The 100 "Earth Skills" Review: Fight Club
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.
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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