The 100 season 7, episode 8 takes the form of a backdoor pilot for a planned prequel series. Here’s how to prepare!
In The 100 season 1, we are told that the last survivors of the human race are living on a space station hovering above a desolate Earth, which was destroyed in a nuclear war 97 years previous.
When a group of teenaged delinquents are sent down to the ground to test its survivability, however, they find the surface teeming with life: there are clans of so-called Grounders at war with each other and with a branch of humanity living in isolation inside Mount Weather, none of which the Ark survivors were aware of.
And over the course of the series, we have discovered pockets of humanity all over the galaxy: prison ships and exploration missions sent to colonize half a dozen planets. Some even traveled to these planets through mysterious stones, connected to each other by a wormhole system.
The world of The 100 has proven itself physically limitless, but no matter where or when you look, the core of the story remains the same: this is a story about humanity scrambling to unite itself and gain the power to build the type of society they want to see.
With The 100 season 7, the branch of the story we know is almost at an end. But this Wednesday, The 100’s backdoor pilot goes back in time to just after the world ended, beginning a whole new chapter of the saga.
The episode follows Second Dawn cult leader Bill Cadogan (John Pyper-Ferguson) and a handful of new characters, who survive the apocalypse in a fallout shelter.
As The 100 viewers already know, Cadogan’s Second Dawn cult member survivors would go on to form the society our delinquents encounter 97 years later and dub the ‘Grounders’.
They were aided by an AI implant called ‘The Flame,’ created by a scientist named Becca (Erica Cerra) – whose first AI, ALIE, caused the apocalypse in the first place.
Becca created the AI, along with a blood serum that would make people both AI-compatible and more radiation resistant, aboard one of the space stations that would later merge with others to become the Ark.
Becca put the AI in her head, took an escape pod down to Earth and distributed the Nightblood to some of the cult members; some time later, she was burned at the stake by Bill Cadogan, and the Flame would pass from one Grounder leader to the next even as their society fractured into warring clans. (Eventually the Grounders would unite again to fight the survivors inside Mount Weather.)
In The 100 season 7, we further learned that Bill Cadogan and some of his followers went through the Anomaly Stone and ended up on the planet Bardo, where they have spent hundreds of years preparing for the “last war mankind will ever wage.”
They are trying to harness the power of the Anomaly Stone, and need a “key” to do this, which they believe can be found in The 100’s lead character Clarke Griffin.
The prequel pilot, “Anaconda,” fills out more of the blanks of Cadogan’s story. It introduces what are to be the main characters of the prequel if it is picked up to series — Callie (Iola Evans), Reese (Adain Bradley) and August (Leo Howard) — and shows us the world ending from their perspective.
It is not strictly necessary to have watched The 100 or to remember all of this information in order to enjoy the backdoor pilot. You get the context you need for what is ultimately a very personal story about Callie learning to fight for what she believes in.
But if you want a crash course in the relevant mythology of the series, here are six The 100 episodes you can watch or rewatch to prepare for “Anaconda.”
1×01 ‘The Pilot’
Obviously, you have to begin with the beginning. The pilot episode of The 100 tells us what the people on the Ark knew about the ground (which was shockingly little) and how/why the world ended — or rather, what the people on the Ark had been told about its end.
The pilot shows us what the world looks like 97 years after the events of “Anaconda,” and sets up some mysteries about the ground that, while the main series largely left them unanswered, might prove key to the prequel in ways we could not have anticipated.
We are also introduced to lead character Clarke Griffin and her mother Abby, whose mother/daughter dynamic might be compared and contrasted to a similar dynamic in “Anaconda.” (While the prequel’s characters and their relationships seem to be deliberately different from The 100, there are also definitely similarities between Clarke and Callie’s personalities and origin stories, which may be relevant to both shows.)
This is an absolutely essential episode of The 100 which signalled a major shift for the series: this was no longer a story about warring tribes in a post-apocalyptic world, but a story about how our world fell apart and how humanity could learn, or not learn, from our mistakes.
“Thirteen” is our first major look into the origin of the Grounder society and its surprising connection to the Ark. It explains what makes a Commander, what the Flame is, how the world ended, and how Nightblood was invented.
It also introduces Becca, a god-like figure whose technology has steered humanity’s course for the past several hundred years. It shows us glimpses of how and why she came back down to the Earth after witnessing the apocalypse from space, and it reveals for the first time — without the audience being aware of it — her meeting with the Second Dawn cult members.
Please note: While “Thirteen” is a major cog in the mythology machine, it also features one of the show’s biggest and most potentially triggering scenes, as this is the episode in which Lexa dies. So please proceed with caution.
3×16 ‘Perverse Instantiation, Part 2’
The season 3 finale — the bit of Clarke’s story that seems of particular interest to the Second Dawn — takes place in Polis, in the tower above what we now know was Bill Cadogan’s bunker.
In the episode, Clarke becomes a temporary Nightblood in order to put the Flame, as well as another brain-interfacing device — a chip allowing her entry into the virtual City of Light, which ALIE set up to save human minds ahead of the second apocalypse — into her head.
This way, Clarke gives the Flame (and Becca’s imprint) access to the City of Light’s central controls, allowing her to shut it down and free the human minds trapped inside. It is ultimately Clarke’s choice whether she wants humanity to live on digitally or to live and die by Praimfaya, but the battle for dominance is as much between Becca’s two AI creations, the Flame and ALIE.
4×03 ‘The Four Horsemen’
A.k.a. “The One With Bill Cadogan”: this episode tells us everything we knew about Bill Cadogan ahead of season 7: that he was the founder of the Second Dawn cult, which had a dedicated doomsday bunker located below what had become the Grounder capital Polis (believed to be in the vicinity of Baltimore), that he was abused as a child, and that he wanted to save only his selected few ‘Level 12’ cult members (who all had to pay a hefty sum to secure a spot in his bunker).
Retroactively, we might also draw some parallels between Cadogan and Jaha. The latter felt an instant connection to Cadogan the moment he discovered his existence; perhaps we might learn that they had somewhat similar ideas about leadership?
This also happens to be the episode in which Abby Griffin discovers that she can potentially reverse-engineer Becca’s Nightblood solution, which will in the future be distributed to Clarke and a few other characters.
4×12 ‘The Chosen’
In this episode, the second apocalypse is right around the corner and our heroes are desperately trying to decide who gets a spot in the Second Dawn bunker.
There is room for 1,200 people, which might have saved just one entire clan. But since Octavia Blake won the death match for the bunker and decided to split it between all of them, each separate clan has to pick only 100.
This, naturally, inspires panic and threatens mutiny, and two of The 100’s leaders, Jaha and Kane, have to work together to make the fairest possible choice.
When you watch “Anaconda,” you will notice how differently yet similarly the human race behaves when faced with its own imminent destruction, and you might also notice some striking similarities between the behavior and priorities of some of the individual characters.
Not only is this one of the show’s absolute best episodes, but it also serves as a warped trip down memory lane for Clarke (a particularly useful recap of her story for casual/non-viewers) and the other person vying for control of her mind, Josephine Lightbourne.
This means we get to see not just past scenes and characters from The 100, but what the world looked like before the bombs fell. We are made to understand that Becca Franco was something of a tech celebrity, and given insight into her relationship with the Eligius missions and the Lightbourne family.
Plus, the episode tells us that Clarke still has a piece of ALIE in her brain, which saved her mind from being deleted when Josephine’s memory drive was inserted into her head.
Bonus rewatch: While the episode itself isn’t of particular relevance to the spinoff, there is one brief flashback scene in the season 5 episode “The Warriors Will” showing Becca being burned at the stake and shouting Cadogan’s name that might be worth a rewatch. (A lot of season 5 episodes show us bunker locations that might be fun to look back on, but I wanted to keep the list manageable!)
“Anaconda” is a very promising potential (literal) reset for the world of The 100 that introduces fascinating, multi-faceted new characters that I hope we get to spend some more time with.
Even though we know how it ends, there are a lot of surprises in store for the beginning, and if the backdoor pilot is any indication, The 100 prequel will be a more mature, relatable series that explores characters and stories very similar to our current reality.
The inherent tribalism of our species and how the ever-pressing fight for limited resources affects us have never been more relevant themes, and the prequel has the potential to really speak into our current discourse.
Make sure to watch the episode live on Wednesday, at 8/7c on The CW!