, and a growing faction had begun supporting Kane. As I mentioned last week, I can smell the mutiny on Kane, and I love it. Henry Ian Cusick is the kind of charismatic man you need to fill the villain role, because he's so charming you can't help but like him. He honestly believes he's doing the right thing by wanting to send people to their deaths in order to save the rest of humanity. I also liked that Abby recruited newcomer Raven, the youngest mechanic in 52 years, to help her fix an escape pod so she can make it to Earth's surface. Will it work? I don't know, but Raven seems like a woman who doesn't put up with anyone's shit and I like that.

Overall, "Earth Skills" was a fine second outing for the 100, and although there were parts that could have been better, the episode continued to build upon the alliances and friendships forged in the pilot. I wish I could go back in time and stop the writers from forcing the romantic aspects of the series for a little bit—at least until we really get to know the characters—but I can't. As the two groups of the Hundred continue to split further and further down the middle, it'll be interesting to see which side Octavia eventually chooses. Will she stand by her brother, the person who would do anything for her, or will she side with Clarke and the only people who seem to recognize the danger they're all in? If the grounder perched in the tree watching the Hundred like a predator at the end of the episode is any indication, there's plenty to be afraid of in that forest. 


VITAL STATS


Current Population of The Hundred: 98

– I cannot remember the name of Bellamy's other minion, but because of his ridiculous jacket, I shall probably be referring to him mostly as Shoulder Pad for awhile.

– Monty is basically the Hundred's version of Gilligan's Island's Professor. If anyone can make the wristband receive or send messages its him. But as soon as I see him attempt to fashion something out of a coconut, I'm calling shenanigans.

– Clarke finally told the rest of the group about the fact the Ark is dying. It'll be interesting to see if anyone changes allegiances because of this knowledge.

– Naturally, Raven knew in about two seconds that the Hundred weren't dying and were simply removing their wristbands. It's common sense that a teenager will do exactly the opposite of what they're told to do.

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  • c07111 Mar 30, 2014

    Great comparison with TVD, because that was exactly what I was thinking, when watching the obvious quadruple angle of Clarke/Finn/Wells/Bellamy. The problem for me is that I tend to resent it when everyone seems to fall for one chick who IMO, has a pretty self righteous/sanctimonious attitude. Clarke for all her prettiness comes off cold, a know it all and bossy. She is probably right in most cases, but her deliver sucks. Not a favorite character so far, so when she almost fell to her demise, I don't think as a viewer I would've missed her. And I thought the young people were suppose to be the interesting ones, but it turns out for me, I'm more interested in the adults and the power struggle they're going through.

  • digital_dice Apr 01, 2014

    I imagine Clarke is supposed to be the stereotypical "ice queen" that eventually loosens up. If I had to make a comparison, I would say she reminds me of Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You (the movie, not the series). And just like the movie, it will be the rugged guy(Finn) who gets her to mellow out. Unfortunately it looks like they are following the age old teen cliche of Finn's girlfriend showing up to complicate things even more. I could really do without these love triangles. We need more forest trekking adventures.

  • KateSullivan Mar 30, 2014

    Okay, I said I would watch once Teen Wolf was done (its a matter of how many freaking characters names I can keep in my head...its like I love, shamefully, Big Brother, but I am not terribly upset if I miss almost the first two weeks, those people are rarely important unless you have like a Season 10 where Brian and his moves in the first week had ramifications on Dan and Ollie's games moving forward..I'm sorry that was pathetic). But first as to romantic entanglements, because it isn't committed yet, I hope Raven reveals soon that Finn his her boyfriend if that wasn't too subtle. I sort of have hope that this show might benefit from how Teen Wolf managed to totally avoid a love triangle or even a quadrangle and really the Originals has pretty much avoided it since I really think Marcel's connection with Cami is just to hurt Klaus and give him someone else not to trust and his true feelings are still for Rebekkah and I don't think Klaus has any romantic feelings toward Cami and the whole Hayley/Elijah/Jackson thing is going nowhere since Jackson is going to be at Klaus' disposal.

    I think they are trying to decide exactly how Lord of the Flies they want to get or how Lost they want to get. Presumably the introduction of the Grounders gives more of a Lost vibe, so they will have a common foe that will unite them so they won't break down to killing each other off and it will be red shirts for the next little bit. I must say I didn't even see that Bellamy really considered letting Clarke drop, I have a feeling he is going to prove to be excellent at the rebellion leader role but when they realize they have to figure stuff out and survive, that is likely where people will turn to Clarke. I think the more interesting dynamic will be what happens to Wells with his exposure to Bellamy (oh, I watched them back to back and I was so sort of hoping Wells had killed some of the guys cornering him) and how that changes him (especially because, Shoulder Pads, as you call him, is also Julien on Continuum and from what I understand he likely has an important role in Carlos' story this season, so I am kind of guessing he's the next casualty and Bellamy really adopts Wells as his number 2). But Wells is clearly a leader himself, but exposure to Bellamy could make him a harsher version of Clarke which could appeal.

    I was confused about the whole Jasper thing too, I wasn't even sure what was happening with that when I would see the previews for this season and then the previews for this episode.

    So...you supposed Kane and Kelly Hu's character (was she in this episode, I can't sort it out) have a kid? You suppose that kid would fall into the gap between the 209 and even say the 320 that would be culled in 10 days. The Chancellor (Thelonius? Really?) seemed to indicate they would be killing children first (which I hate to say this, but don't you actually go for the oldest first? of course I didn't see any old people on the Ark...so maybe there already is some sort of policy).

  • digital_dice Mar 30, 2014

    Surprisingly, I thought the 2nd episode was somewhat better. Octavia wasn't as one dimensional as she was in the pilot.
    There are still way too many characters in this show. I think it's time for starvation, disease, forest animals or the Grounders to descend upon camp to reduce the numbers. Or at least have Clarke break away with a smaller group. There's no point in having all these "extras" if they are just there to yell "yeah, yeah, right on!" whenever Bellamy speaks.

  • haroven Mar 30, 2014

    "i hate Bellamy, but he is so hot i cant stop watching"


    That.

    The plot in this teenangst schlock is irrelevant. This is a program about bimbos whose target targeted viewers are: wannabe bimbos.
    The people in it ( I refuse to further denigrate the art of acting by calling anyone who takes a check to appear in this dross, an actor - model is a more appropriate description of the skills required; yet much of the 'talent' would struggle in an commercial selling dog food to starving wolves) don't have to do anything just look good and follow a couple of standard conventions.
    Rule number 1: every average looking female (e.g. Clarke - note also minor convention of giving lead 'girls' misspelt men's names) must have two 'hot' males vying for her attention at any one time. (see that movie series about the girl with the bow n arrows set)

    If we were actually following the Monty Python format which the 'rule number one' thing is based upon, rules number 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. . .etc would be a blanket ban on gay males, but since this is twenty-teens schlock one can feel fairly certain that a couple of the 100 will be portrayed as gay males. Such an important demographic will not be ignored by the focus group focus of contemporary network scripting.

    I hasten to add that it is not the sexuality of the characters that I'm deprecating, it is the by numbers style of the plot & characters.
    Dramas in this show may have a little novelty about them from time to time, but they will always be underpinned by the security of the familiar.
    Safe viewing for the witless.

    In some ways it is amusing to see what is rapidly becoming a twenty-teens industry standard -early on, kill off an actor who seems to be a lead, getting sent up by injuring a lead with a massive must be fatal wound at the end of ep 1, then bringing the character back quickly enough to have a lead role in ep 2 .

    But I doubt the satire was intentional when everything else smells like incompetent formulaic production standards we must conclude that the log through the chest resurrection was up there with putting a tourniquet on a light graze in ep 1 - just a combination of ignorance and lack of attention to detail.

    Its been a very long time since I was a teen much less a tween, but aren't the target audience put off, even just a little by the fact that despite the entire 100 of em having to be under 18 to qualify for 'the trip of a lifetime' the actors haven't seen the other side of 18 for at least a decade?

    I can remember dismissing the great bulk of the 'cutting edge heavy metal musos' back in the day because despite being touted as the new big thing just about all of em had a serious case of middle aged flab -photojournalists didn't have the serious fashion industry skills back then, much less access to photoshop.

    imo Old people pretending to be young is just plain creepy to tweens of whatever era.

    I dunno why but this take on our out of control rapidly decaying culture is far more viscerally offensive than the worst of the fey young men with too much eyeliner vampire shows.
    Perhaps because it seeks to normalise life in a facist state where most accept they have no say in their society's governance.

  • Scrabble Mar 29, 2014

    Is two episodes too early to give up on a show? I feel like it is but there really isn't much to keep watching for. The Ark stuff is interesting but mostly because of the actors involved and it's not interesting enough to carry the show by itself. The show has potential to be a lot better than it is but the writing can't quite match up to the premise.

    I don't actively dislike any of the teens, they just haven't made me care about them. And with Jasper alive the stakes on the show feel incredibly low. It seems the only big dramas will be break-ups and frustrating love triangles without any of the main cast actually being at risk. They're a bunch of teenagers sent down to Earth, which is supposed to be deserted but - oh wait, it's not there's dangerous groundpeople there. Surely the entire show should feel more tense?

    Disappointing. I'll give it a couple more episodes I guess.. I find Finn completely uninteresting as both a romantic lead and a character in general (he and Clarke are the worst thing about this show so far) but I did enjoy his 'I thought there were no rules', accompanied by a hard stare. That was kind of badass.

  • mekare06 Mar 29, 2014

    i hate Bellamy, but he is so hot i cant stop watching

  • ivonastefanov Mar 29, 2014

    The 'angry douche bag' is the reason I'm watching :)
    LOL at the Bonnie Bennet comment :)
    So far, the show is far from stellar, but I'll stick around for a bit longer :)

    PS Raven is spacewalker's girlfriend, right?
    (if so - we have a triangle situation...)

  • MichelleHood24 Mar 29, 2014

    I enjoyed this episode it was good, I liked bellemy's 3rd in charge he was nice just hope he doesn't get eaten or taken by the "grounders" all beacuse he fell for his sister. I liked the addition of raven to the cast I wonder who she has on the ground. The wonna be chancellor needs to get punched in the face every time I see him I just want to hit him. I hope this show just keeps getting better.

  • chrelle66 Mar 28, 2014

    I know we're supposed to give a new show 4 episodes.
    But that's not going to happen. I tried. I really tried. But I couldn't get through more than 10 mins of ep 2.
    I'm done.

  • TatraFan Mar 28, 2014

    "The Hundred were looking for a leader after arriving on Earth, and Bellamy decided to take it upon himself to fill that role, but he seems to be a bit confused about what that means. He champions a world where chaos reigns, but he also desperately wants to be in charge and make the rules. How long will it take the rest of the characters to see through his abusive reign of terror in which he'll string a man up by his wrists because he caught him kissing his little sister? I'm very interested in the social structure of the Hundred...." Katlin Thomas--


    Clearly, the reviewer has not learned anything from the Great Cultural Revolution or Camus' The Rebel: An Essay On Man In Revolt. It is completely possibly to be the leader of a movement that is directly opposed a specific power-paradigm. In fact Camus would say the very nature of rebellion is in fact a rejection of any specific relationship of power between members in society. For example if you were a consumer and decided to revolt against the corporate-consumer paradigm model in our present society it could take on the form of merely not purchasing anything from a corporate source. Revolt itself can be in fact a type of leadership; this is true even if it on the surface as no direction other than revolt itself.

    Bellamy, is in fact an anti-leader. He is attempting to control through continual revolution. Mao attempted to do the same. The steps are simple:

    1) Create a position in opposition to some specific power paradigm. In this case Bellamy is presenting total freedom in contrast to the ordered and metered life of the Ark. This is the perfect power relationship for total freedom to stand in opposition to.

    2) Focus the public on a specific group of people who stand in their way of freedom-- i.e. "The Adults On The Ark"! They represent the ordered and metered life style of an authoritarian society that Bellamy has already created a battle cry against "Whatever the Hell We Want".... which doesn't necessary meaning chaos. It might seem chaotic at first but actually all revolutions against some idea have a period of internal chaos as the public is brought to focus on specific ideology of the revolution. Look at the nature of Revolution in Libya or Egypt two years ago.

    3) The next is purge the community of supporters of the old ways. This is clearly what Wells' represents an extension of the power-paradigm of the Space Station dynamic on the surface of the Earth. So, clearly Bellamy has to do two things: 1) force him recant his position about the space station society in public, thus accepting the value of "Whatever The Hell We Want" and 2) then kill him quietly and declare him a hero of the new regime!

    4) In a revolution that is continual the idea is that each generation is subsequently focused on purging the old values from the previous generation of people. Hence the reason the Cultural Revolution of 1960's and 1970's China on the surface appeared chaotic and uncontrolled to the casual observer. It however was totally orchestrated and controlled by Mao (and the gang of four). And that is critical to this type of revolution. You need to have the appearance of chaos, but not actual chaos. It seems paradoxical, but in reality it is similar to how Hitler controlled the youth of Germany. He focused their social tensions on the previous generation. It is a great way to control people actually.

    Now, of course this is a complex idea so the CW cannot really talk about it. So, sure they have turned Bellamy into the "School Yard Bully" beating up the weaker smaller kids for their lunch money.


    This is a great way to view the CW's writing edict when it comes to this show. So, I agree with you that Bellamy is a poor character. However, that is not because he doesn't understand leadership or what to do-- it is because the writers don't trust the audience to stick around for a serious decision about a leader who is a Maoist at heart. Ronald D. Moore did the same thing in BSG-- and went off into simpler tangents to pacify the audience while bamboozling them at the same time into thinking it was smarter than it was. At least the CW doesn't have the problem they started in a reduced capacity to begin with and they are only going down fast!




  • dude19 Mar 30, 2014

    The thing is, he's not just leading a revolution. He's a full on dictator and a hypocrite.

  • TatraFan Mar 30, 2014

    Moa was a dictator and full on hypocrite during the entire Great Cultural Revolution... He didn't care about changing the Chinese Culture for some greater goal of achieving a more perfect communist regime. He wanted maintain control through a controlled state of chaos.

  • Hitchhiker Mar 28, 2014

    The french revolution would have been an easier example. Or the Russian communist revolution (which is the best documented rebellion).
    Most people doesn't know much about Mao and his Long March.

  • TatraFan Mar 28, 2014

    I'm not talking about the Communist Revolution that put Mao in power--I'm talking about the second Revolution Mao (and The Gang Of Four) started in the 1960's and 1970's to create a society in perpetual Revolution. That is what writers seem to be referencing with Bellamy's "Whatever The Hell We Want" but they don't seem to want to get into the really good parts of what happens in this sort of revolution. Instead they turned Bellamy into a school yard bully...

  • Hitchhiker Mar 29, 2014

    I meant if someone doesn't even know who Mao was or how he got into power, then how should that person know what the second revolution or the gang of four is that you are talking about?

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