The CW drama series The 100 is back for Season 6 (and already picked up for Season 7) with a huge reboot, now 125 years further into the future and facing a mysterious new planet that they must go down and explore. With no idea what’s in store for them, a small group, including Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and Bellamy (Bob Morley), head off to face any threats they might come across on the new planet, whether that be from the inhabitants or terrain, while several members of Wonkru, including Raven (Lindsey Morgan), stay back on the Mothership to watch over those still in cryo-sleep.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, showrunner Jason Rothenberg talked about how grateful he is that the network chose to pick up the series for another season prior to the premiere, especially since he did not give this season a finale that could function as a series finale, how long he could see this series continuing, the 125-year time jump, how challenging it will be for everyone to get back on the same page, after the events of Season 5, what’s motivating Clarke, what’s in store for Murphy (Richard Harmon), the Blake sibling relationship dynamic between Bellamy and Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), and how he felt Bob Morley handled directing duties this season.
Collider: Congrats on the Season 7 pick-up! That doesn’t often happen, before a season even starts airing.
JASON ROTHENBERG: I was so surprised, on one level, but I also knew how excited everybody at the network was, about the episodes that they’ve seen, which is everything, at this point. I wasn’t surprised, on that level, but it’s a baller move to pick it up before it premieres. I’m really grateful for that. It also takes a lot of the pressure off of the overnight ratings for the premiere.
At the same time by, the time then that we get to the end of Season 6, will we be grateful to already know that the story will be continuing through at least Season 7?
ROTHENBERG: Hell, yes! The ending of Season 6 is, in no way, shape or form, satisfying, as a series finale. I basically rolled the dice. I’ve had a good sense, for awhile, that it was probably gonna come back for another season, but I wasn’t asked to try to make this a season that could’ve functioned as a series finale. It certainly tees up another story, the way we often do, at the end of season, and in a way that really would have pissed people off.
There are very few shows, these days, that get to Season 7, or even Season 6. Have you already thought about how much further you see the show continuing for? Do you see a Season 8, or do you see even further down the road than that?
ROTHENBERG: Some of that is above my pay grade, in that I don’t get to decide, unfortunately. It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword or diminishing returns, the longer you go, just because, at least personally, I want to be able to have every season be great and, at the end, have told this story well and not repeat ourselves, like certain shows that have outstayed their welcome. We could name some. This is not a show that’s set up for an endless run like that, frankly. It doesn’t have a procedural engine, which often helps shows, like Supernatural, for instance, get to Season 14 or 15. It’s a miracle that it’s still as good as it is, after all of this time, and a lot of that is because of the procedural engine. Here, it’s purely serialist storytelling, so eventually you want to wrap that up in a way that’s satisfying. You want there to be an ending that feels satisfying, and the longer you push that out, the harder it is to get that landing to stick. I set myself up, when we added “End Book One,” at the end of last season. We’re starting a new book, but I can say right now, that it’s gonna be a lot shorter than Book One.
What was it that led you to go this route with Season 6? Where and when did this seed get planted?
ROTHENBERG: It’s funny, before I started writing The 100 pilot, I was developing a show where a group of interstellar pilots strike out onto a planet that they know nothing about and that’s mysterious. That was the story that I was circling before I even started The 100. Then, I happened to read the proposal for The 100. The book hadn’t even really been written yet. There were a couple of chapters and an outline, and I recognized it as the story that I was talking about writing, anyway, except that the new planet happened to be Earth, a hundred years after the apocalypse. I embraced that and ran with it. So, I wanted to get back to where I was, creatively, when we started the thing. The answer to your question is that the origins of it actually, on some level, predated The 100.
One hundred and twenty five years is quite a jump forward in time. There aren’t many shows that can do a time jump like that. What do you think that does for the storytelling, this season?
ROTHENBERG: To me, it’s funny, but on some level, the story between Seasons 4 and 5, and that time jump of only six years, was much more difficult to pull off because they were awake for those six years. So, everybody that was coming back together, as Season 5 started, was different and there were new relationships. Clark had a daughter. Bellamy and Echo where a couple. Spacekru was a family. Octavia was Blodreina. Here, it’s 125 years later, but really, they just went to sleep the night before, and woke up the next day. So, on that level, in terms of character dynamics, it really picks up exactly where the story left off, the day before and the season before. The jump to a new world is definitely a reboot. That changes everything. But getting them there, because of the miracle of cryo-sleep, was actually easy.
How did you decide exactly who you wanted to send to the ground, for the first time? Was it about their skill sets and what they could contribute, depending on what or who they might come across, or was there something more specific, in choosing this group?
ROTHENBERG: Bellamy and Clarke, who were woken by Monty first, chose people who they could trust the most and who they could rely on, if things got dicey. That’s really the extent of it. They had to leave Raven behind because they couldn’t take both of their pilots. Shaw is a much better pilot than Raven, so that’s why he goes and she stays. Jordan was already awake. He’s left behind on the ship because they promised Monty that they would protect him and take care of him. They’re not gonna thrust him down in a world where he’s totally ill-equipped, since he’s never been off the ship, in his life. And so, the decision-making was about that, and also about who’s on the poster. Most of the people who are still in cryo went down to Earth at the beginning of Season 5 with an exploratory team and left the rest of them up in cryo. Bellamy and Clarke are following that model, and going down with an exploratory team. They’ll wake the others up when the time is right.
It seems like everyone has some stuff to work through this season. Whether it’s Clarke and Bellamy, or Abby and Raven, or Bellamy and Octavia, or Octavia and Kane, they all pretty much have issues. How hard will it be for everyone to get on the same side and the same page again, especially after everything that they’ve been through, and to have to work together because now they have another new planet and a new group of people, and all of these new things that they have to face?
ROTHENBERG: Yeah, it’ll be hard, for sure. It’ll be like life. It’ll require some time, and the willingness to work through certain things and process things. They will have time, which is a little bit of a new thing for the show. It doesn’t hit the ground at bullet speed. There is some time, once things slow down, after the eclipse, for them to lick their wounds and talk about their problems, and try to get to a better place with each other, which is fun. There’s some really surprising interactions in Episode 4, in particular. There’s a lot of conflict, as a result of the things that happened in Season 5. Everybody is mad at Clarke for the choices that she made, although they understand them. She was trying to protect her child. Of course, I don’t take a side, one way or another. I understand her behavior completely and can empathize with it, as a parent, myself. That said, she did betray everybody else, so they’re pissed at her for it, and rightfully so. Likewise with Octavia, Blodreina did some fairly ruthless things, but she could rationalize them and we can understand them. She did take on the burden of all of those people in the bunker, who were gonna be forced to eat their friends, in order to survive, by removing that choice. People didn’t have a choice. It was eat or die. It was easier for them, on some level, when they came out of that nightmare, to say, “Well, I had no choice. I had to do it. She put gun to my head, literally.” She took on all of that herself, and it drove her a little bit insane, and people are mad at her for that now. So, we like to try to have the things that people do matter and resonate and have ramifications, and that’s particularly true, this season.
It seems that no matter the season, the year, or the planet, Murphy is always the wild card. What can you say about his journey, this season? What can we expect from him?
ROTHENBERG: I think people will, hopefully, be delighted by his journey, this season, but not particularly surprised, once the story unfolds and people understand what he’s going through and who he’s always been. Murphy is, as we say, a cockroach. He’s an ultimate survivor, and that is no different now. He will experience something, towards the end of Episode 2 and into Episode 3, that changes him drastically and shakes him to his core, and that will cause him to make some decisions, as the season unfolds, from there that I would say people will probably both hate him for and understand, and he probably will hate himself for, as well. And it’s an amazing performance by Richard Harmon. Richard has always awesome, but we pushed him to a new place, and he pushed himself to a new place, this season. It’s a great story for him.
What would you say the biggest personal demons are that Clarke will be facing, this season?
ROTHENBERG: That’s an interesting question because the demons that she’s facing, I can’t really talk about. She’s dealing with the fact that she sold everybody out for her daughter, who’s not biological, but she loves Madi like a daughter, and she’s dealing with what that allowed her to do to people that she also loves and cares about. That’s certainly something she’s wrestling with. But her main conflicts for the season haven’t even begin to be close to being revealed yet, and I want to stay away from that question, as much as I can.
How do Bellamy and Octavia get to a place where they can fix their issues?
ROTHENBERG: That’s a tricky one, for sure. He poisoned her, and he didn’t know whether she would survive, so on some level, he was willing to accept the fact that she could die, in order to prevent the reign of Blodreina from taking them all down. And she was willing to let him die. Their relationship is going to get even harder, before it gets easier. They have a lot of stuff to process with each other, but I’m hopeful that they can get to a place where they can see passed the things that they have done to each other, and get back to the Blake sibling relationship that I think everybody loves, and I know that I love and miss, as well. But, it has to land it in a different place. Bellamy can’t have his whole life revolve around his sister, as he has for so long, and really since she was born. And she can’t be the impulsive baby sister who is making his life hell. Ultimately, they’re both gonna have to find a different level, in order for them to go forward and be in a happy place. We’ll see whether they can.
This season, Bob Morley stepped up to direct Episode 611. How did that come about, and how do you feel he handled stepping into that position?
ROTHENBERG: Bob was awesome. I knew Bob would be a good director, having worked with him as long as I have and knowing the type of actor and artist that he is. He’s the kind of person who thinks about everything and understands everything, and he wants to control things. I just knew he would be good at it, and he embraced it and ran with it. He educated himself, and he took it incredibly seriously, which was amazing to see. And his episode is great. Honestly, it’s one of the better directors cuts that we’ve gotten, and that’s saying a lot, since we have some wonderful directors on this show. So, I think people will certainly love that episode, and I think he loved the process. I can’t wait for him to get to talk about it some more. It’s one of the things that I’m proudest of, about the season. I knew he would be good, and I was right.
It seems so daunting and I’m always so impressed when one of the cast members decides to also step in and direct while they’re still acting in the episode, as well.
ROTHENBERG: Yeah. We’ve been together as a team for six years, and the truth is that he was surrounded by people on that crew who had directed episodes before, so he had lots of support, if he needed it. There were moments when he was on camera and he did. Unfortunately, although I really wanted him to be featured less in the episode that he was directing, that isn’t the way it broke. He’s actually quite heavily featured, as a actor, in the episode, and he rose to that challenge. He was surrounded by a group of people who wanted him to succeed, and who are all dialed in and wonderful at their job, and that also goes for the cast, who all love Bob and brought their A-game for him. It was really fun to see. It was really satisfying to see everybody pulling together to help someone that they love, and to see him transcend.
The 100 airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.