Stop me if you've heard this one before: In elementary school at some point, we had to do extended book reports. I chose "Lord of the Flies," as you do. Well, part of the assignment was to select a character you liked at the beginning of the book and do a chapter-by-chapter diary from that character's point of view.
I sympathized and empathized with Piggy, so he was an easy choice for my diary-writing. For a couple chapters, I wrote lengthy entries about the challenges of being a pudgy, bespectacled outsider in a group of increasingly feral kids, discovering how quickly the trappings of civilization fall away. Then, of course, very bad things happen to Piggy and his beloved conch.
Briefly, I was crushed. Subsequently, I realized that my assignment had just gotten vastly easier. For the last chunk of the diary, I wrote nothing other than the chapter and "Still dead."
There are a variety of reasons why Piggy's death in "Lord of the Flies" is so shocking and powerful. You don't necessarily need to love the character. Frankly, he's a bit of a pill. Other characters want to be noble or savage. Piggy wants to be civilized and domesticated in exactly the way a grown-up would want them to be, not in any organic way. His death doesn't have subtle meaning. It has whack-you-over-the-head-with-a-mallet portentous meaning, but it still hits home. It hurts because you don't want the character to die, but you also don't want the idea that the character represents to die. And it kicks you in the groin because "Lord of the Flies" was written back in the days before "Hunger Games" and whatnot, back when the idea of killing off juvenile characters in fiction was something that writers didn't do haphazardly. Writers had to earn those deaths and they didn't make the assumption that they were being badass just because they offed somebody too young to buy scratchers at the 7-11.
The flipside of that coin might be The CW's new drama "The 100," which premieres on Wednesday (March 19) night in the protected 9 p.m. confines after "Arrow."
We've made a lot of jokes over the years about The CW's assembly line of hot young stars, with the punchlines peaking this fall when the network actually dipped back into the Amell gene pool to pair Robbie Amell's "Tomorrow People" with Stephen's "Arrow." We always suspected that CW stars were a renewable and somewhat interchangeable resource, often harvested and refined from Australia. But with "The 100," the formula has expanded to accentuate the disposable nature of these chiseled, all vaguely familiar thespians.
The CW once talked about doing a "Battle Royale" series, but the network seemed to realize that in a post-Columbine, post-Newtown, post-Aurora world, some tip-going was required. "The 100" isn't that "Battle Royale" remake, but it is a futuristic drama that revels in killing off young characters, sometimes with intended gravity, but usually with a cavalier shrug of disinterest. There's so much happening and so many characters moving around in "The 100" that it's impossible to care about anybody getting killed off, so you're just supposed to feel like the show is exhibiting braveness on principle.
Here's the weird and confusing and disappointing thing about "The 100": If I had reviewed it off of the first two episodes, I'd have been veering in the direction of a D/F-grade review and you'd have gotten to see Angry Dan. If I'd have reviewed it off of the first four episodes, I probably wouldn't have moved above a D+/C-. I've seen six episodes and my grade has inched up even more. I thought those first two episodes were awful -- Badly written characters being acted poorly and put through uninteresting pacts. I thought the next two episodes were bad -- Still badly written, poorly acted characters, but at least they were doing some unpredictably things.
The last two episodes I watched? I'm not going to say they're good. They're not. But there's a narrative that's finally taking shape and a few -- not close to all -- of the actors are settling in to their roles, correcting performances that were misdirected in the pilot. I'm still struggling to find a single character whose fate I'm even vaguely invested in, but my outright antipathy towards some of the characters had begun to fade.
In the end, that makes for a conflicted review on "The 100." I really can't recommend the show at all. But if you're intrigued by the premise and kernels of the pilot interest you, I can assert that "The 100" gets better. That's tepid encouragement in general, but it's more enthusiastic if you watch the pilot and you actually like it.
Honestly, that could probably be my review, but more detailed and show-specific thoughts are after the break.