The 100 takes place nearly a century after a nuclear war destroyed the Earth, leaving the last remaining humans struggling to survive on a haggard alliance of space stations dubbed The Ark. With the air supply waning, the government decides to send 100 juvenile delinquents and political criminals down to Earth to test its inhabitability.
The stakes are high and The 100, which premieres Wednesday at 9/8c on The CW, doesn't pretend otherwise. While there is some typical CW fare (sexy teens caught up in complicated romances), these aspects take a backseat to the brutality of survival and some legitimately intriguing twists.
Once on the ground, the 100 are almost immediately divided into two separate factions — those who want to help save everyone left on The Ark, led by the dutiful Clarke (Eliza Taylor), and those who still bear resentment at the people who locked them up, led by the mysterious Bellamy (Bob Morley). But while both leaders seem to be motivated by a genuine desire to do what's best, the intoxicating influences of freedom and power destroy any chance at creating a post-apocalyptic utopia.
"These kids are free for the first time on Earth," Devon Bostick, who plays Ark-supporter Jasper, tells TVGuide.com. "And it is a very futuristic sci-fi setting. There's a lot of horrifying things that can happen, but what's also scary is what these kids are capable of when they're free. It's kind of like, will the wild take over?"
But these internal conflicts only distract the 100 from the real problem: the fact that radiation poisoning might be the least of Earth's threats. Marinating for 97 years in nuclear radiation hasn't hurt Earth's beauty at all, but it has helped new and terrifying threats evolve."The whole rainforest is deceptive to what we understand it should be like," Morley explains.
The 100 jumps between this savage, yet lush world of Earth and the futuristic sterility of The Ark. Yet instead of feeling disjointed, the two worlds inform one another in interesting ways. Up on The Ark, the government, which is technologically blind to what's happening on Earth, is also struggling to unite behind a cause. The draconian Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) proposes the unpopular, but logical plan to sacrifice a few (hundred) to save the rest. But he finds staunch opposition in Clarke's mother Abby (Paige Turco), who wants to make sure humanity is worth saving in the first place. Caught in the middle is Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington) whose every decision bears the weight of the entire human race's survival. (So like, no pressure, right?)
At first glance, Kane and Bellamy might seem like your run-of-the mill villains, but as the series progresses the lines between right and wrong begin to blur and The 100 is delightfully comfortable letting its characters live in this moral gray area. "I think the great thing about it is you feel for both sides of the coin," Taylor says. "Even the characters who've done the wrong thing, you see their point and you see their heart and that makes for some really fascinating characters."
Taking cues from Lord of the Flies, Battlestar Galactica, The Hunger Games and yes, even Lost, The 100 isn't game-changing, but it is radically capable sci-fi that has enough ingenuity to keep audiences guessing. "We're changing The CW network as we know it," Washington proudly declares. "I'm thrilled to the gills to know that I could possibly be a part of an opportunity that is not only going to be groundbreaking for an entire network and maybe ... put it in a place that probably a lot of people, probably naysayers, don't expect it to be."
The 100 premieres Wednesday at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, on of the parent companies of The CW.)
Additional reporting by Natalie Abrams.