Ok, while we’re waiting to get to the review portion of this show, let’s talk about ratings.
This show has no buzz. No one’s excited about it. No one’s saying, “Oh my gosh, could you believe Montana and Dakota would do that to Carolina on their wedding day?” No one’s looking forward to it. Chatting about online as I do, there’s just no buzz.
This is a youth-oriented action/adventure SF show with soap opera elements. Its primary demographic is older teens and younger twens (A self-explanatory German term that I intend to use more often). It should be hitting the lower half of the prized 18-49 demographic really hard. It premiered as a mid-season replacement in a kind of ‘meh’ season, so a breath of fresh air should be appreciated.
Granted, the show’s first half hour is up against “Modern Family,” but apart from that there’s really no competition. Well, except “American Idol.” Do people still watch that? And Law & Order. Again, to people still watch that? I have no idea. But apart from that it’s competing with something called “New in Town” which I’ve never heard of, “Nova,” and reruns of Duck Dynasty. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a good slot or a death slot, but it’s got Arrow as a lead in, and that show’s pretty solid with a dedicated following.
Thing is: this show isn’t really burning up the ratings. It has never appeared in the top 25 shows, either overall or if we just count the 18-49 demographic. Ratings started out at 2.73 million, which ain’t great, but it ain’t terrible for a new show. Granted, we expect more of a broadcast network, but The CW tends towards a lot of teen chick programming, and there are large portions of the country where that’s not terribly viable. Such as areas with lots of retirement communities like Florida and Arizona. The CW, you’ll recall, was formed by a merger of UPN and The WB, when both networks realized the market was over-filled and neither could survive on their own. While technically a coast-to-coast network, CW has never really had the saturation of The Big Four. My point being their numbers are always a little soft. That said, a drop of 1.04 MILLION viewers in a month is disastrous, and there ain’t no getting around it.
The show rebounded a bit last week, but not by much. There’s not much danger of this show getting canceled. Rumor is they were signed to 12 or 13 eps up front, and all of those are already in the can, so there’s no point in NOT running the show – they’ve already spent the cash – but the chances of a second season have always been pretty slim, and they’re looking slimmer by the week. I mean, this show is losing half of Arrow’s audience.
Ok, on to the review portion of this review:
ON THE ARK
About sixteen years ago, Octavia is born. Her brother Bellamy is about 5 or 6. He promises to always keep her safe.
About eight years ago, Octavia has spent her whole life in one room. She hides in a small space under the floor when security does random checks. Her and Bellamy’s mom trades sex to a security guard for a heads up on when these ‘random’ checks are coming. Bellamy gets selected as a security cadet, which his mom swung by also trading sex.
About a year ago, there was a big masquerade party on the Ark (Evidently their only festival) The kids get together and, I dunno, dance or whatever. Bellamy gives her a mask and sneaks her out of the room for the first time in her life, while their mom is away. Security does a spot check for ID, and Bellamy intends to sacrifice himself to make a diversion so she can get back to their room. In a really good scene, she asks him how to do that. She has no idea where she is or how to get anywhere.
Eleven days ago, Octavia has been loaded on the dropship. Bellamy is a janitor. Their mother has been killed. The security guy who arrested her approaches Bellamy, and offers to put him on the dropship *IF* he kills the chancellor. Bellamy agrees.
ON THE EARTH
Octavia has been missing for 12 hours, so Bellamy leads a search party consisting of himself, Fin, Jasper, and three redshirts. (Or should we call them “Dispose-a-teens?”) Clarke and the newly-arrived Raven head to The Hatch to find a transmitter to fix the radio to talk to The Ark. Raven figures out in like 11 seconds that Fin and Clarke had sex, and is pretty furious. Nothing else of any note happens, though there’s one good bit of dialog:
“We thought you were all dead, or dying.”
“Well, you could have waited more than ten days”
Meanwhile, out in the woods, Bellamy’s group get picked off ten-little-indians style by, well, Indians. The “Grounders” we see look like perfectly normal humans, wearing furs, and warpaint. We never get good looks at their faces, but they don’t seem like mutants. They’re carrying swords and shields. Three people die.
Meanwhile, Octavia has awoken in a cave, with the entrance blocked. She tunnels her way out ‘cuz she’s not afraid of tiny spaces (Get it?). She runs like crazy, but is tracked down by the grounder who rescued her. He saves her from capture by the OTHER grounders, and takes her back to his cave (Or possibly a new cave) and padlocks her to the wall. She knocks him out with a rock when he comes back later, and is freeing herself when Bellamy and co come. Bellamy wants to kill the grounder, but Octavia points out that he saved her twice. While arguing, he wakes up and stabs Fin.
Back at camp, Clarke tells Raven to get the radio working so she can get her mom to walk her through the surgery to save Fin.
Sex would appear to be the currency of choice on The Ark. This is the second example of it, the other was also in a flashback episode.
How was Bellamy’s mom able to hide her pregnancy? Who’s the father? What happened to Bellamy’s dad? What – if anything – was her plan for Octavia? There’s more to this than we’re being told. We know what happened, but we lack context. There’s a subtle hint that the mom wanted Bellamy to be on the security force as part of some larger strategy to get her daughter integrated into Ark society, but it’s dropped before anything comes of it.
Initially it appeared that Stark was responsible for the assassination attempt on the Chancellor, but the more we see of him the more it seems out of character, and Finn never specifically said who put him up to it, just “Some guy.” Here we see it was the security chief. Presumably this episode serves to introduce the guy as the Big Bad for the remainder of the season.
The Grounder who saved Octavia was a perfectly normal human. We got a good look at him. He had a shaved head, wore primitive clothes (Including a collar made of human fingerbones) and was painted up like an Iroquois, but he was human. He never says anything, and it’s unclear if he understands Octavia or not. Reality check: it’s ONLY been 97 years, and they’re in Virginia. Languages don’t change that fast. Even if all writing and reading is lost, spoken language takes generations to shift significantly, so while he might have thought she had a crazy accent and may not have known some specific words, he should have been able to understand her.
The dynamic between Bellamy and Octavia is actually pretty interesting. He’s more of a father to her than a brother. He totally loves her, but he also totally resents her because “My life ended the day you were born.” Likewise, she’s furious because “You took me to that stupid dance and got mom killed.”
It’s been 11 days. What are the kids eating? That one bear can’t have lasted this long, and they made it very clear that they weren’t sent down with any food. Also, what’s up with Mount Weather. That was their objective: It had food and shelter and supplies. Have we just forgotten about that, now?
They see a meteor shower which Clarke realizes as a space burial.
Let’s take a moment to review The Ark burial practices, shall we? OK: we’ve seen they execute people by chucking ‘em out an airlock, along with – I’m gonna’ guestimate – 3 cubic meters of air, and whatever clothes the people are wearing at the time. This is amazingly wasteful, given how tight their resources are: They just had to kill 300 people because of lack of air. So they’re pissing away 3 cubic meters every time they kill someone? And to be fair, they kill people a lot. And they’re just throwing away the clothes, when they can’t get any NEW ones? And not to be indelicate, but your average person weighs about 160 pounds or so. That’s a lot of meat, water, and more to the point: Vitamins. I’m not advocating cannibalism, but, y’know, grind ‘em up and use ‘em for fertilizer. By chucking bodies out into space they’re exhausting their very scant resources. A closed ecosystem means CLOSED. Everything gets reused directly or indirectly, even the icky bits. Food is just recycled poop if you live on a space station. Poop and corpses and what have you.
But, ok, let’s assume that’s just for show: Public execution to scare and cow the masses. Fine. But they killed 300 people in the previous episode, and they chucked ‘em into space today. That’s (Rough extimate) TWENTY FOUR TONS of organic resources that they just chucked over the side. 24 tons of vitamins and minerals and water and protein and stuff that they can’t replace.
No wonder their life support is failing. They’re idiots.
Kevin Long is a well-reviewed Science Fiction author, who has written three full-length anthologies, and has a fourth one coming out any week now. He used to blog under the name “Republibot 3.0,” but now that his stalker is dead, and he can afford to be less paranoid, he uses his real name. His personal website is here and his Smashwords page here. Or, if you prefer Amazon, his books are here, here, and here. Check out his site, and buy one of his books. He’s got a wife and kids to support!