Excited about The 100 season 5? No time to binge all four seasons before the series returns on April 24? Here are 12 episodes to watch or rewatch ahead of the season 5 premiere.
The post-apocalyptic survival drama The 100 is entering its fifth season next week on The CW, the season premiere “Eden” airing on April 24 at 9/8c.
The 100 has been ambitious and thought-provoking since day 1, and has only improved over the years, growing more daring and provocative each season, reinventing itself without ever losing sight of its core themes and character arcs.
Nearly a year after the season 4 finale aired, the long wait for season 5 is almost over, and all signs point to this being one of the best seasons yet.
With The 100 standing on the precipice of what is essentially a soft reboot, and a marketing campaign emphasizing the hard sci-fi, morally ambiguous nature of the story, I imagine that a lot of people not yet familiar with the show might be curious about checking it out this season.
Fans of genre TV and/or evocative, ambitious storytelling like Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead will love this underrated gem of a sci-fi show. If you’re reading this article because you’re curious about The 100, I can only recommend giving it a chance in season 5. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on something great.
Whether you’re new to the show, or want to refresh your memory ahead of season 5, here’s a quick rundown of the story so far:
Recapping ‘The 100’ seasons 1-4: The journey to Praimfaya
The story of The 100 begins 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse (allegedly) destroyed all life on Earth, and the last survivors of the human race (allegedly) live aboard the Ark space station orbiting the planet.
But when life support systems on the Ark begin to fail, the last hope for humanity’s survival lies with a group of teenaged delinquents, who have been deemed expendable and are sent to the ground to test its survivability.
However, the delinquents soon find out that the ground is not, in fact, uninhabited. The scary and mysterious Grounders are a formidable foe for the teenagers, whose internal conflicts and battles for dominance already threaten to break apart their little society before it’s even really formed. Above them, the Ark council races against time as the oxygen begins to run out, jeopardizing the lives of everyone on board.
Parts of the Ark do eventually make it to Earth, and the survivors must find a way to make peace with the Grounders — especially because a third faction of survivors, the ‘Mountain Men,’ proves to be an even greater threat to them all.
In season 3, yet another threat arrives, this time in the form of an artificial intelligence named ALIE (incidentally the AI responsible for ending the world) who seeks to trap the consciousnesses of all surviving humans inside a virtual city, having come to believe that this is the only way to save them from what is coming: a second apocalypse, suddenly imminent and threatening the human race’s extinction (again).
In the series’ fourth season, our heroes face their biggest challenge to date, with the Earth itself turning against them, racing against time to save the human race in whatever way they can.
Since first landing on the surface of the post-apocalyptic planet, lead character Clarke Griffin, her mother Abby, the Blake siblings Octavia and Bellamy, genius mechanic Raven Reyes and the rest of the sizeable and diverse ensemble have experienced unimaginable horrors on a near-constant basis, losing countless friends and loved ones and battling one faction of survivors after another.
Until the season 4 finale, “Praimfaya,” they have won every battle they’ve fought, even if the price of victory has become increasingly steep. But this time, their enemy is unbeatable.
As the planet becomes soaked in radiation and the surface is rendered uninhabitable, Octavia Blake leads 1,200 souls into an underground bunker to ride out the five-year devastation, attempting to unite the warring Grounder clans and Ark survivors as “Wonkru” in the process.
A small number of characters, including her brother Bellamy, manage to escape to space, back to what still remains of the Ark. Clarke Griffin is left alone on the surface, surviving only because of the radiation-resistant Nightblood now flowing through her veins.
The final scene of the season propels the story six years into the future, picking up with an older Clarke (now with a Nightblood child named Madi in tow) still waiting for her friends to return, but being met instead by the mysterious Eligius prison transport ship carrying yet another group of human survivors intent on taking the surface for themselves…
‘The 100’ episode guide: 12 essential episodes to watch or rewatch before season 5
The story of The 100 can never properly be conveyed through a recap. There are so many world-building intricacies, relationships and character developments that make the show what it is, and the themes of survival, moral ambiguity and the construction of ‘us vs them’ have to be experienced firsthand.
Of course, if you’re a newbie, my #1 recommendation for you is to watch all 58 The 100 episodes to get all the details, because there are a lot of details, and everything matters. But I also understand that so close to the premiere, this might simply no longer be possible for some people.
And, with The 100 season 5 premiere only four days away at the time of writing, even dedicated fans might not be able to set aside a whole weekend for a full series rewatch. For anyone in that predicament, who still wants to watch a handful of episodes particularly relevant to The 100 season 5, this curated rewatch guide is for you.
Note that this is not necessarily a list of the best episodes of The 100 (though they certainly aren’t bad), but rather a selection of episodes that might prove particularly important to bear in mind heading into the new season.
It should of course also be said that, if you’re a first-time viewer, you don’t have to watch a single episode ahead of “Eden.” You can jump right in to season 5, and treat the first four seasons as a prequel.
But if you would like to watch a few The 100 episodes before heading into season 5, or you’re a fan who’s been putting off a complete series rewatch until it was too late (hey, it happens to the best of us), here are 12 for your consideration:
1×01 ‘The Pilot’
Written by Jason Rothenberg, directed by Bharat Nalluri.
Although many fans do not consider the first few episodes of The 100 reflective of the series’ overall quality, it is nonetheless vital that you go back to where it all began — if for no other reason than for the sheer shock value of going directly from the pilot to “Eden” and marvelling at how far the show has come!
Aside from the fact that about half of the characters that you are introduced to in this episode are dead now, which is pretty trippy, the pilot also tells you exactly what the concept of ‘the ground’ means to these people before they experience it.
For Clarke, the ground represents “the dream” (read: Eden?!). For Bellamy, it represents a chance to escape the social order that has trapped him and his family. For Abby, it represents a desperate hope for humanity’s survival. For Octavia, it means no longer having to hide who she is. And so on.
Now, of course, we know that the ground is none of these things, and that any new version of society has to be borne from these characters’ own conscious attempts to break with patterns and traditions. And even though there’s clearly been a bit of retconning in terms of character personalities and world building, these early episodes really tell you a lot about who these characters are, and what they still have the potential to become.
1×05 ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’
Written by Bruce Miller, directed by Milan Cheylov.
The fifth episode of The 100 season 1 (along with the preceding “Murphy’s Law”) is the episode that reveals this series’ full potential.
“Twilight’s Last Gleaming” is when the narrative transcends the ‘post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies’ formula that characterizes early episodes, and reveals itself as a worthy descendant of shows like Battlestar Galactica and Lost.
It provides essential insight into the early dynamic of ‘Team Adults’ (Abby, Jaha and Kane), whose decisions in this episode parallel those the younger generation will later find themselves having to make. This episode remains one of the most devastating and emotionally resonant of the entire series, and sets the tone for the show moving forward.
On the ground, the arrival of Raven completes the core group of delinquents+, and marks the beginning of her complicated relationships with Bellamy and Clarke. Raven’s arrival changes everything for the group on the ground, because (while Monty’s engineering skills should not be disregarded) she can think of more high-tech solutions to their problems, and is in many instances the only person standing between life and death at the hand of the Grounders.
1×06 ‘His Sister’s Keeper’
Written by Tracy Bellomo & Dorothy Fortenberry, directed by Wayne Rose.
The relationship between siblings Bellamy and Octavia is one of the cornerstones of the series. The unshakeable love between them, marred by the deep-seeded trauma of their upbringing, will continue to resonate in their relationship moving forward (now further complicated by the six-year separation).
This early season 1 episode provides essential pieces of their backstory necessary for understanding who they are to each other. It shows their mother giving birth to Octavia in secret and immediately making her Bellamy’s responsibility, and it reveals why Bellamy feels guilty for everything bad that happens to Octavia on the ground.
“His Sister’s Keeper” is also Octavia’s first encounter with the Grounder named Lincoln. Despite their rocky start, this relationship comes to define Octavia and her attachment to the Grounders moving forward.
Written by Bruce Miller, directed by John F. Showalter.
“Spacewalker” is a key episode for establishing the differences (and similarities) between Grounder and Skaikru society, and provides important insight into and development for Clarke and Raven (among others). Arguably, this episode marks a major point of no return for Clarke, whose choices and actions here set in motion a harrowing arc that continues all the way to “Praimfaya.”
“Spacewalker” is also just a fantastic hour of television, which can honestly be watched completely out of context of The 100. Serving as an exploration of vengeance versus justice, the characters have to contemplate whether a child should be violently tortured to death for the heinous crime of slaughtering an innocent village (and further complicating matters is that his death, ostensibly, could stop a war), and the audience has to consider this impossible moral dilemma right alongside them.
By the time we get to season 4, the character of Finn feels like a distant memory. But the events of this episode — Raven trying to trade Murphy’s life for Finn’s; how each main character reacts to ‘jus drein jus daun’; the various interactions and confrontations between the adult characters; Arkadian mob mentality; Clarke ultimately deciding to kill Finn to spare him suffering, winning Commander Lexa’s respect in the process — will inform the survivors’ actions forever.
Along with “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” “Spacewalker” fully commits to the mission statement of the series: that who we are and who we have to be to survive are very different things.
Written by Bruce Miller, directed by Dean White.
“Resurrection” has a surprising amount of relevance to major character developments and relationships leading into season 5 (really, “Coup de Grace” through “Bodyguard of Lies” all speak to core dynamics and character evolutions that might be relevant down the line).
First and foremost, it is key to understanding the relationship between Abby and Kane, who at this point have gone from enemies to allies to tentative friends. It also provides insight into Abby’s complicated feelings about her daughter Clarke, whose experiences on the ground have transformed her into someone Abby does not recognize.
Kane sums up the series’ circularity by pointing out that Clarke is only making the same kinds of ruthless leadership decisions as they themselves made as leaders on the Ark, and Abby asks one of the questions that will come back to haunt both characters, and which was echoed by Monty in the season 5 trailer: “After everything we’ve done, do we even deserve to survive?”
We also see how Lexa and Clarke are not only growing closer, but are beginning to influence each other’s leadership styles — a dynamic that will have lasting effects on how they both make decisions moving forward. And, curiously, we also see Indra begin to push Octavia into a leadership position, which at the time (ironically) made a lot of fans speculate about whether Octavia would eventually succeed Lexa as Commander of the Grounders.
2×16 ‘Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2’
Written by Jason Rothenberg, directed by Dean White.
This is one of the key episodes for understanding Clarke Griffin as a character, as well as her relationship with Bellamy. It tells you a lot about who Clarke is, and how she has come to carry the world on her shoulders.
After a season of being pushed to do darker and darker things (killing her love interest, letting a bomb drop on an innocent village), Clarke emerges in this finale as someone who can no longer claim herself as a person who always does the ‘right’ thing. Rather, she here proves herself willing and able to sacrifice her own soul to save her people.
Her hand is already on the lever when Bellamy decides that this is something they can do “together,” recognising her burden as one that he can, and feels like he should, share. While the former enemies are already close at this point, this episode cements the level of trust between them.
Not only does “Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2” provide the words that come to define the series — “there are no good guys” — but it also illustrates the way in which these characters can ease each other’s burdens, cementing key relationships while irrevocably destroying others.
3×01 ‘Wanheda, Part 1’
Written by Jason Rothenberg, directed by Dean White.
The season 3 premiere “Wanheda, Part 1” not only features the series’ only other time jump (only three months, which at the time seemed like forever), but is a fun episode to (re)watch before the season 5 premiere episode because of various parallels and role reversals.
“Wanheda, Part 1” sees the citizens of Arkadia enjoying a period of relative peace, and thus reveals what these characters are actually like sans the pressure of imminent death and/or apocalypses.
The episode introduces what we might call ‘SpaceKru 1.0’ (Bellamy, Raven and Monty), and reveals an Octavia who, while still technically a Sky Person, is desperate to leave Arkadia behind and become a true Grounder.
It gives us one version of a Clarke Griffin surviving on her own in the wilderness, and it shows us how everyone copes in her absence. The 100 season 5 premiere will give us another version of what such a separation might look like.
Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, directed by Dean White.
This is one of the most controversial, and one of the most essential, episodes of The 100 to date. When it first aired in March 2016, it angered a big part of the fan base, for good reason, and a lot of people stopped watching the series, which they were perfectly within their right to do.
The seventh episode of season 3, however, is more than its controversy. “Thirteen” reveals vital information about how the two warring peoples, the Sky People and the Grounders, are tied together through a surprising shared history involving Nightblood, the Ark, and the first Commander.
After two and a half seasons of considering the Grounders and Sky People completely separate entities, this episode up-ends everything the characters (and the audience) thought they knew about the origins of both. It also features a huge, heartbreaking twist that irrevocably shakes up the power structure on the show, and significantly impacts main character Clarke moving forward.
Warning: This episode contains the explicit death of an LGBTQ+ character and viewer discretion is advised.
4×08 ‘God Complex’
Written by Lauren Muir, directed by Omar Madha.
In terms of setting up season 5, this episode does a lot of work. This is the episode in which Jaha finds the bunker, and where Clarke becomes a Nightblood. It is the episode where Bellamy’s (and Jasper’s) story comes full circle, and where Murphy and Emori’s relationship, and relationship to the group as a whole, is thrown into sharp relief.
After four seasons of making more and more ruthless decisions, this is Clarke’s ultimate test: can she be the kind of leader who plays God with other people’s lives for a self-defined ‘greater good’? At the end of the day, she chooses not to be this kind of leader, injecting herself with the Nightblood solution and offering herself to be tested rather than Emori.
The fact that Clarke ‘chooses’ Emori as someone whose life is worth protecting does a lot to repair her relationship with both Emori and Murphy. It marks a shift in her character motivation, and prepares her for the time jump isolation and period of relative serenity that is awaiting her post-Praimfaya. For Abby, it likewise reveals her priorities: protecting Clarke take precedent over everything else.
4×10 ‘Die All, Die Merrily’
Written by Aaron Ginsburg & Wade McIntyre, directed by Dean White.
One of the most ambitious episodes of The 100 to date, “Die All, Die Merrily” determines the fate of humanity ahead of the second apocalypse.
It brings Octavia Blake’s story to a peak, after seasons of identity crises and struggling to decide where (and to what people) she belongs. This is when Octavia finds out that she is neither Grounder nor Skaikru, but something new, and she invites the rest of the human race to become ‘Wonkru’ with her.
The episode also provides important context for her relationships with Indra, Kane and her brother Bellamy. We see Clarke make yet another brutal, impossible choice. It gives us one final victory lap of the fantastic, soon-to-be-destroyed Polis set. And the episode is also just very, very good.
4×12 ‘The Chosen’
Written by Aaron Ginsburg & Wade McIntyre, directed by Alex Kalymnios.
The second-to-last episode of season 4 provides vital setup for the bunker storyline in season 5. It shows Octavia hesitant to lead the clan she just founded, and it shows Skaikru trying to fight back against the perceived injustice of having to cut their number of spots to make room for the Grounders.
Octavia has her first brush with leadership and having to make the same hard choices she previously condemned others for making. We get a sense of who is in her corner and who is not, and the challenges she will be facing as reluctant leader of a people that did not choose her to lead them.
Kane’s relationships to both Abby and Jaha are also book-ended here, with each character making life-altering decisions that show how far they’ve come, and hint at what lies ahead: Abby decides she does not deserve to be one of the chosen people to survive Praimfaya, Kane decides to overrule her decision and choose her anyway, and Jaha decides to listen to reason from Kane, echoing their exchange in “Twilight’s Last Gleaming.”
Written by Jason Rothenberg, directed by Dean White.
Obviously the season 4 finale sets up the premise of season 5, ending the world and flashing forward to give us our first glimpse at the story six years later.
But beyond that, this is a vital episode for understanding who these characters have become to each other, how SpaceKru comes together as a unit and how they all feel about leaving Clarke to what they think is her doom.
Written by showrunner Jason Rothenberg, this episode (along with the previous “The Chosen,” written by executive producers Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre) feels almost like a manifesto for season 5: what relationships will be important moving forward, how are these relationships defined, what are the characters leaving behind and/or gaining in these divisions?
This episode serves as a love letter to the show as it was, and says goodbye to each character before they irrevocably change over the course of the six years that pass before we pick back up with Clarke in the post-apocalyptic haven they call Eden.
The first four episodes of season 5 feel like an extension of “Praimfaya” not just in terms of the story, but thematically and in terms of mood and tone. If you watch nothing else before The 100 season 5, watch “Praimfaya.”
And that’s the list! Whether you’re a fan looking to refresh your memory on key developments and relationships, or if you’re a newbie who wants to watch a few episodes as a basic primer, I highly recommend these 12. And if you start now, that’s only like three a day! You got this.
Happy weekend binging, see you on the other side…