Okay so about a hundred years ago nukes killed everybody on Earth. The only humans left were the 400 people in the twelve space stations that were orbiting at the time. They linked them up like giant K'Nex, resulting in an architecturally ramshackle space station, and now there are 4000 people on there, all of whom are named for science fiction writers and all of whom dress and speak exactly like it is 2014.
Which is fine. This pilot sucked in the way that pilots always, always suck, but the ideas are neat and the execution is thoughtful and if they can manage to turn these characters into actual people, I think it will be a good TV show. I like anything where teenagers tell grownups to fuck off, and I like science fiction where there aren't any options so you have to make weird sad choices, and I like dystopias where they don't even fuck around about how easy and common it is to exploit children. I also like to laugh at self-righteous ideologues, of which this show is chock full. Just a nation of 4000 Lee Adamas -- it's great.
One of them, a science man, discovered a flaw in the system that means everybody is going to die in two months, so to avoid a panic the Council killed him and locked up his daughter Clarke, and have since decided to send 100 kinda-shitty teenagers to Earth, like canaries in a mine. His widow is the boss of medicine, and she is in charge of the teenager project. The main guy of the whole thing is Isaiah Washington, who takes it all very seriously. His second in command is Desmond from Lost, who is very into killing people just in case; his second in command is even more into that then he is. Maybe that guy has his own second in command who is just a straight serial killer.
What I liked the most is that he is basically right and nobody seems to question that fact -- just his methods. He provides one of two absolute philosophies in a situation where even jettisoning 100 crappy teens can earn the other 3900 people another month of life. What I liked the least is the class-warfare stuff in the background, because it's a very simplistic, Dark Knight Rises, GOP-level idea of what privilege and class actually entail: The shitty mouthpieces down below hold grudges that don't make any sense in our time -- much less having grown up in a society half as old as America in which none of our institutionalized pressures would even signify.
Anyway, jail on the Ark works like, if you do any crime you will probably get killed, because you have proven you are not a team player. If you do something wrong underage -- like help your father try to tell everybody they are about to die -- they put you in jail until you are 18, and then they kill you. Or in the case of today, they ignore the first two things and send you to gross Earth, solving at least three problems at once.
So on the shuttle down are this girl Clarke, her ex-friend Wells who is Chancellor Isaiah's son and who sold out her dad to be killed, a bad-boy that is not very bad named Finn and two siblings named the Blakes, who are just awful. The younger Blake shouldn't even exist, legally, and grew up hidden in a cabinet, so now she acts out by taking her shirt off. The older Blake, I don't even know what his deal is but he's got some plans. He shot the Chancellor right before the shuttle took off, and now wants to lead some kind of a revolution on Earth. There are also two nerds.
Clarke's superpower seems like, basically, that she's always on her high horse. Wells's superpower is that he is very helpful! But not so good in a fight. That one Canadian kid who is on every TV show because of his crazy face has the usual power he has, which is leading gross people to riot. The Blakes… so far their superpower is annoying the shit out of me. The nerds have nerd powers like always.
The other 91 teens are mostly just around, being creeps, because their whole deal is that they are all creeps. Thanks to the Blake guy and some droogs, they get the idea that they should have a rave and remove their tracker bracelets that the Ark is using to figure out whether they are going to die of radiation. It was supposed to be that they could communicate and actually have a chance of surviving, but that didn't work out. So now they have decided to say fuck it and just start a civilization from the dregs, like Australia.
Upstairs, Clarke's mom Abby tries to fix the Chancellor from being shot, but she uses too much medicine, which bothers Desmond from Lost so he sentences her to death, even though he is married to her best friend who is some other lady. It turns out that he was the major reason that her husband died and her daughter went to death row and is now on Earth, so she has legitimate beef with him. But then the Chancellor turns out to be alive, and he reverses everything that happened and she doesn't die. But I think she wishes she were on Earth, because their whole family is very into Earth but also because it sucks up on the Ark maybe even worse than down on Earth.
Meanwhile, Clarke and Finn, plus the two nerds, plus the awful girl Blake, go to find the place where they were supposed to be to begin with, an old military base. On the way there they take off their clothes, enjoy trees that glow because of being mutants, they see a deer with two mutant faces, a mean giant eel and other gross wonders. When they finally get to the military base, they have a very dorky celebration that is cut short when one of the nerds, Jasper, takes a spear to the chest. So I guess there are people down there after all. Like Morlocks or something. But I would be willing to bet they also dress like CW teens of 2014, or else are Mad Max versions of the bullshit adults we just left behind.
Next Week: The remaining nerd, the horrible Blakes and Finn go looking for Jasper, who is maybe not dead but is probably a prisoner of Morlocks. Upstairs, Abby has fucking had it and is willing to buy or steal or even build an escape pod so she can join her daughter down in the irradiated remains of Earth, where everything is trying to kill you but at least they're doing it honestly.
Ninety-seven years ago there was a nuclear apocalypse that killed everybody on Earth and also mostly Earth. The only survivors were whoever was on space stations at that time, of which there were twelve from different countries, which hooked themselves up together to become one janky chimera of a space station, the Ark, that is sad just to look at, but also cool-looking. There were 400 of them, and now there are 4000.
Then this sort of peace-preaching scientist Jor-El type figured out that life support was not going to work out like they thought it was, and that they had just a matter of months. Which sucks because the prediction was that they'd need to wait at least 200 years total before they went back down. Because the margins are so small, all crimes are capital crimes -- if you're not a team player, why share the air with you? -- and so to keep him and his family from starting a panic with this info, he was killed.
His daughter Clarke was jailed up in solitary for the same reason. On the Ark, jail is just for kids, who have to wait until they're of age before they can be killed by the state. So she's just waiting around doing her art and waiting to die, basically. She is a good artist. She also -- thanks to her parents -- is very much in love with Earth, in a "next year in Jerusalem" kind of way, where no matter how shitty it is, it's a fantasy. Not just of escape, but also: Home.
It's a month before her death birthday, and that's when the cops come and put a scary needle-y bracelet on her arm and march her out of her cell. All over the Skybox all of the kids are getting strong-armed out of there, which scares her because in the back of everybody's mind is the idea that if things get tight, people will have to die. Somebody has to make that call, and airlock them, which is called getting "air locked." So, especially for somebody with maybe too mature an understanding of what is really at stake, this kind of armed escort means they're going to be killing some kids today.
Cops: "Prisoner 319, take off your watch so we can put this scary thing on your arm!"
Clarke: "No! I am going to beat everybody up!"
She almost does but then they get her. Outside, she is joined by her mom Abby Griffin, who calms her down not so well.