“I feel the sun on my face,” says a young yet sultry voice, fantasizing about life on Earth. “Trees all around me, the scent of wildflowers on a breeze. It’s so beautiful.”
So begins the story of Clarke Griffin and her 99 delinquent pals from a space station called The Ark, who get sent to a probably ruined earth where they may or may not survive.
But you know what? It sure beats prison.
Things we learn about Clarke in the first few minutes of the series: she’s super-earnest, she’s a do-gooder, and she’s an artist. “Your instincts will tell you to take care of everybody else,” says her mom Abby as she’s about to board the dropship to Earth.
Oh, and she really hates being called “princess.”
Some stuff we learn about the world of the Ark right out the gate: You get imprisoned for any crime if you’re under 18, “floated” for it if you’re 18 or over. Floated is the death penalty, i.e. getting sucked out into space unprotected.
“Your crimes have made you expendable,” Jaha tells the kids on a video during their descent. Thanks, man. Thanks a lot.
For a bunch of people trying to preserve what’s left of humanity, they sure don’t mind killing people.
During the descent we also learn a few things that bear out on the ground: these youngsters are all basically idiots, except for Clarke, Wells, and maybe Bellamy. But probably not his little sis Octavia, because she has lived her life as an illegal second child and had to hide under the floor for most of her tender 16 years. Despite this, she proves to have a surprising level of social skills if not common sense. P.S. That is Octavia’s crime: being born.
Octavia’s best line in this episode: “We’re back, bitches!” shouted to no one in particular as she gets to be first exiting the dropship. We get some ecstatic O-face as she feels the gentle breeze brush through her perfect hair to the tune of some song about the apocalypse by Imagine Dragons (I think – don’t quote me).
Sadly, in addition to the failure of all systems programmed by Ark personnel to allegedly help their discarded children, these hardened criminals also get dropped on the wrong mountain.
And thus begins the Saga of the Wristbands. Apparently these stylish, nearly unremovable metal accessories installed on the kids by the Ark folks allow them to track vital signs and generally make sure the kids are alive. But don’t worry, the adults still don’t care. It’s only to find out if Earth is habitable or not. If the juvenile quasi-delinquents die of radiation poisoning, then it’s curtains for everybody. Oh yeah, the Ark is running out of oxygen, aka yet another reason to dump these kids on Earth. More oxygen for everybody! High five! P.S. That was Clarke’s crime, almost warning people about the impending oxygen crisis.
And oh yeah, the communications system on the dropship got knocked out on the botched landing. Oops, sorry, kids!
We get a hint of a 99%ers narrative between the privileged and the not-so-privileged via Octavia’s bro Bellamy. He wants everybody to ditch their wristbands and embarks on an increasingly high-pressure sales job to get everybody on board with this plan. No wristbands, no Arkers coming to Earth to ruin the
Lord of the Flies scenario that is clearly already underway fun. Clarke and Wells – aka the Voices of Reason / Privilege – want people to keep their wristbands because of saving humanity and what about your families and a bunch of other stuff no one wants to hear because their parents are part of the power elite on the Ark.
Spinoff sitcom idea: “Everybody Hates Wells.” His dad is the chancellor, which is totally not Wells’ fault, y’all. Just stop it, okay?
On a semi-related note, Bellamy seems like a real douche in this episode. How is it he goes from douche to heartthrob? There is no explaining the male heartthrobs in this series. Except Lincoln. No explanation required there, amirite? We’ll get to you soon, my man.
So Clarke, Finn, Jasper, Monty, and Octavia get elected to make the hike through a probably radioactive / danger-filled forest to retrieve some food from Mt. Weather, the correct mountain on which they were not deposited. Nothing could go wrong!
And Octavia is acting like a complete tart. “Don’t get any ideas,” she says to Clarke, “Finn is mine.” Oh honey, Finn is everybody’s.
She also strips down to her skivvies the second she sees open water, and this is everybody’s face when they see her. Note that Clarke and Jasper have the same face. This is important.
We also get an over-the-shoulder shot from Clarke’s POV looking at Octavia delivering some Neve Campbell in Wild Things realness with her wet tank top during her walk in the river. I say “walk” because space people can’t swim. Hello! But things get decidedly less sexy when a giant riversnake monster thing comes and snatches Octavia, almost kills her, and bites her bare leg. Jasper saves her, though, and in the process scores a hug, the copping of an incidental feel or two, as well as some flirtation from Octavia. STOP BEING A TART OCTAVIA, it’s not a good look!
Meanwhile, back at the Dropship, Bellamy becomes the leader of the pro-anarchy movement with its slogan “Whatever the hell we want!” and its single-plank platform of wristband destruction. And there ain’t no party like a dropship party, ’cause a dropship party don’t stop. Even when it rains really hard. Indeed, especially when it rains really hard.
Clarke and Finn have some irrelevant meeting in a
radioactively magically glowing, Avatar-esque forest with some corny music in the background at some point in this episode. I am not a Flarke fan. Even that very amalgamation of terms is odious and silly-sounding to me. This show is not about glowing flowers and love songs, y’all! It’s just not. There, I said it.
The food-finding party fails when Jasper gets speared by a spear thrown at 300 feet with “pinpoint accuracy,” so it looks like the Earth is pretty darn habitable after all. Shit just got real, y’all.
Up on the Ark, Abby breaks the law and uses too much anesthesia during a surgery to keep Chancellor Jaha alive so that Kane (an overly legalistic douche who wants to save humanity by paradoxically reducing its population) can’t become chancellor. Good thing she did that, because otherwise Jaha wouldn’t save her from being floated for saving him. Hey wait… I see what they did there!
And here we have, in a nutshell, the entire ethical conundrum of this entire show: Kane will do anything necessary to “make sure that humanity stays alive.” Abby, meanwhile, wants to “make sure that humankind deserves to stay alive.” What do you do when you have to make hard decisions that will kill some people and save others? This is the crux of the whole series (as of the end of S2). Who will make those decisions, and what are the costs? The leader of each group or subgroup has to make this sort of decision again and again, and the stakes could not be higher. This, to me, is the most compelling aspect of the plot for this show. We get to delve deeply into what makes our characters tick and suffer with them when they have to make decisions that help one group while harming another. Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one? Abby poses that question in this scene, and it will be posed several times as we proceed, with differing answers depending on which “our people” are involved.
The lady-who-might-be-Kane’s-wife stands up to Kane, “You can’t kill everybody who disagrees with you.” Where will we hear that again? The power of love and mercy versus the power of … well, power. We can put basically all of our characters into one of those two camps, though there is some overlap and some shifting at times.
The approach to ethics in this show is exceedingly modern in that it is not based in traditional moralism. There is a definite right and wrong and a distinct value system at play, but those values look different from different characters’ perspectives. Do we deserve to survive as a species? Or do we have to earn that right? And who gets to decide? Nature, other people, governments, or the earth itself?
Bonus Questions: How did Octavia stay so fit under the floor? What did they do with all their wet clothes after the rain party?
Cleanliness: still pretty acceptable in this episode – enjoy it while you still can!
Best Hair: Octavia (see above)
Worst Hair: Murphy = skeezy greaser look; Bellamy = sorry, too much product
Injuries: Octavia (giant riversnake monster), Jasper (spear of unknown origin)
Death/Dismemberment: two kids during the drop from the Ark for taking off their seatbelts.
Moral: Always wear a seatbelt. Look before you leap.