‘The 100’ Showrunner Jason Rothenberg on Season 3, Lexa’s Evolution, and Clarke’s Journey

     February 18, 2016

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On The CW series The 100, no one has been unscathed by the events that they’ve had to suffer through and survive. Threats both old and new will test their loyalties, push them past their limits, and make them question what it truly means to be human.

During this exclusive interview with Collider, showrunner Jason Rothenberg talked about the two stories they’re telling this season, Clarke’s (Eliza Taylor) difficult journey, Lexa’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) evolution, the odd couple interactions of Murphy (Richard Harmon) and Jaha (Isaiah Washington), hope for Jasper (Devon Bostick), and whether there could ever truly be peace. Be aware that there are some spoilers.

Collider: You’re at a point with the show that so much story has already been told. Do you just have to hope now that people have binged and caught up in time to watch?


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JASON ROTHENBERG: Honestly, I want new viewers, of course, but they should watch Seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix because I do not like to slow down. We do a “previously on,” but that’s not because I want to do that. That’s something that marketing and the network thinks is effective. Whether it is or not is not for me to decide. I feel like we live in a world of abundance, in terms of television right now, and there are all these places to go and get it. Binging is a legit phenomenon. We’ve all done it. My little girl, who’s 7, is binging Harold and the Purple Crayon, at the moment. I’m watching her just go through one after the next and I’m like, “I know that state of mind. I did that with Breaking Bad.” It’s a good binge, I’ve heard from people. You can catch up and watch it in a weekend. I also know the feeling of, “Now, I’ve gotta wait a week.” There is nothing like just chain smoking the episodes. It’s a serialized show. It’s never going to go back and say, “Remember this, this and this.”

What did you specifically want to set out to explore, this season?

ROTHENBERG: I like for every season to be its own uber story, and I like for that story to be baked in the cake of the previous seasons. Mount Weather was a concept in Season 1. Even in the pilot, they were going to land close to Mount Weather. We got away from it a little bit, but then around the middle of the writing of the season, I realized that was where we were going at the end of the season. So, it was baked in the cake of the season before. In Season 2, the A.L.I.E. story and Jaha’s journey to the City of Light really started taking off and became something that we were building towards, as Season 3 started. That’s a big story for us, but slowly. It’s hardly in the first four episodes because, in my mind, I feel like it’s a very different story for us. I feel like the audience needed to be seduced into it, with a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then, “Oh, my god, here she is. Wow, what the fuck is happening!” That should be the arc of people’s involvement with that story. It’s the B-story for the first half of the season, and then the two stories collide and it really takes off, in a cool way. I think it’s successfully being handled. The audience will have to be the judge of that. The other big story is the continuing Grounder politics. We’ve expanded the playing field to include the Ice Nation and Polis, which is the capitol where Lexa holds court and really is trying to bring them out of the Dark Ages of the post-apocalypse and bring a little more light to things, but is having a hard time doing it. People want to stay in the mud and fight and kill. Blood must have blood is the way of that world. So, those are the two stories, and there’s a unity of those two stories, at some point in this season, that is pretty special.

Is it important to have a character like Murphy off-set a character like Jaha?

ROTHENBERG: Yeah. Jaha seems to have lost his mind. When Murphy is the sane one in a situation, you know you’re in trouble. But, I love Murphy and I love Richard Harmon. I think he’s so good. And the idea of putting them together last season was inspired. It wasn’t my idea, initially. We did an episode, which was Episode 10 of Season 2, where I said, “Let’s see a lot of people together that we don’t normally see together.” So, in that episode, there were a bunch of different pairs that were odd coupley, and Jaha and Murphy went off to find Wells. There was just such chemistry there between them, in that story, that I wanted to play that out and see where it went. That led us into Season 3, in a cool way.


What is Clarke’s journey, this season? How can she reconcile everything that she’s been through and continue to move forward?

ROTHENBERG: She’s suffering from what happened last season. What she had to do to save her people has broken her. She was doing whatever she could to escape the images that she would see when she closed her eyes. So, it takes a little while to reignite her as an active protagonist. She’s pulled, kicking and screaming, back into the story. Ultimately, her journey is one of being able to embrace her own power, embrace what she is and what she’s done, and rediscover her own humanity. She’s really buried it because of all that she’s had to do. And so, the theme for the season is, what does it mean to be human? We play that out in both Clarke’s story and A.L.I.E.’s story, and there’s a nice parallel, in terms of whether Clarke will be able to rediscover her humanity in time to save the day.

Is it much easier now for Clarke to compartmentalize when it might be advantageous to kill someone?

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ROTHENBERG: I think she was definitely activated by the arrival of the Queen and by the destruction of Mount Weather at the hands of the Ice Nation. And as the right person won in Polis, the wrong person won in Arcadia, and now we’re set up for all the crazy stuff that’s going to happen because of that. I think it’s become easier for her to compartmentalize. It’s funny, she’s willing to do what she has to do, but I do think, at some point, the question for her will be, can she realize that there’s a point at which there’s too much fire, enough is enough, and it’s not worth doing this? Last season, she went way over that line, and she hasn’t found it yet. There’s somebody that they meet, way down the road, who helps recalibrate her compass, a little bit. But for now, she’s willing to do what she has to do.

At this point, is peace just impossible?

ROTHENBERG: It is hard because that’s just not the mind-set of the world that rose out of the ashes of our world. It’s really hard to affect change in that environment when all anyone knows is that they need to do whatever they have to do to keep their people alive, and that’s what Clarke’s attitude has been, too. And then, Lexa came along and was helped along by Clarke, to get to that mind-set. Lexa was all about blood must have blood, but in Season 3, she starts to become more of a transformative character who’s trying to affect change in the mind-set of blood must have blood. It’s hard to do that, though. Bad things happen to the Gandhis of the world, when they try to make change the way that he did. It’s much easier to give in to the baser instincts of man, and fight and take what you want, get the most you can for your people, and not worry about the other that you’re rolling over. That’s the world that they landed in. We’ll see if they can change it or not.

After everything that’s happened between them, where can Clarke and Lexa’s relationship go, at this point?


ROTHENBERG: The thing for Clarke is that obviously she’s furious and blames Lexa for abandoning her. But I feel like, if she was being honest and could take herself out of it emotionally, and someone presented her with the same choice, I do think that Clarke would have done the same thing. She did do the same thing. The finale of Season 2 was designed to give Clarke almost the identical choice to Lexa. To me, Lexa chose to abandon Clarke and let the Sky People die to save her own people. Dante crossed his own moral line, in the same episode, and basically chose to allow his son to brain marrow to death all of those kids, which he was never going to do. That was his point of no return and he crossed it for his people, which broke him. Clarke came up to the same choice, which was, will she kill all of these people, many of whom were bad, but many of whom were helping them? There were probably 40 people in the group that was hiding them and keeping them alive, and Clarke killed them to save her people. So, she did make the same decision. That’s pointed out to her a couple of times in Season 3, and I think eventually she will probably realize that.

Can Jasper ever recover from what he’s been going through, or is he a lost cause?

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ROTHENBERG: Sure. He’s fucked up, for sure, from what happened. He lost Maya. He thought he had a way out and could do it himself. He was close to all of those people. He was one of the leaders of that group that was hidden by the people in Mount Weather. And yet, they all died. He’s in a bad place, for sure. I think he can come back from it. It’s a growing problem in our country where we sent all these young men and women to the Middle East, and they’re not dying, for the most part, but they’re so stressed that they come back with PTSD and we’re losing more soldiers to suicide than we are in the battles themselves. That’s a tragedy, in and of itself, to keep our eyes on. They don’t all kill themselves, so you can pull out of that tailspin, too.

The 100 airs on Thursday nights on The CW.

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